Monday, June 30, 2008

Too many pastas to choose from and you can't have them all--see The Traveled Mind to read about which one I finally picked.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Open Your Being

Watercolor Mary
Orta San Giulio, Italy
June 2008

Click here to be taken to the travel post.

Friday, June 20, 2008

AFTER, part I

So Billy and Billy trucked our 30 shelves outside to the patio and laid them out on cloth-covered tables and began to paint. We're currently having a too-early beginning of summer, with heat in the 100s in the daytime. They'd roll and brush the paint on, move the table out to the sun to get the paint to harden, then bring in the shelves inside.

Billy, the Painter and his son, Billy the painter

We painted the fireplace too--it was looking a little shabby. Now our house looks like Billys the painter--all dressed in white.

The end of the second day and shelves everywhere!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Today's Big Surprise

I cleaned out the refrigerator.

Just kidding. Here's another BEFORE picture, all book cases gone, the speaker wires strung up in the ceiling, ceiling patched.

I had hired an electrician (Harry--not his real name) to run the stereo wires in the ceiling. Harry showed up, said he could do it and he'd see me the next day. He showed up at 9-ish, and we agreed to an hourly rate of 65 bucks.

I'm definitely in the wrong business. I think I make about half that as an adjunct teacher and they only pay me for classroom time--the grading and bookkeeping is all bonus--making my hourly wage about $2.50. Okay, so I got over my freaking out and he started.

Started to talk, that is.

We chatted about the recent election (luckily The Shyster got skunked and the Good Guy won), his college-bound children, his neighbors and I'm thinking, Stop chatting, start working. I figure if I'm paying him by the job--hey! I'll chat all day, even fix him lunch. But if I'm paying by the hour--work AND talk.

He put a ladder up. I pretended I had to clean out the garage (which I was doing, sort of) and exited.

I heard some drilling. So far--it's been an hour. Cha-ching! sixty-five bucks.

He came out. I've run into a little problem, he said. Instead of just drywall on your kitchen soffit, there's another two-by up there. They must have run the beam (and he gestures) this way, instead of (gesture) that way.

I follow him in to the house and sure enough, there's a nice round 4" disc of drywall cut out of my kitchen soffit (or dropped ceiling). Chit-chat-chit-chat. Continue. I exit to the garage.

More drilling. Stop. More drilling.

He came out. I've run into a little problem, he said. Instead of just one beam behind your kitchen soffit, there's another two-by up there. They must have run the beam (and he gestures) doubled up, instead of (gesture) single.

I follow him in to the house and sure enough, there's a nice round 4" disc of wood cut out of my kitchen soffit (or dropped ceiling). Chit-chat-chit-chat. Continue. I exit to the garage, a little more freaking out. I continue to shred old bills.

More drilling. Cha-ching! We're at two hours and not one wire has been run. I decide I'm done.

I go in. It was a bad idea of mine, I offer. Let's stop here. We'll just use molding or something if my house is so crazily built (and I'm thinking, why didn't you just try the ceiling approach like we'd talked about?)

I've never been pulled off a job before, he said.
It was just a bad idea of mine, I said.
He offered to glue the wooden plug back in the hole.
Sounds great, I said. Thanks very much, I reiterated.

I won't tell you what I was thinking.

As he packed up, he said he wouldn't charge me. Yet knowing how small of a circle these guys run in--no, I said, let's split it. So then I had a sixty-five dollar hole in my kitchen.

I call Phil (my handyman--his real name). He comes out the next Wednesday morning, runs two stereo wires, AND puts up a speaker for me: 2 hours. I like Phil very much. Russ, the drywall guy comes out that afternoon, and patches the holes. Russ has drywall skills like no one else. He also has cottage-cheese-ceiling-patching skills like no one else.

Dave, the professor, paints the ceiling on Saturday while I sand and touch up the kitchen cabinets.

We take out all the stereo stuff Monday morning, as well as the coffee table and the rug. With everything out, I remembered how much I like these floors we had done two years ago. Here's a photo.

Monday about 9-ish, Steve and his assistant, Craig (in the red shirt), arrive.
YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!
They bring in these little boxes that are the support and level for the bookcases.

They level them, nail and screw them together.

First "box" in. The front face has a lower flange that covers these support frames on the floor.

Steve sands off some of the edge of the right-hand cabinet to fit tightly against the fireplace wall.

Third box in.


And the last box is in. It will hold the television, three speakers and has six drawers below the TV place. He then spends a lot of time screwing the boxes into the studs and to each other.

Steve, the brilliant cabinet-bookcase-builder guy. I really liked working with him, and his skills are really amazing. He can figure anything out, like how to run stereo wires behind a cabinet and how to get everything to fit like a puzzle.
That night, I sit on the sofa and admire his work.

Tuesday he came back in the afternoon and put the trim on the base and molding on the top.

Our shelves are stacked up on the floor--we have lots.

This morning, Billy the Painter arrived along with his son, Billy the Painter. They're both dressed in white.

That's all so far!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Two exciting things are happening. First off, is the culmination of two years of ruminations in the installation of the bookcases in our family room. Here's two BEFORE photos and I'll post AFTER pictures after the painter's finished on Friday morning.

All the junk is packed up in boxes in our dining room, and you're NOT getting photos of that room.

Secondly is our upcoming trip to Europe. I've crafted a blog (click on photo below, or head to where I'll post our trip info--hopefully I'll get at last one photo per day put up on the web (an idea stolen from sister Christine when she went to Israel--the group selected a Photo of the Day to post). Unlike Lyon (posts begin here), I hope to be too busy to post much until after I return.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I smiled and laughed during my sister's recent interview on the NPR radio show "On Point." She talked with the host about her new book, "Are We There Yet?"

It was fun to hear people's memories of their car travel trips.

If you have a hard time hearing it with their Real Audio or Windows Media, click on their podcast menu, and listen to the interview through iTunes.

Her book was just published by the University Press of Kansas. Head to for your copy.

I was happy to be beside her in some of our best memories--family vacations--especially the one where we played cards non-stop in the back of the borrowed camper while driving through Yellowstone.
Although it's a little late, here's video that makes me laugh every time.

Happy Mother's and Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Elizabethan Report Card

A Day in the Life, well, a Couple of Days & One Snarky Moment in the Life

With a one day's notice, we hosted Dave's niece and her 4-member band, The Elizabethan Report, these past two days. Dave never saw his niece, given the schedules of the band (in at 2:30 a.m., up around mid-morning, rev up around mid-afternoon). They're on their summer tour. If you click on the band name above, you can read their blog.

The first morning, I tip-toed around the sleeping band members, deferring all my noisy tasks until they awoke. As I had an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar at 11, so left before I saw the whites of their eyes (well, I did see Hillery's as she emerged sleepily from the bedroom as I was leaving).

The iBook (my grad notebook) died. An old friend of my son's, Justin, who is an Apple Genius In Training, diagnosed it, and we checked it into Apple's Hospital. He was most helpful and we chewed over old times while watching the poor little notebook slowly shut down.

Upon my return home, The Elizabethan Report was up, except for one dark-haired fellow still asleep on the living room floor (turns out it's Aaron, the drummer) and I met them all. Very nice people. I'm sure I look nearly a thousand years old to them and they lump me in the generational category of Looks Like My Mother. We exchange some pleasantries, especially after I give them my code to our wireless network. No, they wouldn't care for any lunch as they just had breakfast.

I had some phone calls to make and after the band took off, I did more errands as we're trying to get ready for our lengthy trip to Europe (leave next weekend) and we're having The Bookcases installed (Monday through Thursday). This is Dave's finals week and he's been correcting homework, giving finals, juggling Student Seminar Days, attending to all things UCR. You could say we're a bit stressed.

Miss Marple from Netflix was a fitting end to our day. Dave slept through it, and I was engaged by the mystery. I awoke at 3 a.m.--lights on downstairs. Dave awoke at 4 a.m.--lights still on in the guest bedroom. Dave and I traded notes on our early-morning walk. Dave took off to give his final (8 a.m.) and I had a 9 a.m. hair appointment, followed by a trip to AAA (Int'l Driver's License), Hillmer's Luggage (the OTHER plug adapter for Great Britain), laundry soap from Costco, paint supplies from Home Depot (tomorrow's job: painting the ceiling patches).

When I arrived home at 1:15 p.m., the band was gone. I went upstairs to send an email and found all sorts of Google and blog windows open on our computer, and the printer blinking.

I stripped three beds, collected five towels from the bathroom, gathered the bedding from two sofas downstairs while I worked out my feeling about what I read on their blog.

Aaron (the drummer) had posted a picture of the funky shower sign I put up 12 years ago (and quite frankly, had forgotten about).

I had posted this to remind my children to clean up after themselves as well as to counteract a poorly installed tub. It went up after we had recaulked the tub multiple times. The drummer gave his commentary on this, complete with further reactions of "furrowed brows." I sent the blog link to Dave. We thought it was interesting that he never mentioned the free food, clean beds and towels, free showers and WiFi, free use of our personal computer and printer. He noted only our quirky admonishment about shower moisture.

Like I said, we fall into the generation of Looks Like My Mother. Hope their next house is more to their liking.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mark Bittman says that the world consumes one billion bottles/cans of Coke in a day. He also gives a brief history of how our food habits have changed how we eat.


If the link below chooses to work today, you can click on it. Otherwise, click on his name, above.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Great Peter and The Ormerod

I have been waking up too early these past few days, combing emails for the confirmations for our lodgings for our next trip abroad. After going through those, as the daylight lightens the sky, I link around the web. Today, in my early-morning haze, I read about the York Minster bell-ringers and their Tuesday evening practices for their Sunday morning services.

York Minster's bells (click *here* for a listen) are in two places: the south-west tower contains the main ringing peal of 14 bells and the north-west tower contains the clock bells. The clock bells are comprised of the quarter bells, which are a set of six hung rigidly and struck with electro-magnetic hammers, and 'Great Peter', the hour and bourdon bell.

In the picture below, Great Peter is being tuned at the foundry in 1845. According to their website, "the hours [are] struck on Great Peter."

The chiming bells were purchased second-hand from St Mary's Church, Nelson, Lancashire, after the church was closed, and each bell has a silent inscription.

The name of the bell is first, then in caps is the inscription. As I glanced over the list (at the end of this post), I was intrigued by who donated the bell to that earlier Lancashire church. A few were named (Omerod, Townsmen's, Walton, Prosperity) and all had words of praise for the Almighty: We Call Upon Thee, We Adore Thee, We Give Thanks to Thee, as if the bells themselves would act as individual prayers.

I like to think that this was town project--the church ladies collecting coins from passersby, a special donation basket on Sunday mornings, perhaps the properly busy wife of the mayor buttonholing her husband to buttonhole the other mayors to give up a few pounds for the bells. The children could give a few pence for their bell as well. The mill workers, spinning their threads might have given up some tobacco money occasionally, or forgo one round at the local pub in order to donate as well.

And then, how did they feel as they heard the new bells around the town?

The bell ringers, dressed in red vests and pressed white shirts, would slowly begin by tugging on the cords, working it down and up and down until the bell lifted them off their feet, the sound falling on them and on the entire town.

The church woman in her home would hurry her children to get ready for service. The textile worker, reading his paper, allowed a faint smile to rise at the corner of his mouth. The mayor's wife looked in the mirror, adjusted her hat, and took His Honor the Mayor's arm as they strolled to church.

The children, once they had grown, would tell their children about the time they had given up their penny candy money to help buy those bells.

I guess I have no idea how they would feel.

I guess I think most about John Omerod and his wife Ann Omerod, and her giving money for that tenor bell. Maybe her husband was one of the tradesmen who did well, or maybe he was the owner of the local textile factory, or maybe it wasn't about him, but about her.

Perhaps she became one of those quiet Victorian widows who saved every last penny and shilling, living out her widowhood in slowly decaying black satins and taffetas, writing in careful Spencerian script her last wishes, the vision of the bells hatched while she was yet alive, but the casting at the foundry happening after her death.

Or maybe she was a vibrant woman with a passel of children and wanted them to have something tangible to remind them of their father, her husband.

What grand visions do we give to now? And where do we leave our silent inscriptions? The only grand visions I had were long ago, to have children and raise a family, to marry Dave. Sometimes I look at my life and think it so quiet, so invisible, so silent. What will remain?

Since I'm fully in English mode, from Confessing Evangelical blog comes this quote:

To those who know a little of christian history probably the most moving of all reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well-remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her own individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves - and sins and temptations and prayers - once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now.

They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men. Yet each of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped . . . and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew - just as really and pathetically as I do these things.

There is a little ill-spelled ill-carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor: “Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much.”

I'm fairly certain that when I hear the bells in York Minster, I won't be able to distinguish the Omerod bell from the others. It's only in a chorus of sound and prayer that they--these individual bells--make their impact.

The Chiming Bells of York Minster
Extra Treble








Sharp 7th





Note: If you want to hear a break-out of the bell ringing patterns, head to The York Minster Society of Change Ringers and click on the MP3 files one by one. One of my favorites is the Plain Bob Triples.
In reading about York and its events for July, I noticed that The Great Yorkshire Show will be happening. The list of events is riveting, including a Fashion Show, complete with tractors. That's what I like about England: true to its roots. And fields. And livestock.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cute Kids!

Monday, June 02, 2008

While in Utah, my father showed me an article reviewing Jill Bolte Taylor's new book. In this article, it mentioned she had done a TED talk, so we immediately pulled it up on the web. She'd even brought a few visual aids to illustrate her talk. (See the video below to see what I'm referring to; then head to for more great talks. Or you can click *here* to be taken directly to her talk on

After watching, my father and I discussed the video, creativity, nirvana, the seeming dissolution of boundaries between life and energy, all while he fixed a mango, the knife cutting, slicing and cubing sweet pieces of fruit.

The hands busy, the mind at work.

Does my father also seek that balance that I struggle to find? The see-saw between right brain/left brain, time for creativity, time for reality and how to move between the two parts in order to forge a whole? It sounds so lofty, but this tension sometimes clouds the clearheadedness I try to find. It was strangely comforting to know that it was still part of his life's work, although I think he's more settled than I am, with his studio and painting and the sheer joy of creativity. I seem to slog (by choice, I must admit) through grading, detritus and minutia.

In conjunction with this talk, I read the review of Sex and the City in the Los Angeles Times, and it lauded the movie for celebrating the 50th birthday of the one of the characters, saying that the film had transcended their earlier niche and really moved ahead to capture a "real" woman's life, as if it was the birthday number that was significant rather than the growth of the person who is attached to that number. (I guess, for Hollywood, acknowledging that anyone is over 30 is a big deal.) The reviewer did nail that idea to the wall, saying that in spite of the glamorous clothes and the fabulous real estate they do tackle weightier issues. I wonder though, if those women, even if older, have changed. Or do the same things still satisfy them at fifty that intrigued them in their earlier years: clothes, shoes, revolving relationships?

Another facet of growing older is the letting go. (I know you'd never know this by looking at my garage, but the cleaning out is currently underway.) My brother-in-law and I were discussing Steven Covey's mantra to be proactive. Dan made the comment that it meant you had to have an opinion about everything, make a decision about everything, charge ahead in every area of life, never trusting that it might all work out, after all. I said that being "proactive" was great if you were in your thirties and forties. I do think that the cliches and sayings that I once embraced (that Striving for Excellence business) are now like too-tight shoes: they don't fit.

And unlike the Sex and the City women, or a brain scientist like Ms. Taylor, or a time guru like Covey, who seemingly have all the answers, I'll need to keep at it.

Like these fellows.