Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My favorite Christmas present

After this past week there's no doubt what my favorite Christmas present will be - good health for those that I love. I've never really taken it for granted, I've always known it's a blessing, but it's especially precious these days.

T was taken to the hospital last Monday with internal bleeding. There were a few scary moments that night, at home and in the ER, when I wondered about the future. Those are images that will be seared into my brain forever.

After numerous tests and many days he was finally allowed home. The bleeding has stopped and might never return. But once home things didn't return to normal because of his low blood count. We were informed that if bleeding returned he would need to get to the ER immediately for a transfusion or else. Plus, because of the anemia he was very weak so he spent several days just sleeping. Yesterday was the first day that even approached normal but even so, he hasn't been out of the house in days and that probably won't change through the holidays. Needless to say, our cross-country driving trip to Florida was canceled.

The good news that came out of all this was that we now know he has a clean bill of health for other things. His family cancer history had concerned us in other areas and the tests they ran for this bleeding helped ease our minds.

T's health isn't the only thing I'm giving thanks for this Christmas. There's another member of our family that has worried me this past year - my baby Jasper. This time last year he was in a bad way. He'd been getting older and weaker, not able to jump up on furniture, etc. Then we went away for several days last December and things got really bad. He didn't eat and barely drank while we were gone so that by the time we got home, he was practically a skeleton and couldn't get up from the floor without assistance. We had to carpet almost our entire kitchen area because he couldn't walk on the bare floor without falling. He was almost 13 and I was really worried that we would be saying goodbye to him soon.

With love, patience, care and lots of food, I am happy to report that (almost) 14 year old Jasper is doing great. He built his strength back up, regained the full use of his legs and is now jumping on the couch at every opportunity. He's found his joy again and acts like a puppy. We've learned that we can't be gone for long periods anymore (hence the cross-country driving trip to Florida so that he could come along and we could be gone for over 2 weeks) and we've found a type of food that he loves so much, he'll even eat it when we're gone so we never have to worry about him getting too thin.
We were recently able to travel with him, the picture above was taken during a trip to Yosemite in October. He had a great time on the trip, he was even able to hike up a fairly steep hill to see Bridalveil Falls. He was quite a hit with the other hikers and it was fun to see all that beauty with our best friend walking right beside us.
As for me, I'm doing well. I am very tired, a week of stress, worry and little sleep will do that to you but my job is quiet these days so I'm getting my rest at work. I still worry, things definitely aren't back to normal but I can see improvement and that's enough for now.
So I have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas and believe me, I am.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Charlton's Coffeehouse

the most important reconstruction on Colonial Williamsburg's Duke of Gloucester Street in half a century and it opened on my birthday...cool.

Monday, October 19, 2009


google it to figure out where I was this weekend

Friday, October 16, 2009

on the road again

Jasper enjoys the Comfort of the Inn

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

aftermath of the storm

we had a big coastal storm yesterday. I came into work in the morning but left after an hour because the power went out. I'm so glad I was gone when this tree came down right outside my office window. It missed the cottage by inches so I wouldn't have been harmed except to have the crap scared out of me.

I got here this morning to find the tree and that we still don't have power. It's hard to get any work done these days without a computer so it looks like today will be another fun reading day at home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. Incredible

In Loving Memory...
Ben Huffman
October 3, 1968 - September 14, 2009
Ben Huffman lost his courageous battle with brain cancer on September 14, 2009.
Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never, ever the same.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


lunch at the desk, today is the real labor day.

Monday, September 7, 2009

another weekend highlight

I look forward to the greek festival every year.

time travel

the perfect activity for a holiday

Saturday, September 5, 2009

picnic at Target

we walked 2.5 miles for this yummy breakfast...and now it's 2.5 miles back home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

it's almost time for class

School started up again last week, another semester of chorus for me. I adore my instructor and look forward to this hour each day. I'm lucky to have a flexible job that lets me sneak away each day at noon to sing for an hour.

The hardest part is coming back to work rather than heading on home. :-)

all here for the same thing

because of budget cuts the library hours have been slashed. we're all lined up waiting for the 11 o'clock opening. it beats Monday, doesn't open till 1 that day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Job stuff

I like my job. I didn't always, it used to drive me crazy when I did it a few years ago. Now that I've come back for almost a year, I appreciate its good points and love it most of the time.

MOST of the time.

However, around event time, it's difficult. Tensions run high and everybody thinks that they are doing too much and everybody but them is a slacker.

Today I learned that one of the people I've always liked, who got frustrated on the phone with me last week because she thinks she's being put upon, has been telling everyone that I hung up on her...when the truth is that I was saying the word goodbye when she severed the connection. I actually stood there stunned for a few minutes because I couldn't believe she'd hung up on me. I know eventually we'll work it out because we've always gotten along well but I really don't like being lied about, especially when the first thing she did was to run and tattle to my boss.

Then there's the flip side - people who have stepped up to the plate and taken on way more than others, just to make sure that we have a successful event. I really appreciate these people, even if they do make me giggle when they tell me what a big job "X" is...yeah, I know, I used to be the one doing it along with about 20 other projects. ;-) Because we're a volunteer organization, we couldn't exist without those people and I have nothing but admiration and appreciation for them. They are the reason I mostly love my job!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Yesterday morning I woke up, hoping to enjoy a quiet morning before leaving for chorus at noon. It was my last day of solitude before T got home from a trip and I had a few things I wanted to accomplish but mostly I wanted to enjoy having the house to myself for the whole morning.

Why then was I in the car, hurtling down the highway towards work just 20 minutes later? Because, while sitting on the couch, sipping my morning hot chocolate, I heard something on the morning news that struck terror into my heart - there was a fire in Carmel...on Lincoln & 6th - right where my office, housed in an historic 1902 cottage, is located.

I know I couldn't actually do anything if it really was my office on fire but there was just no way I could sit around all day wondering so I threw on some clothes (and some makeup - let's get real this *is* me we're talking about), put the hot chocolate in a travel mug, and headed for town.
20 minutes later I was just 2 blocks from the office when I saw this

which did not fill me with confidence about the state of my office. I can't explain why it bothered me so much. Partly, of course, it was because if the office burned down, the computer burned with it, which means all of our records would be lost. We're already teetering on the edge of going under, losing all our membership and financial data might just send us over the edge of the cliff which would mean I'm out of a job. But it's not just the loss of a paycheck. As I sped down the highway I realized that this organization is more than just a job to me. I care about what it does, what it stands for, the potential it possesses. I care about the people and would miss them if they were out of my life, even the ones that drive me freakin' crazy.

The fire department had blocked off all roads around my building so I couldn't get closer to the house than a couple of blocks. I parked and walked the rest of the way and was VERY relieved to see the source of all the excitement - the upper floor of the gallery across the street was burned out. My sweet little cottage was just fine, not touched at all. I let myself in the front door and said a silent prayer of thanks. I sometimes talk to the guy that built the house, he was 17 when he built it for his mother and sisters, so I talked to Mike Murphy and told him how great it was that "our" house was still standing. I think I would have grieved the loss of the cottage as much as the organization if my worst fears had been realized.

Then I turned around, found my car and got myself out of town - it *was* my day off after all!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

back to work

I think I've finally found the perfect working schedule for me - 3 days a week. It's not great for earning money (believe me) but it's perfect for people who have too many personal interests to devote a whole week to work. ;-) I'm at work from Tuesday to Thursday and then I have a lovely 4 day weekend every week. It's pure bliss walking out of here at 4pm on Thursday and knowing that I don't have to be back again until 9am on Tuesday.

The only problem that I've found is that I'm gone just long enough to completely forget any issue that was simmering last week. I walk in on Tuesday morning feeling like I've been away for weeks, thinking that I must be terribly behind on something and wondering what the heck I was working on before I was called away. It's always a relief to remember that I haven't been gone forever, no one has missed me, nothing has slipped through the cracks - well, except for all those letters I took home on Thursday thinking sure that I'd get a chance to mail on Friday only to completely forget them and only remember on Tuesday morning as I'm getting ready to go into work....oops.

The real joy of my new schedule is that long weekend trips are within reach. I can take a quick trip out of town for pleasure or research and not have to beg for time off, feeling guilty for being away from work. I'm particularly susceptible to displeasure in others and I always feel like I'm letting the team down if I take time off so this new situation is a big help towards squelching my stupid guilt complex.

A couple of research trips are already being planned for this summer and I'm hoping to get away for a little vacation somewhere with the husband. So many possibilities and for once, plenty of time.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I woke up to find the house covered in snow

...well, no, not me. I woke up to find the house bathed in sunlight but I don't mean to rub it in. Apparently many households in the western US are snowed in today. What a novel concept.

To me, a spring snowstorm is an insult. Just when you think you've gotten through the winter and you've been teased with a few days of sunshine and warmer temperatures, WHAM, you get put right back in the deep freeze and you have to bring out the shovel again.

This is why I moved to sunnier climates. No chance of snow here! In fact, today is supposed to be the warmest day of the week, even at the beach. No jackets required today. I think I'll have a picnic after my class at noon.

Ok, maybe that's rubbing it in just a little but really, I'm being good. It's not like I'm posting any pictures of all our sunny beauty....I'll do that tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bumper Sticker

I'm not a big fan of bumper stickers, I don't have any on my car, but today I saw one that I've got to get.

It said "Caution - Driver Singing". What's really funny is that I was singing away at the top of my lungs when I saw it. I laughed so hard I practically ran myself off the road.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's been a hard winter

"Officially, winter is over and spring is here. For most of us, it has been a hard winter despite the fact that the weather has been pleasant the greater part of the time. There are things other than zero weather and heavy snowfalls that make hard winters."
Laura Ingalls Wilder, March 1922

Boy howdy, I agree with that! I'm not familiar enough with 1922 history to know exactly what Laura is talking about but the first thing that springs to my mind when I read this is the economy. It's been a hard winter for many of us, hasn't it? We're still reeling from the economic news last fall and it often has seemed like there's yet another catastrophe each time we watch the evening news; don't even get me started on the constant stream of gloom and doom from the 24 hour news channels. For a while there it was enough to make you think that the spring of hope was never going to be sprung.

Even for those of us not personally affected yet by mortgage woes or job layoffs, I imagine we all know someone that is suffering; it's easy to see how this is affecting our local businesses. Just yesterday while walking through a nearby community, I saw several empty storefronts, businesses that had been there for years, favorites of mine, that aren't there any more. They weren't able to hang on till spring, the hard winter got them.

I don't even have to go outside my own circle to find heartbreaking stories. My husband recently learned that several members of a team he managed at a previous job, people we consider friends, have been let go from their positions. These are people in their 50s and 60s who have worked for this company for decades and now they're being told that their services are no longer required. Years of service did not guarantee loyalty from their employer and might now be used against them when trying to find a new job.

And then there's the death of dreams. One of my friends fulfilled a long-held dream a year ago when she opened her own shop in our little town. All went well until the hard winter hit and the tourists stopped visiting. She tried to hold on, tried to keep the dream alive but this past week she had to admit defeat and the shop will close at the end of the month - even the promise of spring wasn't enough. I know her heart is breaking and mine hurts for her.

Lest we drown in sorrow, I'd like to revisit the source of my quote up there. The original article from 1922 goes on to describe how during the difficult times, friends and neighbors can often make the difference between making it or falling apart. I would hate to think that this is just something that happened in the past. If we are to defeat our current hard winter, we're going to have to make the difference in our own communities by helping out however we can - shopping, going out to eat occasionally, giving to the local food and clothing banks, offering material or emotional support to a friend or family member (yes, I know that's often tricky), and mostly by maintaining a spirit of optimism whenever possible. A spirit of gratitude doesn't hurt either.

Laura ends her article this way - " 'Sweet are the uses of adversity ' when it shows us the kindness in our neighbors' hearts."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm famous!

Ok, maybe not famous but it's exciting for me to have my words featured on this site.


It's a great site, run by some amazing Laura experts, and the perfect place to start if you want to learn more about the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why Laura?

Mention "Little House on the Prairie" to most people and they'll immediately think of the 1970's TV series starring Michael Landon. Or they'll remember reading the books when they were kids. Or they'll be like my voice teacher and give you a blank stare because they've never watched TV and children's books about pioneering are apparently not intellectual enough to be on their radar.

Voice teacher aside, most people have a passing knowledge of Little House and Laura Ingalls, although they might not know the names of any of the other books and have no idea she was a real person who lived the life she fictionalized in her books. They have no further interest and often wonder why I would. Why would an adult woman spend her free time reading and researching a little girl who lived in a log cabin over 130 years ago?

It's a fair question, so let me try to explain.

First of all, yes, Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in a log cabin back in the 1870's and it's the pioneering aspect of the books that originally drew me to Laura. I loved the idea of sleeping on a trundle bed (well, until I knew exactly what that was ), playing with a corncob doll, watching your father smoke meat in a tree stump, drinking out of a little tin cup, making your own bread and butter and yes, playing with a pig's bladder all blown up like a balloon. I couldn't get enough of that stuff. Remember, I was essentially an only child and I had a LOT of time to play on my own and use my imagination. When I was 11 or 12, long past the time I *should* have been playing Little House, I guess, we moved to an isolated house in the country on an acre of woods. There were no sidewalks to ride my bike anymore, no swingsets or playhouses and no friends down the street so the woods became my playhouse and Laura became my best friend. It was real easy to imagine you were living in a log cabin in the Big Woods when you were surrounded by trees.

In high school the Little House on the Prairie Cookbook came out, inspired by the success of the TV series, and I fell in love with the idea of baking my own bread from a sourdough starter and making pancake men for breakfast. I loved that cookbook (and it was a thrill for me to finally meet the author last summer), practically loved it to death. I've tried most of the recipes in there. One of the only ones left to try is Ox Tail soup and that's only because I never knew where to buy ox tails until just a couple of months ago.

But I guess that doesn't explain why I'm still attached to, some would say obsessed by, Laura today. Am I still a pioneer girl wannabe? I chuckle at the thought. You would chuckle too if you could see me. Somehow I doubt that pioneer is the word that comes to people's minds when they meet me. I don't have long hair kept in a braid, I don't wear calico dresses, my biscuits resemble hockey pucks and I haven't baked my own bread in years. I like to think of myself as rather trendy and quite modern (with a retro sensibility) so while the log cabin/pioneering stuff still is interesting to me, it's not what draws me to Laura anymore.

During the 70's a book came out that was the first biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder that I had ever come across. For the first time I saw pictures of the real Laura....and the real Pa with his very scary beard. Laura stopped being a character in a series of books and became a real person, a person who grew up and lived a full life. I wanted to know more about this person, what happened to her after the books ended and she and Almanzo, the boy hero of the series, rode off into the sunset and set up housekeeping in their little gray house in the west? Did they live happily ever after? Did they have lots of children? Did they live in South Dakota forever? The fact that the answer to each of these questions was a "no" didn't stop me from wanting to dig further. Laura became a real, flesh and blood person to me and I liked the person she became.

Even more than liking her, I admired her. Laura Ingalls Wilder had grit and determination and she needed every bit of that determination to make it through the trials of her first years of adulthood with illness, drought, poverty, fire and death dogging her heels. She and Almanzo moved around quite a bit in the first 10 years of marriage, trying to find the place where they belonged. They finally found it in the Ozark hills of Missouri. But even then life wasn't easy and Laura spent her 30's taking care of boarders in town while helping her husband clear and build up their 200 acres of farmland right outside of the town limits.

In her 40's, with an established farming business and her dream home finally becoming a reality, she embarked on a new career - author. But not the author of her famous book series, that would come much later. She became a published newspaper and magazine author, finding fame in her local environment, leaving national fame to her globe-trotting daughter. Laura's articles, full of homespun farm wisdom, still resonate with me today. I can frequently find the perfect quote to match what's going on in our world from articles that were written almost 100 years ago. Now that's some good writing. I am inspired by her change of career so relatively late in life and now that I'm in my 40's I hope to follow in her footsteps. In fact I frequently use her as a way to buck myself up - "Laura didn't even start writing till her 40's and look where that took her....so it's not too late for you."

Book Laura had few posessions. When she married and moved in with Almanzo, she barely filled up one trunk with all her wordly goods - a quilt, old rag doll, china box, and a couple of dresses. I definitely don't relate to that girl. However I've been to Laura's house in Missouri and I've seen all the stuff she ended up with. ;-) Laura liked stuff. She especially liked dishes and there are at least 4 sets of good china on display at the museum and in her house. That's not counting the everyday dishes and the depression glass sets. Girlfriend had a serious dish collecting addiction. As the daughter of a dish addict who has shown definite tendencies myself, I can completely identify and I love her for it. From what I understand, she loved fashion too, along with jewelry and accessories. You can see hints of it in her books when she goes into great detail about each of her dresses and hats. Now that's a woman after my own heart!

In her 60's, when she and Almanzo were starting to think about retirement from the drudgery of farm work (maybe they didn't think it was drudgery, I could be projecting my own lazy opinion there) another career, the best career, was right around the corner. The Depression hit them hard because their nest egg had been invested in a fund that went belly up during the stock market crash (sound familiar to anyone?) and their daughter Rose encouraged her mother to write down memories of her pioneer childhood and attempt to get it published in order to make extra money. No one was interested in the adult memior but when the material was reworked into a series of childrens books, they struck literary gold. Children of the 1930's loved hearing about little Laura and Mary's adventures - first in the big woods of Wisconsin and later on the prairies of Kansas, Minnesota and South Dakota. Suddenly, Mrs. A. J. Wilder of Mansfield, Missouri became Laura Ingalls Wilder of the world. I can't even imagine what it must have felt like to go from local farm wife to international superstar but I imagine she had a lot of fun with it. A lifetime of frugality gave way now that money was no longer a constant problem and worry. This is actually when she started most of her dish collection, I believe, and it must have been so much fun to finally indulge yourself and order anything you'd like from the wish book.

She churned out book after book during the 1930's and 40's until she finally brought book Laura's childhood to a close at the age of 18. She and Almanzo had left the Dakota prairies in defeat, only too happy to say goodbye to the wide open spaces and the eternal wind and drought that had ripped their dreams apart. But I like to believe that she recaptured her early love of the prairie while writing her books, remembering the beauty of seeing the sun set behind the far off hills and gathering violets and wild roses by the armful during her Sunday afternoon buggy rides with her beau. If she didn't recapture all that emotion, she did a wonderful job of faking it through her writing because she instilled that love in me and I never even saw the prairie until I was an adult.

And that's the main reason I love Laura - her words. They paint pictures in my mind and inspire me every day. I am fascinated by how an ordinary girl could become an extraordinary woman who made a rich life out of what most people would consider very little. I love how she didn't give up, how she didn't stick to the role prescribed for her by society in the mid-years of the 20th century but rather forged her own path and by doing so, touched the lives of millions of people around the world.

Really, when you think of it, why wouldn't I spend my free time reading and researching about Laura? I'm only surprised that everybody else isn't doing it as well!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Manly Day!

Almanzo Wilder was born February 13, 1857 so today marks his 152nd birthday. He looks pretty good for 152, wouldn't you say?

For the uninformed among you, Almanzo (Manly to his wife and friends) was the husband of author Laura Ingalls Wilder. She met him when she was a teenager (although I don't think they used that term in the 19th century) and married him when she was 18....he was 28. Years later she made him famous by using him as a leading character in her Little House books, even writing a whole book, FARMER BOY, about a year of his childhood in Malone, New York.

Manly was my first literary crush and I've never gotten over loving him. He was portrayed as a quiet, patient man with more than a touch of humor and fun in his manner. His gentle courting of Laura became my role model of the perfect romance. His proposal ranks right up there as one of my all time favorites.

Manly: I was wondering if you would like an engagement ring.

Laura: That would depend on who offered it to me.

Manly: If I should?

Laura: Then it would depend on the ring.

Isn't that priceless? Can you imagine how he must have felt? I guess he knew right then and there that life would never be boring with Miss Ingalls.

He won my heart forever when he and Laura were discussing their wedding ceremony and she said, "Do you want me to promise to obey you?"

Manly quickly answered, "Of course not. I know it is something in the wedding ceremony, but it is only something that women say. I never knew one that did it, nor any decent man that wanted her to."

According to things I've read, his mother was the one that ran things in his family so I guess we have her to thank for his enlightened views of women in 1885. Laura, indeed, did not promise to obey during their wedding.

Almanzo spent his childhood helping his father on his prosperous farms in upstate New York and Minnesota, later starting his own farm on homestead land in South Dakota. Knowing nothing but success, I'm sure Almanzo thought he and Laura had a bright future ahead of them after marriage, unfortunately drought, hail, poverty, fire and illness took their toll and the family, which now included their daughter Rose, moved around a good bit, from South Dakota to Minnesota, down to Florida and back to South Dakota before finally settling in Missouri in 1894. Life wasn't much easier in Missouri in the beginning but eventually they built a large farmhouse and tended to almost 200 acres of orchard and farm land for the next 50 years or so.

Almanzo once told his daughter, Rose, that his life had mostly been full of disappointment but he's been described by people that knew him in Missouri as having a great sense of humor and full of fun, loving to talk and cut up so I like to think he was just having a bad day when he was answering Rose's questions. I find so much humor in the following excerpt from the Mansfield Mirror in 1916, I can just imagine Almanzo telling the story and the newspaper printing it exactly the way he told it:

"Last week, in his orchard, A.J. Wilder found his best brood sow dead, probably killed by hunters. Mr. Wilder is a good natured farmer but does not care to dispose of his stock in this way..."

So happy birthday Manly, I hope somewhere up in heaven you're having swiss steak for your birthday dinner and some of Bessie's good gingerbread for dessert....along with a nice piece of apple pie.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How to make macaroni and cheese

1. Search the internet for mac and cheese recipes

2. Find several, ignore them all and make something up

3. Boil macaroni, drain and dump into a bowl

4. Add cheese to the macaroni and stir

5. Realize that bowl is too small to stir cheese into macaroni without spilling over so move mixture into a bigger bowl.

6. Mix together other ingredients in small bowl.

7. Realize that macaroni bowl is too small to have other ingredients added to it so move mixture into an even bigger bowl.

8. End up with a sink full of bowls

9. Move mixture to cooking dish and say a prayer of thanks that it fits

10. Cook for 30 minutes and hope for the best

11. Take perfect macaroni and cheese out of the oven

12. Eat

13. Go back for seconds

14. Go back for thirds

15. Decide that you'd better not make macaroni and cheese again for a while because it's too good.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy 2009!

Christmas and all its associated baggage is over, thank goodness, and now we're on to a fresh year. As Anne of Green Gables would say "it's a new day with no mistakes in it." Not that there were all that many mistakes in 2008, it was mostly a pretty good year, but there's always something so refreshing about starting a new year.

I'm not big on resolutions, mostly because I hate to tie myself down to anything. This year I'm resolving to be pretty every day (that's not too hard), buy something frivilous (for myself, natch) at least once a month and to try all the flavors and combinations at Coldstone....although not all at once because my only serious resolution is to make healthier eating choices MOST of the time. The Coldstone resolution will come in to play during the parts that MOST doesn't cover.

I'm doing pretty good at keeping Resolution #1 already - the waitress at our favorite Korean place told me that I was very pretty today. She's never said anything personal at all to me, ever, and even she seemed surprised when the words came out of her mouth. I guess I was just extra dazzling today....I think it's the new, frivilous, lipstick.

One more resolution - to try to post more often and to take pictures to document my oh so exciting life. So here's the first one, my adorable buddy Jasper, following his regular weekday routine, going to the office with daddy.

We like to say that he works very hard during the day, reading the back of his eyelids. He makes sure to wake up at lunch time, though!

So Happy New Year to everybody, let's hope it lives up to its promise.