Monday, December 29, 2014

Almost 2015

"I'm hot-blooded, check it and see,
I've got a fever of a hundred and three . . ."

Obviously I decided to end 2014 in a very warm manner.  Too wiped out to do more than sleep through the Harry Potter marathon.

Before this hit, we did do a couple of days of volunteering at them museum in the cage-cleaning-and-food-prep area.  This little screech owl did not appreciate our good deeds.  Possibly because  I did not use the zoom to get this picture; I did indeed, like an annoying paparazzi, shove the camera in his face.

Off to find another hot toddy . . .

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm Baaaaaack!


Been sort of CrazyTown here.  To elaborate on my last post, I found out in a random bathroom conversation that I wasn't going to have a spring appointment as I had though (the dept. chair and I were washing hands at the same time, and I mentioned that a student wanted to work with me in the Spring--so that's how I found out I wasn't working).  This was on top of "forgetting" to appoint me in the fall (I had check with three people to make sure I was getting an appointment because it had been forgotten before).  The forgetting just seems bizarre.  I've been there 10 years, and there are only about 7 people to be appointed, so you'd thing they'd notice that they forgot someone.  So that gave me a month to get stuff cleaned up in the collection that I'd planned on doing over the next four.

And, of course, if you're going to retire, you're supposed to have your paperwork in a couple of months in advance--and you have to send for a retirement packet.  So I called, had a nice chat, they let me know that because of Thanksgiving it might take three weeks instead of the usual two.  Five weeks later Bob calls for me (because I was doing crazy at work trying to get stuff finished) and they . . un . . forgot to send it.

What's with all the forgetting??  I find myself singing a tune from "Chicago"

"Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Could have been my name, Mister Cellophane
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right past me
And never know I'm there"
Anyway,  Bob being more memorable than I, the packet arrived a few days later.  At this point, we're close to the Christmas shut down, and I didn't want to wait to apply for retirement in mid-January.  I call the nice person in HR (who had helped Bob with his paperwork, and remembered him, of course) and upon finding out that my separation from FSU was already in the past rather than a couple of months in the future, managed to fit me in and get me on track.
We did manage to fit in our trip (more on that later) but when we were pulling out of the drive, we saw that the brake light was on--Bob checked the fluid--low--and saw the brake fluid coming out of the rear tire.  Fortunately, we have another car.  Oh--and when I was trying to download some stuff for our trip (NPR's news show--Wait Wait Don't Tell Me) I also got some malware that shut down the computer.
So--in the last two weeks:
The Trip!    check
Collection room cleaned up, report made, and, and office cleaned out--check.
Retirement paperwork done--check
Social Security paperwork done--check
Car repaired--check
Computer repaired--check
Fruitcakes baked--check
Meat pies made for the annual "meat pie, sherry, and watch Hogfather" solstice tradition--check  (tried out new puff pastry recipe, which was excellent, but I think we ended up eating about a stick of butter each)
Christmas shopping done--check
Christmas gifts made . . . well . . . three knitted gifts, a fourth almost done, and another gift sort of getting there, and another one to be finished.  It's only Monday . . .
Helping out the animal department at the museum with cage cleaning and food prep (they don't have their usual student interns over the holiday) --check
So--back into the fray!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December already??

No, I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth.  November got busy.  Bob retired.  I found out that I was retiring myself (at least from FSU) earlier than I thought--Dec. 12 rather than May 1.  Trying to take care of stuff for Social Security and Retirement, cleaning the house for Thanksgiving, having Thanksgiving, re-cleaning the house so friend Jeff could housesit while we took my birthday trip, and taking my birthday trip.


Which was amazing.  But I can't report on it yet because I got some nasty malware on my computer that prevents me from doing anything.  Doing this quick post from work--but I won't have access to the work computer any more because, well, Dec. 12 is tomorrow and I won't be working.

So--stay turned.  In the words of the Arnold--I'll be back.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween Howl 2014

Halloween Howl 2014 has come to a close.  We spent most of yesterday doing the last of the cleanup (well--almost the last.  But there are younger stronger people who can clean up the last bits).

The Howl is a museum-wide event, with kid's games, live music, costume contest and--our side of it--the haunted trail.  This year was a record-breaking success.  In the two nights that it ran, over 4,000 people attended the museum, and 1900 went through our trail (that number includes the repeats--those people who stand in the hour (or two hour) line, go through the trail, then get back in line again,  We're always proud of our trail--it's of a professional quality, truly scary (many people can't make it all the way through, and we get a share of people who scream, fall, or wet themselves) without resorting to the shock of blood and guts.

It's mostly done by our core group of four--Rob, Jeff, Bob, and myself.  We were lucky enough to get a few more hard-working volunteers for the build (shout outs to Donny, Joel, Phil, Gill, and Jim).  All told, there are at least 1,000 person hours involved to build, run, and then clean up the trail.  And for those two nights, it's worth it.

Problem is--I forget to bring the camera, or don't have time to go take pictures.  I will have to twist some arms to get people to send some to me.  But in the meantime, here are some preliminaries.

First, a couple of masks.  Jeff wanted some creepy scarecrow masks, and also some that looked like ritualistic skull masks.  Here's a sample of what I made (the oddness at the mouth of the scarecrow mask is that I built them on Jason-style hockey masks to keep the burlap off the actor's faces)

All of the scenes start off by digging in a forest of 2x4s.  They would later be covered in walls to form mini-mazes (usually made by sheets, so we can take them down and use them year after year, unlike black plastic which has to go to the landfill).  We ended up planting almost 200 of them in the first weekend.  One just has to have faith that with some walls, decorations, and proper lighting that we can turn this into something so unnerving that people will forgo the hour or more that they stood in line, and turn back rather than enter it.   On this one, Bob has started adding the pallets to make walls (we can scrounge the pallets for free.  He also made use of wood that had been cut down the on the nature trail prior to a planned control burn.  He would later add more fencing, then the final touch of about 150 dolls and an equal number of candles to light them.  For some reason, many people find this scene to be disturbing.

I did get a quick shot of the volunteer tent where almost 30 actors get into costume and makeup.  No matter how good the sets, you have to have actors to make it come alive.
I did get one shot of an almost-finished scene.  This is Jeff's "Circus of Tate's Hell" (a local area of infamous reputation).  This was our final scene--our philosophy is that if you have a strong beginning scene, and a stronger final scene, that's what people will remember.

Keep your fingers crossed that I find pictures of the finished trail.

Jim Fowler video

Here's the finished video with Jim Fowler and the Museum's hawk.  It was filmed green screen with the pretty background added in.  What you can't see is me, the nervous stage mother, about 5 feet away hoping the hawk would behave herself (she did).  In the video, there is one closeup of the hawk--I'm holding her in that shot (invisibly, of course).

What I didn't think about until my office mate made the comment is what a nice video it is.  Most political ads are pure mudslinging--we're all happy when Nov. 4 comes around and we don't have to listen to all that negativity.  Voting seems to be choosing the lesser of evils.  So yes--I'm glad I had even a small part in this one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Childhood Dreams

When I was a kid, one of the shows I loved was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, with Marlon ("I'll stay in the tent") Perkins and Jim ("while I go wrestle the alligators") Fowler.  It was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Of course, the reality is that most of us don't grow up to travel the world around to wrestle anacondas and get kicked by kangaroos.  But animal have always been a part of my life, from having too many cats to doing animal education at the museum and raising wee squirrels.
But sometimes things come full circle.  Marlon Perkins is long gone, but Jim Fowler is still around and kickin'.  He was in town yesterday to film some promotional spots for Amendment One (Land and Water Conservation).  I'm not usually one to vote for amendments, because I think constitutions should be clean and uncluttered.  But this will protect funds already in place--which at the moment can be siphoned off depending on the interpretations used ("isn't 'development' the same as 'conservaton'?)   But to hop off the soapbox--Fowler wanted to be holding a hawk for the filming.  The museum has a hawk (the one I helped train)--so we loaned her for the shoot.  And--of course, one of her handlers (ME!) had to go with her.
Have to admit--I really behaved like a 10-year-old.  And enjoyed it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Few Minutes of Fame

The new issue of Handwoven magazine is out--and I have an article it in!  It's about the shoulder panels I wove for the Knights of NI! in Spamalot last year.  Such fun to see one's name in print.

And a touch more fame--for now, at least, one of the banners for the website of the College of Human Sciences has my dress display.  Check it out at

And here's the promised picture of Schrodinger Squirrel.  Now a lively 3/4 ounce.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What I Haven't Blogged About

The guilt level is rising--been too long since I posted.  Actually, a good post with pictures takes me about an hour (because I'm a Luddite--I have to select my pictures, then downsize the file, then post them).  And I keep *meaning* to post but . . . . (fill in with choice of excuse here). 

So a few recent highlights.  The Ice  Bucket Challenge.  For those of you who have been living under a rock, this is a challenge to raise money for ALS research.  If you're nominated you have to either donate $100 to the foundation, or, for a reduced donation of $10, have a bucket of ice dumped over your head.  My friend Gill got nominated, and we of course went to go watch--just to show moral support, of course.  So she got iced--at which point she nominated us.  What started out as a chance to laugh at a friend ended up with use coming home in wet clothes.  Being, however, that it was about 95 degrees that day, it felt pretty good after the initial shock.

Same friend also managed to get herself involved in another fundraiser (not including buckets of ice this time) called the BikeFest--celebrating all things motorcycle (proceeds going to Ability First).  Now, Bob likes motorcycles but not enough to own one, and I'm disinterested in them.  But the bike group that was running this is also the group that volunteers to provide security at our haunted trail, so we thought it only fair to volunteer at their event.  Bob times competitions in taking apart and then putting together brakes, and I ran a game called Splat The Rat (use your imagination--but no rats were harmed).

Work has picked up and I've been doing overtime sewing at the School of Theatre.  I've also taken over training the new volunteer animal handlers at the museum.  When I get home, I've been building Halloween props and costumes, and also making homemade self-drying clay to cast dozens of little skulls for kids to paint during the Howl.

This past weekend was spend building the sets for the trail.  We have all the foundations in (meaning the trail looks like a forest of 2 x 4's--but the walls go in next week.  The weather was *gorgeous*--clear, and in the high 70's (quite a change from the mid-90's we've still been having).

And, of course, still tending to the wee squirrel.  He had some rough days, to the point that I was convinced I was going to lose him, but he's a tough little guy and seems like he's pulled through.   For the first three weeks I had him I managed to avoid naming him (if you don't name the critters, it's easier to release them when the time comes).  But during this time I always approached his box with cautionary dread--would he still be alive, or would it be over.  Up until the moment I opened his box, he could be either--which led me one time to exclaim--who are you, Schrodinger's Squirrel??  And the name has stuck.

So that's where I've been.  I promise pictures next time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Squirrel update

Nine days since I got the little flying squirrel.  He's now about 1/2 ounce.  He still hasn't opened his eyes--I expect that to happen in about a week.  Cute as he is, I am *so* looking forward to that.  When they're old enough to open their eyes, they're also old enough to go overnight without eating.  As it is, he's getting 2 a.m. feeding.  I have it down to a fine art--I can get up, warm up his milk, feed him, wash the syringe, and be back in bed in 12 minutes.  But I'm still feeling a bit sleep-deprived.

But don't you think this is worth it??

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Theatre Display

The School of Theatre had a conference last weekend, and asked me to put up a display of 19th century dresses and accessories.

Like all good displays, this looks pretty effortless.  In reality, it was a lot of physical work--some of it hard (like getting big heavy storage boxes of dresses off high shelves in a narrow area--I literally balance them on my head until I can get to the work table.   I had to make two of the dress forms--a 19th century corseted body with a 21" waist just isn't the same as a modern dress form.   I looked through a drawer of about 70 purses to pick the 5 on display.  I had to move three racks of clothing just to get to the cabinet of shoes, where I took out and unwrapped a dozen pairs to pick the four pairs for display (and, of course, had to rewrap the others).   Everything had to be packed up and taken to the school of theatre and up the elevator and down the hall (God Bless Bob, for the use of his golf cart and muscle power)

And, of course, after the conference, everything had to be done in reverse order--repacked, returned, reboxed, reshelved.

But it's what I do.  I liked that they set up drawing stations for the students.  And it gave the costume designers some insight as to how the real period clothes were made.  You can look at pictures all you want, but it's not the same as having it in front of you, especially when you can (carefully!) look through the layers, and understand how the inner structures work (for example, look at the pink dress--it's not obvious that there is a fitted and boned lining in there).

So that's my moment of glory--now it's back to the inventory.

[side note--tiny squirrel is doing fine,  More pictures soon]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tiny Big Challenge

Got a call from a friend with the cry for help I've heard before--"I found a baby squirrel--what do I do??"  And, of course, what they do is meet me somewhere and hand it over.  He had told me that it had to be a newborn because it was so tiny.  I asked if it had fur yet--yes, just barely.  That makes is about two weeks old, so I was expecting "tiny" to be about 2 1/2 inches long.

I was off by about an inch.  I saw this impossibly little thing, and my first thought was "dwarf"??  Then I peered closer and saw the little flaps from wrist to ankle.  Wee baby flying squirrel. I don't know how he even spotted it on the ground.

He's so little it's scary.  Tips the scales at 10 grams (1/3 ounce).  But so far, so good.  He scared me after the first couple of feedings--as soon as his little tummy is full, he immediately goes sound asleep.

I must really enjoy 2:00 a.m.   I keep finding excuses to get up.   Mostly to go feed something.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Harpy Puppet

October and the Halloween Howl are getting closer.  And props are being built (we can't build props in October--we're too busy building the sets for the trail.

I was watching a special on the new Harry Potter World in Orlando (I plan on going for my birthday).  They have a puppet show of the folk tale of Beadle the Bard.  I loved the video, and I *really* loved the death puppet.   Here's the link to the video:

So I made a version of it.  I've tagged it "The Harpy" because I gave it a human/bird face.

My legs are showing in this (and you can see me when I move) but that night it will be, well, night, and I'll be entirely in black with a black face mask so I should mostly disappear.    My plan is to hold still and look just like a hanging display until the visitors get close--then move.   Should get some interesting reactions.    It's been fun to figure him out--there's practically everything on there--PVC pipe, foam, paper mache, some Styrofoam packing material, bamboo, old drapery sheers from Goodwill, wire . . . the list goes on.  Just sort of had to make it up as I went along.
Hopefully this video works.

And now onto the next project!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Earning Aunt Points

Ah, me--almost caught up with myself, and then three weeks of busyness happens and now I'm way behind.  I sort of keep having the ever-changing schedule--this is the time of the museum when they've lost a lot of their summer camp instructors (mostly teachers who have to go for beginning-of-year-prep) so my choice is to cover a summer camp week, or cover a lot of programs.  I opt for programs.  More on that later.

July came and went in it's own hot sticky way--the highlight being the visit from Amanda and Robert (and Dane and Zeke), with Della and Don's wedding.  But they found time to come up to Tallahassee for a day before heading back to Italy.  And I found myself fulfilling a promise that I had made--to take Dane on the Tree to Tree adventure course.  Everyone else opted to stay on the ground so it was just Dane and I harnessed up to climb up to the trees.

And you really are up in the trees.  The course is often called "the zip line course" just because people know what that is.  But the real challenge is the obstacle courses--walking across swinging logs, riding a surfboard, walking a tightrope.
I let Dane go first so I could help him if necessary.  Hah!!  Monkey Boy is a natural at this, and merely had to be polite enough to let Aunt Ann catch up once in awhile.


I honestly thought I could just cruise through this.  I have done it before, two years ago.  But that was in May.  August is 20 degrees hotter.  And I had sort of forgotten (blessed protective amnesia) that you constantly have to duck under the shoulder-height security lines.  Or that you arrive on the platform after a zip with your legs tucked under you and you have to quickly stand up.  My thighs were screaming at me.  And I could have easily won any red-faced sweaty awards.  I found myself pondering the fact that I was trying to keep up with an athletic 11-year old when I happened to be seven years older than his *grandmother*.

I did show good form on the surfboard.
I couldn't walk for two days afterwards, but it was totally worth it.  Dane is a great kid, and we've never had a chance to do anything with just the two of us.
Afterwards I took the family for a private close-up viewing of the bears and panther.  Alas--Amanda's phone had died by then so we didn't get pictures of hide-and-seek.  The panther is a big and intimidating predator--but he's also a playful cat.  And I do wish that I could have gotten a video of Amanda's reaction when suddenly a far-too-close 10-foot alligator got up and walked towards the water.  I hadn't thought to warn her about him--and she didn't immediately register that there was a fence between them. (and yes--we laughed).
So happy to see them again--and will next spring--in Italy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More Wedding Daze

One of these days I'm going to go to a "normal" wedding--bride in long white dress, groom in tuxedo, bridesmaids in matching unattractive dresses.  But probably not--that's just not how my circle of friends and family rocks it.

Bob's sister got married last Saturday.  She's been single for 21 years, but has been dating a truly nice guy for many years now, and they decided to make it official.  The venue was small, just a little wedding chapel in downtown Panama City, and some family and friends.  Della, being herself, chose red and black for her color theme.  Her daughter Amanda was her maid of honor, and her grandson Dane gave her away.  I love weddings like this--small and personal.

And I open with a sight very rarely seen--me holding a baby.  This is Amanda's second son, 9-month old Zeke.  I don't know if the kids are my grand-nephews or my great-nephews.  I opt for great-nephews because they're great kids.

Here's niece Amanda and her other son Dane
Both Della and Amanda wore very red, very high heels.  They came off immediately after the wedding.

Am I forgetting anything?  Oh--yes.  There were a bride and groom:

After the ceremony we traipsed across the street to a redneck bar for the reception.
The cake, like everything else, wasn't quite traditional, but it was beautiful (and red velvet cake--yum)

Incidentally, wedding cake and Guiness stout go together excellently.

It was a beautiful and loving day, and I'm so happy for them.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Very Harry Potter Day

My sister-in-law Margo once asked me "Don't you ever take time off to sit, relax, maybe read a book?"  Well, of course.  Sunday was my lazy day.  Saturday had been busy (that will be the next post) and I discovered that there was a Harry Potter marathon on TV.  I love those movies--the costuming, sets, and props are just so visually rich.  And despite scoffers, there are first rate actors (Maggie Smith, James Broadbent, Michael Gambon).  So I sat and watched the last three movies (which took about 9 hours).

Of course, it's possible to do something and watch TV at the same time--and there are commercial breaks.  So, while zoning out at Hogwarts, I:

Made some jesses (ankle straps for the hawk)
Made some small spindles for a cotton-spinning workshop I plan to teach next month
Plied and washed a skein of yarn (the actual spinning was done on a handspindle while doing my daily walk--yes, sometimes I multitask).  The colors are very pretty but subtle--the picture really doesn't show it)

Spun another skein of yarn
Knit a mitt for my father (his hands are always cold, and his current mitts are getting a little shabby)

Not pictured, but the overage of ripe tomatoes got turned into some incredibly delicious sauce (team effort - Bod did the straining).  I also baked some bread to go with the resulting spaghetti and meatballs.

Alas, one does not get too many lazy days.  Today I had to go back to work, giving a program on reptiles

And, as too often happens, I got to demonstrate how alligators like to pee on me

Back home, we still can't resist following the cats around with a camera.  Here is Apache--who would really prefer to be an only cat, wants nothing to do with any other cat, does nothing with other cats except to a) run away from them, or b) hiss at them.  He is the ultimate solo cat.

He is so busted  :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wilhelm Montage

The fascinating thing about having a kitten is watching him grow and change so quickly.  The round little face lengthens, the tiny ears get huge (then the body catches up), the plushy kitten coat turns to sleek fur, and the tentative wobbly walk becomes running and bouncing.

He has turned out to be a completely charming little cat.  Not only is he very affectionate with the two of us, but he is determined to make friends with every other cat in the household.  Some of them have been easy; RiverSong and Noko Marie almost immediately adopted him as a new kitty toy, and Nazgul is a fine fellow who gets along with everyone (except Apache).  Fiona stands on her right as Queen Cat not to mingle with the underlings,  Pookha doesn't like any other cat (except for Nazgul), and Apache doesn't like any other cats at all.  Wilhelm remains undaunted: "Are we playing hitting growling games?  I can do that."

So here is six weeks of Wilhelm:

At his bottle (although at 9 weeks old, he still likes to drink from his bottle)

Learning how to eat real food with Riversong
Figuring out that maybe he can sneak up on other cats by hiding in the food dish
 Maybe it works--he was able to sneak up on Apache

To get close to Fiona and Pookha, he sneaks up on them while they're sleeping.

While he takes a somewhat more direct approach with Nazgul

I don't even have a good picture of him with Noko Marie, because all I can get is a big furry blur.

But speaking of big and furry, his favorite place is still with Bob.

We'll never know how he got away from his mother, or even be able to trace the convoluted chain of events that ended up with him being handed to Bob.  But we are reasonably sure that he is happy in his new home.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Halloween Puppet

It may seem a little early to be working on Halloween stuff--but not for us.

An online Halloween forum sponsors an annual "Prop for under $20" contest, ending June 30, and I decided to enter this year.   My prop was a puppet inspired by a vulture that I used to work with.

And I am beyond pleased at how well he moves.  It seems weird to watch it, because he looks so natural that I forget that I'm the one doing it.

I'm so happy with it that I don't even care if I win the contest--I'm just happy that it inspired me to do this.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


We have a couch and chair in the den that we sit on.  That seems a logical thing to do, but I mean we can really sit on them.  If we come in from the garden or from kayaking and want to take a rest before showering, we do.  The cats sit on them.  We can eat while we're sitting on them.  They're the "comfortable" furniture.

Of course, with this rather cavalier treatment, they do need washable covers.  For years I've contented myself with just throwing canvas drop cloths over them.  I actually like the look--it reminds me of the old homes where people would cover the furniture with sheets before heading off to the summer home.   They would start off looking properly casual.

But after sitting and sprawling and wiggling the covers would get a little wonky, and end up eventually looking like this.  A little too informal, even for me.

So, having a few days of being "temporarily underemployed" (meaning the time period between the university jobs ending and the museum programs getting busy) I decided it was time to make fitted slipcovers--still using the drop cloth canvas because I like it (and it's cheap).

Usually I do my sewing in my little cottage (aka Chez Wicca).  But I wasn't about to go running back and forth endlessly, so I moved my sewing stuff to the living room.  The downside of that is that the living room isn't cat-proof--and RiverSong and Noko Marie happily helped in the laying out of the fabric.

Then they decided that they should teach young Wilhelm how to be helpful.

When I took a break, they made sure my fabric didn't get away.

Finally I got the chair done, and I must say I think it looks pretty good.

Being a glutton for punishment--and as I had the living room fairly well trashed by now with bits of fabric and sewing paraphernalia--I thought I might as well do the couch while I was at it.  Noko and River and Wilhelm never flagged in their assistance.  Here River makes sure my zipper is sewn in properly.

Eventually the couch got finished, and they all inspected their handiwork.  How could I have even done this without them?

Poor little Wilhem was tuckered out by all this, and had to take a nap with his toy mouse.