Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's Eve!

As I natter, I'm simmering black-eyed peas and rice. To prevent Shonda's stroke, let me quickly add that the whole thing came out of a box and will complete its culinary trek in a mere twenty-five minutes. It's part of my contribution to a spur-of-the-moment New Year's Eve party tonight. Another part is the molasses cookies I won't get around to baking. In an earlier decade, I would have soldiered ahead and made the cookies anyhow. These days, I'm not willing to make much of an effort toward anything. I think I finally see how little most things matter. That's not depressing. It's freeing.

I just ran across this horrifying phrase: The Feast of Christ's Circumcision. I know that Christians believe that Jesus was fully human, and since he was also fully Jewish, of course he'd have been circumcised. When I was growing up, we really didn't pay that much attention to his humanity, since it had already happened and was done with, after all. I remember as a Born Again Christian in the early seventies -- yeah ... I wasn't even cool enough to have been a Jesus Freak. Nooooo. I had to go and be a Born Again Christian without the hyphen -- I remember having the revelation that Jesus had wet dreams. This struck me as not at all disrespectful or glib. If he truly were human, then he'd have had wet dreams. He was a boy, for Christ's sake. Well, not Christ's, not yet. He's just Jesus till he dies and is resurrected; then he gets to be the Christ.

Nonetheless, The Feast of Christ's Circumcision just sounds so ... so ... personal. Yeah. None of my business. And hardly festive. I don't know enough about Judaism to know when that would have been, but I know enough about the life of Christ to know no one would know, you know? Good heavens! Scholars don't even agree on when he was born (let alone if). How could anyone know about the bris?

Okay. I checked in with Judaism 101 (for real) and found out that brit milah takes place on the eighth day of the boy's life. Again, I blame Olga for this. She positively harps on learning things here at my blog.

That phrase and "the ripening of the orange crop in California" both came up as I searched for New Year's Eve traditions. Whatever did we do without the internet?

Well, here's my personal tradition. I go to sleep -- alone -- on New Year's Eve and then am awakened by the fireworks at midnight. I get out of bed, pull on some fabric, and go stand on my porch. Yep. There are the fireworks down by the water, and some lesser, Grade B noises and colors from the neighborhood. Back to bed.

That was the plan for this year, too, but Vicki made the call and told me about the spontaneous fire-pit party. Hence the black-eyed peas. I'm told that's a southern tradition. Well, I am geographically in the South, and have been for twenty-three years, but we all know that St. Petersburg -- let alone Gulfport -- is not really The South. Culturally, we're probably in Eastern Ohio.

Uh oh. My pants are on fire. I just stuck a pan full of chocolate-chip cookie dough into the oven, but instead of the chips, it's the young M&Ms just starting out in the business. So much for, what was it? how little most things matter? Yeah, well, I guess when it comes to sugar and butter, it matters a lot.

10 ... 9 ... 8 ...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Historic Date

Today is the second anniversary of my first massage at The Longhouse ( It was with co-owner Andrea. I've been alternating massages from her and from Nattering Olga for two years now, once a week.



Because I'm a woman -- or because I'm this woman -- I grew up thinking tools were for boys, and that boy things were superior to girl things. It doesn't matter that, in my young twenties, I went to a women's consciousness raising group where we learned (didn't we?) to welcome our periods as celebrations of our womanhood; that we were women, not girls. I lived in a culture -- oh dear, and I still do -- that continues to prefer the male.

I am not unaffected by that. Just as black people are racist, too, I'm sexist. Now ain't that a bitch!

But look at this: Dad's hammer was a tool but Mom's cookie press was a gadget.

Ah, well, I want to talk about the tools of my trades. Look at these brushes KT got me for Christmas! Aren't they something? I don't know the story of the tri-handled brush, but isn't it gorgeous? That seed-brush is from Africa. Although I'm a sponge painter, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with these brushes. You'll be the first to know.

Right now, my favorite tool is probably that rubber-headed mallet that I use to smash down the lids on the paint cans. It's very satisfying to do that. And the mallet has all kinds of paint splatters on it, making it pretty. I also use a flat-head screwdriver to pry open the cans, but I just got an official can-lid-pry-upper from Home Depot last night, so maybe I'll use it. It's lacking in character, but maybe when it's been splashed a bit, it'll be good.

Whoops. I just saw that it's Made In China. I'm trying to avoid such things, although it's extremely difficult.

My Olfa knife was the first tool I ever had, I believe. It's like a box-cutter, but delicate, for graphic arts purposes. It used to have a nice crisp ratcheting sound when I'd roll out the blade. In fact, it used to make the hair stand up on co-worker Clark's neck, which I rather liked (the effect and the neck, come to think of it). Time, however, has exacted its price, and now the blade ins and outs with nary a peep.

A different co-worker and I spent half an hour searching out the best pica stick in the store. I wanted points on it. Since, as you know, there are seventy-two points in an inch (and six picas in an inch), the points were expressed two at a time, but that's fine with me. God I loved that thing! I actually took it to a jeweler and had it engraved: NICOLAZZO. I couldn't believe it when I started working for America's Favorite Junkmail in 1993 and they wouldn't let me use my own pica stick.

What the heck. Now it's got paint on it, and whoever would have predicted that?

In 1974, when I was twenty-four, I went to Mohawk Valley Community College for their Advertising, Design and Production program. I'd already been a proofreader for a daily paper in St. Cloud, MN, and a jack-of-all-trades at a weekly in rural New York. Now I wanted to learn how to do it all properly. I bought all the things on the list. I had lettering pens and French curves -- even a flexible French curve, which was pretty exciting, as most things French and/or flexible are. I had a compass that would take a blade or a pen nib or a pencil tip. I had sheets of color that had adhesive on the back, and sheets of PresType (upon which I now spit). Still, all was new and exciting.

At the beginning of one class, an afroed black kid sat near me with a stack of books halfway to his chin. On top of the books was a tool I hadn't seen yet. There was a black handle with several silver prongs coming out of it. It was right there on top, ready for use, but I didn't have one. I asked him what it was for. He glanced at me with contempt and merely snorted a response.

Well, I'm a wide-eyed bumpkin from the country, looking up at the tall buildings. I certainly couldn't believe a snort was how he meant to answer, so I smiled even bigger and asked in an even friendlier tone, "No, really. What's it for?"

"You know," he snapped.

I was puzzled and a bit hurt. "No I don't."

I think my true naivety finally shone through like the great beam it was because he said, "It's a hair pick."

Oh. I didn't even exactly know what that meant, but I did know that his tone meant we wouldn't be hanging out at the student union any time soon, drinking Constant Comment tea and comparing spoon rings.

Years later, I had my hair permed and needed a pick. The only one available had a black fist for a handle. I wish that kid could have seen me then.

I don't think I should have to ask you to write and tell us about your tools. Clearly, the blog ended with that last paragraph. But I know some of you are shy and wouldn't dream of speaking up without an invitation, so here's the invitation.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Michele!

Yep. It's Michele's forty-fifth birthday today -- our own very PsycheMajor, a regular and cheerful commenter on this blog. Alas, as my Christmas was stolen by a cold, her birthday was stolen by a migraine. In a touching show of solidarity, I, too, have a migraine today. Mine's milder than Michele's. I even have hopes for going to Carino's with Mike's family in about three hours, but I've had a lot of similar hopes these last couple of days, and they have come to naught.

Still, I put some peppermint oil on the back of my neck and went to bed -- for about the billionth time since Tuesday -- and it seems to have helped. Wow. I got up and did the dishes. Double wow.

As long as I'm still vertical, I may engage in one of my favorite annual activities: transferring valuable information from Calendar 2008 to Calendar 2009. Yes. I love to record all the birthdays and anniversaries. Most of the time, such notations elicit a mere, pleased grunt when I check the date and see "Donna '61" written in non-photo blue pen.

Talk about an anachronism! That was the color of pen to proofread with because the copy camera couldn't pick it up. See, you could mark the mistakes with that pen, and then typeset, say, two lines of type, correcting the mistake, and, after sending the small galley of corrections through the waxer, slice the lines with your X-acto (or in my case, your Olfa ... er, my Olfa), and then paste the two-line correction onto the galley and off it goes to paste-up, and then to the camera for a negative to be shot, and then to stripping, and ...

There, Michele! There's a little blast from your past, too! You, too, FlaHoos!

But back to the calendars. I used to keep a datebook that acted like a truncated diary. I'd list the meetings I went to and whether I chaired or spoke. I'd note the movies and with whom; lunch and where with whom; sex, as I so vaguely recall, and with whom. I had symbols for PMS and, later, hot flashes. For migraines. For crying. For boyfriend fights.

Every now and then, I still run across a datebook from years ago and become enthralled with the drama. I also become confused with the symbols, since I never stuck with them for long, always seeking perfection. Did that H mean a headache or a hot flash? I'm quite certain it didn't mean hair cut.

So today, if I clear off the kitchen table, I'll spread out my old calendar (Women of the African Ark that Mike got me from the Museum of Modern Art in New York ... which is surely better than saying "from MOMA in NYC"). I'll spread out Amnesty International's Photographs by VII 2009 next to it. Huh? Well, VII is a photo agency formed in September 2001 and "responsible for creating and relaying to the world many of the defining images of the 21st century." As you know, I'm a xenophile, so of course I'm going to love it.

I'll turn those women of the African ark into magnificent envelopes.

And then I'll put the two Sierra Club desk calendars together -- 2008 and 2009 -- and do the same thing.

If my oldest brother and his wife are sticking to tradition, I'll soon be getting another wall calendar full of mostly old photos of Nicolazzos and Huckabones (no sniggering!). I hope they're sticking.

I quit the datebook/diary thing several years ago, so it's unfair to call me a compulsive record-keeper, but I still like to know that, oh, Fahrudin was born on June 1, 1979. Sometimes seeing the note on my calendars will even inspire me to contact the people.

So how about this? How about you tell me your birthday and we'll celebrate it here? Good idea! You can even tell me privately (hah!) via email.

(Interesting that Mister Google -- the Mayor of Blogtown -- has xenophobe in his dictionary, but not xenophile ...)

Since Michele's rapidly turning into The Crazy Cat Lady Of Foothills Drive, I'll let Mittens wish her a happy birthday, too!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Amazing Banana

Andres, my friend from the Dominican Republic (not Dominica!), said he and his mother laugh about us silly Americans and our bananas. Just when he thinks the bananas are almost ready to eat, they're put in a special sale box, at a low, low price, because now they are completely disgusting, black and soft and spotted and good for nothing but baking banana bread. That's exactly when he buys them -- cheap and, in his opinion, perfect.

And who knows more about bananas, he asks when he sees the cretinous head of my American Superiority start to rise up, than people who grow the bananas?

Who, indeed?

So fine, Andres. Come get these bananas that have been languishing on my kitchen table for too long. They had been headed for loaves to be given to the homeless people at Williams Park, but that was before The Cold That Stole Christmas came by. Now it's Boxing Day if you're in Great Britain, and the first day of Kwanzaa if you want, and the bread is still not made. The odds of it getting made are slim. But lo! the freezer accepts skinned bananas. When I'm ready to put the frozen fruit into the bread, it'll basically be a black, banana-flavored slime which, oddly, hurts the bread not at all.

I had thought the Wednesday Midday Market (WMM) was touting itself as an organization that wanted to coexist with the homeless there, but I found out differently this past Wednesday, Christmas Eve Day, when my cold was blowing full. Some charitable-at-Christmas organization was handing out brown bags of lunches. The person at the Market muttered, "If I had my way, I'd chase that church away."

Really? Why?

Because it's just keeping the homeless here.

Goodness. Where should they be?

S/he named a couple of shelters where, according to her/him, this batch of homeless folks could be -- should be, in fact.

Hmm ...

And later I talked to an artist who's a regular at the Art in the Park -- another Williams Park weekly event. S/he hates the homeless being there. S/he works with troubled teens all week and doesn't want to have to deal with people like them on the weekends, too, when s/he's selling art.

I wondered what those people do that's so offensive, but s/he was hard-pressed to answer.

I understand that. Sometimes I find myself thinking that dirty people are bad. Hah. After just a couple hours at a market, I find I have dirty fingernails and I wonder how that can have happened. Well, really, now: How did that happen?

Now try days and weeks and months without a shower.

I make a point to use the public restrooms at Williams Park at least once per Wednesday. There's a nicer one that's locked until it's unlocked for special people like the vendors and the musicians at the Market. Well, this public restroom is scary. The worst part is that there's a huge generator that's making an amazing amount of noise, so you'd never know if someone else had come into the room or not. That alone would be enough to keep me out ... unless I were homeless, of course, and this was the only place I could pee in private, or the only place with soap.

Yes. I think if I were Lord of All Creation, I'd have a hard time dealing with homeless people, too. I don't know what the solution would be. I don't for one moment believe that homeless people are lazy puke-balls who don't want to work. Nor do I believe that they're all a bunch of drunks who'd be okay if they'd just put the plug in the jug. I used to think that, but my brother, a paranoid-schizophrenic, disabused me of that idea.

He also said that thirst is a bigger issue than hunger when one is homeless. Huh.

A woman I've known casually for years, Elaine, is often homeless. She also happens to be an alcoholic, but she's been sober for years. Her real issue is some kind of mental illness. I don't know her details. I don't know her cycle or patterns. I do know that the last time I talked to her, a halfway house for women was willing to take her in as long as she'd been on her medication for at least two weeks. But she's not willing to take the medication until she has a safe place to stay because being on meds and staying sharp for the streets are mutually exclusive.

And so, should I invite her onto my couch for two weeks? I'm not willing to do that. It's shameful but true.

One time, I lived in one of four apartments in a big house at Tenth and Tenth. I was the only young person there, so you know it was some years ago. One morning, a young man was found sleeping on the downstairs porch. The other three tenants -- geezers about my current age -- thought he must be a friend of mine. He was a stranger. I told him he could have gone to The Mission, but he said he didn't like hanging with Those People.


And medication? In the first place, the last I read, there's really nothing for treating schizophrenia. The best one can hope for is that it's a mild case. (Hah.) Beer and pot occasionally relieve the symptoms, I'm told. Fine. Have at it.

I don't know a single person who wants to take medicine. Everyone I know who's on mental-health meds -- and I know too many and have been one myself -- is always thinking of ways to get off the medicine. I don't even like taking Zicam as often as instructed.

At the risk of sounding like Freud, I do ask: What do The Homeless want? They probably want what the rest of us want: A safe, comfortable place to be. I think if the places the WMM person suggested were better for the homeless, they'd be there. But yes, they'd probably need a place that was fresh out of rules, too. Many homeless people simply won't -- or cannot -- abide by rules, at least not long enough to get on well in society, and that's a mental health issue, too.

I don't know. Maybe there are gang turfs. The bipolars have Williams Park and southbound, the schizophrenics have North County, and the multiple personality disorders have east and west Pinellas.

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Books and Medicine and Spices

Remember when I said I was going to list the books I've read and merely yay or nay them? Me neither, obviously. The most I can remember are these: Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg. No. Don't do it! Don't even touch it! It's one more whining book about one more kid raised really badly by someone who's not as famous as the kid thinks she is. The dad always leaves -- that's apparently one of the joys of fatherhood -- so Mom gets all the blame, which, in this case, she surely deserves. I fell for the hype on the cover: Compulsively readable ... fluently written ... raw and searing. Yah. None of the above.

But Wally Lamb with The Hour I First Believed. Yep. It wasn't as good as his others, but that still leaves it as very, very good.

The one I finished yesterday: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost. I liked it a lot and will buy his other books. These are travel books, non-fiction, but he's funny and interesting.
I'm only awake right now because I have to go to the Wednesday Midday Market. But I have a cold and I only want to stumble from bed to computer and back all day, clutching my box of Kleenex and swirling a medicine-covered cotton swab into my nostrils every four hours. That's Zicam: Get over your cold faster (registered trademark). It's homeopathic and reduces the duration and severity of cold symptoms, and that's true.

Instead, I'll be unloading and loading my car and setting things up and longing for home with its bathroom with soap (unlike the bathroom at Williams Park), longing for tea (even though I'll actually drink coffee), longing for Lipton's Chicken Noodle Soup to soothe my throat and give me salt. I always want salt during a cold, even a cold with reduced duration and severity.

I lied about the Kleenex. It's really Puffs Plus. I remember when Puffs first came out. There was a sample box of them in our mailbox in Silver Springs, New York. We all had to walk down to the post office and remember the combination in order to retrieve our mail. I was surprised and delighted to move to the Big City and see that they'd deliver mail right to your house.
Anyway, I pulled out a tissue and powder spurted all over the place. I was disgusted. It was a couple of decades before I'd use Puffs again, which was a last resort. Now I'm a convert and, apparently, a missionary.

I have no doubt that in my lifetime the cure for the cold will be found. In the meantime, though, feel free to leave a comment, telling us about your favorite cold treatments. I mean, it's Christmas. I don't want to miss anything just because I have a cold!

When I went to take a picture of some books, I found that I still had unprocessed photos of those disastrous gingerbread camels. Take a look at the big bowl of ingredients and see if you can identify the four spices on top. I know. That's a lot of work for people on Christmas vacation, isn't it? (1) Give me your cold remedy. (b) Identify spices. Well, I'm sorry, but this whole blogging thing isn't just about me, you know. There has to be input! And that's your job.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Real Estate Blog

Tivo's got a house for rent in Western Mexico. I know you were all looking forward to a really educational -- nay, edifying -- blog, or at least one bursting with suggestions for how to trim your tree and dress up your dogs in holiday gear. I'm sorry to disappoint.

Speaking of disappointment ... The Boys had a sleepover last night (their Christmas jammies are so cute!). Sunny, the elderly female, hasn't awakened yet, but she was awake at some point last night because there is a lump of physical evidence on the carpet. Benji, on the other hand, waited until after his walk this morning to jump on the couch and puke. So far, Mittens has merely requested (and gotten) fish. So everything's going according to history. No disappointment here.

But let's go to Mexico! Here's a lot of information: 3BR, 3BA, fully equipped kitchen, huge dining-social area, giant covered patio, complete laundry, totally furnished (including linens); seven blocks from a beach on the Pacific Ocean in a small fishing and resort village in the state of Jalisco; comes with the services of a caretaker from a nearby mountain village whose uncle owns a great restaurant in town. Rent is paid in full before you go. Get this: it's $800 a month up to six months, which includes utilities except for phone, cable, and internet, which are available. Tivo will rent it by the week (at $200) or all year long. Contact him about it all at or 813-389-3412.

If you haven't been to Google's home page, lately, go now. It started Sunday with a small workshop scene, and details get added every day. I assume it will culminate on Christmas Day. It's like an advent calendar, but not.

If you go to you can click on a button there that will move the sponsors to provide food for Pets without Pamperers. At the top of the page, you'll see options for more charitable giving -- for the rain forest and literacy, for instance. Click and give. Yay! Put it in your Favorites and do it every day. I wonder if they can actually keep track of where the clicks are coming from. Could I click ten times in a row? I've never tried it because, really, if it does work, I'd feel guilty. As you know if you read my October blog, I skip The Breast Cancer Site. I click on the others, though.

And now that you working ones probably have Wednesday off, you ought to come check out the Wednesday Midday Market in Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg from eleven to two tomorrow.

Let's see ... any other loose ends? Well, in the spirit of redemption, I made molasses cookies that were edible yesterday.

I've had very few hard-copy Christmas cards this year. That's an easy way to cut down on expenses, isn't it? I still got that Family Newsletter from my uncle's wife (yet not, somehow [in my stubborn brain], my aunt). She writes mostly about her family, which is fine if he's not participating, but she signs the card with their last name. That strikes me as ... what? cold? stupid? In the first place, how many women named Lura do you think I know? In the second place, maybe she should trust that I'd check the return-address sticker if I couldn't figure out who these people are.

On the other hand, the Family Newsletter did not come from Debbie, for the first time in more than a decade, so perhaps this year, I'll whip one out and just send it to her.

I used to think eCards were nonsense, but now I don't. I can spend more time agonizing over the choice than I ever did in a Real Store. 'Cause it's the time that counts, right? Time and thought?

I never think I should send cards to people I see often. I guess if they hear me say Merry Christmas! then they don't need a card. When I make cards, though, I send them to everyone. I think the last card I made was in 2003. Wow. I was home from work because of surgery and after about a month of just sitting and staring, I made some cards. Dang. Time flies. Now I'm home from work because of a different kind of surgery (heh heh) but I don't have the time. Or maybe it's the inclination that's missing.

I've got writers' block on painting those chairs and that table. I cannot think how to start on them. Got any tips?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Insult! Injury!

I did my first show in Pass-A-Grille yesterday. It would be my last, except that I told some guy I'd be back next Sunday with a purple shirt designed in a certain way in a large instead of a medium. He'd bought the shirt but returned it a couple hours later because it didn't fit.

Well, and it's probably a good policy to try a venue at least twice. The booth fee was fifteen dollars, which is nice, thanks. Juneteenth, for instance, is ten times that amount. For you English majors out there (and you know who you are), that's $150. The parking was ten bucks and I had to use a credit card for the first time in over a year. It was either that, or run out with five quarters -- and where would I get them? -- every hour. I took the pay-with-card, twelve-full-hours option for ten dollars.

The coffee was free at the snack bar, which was nice, as was the proximity of restrooms. And you can't beat the scenery. I was smack on the Gulf of Mexico on the longest day of the year, and people were shopping in bare feet. Well, they were showing up in bare feet ...

Sonny ( called while I was there. In an unprecedented burst of Christmas malice, I ran down to the beach and held the phone out to the waves. I wanted him to HEAR how nice it was here, compared to his twenty-seven degrees of freezing rain ...
I sold twenty-six dollars worth of fine art, minus twenty-five for fee and parking, minus a dollar for the free pink lemonade two little girls were giving away while pointing to the donation jar for a Ronald McDonald House. Minus, too, the not quite mandatory tip for the musician. We vendors were told that the musician plays for tips only, and that we should tip since he's attracting our customers. Really? I didn't see the guy with the clipboard, so it seemed equally possible that my mailboxes were attracting listeners to his music.

Notice how the organizers have sort of stepped out of the equation, making the vendors resent the musician? Well done!

The musician, Julian Riviere (, is from Dominica. I dated a man from that island once, so I was able to chime in with the mandatory disclaimer, "not the Dominican Republic!" He's called the Caribbean Cowboy and it's true. It was almost too much to take in, what with the resentment and the sweat and the low sales, but yes: Here's a black guy singing Johnny Cash tunes? Whoa! But then I remembered Charlie Pride, so there is a precedent (whew!).

Anyway, with the tip -- and don't get me wrong: I liked the man and I liked his voice (yeah: wow on the voice!) -- I lost money for the privilege of being there. Oh well. Perhaps I made some contacts. A couple more people asked for beachy mailboxes. Sigh. I'll try ...

So I packed up my stuff and trudged out to my car ... on which I found a parking ticket. At least St. Pete Beach gives a choice. I could pay twenty bucks now or thirty bucks after January 5.

I really like it that St. Pete Beach up and changed its name. In 1957, the towns of Pass-A-Grille, Don CeSar, Belle Vista, and St. Petersburg Beach joined to form the unincorporated city of St. Petersburg Beach. No one called it that, though. We all used the truncated version. Well, in 1994, in order to conform with reality and forge a more independent (from St. Petersburg) identity, the city changed its name to St. Pete Beach. I have a lovely friend who changed his name from Al Bonk to Tivo Sesante for much the same reasons. He's probably the most unusual person I know -- okay: eccentric -- and Al Bonk simply doesn't cut it. You'll be hearing more about him in a day or two, so prepare yourselves.

Back to the parking ticket. I wasn't unduly upset. I knew there was a mistake. I continue to assume there's a solution. See, each parking spot is labeled with a number. I memorized mine as I walked to the Money Eating Machine: 4942. I kept punching the number in, but it wouldn't take. Then I finally noticed that my space needs a letter, too. Oh. Well, all the spots around me started with the letter A, so I used that, even though I couldn't see my own spot. So I typed in A4942.

Turns out that only the first four characters took (A494) and that, in fact, what I thought was the first 4 was actually an A. Whoops. I trust that the St. Pete police, from whom I'm waiting for a return call, have proof that I paid for one damned spot or another, and will let me go without also paying that ticket.

The photo above shows my spot from yesterday. At the lower right, there's some small mess. That's me trying to smudge out the shadow of myself holding out the camera, while still preserving the image of the two sea grape leaves. Someone should do us all a favor and hack into my computer and remove Photoshop.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Baking Blog

Recently, in The Food Blog, I said I don't cook but that I bake. Well, I fear I may have spoken too soon.

Today's goals were simple enough: Bake some gingerbread camels and some sugar cookies in Christmas shapes; if there's time, bake some pumpkin and/or banana bread. The camels are in honor of Mike's family. The kids were all born and raised in camel country. I had to special-order the camel cookie-cutter years ago. I had the vague memory that I'd tried it before and that it was too hard. Indeed, the cutter is too shallow, with too many details. There are tassels on the camel's blanket, for pete's sake.

Still, it's Christmastime, and that means going the extra millimeter for the sake of warming someone else's cockles.

I listened to Car Talk on NPR when I started. I just love it that my dad used to listen to the Tappet Brothers, although I didn't know it until he was dead and my youngest brother told me about it. In any case, the gingerbread-boy-not-girl recipe listed these two ingredients thusly:

2/3 c. cold water
1/3 c. shortening

I had just dumped the second third-cup of shortening in when I realized that it was supposed to be only one. Small matter. I just fished out the second blob of shortening. It was only later, when I was left with a huge bowl of large crumbs instead of dough, that I figured I had put in only a third-cup of water; that is, I used only half the water called for.

That's the second semi-colon I've used and that's about two too many; my apologies.

So while the first sheet of cookies was baking, I tried adding a third of a cup of water to the remaining crumbs. It actually helped a little. Still, I'm only going to bring the camels to Mike's parents' house. His family is gracious. Perhaps they'll treat the cookies as if they're miniature sculptures. Mike himself will be the recipient of the rest of the batch, which is nothing to write home about, yet apparently something to write a blog about.

The first camel attempts were failures, so I turned to other animals. I have a sheep cookie-cutter and hey! shepherds were guarding their sheep by night! I decided to simply add all the critter-cutters I have, so, as you see, I made

  • camels
  • sheep
  • ducks
  • cats
  • bears (teddy)
  • bats

I'm sure the Baby Jesus would have loved them equally.

Speaking of warm cockles, check out this link that SueBski sent. This really moved me.

What I'm listening to right now, though, is the ice cream truck! It's Do Your Ears Hang Low over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Ho ho ho.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What Just Happened?

I drove down to the Beach Bazaar in Gulfport in order to mail off Christmas packages from the little post office at the very back. How little is it? It won't accept debit cards.

I passed Diane and her friend -- let's call her Ann -- who were riding bicycles with baskets, looking very green and socially and environmentally conscious, which is how I'd like to look but I never really did learn to ride a bicycle (but that's another blog) and I probably can't look it if I'm not it. Anyway, we waved. By the time I parked in front of the Beach Bazaar, they were almost there, too. I heard Ann, smiling, say to a pedestrian -- let's call her Maggie -- "On your left!" Maggie turned around, saw the bikes, and moved over a bit.

We three friends yammered in front of the Bazaar and then entered because they had a package, too. There was no post office line. Yesterday afternoon, the line had extended from the back all the way up to the half-a-store mark. I said as much and added, as we approached the rear, "But maybe the line is on the other side today." And, indeed, it was.

There were two people in line, besides the patron being waited on. Maggie was at the end of the line. The small queue had closed off any space for walking through, but Maggie moved herself out of our way so we could double the line by getting in it. She leaned in and said quietly to me, the first in our little parade, "'Excuse me' is a very powerful phrase."

"Huh? Oh. I assumed people would know we were getting in line and would let us do it, just like you did."

That was that. She turned away. I mouthed, "Merry f*ck*ng Christmas" to my friends, which made them laugh, which was what I wanted, but then I instantly felt terrible because I ... let's see ... I guess I wanted to make fun of Maggie but without Maggie knowing it. I didn't want her to hear us sniggering about her. I wanted to insult her -- retaliate -- without her knowing it. I wanted crime without punishment.


Well, the line moved on, and while the clerk was tallying up my postage, Ann said that maybe the remark had been meant for the cyclists, and Maggie had mistaken me for a cyclist. (Hah!) Well, whatever ... I feel bad about it.

Is there another story here? Did Diane, Ann, and Barbara come barreling into the store like they owned the joint, talking too loudly, arms loaded with presents, chuckling and gabbing, while Maggie was there for a simple stamp, to send one card to the last friend she has on earth? Did her cat just die? Does her husband beat her? Was her terminal disease just announced?

Maybe she needs to correct everyone. I'm trying to stop that, with the help of Byron Katie's Loving What Is. I'm the one furiously flashing my headlights at the poor fools who don't have their headlights on when it's raining or when dusk has arrived. I. Want. Them. To. Behave.

It's for their own good.

Maybe that's all Maggie wanted. She wanted us to behave the way she behaves. She was merely instructing.

But let's move on to cussing in type, shall we? I had Fun With Asterisks in The F Word up there. At first, I just traded out the g, which merely made it look like sloppy verbalizing. (You'll have to visualize it. I don't want to mark this as a mature blog, 'cause it sure ain't.) Then I tried *ucking, but that was way too close to what I really wanted to say. So I ended up asterisking just the vowels, and that's what you read up there. Let's try just the consonants: *u**i**. Whoa! There's a challenge!

See how important vowels are? They're in a huge minority, unless that's oxymoronically impossible. The ratio is five or six to twenty-six. Well, that's about twenty percent.

Maybe that's the same ratio as the impact of negative experiences compared to the impact of positive ones. That tiny run-in with Maggie has had far more of an influence on my morning than all the positive things that have also happened:
  • a nice blog comment and subsequent email with my beloved Beth
  • a phone call with Leone, firming up our Christmas plans, among other things
  • the wrapping and packing of gifts
  • interactions with The Boys and Mittens ... okay, and Mike
  • a great quote I read by Helen Keller -- Life is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.
  • and surely more things ... the leftover pumpkin bread, the still-fragrant balsam branchettes, the sunshine ...

I hope this doesn't mean I have to return to Al-Anon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Food Blog

Shonda ( -- one of those Hoosiers who thinks forty degrees is just fine -- asked me if I cook. Well now ... let's take a look inside my refrigerator and see what you think ...

Everything on the bottom shelf, which you can barely see, is past its Sell By date. In fact, some cottage cheese or something expired on my birthday, which, as I know you know, is September 27. Let's just stick to the top two shelves. The milk expired, but no one really wanted it anyhow. Jill and Marty use raw milk for their coffee, but when they were here painting their car, they were forced to go across the street to Walgreens and buy that little bottle of Velda brand milk. While it expired on November 22 -- not even a month ago! -- I'm sure it's still drinkable. I myself use Silk brand plain soy creamer, as you know if you pay attention here in Blogtown. I use enough of it that it's never out of date, plus the expiration is always months and months into the future, which is scary if you think about it, so please don't. I assume that flour doesn't expire, especially if it's kept in the refrigerator. I still have half a notion to do some holiday baking.

On the second shelf, the eggs expired on the tenth, so that's not too bad. I use them till they're gone. The feta's good till next year sometime, unless the Sell By and EAT By dates are radically different. The stuff with the pink lid is cat food, and I'm sure it's still good.

Okay. That's the inventory. No one will be surprised when I answer Shonda by saying no. No. I don't cook.

Actually, I make THE best macaronic salad in the known universe, and my chili's some of the best, too. But that's only two things, and there are over three hundred days in a year, they say. I really should work on two more dishes, one for autumn and one for spring. I think I'd feel better about myself if I could at least claim to cook on a quarterly basis.

I used to bake a lot. It picked up drastically when we put Mom in The Home down here. Even with a ton of overtime, I'd bake a couple times a week, always in double batches, sometimes even triple. I'd bring it all to work. Jody would ask me to marry her every time I brought in baked goods. After a while, though, I apparently quit baking because someone asked why I didn't bake any more. I had no answer, but Jeanne Milot did. "You quit baking when your mother died," she said. Wow.

That's what's so cool about friends. They're witnesses.

But baking isn't cooking, so no. I don't cook.

In the same batch of email came a plea from a fellow car artist, Deanna Morey. She painted Thing Three, shown here. She's one of a dozen finalists in KFC's nationwide Holiday Traditions contest. Go to this site and vote for her. She is listed as Deanna M. from Oviedo, FL. What the heck. It would be cool if she won and you could say you know somebody who knows the winner, right? PLUS, I actually saw the exit for the KFC Museum this summer. There's a full circle in there somewhere.

And you see how KFC ties in with food, right? Okay. Good.

What if my next blog is about housework?!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peanut Butter

I dashed into Publix today for a couple essentials, one of which was peanut butter. They took a sabbatical on making their own peanut butter (INGREDIENTS: FRESH GROUND ROASTED PEANUTS. THE END.) but they're back on track now and I'm glad. I'm so used to it that when I have regular peanut butter, it tastes way too salty. (Right. Unlike potato chips, which can never be too salty for me.)

At the checkout line, I had to take notes, so I wrote on the peanut butter label with the aforementioned Swiss Army Pen. Publix has festive gift boxes hanging above the checkout lanes with one word on each box:
  • encourage
  • share
  • hope
  • warmth

It makes me nuts, of course, since we have three verbs and one noun. It's true that hope could be a noun, too, but that still leaves us with two verbs and two nouns. Either way, I don't like the inconsistency. If we went for the all-noun line-up, it would still be awkward:

  • [have] encouragement
  • [have] sharing
  • [have] hope
  • [have] warmth

The gerund sharing throws it off, but it's still better than the all-verb format:

  • [to] encourage
  • [to] share
  • [to] hope
  • [to] heat

Or should it be [to] heat up? [to] warm up? Plus, they mean the warm-the-cockles-of-your-heart type of heat, anyhow, not the toss-it-in-the-microwave kind. Maybe [to] comfort. So the copywriter just threw in the towel with the poinsettias printed on it and said no one would notice anyhow, and no one at Publix corporate headquarters did ...

And speaking of consistency, Lee and I went to The Water Witch for breakfast this morning. He, as always, had #10. I, always, had #7.

I wanted to leave the breakfast description right there, and let you do the research, but The Water Witch online menu isn't the same as the on-table menu, so I'll describe them after all.

Both are the organic German Pfannkuchen. I don't know whether to add an S to Pfannkuchen, nor am I certain about that upper-case P. I think the Germans tend towards capitalization, though, so I'll stick with that. Near as I can tell, the poor things are just crepes anyhow.

Lee had salmon and horseradish cream cheese in his. Mine had apples, raisins, cinnamon, and ricotta. Oh my! And then the cook made the horrible mistake of tossing in whole walnut halves (if that's not an oxymoron), so the waitress had to come out and see if that's acceptable. Oh yeah!

It was so good. There's nothing like warm cinnamon this time of year, especially when it's so cold and gloomy outside, something we folks in The Sunshine State aren't used to, no matter what you in Indiana (and you know who you are) have to say about it.

Thank goddess we don't have to choose our fragrances. As we left The Water Witch, we smelled bacon, which is pretty unbeatable. But back to the cinnamon -- what's above that? On the other hand, Andrea -- bless her twenty times over! -- gave me a couple mini-boughs of balsam which her mom had sent from the Adirondacks, mostly in the form of decorated wreaths. Oh man! I'm afraid I'm going to snort a pine needle right into my lungs, but that doesn't stop me from picking one up from my desk here and just breathing in the smell, deep deep deep. The other little branch is on my nightstand.

So yes: no competition for smells. Yay!

Those Pfannkuchen are so big that I brought half of mine home. I also have half the prime rib from last night's dinner at The Pasadena Steak House with The Mahons. Later today, when I've finished huddling under the covers reading the last of Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, I hope to comfort the Pfannkuchen and the prime rib, but I won't share them; I encourage you to get your own.

Friday, December 12, 2008


This is just a paragraph or two to remind you to grab all your buddies and go over to Ybor City tomorrow, Saturday, December 13, for WMNF's Holiday Bazaar. It's open from ten to five, but members can get in half an hour earlier. It's at 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba at the Cuban Club. If you google that address, though, it'll come up as a no-go because it's only in English on the maps.

Besides all my stuff, which will be outside in the courtyard with my car and the food vendors, the whole first floor of the Cuban Club is dedicated to used books, CDs, records, DVDs, and tapes. I've donated heavily to that and I'm grateful. This is paradise to browsers -- boxes and boxes and boxes of reading and listening material!

Myself? I can't stand it. It's like going to Big Lots. Sure. The prices are good, but you can't count on an item being there week after week. You have to be a hard-core browser in order to enjoy it.

I'll browse in a bookstore any ol' day, but I am browsing according to the alphabet and the genre. At WMNF, I think they split things up into a couple genres, but that's as categorized as it gets. Still, I remember a woman coming by my booth last year, hauling a box full of books. She was going back for more and asked if she could leave Box #1 with me. She was psyched. I think she paid less than five bucks for that whole box.

Today I'm going to try one more thing to perfect my tee-shirt technique. It involves being outdoors, though, with water, in this cold, cold weather. And how 'bout this wind? With the wind chill, it's probably forty out there, which is about the temperature of a refrigerator, isn't it? Okay. Because of Olga (drat!), I had to look it up. The preferred temperature of an icebox is between thirty-five and thirty-eight degrees (my queendom for a degree symbol!). It seems to me if we're using the word "ideal," there should just be one temperature, not a variety. I mean, can there be degrees of ideal, of perfection? No. Of course not. This cannot be "more" perfect than that. Perfect is perfect. The end.

Okay, then. In the interest of, um, perfection, let's say that the ideal refrigerator temperature is thirty-six-point-five degrees. And let's also say that that's the wind chill this morning. So let's say Brrrrrr!

Ah, perfection ... I've published this posting TWICE already, and then found mistakes. If you've subscribed (as opposed to waiting patiently for me to email you the link each time), I guess that means you'll get three copies of essentially the same blog. Sorry.

Look at all my Followers! Another one jumped on in the middle of the night. It's very exciting! I wonder if I should start wearing a robe ...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Goddess bless you, Steven. If you haven't read his comment on today's earlier post, please do so now.

Are you back? Good.

Now, on a scale of one to sixty, just exactly how embarrassed do you think I am, where one is "not at all" and sixty is "shoot me now"?

This is the picture on the postcard mentioned earlier today. Please. Someone agree with me that McCain and Biden look alike.

Here's a further shameful thing. Remember in the Vice-Presidential debates, when That Idiot Woman referred to Joe as Obiden? Well, I think that's easy to do. I'm unspeakably sorry that I have something in common with her, but there it is.

Leone invited me to go up to her place and watch the debate. I only agreed out of friendship, but I was actually glad I did. When I win the Lotto tomorrow, I may buy a television, but then I'd have to hire someone else to watch it for me ...


My stomach hurts every time I read the magazine from Amnesty International. Happily, it only comes out quarterly. I unabashedly urge you to twist your gut, too, by joining Amnesty and supporting it however you can.

I've always enjoyed writing the letters the magazine suggests. These days, it's more like an email, but I'll do that, too. I'm a Click Activist, a clicktivist.

Tomorrow, December 10, is the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (, signed and agreed to by the members of the United Nations in 1948. The United States was a member then. You know that two-section puzzle in the paper? There are two drawings which look alike at first glance, but then you'll notice that the tilt of the man's hat is different, or the tree has a different configuration of leaves. Well, you can play a similar game by going to the UDHR site provided herein and seeing if you can spot the differences between what we, the United States of America, agreed to, and what we actually do.

And who is this "we," Paleface?

I got a postcard from President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle yesterday. You know I threw out my television in ought-four, so I don't know where the postcard picture was taken. Barack and Michelle are grinning, his right hand high in a wave, his left around her waist. She's holding hands with McCain's wife whose name might be Cindy. She's smiling, too. Her hand is in the under position. I notice these things, having stood in circles for a couple decades, holding hands, not-saying The Lord's Prayer (or The Our Father if you're Catholic or the Who Cares if you're Jewish; I have no idea what a Muslim might think or why s/he'd be at an AA meeting anyhow, and I'll completely ignore Hindus because I know even less about them than about the others; drat! Buddhists, too!). She's holding hands -- or at least fingers, also in the under position -- with her husband, who's belatedly trying to button his suit one-handed, left-handed.

I don't know why the four of them are together. Somebody else knows that.

The postcard is addressed to me with the salutation Dear Obama Supporter. It's signed by the First Couple-elect. The type is pretty small because they have a lot to say and, of course, they're using full sentences, even compound sentences. Basically, they're saying thanks.

I choked up at that. When I was younger, I could assign such a sentimental reaction to PMS, no matter where I was in my cycle. When I was much older, but still younger, I could chalk it up to menopause. I'm pretty sure I'm past all that, too, so shall I blame it on the moon? lack of breakfast? fear of financial insecurity?

Nope. I'm going to blame it on genuine, legitimate emotion. I've been parched for so long, I've forgotten how to swallow. Now I'm offered a glass of water. I'm grateful. Yessir. Oh yeah.

Here's a line from Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, which I'm reading now: Ask any of us cynical bastards to lift up our shirt, and we'll show you where we got shot in the heart. That choked me up, too.

I read Stephen King's Just After Sunset, a collection of recent short stories, but I forgot to tell you about it. There seemed to be more violence than usual, but also less supernatural stuff. More than one story made me wish he'd turn it into a full, King-sized novel. The page headings were the same throughout the book, though: author name on the verso, book name on the recto (Liz and I know what those words mean and we are so pleased with ourselves and each other!). That's not good for a collection. I saw the title of the story once, on that first page, and that's it. I can't even name one story by title. If I ever talk with another King fan about the book, I won't be able to say, "Oh, and how about The Long Walk?" No. I'll have to say, "Oh, you know the one with the Porta-Potty and that weird old man who killed the dog ..."

I'm waiting for the Swiss Army Knife people to contact me. Mine, a gift from Mike many years ago, has a pen in it -- because the pen is mightier than the toothpick. I had it for about a year before I got used to the idea of always having a pen with me. It's great. I love it. Now I want to find another one but I can't, so I emailed the manufacturer on its own email form. A message popped up saying they'd get right on it: "We are attempt to answer." I watched Borat again last night, so it made perfect sense to me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Perfect Saturday Night

I wish I could drink lying down. I'd love to be on my back on the couch, sipping a cup of coffee (organic fair-trade coffee, turbinado sugar, plain soy creamer), finishing up a Stephen King short story. There'd be a bolster under my knees. Well, as long as I'm at it, I may as well have my feet soaking in a tub of hot water spiked with peppermint oil and Epsom salts.

Yes. Mmmm ... that's my idea of an ideal Saturday night, at least if I've spent the day at a show, sitting near my canopy, riding that razor's edge between being alert to a customer and being overbearing to a customer. When she says, "How long did it take you to paint that car?" is she really interested or has she simply been trained to Make Nice? They say to answer your young child's sex questions by giving the briefest truth you can, and not elaborating. Perhaps I'll apply that rule to the questions I get at shows.

Don't ask me why I'm calling it a "show." It's a sale. Oh. But I suppose someone has to buy something in order for it to qualify as a "sale." I did get a hot dog combo for two bucks, though, so I can't complain. (Well, of course I can. I just choose not to. This time ... this one time.)

I was the last one to leave, but I also left early. I got to The Longhouse with half an hour to spare. They were having their open house and holiday sale. I'm sorry I missed so much of it. It feels like family over there. I ate cookies and took Isabelle, a deaf French bulldog, for a walk. She's about the size of the cat, but she's got the strength of a four-by-four -- a black one.

I bought a Christmas card from Mo. I'm not sure what I think of it, but I bought two of them and know where at least one is going. It's a picture of Mary giving birth to Baby Jesus. There's no actual placenta, but Mary's legs have assumed the position. And that's not a halo around His head -- that's labia.

I want to tell you Mo's whole name and tell you how to reach her, but it turns out that I only have her email address, which I would give to some of you (and you know who you are), but not to others of you (but you don't know who you are; you never do, do you?).

Speaking of Christmas, here's Amazon celebrating The 12 Days of Holiday. What? What did you just say? Doesn't that just make you want to slap someone?

I've got my December calendar on the wall, of course, but I can't read the teeny print in the boxes from my chair. December 26 through 31 have FULL boxes, lots of text. I get up and peer. It's describing the six, I guess, days of Kwanzaa. I suppose it could continue in my next calendar. I googled the holiday because I don't want to be completely ignorant, but my feet are not in the mood for actual education here.

What caught my attention, though, is that Dr. Maulana Karenga, an American, is the creator of Kwanzaa. Imagine that. Imagine creating a holiday. Granted, I don't know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa, but the website says "millions" do, both here in the States and in Africa. Still, I really like the idea of creating a holiday. I wonder if we could make our birthdays holidays. Kwanzaa has seven principles (which makes me suspect that it does, in fact, have seven days) and probably seven symbols too ... candles, food, a flag ...

So on my birthday, I could create a holiday that has symbols, too, and special colors. Maybe a bird. Since I'm so verbose, I think a set of lips should be one of my symbols. Maybe my friends would help celebrate by showing up with those big red wax lips they used to sell at Halloween. I'm an afrophile, so perhaps they'd also have to dress in African clothing. The point is, they'd have to do what I say. I'd have to make up a name for my holiday. Barbalozza, perhaps, transposing the O and A in my last name. And if I say the official Barbalozza bird is a woodpecker, then it would be so. Maybe you'd show up at the celebration with woodpecker feathers in your hair. Or I'd be serving woodpecker soup.

Yeah. I'm liking this!

I had a similar thought last Thursday at my writers' club. I've belonged for a year and just found out that we have a president. Well, I think that whoever is voted in as "president" should get to choose his or her title. If I'm made the leader of the club, then I'd want to be the czarina. Maybe you'd want to be the emperor or majority leader. It would be up to you. I think the only restriction should be that you have to hold the title for a year. You can't be changing it every month.

Do you think my blood sugar is too low?

Friday, December 5, 2008


This first bit is not for the faint of heart or glass of stomach (and you know who you are). Just scroll down till the boldface invitation assures you that we're out of bad part.

I don't really want to talk about dog urine, but it's an issue that's in my face, as it were. Poor Sunny, Mike's sixteen-and-three-quarters-year-old cocker spaniel, has reached that stage in her long happy life that it's too difficult to climb the stairs to the bathroom, push open the heavy door, drop her waist-high old-lady drawers, squat shakily onto the seat, and pee. Therefore, the nearest piece of carpet will do just fine, thanks.

I wouldn't mind if it weren't for the smell, which I cannot describe and wouldn't anyhow, although if I had the ability to make you smell it through words alone, I wouldn't be going to the Wednesday Midday Market, would I? No. I'd be sitting at my mink-trimmed computer, drinking that fabulous peppermint hot chocolate from Bob Evans, paying someone else to exercise for me. As it is, the stench kept me awake last night.

To be fair, let's say that it was the absence of Mittens that started it. I woke every couple of hours to pull on a piece of clothing (once it was just a glove) and stumble in the cold, drear night to the screen door, open it -- because you know how sound gets blocked when it has to squeeze through those tiny squares -- and call out, "Mittens! Come on! Come on!"

I sing "Come on!" in a particular way. I wouldn't, for instance, call you in that specific tone. No. It's for Mittens as intentionally and solely as the two-note whistle my mother would use to call my girlhood cat, Tiger.

You might conclude that exotic pet names sort of run in the family, but let me say this, firmly: I did not name Mittens. She came to me that way. If she spoke English, she'd be embarrassed enough to lose all her bunny-soft hair.

I called for Mittens every two hours. I have no doubt that there are neighbors who can attest to that.

Why should Mittens be in her bedroom at night? True, we decorated it just for her -- a pink canopy over the bed, a princess phone (I am not getting her a cell phone!), her own small HDTV, innumerable pastel pillows and cat toys scattered about -- but that's no reason to insist that she be there each night.

I worry about her getting kidnapped. Er ... catnipped. Er ... catnapped. I think someone will steal her and sell her to laboratories for painful experiments, making her, for instance, wear a lipstick that's not her shade. I don't know. I just want to know where she is and that she's safe and happy.

I swear I heard her meow while I slept, so I got up for the third time, groped for some fabric, wended my way through my natural clutter to the door. No Mittens.

The trouble is, although I was worried and half-asleep, I could smell Poor Sunny's liquid mess and that would pop my eyes open. It's simply a smell I cannot bear. Remember my Thanksgiving drivelings? Of course you do. I was grateful for my sense of smell, for the great pleasure it brings me. Lilies! Green peppers! Brut with Camel straights and exhaust fumes (John Beaumont c. 1966)! Fresh air! But last night's smell? Not at all.

I paid ten dollars online to buy the secret formula for getting rid of the smell. But it takes two days. There was nothing more to be done. I wrote Leone a whiny email. That helped. It made me remember all the murder mysteries I've ever read, where the homicide detectives at the crime scene or the morgue apply Vicks Vapo-Rub to their upper lips, stiff or slack. I signed off from Leone and went to my medicine cabinet, which is a basket in the linen closet. I pawed through throat lozenges and aspirin and found a small, squat jar. I opened it and applied the contents, wondering if Vicks actually has an expiration date, because I sure didn't smell that famous menthol.

Yeah. Well. That's because I'd put Vaseline under my nose.

You can look now.

So yes, the Wednesday Midday Market. I made four bucks after the booth fee and parking fee. But no matter! I'm going to that no-name show tomorrow, Saturday, December 6, at that church at 5441 Ninth Avenue North. That's from nine to four.

After that, I hope to go to Sacred Lands again at six, not for business but for pleasure. First Erik will tell an old tale about a rescue. Then there's dinner from six-thirty to seven-thirty. Then Celtic music from then on, by Empty Hats. It's twelve bucks at the door, which is really a fence, ten bucks in advance. I assume there will be a bon fire. I want to go, even though being at craft shows usually makes me want to spend the evening with Epsom salts and ibuprofen.

Tonight, Liz Armstrong -- the Little Bastard's mom -- will be signing books at Gulfport's Art Walk, at Small Adventures.

Don't look!

I wonder if I could somehow work a trade for tonight: Mittens is persistent and clinging, and the smell disappears?

You can look now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Flat Santa

Look at the picture I took just now, at my neighbor's house and without permission. It's a photo of Santa biting, apparently, the dust. Explain that to your toddler! Santa's sleeping with the earth worms until Daddy gets home from work. Then -- poof! -- Santa grows and grows until he's fat and jolly again. But it only lasts until bedtime.

Kids are going to grow up thinking Santa shares a bloodline with vampires and werewolves and other creepy critters that only come out at night. Maybe a religious nut could found an entire sect on this whole thing, with Santa resurrecting each night during the Christmas season, after having been the Baby Jesus In A Manger during the day but cleverly disguised as a puddle of Italian colors in order to save Him from the Pharisees.

Cruise through your neighborhood in the daytime and see all the colorful but seemingly dead holiday folk spread out on the ground, as if a South American military coup had happened on your own street, innocent Sugar Plums and Reindeer gunned down like anarchists. Or as if a horrible plague came through like a tornado, withering the flesh of Elves and Snowmen but leaving the color untouched.

But hope -- and Santa -- spring.

I'm always puzzled by those heart-wrenching stories about sweet, probably blond, certainly blue-eyed children -- usually girls -- finding out that there is no Santa. I'm puzzled -- and a bit miffed, too, really -- because I don't have such a story. Well, nor am I blond. Or blue-eyed. Or sweet, come to think of it. Perhaps that explains it.

In any case, I was so untraumatized by learning that there is no Santa that I don't even remember the realization. I think that's because I had (and still have) an older (by two years) brother and (by one year) sister. I assume I learned there is no Santa by osmosis, as if I were celery and the not-Santa were blue ink. Well, red and green ink, what the heck.

I would think it's even harder in a city -- instead of my girlhood boonies -- to convince a child that there is a Santa, since each store has one. How do parents explain that to kids? There was an excellent Santa at Sacred Lands this Saturday, by the way. In fact, I'm pretty sure he was the real one.

I don't even know why I'm going on about this. I really don't care. I should think that kids in any generation are pretty good at distinguishing between Make-Believe and Real. If you were traumatized by finding out that Santa is only as real as The Easter Bunny, let us know. Tell us the story. We'll feel sorry for you. Really. Even if you're a brunette.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


So here it is Thanksgiving Morn. I got home an hour ago -- at 6:30 in the morning! -- from tending to the livestock. Ebby's still nowhere to be found, but since she's a cat, I have faith in her survival. Back on the homestead, Mittens and Pook engaged in some hissing, which at least means that Pook came out of the bedroom. She ate a crispy leaf from last week's lily which the cleaning lady must have missed. I trust it was nutritious and not poisonous.

But Thanksgiving ... The trouble with gratitude, for me, is that I have to think about to whom or what I'm grateful, and then I get into a whole big icky thing about my Christian upbringing. I have to wonder if there is a god. If I make the mistake of going to a 12-step meeting, I'll have to hear All I have to know about God is that there is one and I'm not Him. Or, worse: Gratitude's an action word. No. It's a noun. Shut up.

Okay. So I am grateful that I won't be a meeting today having to listen to cliches I can't agree with. And I am grateful that my turkey's coming from a private home, not a 12-step group, although I am grateful that such a thing exists. I've eaten plenty of turkey in that setting and, for years and years, it was just fine.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, on its Heavenly album -- a gospel album they're sharing with artists as diverse as Dolly Parton and Lou Rawls -- has a song that's in Zulu, but with one of the Shambalala men smiling and saying, "Ooh! Thank You for my mind! Thank You for my soul!" I'd go along with that. There are parts of myself that simply delight me. I love that there are smells that'll stop me in my tracks, sniffing around, trying to find the source. (Since this is Thanksgiving, I'm not going to talk about the other smells that also stop me cold, like those evil Glade air "fresheners" and many perfumes; plastic, vinyl, carpet, grocery stores when you first walk in, one particular flavor of Certs that's nasty ...)

I love it that I'll see something up ahead and toy with it in my mind until I finally am able to see what it really is and then I laugh because it's sure not what I thought it was. There's a newspaper box near my laundromat that, at night, looks like a person every time I drive by.

I'm so glad that I'm able to read with huge enjoyment. I'm glad I like to dance.

I know I should talk about family, but there they are up there and here I am down here. That was a choice I made that I'm usually fine with. But next week is an open house for a niece who's down in New York from her Fairbanks home. Do I have to say "Fairbanks, Alaska"? Possibly. Fairbanks sounds like a southern city, doesn't it? I'm sorry I can't just jump in the car and be there in an hour. Well, I left my girlhood home at eighteen and never really went back. I was simply never close with my family. A lot of that was a function of drugs and alcohol and now it's too late, I think. It's never too late to be maudlin, though!

There I was, just maudlin' down the street, when up come this dog I never seen before, all crackle-eyed and bent, but smilin' just the same.

Well, and that's something else I'm grateful for: The desire to play with language!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Raining Cats and Dogs!

When Vicki asked if I would take care of her pets while she's gone, of course I said yes. For one thing, her critters are lovable: There's no work involved. There's Boomer who's a black-and-white dog of some sort, and Sophie who's a white-and-gold dog of some other sort. The cats are Ebby and Leo of the feline sort.

Mike and I have discussed this and we agree that Leo shouldn't be named Leo. He's not golden like a lion. He's grey. We'll have to query Vicki about this upon her return. Perhaps Leo was born between July 23 and August 22. Perhaps Leo roars. Perhaps he wears a tiara.

Ebby, on the other hand, is short for Ebony, and s/he is.

These creatures are used to being fed between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning. I say no more.

Last night, Melanie delivered Miss Pook to me. She's a gorgeous grey cat with great markings. She's also a hisser. She's dangerous in that way. She's like the Boy Who Cried Wolf or the railroad crossing I used to deal with daily. It only had the red lights, not the bars, but the lights were almost always on and a train never came. Never. But a train could come. There were the tracks, after all. So I'd have to stop and look anyhow. It used to infuriate me that I was being trained, basically, to ignore train warnings.

Pook's that way. I now view her hissings as any other cat's purrs. But someday -- hopefully not on my watch -- her hiss just might be meaningful.

Now, I don't know if Miss Pook is her whole name or if Melanie's just being respectful. Sometimes Melanie calls me Miss Barbara, which seems Southern and sweet and yet somehow appalling. I fear it's an age-related title, but I can't be sure.

Mike, because he's basically perverse, insists on calling my guest Mister Pook. Lee, ever the gentleman, refuses to pick sides. He refers to her as the Hon. Pook.

Mittens, my own inordinately beloved cat, is not a fan of Pook no matter what title is used. Mittens would rather see Pook to go sea in a beautiful pea-green coffin. This morning, Pook was in the bedroom doorway hissing at Mittens, and I'm quite sure it was a valid hiss. Mittens was ten feet away, matching hiss for hiss. She was willing to be interrupted for fish, though, so I think everything will be okay.

Benji and Sunny, Mike's dogs who come over every day, don't care one way or the other about Msrh. Pook.

* * *

Saturday I'm going to be a vendor at Sacred Lands ( I'm told that the path through those beautiful woods is a tear-shaped loop and I'll be in the pointy part. I'm also told that it's the BAD place to be because it's farthest from the music. Excellent. I love music (who doesn't?) but I'd rather focus on it instead of have it as background.

Please come out and spend your Christmas money there instead of at Target, okay? It'll be all one-of-a-kind stuff, plus there's the aforementioned music, and food, although I don't know what kind. It's not only a great alternative to the Black Friday madness (especially since it's on SATURDAY), but it's a way to support Sacred Lands, too. If being an outdoor vendor could ever be relaxing, this would be the place for it. Peacocks and hens are strolling around, including a pair of white ones. The noise from Park Street, the brick part, doesn't penetrate. It's beautiful. Show up. 1700 Park Street North. Nine to six.

Among other things, I'll be selling Shonda's African-American lesbian coming-of-age, coming-out-of-the-closet novel.

Since there's an Indian mound at Sacred Lands that's being excavated, there will be Indian things, too. And Native American things. And First American things. Yep. Michele said she's heard that title, too.

Let me tell you about some flute music I bought at SPIFFS (St. Petersburg International Folk Fair S-- ... Society? Shindig? Shenanigans?). The CD said "Native American Flute Music," so I bought it. Hah! It was "Native South American Flute Music." So I wonder if it should be First North Americans?

Speaking of labels, there's an opportunity to add labels for this post, but I don't know why I should. Do you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shoot Me Now

Go to that link to see a little interview with Diane Hammond, who wrote Hannah's Dream. I watched the interview and am eager to spread the word about that book. So I hit COMMENT. But I can't leave a comment without being a member of MySpace.

I remember a former co-worker (and you know who you are) forcing me to join MySpace just so I could go look at HisSpace which, no offense, wasn't that interesting. That was several years ago. I received way too many emails from "Tom." I'd get so excited because I thought it was my brother Tom in Austin, from whom I hear almost nothing. But it was from some bogus cyber personality who isn't even a real person. "Tom" is the Customer Service Department at MySpace, and they're getting no prizes from me.

But fine. I want to support Hannah's Dream and her creator, so, god help me, I signed up again at MySpace because you didn't think I'd remember my password from all those years ago, did you? And I was happy (not) to go along with the whole thing. You want my school, even though that was forty years ago? Fine. I'll give you my school. But first I must pick my "city" in New York.

It's not listed.

Come on. It's got its own ZIP code (14550). It's true that the only traffic light is always blinking yellow on the drive-through side and always blinking red on the village side, but hey! it's got a library!

But that's part of the trouble, too. Even if Silver Springs (pop. 726) were listened in the drop-down menu, there would be no school. It's a centralized school, serving five villages and all the farms in between, and it's in Gainesville (pop. 300), not Silver Springs. Well, okay. It's in the middle of a potato field outside of Gainesville, but still ...

Okay. So I continued without my school. I even uploaded the grossly inaccurate but lovely photo that I use here on my blog. I worked my way back to the site of the Hammond interview. I prepared to comment.

Alas. I'm not the friend of whoever posted that interview. And I don't know how to become her friend. Oh boo hoo.

You can't holler down our rain barrel. You can't climb our cherry tree. You can't do something else but I can't remember what it is unless it's got something to do with sliding down our cellar door but that doesn't rhyme. If you won't be good to me.

Do you remember that song? Me neither (clearly). But that's how MySpace makes me feel. I picture a chubby little girl -- no more than six -- in a stiff, fifties dress, hands on hips, pouting and telling me I can't be her friend.

A pox on YourSpace!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saffron Bread! Mmmm?

I just read a recipe for Saffron Bread. Now, my mom was a fairly mediocre cook, although she did manage to get supper on the table for seven people every single night, which I can't even do for one person one night every seven months. She was a good baker, though, and one time, in about 1966, I think, she made Saffron Bread for my French class because we had learned that France exports that spice. The bread was just white bread with lovely saffron in it. Oh, it was delicious!

Well, the recipe I read was on Studio @ 620's website, They're having a Sankta Lucia celebration, a Swedish celebration. I can't really picture St. Pete as having any particular ethnic group in abundance, unless people from Ohio are considered a tribe, but if I could, Swedes wouldn't have sprung to mind. I mean, do you even know a Swede? a Norwegian? a Finn? Of course you don't! That's why Garrison Keillor's so funny on A Prairie Home Companion! He can make fun of all those Scandinavians because no one even knows one. You don't have to worry about offending anyone at work if you repeat a joke from the show because no one's Swedish anyhow.

Okay. I admit I married a full-blooded Swede and we did, in fact, live in Minnesota where they really do talk like the people in Fargo. I think the worst thing about those four years was that no one knew Italians enough to even insult us. Wop meant nothing to them. Guinea was half a rodent. When the in-laws came to dinner, I'd make Italian meatballs the size of your head, just to rub it in about their teeny-weenie little bitty Swedish meatballs. Really. Why bother with a meatball the size of a Milk Dud?

This recipe tells us to divide the dough into THIRTY pieces. Are they kidding? Then we're to roll those thirty bits into "traditional shapes." Hmm. Whose tradition? The Swedes'? What would that be? Lutheran Churches? Lingonberries? Cheese? Well, raisins follow, in any event, on top of those shapes.

And then -- and this part really wobbles the mind -- we're to bake these things for FIVE MINUTES. Okay. If you're not a reader, you've hated the last couple of blogs. And if you're not a baker, you're already hating this one. But really. What bakes for FIVE MINUTES? Nothing. Nothing bakes for five minutes. Banana bread is an HOUR. Even chocolate chip cookies are eight minutes. But FIVE minutes for a yeast-bread?

Do you think this is a Swedish joke I'm just not getting?

Okay. One (1) time I baked one (1) thing for five (5) minutes.

I quit smoking on July 5, 1992, and I was determined to not gain any weight because of that. I signed up for aerobics classes at the old YMCA downtown. I bought a pretty white leotard but no one ever saw it. I wore it under baggy tee shirts. Well, one day when I was headed for the Y again, I saw that the leotard had not quite dried from the day before. No problem. I tossed it in a Teflon-covered cake pan and put it in the oven at 250, just about the lowest you can go. It was sort of a stationary dryer. It was a good idea. Except that it wasn't. It started melting at about five minutes as you see from the photographic evidence presented here.

I'll let you know if I bake that bread. I know that saffron is about a thousand dollars just to look at. In fact, the recipe calls for a gram of it. Who cooks in grams?

Those freakin' Swedes ...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

That Funny Sentence

I'm sorry! Until FlaHoos mentioned it in person this morning, I didn't even realize that my Devoted Readers may have been living in eager suspense, waiting, as author Diane Hammond did, to hear that funny sentence from Hannah's Dream. I fear that you had to be there, or that the preceding pages are required for context. Therefore, I'll copy that sentence and the one that follows it to end the paragraph, and you'll just have to chuckle or not.

Well, the setup is that Truman, a single father, is home with a cold, and a fellow zoo employee has offered to bring him some soup. The Oat Maiden was a cafe several blocks from the zoo and, from what Truman could deduce, it specialized in dishes made with obscure grains, husks, stems, hulls, rinds, and pith. He was too sick to care.

This afternoon I finished another book I absolutely recommend: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a collaboration between aunt and niece, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's a slice of World War II and a slice of love and much, much more. Just read it.

The story does tell of many of the atrocities of war. It's another book that made me laugh and cry. But, really, why do we keep having wars if we all know that War is hell, that War is not the answer? Why do wars continue? I've never read a book about a soldier who couldn't wait for another war to attend. Certainly young men have often been eager to go to war, but that's before they've actually gone. Once they've gone, they seem to cool down about it.

The book talked about slaves during WWII -- young boys from Poland, forced to work, unfed, until they died from exhaustion, but no matter: there's more where that came from. In fact, death by exhaustion was part of the plan. As a Good American, I tend to think of slaves only in terms of Negro Slaves in the colonies and later in the states. I have to feel guilty, even though neither Nicolazzos nor Huckabones were here in time to own slaves and probably wouldn't have had enough money anyhow. I'd like to think we wouldn't have had the heart for it, either.

Despite these topics, the book was funny and charming and hopeful. I already drink my coffee from pretty blue-and-white cups and saucers -- quite like a lady, thank you -- but this book made me want to drink tea from same. Well, it does take place in the mid-forties in England. I wanted a blouse with ruffles and maybe a shawl.

Probably the best book on WWII I've read was by Marge Piercy, Gone to Soldiers. That'll make you a peacenik. Hopefully.

But whether to war or not is hardly nattering, is it?

I had a little insight this morning that just makes me feel stupid, but there it is. I was at Hank's funeral. I'd like to say, "We buried Hank this morning" because that sounds so ... romantic? It also somehow sounds real, if the two can be mixed. I wish we had buried Hank this morning. I wish we'd been out in the cold sun, wind thrashing our clothes while the pastor's words were whipped from his mouth and the casket was lowered. That's how you know someone has really died. But that's not what we do anymore, so, okay: I was at Hank's memorial service today. Everyone who met him liked him; many loved him. He was bright and funny and kind. Well, a stroke knocked him out and so he retired. He was plenty old enough to retire -- he just hadn't gotten around to it.

Much as I enjoyed his company at work, I never visited him or called him after he retired. When I myself, ah, became unemployed, I had plenty of time and no excuses, but I simply didn't visit him. He was close by, too. I just didn't do it.

So when I heard of his death, of course I felt bad. What a selfish creature I'd been! I could have brightened up some of his last remaining days but no! I was too busy overeating and reading and blogging and stuff. No time for old friends!

"Well," I told people, "at least it wasn't my own father I'd ignored. It was someone else's father." Heh. Aren't I clever?

But the insight was this: I had missed having my days brightened by not going to visit Hank. I had fallen into the pit of erroneous thought. I had thought that, what? retired people are suddenly no longer interesting? People who've had strokes are somehow, um, invalid? I was a Little Red Riding Hood, strolling off through the forest to bring succor to someone who, I realized this morning, could have brought me some muffins, too.

Have I muddled the metaphors enough?

I thought so.

I'm going to try to limit my book talk to simply mentioning what I just read, who wrote it, and whether I like it. Okay? That way, you non-readers out there (and you know who you are) won't be yawning so much.

In half an hour, I'll head over to Mike's so I can greet Sunny and Benji and Rico, Rudy, Telshe, Mo, and Benny, and pick the human up to take to John and Janet's, where we will gorge ourselves on a fabulous home-cooked meal (something I often long for) and then pull our over-stuffed selves into the TV room for a movie. Halfway through that, there will be a break for some indulgent dessert surely accompanied by huge mounds of ice cream. Will the previous overeating cause even the smallest refusal from any of us? Will just one of us protest wethinks we doth devour too much? Will there be a whimper of unwillingness?


Friday, November 21, 2008

Picture Blog

I just realized this afternoon that I have SIX mailboxes on posts here in Gulfport -- that is, six working mailboxes. This is in addition to the one on St. Pete Beach that I showed here on October 23, and the three that people bought in Kentucky. Anyway, it suddenly seemed so amazing to me that I got Benji and my camera and drove around town to take pictures of all of them. I really appreciate the people who appreciate my boxes. I'm glad they don't need dolphins or palm trees or other touristy items ... not that there's anything wrong with dolphins, palm trees, or tourists. I was once one myself (palm tree, not dolphin).

Here's another amazing thing. Liz Armstrong placed her book, The Little Bastard Won't Bite ... and everything else your pet sitter needs to know in Haslam's Bookstore. Yes! That's really something. Usually they won't accept self-published books but that's because they don't usually see The Little Bastard ... So run right down there and get a copy or two. Or go to and order online. Yours truly designed it inside and out, and typeset it, too, but that's completely incidental to the entertaining writing by Liz that makes the book. Since this is the Picture Blog, let's have a picture of the star, shall we?