Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Check List

I need one, or I'll forget what I need to do. Now where did I put it?

It's nice to be able to check off the completed tasks. In no particular order:

*   My customized version of the Pocket Itinerary for the trip to SW France with Jeanne is spiral-bound and ready-to-go. The clerk at Staples didn't want to do it before "tomorrow" but I balked. She, or whoever, did a really good job on it. Always on tenterhooks. Jumped for joy that the project is done, a rather disproportionate response but heartfelt.

*   Launched the Electronic Funds Transfer of tuition to French language school for later in the summer. What a unfavorable time to convert dollars to euros! But next week could be worse. I asked the phone guy at the trading firm for his prediction. We agreed that he probably wouldn't be working as a phone guy if he knew the answer to that. Today the money was debited from my account so I know it's proceeding.

*   Went to the elementary school on Monday at the appointed time to help set up for the Family Wellness Faire on Tuesday. The early crew who had marked out spots for each exhibitor had already done quite a bit of additional work. I'm not sure whether these guys were waiting for assignments or had already done their thing.

Men waiting

*   Setting up the spaces 

"An apple a day for doctor to give 'way"

"Tell us what you think about the Wellness Faire"
My spot at the end of the faire

A soft green spring coat is beginning to wrap the injured oak.

*   Despite being a chronic late-nighter, managed to get to the school before 7 a.m. for Family Wellness Faire, but not without nightmares. My cell phone is my alarm clock and I dreamed I reached over to look at it and it was smashed. It obviously wouldn't wake me up, so I sent my husband (who passed away years ago) out into the dark to find a new cell phone on time. When my old cell phone woke me up at 5:15, I was greatly relieved.

Snacks for participants

On their way in

Last station before telling us about the faire

*  Went down the hill after the Wellness Faire for shopping and a French class. We'd each selected a French song and were to comment on why we liked it and what new grammar we'd learned in the lyrics. I chose a song with a bouncy melody that was first on a CD collection a friend had given me. It had taken a bit of listening to discern enough words to get the French lyrics by Googling. I'm not sure whether the prof was hinting that the singer and song were noted for being a bit on the "rascally" side.

*   Just so today wasn't a complete loss, finished up my daily pill packets for the trip. And a nap. I need a nap now and then to make up for the late nights.

See you soon.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in the Rear View Mirror

Easter is over now. I don't know when this will get posted, as my Internet has been intermittent in the extreme all weekend and off all this evening. (It will be pre-dated to Easter Sunday so as to keep the blogs in order.) I only called in once, early on the weekend, because I know the guys who will get called out on a holiday weekend and I didn't want to . . . well, that probably didn't make a difference, since someone else will have called.

Sister and Brother-in-Law came up for the weekend to their mountain house. Concerned that I will starve on my granola bars, Sister invites me to dinner to make sure I eat real food from time to time. Once a nurse and caregiver, always a nurse and caregiver. Really, I eat very fine quality granola bars. Try them, Kashi TLC Chewy Granola Bars in the Trail Mix, Peanut Butter and Honey Almond Flax varieties. They have real, identifiable things in them, not sawdust or corn syrup. And follow one of those by the almost addictive "dessert" bar, Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars-Peanut.

Friday afternoon, Terri and Gary came to finish cutting up the logs, or at least as far as he can get with his 16" chain saw, which is pretty amazing. Here's the last, biggest piece he was able to cut. Terri stuck in the wedge and then I kind of caught the shot with the round mid-air, before it hit the ground.

It'll take more than a 16-incher to cut this one up.

Later, Black Kitty does his inspection.

So I was invited to Sister's Friday evening for barbecued tri-tip. Only just as they went out to fire up the barbee, the rains came. Unexpectedly. Change of plans, we went out for pizza. It was very quiet there when we arrived, but the place eventually filled up with shrieking toddlers. One who could barely walk was wandering around chewing on Mom's iPhone. I don't know whether I'm more horrified at what the baby might be getting in her mouth from the phone, or what baby-gnawing might do to the phone's electronics.

Sister and Brother-in-Law spent their Saturday hauling trash to the transfer station (it's a scenic ride out there) and four loads of brush to the compost pile, some of it clean-up from the big storm a couple of months ago and some to make room for more cars to park in the driveway without getting scratched by buck brush. Wouldn't you know, it began to sprinkle just when it was time to put the tri-tip on, but that only lasted for a moment and the tri-tip was tasty, along with broccoli and red potatoes. We had strawberries on cherry ice cream (not what Sister thought she was buying) for dessert. I took its picture, but my staging was pretty ugly.

We went for an Easter Buffet at "The Grill" at Pine Mountain Lake in Groveland. (It rained.) There was a major array of breakfast type fare, plus ham and prime rib. Here's what I chose for "salad." We didn't know it was possible to boil an egg as hard as this one was, but it had the best flavor ever.

Our motley crew, satiated.

I took this picture only to show that I finally wore the dark purple pants I bought so long ago, thinking they'd go nicely with the light purple shirt. I felt like an Easter egg.

A busy week starts too few hours from when I'm writing this. Soroptimist is putting on a Family Wellness Faire on Tuesday for the surrounding area and we must go set up booths tomorrow. This is the first time I've been in town for this event since I joined Soroptimist. Medical and other wellness providers will offer screenings and information. I'll have more details after I've seen it in action. Then on Faire day, we have to be at the elementary school where it's being held by 7 a.m. Egads! Tuesday afternoon and evening I must to go down the hill to get the Pocket Itinerary spiral-bound (postponed from two weeks ago), do some critical shopping, and then go to French lessons.

Here's Chloe in the morning. She was rolling around with pleasure on the carpet, the kittens still confined to the kitten room. I tried to snap her looking so relaxed and happy, but the moment I pick up a camera, she stops and looks.

I got busy on the phone the other day, making appointments. I'll see the doctor this week to get cortisone shots in my back and/or hips before my big trip. I made future appointments with my manicurist until she takes pregnancy leave. She's so popular we have to book four appointments in advance to preserve our spot in the schedule. And I'm going to try to do a long-delayed Soroptimist newsletter this week. It will be a photo edition and I've been reviewing photos this evening. Shhh. Don't tell any Soroptimists, in case I don't get it done.

See you when . . .


Friday, April 22, 2011

Explosions and Other Miscellany

Hodge podge from the past day or two . . .

Ants, ants ants. Again. An ant attack from a third direction. Source again unknown. First it was in the kitten food in the kitten room, about a week-and-a-half ago. I tracked them to a window, but no sign outside the window. Next, in my office. Someone had upchucked cat food while I was away at quilt camp. All dried out, not too nasty, but attacked by ants. They tracked back to the heater vent, but I think they would have been cooked if they came through it. I'm guessing they came up the outside of the heating duct. This morning, ants in the cat food bowl in the laundry room. I absolutely could not track that one down. I don't want the in-the-house pest spray. It's too stressful on Chloe to dislocate her, but I'm thinking it's time to go under the house . . .

Jean-Luc as I see him when I emerge from the shower in the morning. He thinks he's hidden.

Jean Luc peeking

It was a loud crack! with the quality of a .22 rifle being discharged right behind me.  The more sensible course of action might have been to hit the deck, but instead, I leaped up from my chair to look into the kitchen to see what the cats have done now. No cats, no signs of disturbance. Something similar had sounded a time or two just before leaving for quilt camp, and while away I'd read that residents in the county had been startled by a loud noise and it was being hypothesized that it was a sonic boom. I didn't think the time of day had been right, but my mind rambled off on the quality of sonic booms, which I didn't equate with .22 rifles at close proximity at all, and tried to remember whether I knew what aircraft it was that was used in a test of the effects of repeated sonic booms on a civilian population whose pathway I lived under in the early 1960s ... that was an interesting experience.

I have two giant speaker cabinets housing 15-inch JB Lansing speakers, venerable old speakers, also hanging around since the 60s but supplanted by my petite surround sound system. My husband installed a weather system many years ago and the little display console sits on top on one of the JBLs.  Henley and Jean-Luc were up there nosing around the little console as if chasing something. They refused to be shoo-ed away. I saw something protruding from the side of the console. It was the 9-volt battery which had EXPLODED, spraying whatever it is inside batteries against the side of a bookcase.

I extracted the blasted battery with pliers, hoping the cord that goes into the side of the console isn't a power cord. I don't know what powers it, because it didn't lose its data accumulation when the battery was out. Now that I reflect on it, there were two blast patterns on the bookcase. Might the battery have exploded in two stages, before when I heard the earlier "shot?" It's unclear, because I had other 9-volt batteries go out, even oozing ones, over the past few days but no reason to connect it to a sound.

I dropped by the storage shed to put the big blue box with my quilt projects away and discovered an unknown padlock on the door. The unit is a big space that has been subdivided into three smaller units and now I couldn't get in! I didn't have the phone number with me, so raced home to make a call. It only took about five minutes to remedy the problem; I've got my own key now to the outside lock and some new unit-mates. There's a spooky serenade in there by the beeps of dying batteries in fire detectors up and down the row.

The suitcases didn't really get unpacked, but I stuffed them in the closet so my house cleaner could move about the premises. If I could get packed before the trip, like, way before the trip, I could do that mythical thing ... take it easy for the few days before the trip and travel rested. Hahahaha.

The first night of the late-to-beds at quilt camp, none of us had a flashlight, and despite a large waxing moon, it didn't illuminate the corridors, so there were collisions among us as we felt our way along. I tried to get a squint at my name on my door so there'd be no surprises. Next night I had my little travel/beside-the-bed flashlight, which gave off a pale triangle of light about 4 inches across by the time it hit the ground, compared to Jeanne's brilliant Leatherman. I changed batteries for the next night which only marginally improved the light output. Last night I tried to turn it on and -- nothing. Changed batteries again. Still nothing. I covet that Leatherman but it's really too heavy for non automotive travel.

I've run out of steam, so I'll just share pictures with you of Terri on the log, Black Kitty inspecting the log pile, and Little Kitty Girl lingering at some distance, brought closer by the miracle of magnification.

I'll finish catching up tomorrow.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Leaders of the Leopard Revival

It started as a joke, but it has launched an international phenomenon.

Seven years ago, February 2004 to be more precise, the Ross girls, Donna and Penny, went into a Ross store to find matching sleepwear for rooming together at Quilt Camp. They were looking for something so non quilty, so kitschy, that they would horrify the other quilters into convulsions of laughter.

And there they were: matching ¾-length leopard-print polyester night shirts.

The theme was right; the poly so wrong. The night shirts were were unbearably hot. The matter was resolved with flannel leopard jammies.

Quilt Camp is held twice a year and the tradition developed that Donna and Penny exchanged leopard gifts for each camp session. Since this was for fun and shouldn't tax a budget, there were guidelines: items were to be purchased only at resale and thrift stores, yards sales, flea markets, or on deeply discounted sales in regular stores. Other quilt campers got into the spirit of things by presenting Penny and Donna with needed items.

In the early days, finding items was a quest, but as the years passed, things got easier. Donna and Penny brought their growing leopard collections to camp and decorated their room (and themselves) in leopard and gave tours of the leopard room to other campers.

One of the best recent finds is leopard duct tape, which can be made into other items, such as the line of small totes the Ross girls have created.

All of us began to notice that leopard was appearing new in stores, not just in the cast-off outlets. On a personal note, after I had breast surgery a couple of years ago, the nurse sent my sister to buy me a sturdy cotton front-closing bra to ease post-surgical care. She brought me a leopard bra with three hooks in the back, without any knowledge of quilt campers' interest. It worked as a morale-booster, not so much for ease of use.

The Ross girls' kitschy local hobby has revived the use of leopard. It's gone mainstream on an international scale. Donna recently returned from Italy. While window shopping the "Rodeo Drive" of Rome and peering into fashion houses the likes of Prada, Valentino and Dior, what did she see? Leopard.

And industry surveys of trends in carpeting found prints to be the current fashion, with leopard the #1 seller.

Penny and Donna enjoy seeing the smiles that come to the faces of their friends when they spot something new in leopard out in the real world.

Congratulations to our Ross girls for repopularizing this venerable style.

* No actual leopards were harmed in these leopard skin reproductions.

Enjoy a sample of photos below from this Spring's Leopard Lounge Tour. There was also leopard gear at Penny and Donna's sewing stations in the work room.  Who knew there were so many leopard items?

Donna and Penny show guests around.

Demonstrates use of leopard print in actual serious quilt

Kaaren has joined the Ross girls as an understudy.
Here is her beginning collection.

See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Again

Yeah, I know that happens every week. I should be getting back to at-home normal, but along with being world's slowest walker and eater, I'm world's slowest unpacker. Things are out of the car now, except for the box of projects -- only one project left in it now -- that needs to go to the storage shed. The food tote is empty and folded, but the suitcase and backpack (computer, cords & chargers, reading and writing materials) are partially emptied but still sitting in the middle of my bedroom.

Today I began preparing "stuff" (in this case, pill packets) for the next trip. Pill packets are boring and back-breaking to assemble for a trip of any length (little plastic envelopes for a.m. and p.m. for each day). And I notice my gum is swelling again and that nasty tooth is hurting. Actually, it turns out to be a fistula running down beside the tooth. The dentist wants to pull the tooth and put in a bridge. I don't want to do that on the verge of the travel season.

I also looked into the mechanics of doing an electronic funds transfer to my language school teacher in France. I have a foreign exchange account that I've used in the past to send euro checks or wire transfers, but never the EFT, a less expensive method of transfer (as in, free). I think I know what to do, once I get necessary information.

Earlier today, it was Soroptimist* Tuesday, where we heard a presentation on services offered by the Center for a Non-Violent Community, based in the little city down the hill but serving the entire county. In its beginnings it primarily addressed domestic violence and sexual assault, but it has expanded to provide a comprehensive range of preventive, intervention, treatment and legal services on behalf of women, children and, yes, men.

Today was also computer club Tuesday. Before the meeting I did a little lake inspection.

Although the closed sign is still posted, it looks like
we're getting ready for vacation season.
The buoys defining the swimming area have been deployed.
The play equipment stands ready.
The dredge should be done, but it's tucked away in the corner for the moment.
I love this peaceful view.

This evening the computer users' group had a presentation and discussion on Protecting Computer, Family and Self on the Internet. I accidentally shot a flash photo of the group, so hadn't told them to say "cheese." I don't think they'd feel flattered to have the particular view included.

I had so much to do with packing for quilt camp last Tuesday that I didn't get to post about French class.  I do have pictures from that one, the final class of a six-week session. We tried "fromage" for the smiles, but try it yourself in front of a mirror. It doesn't make you smile, although it may make you giggle.
 Chantal at head of class
Rapt attention

Chantal explains

Next week, a new series of French classes starts. 

Since my Internet is down at the moment, I'll date this post for Tuesday, even though it won't be posted until tomorrow.

See you, with luck, tomorrow.

* Soroptimist Mission Statement: To improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Opening Day

Almost 40 of us swarmed into Old Oak Ranch, by cars, trucks and SUVs stuffed with sewing machines, boxes of fabric and thread and quilt tops awaiting the next step; rotary cutters and rulers, ironing boards and irons; and kaleidoscope colors swirling in our heads. It's twice-annual Quilt Camp, 4½ days of nonstop quilting, good food and camaraderie.

Jeannine's kaleidoscope
 Opening day is a flurry of rearranging tables, snaking extension cords, calling camp maintenance to resolve breaker blow-outs, setting out snacks, firing up the coffee maker, introducing newbies (quilt camp "virgins"), announcing schedules, and learning, as if we couldn't tell something was up by the jam of vehicles in the parking area, that another quilters' group even larger than ours is also here, using the other wing and another big workroom in the building. We will share a dining area.

Mats, rotary cutters and cutting rulers, for the non quilters among you 

At the cutting table

Barb's multi year project

Snack Table: We had to have a smaller table this camp for snacks.
 More nutritious items will eventually show up on the table.

Watermelon pallet

Watermelon confab

Kaaren at play
 Based on past experience ("it always snows at quilt camp"), I'd confidently predicted snow for this camp, and snow obliged by promptly falling soon after our arrival. It wasn't a significant amount, although it did delay one camper's arrival by a day, but at least the record remains unblemished.

Click to see snow flakes.

No picnic on opening day

It didn't take long for fabric to be cut, sewing machines to whir, seams to be pressed, quilt blocks to go up on the walls, and the din of voices to fill the work rooms as people got acquainted and updated old friendships.

My Internet connection has been a little dicey since I got home, so hope to see you tomorrow.