Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Maternal Visits

I'm in the midst of a Maternal Visit, with all of the stressiness that entails. Fortunately I thought ahead and the whole thing is only lasting until Thursday. Then I'm going to target for some retail therapy including new shoes. New shoes fix all stresses, I've found.

Today we went down the back of the mountain to the high desert. We ate buffalo burgers at this kitchy cowboy place in Littlerock, and then went to the poppy reserve, which isn't in full bloom yet, but will be in a few weeks.

Later tonight I tried to explain the humor of The Daily Show, and we have now reverted to watching Golden Girls reruns. I'm planning to make my escape to the bathtub to read soon.

I'm giving up Diet Coke for lent. No more artificial sweeteners, mostly because I want to get off of them when I get pregnant, so this is good practice. J is giving up meat so I'm going to have to learn more veggie recipes. So that's the news from here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Things

I have been snowed in since Thursday night, so going on a week. Here is how I have been occupying myself, especially during the three day weekend...

- long bubblebaths. I finished two books this weekend, and started a third. My minimum bubblebath time is at least 90 minutes. And it's lovely now that we have a huge window installed next to the tub, which J put in last summer. I open it up just a crack to let the cool air in, and watch the steam come rolling off my knees, and listen to the snow falling down in chunks from the trees when the branches can't handle it anymore. And I play with the cats, who seem to be massively interested in all things soap-related. They try to catch my toes, sticking out of the bath, and then I pull them under the water and they go chasing after them (the toes) until they're up to their shoulders in bathwater. Then they look at me with a weird expression, shake off their arm, and fall for it again. Whoever said cats were the smartest animals around clearly didn't live with nine of them.

- naps. I'm not a big napper. I usually wake up more tired than when I napped, and just want to go straight to bed. But I've been enjoying naps at the big picture window by the bed, with at least one or two cats snuggling with me, looking out at the trees and snow falling. Very cozy.

- cooking comfort food. On Saturday I boiled down a chicken carcass to make stock and made some lovely homemade chicken soup with carrots, celery, corn, and rice (cooked in the stock). That saw us through the weekend. Yesterday I made shephards pie, which is the ultimate in snowy comfort food. And I've been making a lot of grilled cheese to eat with tomato soup. I also made chocolate chip cookies and roasted a chicken tonight. It's gonna be a good week for food.

- playing oblivion. I'm almost done with the game (just the Dark Brotherhood and Daedric Shrines quests to do yet) and need to download the Shivering Isles expansion pack. And ever since I got my invisibility power, it's becoming less exciting because rather than kill monsters and goblins, I can just make myself invisible and run right past them, but really, there's nothing better than spending three hours listening to an audiobook, and hunting around Cyrodil for nirnroot (of which I have collected 263) and killing those stupid trolls. I hate trolls.

- downloading music. I'm so happy with my new music and the end of my entertainment crisis. I'm all inspired to start another choir-for kids this time, and go to choral workshops, and take some choral conducting classes and get myself more voice lessons. I'm also having fun organizing all of my previously unorganized music so that when I get a new zune - if my state income tax refund ever comes - I'll be able to stick it all on in good format rather than the hodgepodge that's on my archos jukebox right now. At last count I have over 6000 music files on my external hard drive that need to be catalogued. Gee. If only I knew where to find some music librarians...

Lately I've discovered, and fallen in love with, Jill Scott (call me slow - the rest of the world is already in love with her), Santogold, and the Blue Heron Choir. I've also rediscovered She and Him, Ivy, and Bliss.

So that's been the way I've been keeping myself occupied with this snowiness. Today I got out and shoveled for two hours, hence the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Shoveling burns like 500 calories an hour, I read. I'm sore in places I didn't even know existed. More tomorrow, I think. It beats the elliptical machine. Today I enjoyed shoveling by listening to What Would Google Do on my mp3 player. Hopefully the car will be cleared out tomorrow. The hard stuff was doing the berm today. I've never used the word "berm" so much since living up here in the mountains. I never even knew what it meant a year ago. Now I use it in everyday conversation about six times a day. Weird.

Currently reading: Right Before your Eyes by Ellen Shanman.
Just finished: A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (part of a wonderful series of chick-lit mysteries set in 1930's London, and a new discovery of mine)
Currently listening to: Elgar and the English Choral Tradition with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Also loving: Dragonnette

Monday, February 16, 2009


I'm glad I didn't buy new springtime patio cushions when they first came out at Target a few weeks ago, when, coincidentally, we also had a warm spell and I thought winter might be over. No such luck.

We had snow all weekend last weekend, but it wasn't really sticking, until Monday morning when I had to go up to San Mateo. I wound up getting stuck up there because J got stuck on the mountain and couldn't come down to get me at the airport. Which was a fun excuse to go to the gap and buy some new clothes, I admit, but still, it wasn't under the best of circumstances.

Then on Thursday we checked the weather again and it predicted this storm coming Friday, with a break on Saturday, and then the big whopper on Sunday and Monday. So we went down the hill and got groceries, etc., on Thursday night so we could just hunker down and be warm and not worry about having to go anywhere. Now we're getting a weird mixture of sleet, hail, snow and rain, plus it's wicked foggy. I'm making a shephard's pie, which seems about the most appropriate food to have on a day like this. I'm slightly worried because I'm running low on diet cokes, but I can always walk up to the liquor store to get some. And our tv/dish is working, so really, we have everything we need and life is good. It's nice to be snowed in when you don't have to get anywhere. And I have an empty calendar this week.

I'm happily getting back into reading since I finished the newest Matthew Shardlake mystery that I was waiting for such a long time. It seems my entertainment crisis is abating somewhat, which is nice. Now if only the snow would melt so I could start working on some of my other new year's resolutions which include doing sociable things. It's hard to be sociable when you've got two feet of snow on the ground and can't get anywhere.

I think I'll play the piano some tonight, and catch up on a pile of magazines that need to be read. It's nice to be cozy, but I sure am looking forward to sunshine again soon!

Monday, February 9, 2009

It is well with my soul

J and I had a harrowing day. It's been snowing all weekend, which hadn't amounted until much until this morning, when, of course, I was due to go up to San Mateo for the day. With no plows coming through until 7am, and a 6:45am flight, we were fighting our way up the hill of our driveway at 5am with huge big chunks of snow coming down at the rate of several inches an hour. We needed chains almost the whole way down the mountain. I got to the airport at 6:15, just barely in time for my flight.

J took a nap in the Target parking lot while I was on the most frightening flight of my life, as we were going through the rain clouds. They had warned us it was going to get "bumpy" - they didn't tell us it was going to get like a roller coaster. We were literally being knocked in every direction, up and down, sideways, and directions I didn't even know existed. The seatbelt dug into my lap and I hit my head on the window and the guy next to me had his seatbelt on too loose and got thrown up six inches in the air. So yeah, it was scary.

At the same time J was trying to head up the mountain and the chains snapped. He wound up stuck in a snowbank with the rear of the car hanging out into the road. Finally a tow truck driver came by and offered to "drag" him back up the mountain. Ever see those people in roller rinks join hands and whip the "end" people around the corners? That's what J was going through as this tow truck dragged the little car through the rocks and such along the side of the mountain road. Thankfully there wasn't any damage to the car, but now the chains are caught in the wheel and he's going to have to cut them, which is going to be a job.

It's been a very tiring day and I'm glad to be going to sleep soon. While I was on my scary flight trying to stay calm I listened to one of my favorite hymns of all time, It is Well with my soul. The guy who wrote it had some tragic stuff happen - a baby die, losing everything in the chicago fire, then all four daughters die in a shipwreck in the Atlantic. As he was going to join his wife in Europe, and passed near where his daughters died, he wrote the hymn as a reflection of what was still good - mercy and grace and love and forgiveness - and that things were indeed well with his soul. Once we got above the clouds I was feeling quite close to God, and it wasn't just the fact that I had almost died. I felt a loving presence reassuring me that things were ok, and it is all good with my soul.

I'm going to bed soon. Another long day tomorrow, and a three day weekend to look forward to. I hope i have good dreams. Last night I had a dream that I was at some conference and crashed a bunch of high school reunions, totally piss drunk, saying I was a spokesman for Coke, and then passing out. One funny scene I remember was when everyone was posing for the class portrait, and I popped in, yelled "Spokesman for Coke" and then passed out. Very strange dream indeed.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Snow Day

We had some snow today which was nice - only a few inches, so not enough to disrupt my planned travel on Monday and Tuesday, but enough to coat the trees and look pretty. I had a fun indoor snow day. I read an entire New Yorker in the bathtub, and started reading my new CJ Sansom book - he writes these amazing Tudor mysteries that will definitely end my reading drought. I also rearranged my books a bit tonight - J and I have been switching around storage units which has necessitated a bit of reorganization - and I found a lot more books appealing than the last time I looked. I forgot I have a new biography of Henry VIII waiting to be read, some chick-lit that looks actually grown up, and a new Paulo Coehlo book. So I'm excited. I'm also still listening to books, which is something I never did before, and finding it very enjoyable, though I'm not sure whether to count it as reading it or not. Anyway, that's for me to work out.

J and I made a homemade pizza and watched the new Dragons Den. I absolutely love that show. It's my new favorite tv. I wish it was on every day and not just once a week. I also am happily not watching Idol this year. I always used to wonder why I watched it anyway, but it seemed like everybody else in the country did, so I went along with it. Not this year though. I am happily off of Idol.

I also did mundane things like clean some kitchen cupboards, do a bunch of laundry, and clean the bathrooms. Good snow-day things to do. And I played Oblivion for two hours. I've finally completed all of the quests except for those in the Dark Brotherhood line. My story with Oblivion is that I've been thoroughly addicted to it for almost a year, on and off. I love RPG games, and this one is a whole other level. With most games you follow a very clear quest line, and while you can choose your armor, and maybe even enchant your weapons, it's all very scripted and you do it in a certain order. With Oblivion, you go through the beginning tutorial, come out, and while there is a main quest line, you don't have to do it. You can go on and join the Mages Guild (magicians), Fighters Guild (private fighters for hire), Thieves Guild (yeah, thieves) and lots of other factions. There are like seven or eight towns and the Imperial City, each of which has lots of quests from random people. You can collect/harvest ingredientes from the countryside and make alchemical potions which you can sell for loads of money, you can hunt for rare plants called nirnroots, you can randomly wander around and loot caves, forts, and ruins. You can buy houses in the towns and become a merchant. You can just about do everything in this game, except get married. So I've completed all of the quests outside the Dark Brotherhood. I saved that for last because they are the assassins and it makes me a little queasy being a paid assassin. There are supposedly lots of plug-ins you can get to extend the game, so I'm going to check those out and maybe that will give me more to do, too.

Anyway, that was my snow day. I'm going to bed soon. It's only 9, but I've been waking up early every morning to get on an early schedule so that on Monday and Tuesday when I have to get up at 4:30, it doesn't kill me so much. Am thinking I will get up at 5 tomorrow. Sheesh. Wednesday, after my travels, I'm sleeping in till 8.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stuck in the Cat House

Since there are so many stray cats in our neighborhood, and we feed them, they hang around quite a lot. We always feel bad during the rain/snow so a few months ago J built a little cat-house on our deck for assorted cats to live in. Fluffy Cat is taking ownership of it. Today it is pouring with rain and Fluffy is out there enjoying the warmth. After I took this picture I went out and rewrapped the cushion in a towel and turned it over so the dry side was up, and threw another towel in, and took out the black sweater, which was soaked. So he should be pretty warm and cozy. It sounds like a children's book - Fluffy Cat Has a House.

I'm enjoying the rain, and also my warm house with the rain pattering on the roof. It's nice to be inside and warm. I feel really bad for all of the people who don't have warm houses with lots of cats to snuggle and hot chocolate to drink and fires to curl up in front of.
And in other news, the new CJ Sansom book came out today. The tudor mysteries featuring his Matthew Shardlake character. I love them. I devour them. I went to Borders since today was the release date, and their copies hadn't even been shelved yet, but they got it out of the basement. It felt like when the Harry Potter books came out. I'm excited to end my reading drought.
And also while I was in Glendale, at the Borders on Brand, I got lunch in this little walkway between streets with lots of outside cafes, and four of them had closed. Sign of the times, I guess. Sad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Check-in

It's early February now, and I thought I'd do a spot-check on my New Years Resolutions:

1. Listening to new music... I've definitely been doing this.
2. working out five times a week... this too, which is going more easily now thanks to my audiobooks.
3. cutting back on sugar... I feel like I've been doing this, but I should quantify it somehow.
4. drinking more water... definitely doing this.
5. going to one museum a month... did it in January.
6. finding a church for spirituality and friends... haven't done this yet. There's a Unitarian church down the hill I'd like to check out. Maybe this Sunday.
7. finding a choir or starting one... I did find one, but it's mid-term now and I can't join until September. That wouldn't be so bad if it's what it came to, but I'm holding out hope I can find something else.
8. reading at least one "smart" book a month... does listening to a book count? Otherwise, no.
9. journaling and meditating daily... not every day, but pretty good. Plus I started yoga.
10. playing the piano a few times a week... haven't done this, but I did have a lovely time playing the fiddle a couple weeks ago. Must do that.

So I'm doing ok, huh? Need to find church, sing, and play piano and violin more. Everything else is on track. That's good to know. I am going to check in like this once a month.

I would also add to it that I should write more. Every day. 500 words. No excuses. It's like a muscle, right. The more you do it, the better it becomes.

Ok, so that's my check in.
A friend of mine just had another baby. Babies everywhere! Why won't people stop having babies already?!? Sheesh. Like I didn't have enough pressure already. Ick. Babies. Pregnancy. Who needs it. (Grandparents and husbands, I suppose)
And when is Project Runway coming back?!?! I'm totally missing it. I know, there's legal problems. I'm watching the canadian version on youtube till it comes back. I miss that cute Heidi and Tim.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Keynesian book club

To be filed under the People Who Do Cool Things category: Keynes is all over the place these days. He was even featured on This American Life this week. He's a celebrity. So this economist fellow is reading the General Theory and posting notes and explanations every day on his blog. A little too much economic theory for me on a regular basis, thank you very much, but still very cool.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Things I may Want to Give Up for Lent

So here's the scoop from Grownup-Central. I've been traveling up to San Francisco really often on long day-trips (leave home at 5:30, get home at 8 types of days) so I've decided that the best thing for me to not feel incredible pain on those days would be if I actually woke up pretty early all the time. I'm not a big waker-up-early person. I work at home which affords me the luxury of rolling out of bed at 8, getting tea and wearing my bunny slippers to work. On days I work at home I don't even wash my face until the evening when I take a bath. Nice, huh?

Anyway, today was the first day of my big Waking Up Early Schedule and you know what? There's actually life at 6am. Weird. The hour from 6 to 7 was largely spent wondering why I thought it was important to get my body used to waking up early anyway. Then at 7 I decided to be super proactive and I did a yoga video. At 7:30 I wrote in my journal. Then the tea kicked in and I was pretty awake. We'll see how this goes, but it would be quite lovely to have morning quiet time with the cats. It would make me feel very zen and mature.

So the whole Lent thing. I'm not Catholic, but I like the idea of giving something up - showing that I have power over it rather than it over me. I've been thinking of giving up Diet Coke for a while anyway. It's really bad with all that aspartame, and especially when I'm pregnant next year, I won't want to give that stuff to Baby. So hence, I do believe I shall give up Diet Coke for 40 days. It seems really harsh. But then again, Jesus wandered around in the wilderness for 40 days, so surely I can give up some chemical-laden-non-thirst-quenching drink for 40 days. I shall, however, indulge in regular coke from time to time (the kind you drink, not the kind you snort) because it's mostly the artificial sweetener that I'm trying to get my system off of.

How about the free Grand Slam at Denny's tomorrow? Since I wake up so early these days, I might just go get me one. Something to look forward to.

Oh, and as far as my entertainment crisis goes, I still haven't managed to find any books that really excite me. So I'm doing the next best thing. I'm listening to books. It feels kind of like cheating, but I am getting only unabridged ones, so I figure it's kind of ok. I'm listening to Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare right now. I love him. He's just the best. He's also the one author that my non-reading dad actually reads.

The new Matthew Shardlake book comes out on Thursday, though, which is what I've been waiting for to kick-start my way back into the literary world.