30 July 2008

Chocolate oatmeal cookies

1/4 C vegetable shortening
1/4 C soy margarine
3/4 C granulated white sugar
3/4 C firmly packed dark brown sugar

stir in

1/4 C unsweetened apple sauce
1 T vanilla extract

stir in
1 C whole grain all-purpose flour
3 C rolled oats (5-minute kind)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

stir in
3 squares Baker's® unsweetened chocolate (melted & cooled)

size & shape dough into discs using two large spoons. set on Silpat® lined tray, and then bake a dozen at a time in oven at 375°F for 15-17 minutes.

cool on a wire rack before storing.

serve with ice cold milk or Silk® or crumble over a ice cream or sorbet.

my daughter and I made these cookies this morning. even my grumpy, angst-ridden teenage son had to smile.

28 July 2008

Astonishing entomon

This has to be the most amazing and the largest moth that I've ever seen. (Photo taken with Olympus E-Volt 410 with FL-36 flash.)

Children provide solace during 5 days of illness

Wednesday evening, I began to feel feverish. I woke in the night with violent chills, shivering so fiercely that my clattering teeth frightened the dog. When I awoke in the morning, my sheets were sweat soaked and I was doubled over with abdominal pain. After a few trials and obstacles getting myself together, I made it to the drugstore for some Imodium, which provided absolutely no relief. My son later trekked to the drugstore for a second remedy, and that provided no ease to my extreme discomfort. Nausea had become my newest enemy, making it impossible to eat more than a crumb of bread or a baby-spoon of soy yogurt.

Saturday morning, I managed to get to the walk-in clinic right as it opened, only using their restroom three times. (The alternative the night before would have been the emergency room if I'd followed the advice of the MD on call. However, taking a dog and two teens along with me in an ambulance was simply not an option because I really couldn't drive at that point Friday night.) Only ibuprofen could keep the fever at bay, and that medicine did as much harm to my stomach as whatever bug was already after me. Still, it stabilized most of the cramps and chills and fever enough for me to drive the short distance to the clinic.

With three prescriptions to fight infection, nausea and cramps, I felt I might have a chance. My children proved to be troopers. Whilst I lay in bed, or was making one of hundreds of trips to the restroom, they managed not to bicker all day. They made a run to the grocery store to get juice and bread. They kept my glass filled with ice and water and juice. They brought me saltines with small amounts of jam or peanut butter. My son did his Food Network night and made broccoli with tomato and mozzarella over a Boca burger on toast. It actually smelled good after I'd been on meds all day. I didn't eat any, but he and his sister cleaned their plates. Finally, Monday morning, I had the strength to walk the dog, and I didn't have to panic about how long it would take to get back to the restroom.

16 July 2008

His Dark Materials

I wish that I could just put down a book that didn't resonate with me. I plowed through the His Dark Materials* trilogy by Philip Pullman, and it wasn't worth it. The philosophy is weak: "I don't know if I am an intelligent designer, an evolutionist or an atheist."Dust is a pale and pathetic version of the ridiculous midi-chlorians that George Lucas seemed to pull out of his backside in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I really couldn't tell you who borrowed what from whom. When you start talking about intelligent particles or micro-organisms enhancing human biology, God begins to make more sense.

Then there's the whole business of fate vs. free will. If you even have to have that discussion, then on some level you believe in "God"; whether that God is intelligent particles throughout the multiverse or whatever is academic. I was not enamored with the first book, but I read the whole trilogy: down to the last iota of deus ex machina and tripping over every possible plot hole along the way. The writing is poor, and the third book is little more than pulp and circumstance. Some chapters go on and on for no apparent reason with little plot development and futher flattening of the characters. I can't tell if Father Gomez† was thrown in just to give Balthamos a character resolution or vice versa. How disappointing!

Oh, and for not being particulary fond of Tolkien, Pullman's books have talking bears, witches, shamans, ghosts, spectres, cliff-ghasts, spur-heeled Gallivespians (read venomous Lilliputians), angels, dæmons, etc. He may not care for Tolkien's work, but Pullman's attempt at multiverse mythology is no less inspired by it.

Next, there is magic as science. It's the fantasy fiction of the 21st century, I guess. Pullman's not the first to try it. Anne Rice tried to explain vampires and witches that way. Why not? It's like string theory with a sprinkle of pixie dust. But that doesn't explain how you can make a knife out of steel with man-made smithing tools and then have it cut through layers of the multiverse because a kid can put his mind into an alpha state. I stick with the Doctor's TARDIS, thanks very much. Allons-y!

Lastly, I don't want my daughter to read it. My reason? Not because of the mixed messages about when it's good to lie or how sometimes killing people is all right if it's for a good cause. Instead, I don't want my daughter (or son) to read this book because of the message that Pullman puts forth that it's OK for a girl (Lyra Bellacqua) to be independent, intelligent and willful until she meets a boy because then she should become all goofy, foolish and subservient to him so that he can tell her what to do and run her life for her. Will I forbid my daughter to read it? Of course not. It's on the bookshelf where it's been since Christmas. She can read it whenever she likes. So far, she hasn't shown interest.

Frankly, the movie The Golden Compass has better story telling, better action and more believable magic as science. Right now, she's into Nancy Drew.

* The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass
± angelic being serving as a virtually powerless guardian to Will, the central character in Book 2
† Magesterial (read Papal) assassin absolved in advance for a murder he would commit

feed address change

I'm making a few changes to the overall idea behind my website. When I started, I intended mostly to post artwork. However, those who read my site probably notice that my life takes up the biggest portion of the posts. Without further ado, welcome to art, life & poetry.



Because I'll have who knows how many art classes this school year, I figured that I had better dust off my pencils and sketch book. With so much translating to do lately, most of my spare time has been devoted to reading and improving my French skills. My drawing has been ignored, and photography has been something I've enjoyed only once in a while. So yesterday, I trekked over to the Barnes & Noble to sit in the café, to have a latte and to sketch from a coffee table book. I found some beautiful 360° photos of places in France, and once my inspiration opened before me, I began to sketch. Here's my version of a sand dune in the South of France.
Dune, July 2008 (graphite on paper)

14 July 2008

Little birds, HVAC repairs , water in the closet & a dead battery

To say that today has been interesting would be so much an understatement. It has been downright unusual.

This morning, there were four small birds flitting about my potted plants on the porch. One little budgie got in a pot that has only soil and gave himself a dust bath. They were all so cute, chirping at each other, but by the time I could get my camera to the window, they were growing bored. When I got my camera to the window, I must have tapped the glass and startled them. They all flew away.

After my Snow White moment, I donned my running gear and did a lap around the neighborhood. I don't know how far it is, but it took me about 25 minutes. Let's call it two miles, and I'll feel good for almost 40. All right, 12.5 minute mile with asthma and partly arthritic knees! Rock on!

Next I needed to run errands, so I went to the car. Raising the garage door, I saw that my left rear passenger door was ajar...and had been for nearly three days. The dead battery resulted in my walking to Big Lots to buy a charger. Considering that I do something like this about once every two to three years, and not just to my own car, I should already have had one of these in the garage. As the battery charged, I waited in the muggy apartment for the HVAC guy to come.

You see, the AC has been out for a few days, again. This time the apartment management called in their company HVAC specialist to fix it, rather than having the resident handyman do the job. The apartment is cool and comfortable again, and I don't have to lie svitzing in my briefs on the living room floor under the ceiling fan while I try to pretend I'm not melting. Beau feels better, too. That tongue is tucked back in his mouth now.

The never ending saga of the water leaking into Marie's closet continues. Apparently the flashing, where the vinyl siding meets the brick on the façade, has been damaged. Now when it rains, water drains inside the wall and then seeps into the carpet on the floor. About every two or three days, the carpet cleaners come vacuum out the water. In the meantime, roofers have inspected the flashing and are supposed to return "soon" to make repairs. After that, the old carpet gets removed when everything is dry again, repairs to the wall and finally new carpet in the closet. Poor Marie. I'm sure that she'll be thrilled to have all that resolved.

13 July 2008

Saturday pool party

Yesterday, the management staff of my apartment complex put together a pool party for the residents.  My children and I donned our swimsuits and went to have a little fun for a couple of hours.  There were door prizes, which we didn't win.  There were snacks, and we had a few.  There was a DJ who played a very poor selection of party music.

When they got to the dance contest, I was really glad that there was no category for grownups.  However, I did note that the three teen girls couldn't bust a move until the DJ played a "song" (Soulja Boy Tell'em - Crank Dat [Soulja Boy], don't ask, I just can't go there), that had a canned "dance" to go with it, they just stood there, doing nothing, with no creativity, no spark, no interest in the music.  It was as if because the song had no recognized choreography, the music could not be interpreted for dance.  To my further dismay, the Crank Dat (Soulja Boy) dance lacks any imagination as much as the music lacks any music.  I never thought I'd say it, but I miss Thriller.  If you could learn all of that choreography, you were working.

After the third set of door prizes and no win for us, along with sunburned foreheads and shoulders, it was time to go.  In addition to the discomfort in my scorched shoulders, my left ankle really hurts.  I must have given it a bad turn while horsing around with Page and Marie in the pool.  Dang, I'm showing some wear.

11 July 2008

A nice day out

Unexpectedly, my children were with me today.  I had thought they would be with their mother for another week, but there were some work conflicts for her, and I've got them with me for three extra days. :0)

So after I picked them up from their mother, we made a little day of it with lunch at the pizza parlor on the court square.  Afterward, we went to the Regal Georgian 14 to see Hancock and had a good time watching the film.  It wasn't anything that I expected, and we all found it quite entertaining.  I can't listen to critics too much, or I'd probably never go see a film.  Wil Smith looks great in a tight black and yellow body suit by the way.

Then we next went to Barnes & Noble to read and enjoy a snack.  After a stop at the grocery store for a few essentials, we came home.  It's nice to have them here with me.  I just wish it were all the time.

10 July 2008

Another gull in my collection

Sea birds are beautiful. Somehow, the white of their wings seems so brilliant. I suppose it's all that sun, bleaching their feathers and making their wingtips scintillate. I managed to catch this one in flight with my Olympus. The pyramid point it forms with the lifeguard and the beach-goers is nice. This one sailed in the sea breeze at Cedar Beach, Babylon, Long Island, on 2 July 2008.

01 July 2008

Patti Lupone, you Broadway diva!

For the past week or so, the kids and I have been in New York. We're staying with my boyfriend John who is working a power plant installation on Long Island. We've done some sightseeing in Manhattan, and I've decided that I could end up living there at just about any second. Contrary to the old adage: It's a nice place to live, but you wouldn't want to visit there! Seriously though, we've had a blast. There's so much to do and so little money.

Saturday, we did take in Gypsy with Patti Lupone. There was a moment of intense fear and dread when the disembodied voice of the house announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Pattie Lupone has injured her foot..." There was a collective gasp and then innumerable hands wrung and chests clutched. "...and will be wearing Isotoner slippers for the entire performance!" A tremendous roar of cheers and rumble of applause cycled through the audience. When Mama Rose first yelled "Sing out, Louise!", I began to cry. I was transported. I was embarrassingly giddy for the next three hours. My hands ached from clapping, and my cheeks cramped from smiling. Thank God you get to sit for the performance, or I'd have toppled into the orchestra seats from dizziness and emotional vertigo. However, I did manage only to lipsynch the entire show and not to belt out the libretto and lyrics. I mean after all, people paid to see the Tony winners, not to hear me from my 4th row mezzanine seat. People like me should not wait 39 years to get to see a Broadway show on Broadway. It could result in a stroke.

Of course we've done much of the other obligatory tourist stops in NYC. We've been to the UN, the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, Times Square, The Museum of Television & Radio, Rockefeller Center & Radio City Music Hall. Next stop in the All American Tourist Roadtrip will be Coney Island in Brooklyn. I don't know if we'll get to the Statue of Liberty or not, as I'm just about penniless at this point. Who knows?

Family road trips rule! And yeah, just like last year, the dog is with us again. This time, however, we're using my Hyundai Elantra that gets far better gas mileage compared to John's Kia Sportage. My dog Beau was just as happy as could be sitting in the back seat with his little harness buckled to the seat belt strap. Gas prices are high, but the cost of the trip has still been less than if I'd had to pay for hotels and air fare. We were going to drive to Montreal as well, but my limited funds postponed that trip for another time. In this way, I can save a little money for the trip to France next summer. No driving for that one, and I'll have to start the bargain hunting for that trip right now. Wish me luck.

[parts snipped from an e-mail to my friend Liz]