2010 Year-End Meme



The objective of this meme is to reflect back upon the year. Flip through your blog and look at the very first entry for each month. Take the first sentence from that entry. Cluster them into a single post (as seen below) and tag other friends so that they might do the same.

10 Jan 2010
This beautiful tree haunted the winter landscape this morning.  

3 Feb 2010
Smelts: sweet and succulent Osmeridae that gaily don their egg-and-flour bathing suits before easing into a Jacuzzi of hot oil; in the hands of a Greek or Southern person, they are utterly orgasmic to the palate.

14 July 2010
I haven’t bothered to write in a while. 

17 Aug 2010
One more for the back porch collection: Lesser Angle-winged Katydid - Microcentrum retinerve.

6 Dec 2010
Winter’s first true snows have blanketed the yards in our neighborhood. 

~ Fin ~


My 2009 Year-End Meme was slightly better (although not by much.) The absence of posts is a direct reflection of the hardships we endured in 2010. It was a year where we desperately needed the physically comforting touch of family but made do with long-distance phone chats.

My outlook for 2011 is much brighter.





For fun: 2008 Year-End Meme [AnnieElf started it!]
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Christmas

Snow whirls lithely beyond the window panes. The robust odor of Stracotto di Manzo permeates the house. An empty bottle of Reggiano Lambrusco litters my coffee table; I swirl sweet, still-effervescent remnants in my glass.


But enough of that.

Our Christmas was serene. We attended St. Stephen’s last night followed by dinner at a lovely restaurant across the river. We awoke to falling snow - an actual white Christmas, oh my!

The rest of the day was merrily spent cooking. My parents are in Colorado so we thought that we would “share” the meal by sharing the same main dish recipe. The roast beef turned out perfectly.

Our evening finished with a nap for Better Half and a movie starring Dwayne Johnson for me. I’m on the downslope of a carb high. Life is good.


Truffle and Piper




White Christmas





 Stracotto di Manzo



Nutmeg would rather not wear the ribbon



French doors into living room




A view from the kitchen



I'm really too tired to organize any pictures. Does it show?
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Winter Solstice Eclipse

Nearly 3 AM. I’ve emerged from the house every half hour or so, the storm door hinges proclaiming my activities to the neighborhood like some enormous cuckoo clock touting the passage of time.

I stand on my back deck and gaze up at the Moon. Gauzy clouds obscure lunar features but the Earth’s shadow has become more imposing as the morning matures. I’m awed by the tranquil splendor. Briefly. It’s damn frosty outside.

For my astronomically-challenged friends, Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA Science News sums up the anticipated events:

The luster will be a bit "off" on Dec. 21st, the first day of northern winter, when the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth's shadow. For 72 minutes of eerie totality, an amber light will play across the snows of North America, throwing landscapes into an unusual state of ruddy shadow.

Why red?

A quick trip to the Moon provides the answer: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway. You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it's not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth's circumference, you're seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.

3:06 AM and a particularly thick cloud obscures the Moon. I’ve always had rotten luck with regard to astronomical events. I can recall only two successful viewings: Comet Halley in 1986 and the Perseids in 1993.

3:17 AM, eclipse peak. The Moon, still demurely shrouded, has turned a quixotic shade of burnt umber. The moment was worth staying awake for.

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If you missed the event, you can view a slide show here.
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Television

The memory is fickle. We plod through life without ever fully realizing how much data our happy little brains record daily.


Case in point: Milky. I ran across an old TV commercial and found myself momentarily existing in a bygone era. Join me in the Way, Way Back Machine and I’ll take you on a ludicrous history lesson.

Television. It has been around for quite a long time, in one form or another.

Mechanical television dates back to Dr. Paul Nipkow’s 1884 laboratory and is practically useless until a handsome Scotsman by the name of John Logie Baird came along and invented his “televisor”. Ah, the first MTV.



The “televisor” was a cumbersome behemoth. It was housed in an enormous cabinet that contained not only a large incandescent bulb but also a massive spinning wheel. TV, you see, is based upon persistence-of-vision, an odd happenstance whereby the human eye can be tricked into believing an object is in motion simply because a series of slightly-varied still images has been presented rather quickly over a short period of time. The concept is best demonstrated by flip-books. If you can move the pages so that at least ten per second sweep past your eye, drawings on the pages will become animated. That is, your brain is tricked into thinking that the scene is moving.


Baird’s televisor produced a very blurred image that was a constant a strain on the eyes, and it never really caught on. Mechanical wheels were cumbersome. Bulbs were never bright enough. Viewing position (that little hole on the right side of the cabinet, by the way) was awkward. No, the future certainly was the electronic “television” and humanity embraced it with a passion.

Fast-forward to the early 1970’s. A young child sits in front of a massive Zennith floor model television. Her vantage point is no less than three feet away (because any closer will lead to blindness) and she is never permitted to lie on her back to watch (because that, too, will cause blindness) and her entire TV world exists on less than five channels (gasp!) which must be manually changed by turning a knob. The wooden television housing protects all the essential parts (tubes, diodes, weird humming bits that children should never touch) and weighs more than the child herself.

Flat screen? One could have a flat screen TV if one was stupid enough to climb the front of the cabinet, thus causing the entire thing to flip forward onto the person. Plasma was, of course, what you received at the hospital after your mother rescued you.


My 1970s TV-viewing experience was limited. My parents’ (boring) news and (boring) programs dominated the evening hours. Yes, there were some shared interests (Muppets, the occasional holiday special, M*A*S*H) but my TV Time primarily existed between 3-5 PM on weekdays and 7-noon on Saturday. Weekdays offered only one channel. Saturdays offered ABC, CBS and NBC.

All of these hours contained a mind-boggling array of cartoons. Each cartoon, with the exception of Bugs Bunny/Looney Toons and some anime, carried some sort of friendly message (oh my gosh – morals!) and was presented in crude motion. Smurfs, My Pretty Pony, Smurfs, G.I. Joe, Smurfs, He-Man, Smurfs and Care Bears rotted our brains.

Nickelodeon came along much later, by the way. It offered only a few hours of programming; the world was introduced to Slime.

Now that I think about it, many of the programs from my childhood seem to be making a comeback: A-Team, Speed Racer, Yogi Bear, Flintstones and so on. I suppose it will only be a matter of time before someone remakes those Smurfs into something appealingly modern.


I digress.

Accompanying this inane children’s programming was a plethora of bizarre commercials. Finally, we come back to Milky. You know, the commercial that I mentioned before we boarded the Way, Way Back Machine?

It looks harmless, doesn’t it? Would you like to see it in motion? Be sure to mute the music (upper right hand column) first.


This sort of asininity isn’t limited to one plastic bovine. Oh no. We had dozens of toys pimped by dozens of manufacturers. We also had “educational” toys. How many people know what a “Speak & Spell” is? (How many of us remember that voice?)

John Logie Baird could not have imagined the end results of his hard work. TV commercials have plagued us since Bulova spent a whopping $9 to run the very first ad in 1941 (on July 1, my birthday of all things.) Denmark’s national broadcasting corporation (Danmarks Radio) is the only place where, to my knowledge, you will not find commercials although you must pay for your annual license.

Alas, the Danes were forced to come up with their own live-action version of Milky.

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What's on TV tonight, dear?

ABC Family Worldwide Inc. has put forth their usual excellent holiday programming as well as a disparaging amount of pop sop, proving without a shadow of a doubt that a lot of asinine Christmas productions have been made for the sake of cheap entertainment.

Case in point for bad holiday programming: Christmas Cupid. As described by the IMDb, this pint-sized Dickens knock-off features Christina Milian and Ashley Benson. “Sloan [Milian] is beautiful, stylish, and on the fast track to success at her public relations firm. After her client Caitlin ends up in a coma and becomes her own personal ghost of Christmas past, present, and future; she finds out first hand that her unethical ways needs to change and reuniting with a past jilted lover may be the answer.”

Taped breasts and trendy costumes abound, to be sure. Perhaps it’s unethical that male viewers will recapture the same warm fuzzy holiday feeling that they first experienced while watching Milian perform in American Pie.  A comatose co-star just can’t cure that.

One of my favorite bits of holiday film dialog is from Scrooged, shared between network president Frank Cross and the visiting censor representative:

Frank Cross: I want to see her nipples.
Censor Lady: But this is a CHRISTMAS show.
Frank Cross: Well, I'm sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.
Carpenter: You can barely see them nipples.
Frank Cross: See? And these guys are REALLY looking.

I’m old-school. If you want to make a holiday movie for kids, be original. Avoid gaudy, for goodness sake.  And puppies. Santa Buddies? Please.

Want to step back in time? Quality holiday programming isn’t hard to come by. The Bishop’s Wife, White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life? Perfect. Cartoons? Try A Charlie Brown Christmas  or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Like Muppets? John Denver had a TV special called Rocky Mountain Christmas  that featured Valerie Harper, Steve Martin and the Muppets.

Iconic?  How about Rankin-Bass and their wooden models covered in fabric and fluff. Their stop-motion TV specials have delighted children for decades. Adults find them campy, clever or inane, depending upon whom you talk with. 


No matter what your children watch, take time out of your evening to join them.  Allow yourself to become lost in an inspirational program. Be a child again. Share your favorites here.
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With Christmas Around the Corner...

Has anyone noticed that…

My Thanksgiving “leaves” are still festooning my front door…

Plastic tubs brimming with jolly ornaments are cluttering up my dining room and pose a hazard to passersby…

The dogs are pooping little artificial tree “needles” because I haven’t vacuumed in a week…

Don ‘t worry, it won’t kill them. They’ve pooped worse.

Honestly.




Has anyone noticed that each passing year places more importance upon being the first in the family, on the block or at the office to decorate, shop, ship and send out cards?

Have you noticed how more significance is placed on banning nativities, posting anti-Christian billboards meant to dissuade “fellow atheists” from “believing” (their rebuttal, not mine) or how we are not to say “Merry Christmas” for fear of offending all those people that spend December 25 in a furious celebration, replete with Santa Claus and a Christmas dinner? Shame on those bad people.


For that matter, I couldn’t help but notice that my wonderful Wiccan, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim friends have all sent me online Christmas cards (I am so far behind that I haven’t dug out my own card list yet!) Have you ever wondered exactly who “Merry Christmas” is supposed to offend? I certainly have.

Happy Chanukah, by the way. Tonight is the final night and I have greatly enjoyed reading my friend Leslie’s daily updates (her kids had a good haul this year and we are all very pleased that her oldest son was asked to sing Haneirot Halalu last night. :::coughSENDVIDEOcough::: Thank you very much.)

She pointed out in a lengthy email that the "rebel atheists" don't seem to give much though towards banning “Jewish children’s brainwashing books”. These little novelties have wonderful titles such as The Runaway Dreidel and The Tie Man’s Miracle | A Chanukah Tale.

“Meh. Who would bother to do such a thing, I ask you? They have hutzpa, I’ll give them that. It’s the same, world-over. People like that are no good, and no good comes of them. Selfish me, me, me and myself, and I. You [Christians] say to them to give up being a shmok to be self-less. Big burden on them, I tell you. G-d forbid they give to the poor or take in orphans. So they get angry at Christians. Or maybe feel guilty. Feh. May they win the lottery and spend every last dime on a new lawn, and then may a thousand dogs escape from the shelter and make poo there.”

I love Leslie.
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Early Winter Thoughts


Winter’s first true snows have blanketed the yards in our neighborhood. Soft piles gently tuck withered mums and hostas in for a long nap as the ice incased twigs and branches overhead sing a tinkling lullaby. A parade of large flakes marches diagonally beyond my parlor windows, a lovely visual contrast to the warm red and green hues emanating from the room itself.

My holiday garlands are hanging as testament to the energy I had prior to Thanksgiving. The verve faded a week ago, no thanks to a bad bout of bronchitis, and my tree stands naked in the corner. I should make some effort to dust it. There are many other things that need attention.  I hope that the antibiotics kick in soon.
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Summer's End

The season is almost spent and I haven't done much of my usual blogging. I thought I'd add some photographs taken over the summer rather than trying to trace back through memories.


 
Hide and Seek Sweetness




 A mushroom in the tomato pot.



















Zephyr and Daddy















A butterfly visits the last blooms on the memosa


Elusive Hummingbird
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August Contemplation

A lonely flood bulb illuminates the worn concrete stairs that lead down into a jungle of cracking asphalt and unkempt grasses, casting the manicured lawn and planting beds into shadow beyond the green-wire dog fence. Moths pound themselves against the bulb in cadence with the chirping insects and late summer mating calls of amphibians shrouded by dense vegetation.

A spider descends from the top rails and dangles from a thin thread like a tiny moon irradiated by a 40 watt sun. It begins its work, casting off and connecting, weaving silken threads. Perhaps it’s an exercise in absolute futility – large insects tear through the tapestry with ease and a rate that outpaces the little spider’s spinning proficiency. A zealous katydid would send it spiraling into the unknown, cast off into the deep grasses far below, yet the spider continues its patient work.

I crack the seal on my can of ginger ale and Nutmeg’s overly-large ears perk at the soft hiss the carbonation escaping the can. She cocks her large head and arches an eyebrow.

She’s a coward, really. Her resounding German Shepherd bark should invoke visions of noble police dogs mauling the Michelin Man. Nutmeg wouldn’t maul in intruder. Quite the opposite: Nutmeg would insist that the intruder stroke her fur and, having failed to gain his affections, she would squat in my dining room and have a spite pee. Thus her bark is reserved for the Truly Dangerous Things in this world such as the sound of the doorbell from the television. She often hurls her bark towards the Invisible People that only the idiotic Pomeranian can see.

Truffle the Pomeranian, despite all her longing, has settled into her own misfortune within the vast confines of the Indoors. She glares at me through the storm door’s snot-frosted glass, behind which she has been banished to avoid the inevitable war between us: “Human, throw the ball or I will squeeze myself through the 2” opening under the back gate and have a stroll at my own leisure.”


I’m none too pleased with her after her rude display towards the air conditioner repairman today (yipping her head off and biting at his boot heels) but I grant her access to the deck. It’s only fair to allow her a moment of summer bliss. Sadly, and within a matter of seconds, the deck has become a crime scene. The patient spider is missing, its web is in strands and the Pomeranian is furiously chewing with full understanding that she needs to completely consume the contents of her mouth before I scrape them out with a finger.

I reprimand her, a quiet breath that comes out as “ruf’l” in my effort to keep the neighborhood asleep, and her bottle brush tail wags in time with her frantic jaw movement. I scoop her up and exile her to her comfortable prison once more.

There is something magical about late summer nights. I go outside when I can’t sleep. I sit and meditate, letting my mind explore. There’s little sense in tossing and turning in bed. And so, here I am, blogging my thoughts for a change. There is much going on in the world today and much going on in my world.

I turn the dogs out for a last call before finishing up my writing. The sounds haven’t changed and the ambiance is still beautiful. I pause as a white orb lowers itself by a string; the spider has survived the Pomeranian.
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Lesser Angle-winged Katydid

One more for the back porch collection:
Lesser Angle-winged Katydid - Microcentrum retinerve

She paid us a visit the other night.






















This clip is from Youtube. It captures the courtship song (it sounds like “katy did, katy didn’t” at a distance, hence their name) as well as the method used to create the sound. (Turn off the blog music by clicking on the Playlist at the top of this page.)

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I Will Survive

I haven’t bothered to write in a while. I attempted a few “fresh start” blogs but quickly gave up on them. The Bemused Muse was my identity (and already had a top-ranking place in Google for some asinine reason.)

I’m returning but I won’t promise sunshine and roses. I will be as politically and religiously unsympathetic as ever but I do promise to pepper those posts with scientific discoveries, introspection and the occasional “this was my day” entries. I don’t know if I will continue Sunday Scribblings (it became too much of a clique) and I don’t think I’ll participate in any photography boards.

My blogger name has returned (in part). I am fond of it. It is my inner being, a creature that seems to detach itself in order to find a glimmer of something (anything – hope, beauty or amusement) in the mundane aspects of daily living. Perhaps I have finally gone wonkers and suffer from a split personality (how sad, considering that Autrice never leaves a Christmas prezzie under the tree for me.)

I have had a few hard, bitter years as evident by how my post frequency and subject matter tapered off. I feel like a grizzled veteran crawling out of a shit- and gore-filled fox hole. The bullets still fly but really, darlings, I don’t give a damn anymore.

Ahem…

I’ll address the family, colleague and relationships farcicality once and only once and then, darlings, I’ll never address it again. It is with every last bit of inescapable antipathy, I say this:

Thank you for being what you are. It makes me appreciate the good people in this world. In the words of Gloria Gaynor (minus the hot pants and roller skates), “I will survive”.





Isn’t she adorable?

I do have some wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins that are exempt from the above statement. Better Half’s family is complete exempt, of course, as are my lovely parents.
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Prompt Writes: love


A simple drop in a still pond,

unfurling ripples in satin slips

scattering water bugs

and bringing disorder to what was so orderly prior.


This drop,

this sudden onslaught,

welcomed and cherished, ripples ever onward.


I stop.
I consider.
I remember a time before,

way back before,

when it was only water bugs and stillness.


This drop you brought,

tender in its path but often disturbing of the surface -

joyful drop,
painful drop,
heavenly drop,
comforting drop,
adventurous drop.


I watch the pattern unfold.
My heart is glad.
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Living Room Update

I haven't had time to blog. I barely had time to take photographs this week (and I won't have time to sort the pictures and post them.)

The new furniture arrived this week. It's very comfortable, fills the living room, and creates a cozy atmosphere. I finished painting the walls in the nick of time. Sadly, my flash turns the wall color into a strange pea-green haze.

We've had our fill of snow. It's still snowing. It will continue to snow into next week. We are willing to sell our snow to BC, if they would be so kind as to come pick it up. The Olympics desperately needs it.

I'm much too tired to post an in-depth blog entry. Here are some pictures for the family:

Painting like mad on Superbowl Sunday.
It's wet and rather Kermit the Frog in colour.




The furniture goes in.
(Note the dog toy. Truffle wanted to help decorate.)





Truffle.





The flash has turned the carpet pink and the walls a different shade.




This is much darker, but truer to the actual shade.




Yes, the shades are dark. I love colour. I hate bland. The living room is a deep olive. The hall is a complimentary golden tan. The dining is a stern red. The kitchen is horrid, with apple wallpaper and tacky bead board - we will eventually remedy that. The ceiling is bright white in all the rooms. I have picked a softer off-white colour that will tie things together more smoothly. Of course, I'm in no position to work on ceilings at this point.
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More Snow

Water melting from the upper branches of the maple tree:
it froze during a sudden drop in temperature, making this lovely sculpture.




Deep drifts. We've run out of places to put the snow.
Getting in and out of our drive is difficult.





More deep snow. Note the downstairs windows on the neighbor's brick house.




Deadly icicles! These hang from the gutter above the bathroom window.


Pictures taken 11 Feb 2010.
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Prompt Writes: Bud

Crocus bud
Nubile wisp
Seeking light
Finding cold mantle
And hesitating
Just below
Before bursting
Past snow
Past ice
As courage
softly leads
Sweet elegance
To wilting,
Bitter death.
Alas! Mourn
This crocus
A spring
Harbinger wasted

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Snow Weasels

A glimpse of the snow weasels:



video




video
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Back East Ohio Snow | Day One

It is the kind of winter where clear and snowless days are a rarity to be marveled at. The most recent round of snow rolled in hours ago and every last thing outside my windows has been obscured by heavy silver and blue drapery carelessly tossed to the ground by an irresponsible giantess cloth monger.

The conquering flakes have invaded as swiftly and silently as a mythical army; even the tree branches bows towards the earth in humble protest of their combined weight. It is a siege and we are the hapless townsfolk.

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Captured images of my Weather Channel desktop.




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Nutmeg is far too big to be bothered by the light stuff. She runs into trouble around 10:30 PM, when the snow becomes think and difficult to transverse.





These views are important. The first is a glimpse out of the bathroom window. It is the beginning of the siege.





The freshly shoveled driveway





The same view, two hours later.






The snow is almost too deep for the small dogs. They bound around in it, looking like fuzzy snow weasels. Truffle, the Pomeranian, collect snow balls on her underside. She does not like them removed - she saves them for later, and snacks on them as they melt. Piper, the Chihuahua mix, loves the cold.





The bird feeder, groaning under the weight.

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Smelting!

Smelts: sweet and succulent Osmeridae that gaily don their egg-and-flour bathing suits before easing into a Jacuzzi of hot oil; in the hands of a Greek or Southern person, they are utterly orgasmic to the palate.

What is smelt? They are popular little fish found in the Great Lakes region and a staple here.

Of course, they are best when they are served at festivals: This is Piper when she was eight weeks old, in my small camera bag. The smelts are in the container next to her.


Fish does not last long in this house. Jeff (my fearless Better Half) had them dipped, cooked and patted dry in record time tonight; the Fish Prowler of Pembroke, made short work of them. (Okay, not all of them. A huge container beckons to me from the refrigerator but I am ignoring it.)


Getting onto a new (yet smelt-related) tangent:

Jeff and I worked in animal husbandry at the Colorado Ocean Journey Aquarium years ago (before they were taken over and reorganized into the Downtown Aquarium – and before they went wickedly commercial with Landry’s.) Smelts were a staple for the otters.

There is nothing quite like hauling yourself down the back passageways of an aquarium at 4 AM, the heavy smell of fish mixing with Clorox bleach (kitchen cleaning) as you shuffle towards your department. We had a variety of shore and tropical birds, reptiles and amphibians, two tigers and two different species of otter.

Squid and smelts are otter food, as I said. I can not eat a smelt without thinking of Gunny (my favorite northern river otter) and Gracie (the sea otter.) The tigers preferred horse meat, which has a distinctly pungent smell. I always brought in coffee and sipped it throughout the morning, and so I still associate the beverage with horseflesh and Sumatran tigers.

The animals learned to distinguish our polo shirts from those of the tour guides and tourists. We’d stroll down the paths (the aquarium was divided up differently back then) and the animals would see us and surmise that a meal was on the way (which is was not!) They became lively, which pleased the visitors. (They were fed away from public view, using a target method that allowed for routine examination and behavior reinforcement. Small bits of food were placed in their enclosures as enrichment.)

Blah blah, yadda blah. The snow outside had coupled with the smelts, spawning a senseless desire to reminisce.



Meanwhile, this poor woman contemplates the empty plate in front of her. What a pity that she arrived late to dinner. Had she but known that I was ravenous after rearranging my living room (new couches arrive on Monday), she would have come early and avoided the carnage.
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