Blessings to each of you and prayers for a safe, healthy, peace-filled Christmas
From Meg's Garden
Three good nights of sleep, a very enjoyable Christmas caroling party with some friends & the prospect of seven lovely days without any commitments has restored my equilibrium. Thank you for all the well wishes & prayers sent on my behalf~ I felt your care & love lift me back up.
There was no one catastrophic episode, but lots of smaller troubling events which all happened within a couple of days; two of my children had relationship meltdowns, while the third told me about his new 19 yo girlfriend with the 4 month old baby; Sam flunked one of his “easy” classes; Jess isn’t making enough to pay her rent & learned she has to move again after only a month; Chris has been sharing his fears about the work situation with his mom, who proceeded to fill me in on both his anxieties as well as her own; my direct supervisor gave her two week notice, so everyone is looking to me to take up the slack (not an option); my coworker’s husband got laid off his job, after they lost their home this summer~ consoling her has aggravated all fears with which I struggle.
Distance & reflection has helped; I find that my situation is more secure, the winter weather has brought a spike in bookings for Chris’ company & short staffing problems gives him plenty of work for the next few weeks, & my kids…well, they’ll have to figure out their own lives.
Before I head off for an eye exam, I want to share a photo of the goodies I received in the Christmas Swap sponsored by Becca; the jewelry & scrapbook embellishments were created by White Hot Magik & I am impressed by her talent & artistry. I wore the necklace & earrings to the party the other evening & received several compliments, so I passed on her website address, www.TheFlyDragon.esty.com.
Hope you all are having a great holiday week~ I plan on being back by later this week to share some Season’s Greetings.
Hope you all are having a great holiday week~ I plan on being back by later this week to share some Season’s Greetings.
You Are an Audrey!
You are an Audrey -- "I am at peace"
How to Get Along with Me
Well, it looks like Wednesday has turned into my posting day for the time being; between work & “real life” commitments, time to compose an entry has become difficult to find.
We’re chugging along in the Garden, living day to day, celebrating both the little accomplishments & the big milestones; unfortunately, I find myself wrestling with some persistent disquiet in my spirit. We have always weathered the ups & downs of the economy over the past 20 years with only the occasional flicker of concern, but this time, I’m really uneasy about the prospects of both Chris & I remaining employed.
Since September, my company has laid off five people- one of them a key manager- & is seriously shaving expenses on all fronts. I believe my position is secure enough to be retained until we actually have to close the doors, which is unlikely in the near future but not out of the realm of possibility. More troubling is the fact that Chris works in a recreational industry (motorhome rentals & used wholesale dealer); previous dips in the US economy have been more than offset the volume of international bookings, but now with this truly global financial crisis, we are unsure of how the next year is going to play out. To top all this good news off is the report from the state that the unemployment insurance funds will be insolvent by the end of January.
Now, I’m pretty good at impersonating Scarlett O’Hara- “I’ll think about it tomorrow”- & make a point of avoiding the evening news, the business section of the newspaper, & any discussions about how bad it’s getting; but lately, I’ve been waking in the wee dark hours, beset by troubling dreams & unable to shut my brain off from the continual swirl of “what if’s”. I know it serves no practical purpose, but reason has little power over the fears of midnight. Of course, the dreary weather hasn’t helped:
This is the view from my car as I drive to work over the past couple of weeks; the fog lifts around noon to cloudy skies, and then descends again in late afternoon.
So, let’s focus on something else for a bit.
Thanksgiving was pleasantly quiet & uneventful. We drove down to pick up Jessica on our way to dinner with immediate family at Mother’s home in Berkeley. The corporate meal was bountiful & delicious, every one contributing a couple things to the feast; after dinner, we sat around the table exchanging stories, instead of the traditional “perform something if you want dessert” in the living room.
Mother was reasonably restrained & having a great time modeling her temporary headgear- she just had a large basal cell carcinoma removed from her scalp & is vain enough to want to cover up the staples. The following is for my 4F buddies- see, her hair really is green J
Friday, Chris & I woke up relatively early (considering we didn’t get home until 1:30 am) to do a fly-by at Bass Pro Shop ($10 jeans) & the fabric store
(a rolling sewing machine tote & wrapping goodies) before settling in to watch football & eat leftovers. Saturday was spent in the foothill town of Sonora, where his mom grew up, attending a Christmas craft & music festival (great music, nice crafts- but nothing I couldn’t live without), then wandering around the old town, poking into the shops & local museums (brought my camera, but didn’t take a single photo!). Sunday was “Hunker Down” day for me, working on knitting projects & finishing the stack of hemming that kept getting put off,
while the guys went over to the church to serve at the seniors’ Thanksgiving Banquet- Sam even sang a solo with the youth choir (the torch has been passed!)
So, that pretty well wraps up the week.
Oh, except for one little thing.
This is my baby, taking his driving test.
I didn’t get the shot of him clicking his heels.
We went out to celebrate with Orange Chicken, pot stickers, & Wor Wonton soup, while he called
in his address book; I think he’s a little excited.
And, no, I haven’t let go out by himself yet; I think I have enough stress in my live right now.
I love to tell stories- I enjoy entertaining friends & coworkers with anecdotes about my rather extensive & eccentric relations. Some might even say that I have entirely too much fun at my family’s expense; but fair is fair- they really do make it easy.
Winter Ball 2008
[A brief & embarrassing preface- my son has not had a girlfriend (or even a date, that I know of) in nearly 2 years. As cute, charming, & funny as we all know Sam is, his open, friendly nature combined with the baby-face of a 14 year old seems to keep him in the “I really like him…as a friend” category with the majority of females.]
The premier high school social event of the season is the Winter Ball, which is held in January at a location in San Francisco. None of my children has ever gone to this dance- mainly because it is a “Girl’s Choice” event; Jess wasn’t interested in doing “high school” stuff, & Sam, well, has never been asked.
About a month ago, KN, the girlfriend of Sam’s tricking buddy MC, unofficially asked Sam to accompany her to Winter Ball (I say unofficially because there is evidently a whole ritual that is involved with the certified “official” invitation to Winter Ball, the mysteries of which we are not allowed to delve). This unofficial invitation was proceeded by a series of protracted negotiations between KN, MC, & Sam; you see, MC has graduated & therefore is not allowed to attend the dance, KN is a senior & wants to make a last splash with a safe escort, & Sam just wants to help a friend without getting his a$$ kicked. This process took several days of trading phone calls, IM’s, & notes between the principals (“Are you sure this is okay with you?”) before being settled, & then the planning began.
Being a helpful & encouraging Mom, I told Sam to remember that first & foremost, he will be KN’s life-sized Ken doll, so forget about having any say whatsoever in his attire for the evening. Since transportation had already been prearranged (a charter bus for 20 couples), the restaurant selected (some place in Japantown), & the tickets purchased by the inviter, his responsibility was to ask what style & color dress KN would be wearing, so he could order the appropriate corsage, & to show up on time, showered, shampooed, & shined.
I guess I overestimated his role.
Following Mom’s sage advise, Sam sought out KN a few days later to pose the color scheme question; he told me he got as far as, “Hi”, before KN barked out the following orders:
“Good, you saved me a call; you need a black suit, a maroon shirt with a collar, & a gold tie- a straight one, not a bowtie. I’ll need an orchid wrist corsage & a second one for my hair- this flower shop already has my order on file.”
Maroon shirt. Gold tie. Ugh.
I asked him if that was gold colored or actually metallic gold- he said he didn’t know & frankly was afraid to ask; I reminded him it could be worse- she could’ve said a maroon tuxedo, ruffled gold shirt, & a rhinestone studded bowtie.
After a week or so, I found a website that carried all manner of formal & uniform wear at reasonable prices, including gold ties- plain & lamé- & tuxedo shirts in a rainbow of hues. Since shades of color are a particularly subjective idea, Sam agreed that he should request a close-up photo of KN’s dress fabric to help make a match- one person’s maroon could be another’s burgundy or plum, & we don’t want any last minute disasters- as well as a clear directive about the tie. The next week, he sends an IM & gets the following response:
“Another girl on the team (volleyball) bought the same dress, so maroon is out; now it will probably be the purple strapless, or maybe the gold halter. BTW- what do you mean gold colored? Gold means metal!”
Purple shirt & metallic gold tie.
The official invitation & acceptance have not been made at this point, so I’m beginning to wonder if Sam is going to bail out. Perish the thought, Mother Dear- he is a good sport & looks at the exercise as good practice for his eventual wedding day; besides, he knows that she’ll probably change her mind at least two more times before the actual event.
A week passes; then it’s Sam’s turn to throw a wrench into the works.
He gets himself a girlfriend.
Yep- Studley Do-Right scores himself a cutie after a two year drought.
I had been hearing CA’s name pop up in conversations for a couple months, but did my very best not to pry- my only question was “CA who?” Turns out she is one of the gymnastic instructors for the gym where his dojo is located & attends the same high school. They’ve been “talking” & “hanging out” at school for a few weeks now, & Friday evening made the couple part official.
Now, Sam would never consider backing out of going to Winter Ball with KN- she’s his friend & he promised MC that he would look out for her. CA has known all along that Sam is planning on going to Winter Ball with KN- she’s perfectly fine with that arrangement & hadn’t planned on going in the first place. The problem now is KN.
KN says Sam has to take CA to Winter Ball.
She has refused to issue the “official” invitation & has opened negotiations with boyfriend MC on another acceptable escort.
I told Sam he should sue for breach of contract, with punitive damages for emotional distress & fashion violations- it could pay for the rest of Senior Year activities!
He said he’s going to duck & cover for the next 3 weeks, until invitation season is over- let the women hash it out.
Yesterday, in Sam’s 6th period class, this was delivered:
It was from CA.
She says he should pick the colors since she’s color-blind.
I think I’m going to like this girl.
Sam's taking his driving test in December~ is this my future?
Two more people laid off at work...
Chris got up & into the shower, before realizing it was only 3:30 am
Saturday work is back on the schedule, but I have managed to squeeze in a little knitting time~ here's Chris' vest he requested
I am rather pleased with the results & he's even worn it out in public The next week or so must be dedicated to completing a pair of mittens for a swap due December 1st, then I'll be finishing up some small Christmas gifts & a package of hats for Larkin Street Youth Services; it's true that a woman's work is never really done- she keeps taking on more even though she should know better!
I’m back & reasonably refreshed from my travels this weekend; it helps that I don’t have to be back to work until Wednesday morning & the guys are both occupied. Can we hear it for alone time?
I spent the past 3 days in Louisville, Kentucky, participating in my very first ever “Girls Weekend Getaway”. The most exciting part wasn’t just spending time with a group of great women, but that I was meeting each one of them for the first time. Yep, you read that right; self-professed shy person Meg flew across country to spend the weekend with people she’d never met- talk about a leap of faith!
Now, these ladies weren’t strangers to me; it was a gathering of blogging friends that I’ve come to know over the past two & a half years. Most of us started our blogs around the same time, & came to know each other through our writing, swapping comments, & emails. Over time, phrases like “If we lived closer, we could…” or “Wouldn’t it be fun to…” were sprinkled through our conversations, so it seemed a natural step when the idea of a get-together was introduced six months ago.
So, Friday afternoon, I was met at the Louisville airport by the others & we embarked on an adventure in friendship. The first order of business once reaching the hotel was taking pictures & exchanging gifts; I brought small collections of seasonal stationary, local jam, apple butter, & honey, as well as small hand-knits for each person. Then it was off for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, a favorite spot for each of us, followed by a real surprise treat: a horse-drawn carriage ride thru downtown & back to our hotel! It was the first time for a couple of the girls & even though it was pretty chilly, we had a rousing good time.
The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before heading to Louisville Stoneware, where we spent a couple of fun hours painting our own ceramic pieces,. The pieces will be fired, packed, & mailed to us within a couple weeks. We took some pictures with our creations, & explored the store & museum, before heading down the street for an awesome lunch at The Cafe.
Later, it was off to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby; this was a real treat for me, as the love of horses runs strongly thru generations of my family. We saw the horses paraded around the paddock in their racing silks, chose our favorites, & even made a couple of small wagers. One race was watched from the track rails & another from up on the second level; we even had 3 winners (talk about beginner’s luck!) before doing some souvenir shopping in the store & heading back downtown to the Fourth Street Live area. Some of us wandered through the bookstore & a couple others walked down to the Louisville Slugger Museum (which unfortunately had already closed), before meeting again for dinner at the Hard Rock Café- another first for me. We wound up the eventful day by talking & laughing until the wee hours of the morning- my stomach still hurts!
Sunday morning meant getting ready to go home to reality; we all had breakfast together at the hotel & then began taking girls to the airport- two had to be there at 10:00, & another at 12:00, so after they were seen off with hugs, pictures, & tears, the remaining three of us went to lunch at the Cracker Barrel & a bit of last minute shopping. We said our last goodbyes at 2:30, with plans to get together again, possibly out this way next time; I would be tickled to be the hostess & be able to share the wonders of my part of the world. A long, uneventful 7 1/2 hour journey found me back home with my guys & felines, all of whom needed some attention. Evidently, Chris has been sick since Friday evening- head, chest, & the full spectrum of gastro-intestinal distress- so both he & Sam did little more than watch movies & order in food. Oh darn~ I am sooo sorry to have missed out on all that fun!
So, there are my escapades in a nut shell; today was spent cleaning up, unpacking, doing laundry, & running some errand, while the guys went back to work & school. I’m so glad I was able to able to schedule in some down time to recuperate, but you know that it was all worth it. Thank you, girls, for creating treasured memories of becoming Real!
I cannot tell you how glad I am that this election is over- contentious, vicious, duplicitous, deceptive, posturing jackanapes- and that was just the media!
Seriously though, no matter what your feelings are about the outcome (no, I’m not telling who I voted for- I don’t talk politics & my choice is nobody’s business but mine) it is time to put the campaign rhetoric & partisan politics aside, joining together as a nation to support this man as he takes on the most difficult job in the world, President of the United States. If you don’t think it is tough, just look at some of the “before & after” photos of our former leaders- they age much more than the 4 to 8 years they serve in office.
Wouldn’t you know it: just one day after completing the unclaimed property reporting (safely with in the deadline, thank-you-very-much) & heading into the first of the month craziness- not one, but two separate auditing organizations turned up for our annual checkup. What was already going to be a hectic short week (because I’m headed off to the wilds of Kentucky on Friday) has turned into a three-ring circus, complete with dancing elephants & creepy frenetic clowns. Honestly, I’ve had two simultaneous conference calls going on, while trying to answer email questions, collate data lists, & locate billings from last December. I swear- if my supervisor comes by my desk to ask, “So, how’s it going?”
I will not be responsible for my actions.
The physical therapy is going well- I’m able to straighten my arm much further & the strength is slowing increasing- but no answers on surgery as of yet. The ortho specialist wants to “wait & see” a few more months, taking x-rays periodically to track any changes in the damaged area. I’m okay with the “not going under the knife right before Christmas” part, but I am a bit concerned that further degeneration of the area will nullify any potential improvement the surgery might bring me. The doctor essentially “pooh-poohed” my apprehensions (have I mentioned that she doesn’t have much of a “bedside manner”?) but my therapist has told me she wants to continue seeing me at least monthly to monitor my condition.
Okay, I really need to get busy- I have work to get done, laundry to finish, stuff to pack- & I’ve been hanging around here stalling long enough. Have a wonderful few days & I’ll be checking in after I return on Sunday.
5:10 am, somewhere in central California: our intrepid heroine is snuggled under the comforter with her cat-kids, blissfully sleeping to the sounds of purring & gentle rain falling on the roof.
Suddenly, a voice pierces through the veil of slumber-
“Uh, Meg, could you give me a hand?”
As she attempts to pry her eyelids open, the first conscious thought is:
“Go away- I don’t have to get up yet!”
followed swiftly by:
“Who turned the *&^%$#@! bedroom light on?”
Slowly, as her vision begins to clear, the face of her beloved husband comes into focus, peering at her from about a foot away (third conscious thought “I certainly hope he’s brushed his teeth already!”) It takes only a split second to realize something is different- there are strange shadows along his neck & chest…the side of his head seems to be wrapped in a red striped towel…only they don’t have any red striped towels…
Fully awake now, she pops straight up, smacking foreheads with her ever-lovin’; once the virtual meteor shower dies down, he explains that he nicked his earlobe while shaving in the shower (without a mirror- big twit) & can’t seem to stem the flow long enough to get a bandage on it.
Okay then- her devoted spouse requires first aid- no problem.
Well, except one small thing- hardly worth mentioning.
Meg doesn’t do blood.
Boom-boom, out-go-the-lights time; really not dignified at all.
But, a loved one is in need, so into the fray she goes.
She follows him into the bathroom, lays out all the supplies on the counter, & turns to face the patient; he removes the bloodstained washcloth from his ear & she begins to wash away the bright red marks covering his neck & shoulder, when blood begins to ooze again, dripping on her hand.
All of a sudden, there are stars sparkling in her peripheral vision & the sound of buzzing hornets in her head; seeing her visibly paled countenance, her better half slaps a wad of tissues to his head, yells for the young son-and-heir to haul tuckus in here, & leads her quickly back to the bedroom, suggests that she might want to lay down for a minute. Their son, remembering his first aid course, advises that her feet need to be raised above the heart, but there aren’t enough pillows, so…
5:25 am finds the lady of the house arranged at the foot of the bed, feet propped on the blanket chest & the comforter draped across her form, while the cats stare in a confused fashion & her men folk are in the bathroom, patching up Dad’s ear & doing their level best not to giggle.
The Queen is not amused.
Due to a huge mistake I made 18 months ago & only caught on Thursday (no, there is no way I can blame it on anyone else, because others steadfastly refuse to share the in the annual responsibility), my 25 property report has become a 160 property report, with the same due date & guaranteed associated fines.
Crisis mode has taken effect & my co-workers will be flying to my aid, taking over the majority of my daily duties, until I can get the report done.
Once I recover, that is.
Yes, I succumbed to Sam’s flu bug; I don’t have it as bad as he did, but I’m sick enough to stay out of the office for the past two days. On the one hand, I know I could be toughing it out & working after hours, so as not to infect everyone; one the other hand, I know it will be there waiting for me when I’m feeling better.
Duty or comfort?
I’d rather make applesauce.
Don’t look so impressed~ it really is quite easy. Saturday morning, Chris & I took off for our postponed trip to Apple Hill, & came home with all sorts of goodies, including this great antique apple crate & a quarter bushel of apples (approximately 30 medium sized). I picked out a mixture of mostly tart apples, with a couple sweeter ones thrown in: Granny Smith, Red Rome, Gala, Fuji, Winesap, & Arkansas Black.
First step is to wash & peel the apples; I rough-peel mine, leaving bits of skin, because, well, I’m lazy & I like the skin. Next you need to remove the cores, using a handy-dandy apple corer (definitely worth the $5 investment) which also slices it into wedges- all that’s left is to chop them a bit more.
I like chunky applesauce, so mine are cut into one inch cubes- cut them up smaller if you like a smoother texture. Toss them into a thick-bottomed dutch oven or large saucepan, add about an inch of water or unsweetened apple juice, & put the lid on it.
Bring the mixture to a full boil, then turn it down to low & cook until the apples are soft, maybe 10 minutes. Stir them first with a wooden spoon to check the consistency- notice that most of it has broken down into sauce texture- & if you want it smoother, either cook another 5-10 minutes or use a masher like I do.
At this point, add sugar to taste if you want- I use about a quarter cup of brown sugar if it’s really tart- & put in your seasoning; I use about ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, my favorite, per 8 cups of applesauce.
Now you are pretty well done; put your sauce into sterilized quart jars & it will keep in the fridge for a month. Or you can take the next step & hot bath can them, which will preserve it for 18 months- its super simple & worth the extra 30 minutes or so of work time. Fill a large, deep pot with water & heat to boiling, while boiling the lids in a smaller pan for about 5 minutes (which activates the rubber seal).
After filling your hot, sterilized jars with the still warm applesauce, leaving ¼ inch head room, put a lid on it & tighten down the ring to seal. Using a jar lifter (kind of like a giant pair of tongs, but wider to hold a jar), lower the jars into the large pot, making sure there is at least one inch of water over the top of the lids, & process them for 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the jars from the pot & allow to cool, which will cause the vacuum seal to form; check the tops after the jars cool by pressing on the lids- they should be rigid & tight.
So, for an investment of $7.00 worth of apples, ½ cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of spice, four one-quart jars (left over from the case I bought for last Christmas’ Soup-in-the-Jar gifts), & less then 1 ½ hours labor time, I ended up with 4 quarts plus 2 bowls of applesauce & a house that smells wonderful!
Oh, yeah~ & a bowl of comfort food
Elizabeth Cranmer of PigTails and Snails is giving away a lovely quilt of her very own design. It is so pretty and so kind of her to be so generous. Rush right over and throw your hat in the ring~ she has runner up prizes too and there are only 800 entries so far :-)
Crazier things have happened :-D
Long time, no write.
Sorry about that, but “life” keeps getting in the way.
Nothing particularly exciting going on around the garden- I’ve just been in powerdown mode for a couple of weeks, compensating for the deadline pressure at work. I get off work around 5:00, take care of that day’s particularly pressing errand (ie, groceries, gas in the car, pay the rent), ferry Sam to whichever activity claims him for the evening, and then park my carcass for the rest of the evening (or until Sam needs to be picked up again.)
The weekend was looking a bit more promising, since I was one of the lucky few to have Columbus Day as a paid holiday and Chris was “forced” to take some vacation days. Unfortunately, he got called into work Saturday, which postponed our plans for another week, and Sam came down with a rip-roaring case of the flu. Poor kid came home early Friday, after having the barfs at school, manned up to take his last driving lesson so he could get his certificate (and not have to shell out another $45 missed lesson fee) and taught both karate classes, before collapsing in bed with fever, chills, and body aches. The cats and I played nursemaid Saturday, alternately feeding him acetaminophen and turkey soup, while he watched all the episodes of “Heroes” and slept.
Sunday was my week at Ravenswood; it was a surprisingly quiet and chilly afternoon~ I didn’t do a single full tour all day, just a brief outline for a waiting photographer and answering questions for some potential wedding party people. When I arrived back home, I found remnants of an impromptu pizza party and Sam sound asleep on my bed; our friend J had his kids visiting this weekend and brought them to church, so Chris invited them all back to the house to entertain Sam. He finally wore out while they were watching a movie and retreated to the quietest place in the house, and the others headed over to the park to wear the kids out before the 2-hour drive home. We spent the evening quietly at home, doing a bit of laundry, making tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and watching “Sherlock Holmes” on PBS.
We left Sam home yesterday and drove into San Jose to see the Da Vinci Experience at the Tech Museum; the exhibit was very interesting and worth extra cost~ we spent more than two hours looking at the scale models created from the drawing of Renaissance artists and engineers, and were allowed to view two paintings done by disciples of Leonardo Da Vinci.
The rest of the museum is a great place for kids- lots of hands on exhibits and learning stations, as well as an Imax theater- though not really my cup of tea. We had a surprisingly good and reasonably priced lunch in the museum café, then took a late afternoon stroll around the campus of San Jose State University before driving home. We did stop off at our favorite pumpkin patch and cornfield maze, to pick up discount tickets for the outing Sam is planning for the church youth group (he was recently chosen as second-in-command and is responsible for events) and to look for pie pumpkins; I was visiting a new blog- A Place of Quiet Rest- and she did an entry on “Pumpkin Economy”, which has inspired me to try preparing my own pumpkin puree for pies this year. This patch didn’t have any, but the girl running the shop gave me a couple leads for other local pumpkin patches that should have them at a reasonable cost (which, of course, is the whole point, right?)
So, here I am- back at work and drudging along on my report, hoping that I don’t get sick- while Chris has another two days off; he had a dentist appointment, a doctor appointment with subsequent xrays (his shoulder has gotten really bad- please pray, since he doesn’t get sick time pay), and even volunteered to make the weekly trip to Costco today, which is probably why I haven’t heard from him all day. Yes, I know~ I am blessed.