Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hijacked by an Android

If you wonder what I've been up to that has kept me from blogging these last couple of days, I blame it entirely on this little monster:
Yes, I have finally joined the ranks of the Smartphoned. Ugh.
Adam found this phone for me on Christmas Eve, an amazing deal. It's actually cheaper to operate (i.e., buy minutes for, etc.) than my old dinky trac phone. And with the discounts and sales, the phone itself didn't cost much either.
However, I'm not convinced that I have the brain power to operate this machine. I'm just Too Old!
And I think if he'd handed me a new baby instead, it would have been less trouble. Oh my word! The screeching I did while trying to figure out how it works! Finally, Julia had to help me, but while doing so, I accidentally called an old friend and couldn't figure out how to hang up.
Now ... back to technology that I can manage!
Two more Christmas books arrived today, both by Elizabeth Von Arnim. Very much looking forward to reading them.
Philip and Kara sent us a Christmas gift, a particularly lovely gift. It's a framed photo of the moment during the proposal when he showed her the ring. I adore this picture. Her expression to me shows utter delight, impossible happiness. Sigh. It's hanging in the hallway where we will see it every day.
Poinsettias are surviving the winter inside. I kept last Christmas's poinsettia all through winter, spring, summer and fall, until it froze a couple of months ago.
Today, the girls and I went to town. I did not particularly relish a day in town. I wanted a Day-at-Home, if you know what I mean. A day to rest, sip tea, dabble in watercolors, read a book. Instead we attacked the stores!
Bath and Body Works was having amazing sales, plus I had a coupon we could use if we combined all our purchases. It was highway robbery. Most things we got were about $3. I love this metal candle holder.
Notice the jamberries, still holding up.
We were rather silly. Anna started singing or dancing or some other frivolity in the Christmas clearance aisle of WalMart. Julia is holding a stack of Christmas cards for Adam. We buy them each year on clearance (75% off!), and I hit the mother load, thankfully. It's very difficult to find Christian Christmas cards. I looked in: Michael's, Hallmark, TJ Maxx, Books-a-Million. Not one card said "Merry Christmas," much less any whiff of religion like a Bible verse or a baby in a manger. Not even a Christmas carol. They all say Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, and all manner of other inoffensive drivel. One box of cards even said, "Nose So Bright" on the front of the card. Really???
This brings me to another issue. I mean ... when you ask the teller, "Do you have any Christmas cards on sale?" you've already said the big naughty word: CHRISTmas. And the teller directs you to a stack of cards, all of which deliberately omit the name of Christ from the cards that celebrate His birth ... whether some people want this yearly event to have anything to do with Jesus Christ or not ... and what do you find in that stack of cards? "Nose So Bright"???
People whine and say, "We need to put Christ back in Christmas." I understand their angst. But truly, you can't take Christ out of Christmas, not even if you want to. Without Him, there is no Christmas, there is no holyday, there is no season for joy, bliss, merriness. (Whoa! Merriness is a real word! My computer recognizes it!) You can load your front lawn with reindeer and mount a Santa on your roof and even talk about angels in particularly heretical ways, and still you cannot remove Christ from His own birth. His birth is the crossroads of human history, whether people like it or not. If people don't want Christ in this yearly event, they should become complete Scrooges and retire for the month to their hovels in protest. Meh.
Off my soapbox. Onto the river. These shots were from this afternoon. Adam would say those cloud formations indicate ice crystals, I'm sure.

Each New Year's Eve, Oriental has a big party down by the harbor. The town has a long Chinese dragon (think, the one from the movie What's Up, Doc?), complete with a team underneath the hold it up and wiggle it up and down Hodges Street. The 8:00 PM dragon run is for families and involves only moderate alcohol consumption. The 11:30 PM dragon run is more of a drunken-sailor rout, I'm sorry to say. I do not attend either one. It's too cold for antics in the dark, dragons or no dragons. Adam will go with the girls. I'll stay home with the doggies and go to bed at a normal time.
Happy New Year to you!

Monday, December 29, 2014

What You Find When You Look

I've been rummaging around in the garage. Our garage at this rental house is bigger (I think) than the house itself. Too big, I'm afraid, because it gives one the notion that nothing really needs to be thrown away right now. Just ... put it in the garage. Ha!
Various things lately have turned my half of the garage into a chaotic mess. (Yes. I have a half. Adam has a half. I should take pictures, but I won't.) Christmas boxes, college kids home, homeowners needing access to the garage, etc. -- boxes all over! So I decided to straighten. I enjoy straightening and organizing, I truly do ... as long as I'm feeling perky, I have an afternoon, and the temperature is pleasant. No summertime garage cleaning for me!
I was hunting for a lost box. Anna is missing one box, I'm sorry to say, and we haven't located it. It's probably lost, somehow, for good. We have moved house 17 times in 25 years, a daunting statistic, and one that makes me sad just looking at it. Too much upheaval. Too much displacement. Too many strands of friendship and home broken. But, life is what it is, and there's not much we can do about such things. I've sifted through belongings many times, ridding myself of things deemed unnecessary. Often, things get lost. I regret some things I let go.
Yesterday I opened a plastic bin, one of three whose contents I thought I knew. I hadn't opened this blue bin in years, I guess. I had not idea what was in there.
I found a little basket I thought I'd lost. I wondered where it had gone. I knew ... at least, I thought I was certain, that I wouldn't have given it away to Goodwill. But I'll tell you, in the midst of trauma and sorrow and moving and distress, a woman will get rid of things she would not part with in her right mind. It happens.
I bought this basket over 20 years ago at the Canton Flea Market in Mississippi for $2. I was with my mother. I love its unusual shape and color.
The next find was interesting too. I recognized the red plaid bag immediately -- a bag from a store in Independence, Iowa called "The Little Red Schoolhouse." How I loved that store! We lived in Iowa from 1995-2001, teaching and working hard at a boarding school. This delightful gift shop was an escape, an emotional salve to me when things got too stressful. During a shopping run to town, I'd step into this store, smell their candles, look at their lovely, simple, beautiful wares, and be soothed. I couldn't afford many of their items, but these dish towels -- simple, useful -- were perfect. I'd buy them for myself but keep some to give as gifts. Back then I was younger, more organized, and I kept gifts on hand in case I needed them. We had a good bit of staff turnover at the school, and a nice house-warming gift was smart to have in the closet.
I kept this box full of gifts, truth be told. Christmas gifts especially, but other little presents as well. I shopped lightly year round, and stashed them away. And forgot about the last few, after we left Iowa. Life got complicated, and my mind lost track of it. And now? I have two brand new dish towels, 15 years old. That's strange.
I found some little school photos of the children too. Oh, how long ago it seems!
Along the top is Philip, K-3rd grades. Peter is the blond, K and 1st grades. And Anna, K-2nd grades. At the time, I felt I was barely in touch with my dear children as we flitted frantically from day to day, taking care of so many tasks of teaching, working, homemaking, loving, disciplining, instructing our dorm boys and our own kids too. I wanted so badly to do it all well, to make a warm home filled with the magic of a Tasha Tudor cottage, all while teaching high school English and managing students and the multitude of other responsibilities that a boarding school involves. It's a good thing we were so young then!
Rummaging around in one's garage is an emotional business. These simple items bring back floods of memories of friends found and lost along the way, moments that slipped through my fingers that I now wish I could have savored much longer. This heel-end of the year is perhaps a good time to contemplate the past and cherish it as best we can.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Improving the Nocturne

Adam is progressing in his boat work. He's restricted by weather, of course. We've had lots of rain, and besides that he needs nice warm days for doing epoxy work. That was today!
We get up into the boat via this ladder, and I admit it still makes me nervous to step off the ladder onto the boat's edge. I know it's stable; I know it won't tip over with my weight. Still ... I doubt.
What a glorious day we had! After a successful morning at the farmers' market, I came home zippy and ready to do something. So while Adam epoxied the boat, I cleaned out the garage and prepared JUNK for a trip to the landfill on Monday.
The last time I showed you the boat, Adam was polishing the back deck after recoring it. It's looking good. He put fiberglass filler in, with epoxy resin and a hardener. Then he sanded it smooth.
This section from the front of the boat (at the mast) was recored as well.
Adam also worked on the hull. Here, he's begun scraping off the old paint, catching it in a tarp for disposal. You don't want that bottom paint in your grass -- it's full of copper. You remove as much loose paint as possible with scraping before you start with an electric sander.
When he scraped, he found blisters from the gel coat, the stuff on the hull that helped release it from its original mold. He's been working on those bubbles.
Yesterday he got some real sanding done on the bottom. It's looking pretty. Somehow he'll find a way to move those boat stands (I guess), to access the hull under them.
This is a portion where the separating gel coat and the blisters are evident. He's spoken with various boat guys in Oriental, inquiring about how worrisome this is -- how much repair does he really need to do for this situation? It is so incredibly helpful to live in Oriental and have access to so many experienced sailors and people who've done years of boat repair.
One sailor we met said that the front porch of The Bean (our local coffee shop) is the best place on the east coast to get a full education about anything regarding sailing and boats, and it's absolutely free. Day after day, week after week, men with loads of experience will give you free advice, loan you their tools, and offer to come help.
Today was nearly 70º, so Adam did the fiberglass filling in the front deck around the mast area, where he'd recored the deck. He pats fiberglass into all the crevasses first.
He uses a blend of epoxy resin and hardener, patting it into the fiberglass, working out any air bubbles. It's very tedious, careful work, and takes concentration. This section of the deck will be much more solid and safe than it was before.
He went through a lot of gloves. The epoxy melts them after a while.
It's tricky, because the epoxy needs four hours to harden fully, and temperatures must remain above 50º for the hardening to occur. Today was warm enough, long enough. He just checked at 8:00, and the epoxy was nice and hard! Yay -- one step closer to sailing again!
The weather was so fine today; about ten boats were sailing on the river. I rode my bike around the village, feeling exhilarated and joyful, greeting friends and neighbors with a "Good afternoon," and receiving, "Merry Christmas!" in return. The river sparkled in delight. I'm so thankful to live here.
Update: That was yesterday. Today the weather offered a couple of warm hours, and Adam added filler to those grooves after sanding off the excess fiberglass. He's making good progress!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Shots

Oriental wishes you a Merry Christmas. And yes, I am a day late!
Aren't these cute?
My favorite house at Christmas:
I love their vine wreaths. I love the blue shutters. I love the gate.

I know my family near and far might want to see photos of our Christmas, so here they are:
Peter and dogs. They just go together.

Before the carnage of ripping open began ~
We're deep in the years of what I call "Adult Christmas." No little kids. No hiding presents under beds. Everybody picks out their own stuff, even buys it with money deposited into accounts beforehand. Not a very magical Christmas! I'm looking forward to a decade from now when (hopefully) we'll have some little people around to make Christmas fun again.
My jamberries were holding up well.
Okay, grandparents. Here's Peter, showing you some of the clothes he found for Christmas, and he says, "Thank you!" The jacket was a great find. He also found the nice shirt and a sweater, and other things too. But I'll admit that he probably spent a good bit of your Christmas cash having loads of fun with Kara last week. I know you won't mind that!
The girls, showing you some of their new clothes. Anna tortures Julia with one of her hugs.
 And then Anna behaves. They both bought lots of fun things at "Rue 21" and "Twice as Nice," among other stores. Julia adores that camo shirt she's sporting. They bought leggings or jeggings or joggers -- pants these days have so many names!
Anna's hair is getting long.
The saga of the socks! Julia found some adorable socks at Bath and Body Works; they were little foxes. The store had quite a selection. I almost bought a pair too, because they were oh-so cute!!! But I decided to wait. Sure enough, when we went back a few days later, they were GONE! Sold out. So sad. But Adam found these adorable socks for me. I go through a lot of scuffing-around-the-house socks.
And he got me chocolates. The white ones (coconut) were especially good.
And some soaking items ~
And more chocolate ~
Christmas night, Adam made some apple pandowdy for an evening snack. This brought the troops into the kitchen.
It was very good. I had mine with salted caramel ice cream. If you haven't tried salted caramel ice cream, your life is not yet complete.
Adam and I went for a bike ride. The water was still, and one sailboat headed for harbor about sunset.
Julia and I walked to the water too, with the dogs, and I caught her silhouette. (I spelled that word correctly the first time, without looking it up! Amazing -- thought you'd like to know!)
It's been a lovely Christmas. The children haven't fought much. The dogs haven't been sick much. The tree is smallish and fake. But the love is large and real, and that's what matters :)

Books for Christmas

Here are the books I got for Christmas. Not many, I'm sorry to say. I usually order more, but I forgot this year.
The Susan Branch book I've wanted for over a years. Knock at a Star was recommended by my blog buddy, GretchenJoanna. The Secret Staircase is by Jill Barklem; I love her books about hedge-row mice and adventures. The Railway Children has been a favorite movie of mine for many years, and at last! I get to read the book! I read several chapters in it yesterday. The movie is very faithful to the book, except the movie somehow ... inexplicably ... adds depth of character and humor to some of the people, especially Perks the porter. The actors must have been perfectly selected for their parts. And the St. Patrick's Day tune for Bobbie's birthday song is not the same tune as on the movie. I love the one on the movie. But the book is delightful, and the person whose humor and whimsey come out in the book, is the author! At one point she parenthetically tells us that she's tired of calling Roberta by that long name, when nobody else does, and she will forthwith simply call her Bobbie. Ha!
And then for some reason I switched over and took a glance in Susan Branch's book, A Fine Romance. And that, as they say, was that!
What a delight! If you don't know Susan's blog, you probably should. I love her blog, but there's something much more personal about holding her book. I think her blog is personal until I go to make a comment, and I realize that over 800 other adoring ladies have done so before me. Sigh.
But I love a book in the hand.
The inside cover ~ Susan loves music and keepsakes. The book is more like a travel diary with a thousand little tidbits and mementos tucked inside. She wrote the diary while on a trip with her man, Joe, on the QE2 ocean liner and for two months in England, so it has a lovely, "present-tense" feel.
Susan has a relaxed, very personal, happy writing style that makes her seem a friend. She's a watercolor illustrator, so all the painting is her own. She also has her own little calligraphy that she uses throughout the book, making it rather like a letter she's written to you. It is very hand-done.
It is darling, as is everything she does. All I can say about Susan is that although she is in her 60s, she feels exactly like a little girl in her heart, and I don't think it's just for publicity. I think she's really that way. She loves England, Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, china, tea, old houses, and 'most everything I love.
The calligraphy in black pen is larger than normal book type, so this is an easy read on the eyes. I'm sad to say I'm already on page. 87, which means I'll finish the book all too soon! She added an interactive appendix to the book, on her blog, so you can go there and read more (with links) about various items in the book. What a good idea!
And shame on Susan because she's talking about the book she was reading on the journey across the ocean on the QE2, Elizabeth Von Arnim's Elizabeth and Her German Garden, the writer of Enchanted April, the movie version of which I am an ardent devotee. (Some of you will understand all this; some might not.) Of course, this made me want a copy. There's an audio version of the book in its entirety, right here. But I'm a visual person, and I need a book in hand; audio books do not work for me. After several descriptions of the garden book (or, as Susan calls it, her Elizabeth book), I popped over to my favorite online used book seller, Abe Books, and bought the garden book, and Enchanted April as well. I've been meaning to buy it anyway. Abe Books is so easy and cheap. Each book cost $3.46, or something close to it, with free shipping. I always get almost any book I want for that price there. So for $6.85 I have secured hours more of reading pleasure. (Happy Sigh) I can't drive to New Bern and back for $6.85!

I put off buying books. I put off buying everything! Adam will grin and wince when he reads that. I wanted Susan's book when she first talked about it on her blog. I told my mother about the book, and she got it last Christmas. But I have it now! And I'll have the book-originals of two of my all-time favorite movies evah. It's a good Christmas for books.

I'll post (hopefully) more about our Christmas with photos of groggy children and ripped paper, but for now I wanted to inform my book-loving friends of what I'm sinking my teeth into. Because book lovers read after Christmas, yes they do. We look with satisfaction at our stack of reading like a chocolate addict gazes on her stash of Ghirandelli. I'm going back to my reading -- seeya!