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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Lack of Creativity is Astounding

"When you have nothing to say, don't say anything at all."

I should probably heed those words but it's time for a post. (You can also check out a couple of books at Chopsticks and String.)

So, some random thoughts (and photos) on a cold and snowy January day.

1) Tupperwear and Storage Containers -- what is it with those lids? I know I don't throw them out, but having just done an exhaustive survey of my cupboard in a nearly futile effort to find one that would fit the chicken stock container, I am at a loss. No matter how I stack or organize, it is always the same.

2) New use for a tea strainer -- If you are like me and on occasion drink loose tea (though for me it's rarely), you may have a wonderful, very finely meshed strainer that fits over your cup, so when you pour it catches stray tea leaves. In my recent foray into chicken stock preparation, I was trying to remove fat from the chilled stock. (That it had precious little I could scrape off with a spoon was a good sign.)

After trying the regular strainer and still seeing bits, I poured the stock through the tea strainer, back and forth several times. It was amazing how many little bits came out. I recommend it.

3) Winter Weather Lifesaver -- I have recently discovered these rubber things that fit over your shoes like a little sling with studs in the bottom -- front, middle and back. When you walk in snow or ice (though I think on ice it may not be the best thing), you get good grip and so far, I haven't fallen once this winter. A caution -- be very careful after coming inside to a store or someplace with a linoleum floor. That's when you start to skate! (Will spring ever arrive?)

4) Television -- I have been following "Downton Abbey" on PBS' Masterpiece. It's amazing and I will sorely miss it after tomorrow's conclusion. (Though there's plenty of room for a sequel, but I've not heard of one yet.) If you haven't caught this wonderful period piece set in the early 1900s, right after the sinking of the Titanic, you can view online at our website or PBS'. Just click on the "programs" tab and choose "Masterpiece" from the list.

5) Valentine's Day -- it's only two weeks away. I've been at work on Rick's present and hope to make at least one creative "art thing" that says "Happy Day." (Some folks have been hard at work -- on a wretched day this past week, a lovely Valentine arrived from Joanne. Thank you! I don't know how you manage to find the time to do so much.

What are you planning for your Sweet Baboo?

6) Cold Season Is Here -- and flu, I suppose. I thought pneumonia would be the last of it for me this winter, but maybe my resistance was down -- last week I got the devil of all colds. It started a week ago with what I thought was food poisoning, but now I'm not so sure. But it has lodged in with all the sneezing and blowing and stuffiness and exhaustion every cold has. I think I may have cornered the citrus market in an effort to pump vitamin C into me!

You may wonder why this isn't terribly upsetting to me. Yes, I've missed some work -- fortunately, I was able to work some from home during energy bursts, and it was one of our quieter weeks. Still, hate missing that and using my sick time.

But that said, this cold is exactly the kind of thing -- well, not the kind of thing I want -- who does? But the kind of thing I am grateful to have. Which means nothing worse.

Those of you who live with chronic illness know how distressing and debilitating it can be, physically and emotionally. One feels as though they are putting others out (in my case, it is incessant coughing that most offends); you feel like you never look good; you're often tired, because getting to sleep (and then a full night's after that) can be so hard; everyone worries about you -- and even worse, think's you're fragile (which I am not, thank you very much); well-meaning friends question your medical care and the collection of meds and inhalers is not easy to conceal.

You know or at least hope you may improve, but you're not at all sure you'll ever get better. When you have seen people you love die from lung problems, every story about a famous person who died from "complications from pneumonia" seems to be warning you that this, too, could be your fate at one time or another.

So, why am I telling you all this? And why doesn't my cold bother me more? It's not for sympathy, because right now I'm pretty grateful.

I tell you so you'll know how at least some in your world who may have chronic challenges may feel. But more to the point, I'm telling you that I'm excited my cold is something normal people have. Everyone gets them -- lots of people in the office, others I've heard about. It's a fact of life. A normal thing. My cold hasn't gone into my lungs like usual, and it feels as though it's running its usual normal course -- which means lots of Kleenex, chapstick, liquids, sleeping, and blowing -- but less and less every day.

(Add that to the gratitude journal!) And also add that I've read some great books this week, too -- but you'll have to wait and check those out on Chopsticks in a few days!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Some Things Never Change

I've had a bundle of friendship encounters lately! You may have read about my meeting with blog buddy Rosemary in an earlier post.

My wonderful book club met Wednesday and again, I was surrounded by friends. (We read "Look Me In the Eye," by John Elder Robison -- a wonderful book about living with Asperger's. You can read my take on Chopsticks and String.)

Then there was Suzanne's visit.

Suzanne is one of my oldest (or maybe I should say "longest-running") friends -- 40-something years! We met in those golden days of high school when we shared a passion for drama, acting in a number of plays and musicals together in high school.

I was her maid of honor when she married a fellow named David eons ago. Suzanne, being the movie fan she is, was married in an old movie theatre and her reception on the Queen Mary in Long Beach was wonderful. I later enjoyed visits to their home in Hollywood and then Las Vegas when they worked in the film industry.

(Old-time recollections -- going to LA and finding O.J.'s house and the Nicole Simpson house... of course, when she lived in NYC, we went past where Norman Mailer was shot and where John Barrymore died. We share some odd interests in common, which does baffle Rick.)

Fifteen years ago this past New Year's, Suzanne and David came to visit Lansing. We went to dinner with a fellow I was dating -- and it was a painfully awkward, since this fellow didn't talk much and really, I'm not sure what any of us had in common. The following day, I invited my neighbor over to watch the Rose Bowl with us. (Suzanne was a Northwestern graduate and the neighbor had lived in Evanston).

They loved him. "Why in the world aren't you interested in this guy, instead of the other," Suzanne said, and David agreed.

Good friends know when to keep their mouths shut about whom you date. Really good friends know when they need to express themselves.

This is a picture of my neighbor Rick that New Year's Day. A few months later, he and I moved from friends to more and we've never looked back. Thank you, Suzanne!

Over the years we have shared a passion for books, yarn, England, theatre, movies, shopping (for any of the above) ...

And a love of all things cat.

Suzanne has since remarried and found her soul mate in Jim, a man who loves (or at least understands) old theatres and movies like she does. (Although I don't know if they can ever understand our breaking into old theatres in Boston undergoing renovation to take pictures. Or for that matter, the original Flamingo in Vegas, because it was Bugsy's place.)

I think Jim and Rick are a little baffled by our interests. But they deal with them gracefully! We appreciate that, and both feel lucky we are exactly where we are with the men we are with.

We relish our visits to Canada and Suzanne's visits to Lansing -- most recently, last week!

There are hugs and pizza. We catch up between comments about the Golden Globes, give treats to the Gypsy, and laugh.

We enjoy Margaritas and Mexican food and Suzanne's and my favorite Mexican restaurant in town -- it's not Rick's fave, but he's a grand sport! We celebrate belated Christmas, talk knitting, old friends, good times. More cat treats.

We say our farewells as I leave for work the next day. I know Rick and I will soon be looking at the Stratford schedule, and pretty soon we'll cross the border to visit Suzanne and Jim. And it will be good. Because really, isn't that what friendship is all about?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

At the Tennessee State Museum

I just wanted to share a few photos from my whirlwind visit to the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

It was whirlwind, because there was a reception going on and a taping soon to follow. There wasn't enough time to explore everything, but I wanted you to get a glimpse -- in case you are visiting (or live near) Nashville, it's a great venue!

Of course, Andrew Jackson is one of the "local heroes" and it was interesting to see the many displays that looked at more than the president's portrait on the twenty dollar bill!

I was fascinated by the display on dueling. The pistol seems to move around the room so no matter where you stand, it seems to be pointed directly at you. It's a tad disconcerting.

The political cartoons were fascinating, too.

Being a state museum, its focus was, of course on Tennessee, and there were many excellent displays.

There was a wonderful furniture collection and some rooms set up to show life in the 1800s.

There was also a "print shop" --

-- and the "Knoxville Gazette was ready to break news!

The Civil War collection is significant. I was rather captivated by this well done staging of the tents in a Civil War battlefield.

But it should come as no surprise to you that my favorite area was the quilt collection.

These are just a few of my favorites.

A number of portraits were displayed in a portrait gallery. Many of the names didn't mean much to me, but they were still handsome -- of another time.

I was rather fond of this glass window...

...the large loom...

...and this covered wagon. Can you imagine making the cross country journey in this?

Of course, Rick is never far from my heart when I travel -- especially when I see things he'd like. And I thought he'd like this scene very much!

Something tells me that if this was the only bike in town, he'd be on it!

The Tennessee State Museum, downtown Nashville: Definitely worth a visit!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Face to Face

About four years ago, I did an Artella swap and was paired with a woman named Beth from Nashville. She had a blog -- it was the first blog I visited, and she often mentioned the blog of her friend Rosemary, which I quickly added to my list. A bit later, she asked me to join her online ATC swap group, where I also met Annie and Jill, among others. I also discovered Jess through Beth. Beth and Rosemary were the first bloggers I knew and they encouraged me to start my own.

On Thursday night after my conference, I had dinner with Rosemary. Neither Beth or Jess could come that evening, unfortunately. Another good reason to go back to Nashville, though it was indeed disappointing.

I think lots of bloggers have had this experience -- we meet and it is as though we have known one another forever. Truly, Rosemary and I have shared more than I do with many people I see every day via this thing called the blog and the Internet. So, face to face wasn't in the slightest awkward. It was just the way it should be!

After a drive through some lovely Nashville neighborhoods, we headed toward a lovely town called Franklin with its totally charming downtown.

We window peeked. The stores were closed by the time we arrived. But one look at Franklin and it's another great reason to go to Nashville! Check this one out --

And this!

You'll see the Valentine displays next month!

We had dinner at The Red Pony. I wish I remembered our waiter's name. He was astounding and most accommodating. Knowledgable about the food, and most personable. Of course we asked him to take our picture!

We enjoyed wonderful drinks. Mine, the Pink Cougar, was lemon laced with a splash of cranberry. SO good! Rosemary had "The Parisian" -- a bit like a Mojito with a bit of champagne.

And dinner -- I mentioned before I fell in love with shrimp and grits earlier in my Nashville visit. It was on the menu and despite other wonderful choices by Chef Jason, I had to have it.

It SO did not disappoint -- Applewood bacon, mushrooms, scallions, shrimp on the creamiest grits! I think there's a bit of Southern Girl in me!

Rosemary enjoyed the beef tenderloin pizza.

We were surprised when our waiter brought us a surprise appetizer from the chef.

And like good bloggers, we took lots of pix of each other and the food!

I simply love the fact that I have all kinds of friends in all kinds of places. The friends I've known since early childhood, then later high school and college. The friends who are family -- both from birth and from marriage. Friends from work and community. The book club. The Cork Poppers. My good women friends.

Then there are the bloggers. Some -- like Joanne, Karen, Anno, Jen, Ruth and Tara, I've been fortunate to meet face-to-face. And every single experience has felt so genuine. No awkward moments of "where do we begin this conversation." Skip the shallow, get straight to the deep.

How I wish everyone had that experience. I look forward to many more wonderful encounters!

The next morning, Rosemary took me to the airport (but first, a quick tour around Nashville's downtown where she showed me Oprah's high school...

...where you could imagine the young, unpolished Oprah walking up these steps every day...

...the Ryman Auditorium (the original Grand Ol' Opry)...

...and the fun streets I didn't get to experience feet-on!

It was the best! Thanks, Rosemary -- with all the smiles, I am confident we will meet again!

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