Sunday Scribblings #53 - Deepest Darkest

The words “deepest darkest” may invoke images of Manson, Satan, pentagrams, hidden secrets, fears, holes, caverns, oceans – a plethora of mental associations.

I was rather morbid during my younger years. I embraced the gothic punk lifestyle of the 1980’s and early 1990’s (before this modern generation turned it into an embarrassment consisting of “oh pity me!” and cutting.) That was not to say I was one of those scrawny-looking “freaky chicks” with raccoon eyes and black nail polish; I straightforwardly elected to push the edge of angst to an intensity unfathomable by most people. I was (and still occasionally am) dark in thought. I took pleasure in gothic horror. I wrote disturbing poetry. To this day, I play my ancient music (I still have all the LPs.)

Sunday Scribblings prompt instantaneously brought to mind one of my favorite Bauhaus songs, “Departure”:

"He was in his room, half awake, half asleep
The walls of the room seem to alter angles
Elongating and shrinking alternately
Then twisting around completely so that he was on the opposite side of the room
A trick of the light and too much caffeine, he thought
Then came a knock on the door
And this sound was the same dark-brown tone as the wood of which the door was made
At first, he thought he'd imagined it
Because it would not have been out of place with the other strange hallucinatory events of that night
But then it came again
Only heavier this time
With a sense of real urgency
So pulling himself up
And stepping through pools of moonlight and shadow
He made his bleary way across the room towards the door
And slowly, apprehensively, raised the latch

The latch became a fingertip, touching his own

Energy sapping as a new form, transversing the edge of his emotions
His power became his agony, his power knew no bounds
Whereas before, his peace withstood the vastness
His prerogative became an endless force of the all impossible
His final soul is flying with contempt only
Even the legendary glance backward to meet with eternity's stone in peace or save his already destroyed
You cannot share, the temperature is rising
The ghost and monkeys make a choice

He tried to will himself back to bed
He wanted desperately to feel the reassuring crisp, white sheets once taken for granted
To be back home, safe as houses, protected by walls covered in familiar patterns
But even wallpaper had become sinister to him
He remembered staring into the paisley print and seeing a repetition of skulls
At night he would listen to the click of heels on the concrete outside
And try to imagine the facial features of the unseen figure
He would always see his own face
And another realization of this prophecy rang terrible and true
For at this moment, it was indeed, his own feet that filled the shoes
Shoes that no man would want to wear

Into the hills then to search for another searcher's closely held goals
Into the forest under the billowing leaves
Under the dreadful birds, the singing soil, the decrepid babies, the unhappy new loves
The preaching alphabutics, the long-lost lovers never to find the safety of their mothers
In fact, all the guilty clouds he will move into a playground
A sense of moonlight and shadow
All the stars touch to the cold molten sunflower, fly to his middle eye
The wallpaper had sinister tones
Alas, white cold
Alas, rainbow's middle infinity's destination.
All life's drums drink from bottles and visions are blinded..."

Vancouver 2010 Questions

Now that Vancouver has won the chance to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, these are some questions people the world over are asking! Believe it or not these questions about Canada were posted on an International Tourism Website. Obviously the answers are a joke but the questions were really asked.

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow? ( England )
A. We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? ( USA )
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto -can I follow the Railroad tracks? ( Sweden )
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada ? ( Sweden )
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places to contact for a stuffed Beaver. ( Italy )
A: Let's not touch this one.

Q: Are there any ATM's (cash machines) in Canada ? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto , Vancouver , Edmonton and Halifax? ( England )
A: What did your last slave die off?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada ? ( USA )
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe .. Ca-na-da is that big country to your North...oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary . Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada ? ( England )
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary , straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada ? ( Germany )
A: No, we don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you sell it in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? ( Italy )
A: Yes, gay nightclubs

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal ..

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada , but I forget its name. It's a kind of big horse with horns. ( USA )
A: It's called a Moose. They are tall and very violent.. They roam the city streets eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. Spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking will scare them off.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Sent to me from Better Half, from his Canadian friend Steve.

Spring Clean

Autrice is not one of those women who decorate for every bloody holiday known to mankind, although she will decorate for each season and may occasionally wave a Canadian flag on her Birthday (which happens to also be Canada Day – July 1. Her Fellow Americans seem to become rather pissed off when anyone celebrates a Canadian or Mexican holiday, hence the purposeful In-Your-Face flag waving.)

The outside of Pembroke Cottage experiences only three seasons: Fall, Winter/Christmas and Spring/Summer. Monday was a perfect day, weather-wise, and Autrice endeavored to strip the last winter vestiges from the front porch. It was clashing with the Easter wreath.

Removing the winter embellishments was not difficult. She could have stopped with simply tugging down the inner-porch festive accoutrements. Autrice, however, noticed several dirty spots on the ceiling of the porch. This was war.

Out came the ladder, the bucket filled with Pine-Sol, a sponge and rag, the hose, and a tall glass of iced tea. Autrice removed the heavy iron furniture from the deck, scrubbed down the first storey of the house (only the front, mind) as well as the windows and screens, the porch ceiling (which is covered in sturdy pure-white vinyl), the porch support columns (also in sturdy pure-white vinyl) and railings (ditto on the vinyl.) She washed down the concrete porch itself. Up the ladder, down the ladder, nearly falling off the ladder, scrubby scrub scrub. The soap was hosed off, paying careful attention to the wind so as to not get water spots on the neighbor’s clean cars. The porch glistened; Autrice was soaking wet from the hose.

Better Half came home just as she was scouring down the porch furniture. One does not work rapidly when Better Half is around. He Procrastinates, as is commanded by law in the Big Book of Manliness. All men must find excuses to slow down work speed, according to this top-secret publication.

Better Half created excuses to visit the Young Neighbors: to see the new puppy, to give advice on how to clip hedges, to share his vast (cough-cough) knowledge of planting for Ohio, to talk about Military Things, to schmooze. Autrice briefly contemplated whacking him with the ladder. This would have been too much effort, so she joined him next door instead. It is easier to drop hints than it is to explain to the Young Neighbors and the Police your reasons for savage spouse abuse in public.

Once Autrice was able to make Better Half understand that she was fading, he set himself in motion. The furniture was placed back on the porch, the cushions brought up from the basement, and the wind chime box brought out. Porch done.

It sounds as if Autrice is a Typical Nagging Wife. In all actuality, she is TG and enjoys her masculine nature. She would not think twice about asking Better Half to help were she in good health.

Today is the Aftermath of all the physcial activity. Autrice can not hold a grudge against Better Half as he excels at taking care of her when she is in pain. He made her a lovely breakfast, brought her some pain medication for her bad back, and pampered her. He said that he would clean the downstairs today. Autrice wonders if he has consulted the Big Book of Manliness yet.
~ another third person musing

SS# 52 - In the Kitchen

The heavy clunk of Father’s boot echoed in the silent house. The small boy watched from behind the lace curtains of his bedroom window as the new Willy’s wagon fired up. Father was the local ice deliveryman, and his day always began before dawn.

The boy slid off his bed, carefully transferring his weight to keep the springs from waking Mother in the next room. His bare feet felt the chill from the wooden floors as he dressed himself quickly and made his way down the hall and stairway.

He crept through the parlor, decorated with stuffed furniture, dark woods and a smattering of cherished family belongings from Poland. The cat was curled on one of the dining room chairs, and he stroked the soft fur on her head briefly before making his way into the kitchen.

The Kitchen! The heart of the home! The boy cherished this room most of all. The scrubbed wooden floor was always warm on his feet, thanks to the large wood stove. The low sink, cast of heavy iron covered with porcelain (which was beginning to chip off) was big enough for him to sit in if he wanted. The walls were covered with wallpaper that Mother had ordered out of the Sears Catalog when she and Father first married. A small crucifix hung on the wall next to the Hoosier cabinet, and in the window was Mother’s treasure – a tiny bird made of hand-blown glass and suspended by a blue ribbon. Father had found the beautiful ribbon in Pittsburgh while away on business, and he had presented it to Mother on her birthday.

In the very center of the room was their kitchen table. Many fine feasts had been prepared here. It was Mother’s workstation, and the boy always felt secure when he thought of her sitting at the table. She would do her hand sewing here, or her baking. It was a utilitarian thing and if he pressed his nose to the wood, he could smell the herbs of meals gone by.

Father had stoked the coal furnace in the basement before he left, and warmth was beginning to spread to the first floor. The boy could still hear the last embers warming in the stove. He opened the back door and drew in a breath of early spring chill, and then he began carrying small logs from the yard up the wooden stairs to the back deck. His chore every morning was to provide Mother with wood; Mother was expecting and Doctor had ordered her to take her own duties easy.

Twenty minutes passed, then thirty. The boy brushed away the last bits of bark from his bare hands (he never wore his wool mittens, as they were scratchy on his skin) and stepped back into the kitchen. He found yesterday’s dishtowel and mopped up a bit of water from the old icebox. Father wanted to buy Mother a new one, but Mother insisted he put the $150 towards a better use by purchasing the Willy’s. “We will make due with this ice box,” Mother had announced in Polish. She was always practical that way.

The boy knew Mother’s refusal to buy an icebox was due to her love for her husband. So many homes were turning towards the new electrical refrigerators; Father’s business was beginning to decline. How could they afford a new icebox or afford to install electrical wiring for refrigerators when sales were slow?

The icebox had to be monitored constantly to check the size of the ice block. If it melted too quickly, the food inside would spoil. Water would melt into a cistern or bucket; many families wasted that water in the garden, but Mother always found a use for it. Electrical boxes were much of a time-saver, however. So many families were ordering them from Sears and other catalogs that local shops began stocking them. The boy solemnly vowed that he would never have one of those in his house when he was grown up.

The boy smiled as Mother came downstairs and bid him “good morning.” She put a match to the kerosene lantern suspended from the ceiling, and then prepared him a plate of bread and cold chicken. His treat was an apple from the cellars.

Today was her washing day and she would need him to hang the scrubbed clothing on the lines in the basement. This chore would take up most of the morning, but first Mother would begin dinner.

The woman worked swiftly, mixing flour and other ingredients for dough, and then setting it to rise near the stove. She added wood and stoked the stove off and on, then added a large metal tub to the top – this would provide a large enough basin for washing flannels and denim.

Around noon, Mother wiped her brow and sat down in the dining room with a lunch tray for them both. They now had hot tea to sip. The laundry washing was finished, the last of the soap flakes swept up, and Mother would begin to prepare dinner.

The boy was glad it was washing day. On other days Mother might have him beat the dust out of the rugs, or wipe down the wood spindles on the banister. Mother would always darn clothing or sew in the afternoon on washing day, and as they had no radio, she would amuse him by singing songs from their homeland while they stayed in the warmest room of the house – the kitchen itself.
The boy loved his mother’s singing, however he dearly wished he could afford to take Mother downtown to one of the new talkie movies. Perhaps when he was older, Father might allow him to work with the blocks of ice? It paid better than other jobs. The boy closed his eyes and daydreamed…

~ in tribute to the family who built our Pembroke Cottage.

Better Half's Birthday Gift

Happy Birthday to Better Half!
We traveled up to Robinson today for our oil check (the intermediary oil light was “on”) and left with a new Vue. This was not planned, however it is the perfect birthday gift for Better Half (who turned 44 today.)

I have been salivating over the new models that have come out over the past few years. The 2007 Vue is no exception. Although it no longer comes equipped with the Selectrack (Saturn no longer produces it) we were able to test drive a lovely moss green 6-cylinder. We also tested a dark blue Vue hybrid: the fuel efficiency is an amiable option but I enjoy torque in my vehicles.

Our Blue Vue provided wonderful trade-in value and we actually came out $500 ahead of the game. This was applied towards the new payments for the 2007, upping our normal monthly payout by $100 or so (once you figure in the GAP insurance, stain guard, and extended warranty/customer care plan.)

The Green Vue (aptly named Precious, as it is a birthday present) handles superbly. I thoroughly enjoyed the CD/radio control’s location upon the steering wheel, and the cruise control functions smoothly. The green is a soothing shade that not only soothing on the eye, but also matches the environment around us.

We are rather animistic by nature and too often attribute emotions or character into inanimate objects. I could not help but feel a pang of guilt upon removing our possessions from the Blue Vue. I snapped one final photograph of the vehicle that has provided us much safety and pleasure over the years. The new SUV cast a shadow over Blue Vue, an element I did not notice when I took the picture. Somehow it seemed both fitting and poignant.

Good bye, Blue Vue. You were a fabulous vehicle!


Spring Contrast

Spring Contrast:
Red leaf buds on a branch
Sway gently against the backdrop of
Icicles set upon Christmas lights.

Pembroke Cottage Electrical Challenges

One of the greatest challenges with owning an early 1900’s home is improvement. When one decorates, one often starts on a project only to discover that it leads to ten more.

Pembroke Cottage is no exception. Built at the turn of the last century by the local “ice delivery man”, this home was heated by coal and illuminated by gaslights. One does not straightforwardly change out light fixtures here: the key is to find fixtures that can be accommodated by the electrical box, which is often installed in the same opening where the gas pipes ran throughout the house. I am quite certain it is not up to code. If truth be told, the wiring might have been installed initially in the 1930’s and then (judging by the characteristics of the wires) updated in the 1960’s. Hence, any project involving electrical becomes a horrendous.

Case in point: changing the hall light bulb. One would normally unscrew the “burned out” bulb and replace it with a new one. Our hall light bulb has been in its socket since Nixon was president. The metal base has actually fused with the socket metal itself (in part due to the location of the bathroom in relation to the hall fixture.) Better Half was unable to remove the remaining “screw” part of the old bulb from the ghastly 1960’s ceiling fixture. We shall have to replace the entire fixture (hurray!) with a stylish 1930’s style product.

Reinstating the fixture should not be a problem as Better Half and I both enjoy electrical work. The problem will lie in what is under the current fixture. Is it a standard electrical box or a bodged-together wiring job entangled with an old gaslight pipe? Time will tell; I have no intention of taking the old fixture down today.

Another decorating/electrical nightmare lurks in our both our dining room and kitchen. The previous owners mounted a cheap drop ceiling replete with florescent light fixtures – grizzly things that belong in a shop or garage. We intend to remove the drop ceiling and install tin tiles but we have no idea what the electrical boxes look like. Would a chandelier be possible? I would very much welcome having a nine-foot ceiling back in both these rooms instead of the crappy seven-foot (lowered) one.

Better Half and I reviewed our Spring Projects list after I competed hanging new drapes in the bedroom this afternoon. We need to paint our hall and the remaining two bedrooms upstairs (old walls soak up paint like a sponge), as well as finish my office (hang boarder, take care of mold damage caused by a faulty flashing on the roof - flashing must be repaired as well – repair wall where mold was), rip up carpets to expose the hard wood floors in all three bedrooms, bleach down basement etc. The Honey Do list is never-ending when you are trying to restore an antique home. We will eventually sand down and stain/varnish all the wood trim in the house. We must sand down our back deck and reseal it this season. There are trees to plant, flower beds to tend out front, a yard to landscape in the back, a dog run to contrast – my God, I should quit while I’m ahead.

Birthday Meme

Birthday Meme

Meme: The term "meme" (
IPA: /miːm/, rhyming with "theme") was coined in 1976 by the biologist Richard Dawkins to refer to a "unit of cultural information" which can propagate from one mind to another in a manner analogous to genes (i.e., the units of genetic information).

A Meme in today's world is a short list of curious questions that one "tags" a friend with; it propagates via blogs, email and web sites. This particular meme comes from Roadchick:

The Rules:
1. Go to
Wikipedia and type in your birthday, month and day only.
2. List 3 events that occurred on that day.
3. List 2 important birthdays.
4. List 1 death.
5. List a holiday or observance. (if any)
6. Tag 5 other bloggers.

~~~July 1 ~~~

1858 - The joint reading of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace's papers on evolution to the Linnean Society.
1972 - First Gay Pride march in England
2004 - Saturn Orbit Insertion of Cassini-Huygens begins at 01:12 UT and ends at 02:48 UT

1788 - Jean-Victor Poncelet, French mathematician (d. 1867)
1961 - Diana, Princess of Wales (d. 1997) She was exactly 10 years and 2 minutes older than me.

1971 - William Lawrence Bragg, English physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1890) He died exactly 1 minute before I entered the world.


Canada Day (formerly Dominion Day) - national holiday of Canada.
Moving Day in the province of Québec
Memorial Day in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day.
Surinam Keti Koti (Breaking of Chains) Day of Liberty; On July 1, 1863 slavery was abolished.
Bulgaria, July Morning tradition

and anyone else that would like to play

Third Person Loop and Bizarre Friends

Autrice has spent the last hour or so reading Roadchick's blog. This is not necessarily a bad thing – except for the fact that Autrice begins to actually think in the third person form after a post or two. She can only shake her head and succumb to the inevitable.

It does not help that she is currently suffering from a bout of insomnia brought on by her cold and lower back. Autrice could easily kick the greyhound off her spot on the soft bed and curl up with her heating pad and some Naproxen. She mulls over this only briefly before going back to read some more of The Chick’s entries. Why bother the dog? He isn't really harming anyone.

Autrice should focus on falling asleep instead of cruising her friend’s online journals. Better Half and she are supposed to drive up to Pittsburgh to pick up two end tables she purchased earlier this week. Autrice loves Pittsburgh (and Better Half loves eating in Pittsburgh) so she usually looks forward to traveling there. However, her body has seriously thwarted her this week and she wonders if her energies wouldn’t be better spent by chewing off her lower extremities, which might in effect bring her some long-term relief (once the bite wounds were cauterized properly.)

Several blog entries and twenty email later, Autrice comes to the conclusion that her friends are Bizarre. She typically receives a smattering of lame jokes, crappy recipes, chain mail and “he said/she said” gossip. Tonight she was treated to several email pertaining to a chat room reunion (yippie) and a photograph of a man’s thigh and buttock. Autrice promptly deleted the reunion email and drooled over the photograph. Never fear, dear Readers – Autrice still thinks Better Half is damn sexy. A married girl can still appreciate a photograph, can’t she?


Kudos to DailyPanic and her "inspiration". Please take a moment to pop over to her blog and read about it. I confess myself to be inspired!

Another spoonful, Please!: Rhombicosidodecahedron

SS #51 - Inspiration

“Inspiration” is the weekly Sunday Scribblings’ theme. What better to inspire than a muse?

Muses are the most frequently misunderstood creatures. The muse is not the star, nor the center of attention. She is the unobtrusive being that inspires an artist or writer. She holds no glory as her own, seeking only to touch the creative mind and move on to her next interest.

My blog, obviously named, is a manifestation of my own inner mind. I have left my mark on many projects, never seeking laurels for myself. I would rather sit quietly by, proffering advice or proposing an idea. I guide and mentor others who have interest in my “field”.

This blog is where I cast aside my role and express myself for the sheer enjoyment of it. Like a fairy captivated by glimpsing her reflection on a mirror carelessly left upon the dresser, the fundamental splendor found in nature easily distracts me. Indeed, I could idle away hours disclosing my thoughts on it.

What inspires a muse? I have my own collection of “muses”; characters and short stories that I pattern off of friends or relatives. Michael Rowe is one such muse. Ox is another. Yet another can be found in Better Half. These are the people who often prompt me when I hit writer’s block. Sunday Scribblings is yet another muse – a forum that murmurs notions into all the participants’ minds.

On that note: Megg and Laini, co-owners of Sunday Scribblings, deserve a well-earned “thank you”. They approach their one-year anniversary and it is only appropriate that each of us takes a moment to tender our congratulations and gratitude. They are our bona fide muses, never questing celebrity status yet continually motivating us to further our own talents via weekly practice through their forum. Surely they have become an asset to many of us as we enthusiastically check Sunday Scribblings in the wee hours of Friday morning in anticipation of our next challenge. Bravo to them both.

Dear Readers, my gratitude to you for reading my blog. To my own muses I offer my deepest love and appreciation.


… So much for spring. The snow rolled in last night.

An insufferable cold has invaded my chest, my head is throbbing, and I am in thrall of the dreaded Unmentionable.


A Day of Dental Surgery

Today was Better Half’s perio surgery. Rain drenched roads and an incessant downpour turned the usually short drive into a two and a half hour odyssey. We arrived in Pittsburgh nearly thirty minutes late but the drive was enjoyable and we chatted along the way.

I have taken refuge in the almost deserted VA basement cantina, where I am enjoying a cheap breakfast. The scrambled eggs dominate the plate, accompanied by several tasty sausages and toast.

I pause now and then to watch the rain sheet down the window; it has eased up and crystalline beads of water grace the slender bare tree branches that sway in striking contrast to the harsh black steel window frame. Jazz muzak pipes through the overhead speakers, competing with the tinny babble of a veteran’s portable television.

The steady electric beep of the maintenance crew’s electric carts draws near and then fades away as employees shuttle through the tunneling maze connecting the hospital buildings on the campus. This is Highland Drive, a city unto itself replete with barbershops, mini BXs, and a credit union.

A familiar face pokes through the cantina doorway and I am treated to a wave and smile from one of the VA police officers. Better Half has so many appointments that I have perhaps become recognizable to the staff here. He offers a warm Pittsburgh, “Hey, how ya doin’ there?” and I give the token reply: “Can’t complain.” I inquire about the fire damage from a few weeks ago, and the officer purses his lips and bobs his head three times – “so so.” Italians; we speak without sound.

I check in upstairs and discover that Better Half has three more stitches to add to his collection. We must wait a while longer for his prescription for mouth rinse to be filled, so we head back to the depths of the hospital in order to get some food into his stomach.

(We did invite Dr. McWilliams and her spouse to our Memorial Day BBQ. I suppose this means that I must actually plan a BBQ! Better Half is rather the spontaneous sort. He decides to host a party and all I can think about is the amount of effort that needs to be put into making the house “event friendly.”)

“Take small bites,” I admonish Better Half as he lifts his burger to his mouth (for all intents and purposes it almost appears the burger is devouring his face. Men!) He cocks his head to one side as he eats, for surely gravity alone will keep the food away from the surgical site. I snap a photograph and smile. He is not amused and I quickly tuck my notes away.


Spring Debut

Spring has made her début for 2007.

Windows have been thrown wide in order to usher in the fresh air throughout the day and there is a long-awaited beauty to each crispy March morning as placid birdsong rouses me from my slumber. Tiny red leaf buds hug the branches of the maple tree and I long to see the dark emerald leaves unfurl from their natural cocoons.

The robins shall make an effort to nest under our deck before long. The cardinals, gaily red and black, have treated us to their own whimsical song as they flash their plumage while at the bird feeder. My doves have returned.

I stroll past my flowerbeds and relish glimpsing the first tiny blades of crocus poking up from the red mulch. My dianthus did not survive entirely and I find myself perusing my seed and plant catalogs in enthusiastic anticipation of once again getting my hands into the dark, moist soil.

There are a myriad of projects that must be done before Spring breaks fully. I must replace mulch, and weed out or cut back dead plants and limbs. The back deck must be sanded and refurbished. Yard furniture must be washed. I shall hang the wind chimes and place the sculptures once the weather warms more (we expect some snow on Saturday) and I nearly dance at the satisfying thought of setting up my fountain in the front yard.

Spring is my renaissance – my time to shrug off the aches and pains in order to commemorate the end of another winter. Spring is hope and promise. It is my favourite time of year, next to Fall. I drink deeply the draught of wholesome air and my heart rejoices.

(The photograph, regrettably, is from last year. My handsome Better Half was tending to the shrubs and tiny trees.)

Template Change

Dear Readers,

Please excuse the sudden template change. I hope you enjoy this new colour scheme.

~ Autrice

Sleep Apnea Man

I had a relatively futile night, thanks to Apnea Man - aka Better Half, Lord of the Upper Decibel Snores. Smothering him with a pillow would earn me twenty years to life. I did momentarily mull over smothering him with the cat, however the cat (being a goddess) failed to comply with my frantic coaxing.

All kidding aside, I am rather exhausted at the moment. I attempted to capture a bit of sleep via a sleeping pill (and two different pain pills, and a secondary muscle relaxant.) It was to no avail, as Better Half tends to jerk his legs after each thunderous, rasping intake of breath. In my giddy fatigue-induced state I plead guilty to contemplating the purchase of two anal plugs – one for each nostril – as a remedy for the situation. There is no such thing as “instant delivery” of course. Perhaps I should have opened two bottles of wine and make use of the corks? If that technique was unsuccessful, the only other alternative would be to wallop Better Half soundly on his hard noggin with a third bottle of wine.

I am forcibly reminded of a joke sent to me a while back: men snore when they sleep on their backs as a result of the fact that their scrotums cover their anus, which creates vapor lock. Better Half must surely be better endowed than most as he snores no matter his position in bed.

I had deliberated shopping the commissary today. This is now scratched off my “to do” list. I also aspired to clean the upstairs, vacuum the downstairs, and perhaps wash down the kitchen cabinets during my annual spring clean. Instead, I will curl up in bed once the freight train/B-52 has had his fill of sleep and has departed from the bedroom.

I am so damned tired that words can not begin to convey the state of weariness I currently am enduring. My only solace was bumping into Ox and Perry online. Both possess a keen sense of humor and their levity was much appreciated.

Who am I kidding? I have entered Bitch Mode (no thanks to an inordinate amount of physical pain this week) and I am taking my frustrations out in print. I harbor no ill will towards Better Half; indeed, it is not his fault that he does suffer from sleep apnea. He is currently undergoing testing to establish the degree of it. I still love him dearly.

Hark! Do my ears deceive me, or has the house ceased vibrating from the noise? Perhaps I could sneak back under the covers and attempt to achieve actual REM? It is worth a try.


SS #50 - Dream Journey of a Spring Day at Market

Sometimes we live our dreams, finding joy in the things that many take for granted. For me, living near a bustling Eastern city is a dream come true; to obtain it, one need only drive a short while.

Better Half and I did our weekly trip to Pittsburgh today (typical VAMC appointment) and then elected to visit the Market District (also known as The Strip along Penn Avenue) to get a little gourmet shopping done.

Our first mission is to find parking; we habitually use the same pay lot and are always waited on by the same attendant (who embodies all that is the Burgh in both his stocky body frame and cheery attitude. We normally return several times to the lot in order to secure bags in the car (who buys just one item at the Strip?)

Penn Mac is an essential stop, if not our primary goal. All Things Italian can be found here. Today we stocked up on our whole peeled tomatoes, pesto sauce, spaghetti, macaroni, and the gallon jug of extra virgin olive oil (bring your own green glass bottle, or for $0.50 more, you can buy one there.) The oil is an “every six-months” treat for us and it takes some time for the bottle to fill – which always leads to polite tête-à-tête with other patrons, or a visual browsing of the kitchen gadget shelves. We ended up adding a garlic press and some fresh sourdough bread to our basket.

Next was a detour to a street stall, where a delicate girl from Ecuador was selling llama wool sweaters and pullovers. They had a vast selection, all of it rather inexpensive, and most of it gaily festive with hand knit traditional patterns. Better Half spied a lovely off-white (natural) zip front wool jacket for me, and $30 later I was toasty warm and we were on our way to DeLuca’s for lunch.

Stan’s Market became our next objective. I was able to find nearly three pounds of perfectly ripened tomatoes and a huge bunch of basil for tonight’s tomato and basil soup, as well as a huge bag of onions, some delicious zucchini, and a few other goodies. I think we spent all of $20 total and left with five bags brimming with healthy fruits and vegetables. These, too, were tucked into the car.

We stopped at a new spice shop (good selection, but not impressed by the prices) and the Wholy’s kitchen store (a bamboo spoon, new paring knife.) Some window-shopping here, a little wishful thinking there – such a nice place to spend a perfect spring afternoon. We did skip Parma’s meats this time around.

The final destination was Wholy’s itself. This is THE place to get your hands on meat, poultry and fish. Fresh fish is heaped on mounds of ice: carp larger than a human toddler, tuna, salmon, scrod, mullet, halibut, catfish, squid, lobster, a plethora of crab species, prawns and shrimp – an unending list of wonderful seafood all sold wholesale cheap. There are also tanks containing more lobster, crabs, as well as sea bass, trout, tilapia. Once one tears their eyes from the live section, one can walk past the freezer cases, where Wholy’s packages their own items. (We added calamari rings and croaker to our basket.)

The butcher area has every meat known to mankind, and perhaps a few that most people would not even think to eat. I bypassed the rabbit fillets and ox tails, glanced at the Angus beef, and settled on humongous lamb shank for Easter for under $15 (you would pay roughly $35-40 at your own local supermarket for the same cut and weight, dear Readers.)

We packed our plastic bags with shaved ice, trucked the last of our goods back to the lot, and headed for home. I simply can not imagine anyone not taking advantage of the Market District unless, of course, they simply do not cook at home or do not know how to cook gourmet.

The tomato and basil soup is ready, the house smells heavenly, and Better Half and I are now relaxing from a very productive market day. Heavenly dream come true!

Please stop by Sunday Scribblings: #50 - Dream journey to read of other dream journeys (both real and fictional.)

A Frosty March Morning in Steubenville

We awoke to another frigid morning. I waited until the sun was casting the first tender rays of light before I seized my camera and ventured to the back deck to snap a few photos.

This would be an ideal day for home made soup (had we groceries) and lounging with a book (if I did not have so many damn things to do around the house!) Alas for us; we shall spend the day (hopefully) getting tasks done.

I am delighted to say the last traces of Christmas have been tucked away in the basement. Yes, dear Readers, Christmas. I am that far behind on general duties around here. I am aspiring to clean the downstairs today (in preparation for the Big Spring Clean next week.) Only time shall tell.

In the mean time:
Parsi in NY says roads don’t look pretty.
Mg in Lancaster PA reports no school today, and heavy snow.
Ox and Spider report no school, moderate snow, and plenty of road closings in the Pittsburgh, PA area.

No one else in his or her right mind is actually awake at the moment, so I have no idea how much havoc the snow caused elsewhere. I would imagine TFMM got a heavy blanketing up in Canada.

SS #49: Lunar Eclipse and Superstition

In light of tonight's lunar eclipse, I thought it would be prudent to share some Superstitions and tales associated with this astronomical event:

Ancient Europeans firmly believed that one should never have marital relations during a lunar eclipse, for surely the resulting offspring would be born with demons inside them.

A well-known (still modern!) superstition says that a pregnant woman shouldn't touch her belly during a lunar eclipse. Doing so will cause the baby to be born with quite a noticeable birthmark. In India, one newspaper advised pregnant women not to go outside during the eclipse to avoid having a blind baby or one with a cleft lip. Food cooked before the eclipse should be thrown out afterward because it will be impure and those who are holding a knife or ax during the eclipse will cut themselves, the Hindustan Times added.

"The idea of the Moon being consumed in an eclipse was quite common in ancient times. Even more common was the view that a lunar eclipse was a very bad omen. Ancient Chaldeans believed that the eclipse was a display of the Moons wrath, and that famine, disease or natural disasters would follow. Babylonians went so far as to try to determine which quadrant of the Moon was most eclipsed (very obvious in a partial lunar eclipse), using the direction as a geographical indicator of who would suffer the worst consequences."

"A more modern turn of history hinged on a lunar eclipse that auspiciously occurred not only in the leap year of 1504, but on February 29th of that year.

That February found the famous explorer Christopher Columbus on the small island of Jamaica, where he had been marooned for several months. Though the island natives had originally brought food and provisions to Columbus while he awaited rescue, the arrogant and overbearing Columbus had alienated the natives to the point that they ceased to provide food to Columbus and his crew.

Facing starvation, the resourceful Columbus came up with a desperate ploy: Consulting a shipboard almanac and finding that a lunar eclipse was due, he called together the native chiefs and announced to them that God would punish them if they did not supply his crew with food. And as an omen of Gods intent to punish them, there would be a sign in the sky: God would darken the Moon.

Right on cue, the Moon started being eclipsed. Columbus dramatically disappeared into his cabin, ignoring the loud pleas from the natives to restore the Moon. After an interlude of more than an hour, Columbus emerged from his cabin and announced that God was prepared to withdraw his punishment if they agreed to continue supplying him and his crew with everything they needed. The native chiefs immediately agreed, and within minutes the Moon started emerging from shadow, leaving the natives in awe of Columbus power.

Columbus got his food and supplies, and from then until he was rescued in June of 1504 the natives continued to supply him."

Dispelling the superstition:
An eclipse of the Moon (or lunar eclipse) can only occur at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth's shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped components, one nested inside the other. The outer or penumbral shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks part but not all of the Sun's rays from reaching the Moon. In contrast, the inner or umbral shadow is a region where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

Astronomers recognize three basic types of lunar eclipses:

1. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
The Moon passes through Earth's penumbral shadow.
These events are of only academic interest since they are subtle and quite difficult to observe.

2. Partial Lunar Eclipse
A portion of the Moon passes through Earth's umbral shadow.
These events are easy to see, even with the unaided eye.

3. Total Lunar Eclipse
The entire Moon passes through Earth's umbral shadow.
These events are quite striking for the vibrant range of colors the Moon can take on during the total phase (i.e. - totality).

Unlike an eclipse of the Sun which often requires a long journey to the path of totality, those of the Moon can be observed from one's own backyard. The passage of the Moon through the Earth's shadow is equally visible from all places within the hemisphere where the Moon is above the local horizon. Moreover, coming as it does early on a Saturday evening, this eclipse should arouse wide interest among tens of millions of people in the eastern parts of the United States and Canada who can see it during normal waking hours.

There is nothing mysterious about an eclipse, rather it is a thing of beauty.

Enjoy your stargazing tonight. Better Half and I certainly will.

Usurping of the Throne

We purchased a small wicker basket to serve as a bed for our Italian Greyhound. IGGYs "burrow" naturally, seeking the warm confines of blanket caves. Surely one would not even be aware that there is an IGGY in the house, were it not for the piercing pain one feels as the little bastard hurls itself at your body (often "clocking nads" with incredible precision) as it dances about on its hind legs at feeding time.

Our IGGY, Zephyr, lays claim to all things soft and blankety, to include cast off clothing left on chairs or smelly towels heaped for laundry day. The wicker basket would get him out of my hair while I work in my office ~ and Better Half could enjoy spending time with me without having to tend to the damn dog's needs.

I should add at this point that Zephyr is known as "pretty princess pegasus pony" or The Queen. My dog is a queen? Nay, my dog is a drag queen. Were he a human child, he would mantle himself with Barbie dolls, pink and purple feather boas and sequined gowns, and would surely host wee tea parties for all his wee friends. He is extremely sensitive, extraordinarily elegant, and 100% attitude. He will bark an 80-pound dog off a bed (three snaps up) simply to have his way. He is especially gender confused, and would be content to hump our male Greyhound if given the chance. Of course, his attraction to the Greyhound is easy to explain away: PB Drives On By (aka Sammy) is a retired athlete and once Class A Track Racer. No gay man in his right mind would turn down a straight studmuffin.

Any queen deserves luxury! I refuse to compromise my decor in favor of his penchant for paisley; handsome wicker will suffice. The basket fits well with my office decor and His Majesty (the IGGY formerly known as Prince) promptly laid claim to his new throne.

Enter Geriatric Dog (aka Gennaker the Shepherd Mix):

Geriatric Dog is a tad senile and nearly deaf. At thirteen years of age, this gentle little creature deserves a bit of respect, as Geriatric Dog is a Lady and Love On Four Legs. Geriatric Dog discovered The Queen's Throne and promptly usurped it. No amount of prissy barking will remove Geriatric Dog once she has curled into a tight donut and laid her gray head down for a nap. Naturally, the Queen pitches a royal hissy fit to no end ~ it falls on (literally) deaf ears. The Queen hangs his head in defeat and seeks out a laundry pile or my own bed.

Things would be peaceful at this point, if not for the Village Idiot:

There are many words one could utilize while describing the Village Idiot: obnoxious, dumber than a box of rocks, useless, To Big To Be Allowed, spaz or thunderous all come to mind. The Village Idiot is a 70-pound shepherd that only follows orders when one brandishes a bamboo kitchen spoon or spray bottle. She is not a bad dog (we will not hold urinating on my floor out of spite against her) but she does not use any canine reasoning skills. Omega of the pack, she lives to play. Her call name is Nutmeg; I wonder if she assumes her name is, for all intents and purposes, "No! Stop it! Damn you!"

The Village Idiot does not care if the Queen is under the covers; she will vault onto the bed and trample him for shits and grins. She doesn't notice if Geriatric Dog is sleeping; she will pounce on her with abandon. She is inconsiderate of The Studmuffin if he is trying to void his bladder; she will hurtle into him. She recently discovered the Throne and it does not matter that she is too big to fit in it. She usurps via harassment, plops her huge body down, learns that she does not fit, and then leaves it. Ten minutes later she has already forgotten that she does not fit it, and the cycle begins anew.

The Village Idiot would rule dogdom in this home, were it not for The Bitch, Matty:

Matilda May (Waltzing Matilda, or Red Dog the Lab/Dobi mix) is a militant thing who will patrol the yard with the drive of a seasoned and grizzled Marine Master Sergeant. She is balls to the wall. She shows little sign of aging and Better Half and I firmly believe that she sold her soul to the devil to obtain eternal youth. Roughly six months younger than Geriatric Dog, The Bitch maintains her burly physcial stamina.

The Bitch and the Village Idiot do not get along. The Bitch gets along with no one, although she tolerates Geriatric Dog's tender washing of her face and ears. The Bitch does not lose dogfights and will rip out the throat of any who push her too far. Village Idiot has learned not to mess with The Bitch ~ such transgressions once involved my holding the Bitch by collar and handfuls of flesh whilst Better Half picked up The Village Idiot to remove her from The Bitch's line of sight. The Bitch wears comfortable shoes, despises males, and has a chip on her shoulder. This dog has no desire to take control of the throne, as she knows that she is too hefty to fit in it. She is content to sleep in the hallway where she can keep an eye on every upstairs room and the stairway itself, and snarl at anything that comes within ten feet of her. She also enjoys laying next to the Throne in wait of some foolish animal's attempt to use it. It is a vicious game for her. The Bitch fears only one thing: my wrath.

The Studmuffin:

Sammy the Greyhound would never fit in the Throne, nor has he any desire to have anything to do with it. He waits until the battle of wills begins before using his canine smarts to take over the large bed in my room. "Let the womenfolk fight it out."

And so, four dogs squabble over one wicker basket. The Queen "snaps", the Geriatric usurps, the Idiot vanquishes, the Bitch threatens ~ and all admit defeat when the one creature that truly rules this house turns up: the Cat.

No one dares mess with the Cat. The Cat is a god.