Category Archives: Doings

Ace

It started out innocently enough. I ran into my friend J at the grocery store and she had a service dog. I said something to the effect that I didn’t know that she needed a service dog, and she said that she was just training the dog, getting him ready for the task of helping some unknown person.

So then we had lunch about a month ago and she asked if I would consider hosting a service dog for a short period. I have been looking for a new dog and haven’t found one (the dog must be well behaved, not a pit bull and have floppy ears). So I said yes to the foster, and now Ace resides at my house.

He’s a two year old chocolate lab. This is him hard at work at a class we went to (too bad I wasn’t working as hard).

We had been out shopping and he was just sitting in the car while I put everything away. If he is wearing his vest he can legally go anywhere, so we have run a lot of errands together.

He is pretty good looking and everywhere we go people tell him how handsome he is, but he hasn’t let this praise go to his head (so far at least).

He does get plenty of beauty sleep, here he is taking a quick nap, but he is ever ready to spring into action if required.

He is a fully trained service dog, but his first owner didn’t bond with him, so he came back to the trainer. Now he is studying for a new task, and soon he will be on his way to his forever home. But in the meantime, I am enjoying his company while it lasts.

Books

Besides just being a writing conference, surprise, surprise, there were also books for sale. And me being me, I just had to acquire a few new books (also a surprise). So what did I end up with?

Okay, perhaps there might be a few clues to improve my writing in this tome, which was the reason why I was at this event.

This book was also recommended in one of the seminars, but it was the cover that really made me purchase this. 😉

I sat next to this writer at one of the meals, and he gave me this book because we both think that dinosaurs are cool.

At another one of the meals I sat between a writer of “scientific” vampire stories and a writer of vampire erotica. (Scientific means that he created a plausible scenario for vampires to exist, and he deleted all of the Hollywood vampire tropes. Watch for his series V-Wars on Netflix.) For some reason they did not discuss the differences in their vampire stories. 😉

I also bought this book, because he had given me the free one, so I wanted to support him.

Not shown are two “romance” books that I picked up. They seemed involve erotic possibilities rather than love, and I threw them away because they were boring. I much prefer a good murder mystery (preferably set in England, because we know how murderous the English people are). Who knows what this says about me, perhaps I shall write a book about it for the next conference. Or not.

Write On

If you are reading this, then you have perhaps realized that I am not much of a writer. Here’s a small sample:

This picture hangs in a museum. Underneath the portrait someone composed a poem, in latin no less, about what’s going on in the picture. And one is invited to write their interpretation of what’s going on in the scene. And this is what I wrote:

In spite of all this I had decided to go to the local writers conference to see if I might pick up a few tips. The speakers were all quite serious, the agents were all quite serious, the editors were all quite serious, the writers were all quite serious, and then there was me. I like to focus on the peripheral.

One of the coffee urns had this interesting replacement pull (I’m not sure if is a monster, or perhaps some sort of intergalactic mermaid.) No one that I showed this to had even noticed it.

The parking lots at this fancy hotel were all down hill, so I did a bit of hiking through the cars. And you know how much I love window stickers. I’m sure that this car owner was attending conference.

If you’ve ever been to a conference banquet, then you know all about the rubber chicken (I wish to state for the record, that is not my rubber chicken!) (No offense Floyd).

If rubber chickens can come to these things, then surely Pteri would be welcome. (He is my emotional support dinosaur, so I really should get him a tiny vest).

So did I actually learn anything at this event? Yes. That I probably will have to keep limping along in my old style, with an eye for the oddities of life. And that is not all bad, at least from my point of view.

Making Art

I like to draw and I like deer (but I don’t really know how to draw them). But there was a ‘photo of the day’ in the newspaper (yes, I read a physical newspaper) recently of a rather nice looking stag, so I decided to try to draw him.

So I made this drawing in my sketchbook with a watercolor pencil and I liked it so well that I decided to do another version of it.

This one was done with watercolor pencil and ink on a postcard. I was going to send it to a friend, but I thought it turned out rather well, and I was afraid that I could never do another one quite as good (probably true).

So I decided to try and draw this image in different ways. Here he is in watercolor and ink with a red stripe outline against a dark background.

And here’s the opposite, a dark deer against a light background. (I don’t really like the way this one turned out, I think I should have used a different color for the light and made the darker bits darker. Oh well, that’s another drawing.)

This was a different sort of image, abstract blobs of color against a pale gray background, outlined in black pen. The antlers are a helpful clue, one can guess that it’s a deer.

I found it interesting to try different ways of doing the same image, and I hope that I learned enough to make another ‘good’ drawing. Perhaps I will send the postcard to someone, someday (but not today). 😉

Bees

I know by now that you are wondering why I bother to stop in at the pub. It’s across town, it’s expensive and it is hard to find a parking place there. But there is an attraction to the place, it is called “The Golden Bee” and every time one stops in the bartender will throw an embroidered bee at one. Now most of the time it is just a regular bee, but they do feature a number of special bees throughout the year. And I try to show up for a pint on those special days.

So this is the very newest bee. In fact I got the first ones that they handed out. They have a big space symposium every year, all sorts of government types and defense contractors show up, so they make this special bee to commemorate the event. I had to get these before the conference started because the place is packed while all these free-spenders show up.

These bees are from: a big conference (they will make a special bee if your event is big enough), St. Patrick’s Day (no green beer is served here), Christmas and the Senior golf tournament from last summer (it was on TV).

This is what I usually do with the bees, I put them on the dashboards of my cars (the rocket bees are from previous Space Symposiums).

They do end up all over the house, these ones are in my sewing room.

And this is the lamp in my bedroom.

And these bees are hanging out in the dining room. There are so many bees in my collection that you might be thinking that I go there an awful lot (really, I don’t). But, these bees represent years and years of stopping in (also it’s a lovely place to take out-of-town guests). So I won’t actually have to go there again until July 4th, Halloween and Christmas. Hopefully by then they will have a new delicious cider on tap. 😉

Turtle Tales

One of the local schools was celebrating the children’s book author Dr. Seuss. And so of course I volunteered to come to the school and read one of his many stories. I picked a rather short story “Yertle the Turtle” as it did not have too many tricky verbal passages, and it fit in with my ulterior motive.

So I drew a copy of one of the images in the book. And after I read the story, (a striking tale of hubris) I asked the kids to draw this picture of a turtle. Whenever I have visited any museum in London there are always some students drawing pictures, it seems to be a requirement. I thought that these kids might enjoy having a go at drawing after hearing the story. All of the classrooms were equipt with a fancy AV system that projected this drawing onto a large screen tv. I also drew a simple line drawing of a turtle on the whiteboard (classrooms do not have blackboards and chalk any more). And I asked the various classes that I visited to draw any sort of turtle that they liked for me.

It took real bravery to try and copy the storybook turtle and a few students in each class I visited attempted this. This kid did both sorts of turtles and a bonus cat.

This first grader drew quite a credible turtle (I did show a hat on the sample turtle).

Also by a first grader.

Yet another first grader’s art. He wanted to be sure to include the context of pond and rock while still choosing the simplified turtle picture.

This careful sketch of a realistic turtle was done by a third grader.

I am only showing the pictures that students gave to me. I think some students didn’t like their drawings, that’s why they gave them to me. Other students were so proud of their work that they wanted to share it. The first graders were the most enthusiastic (they thought the story itself was hilarious) and willing to try. The fifth graders were the most reluctant to try, which was sad. I had wanted to share my love of drawing, and I hope that I gave someone encouragement to give drawing a try.

Church suppers

I could count on one hand (and have fingers left over) the number times we went out to eat at a restaurant when I was a child. But the one place where we did go was to church suppers. And so I retain a fondness for this sort of event. Unlike chef-driven restaurants, the food has a certain humble and sincere appeal. Driven by both a fund-raising need, and the desire to please and share, I am happy to be part of the experience.

Pteri went with me to this event, a full fledged church festival, complete with booze, booths of items for sale and dancing. It was a celebration of one’s (not mine though) Greek heritage, so on the menu this day was delicious gyros prepared by members of the congregation and a local restaurant.

This was a fund-raiser for a church school prepared by a parent’s group. This day they were serving my favorite, carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile, then slow cooked and shredded) tacos with refried beans and rice. It doesn’t really look that lovely, but it was quite tasty. They hadn’t counted on the demand for beer however, as it was a rather hot day, and they ran out. 🙁

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This was a different sort of church dinner, prepared by some men from the sister Spanish language church of this congregation. The guys had dug a pit, lined it with rocks, lit a fire to heat up the rocks, then buried the food on the hot rocks to cook it. They had made tamales, potatoes, chicken and pork. This was what they thought of as a perfect church supper back home. As the parent church did not condone alcohol, the men surreptitiously passed a bottle around.

This church food came from an Orthodox church out on the prairie, 7 miles from a small town (which is really far from anywhere). The area was settled by Czech farmers, and although most of them have moved away, lots of old-timers come back for a chance to eat this food. Kielbasa, haluska (some sort of noodle, onion and bacon dish), pierogi (potato and cheese dumplings), cabbage rolls, and borscht (plus some things I don’t know the name of) were on the menu.

And this was what was served at the most recent church supper I attended, with food cooked up by a local family-run restaurant and served by a parent’s group. This restaurant has been in business since 1959, which makes it quite an ancient establishment in this town. And served in a plastic cup was an excellent vintage wine.

It is interesting that all of these meals were based on immigrant/ethnic foodstuffs. All of these varied churches are looking to make a little money (sometimes very little), and provide a place for the community to break bread together. What could be a better excuse to get together?

Sports

It was time for the annual ice hockey game between the local expensive private college and the expensive private college from the nearby big city. One of my friends is an alumni, so we always go (I’m not an alum from either school, so I root for them both, secretly). We got there early this time rather than arriving at the last minute, so we wandered about the stadium, checking out the offerings.

It is pretty much de rigeur to have giant foam fingers proclaiming that one’s team is number one. This team is actually ranked #3 by whoever ranks these sorts of things, so get with it giant foam fingers.

And what sort of a sporting event would this be if they didn’t sell nachos?

Also available are the other great food groups, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, colas and beer (the most important item of the lot).

There are also the rather mis-named cheerleaders. They didn’t actually lead any of the cheers as they were located halfway up in the stands near the band, instead of in front of the crowd. And if what was being chanted was the school cheer, they should probably learn some more polite terms for addressing the opposition.

This time I remembered to get a shot of the action. One could also watch this on a giant television screen instead, as it was being broadcast on the local sports channel.

The school had just recently split from the previous beer company that sponsored advertised was somehow involved with the school, so if one had bazillions of dollars to donate, one could become the new name of the stadium. Just imagine ‘your name here’. 😉

Books

I love to read, and books are my Kryptonite. I do try not to accumulate them, but this is a fairly hopeless task. Of course my local library is a great resource, there is no way I could afford or store all the books I borrow from there. But there is one slight problem, the folks at the library insist on taking time off for Christmas and New Years. And what if I was stuck in the house and didn’t have anything new to read? Well I went down to the library and stocked up in anticipation of the holidays (and the snow and cold). It would be a disaster to have time on my hands and no books.

The wonderful thing about the library is that they stock a wide variety of titles, in all sorts of genres, fiction and non-fiction. So I can always find something to carry off and peruse, even if I don’t intend to read the entire book.

And here is what I carried off: a sort-of biography, graphic novels, classic and modern British mysteries, a cookbook, craft book and essays. I have varied tastes, what can I say?

And then there are my books.

These are the books I got in England, I bought the two end books, the middle book was a gift.

And these books were all Christmas presents (from me, to me). I had pre-ordered the bird book is from an artist that I know from the internet. The other two books were recently recommended by a member of my women’s art group. I saw them and thought ‘I must have my own copy’ (I do get greedy sometimes). I think that it is lovely and comforting to be surrounded by books, whether it is a temporary thing, like the library books, or a temporarily permanent thing, like the books I own.

Cooking class

I admit that I love anything that has lots of sugar and butter in the recipe (although it does not necessarily love me back).  One of my friends has taken a lot of classes at a local cooking school, and she talked about how much fun this was.  So I decided I might give this a go, especially as the class used my favored ingredients.  And I found out how simple it is to make toffee, particularly if someone else does all the prep work.  😉

They had toasted and chopped 10 1/2 ounces of almonds and separated it into chunky bits and dust.   We put 8 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of sugar, 3 ounces of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a pan and took it over to the induction stove top.

Here it is boiling merrily away.   Then we put in a candy thermometer, gave it a stir from time to time, and 25 minutes later it looked like this.

It is boiling hot at this point, so we carefully tipped in the large bits of almond (saving the fine particles for topping), and spread it out on a half sheet pan.   Then we sprinkled 7 ounces of chocolate chips over the top.   As it was boiling hot, the chips quickly melted and we slathered them over the top and added a fine almond dust over everything.

It doesn’t really look very appetizing at this point, in fact it looks rather like a large cow pie (although it smells much better).

Now it looks delicious!   As there were several groups of people in the class, we made different flavors of toffee and got to take home some of each.   So I have white chocolate raisin toffee, dark chocolate coconut toffee, dark chocolate and milk chocolate toffees.  Now all I have to do is package this up for friends and avoid eating all of this myself.