Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Fifty

More time outside. :) Buddy needed to be able to throw and catch a ball at ten paces to finish up the last requirement for his latest Cub Scout badge, and we played outside for quite a while after he'd accomplished that task.

And a little gratuitous cropping, just for fun ...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty-Nine

I'm 17 days into another run at Item #63 - spend 15 minutes a day outside for 100 consecutive days. I've photographed this item several times, but I was quite proud of the results of yesterday's "15 minutes" (give or take an hour), and it's my blog, so I can post pictures if I want. ;)

Quite a bit of this isn't actually weeds, just the leftover greenery from the MANY grape hyacinths that bloomed last month. They're trimmed back now, but still visible above the bark dust so they can get a little more sun and rain absorbed for next year's growing. These were all here before we moved to this house - I can see a flowerbed with blue iris and blue grape hyacinth, but I probably wouldn't have put them in with pink roses, personally. I've never had the heart to pull out the irises though, so they keep sharing space.

Before and after, from the driveway:

Before and after, from the sidewalk:

Buddy helped pull weeds too, and showed surprising enthusiasm for it. I could hear him over in his little patch of garden muttering, "Bad weeds! I hate weeds! I'm bigger than you! You want a piece of me? I'll give you a piece of me!" No idea where his aggressive gardening came from, but if it gets weeds out of the flower beds, I'm all for it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty-Eight

So, dear readers, whose biography do YOU think I should read?

I haven't read all that many, come to think of it. Here are the ones I can think of that weren't required reading for college:

Jen Lancaster (her autobiography is at five memoirs and counting, all of them hilarious)

Maureen McCormick - Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice

Carrie Fisher - Wishful Drinking

a recent memoir of a badly behaved young man, which I regret having read and won't link here

Dean Karnazes' running autobiography, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Alison Weir's marvelous biographies of members of the British royal family: The Princes in the Tower; Elizabeth the Queen and The Life of Elizabeth I (both about Elizabeth I); Children of Henry VIII; and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Another one which escapes me entirely, and even my sophisticated Google skills can't locate it - it's the autobiography of a female FBI agent, and quite a lot of it is blacked out, which makes it that much more interesting.

I'm about a third of the way through An Army of Angels, a novel that is so exceptionally detailed and well-researched that I hesitate to call it a novel at all. I started it before the project began though, so I won't count it as one of the five.

I am hoping to read Mark Twain's long-awaited autobiography when it comes out this year. Apparently it has been locked in a vault at UC Berkeley for 100 years, and I'll at least take a look at it ... however, if the report is true that "It really is 400 pages of bile," I may give that one a pass. I enjoy autobiographies very much, but I'm fine with well-written biographies as well. Political figures, military leaders, musicians, writers, evil villains ... pretty much anybody who was personally interesting and loved what they did. I'm open to suggestions!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty-Seven

Today I worked a little more on Item #8, try 20 new recipes.

At first this just looked like a waste of perfectly good Double Milanos.

Then when they were all finished and chilled, I thought, "Well, OK, I can live with that."

They were OK. Next time, though, I'll mix in a little dark chocolate with the semi-sweet, use less butter (it was too greasy and not quite hard enough for my taste), and maybe put in some walnuts. They're called Hedgehogs, and I got the recipe off of a website for minimalist cooking - five ingredients or less, and minimal time in the kitchen. This is a scaled-down version of a basic recipe that is meant to include just about whatever you want to put in it, and I think a few more ingredients would make it worth the extra few minutes in the kitchen.

Definitely worth tweaking ... except for that darn Item #56.

Although I did go for a 2.3-mile walk today (building up to Item #47), so maybe that canceled out the piece(s) I ate? Or at least a few bites? At least one bite? Please?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty-Five

Oh, for goodness sake ... have I really not done ANYTHING on this list this week? In the immortal words of Frog and Toad, "BLAH."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty

(I know, the picture's blurry - this is what happens when the 11-year-old photographer and her subject get the giggles!)

Today I started sorting out a whole bunch of Buddy's old clothes (Item #36), went for a 20-minute bike ride (working toward Item #51), did not have cake at my brother-in-law's law degree graduation party (small progress toward the elusive Item #56), and finished another hat (Item #33).

I think that's enough work to merit a hot bath and a good book, don't you?

Day Two Hundred and Thirty-Nine

I suppose it's technically Day 240 since I stayed up past midnight sewing (Item #79), but I'm still counting it as 239 since that's the day it was when I woke up this morning.

About a year ago, I cut out the pattern pieces for matching nightgowns for Boo and for me. I made hers, along with a couple of other summer nightgowns from the same pattern, and then got sort of busy, and then it was time to make the matching Christmas jammies for Boo and Buddy, and then the pieces for mine kind of got buried under mending, and well, there went a year.

I decided it might be nice to sew mine before she grew out of hers.

The picture above is me working on the hand-sewing that makes the inside smooth and finished. If I have something to watch while I sew, I really enjoy the quiet, calm repetition of sewing by hand. In this case, a couple of particularly hair-raising episodes of Heroes kept me from getting too bored. Maybe I'll make another one for my next 101 Things project!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Thirty

New recipe this week (Item #8) - clam chowder, yum! The recipe calls for "four medium potatoes", and the friend from whom I got the recipe suggested using five not-so-medium potatoes instead. I love potatoes, so I was all for that, and came home with five large potatoes. I just didn't realize quite HOW large they were until I got them home.

You know how basketball players all look tallish when they're on the court, but since everybody's basically the same size you don't notice it all that much, and then when you stand next to one all you can think is, "Wow. Tall." (Just like that guy in "Fifth Element," where he's just met the 7-foot-tall blue alien soprano diva and ... oh, never mind.) Well, these potatoes were the pro basketball players of the vegetable world. When there were 100 of them all together, I just thought, "Oh, those are big enough, they'll work just fine." When I got them home and peeled and diced in a bowl, I thought, "Wow. That is a LOT of potato."

Here, look - this is my big soup pot, and this is THREE POTATOES. That's all that's in there, aside from some melted butter and a couple of chopped scallions. It's hard to tell, even with the spoon in there for a sense of scale, but it is more than halfway full.

I decided to make mashed potatoes with the rest, and maybe I'll look up a new lefse recipe and try that - yum, Norwegian potato pancakes with butter and cinnamon and sugar!

And before you ask, yes, I do catch the irony in the juxtaposition of this post and the previous one. Sigh. If I didn't like food, I'd probably weigh 115 pounds. But where would be the fun in that?!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty-Eight

Well, shoot. I guess Item #57 isn't gonna magically do itself. It was originally listed as "do core exercises every day for a month", but a little research (and practical experience) indicated that it would be wiser and healthier to stretch those thirty days out over a longer period of time. So #57 is now edited to read "Do core exercises at least 3x a week for 10 weeks." Week one, here we go.

I measured my waist and recorded the somewhat horrifying results in my Excel spreadsheet, which is (thankfully) very close-mouthed. If the numbers on the business end of that measuring tape look suspiciously blurry, it's because they are. Hurrah for photo-editing software!

If I actually do see any progress on this number, I will tell you - otherwise, this information is on a need-to-know basis, and sorry, but you don't. ;)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Twenty-Six

In celebration of the completion of Item #13, I am posting one of my essays from the class. The teacher, much to my delight, asked if he could include it in a packet of former student essays to be given to next year's freshmen writing class as part of their required reading. I said yes, and immediately changed all the names, just in case.

You'll soon understand that changing the names and a few details really is an exercise in futility to anyone who knew this family. They could not possibly be confused with anyone else. So I beg of you, the few who know who I'm writing about, be discreet. Thank you. I won't leave this one up indefinitely for that very reason, so read quick. :)

The other two essays probably will not be posted here, but I got very good comments on both of them from the class and the professor. The first essay, which is about a dear friend of the family who passed away five years ago, is full of happy (and a few sad) memories that are deeply personal to his family and to mine, and I have opted not to make that essay public. The third essay is a ruthless rewrite of an essay from my other blog, which I have neglected shamefully since starting this one. The professor was pleased enough with it that we are looking into trying to get it published (Item #46, incidentally), so I am going to hold off before posting it here so that it's not currently available online when I'm submitting it for publication.

And yes, I am VERY excited about that possibility.



(Untitled as yet - I am not very good at titles.)

A city kid would take the long way to the Potters’ house – up our gravel driveway, along the rough shoulder of a busy rural road, down the Potters’ driveway, past the apple orchard, around the little red rental house, and across the long stretch of weedy grass that served as a lawn. It was easier, though, to just go through the hole in the fence. There were cows in the pasture between our houses, but nobody’d ever seen them even think about organizing a stampede. Only one of the horses bit, and she was only dangerous if you bothered her. The shortcut across the field was worth the risk of running through a fresh, fragrant cowpie.

The Potters’ door was always open, in every sense of the word. Locking doors in our corner of the sticks still seemed like a paranoid city-dweller’s habit, but with the sheer number of people running in and out of their house, the door barely had time to even close. In the nine years I lived next to them, they opened their home to eight children, adopted from six birth families. Their van’s license plate read “8ISENUF”, but it lied. There were always extra kids hanging around, and they were easily absorbed into the mob. My sister and I were once fed dinner, tucked into bed, and not noticed until Mrs. Potter counted heads at breakfast.

The house was huge, a rambling two-story farmhouse decorated in a garish 1970’s style that was faring badly under the impact of eight childhoods occurring all at once under its roof. Four boys had bounced baseballs off of the sparkly flocked ceiling, and it showed. Their mother despaired of ever keeping little fingerprints off of the mirrored hallway walls. The white shag carpet in the living room grew increasingly dingy and flat, especially at Christmas.

For most families, it was considered bad luck to keep the tree up past New Years’. For the Potters, it was bad luck to keep it up past Easter. The number of presents dictated the size of the tree, and by the time each kid got each sibling a present, they’d have needed a tree as tall as a house. Mr. Potter’s solution was simple: Cut down a tree as tall as the house, and hack off the top half for firewood. The business end of the tree was hauled into the living room, sprayed into submission with innumerable cans of fake snow, and surrounded with well over a hundred presents. Everyone had to give everyone else at least a small gift, except for Great-Aunt Ida, who only gave presents to the kids she liked.

With that many people sharing bathroom sinks and closet space, it was inevitable that somebody was going to bug somebody else. Tattling was forbidden, and the discipline system developed a certain ruthless elegance. If a child disobeyed, Mrs. Potter would simply say “One.” The kid’s eyes would widen, and then the interested onlookers would see nothing but a panicky blond blur as he flew to the kitchen to fetch a wooden spoon. Seconds later, panting, he’d hand his mother the utensil as she said “Six” or maybe “Eight”, and he’d bend over for the requisite number of whacks. Crying children, if they showed a flair for the melodramatic, were sent to The Platform. This was a long wooden pallet in the back field, where the howling wouldn’t disrupt dinner. On a good day, we might see three or four Potter kids hunched over on the edge of The Platform, bundled up against the rain or snow and wallowing in their collective misery.

In the early years, when all eight were still living at home, their family life was a loud, loving exercise in crowd control. An enormous dining room table with all the leaves permanently installed meant they didn’t have to eat in shifts, but sleeping arrangements required some creativity. Brandy, Amy and Jessica could all fit into the pink bedroom if they didn’t all try to get ready for school at once. Kevin and Kyle shared the blue room, and when Jim came, they got bunkbeds. Since Adam was the oldest, he got his own room, although he had to share closet space with Mrs. Potter’s fabulous collection of glittery, sparkly, bell-bottomed clothes that might come back into style some day, you never know. Great-Aunt Ida spitefully kicked the bucket one Christmas morning, and after a suitable mourning period - about 24 hours - Adam took over her room, just in time for the newly adopted Debbie to move into his old room and paint it purple. Jessica eventually set up camp in the attic over the garage, and Jim quietly drifted out to a cabin in the back field next to The Platform.

The front door stayed open, and as the kids got older and the house grew more crowded, they started leaving (although in Brandy’s case, it was out the window). Jim didn’t make it very far – we never could figure out how he managed to court a gorgeous local girl without ever saying more than three words at once, but he managed it and she moved into the cabin with him. Adam escaped into the United States Army, got married, earned a Ph.D., and moved very far away. Debbie went to Seattle to be a drug dealer. Jessica fell happily into a crowd of angry lesbians, and away they all went in a cloud of contented bitterness. Kevin headed down to the local recruiting office as soon as he graduated, and promptly found out just how badly you have to behave to be thrown out of the Marines. Kyle, the youngest, moved out on a regular basis at the invitation of the Thurston County Juvenile Court. Amy shook the mud off her shoes, earned a degree in vocal performance, and never looked back.

Somewhere in all of the comings and goings, Mr. Potter’s visits to the hunting lodge got longer and longer, and he finally left too. Jim’s wife left, and after a while, so did Jim. The house felt empty and quiet, so Mrs. Potter filled it again with a home daycare. When the State of Washington decided that Debbie’s kids knew a little more about drugs than they should, Mrs. Potter won custody of them. But when Kyle left for good, Mrs. Potter finally did too, taking with her the two grandchildren, a couple of daycare kids, their newly divorced dad, and the white satin bell-bottom pants.

The hole in the fence is still there, but the little house I lived in was torn down long ago, and there is no one left to brave the barbed wire to go next door and play. The cows and the horses are gone, and the field is quickly reverting to its original state as an evergreen forest. The paths are grown over and the lawn is a jungle. And for all I know, the front door is still o