Thursday, May 29, 2008

A matter of self-esteem, or ask the cat

Sitting in the fountain area of the Music Hall at Dallas Fair Park Sunday, I was in author-observation mode. Well, most authors are in observation mode 90% of the time anyway, since it's certainly a politer term than saying we're nosey. After all, how can you conceive different characters if you can't observe different real people?

But that's not what this is about. People-watching, I considered wardrobes. How do we decide what to wear? Weather, certainly, and while I would hope the event would make a difference, I find most people dressed too casually for this one. To me, it's an event, a journey in on a Sunday afternoon, something special in my life. So going to a summer musical in shorts? Oh, please. Where's the decorum?

Or, where's my self-esteem? Perhaps to wear shorts to this is just the thing to do for some people. They could wear something else, but they don't have to. The problem is mine, obviously.

So, I guess I should be more like my cats. Cats and nonchalant self-esteem are synonymous. Ever watch a cat roll off a table or not quite make the leap from chair to window? The look of surprise on their face is immediately overtaken by the attitude of "I meant to do that. What's your problem?"

Not that I'm wearing shorts to the Musicals any time soon, but next time someone else does, I'll be in author-attitude-observation mode, to see if I can catch the cat.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Flower: Queen of the Desert

Last night on Animal Planet there was a movie about the beginning of Flower the Meerkat's reign. Entitled Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins, it was a careful reconstruction of Flower's early life and rise to power. Since we've been fond of the series since its beginning, were shocked at Flower's demise, and it was the subject of my early blogs, I was determined to watch it.

Of course, I recorded it and should have watched it after the initial 90-minute run because the number and length of commercials was almost staggering. We finally started timing them. An eight minute segment was followed by four minutes of ads, then only five more minutes of show before another one! The DVD comes out on June 3 and, while I applaud that quick turnaround, it can't be an hour long.

At least they didn't release it commercially. I'd have really felt ripped off then. But I now understand Flower better and look forward to the series beginning again on June 6.

I'll be there and the VCR will be programmed.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Sewing machine blues

My Bernina 1530 sewing machine, the mainstay of my non-writing creativity, died this week. I'd heard the death rattles as early as last year when it stubbornly refused to reverse. This, for the non-sewers among you, is not a good thing. One must lock the stitches and not going in reverse is a major set-back to doing that. (Yes, it can be done. Either turn the entire article around and sew forward, which is now backward, drop the feed-dogs and let the machine make a knot, or pull the sewing thread to the back with the bobbin and hand tie.)

I took my 1530 in to be repaired and $300+ later, I had the bad news: it had refused to uniformly misbehave but they'd worked on it. Next time, it did misbehave though, the trouble would be computer-oriented and fixing it would be as expensive as a new one.

So my old friend and I (bought in 1994) squeaked along this year while I pieced two quilts for the granddaughter. I had fought off the urge to sew for her because she had quite a wardrobe, but when I found a sweet old pillowcase with a wide pink border, I decided to make her a pillowcase dress.

This was complicated because the machine would only go forward, not change stitch length, not reverse, and not zigzag. Yes, it was time to say good-bye to something, and rather than give up sewing, the machine was going to go.

This would be my fourth sewing machine. I don't know what the average is. How many sewing machines does a seamstress have in a lifetime? I got my first one my freshman year in high school. It was a Sears Kenmore, in a cabinet. For stitch changes, it used a drop-in cam system. This machine followed us all over the country and made countless clothes. But 20 years later, it was showing its age and inability to do some of the things I knew other machines could do. I donated it to the high school home ec department and bought my first Bernina. Ten years later, I traded up to the 1530. And now, I have an Activa 240.

I really fought getting a machine that would do many things. One was the money because sewing machines can get expensive in a hurry. I looked at the local big box and tried to convince myself that I'd be happy with the $150 offering. After all, didn't I just want to go forward and back? A little zigzag, a little buttonholing, a little...

I finally decided it was like cruise control. (Stay with me here.) The first car we bought as a couple was a 1976 Chevrolet Nova. It was loaded, had everything but the kitchen sink, including cruise control. My father-in-law commented that now that we had cruise control, we'd never have a car without it. And he was correct.

So, once I had had some niceties in a sewing computer, as it's now called, such as the pressure foot knee-lift, there was no going back. I figure I bought the top end of the middle range, because I could have spent twice as much.

So far, I've only called the dealer with one stupid question. I have 12 hours of classes coming and, although I've sat through them twice before, I've no doubt there are new things to learn and want. Uh, need. I'm sure I'm going to need a lot more accessories because the new machine can't use the old machine's many, many accessories. Fortunately, I have a friend with a Bernina which can. Lucky recipient.

But I'll worry about that later. At the moment I have a dress to make for the granddaughter. I'm in business once again.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The everlasting flower outlasts my patience

Last Friday I blogged about the carnation-that-didn't-die in the backseat of my car after two days of neglect. Guiltily, I stuck it in a vase in the kitchen and watched. A week has passed. Not only has it not taken up any water to speak of, its petal edges are only slightly turned and browned.

That did it. Such impudence! The more it became like a friend's poinsettia which lasted from Thanksgiving to Easter with similar nerve (she finally threw it out), the more I disliked it. It went in this morning's trash.

No regrets.

Instead I cut three bloom stalks from the oak leaf hydrangea. They are lovely. Alas, they smell. I don't know that I can live with said smell and if not, then they'll become my first patio-arrangement in a vase.

Sheesh! Where's a good cluster of daffodils when you need them?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Dancing Victory

Justice was served last night as the Dancing crown and trophy passed to Kristi. From the first week, she's been the heir-apparent, but she never acted as if she were a shoo-in. Class shows and she has plenty to spare.

But kudos to Jason and Cristian too. A good season and now that I'm hooked, I'll watch again.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

All Danced out

Last night's Dancing with the Stars brought to a head the differences in our contestants. With their efforts concentrated, it was easy, well easy for me, to pick a clear winner.

If there is justice, Kristi should come out on the top of the pile. Cristian was vibrate and Jason gave it his all, but Kristi is the class of the class.

We'll see if America agrees with me.


Monday, May 19, 2008

A Cranford idea

Last night I finished watching Cranford, a PBS Masterpiece Classic production. Set in the 1840s in a small village in England, the story of the town's people and their problems had quickly engaged me two weeks ago when it began. For any who have missed it, the episodes may be viewed online. (Thank you, PBS.)

But an idea was broached in this last episode that intrigued me. Miss Matty, played by Judy Dench, is telling her friend about something her father had encouraged. He had his children keep a two-column diary. On one side each morning they were to write what they hoped or thought would happen that day and on the other, what actually did.

What an idea! How many of us look back upon our day and critique it so? I more often look back upon it for what I wished to accomplish and did not, but that's not the same thing. This is a list of happenings.

I think I shall try it, listing what I hope will happen: having lunch with friends, winning high in bridge--or at least having good cards--, starting my next book...

I like it already!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

The true everlasting flower

Last Sunday was Mother's Day and it seemed that the desire to share carnations with the world's mothers was overwhelming. First of all, the local big box was handing out the long-stemmed pink flower to any woman who walked through the door. I side-stepped this intrusion on my shopping. I was not so fortunate at church, where I didn't know what to do with said flower while I sang the anthem. Upon leaving, I foisted it off on a friend to give to her grandchild who could then add it (no doubt) to her mother's collections of carnations.

Thinking I was safe, I sailed into Starbucks, only to be presented with another. We were on our way to a musical and then dinner out, so I tossed it in the back seat of the car and didn't give it another thought. Forgot about it actually, until Tuesday morning when I opened the rear door and found my carnation. It had been without water for 36+ hours and looked quite well for the experience. Guiltily, I took it into the house and put it in a bud vase where it now dominates the kitchen counter. It looks forlorn and a bit lonely and I hope that's a touch a brown I'm seeing so I can toss it guilt-free.

Carnations not my favorite flower, you say? Probably not. Their very ubiquity and stubborn refusal to crater when a saner flower would do so, rub me the wrong way.

And then there's the carnation which refused to die.

When I was growing up, and probably until about 15 years ago here, on Mother's Day Sunday everyone wore a flower. If your mother was alive, you wore a red one, if dead, a white one. Absent supplying it yourself, there was always someone at church handing out the appropriate hue. My mother had red roses and made sure we were outfitted correctly. However, my dad's mother had died many years beforehand and Mother had no white ones.

Enter the white carnation. Kept in a plastic see-through box in our refrigerator, this boutonniere lasted from year to year. To year. I don't remember the refrigerator being without it, nor do I know what eventually became of it. But each year, Mother pinned it to Daddy and that was that.

I grow white roses in my garden and red ones. If the tradition were still alive, I'd pin a white one on myself and a red one on my husband. By the end of the service, they would look haggard and tired and be discarded, as they should be, not sagging in my kitchen because I can't throw it away just yet.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I can't believe it's almost over

Marissa knew (you could tell from her face last night) that she was going off. She fought the good fight, I'll give her that.

What I find hard to believe is that there's only one more week! Where has the time gone? Eight weeks zipped by like a locomotive.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Dancing semi-finals

I've been trying to get rid of Marissa for weeks, but really, now is the time for her to dance off. Perhaps it was the luck of the draw with the dances she drew tonight, but she just wasn't up to the quality of the rest of the field.

Good-bye, Marissa. Good job.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The blue Lauren towel

Six years ago, we renovated the house, including the boys' bathroom. As they were out of the home (whew!), we named it the guest bath and I proceeded to spruce the accouterments up to guest-level. This meant a towel re-do, with those not deemed worthy of guests, i.e., the vast majority, relegated to the rag box or the charity store. But there was one towel which, for some inexplicable reason, made the cut to stay in the new cabinet.

Perhaps six years ago, it wasn't as faded as it is now. Or, I knew the son who had owned it (yes, there was towel ownership) was still coming to stay a few nights. I can't remember. But the royal blue towel with the Ralph Lauren logo, was folded and put away.

Granted, it wasn't placed on the new towel pile. Those towels were fluffy and large and color-coordinated with new washcloths and hand towels. They had their own special place where a guest would see them immediately they opened the cabinet closest to the bath. The Lauren towel went behind the second door, with the secondary towels, the ones I'd grab if there were a water emergency in the bathroom. Quite serviceable for guests, but a good throwing on the floor wouldn't hurt their dignity.

So, why, given all this newness, even six years later, does the Lauren towel get picked to be used? I'll lay out the good towels on the counter, I'll arrange the beiges and tans for guest eye-appeal. And if said guest is a son, after the first towel is used, I'll find the Lauren one pulled from behind the other door and put to use. Quite frankly, they have to hunt for that towel--and they do!

I suppose I could do the unthinkable and remove it. It does not come close to coordinating with anything in the house. It should be tossed out on its worn-pile. But it has me too in its thrall and so it stays. I guess I just want to know how long it can last.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

You know it's Mother's Day when...

... you spy an awkward young man in the bath and spa items on sale rack at World Market.

I was perusing one end of the store to the other for bargains and outdoor entertainment ideas. He--about twenty years old, I'd think--was balancing from one foot to the other and had all the appearance of wanting to make a careful decision. I didn't mean to scare him off, but one look at me and he scurried away, as if I'd caught him in ladies' lingerie.

Then as I was leaving Linens'n'Things, two rugged painter types were strolling in. They weren't carrying paintbrushes etc., so I think they were shopping.

As to the bright red motor scooter parked just outside the garden center... how was he going to get anything home?


Dancing off

Hmmm. I don't think guessing one competitor in the bottom two and then guessing the wrong one to go off Dancing with the Stars qualifies me for hitting 50%. Pity though. Close, but well, no stilettos.

I did enjoy the hour of top ten dances, especially since this is the first season I've really watched this. So, thanks, ABC!


Monday, May 05, 2008

Dancing on

Tough, tough. Cristian showed himself an able competitor. My choices for the bottom two: Marissa and Mario. Off? Marissa.



It's not like we haven't been grandparents for, oh, a year now, but we came up against an immovable (literally) object this weekend.

With an early morning tee time in a golf tournament looming, it was decided for the grandest granddaughter to bring her parents and come spend the night before. That way, Miss Emily could get her sleep... well, everyone could get their sleep. Our house not holding the requisite baby items beyond blankets, books, and soft toys, we borrowed a version of a pack'n'play, or portable crib.

Right out of its carrying case, it practically set itself up, springing to life and only needing me to put the floorboard in and cover it with a crib sheet, circa 1978. (I knew it would pay off to save some of those things.) She slept just fine, the girls had a wonderful day while the guys played at golf, and they high-tailed it back to the Big City by mid-afternoon.

It was time to gather the scattered goodies and reset the house. The high chair was cleaned and put back into the store room. The towels were gathered, the bathroom reordered, and then it was time to take down the crib.

Out came the floorboard, up came the floor, and then it was push the button time. The side rails wouldn't move to collapse. They didn't even look like they were willing to collapse. I knew they could do it; that was their previous condition. I pushed the button again and pulled up, pushed down. No dice. Reread the instructions on the bottom of the crib. Found the paper instructions. Called Granddaddy.

He couldn't do it either. Called the owner of said stubborn crib which was taking up way too much room now that granddaughter was gone. She repeated what we'd read and promised to stop by after church the next day if we hadn't conquered it. We left it in frustration. Consulted other grandparents that night to find out that there was indeed a trick to it: holding your mouth just right as the cribs were notoriously hard to deal with.

We felt better, but still had a crib up. After church, our friend drops by, surveys the situation and pops it down in all of five seconds. Seems there are two buttons per side, one on the outside (which we never found or thought to look for) and one on the in (which pushing by itself will not yield results).

Given the pace at which baby conveniences have outstripped our knowledge, this doesn't bode well for the future. But we'll file this away and look for two buttons from now on.

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