Sunday, November 29, 2015

And We All Sat At The Little Table

I have cooked many a Thanksgiving dinner over the years--but rarely on Thanksgiving day.
Back in the day when the family would converge at Chez Durham--and I had to work through Wednesday-- I would find myself coming home from work, staying up late Wednesday doing last-minute cleaning and preliminary cooking, then getting up early to finish preparing.  By the time The Feast itself commenced, all I wanted was for everyone to finish and go home so I could take a nap.
Being as some of the family was retired, and everyone else had Friday off as well, I moved Thanksgiving to Friday.  That way I would do everything on Thursday and be happy and rested on Friday.   That worked out for many years.
Then time did it's thing, removing some family members from the table and making it harder for others to come to our house.  After my parents moved into a small apartment, I took to taking Thanksgiving dinner to them.  As they didn't have a kitchen, and just a small microwave, it was easier to cook the day before and be able to take everything in.  And if one is cooking The Feast, it's nice to share it, so the Day-Before-Thanksgiving party for friends came to be.
And I didn't think to take pictures of the festivities themselves, but here's the next-day shot of the table.  I put on a tablecloth of the finest blank newsprint and toss out colored markers.
After all, this is not the formal grown-up Thanksgiving dinner.  We're just the kids, having fun.

I feel I have to show some class, so at least the salt is served in my great-grandmother's lead crystal salt cellars.

I thought a good time was had by all, until the next day when I was doing the last of the cleaning up, and found this at the place of a friend who had joined us for the first time this year.   Hmmmmmmm . . . .
And I had something special to be thankful for.  The hardest part about raising small animals is that you have to let them go.  Sometimes they leave cautiously, poking their noses into the world and then coming back home.  Other times they just run off.  My little stump-tailed squirrel did just that--out of the cage and into the top of a tree and out of sight before I could really say goodbye.  And like any mother, foster or otherwise, I worried.  Would he find food?  Shelter?  Would something else have him for dinner?  Then a few days later Bob looked out and saw this.

That's my little man.  Now he and his brother come and go, sometimes sleeping in the cage, sometimes not, but coming home for a meal.  They're always welcome here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Great Respect and Poor Food Choices

The year keeps circling around--and Veteran's day and the parade came again.  I didn't take a camera this year--we've been going for many years and I've written about It several times.  But my feelings are the same.  It takes a bit of fuss to be in the parade--the trailer has to be hitched to the truck and the jeep loaded and tied down, and we have to get up early, and I have to put on makeup (can't be Rosie the Riveter without red lipstick!), then you have to drive somewhere to leave the truck and trailer and unload the jeep and drive to the parade staging area, and get there at least an hour before the parade.  Why bother?

And then the parade starts, and you turn down the main street, and you see thousands and thousands and *thousands* of people waiving flags and holding signs that say "thank you veterans" and you realize that yes, one day a year you do have to set aside a couple of hours for this, to remember and thank everyone who has served this country.

And the next day, on a less elevated note, we went to the fair.  It comes once a year, and we go every four or five years, mostly in the middle of the day to look at the animals.  But we were joining a group of friends this year and went at night--and it's been a few decades since we did that.  I'm not really a crowd-loving person, but I told myself that if I were in Oaxaca or Naples I would be fascinated by the native night life.

But of course the two reasons that we really went there were to go to the petting zoo (no one would hold still long enough for a good picture) and to eat fried food.  First, of course, a corn dog.  Then we actually ate vegetables (all deep-fried of course, but there might have been a vitamin or two lurking in there), and then we had to choose some deep-fried decadence.

How to choose?  We at last settled on sharing a deep-fried cheesecake.  I wanted more--deep fried twinkies and elephant ears and a funnel cake and batter-dipped deep fried oreos.  Alas--I might have the mind of a 20-year old, but I have a more mature digestive system and had to indulge mostly with my eyes.  sigh . . . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Survived the Halloween Howl

Halloween has once again come and gone, leaving us struck down like overripe zombies.

Once again, we did the Haunted Trail.  Once again we overdid it.  Why, oh why?  The Howl at the museum is only for two nights.  All we need is a little scary walk through the woods.  Instead, we spend hours (meaning about 200 hours per person for our main group of four, plus another half dozen people helping to build) building a complex and oddly beautiful trail.  And I think the answer is: because we can.  It's like doing an art installation. And we bask in the glow of art appreciated.  The trail is open for two nights, about 3 hours a night.  6 hours after a month of hard physical labor.  But in those 6 hours 2117 people went through (many of them twice).  The wait was sometimes over two hours.  Personally, I'm one of those people that's not good about waiting in line--if the wait is over 15 minutes I seriously question how badly I need whatever I'm waiting for.  So the fact that a *lot* of people would stand in line for a couple of hours to see something we've made is rather mind-boggling.

What's more mind-boggling is that a large number of people (60+), after waiting all that time, didn't make it through the trail.  Got too scared and had to be escorted off (we provide escort service).  This despite the fact that we keep the trail very PG (we tell people not to bring children, but they do anyway).  No guts, no gore, and just a little bit of blood spatter in only 2 of the 9 scenes.  We strive for creepy, not gross.

And then the next day we start tearing it all down.   Sigh . . . .

The family shot (fuzzy because the flash didn't work and I had to lighten it)

Bob is the tall one in front, I'm the bog monster hugging him, brother Mike in the robe, and friend Allen behind him.

Closeups of Mike and Bob.  I'm really pleased with the masks I made this year.  (Mike paid me the compliment of keeping his--made is a statement ("I'm keeping this") rather than a request)

And a bunch of pics of the trail.





And now the magic is all put away--until next year


Monday, October 5, 2015


As a former English Major (and once an English major, always an English major.  Although I have a master's degree in a completely different area, I still thing of myself as an English major) and one who studied linguistics, I know that language is always fluid and changing.  For the most part I'm OK with this.   Some things, however, annoy me.  "Awesome" for one.  That's lost all meaning.  My concept of "awesome" is one of those moments that you feel you are standing in the presence of God.  When you feel awe.  When you feel both a part of a great universe, but also humbled.   Now, maybe I'm just hard to impress--but I don't think it's a term that should be used in describing, say, your 79-cent burrito from Taco Bell.

A more recent one is "reaching out."  I still think of it in a caring way--so-and-so's mother just passed, I will reach out to her.   It shows that someone is hurt, physically or emotionally, and you want to give support.  It's holding out a hand.

It's not how I feel about contacting the cable company because my phone is out again.  It seems to have replaced the simple word "contact."   "I need to reach out to Bobby's mother to see if she can bring cookies to the party."  Huh??  Is it that hard for Bobby's mother?  What has she suffered?

But there's a change in a word that I like very much.  "Makers."  Simply meaning someone who makes stuff.   Whatever kind of stuff.  Cookies.  Robots.  Costumes. Furniture.  Anything that gets made is made by a maker.

I like it because it's not pretentious.  It gives me something to call myself.  I've made things my entire life.  I can't remember a time that I didn't fiddle around with stuff.  "Artist" doesn't describe me--I don't do anything that I would call "art."  "Craftsman" means a level of detail and finesse that I usually don't do.  But stuff labeled "arts and crafts" is just too cutesy.  "Maker" is just about right.  I make stuff.

Hence the blog silence.  It's time to be thinking Halloween, and the Trail, and to be making stuff.  With a little stuff on the side.  Stuff like . . .

Chicken sweaters.  A friend asked me to knit some for a friend of hers who dotes on his chickens.  Apparently they're the latest "in" thin for people with pet chickens.
I don't have a picture of the recipient's chickens, so I swiped one off the web

I made them (how could I say no to a chicken sweater?) but buzzkill that I am, I included an article showing that putting a chicken in a sweater is really bad for their feathers.

And because other people like to make stuff too, I taught an indigo dyeing workshop.

But mostly I'm prepping for Halloween.  We're starting to build the trail, which begins rather inauspiciously with planting 2x4s and nailing up old pallets.

At this point it's hard to believe that we're making something that will make people run screaming--and then go back to stand in line again (up to a 2-hour wait) to do it again.

At home, I've been working on some masks--these are my swamp scarecrows.


And these--for the creepy cabin--are just plain wrong (only showing one picture--hate to admit I made two of them)

And then I retreat into cute.  The museum needed some witch bean bags for a game

And now to close with a few random pictures.  I entitle this "Three Peacocks and A Cat In A Circle."

This is Noko Marie, thinking that it's her turn for attention after we return from shopping.
And to close--we were walking down to get the mail, and Bob looked down, and I don't know how he spotted the tiniest baby turtle.

Now to get back to making.  Bob's making too--so more to come.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Back to Normal

Hard to believe that we've been back a couple of weeks and change.  Back to normal after wandering the stomping grounds of Spartacus and looking into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius.

So--normal for us.  Just before we left, I finished building a hawk box for Ella (the museum's red-tailed hawk).  It's been difficult to box train her because she really fights the standard hawk box where you put them in backwards onto a perch.  She then throws herself backwards and gets stuck behind the perch, and there you are, trying to get her out without a)hurting her, and b) getting taloned.  So I made one that opens from the side.  It's still a fuss getting her in and out, but much easier.  Now we can take her out on programs.

And being as it's that time of year, I have some baby squirrels.  I forgot to take pictures of them a couple of weeks ago when they were fairly quiet--now their eyes are open and they're pretty active, yielding blurry pictures.  But here's little Stumpy--a cat got hold of him, so he's missing his tail.  So far it doesn't seem to slow him down.

Squirrels aren't the only critters we brought home

Aren't they beautiful?  Those are the same little foxes that I had in the blog a couple of months ago.  As soon as I finish writing this, I have to go open the cage and let them go  :-(   Hopefully they'll stick around and let me feed them while they're learning how to catch their own. 

Being as it's now August, we need to get cracking on Halloween.  My scene this year is going to include a cabinet of curiosities, and I decided I needed a display shelf for my oddities.  As usual, when we're making props and displays, we just look around and see what they have.  What I found were a couple of old foam core presentation boards that my students never picked up.  With a little cutting, hot glue, duct tape, tissue paper, and paint, it will serve the purpose.  Now I have to make some oddities.

(oops--cut off the head of the blackbird that's perched on it)

Bob, meanwhile, is making displays inspired by the Fontanelle ossuary that we visited.  Pictures to come.

Finally--we had a wedding anniversary--number 42!!!!  We decided that 42 is the Power Tool anniversary, and bought ourselves a sliding compound miter saw (yes--we are the wild ones).

Ain't that a beauty?  And it's not just for Bob.  We have an old chop saw, but I can't use it.  The safety switch (which must be held down) is in such an awkward position that I have to use both hands to run it--one to hold down the switch and one to pull down the handle.  That doesn't leave a hand to hold whatever I'm cutting.  Bob's hands are bigger and stronger so he can use it--that means anytime I need to cut something, I have to go get him.  I never was good at the "helpless female" thing--hence, the new toy.

And now it's late--I have to go open the foxes cage (the release is always so difficult) and then come search the guest room because there's a flying squirrel (Delbert) hiding in there somewhere.

As I said--life is back to normal.