Friday, January 30, 2009

Finished Project

Here's where I started.

Here's the finished project - a Birthday / Easter dress for Irene.

I had a vision and it took some doing, re-engineering the pattern, adding ruffles and flourishes, but it does match my vision! Hurray!

I can just see her prancing around in it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tagged - What Do You Watch?

Yesterday Lin tagged me with the Lists of Eight meme. I have decided I am not too enamored of most of the questions, but just for fun, I'll answer the first one: 8 TV Shows I Watch Regularly 1. Countdown With Keith Olbermann - MSNBC 2. The Rachel Maddow Show - MSNBC 3. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - Comedy Central 4. NBC National and local news 5. Antiques Roadshow 6. House 7. Chuck 8. Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Private Practice (OK, I cheated, but they're all on ABC on Thursday) There are a few more, but I'm trying to follow the rules. I had others that are now gone, among them Boston Legal. I loved the court room soliloquies on social and political topics dear to my Liberal heart. And the characters were so delightfully whacky. I am working on my Academy Awards nominated movie list. So far I have seen Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Slumdog was an amazing movie, filled with hope and despair, kindness and extreme cruelty, bondage and freedom, unspeakable horror, and again, hope, all projected from the most beautiful faces. See it, even if it takes a few days to get some of the images out of your head. Benjamin Button is a good movie, full of grace and kindness, and wonderful to watch once you suspend disbelief at the concept of living life from age to youth.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Domestic Goddess

The bushwhacking is under control enough that I have moved my venue indoors. Tom helped out as we did light housecleaning and laundry this morning. He is getting ready to go outside to resume pruning, but it's down to a one man job now. Yesterday Tom took off to go to a glass blowing class, just for the fun of it. I stayed home and began my next sewing project and made soup. Last summer we cooked a ham on the outdoor grill when our kids were visiting. We had several dinners from it, plus sandwiches. It was time to take off for one of the cabins, so I wrapped the remaining ham bone and stuck it in the freezer. This weekend I decided it was time for a good winter soup. I sauteed some onion and celery in a bit of olive oil in a big heavy stock pot, then added water and the meaty ham bone, seasoning with salt, pepper and marjoram, and let it simmer for an hour. In the meantime I had lima beans soaking. Now I have to confess I don't really make soup that much anymore, and I was just making it up as I went, getting some ideas from the bean package. The stock had a wonderful smoked ham aroma as it simmered. I let it set to cool, and pulled the meat off the bone. I added the beans and some diced carrots to cook an hour and a half before dinner. Later I added chopped cabbage and the meat. I whipped up some corn bread to go with the soup. Yesterday Lin wrote about compliments and that we should even compliment ourselves. So I did. The was one wonderful soup supper for a cold winter day. And I have leftovers so I don't have to cook today! I am finally making progress on my next sewing project, another dress for my granddaughter. I have been putting it off because once again I am sort of making it up as I go along and I had some engineering to do in my head. And of course I have to overcome the fear of screwing it up and the inertia of getting started each time I launch a project. I'm on my way now. But the sun is shining, so I'll have to take time to go for a walk. After all, dinner is already cooked.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bushwhacking in Washington

No, not that Bush, and no, not that Washington.
It's time in the garden for winter pruning. Fruit trees and shrubs need to be headed back and shaped up. Dead wood and decay have to be cut back. To promote more blooming and control size, plants like hydrangeas need to be dead headed and thinned. Vines will be cut down at the knees because they bloom on new growth.
Then there are plants that need to be moved or eliminated because they are crowding or not flourishing where they are or are not contributing to the desired outcome. Some have just gotten ugly. Others have been neglected for a few years and need to be whacked back.
Winter storms have caused damage. There are tree limbs to clean up and broken shrubs to cut back and clear.
We began this work last week and have been working off and on since, in the cold and in the fog. We took a few days off for field trips and to install a new president in the White House, but then it's back to work. It's hard to get out there in the mornings, but once we do, the results are satisfying.
All of the prunings, trimmings and storm litter are cut up and shredded to be recycled in the yard. Running that machine is Tom's job. Making the piles is mine. Together we have worked through a mountain of material already.
The shredded mulch makes a great dressing on the pathways to keep down weeds and make for easier, cleaner walking. We do a lot of native, natural gardening, but there is a difference between nature and natural gardening. Nature takes care of itself. Gardening needs tending.
But wait. Cleaning up messes and damage. Cutting out deadwood and decay. Opening up areas to more light. Shaping up in hope of more blooming. Moving or eliminating that which is unruly or not contributing or over reaching its bounds. Recycling waste to provide better footing and discourage undesirable growth.
It there a metaphor here?
You bet'cha!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Field Trip - A Glass Act

As a break from yard work and politics, we joined Tom's sister, Jan, and friend Martha for an outing in Tacoma. For those of you not living in the Northwest, Tacoma is 30 miles south of Seattle. This is the Seymour Conservatory, a Victorian glass house in Wright Park. In celebration of it's 100th year Anniversary, an exhibition of Chihuly glass has been installed. Dale Chihuly, world famous glass artist, was born in Tacoma, and it is here that The Museum of Glass features permanent displays of his work.
Outside it was cold, with a persistent heavy gray fog. But inside it was spring, with daffodils and orchids and glass all in a mix of glorious color.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Morning After

There's got to be a morning after If we can hold on through the night We have a chance to find the sunshine Let's keep on looking for the light. -
Oh, can't you see the morning after?
It's waiting right outside the storm
Why don't we cross the bridge together
And find a place that's safe and warm.
It's not too late, we should be giving
Only with love can we climb
It's not too late, not while we're living
Let's put our hands out in time.
There's got to be a morning after
We're moving closer to the shore
I know we'll be there by tomorrow
And we'll escape the darkness
We won't be searching anymore.
-lyrics by Maureen McGovern
I know that it's a bright morning after for many folks, that is if you didn't party hard into the night. My mind is full and muddled.
I heard from some of you that you were unhappy with the treatment of President Bush and his wife and associates. I didn't see any coverage of that behavior on the three or four stations I was monitoring. If I had, it would have made me squirm and wince. I've never liked to see people hurt or humiliated. I don't like rubbing salt in any one's wounds. As it was I thought of the former president as our new president spoke. Obama's words were true, but they must have hurt.
President Obama is the kind of man who will want to stay positive and move ahead. He doesn't want to dwell on the past. He is not interested in fixing blame. That's all good with me.
Here's my problem. While we don't need to dwell on the past, we do need to deal with the past. While we may not need to fix blame on individuals, we do have a lot if fixing to do, and in order to do that we have to examine what's broken and how it got broken. We have to learn from the past.
I am a glass half empty sort of person. Some say pessimist: I say realist. I always figure I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed. But you see the headlines above. You see the song lyrics I posted. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finally....It's About Time

It's done. We have a new president. With my bleeding heart liberal spirit I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for Former President George W Bush as he sat listening to his successor's speech, and then as he took off in his helicopter headed for Texas. All my life I have tried to do my best and as a result I have pride in my accomplishments. Others acknowledge me. I can't imagine facing a legacy of failure for the rest of my life. While he will see some accomplishments, most of us do not. President Obama minced no words in announcing that we are taking back our country, taking back our rights as Americans, taking back science, and taking back our place in the world as leaders for what is right and good. Today is for partying. Then let's get to work. We've had to wait too long.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fun in the Sun - Foster Island

It was a rare sunny Sunday in Seattle. In the morning I went for an exercise walk in the neighborhood. In the afternoon we attended a seminar put on by our gardening association, the Northwest Perennial Alliance, at the Center For Urban Horticulture, near the UW. Following that session we went for coffee at a nearby Starbucks, and then drove to the UW Arboretum for a walk.
The sun was already getting low in the sky as we set out for Foster Island, but the light made for some good photo ops.
Foster Island is a wetland area in the Montlake Cut, a channel of water that connects Lake Union and Lake Washington.
The Cascade Mountains provided a backdrop and boaters were enjoying the calm waters.
We are in the middle of the city and just across the channel from Husky Stadium.
The wetlands are connected by fixed and floating walkways.
The approach to the 520 bridge and freeway run overhead, while ducks dive around the pillars.
We didn't see much wildlife because there were lots of people around and it was late in the afternoon, but we did see signs of beaver at work.
Trails through the brushy island are well maintained.
Viewing platforms provide access to action on the water. Not a bad ride, that little pleasure craft there.
A cormorant was sunning himself in the last rays of sunlight.
But the winter sun is fickle and all too soon deprives us of its warmth and light. Time to turn around and head back.
Driving back through the city, there was more to behold in the lingering light.
Sometimes it looks like that mountain just sits right at the end of the freeway!
Today was a lovely treat.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Another Message From Ambiguously Disgruntled

For those of you willing to invest some time and brain power, and risk a bit of indelicate language, I recommend Jake's latest posting on the current state of affairs at ambiguously-disgruntled. I think he's brilliant in spite of being my son. Editor's note: Well, isn't that just swell. I can't even brag well. I made a typo in the URL link! Thanks, Kay, for the note. I remembered last night when I was in bed and not falling asleep that I had not checked the link myself, but I didn't drag myself out to check it. It should be right now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Do You Do All Day?

If you are retired, as I am, has anyone ever asked you that question? I usually answer "I'm not sure, but I know I'm busy." I have felt especially busy the last few days so I tried to analyze why. Just what do I do all day?
After cleaning closets there was the usual cooking, house cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. Tom finally got out the slide projector he borrowed and has been going through boxes of old family slides - from his childhood and earlier. I have spent some time with him reliving past history and deciding: keep, print up, or throw away. Most have been tossed, put there are some interesting keepers.
I ordered a new photo printer from Amazon and it arrived a few days ago. We got it programmed and running. I want to get back to it to print up some pics for photo cards, but I haven't managed that yet. The Arizona atlas plus some travel guides are sitting around waiting for me to finish up our travel plans for March. Once we get our itinerary set we'll book flights and car rentals and motels. We're planning a week long road trip out of Phoenix north to Sedona and south to Tucson with points of interest in and around these hubs. I started this project over a week ago but I'm having trouble finding time to get back to it. Got to do it soon.
Today Tom installed a new switch for the bedside touch lamp, which was easy, and the DTA's for the digital upgrades for two TVs, which was complicated. He is just loving the TV spots from Comcast that say if you are a cable customer you don't have to do anything. DTA's are Digital Transport Adapters. They are little boxes accompanied by remotes, cables and cords with transformers. For our new little flat screen in the kitchen it was a matter of plugging it all in. For the old TV upstairs it took several calls for tech support and several tries to adapt the old remote and the new remote and about 45 minutes more to achieve activation for both new boxes. All in all it took about two hours, and now we have a bunch of new black wire spaghetti. But we didn't have to do anything, right? R-i-g-h-t.
While Tom was doing that project, I made a trip to the fabric store. I have been designing, in my head and on paper, my next sewing project, a birthday dress for Granddaughter Irene. After playing around with alterations to a basic pattern, I went to select coordinated fabrics. There were a bunch of us granny types there at JoAnn's, taking advantage of the half price sale and getting in each other's way. The nice thing about granny types is that we are polite to each other as we dodge each other's carts and bolts of fabric. Now I have to find the time to get the project started before I lose momentum.
We went out shopping yesterday for stuff like photo frames, printer paper, a lamp switch and I don't know what all. I also did some preliminary fabric shopping and pattern searching. The frames were for paintings and prints we bought on our European trip last April. Some of them are now finally hanging on the wall. Others are still waiting.
I also finally got back to trying to retrieve embroidery designs I downloaded onto my sewing machine program on our old computer that were not opening on our new computer. After lots of time and lots of mouse clicking I have found them all, but now they need to be reorganized in document files. Sometime.
During my trip to the doctor last week for a referral to podiatry, it was discovered that my blood pressure was high. I have never really paid any attention to blood pressure, but now I must. I have been taking readings several times a day. Now that the weather has calmed so that is isn't raining or snowing or blowing, I can get out for walks again. I found my pedometer, got new batteries for it, recalibrated it, and have gone for hour long walks the last two afternoons. So far I have managed to get Tom to go along and we've had good chats to mask the effort of hill climbing. Surprise! Exercise has an immediate, positive affect on blood pressure.
I am part way through the new Time magazine, but I haven't touched the latest Newsweek yet. I manage to scan the daily paper and read most of the editorial page. I get the word puzzle done while watching Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, or Rachel Maddow's show, which we record to watch in the evening along with The Daily Show. Occasionally there are other TV shows we watch for entertainment, although those seem fewer and fewer. I have a new novel from Amazon that I want to start when I get ahead of the other reading. Soon, I hope.
Each day I try to take time to check in on all of my blogging friends. I learn so much from all of you and we have wonderful conversations on line. My postings depend on time and inspiration. This one was interrupted while I went down to the kitchen to finish up the pot roast dinner that was cooking in the oven, which I started before we went for out for our walk. Then it was time to eat it, and help with the clean up.
And that's kinda, sorta what we do all day, with occasional yard work thrown in for good measure.
So, what do you do all day? And who would ever have time to go to work?!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cleaning Closets

This is the picture I have on my desktop, because it makes me happier than the view of my garden right now. It's gray and dark outside again. And I have baggage on my mind.
I cleaned closets today. Tom got into the act too, after cleaning up the garage. It felt good to get rid of stuff. We still have more than we need, but we made a dent in it and there are bags full ready to donate. Bags of baggage.
Yesterday our son got laid off from his job. I think it came as a total surprise. I don't know for sure because I haven't talked to him yet. He doesn't want me to. He knows I'm a worrier, and he doesn't need my fretting added to what he's already dealing with. I understand that, but of course, I can't get it off of my mind. I'll have to break the silence soon. Baggage on my mind.
Jake is a land surveyor, and was working for a large company in Seattle. But of course construction, the main reason for urban surveying, has taken a hit, just like so many other businesses. Boeing announced yesterday that is is laying off another 4,200 positions too. He got the news yesterday and sent out an email before turning in his cell phone, which was a work phone. He asked people not to call or email him to ask "What are you going to do?" He doesn't know yet.
Of course I knew that sooner of later the economic crisis would hit us in some way, but I was hopeful that Jake would be able to keep his job. He was too. Not now. It all becomes so real when it happens to you and yours. Nothing like up close and personal.
The outlook isn't so good for finding work. Rough times may be ahead for him. He is 33, single and independent. He likes it that way. But we're here for back up if he needs it.
I read today that George W. Bush has been working on a legacy project which has been published on a White House Web site in a 52 page booklet called "Highlights of Accomplishments and Results". The book lists his top 100 achievements. I'm having a hard time thinking of any accomplishments, and the results are nothing I'd want in my legacy. I'm sure there are lots of unemployed folks who would be happy to add a chapter, or perhaps an alternative text altogether, maybe with the title "Lowlights and Failures and the Painful Results".
But I may be bitter. I have baggage on my mind.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Skywatch - Promise of a Better Day

I was sitting at my computer catching up with my blog friends, thinking as I began to find Skywatch postings, that I wouldn't do one this week. Outside my window I noticed a glow, but went on blogging until it hit me. The sun was setting with an orange - red glow. By the time I finally got myself going I had almost missed it! While it's not a great photo, what it means is that THE RAIN HAS STOPPED! You know what they say. "Red at night, sailor's delight." Some of those sailors are right now in row boats in their yards rescuing people, pets and prized possessions. Relief is in sight. For more sky pics go here.


After many feet of snow in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and even in the lowlands, the weather warmed to the 50's and the rains came. The result is avalanches, landslides, broken trees, and widespread flooding. This morning there is no ground route out of northwestern Washington to the south, east or west. I guess we might still make it north to Canada. I-5 is closed for twenty miles at Chehalis, awaiting the cresting of two local rivers tonight. All side routes are closed due to flooding or landslides. The trains are not running south to Portland. The mountain passes (three major routes) are all closed for avalanche danger or control or standing water. With the snow piled high along the highways, there is no where for the melt off water to run. They have to pump it out. The rain has let up here in Seattle, but the storm will still bring more rain to some areas. The worst of the rain is over for now, however, and now we wait for the flow down out of the mountains to crest in the rivers in the lowlands. Misery is widespread, from stranded pets and farm animals to homes full of mud and water, schools closed, emergency routes blocked, and commerce transportation at a standstill. Trains and trucks loaded with goods are going nowhere. We are lucky, sitting high and dry, trees mostly intact, no damages suffered from ice or snow or rain. But if the Red Cross asks you for money, consider it. Folks will need help. I tried linking you up to news video, but the clips keep changing as they update. Try King 5 News for a selection of videos.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Sister's Blog

My sister Ilene was one of my faithful readers, even though, like the rest of my family, she never left a comment. In November she decided to start her own blog! In her last posting, she published a photo report of our family gathering of last Saturday, the one for which I made the lefse. Check her out at

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year - What Does That Mean?

Yesterday we undecorated, packed everything up and put it back in the attic. Today we cleaned house and restored the normal look. I now have fresh flowers on the table to go with the snow outside. We had 4 inches of new snow yesterday evening. It was beautiful last night at 11:00, but this morning it had all turned to slush as the weather warmed up. Seattle is back to normal. Rain is on the way. Today is the real first day of the new year. The holidays are over, kids are back to school, those who work are facing a five day work week, and government will soon again be filling the halls of congress and state legislatures. Confirmation hearings will begin in the other Washington. Will it be the same old partisan bickering? What will 2009 bring? How will it be new? Yes, there will soon be a new president and a new administration. Many have expressed hope in the changes that will bring. I myself have a sense of anticipation, but it's an uneasy anticipation. After the holidaze hiatus, my brain is waking back up to politics and economics and world affairs. But here's my question - How will we achieve newness when we bring so much old baggage? Scanning the newspaper this morning, I found news about the economic stimulus proposal. Forty percent of the cost will come in tax cuts. Obama wants to quiet conservative congressional skeptics who fear large government spending packages. Is our president-elect compromising too much for the sake of unity? Will the government spending programs be monitored so the money really goes to infrastructure and job creation instead of being wasted? Aren't the same spenders mostly still in power? I don't like tax cuts. I think it sends the message that we can just keep on charging it and not pay for what we buy. Our credit economy has gotten us into this mess. Do we want to encourage more? On the business page the first of ten items of a list of economic advice to people was to resolve to trim spending by 15 percent. That's great if you were spending with a credit card and not saving, but what if your income is stable and your indebtedness is low? If I cut back on spending, who loses their job, whose business goes under? If you still have money, shouldn't you still spend it? Did anyone watch It's a Wonderful Life in the last few weeks? The lesson there was pretty clear - don't run on the banks. Don't panic! Internationally, I read that Sunni terrorists were blowing themselves up in Baghdad in order to kill Shiite pilgrims coming to the shrine of a saint. Of course the holy season is to honor a grandson of Muhammad, who's killing started the division of Sunni and Shiite in the first place. A saint to one is a monster to another. It never stops. We are no longer talking about withdrawal from Iraq. It will happen. But now we are getting sucked into the trap of Afghanistan. What will that cost in lives and treasure? And straighten me out if I'm wrong, but is it really that important to get Osama bin Laden, if he is even still alive? When is enough killing enough? Israel and the Palestinians have the world watching and worrying again. I have yet to sort out that situation enough to decide if any party there is right enough to outweigh the wrong. On the one hand it seems simple enough to say to Hamas, "Stop lobbing rockets into Israel". But it's the Sunni/Shiite thing all over again! Old hatreds never die. Hamas is a collection of "crime families" who don't take orders. Instability threatens the whole region. Old baggage in a new year. And to top it off, our Comcast cable service has been telling us we will be fine when the TV system switches over to digital this year. We won't need to do anything. Today we received the boxes Comcast sent us to hook up for the transition. The best advice I have seen is to look out for your friends and family and neighbors. And be prepared to help hook up the elderly neighbor lady's TV. My hope for 2009? That we can learn from our mistakes.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Making Potato Lefse

Since my family has grown with the next two generations, my siblings and I do not all get together for Christmas like we used to. Instead we spend the holiday with our own children and grandchildren. We decided several years ago to start another tradition, the combination Family Heritage Fest/Celebration of our Mother's Birthday. Her birthday is December 28th, so we set a time as close to that date as we can. Our heritage is northern European, chiefly Swedish, Norwegian and German. We try to incorporate some ethnic foods in our fest feast. I am the lefse maker in the family. Potato lefse starts with mashed potatoes, made the usual way, with salt, butter and milk. This is about four cups of mashed potatoes. The potatoes must be completely chilled. Then I add just enough flour to make a dough that can be shaped and rolled out. I added about one and a half cups of flour to this mix. The trick is to add the least amount of flour possible to the dough and then keep lots of flour on the rolling surface. I have an old cotton flour sack that fits perfectly over a pull out cutting board. Shape the dough into balls.
Roll out each ball as thinly as possible, trying to keep the shape as round as possible. Keep adding flour to prevent sticking to the cloth or the rolling pin. You will end up with flour all over the place. It's just part of the process!
A special lefse stick is used to slip under the dough circle and lift it onto the griddle.
When brown spots form on the bottom, flip it over to cook the other side.
Get a buddy to help. It's more fun and much easier.
Stack the cooked lefse rounds to cool, keeping them covered with a towel so they won't dry out. You want them to stay soft.
When the cooking is complete, you can wrap the completed rounds in plastic and refrigerate until you prepare them for serving. To serve:
Brush each round with melted butter.
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Cut the circle into wedges and roll each wedge.
Before serving, warm the lefse in the microwave (just like the ancestors did, of course.)
Stand back and watch it dissapear. The big kids love it, and so do the little ones.