Saturday, December 22, 2007

Costumes, Dancing, Great Interiors....

Absolutely not to be missed this Spring, new BBC adaptations of Jane Austen's works on Masterpiece Theatre:
Persuasion: Jan 16
Northanger Abbey: Jan 20
Mansfield Park: Jan 27
Pride and Prejudice: Feb 10 to Feb 24
Emma: March 23
Sense and Sensibility: March 30 and April 6

However, notwithstanding costumes,dancing,interiors etc. nothing would induce me to watch:
Miss Austen Regrets, a drama based on the life of Jane Austen. Feb 3

Friday, December 21, 2007

Snow, snow, tra la la

Ipswich is at its most beautiful today. We had several more inches of snow yesterday, and today, no wind or sun, so everything has remained blanketed by snow. Sheba and I walked at Appleton Farm late this afternoon. Our usual trail had ski tracks on it and the snow was high enough that it was a little difficult to walk - better for skiers or snow-shoers than for walkers.

Everything was in monochrome, black and white. Looking over the fields from the top of the hill, the sky shaded from a medium grey behind the trees to lighter greys as you looked up. There was the slightest hint of pink at the crest of the sky.

Apart from the noise we made walking, it was completely silent.

The town was lovely, too. It's very common for houses here to have candles in the windows at Christmas. The town looks wonderful at twilight - houses with candles lighting the windows and everything - houses and gardens - covered in snow.

Picture by COG, of course.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy News

Not a great picture, but the only one we could find of Daughter of .... and her new fiance, hereafter called 'Fiance of the Daughter of...'

Congratulations, Kids, the COG and The Bride of COG are very happy for you.

(By the way, the COG took the Son of COG out of this picture with photoshop).

Oh happy the lily that's kissed by the bee....

I've been reading the words to Ruddigore online. Especially the Finale for Act 1, where the casts sings Hail the Bride of Seventeen Summers. It's such a funny song. Here is Rose, who wants to be a bride, singing to Richard, who has just made her marriage to Robin impossible.

Richard, of him I love bereft,
Through thy design,
Thou art the only one that's left,
So I am thine!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Bride Makes An Old Family Recipe

After shoveling snow in the rain with the COG and The Son of, The Bride made potato soup, by an old family recipe. The Bride's mother must have made it at least once in these circumstances, because The Bride has a strong association between shoveling snow, and then eating Potato Soup.

In The Bride's mind, of course, this has a mythic quality: The warm family kitchen, the creamy soup with patches of yellow from the quantitites of butter used in the soup, the faint brown sprinkles of celery salt on the top. Also, in memory, The Bride's mother always, without fail, made the soup after shoveling snow.

The Bride would normally never dream of using celery salt and The Kitchen Police (aka The COG and The Son of) would normally protest. But for this one recipe, it is necessary.

Naming Sisters

The Bride has been adding labels to her blogs and has encountered a problem. There are two Sisters of The Bride and they are both important to her. She does not want to name them Sister #1 and Sister #2. If you don't immediately understand why, then you do not have siblings.

Younger and Youngest don't appeal either, because The Bride doesn't need to be reminded who is the oldest.

So, henceforth, Sister Pink refers to the Midwestern Sister (because she looks pretty in it) and Sister May refers to the Western Sister (because she was born then and the colors she looks pretty in don't work). Sister Rust? Sister Dark Bluey-Green? I think not.

The Bride also has two brothers, but she will cross that bridge when she comes to it.

Snow, Beautiful Snow

We awoke this morning to a beautiful, proper snow storm. Son of COG tried to go skiing but announced, coming back into the house, that it was too windy to ski. There are wonderful big drifts around fences and walls and big trees. The Bride, reveling in memories of the wonderful snowstorms of her Northern childhood, feels quite cheerful and is humming winter songs.

The COG, on the other hand, is walking around the house, peering out of windows and muttering under his breath about when to get up the snow. For, as it so often does here, near the ocean, the snow is already turning to rain. Clearing the drive too soon will result in a drive coated with ice. Too late, and the snow will have an impermeable crust of ice - too heavy for the snowblower. At exactly the right moment, the snow will have been a sponge, holding the frozen rain so that after snowblowing, the drive will be washed clean by rain.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More on Yellow Paint

The colors of the yellow paints in my experimental wall are: Lemon Drop, Morning Sunshine, Hawthorne Yellow, Barley, Philadeliphia Cream, unknown dining room color, and Jonquil, and the yellow ochre. Based on name alone, I want Morning Sunshine, which is second from the left. Lemon Drop is underneath the dining room color next to the window. I still have one more color to try, as soon as I buy a test pot - Crowne Hill Yellow. All of these are Benjamin Moore colors, of course, except Jonquil which is SPNEA color.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Bride Considers Yellow Paint

The Bride is trying to decide on a paint color for the guest room. Yellow, because the room is North-facing and cold, and because the Bride loves yellow. However, it must go with the red toile fabric she has already purchased.

The yellow on the extreme left is an historic color, Hawthorne yellow which is a favorite of the Bride's. The very intense one at the top is actually watered down yellow ochre acrylic paint. The top one right next to the toile is the color of the dining room. Unfortunately, the Bride can't remember what color it is or where it was purchased.

There are more yellows on the other side of the window, but this side is the best.

Decisions decisions. It's never easy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Couch

To go with the big tv, we now have a big couch. The tv room has become the most comfortable in the house.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Bride Has A Birthday

The COG cooked Meatballs and Spaghetti, always the Bride's favorite birthday meal. The Son of COG made a Chocolate Souffle, shown here. Divine!

The Bride received a new 3d gen Nano, named Dulcibella, so adorable and tiny. And a new large screen to use with her laptop computer, named Bluebell.

The Bride will have to wean herself from Annabelle, her old ipod, which feels more like a pet, than technology. It will be wrenching.

Why why why does the Bride never learn not to name things?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Movies Movies Movies

We've been watching dvd's on the new tv with the new dvd player. It's not a hd dvd, but it enhances the dvd's in some way and there's a new sound system which is completely awesome. Much better than our old one. We watched the latest Pride and Prejudice and Master and Commander and part of LOTR. This latter reminded James of an hilarious French and Saunders skit. I've youtubed it here so you can see it too.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Deep Thoughts - On the Nature of Hell

This afternoon, the COG and I drove through Boston to the south shore. We spent a very long time in start-and-stop traffic in a tunnel that seemed to go on forever. I said to the COG, 'We're in Hell. This is what Hell is like: not a blade of grass anywhere, no birds, just polluted air and big cars whose drivers have road rage. Maybe we had an accident back there and we're really dead and in Hell'

He agreed that it was, indeed, his Hell.

Then we saw the light at the end of the tunnel and we rejoiced.

However, when we got to the end of the tunnel it was snowing hard. Visibility was bad, the road was slippery and all those angry, aggressive drivers were fighting to merge into 2 lanes from 3.

That was the perfect touch to complete the vision of Hell, making it even more hellacious. That little period of hope, of optimism when we saw the light, followed by the crushing of that faint hope under snow and road rage.

In the end, as it turned out, we weren't in Hell after all, but simply on the road to Ikea. We had a nice meal, bought some furniture and came home safe and sound.

I think that Hell, for me, would be a featureless filthy place created by human technology, with nothing of nature about it. Oh, and cold. It would be cold.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tantric Chanting Performance

The COG is up to his old tricks again. For several years, he has used a cd of birdsong and rain as his morning alarm. It's really lovely. This morning, he surprised me at 6 am with a cd of chanting Tantric monks and temple bells. I mentioned it to him this evening and all he said was, 'I didn't think you'd noticed. It was so quiet.'

Strangely, I didn't find it that quiet.

Ignore the initial noise, the chanting really doesn't get rolling until about 10 seconds in.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Large tv - update

To answer various questions. Yes, the tv can be wall mounted, but we will have that done professionally, once we are fully up and running.

We have ordered a new TiVo, but not received it yet. We also don't have the right cable box for receiving HDTV, although our service includes it. Once the TiVo arrives, we have to make a service call to get them to install the cable cards (they won't let us do it).

We have also ordered a new sound system, which includes a dvd player. We don't know what to do with the vcr, possibly will attach it to the old tv somewhere else in the house, along with the old dvd player.

Haven't tried Animal Planet, but we have plans to get the David Attenborough, Planet Earth from Netflix for Christmas watching. The American version had a voice over by Sigourney Weaver. We prefer the Attenborough one. I have no idea why they changed it for the USA.

Decorating shows are a little weird, as the people and furniture are actually larger than life. But weird in a good way. I'm looking forward to HDHGTV.

My worst fear, that it would be impossible to watch because of the size, was not realized at all. The picture is good, even on the non-HD programs. the celery makes a music on my spirit, too.

(apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Yes, the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra plays music on vegetables, and only on vegetables. I found them through following a link from The Thoughtful Dresser, where she commented that this was the way the earliest people began to make music.

Weird but wonderful.

6:30am Dec 3 - First Snow!

The view from our bedroom when I woke this morning.

Quarante-quatre (44) Update

In October, I made Forty-Four (1 orange studded with 44 coffee, left to mature in vodka with 44 sugar cubes for 44 days). It's done.

The first picture shows the brew before we filtered it through a coffee filter. I've put it on white paper to show the wonderful color.

The second picture shows it after decanting, before drinking. This time it's less sweet and more spicy than previous versions, so it's even better than before. It will continue to mature as it sits.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Happy Anniversary, COG!

The Geezer and I are celebrating our 35th anniversary today, each in our separate ways. He's been at work all day. I have wasted the entire day watching our new 52 inch flat screen tv.

Although the bottom picture may be a more accurate representation.

Who knew?

Did you know there is a place called Minneapolis, North Carolina?

Now I know why the weather forecasts on my dashboard for Minneapolis were so puzzling. Today, for example, my forecast said in the 50's and clear, despite complaints from family members and in the news about snow and ice storms in the midwest.

Apparently there's a Minneapolis in Kansas, too.

Friday, November 30, 2007

An Outing

Today the Geezer and I took Sheba to Halibut Point for walkies. The Geezer wanted to try out his new camera. Sheba and I just wanted to walk.

We saw a flock of Harlequin Ducks. (The picture is from the internet). They were floating in the sea, diving, and standing on tiptoes in the water, flapping their wings.

It's called Halibut Point because it's the place where sailors used to tack out (haul about) to avoid Cape Ann. Not because of the fish.

It was very clear and we could see the Isles of Shoals in the distance.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Deck the Halls

Here in all their glory are the excellent door wreaths sent by Daughter of COG. Plus, some greenery added to the planters, by The Bride.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Bread and the Pie alluded to in an earlier post

COG and Son of COG had already helped themselves to bread. I'm told it's a particularly nice loaf. Probably due to rising overnight in the fridge.

Things I'll never understand: #1

This lovely colonial house (built in the mid 18th century) has always been one of my favorites. It's in a lovely setting on a quiet road.

It was yellow with black shutters. Imagine it with the autumn foliage around it.

But they've just painted it white.

White! Why would anyone paint a house like this white when there are so many historic colors to choose from.

I'm hoping it's just primer and they'll repaint it yellow. But I fear it's not so.

Thanksgiving Morning

The bread is rising and the pie is in the oven so Sheba and I had a little walk. It's mild and rainy this morning and supposed to get to 60 this afternoon.

It has been an unusually beautiful autumn. The colors aren't as intense as some years, but the leaves have stayed on the trees longer than usual. Many trees are bare,but there are still wonderful golden leaves in the undergrowth, as well as overhead. On many of the narrow back roads, the trees form a golden arch over you. When the sun shines through it makes one think of Lothlorien. But even in the rain it's lovely.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wardrobe Science: Attention All Men, don't bother to read this.

On the plane home from Minnesota, I spent some time analyzing the 48 piece wardrobe shown in the latest Lucky magazine. 48 pieces that will keep you dressed in a different outfit each day for about a month.

Because I am a trained researcher, I performed a scientific analysis of the pieces in the article. Sister of The Bride suggested that I blog it as a way of saving it. So here goes:

First, there are really only 19 pieces of clothing, 6 pairs of shoes, and the remaining 20+ items are other accessories.

The wardrobe is based on neutral colors plus one bright color. The neutral colors are in three shades - light, medium, and dark - and they have different textures. Because they are all neutrals, you don't need to limit yourself to one color family, just be sure to have darks, mediums and lights and a variety of textures to make them more interesting. In addition, you need one bright - like red, orange, pink, bright green, whatever - that goes with all of the neutrals.

The Pieces:

Bottoms (6)
1 sleeveless form fitting dress in a textured dark neutral fabric that can be worn alone, or with a jacket or a top so it doubles as a skirt.
1 dark neutral skirt (in the article this was a strapless dress, but really, that is sooo not going to happen at my age)
1 dark neutral dressy trousers
1 light neutral textured trousers
1 pr jeans
1 light neutral print skirt

Tops (9):
1 dark neutral v-neck sweater
1 bright colored solid dress that can be worn as a tunic over pants, tucked in, or as a dress.
1 light neutral cardigan
1 light neutral tank that can be worn over blouses as a vest, or alone as a sleeveless top
1 printed blouse in your dark neutrals that can be worn tucked in or out.
1 medium neutral shell (sleeveless top)
1 dark neutral shell (sleeveless top)
1 medium neutral silk-y blouse
1 white cotton shirt

Jackets/Coats (3 or 4, depending on the shrug):
1 dark neutral jacket
1 dark neutral textured blazer
1 medium neutral coat
(1 faux fur shrug)(in parentheses because I'd never buy one) (But you could substitute some kind of dressy jackety thing)

Shoes (6 pairs):
1 dark neutral knee high boots
1 dark neutral high heels (dressy)
1 medium neutral medium heels (work)
1 light neutral heels
1 bright heels
1 medium neutral flats

Bags (3):
1 metallic for dressy
1 light neutral shoulder bag
1 dark neutral big satchel type bag

Jewelry (7 pieces):
2 necklaces in neutral metals that go with the neutral colors you've chosen
1 necklace with bright color in it
3 bracelets, 1 with bright color in it.
1 watch

Other Accessories (which I didn't analyze these because I wasn't very interested in them. I mean even a Scientific analysis has to stop somewhere.)

4 belts -
3 scarves -
5 pr hose (different textures in dark neutrals from dressy to casual)

How does anyone get through life without a sister?

We are off to get Kate a haircut, then spend the day walking the streets of Salem. It occurred to me in a flash of ecstasy last night that, with a sister, I could spend all day visiting old houses and even a reproduction of an 18th century India merchant ship, without worrying. A sister can keep up with me and enter into every passing house/O'Brian/dish/glassware thought with no problems at all.

I have gotten the free passes for the Peabody Essex museum from the library so I even have hopes that I can spend as much time as I want looking at the superb china and pottery exhibits there.


In the words of the immortal Jane Austen: Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply.

OK, not one of her pithier sayings, but true nevertheless.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ohmmmmmmm the Buddha Speaks

Son of COG just told us a Buddhist joke.

Q. What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?
A. Make me one with everything.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friends of the Library Book Sale

I haven't blogged for a while. First, because I was in Minnesota doing Halloween and that was covered by other bloggers better than I could do it. Second, because since I got back.... I just haven't had time.

I've spent a lot of hours this week preparing for the Friends of the Library Book Sale. This was a small sale, our big ones are 3 days long in June and July. People donate books all year long and twice a month we sort them into boxes. I cream off the best ones to maintain a cart of books in the library proper where we sell the best books all year long. The others are stored until the sales.

At today's sale, we had a lot of kids books, and a year's worth of donated Christmas books, music and videos, plus we featured like-new books for Christmas gifts. We made $500+ in 4 hours, selling books at 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hard-cover. Plus, we had some of the best ones for $2.

I pulled out what I considered the very best ones at the end and replenished my cart and a second cart by the kid's library. Lots of great kids books. I wish I'd had this as a resource when the kids were younger. I would have been great to buy books for them at these prices.

I brought home 3 books for only $1.50. Of course, that means I'll get rid of 15 books - that's the rule the Geezer and I have now, 5 go out for every one that comes in. What did I bring back? Home: a short history of an idea by Witold Rybczynski, an architect who has written a lot of interesting stuff; Entertaining Satan: witchcraft and the culture of early New England by John Demos; and a mystery by a man, but it sounded interesting anyway, so I broke my rule about only reading fiction by women.

It was lovely to be around books again even for a few hours.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Enough with the vampyres, already

I went to Borders to buy a book to read on the plane tomorrow. I was thinking a nice mass market paperback science fiction/fantasy. I discovered a sci fi section filled with vampire books. OK, I loved Buffy as much as the next woman (maybe not quite as much as the next woman- I've never attended a Buffy Studies academic conference, but a lot). And I had an open mind, sort of. I'd have taken a nice little dragon book, or a woman warrior, maybe some sentient animals, fairies can be good, or an untried mage coming into his or her power, maybe a little time travel or just an ordinary alternate medieval world with a little magic here and there. But no -- vampires, vampyres, nightwalkers everywhere.

I tried the mystery section, but it, too, was full of the undead.

Yes, we all know I'm picky. With few exceptions, I only read books written by women. I look first for books written by authors who love Dorothy Dunnett. My tastes are specific and I've read a lot so it narrows my choices.


Bought literary fiction. Something my book group is reading. Water for Elephants. Everyone says it's wonderful. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. yadda yadda Not really what I wanted.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Log Driver's Waltz

I heard this song - saw this short film in the early 1980's and have remembered it ever since. I've looked for it repeatedly on YouTube, but didn't find it because I was looking for the Lumberjack's Waltz. Apart from that, I remembered all the words and the tune after hearing it that one time. It's just such a catchy tune. Tonight, I saw an allusion to it on a strange video blog called Rocketboom and was able to find it on YouTube.

The link, though it's there, doesn't seem to show up in my blog, so here it is: You'll have to cut and paste until I figure it out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


These weird vegetables were part of this week's share. They were labelled 'storage radishes' and they taste like radishes. I put a teaspoon next to them to show their size. I'm not quite sure what to do with them. When I showed them to the Son of COG and he said they looked like something from Blackadder.

Wild Harvest - Hickory Nuts and Apples

I've been out foraging on Heartbreak Road. I found hickory nuts just down the road among the leaves.

The little white egg-like things in the picture are hickory nuts, which are a native species and they grow wild all over here. Right now, when I take Sheba for a walk we trample nuts in every direction on the roads around our house. From the internet I've learned that pecans are a form of hickory nut, but some people think they are inferior in flavor to the kind I found. Therefore, I'm going to try to make a hickory nut pie, similar to pecan pie. The only problem so far is that their shells are fairly thin, so it's hard to get the nutmeats out without crushing them.

Here's a picture of my harvest. The apples are also from Heartbreak Road, from an old tree hidden in the hedgerow - it doesn't seem to be in a place where it would have been planted. I've already made apple butter with them. They looked pretty ugly, but they made a mighty fine apple butter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

COG Photo for Andrew

Andrew, this is an abstract the COG did at the island, in the reeds by the beach. I love it. I thought you might like it, too, since you said you like abstracts.

Owl Update

Son of COG spent some time observing the owls last night and he told me that the owl blob I saw wsas actually one of the parents. The baby owl was a different owl-shaped blob slightly lower in the same tree.

He had a bit of excitement when one of the parents flew right over him - close above and went to feed the Owlet. He said that he knew owls make no noise flying, but it startled him all the same that the one flying over him was completely silent. No soft whoosh of wings or anything.

I found a link online where you can hear the sound we've been hearing, just click on the option for 'Owlet calling for food.'

I love living here in the wild kingdom.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great Horned Owl

For a couple of months we've had a strange bird sound outside at night. It's a kind of little shriek that repeats every 30 seconds or so, for long periods during the night. James has identified it as a Great Horned Owl - a young one, who is asking its parents for food. Tonight James actually found it. It's at the top of a tree in the marsh across the street from the house, not far from the road. I've just been out to look at it. It's just an owl shaped thickening at the top of the tree -- but the shriek is definitely coming from there. Even though you really can't see anything, it's exciting to see the blob, when all we've had is the sound for months. I downloaded this picture, but I haven't found a loop of the sound that I can copy. I'll work on that. We have a program that has the sounds of all the native birds, maybe I can copy it off of that.

No Joy in Mudville

At least among some of the inhabitants. The ones who are asportal and who are now facing the World Series. Yes, the Red Sox won last night. Damn!

And the Patriots are doing well, too. Double Damn!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday Pet Blogs

Gomez as couch potato. Could he stretch out any more? Note the bird feeder in the yard by the window. Better than tv, for The Gome.

Sheba on her walk, Friday, at Appleton Farm. Horrible picture, but a nice moment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Forty-Four (Quarante-Quatre)

Time now to make Forty-Four for the holidays. Forty-four is a wonderful liqueur with a strong orange flavor, but with some complexity from the coffee beans. We usually serve it on its own at room temperature, but it can be served ice cold in the summer and might be a nice addition to Sangria (but you might want to cut down on the sugar if that's your main goal).

All you need is 1 large organic orange, 44 coffee beans, 44 sugar cubes, and one litre of vodka (cheap is fine).

For equipment, you need a knife and a jar with a big enough opening for the orange to fit through.

Make 44 slices into the orange with the point of the knife and put a coffee bean in each one -- making sure you get through the skin, into the flesh of the orange.

Place the orange and the sugar cubes in the jar and pour the vodka over it. Shake it gently each day for 44 days, then filter using coffee filter paper and bottle it.

Should be ready to drink on Dec 2.

A couple of notes: a lot depends on the orange, so try to get one with lots of flavor, preferably on the tart side. Organic, because you are going to be drinking something it has sat in for 6 weeks, so you don't want scarey chemicals leaching out. Blood Oranges give it a lovely color, but it turns a pretty pale gold even with a regular orange.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


My mother asked me recently about a poem by William Stafford. I just found another poem by him. I didn't find it exactly, I have it posted on my dashboard, so I see it all the time. I had just forgotten it was by Stafford, but I love it.


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out--no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

William Stafford

Appleton Farm, again

Appleton Farm, where we have our CSA share, is owned by the Trustees of Reservation, a land and property preservation organization. The Farm is 700+ acres of lovely rolling meadows and woods, only a fraction of the land is farmed, so there's lots of land for recreation.

Some trails are reserved for walking and running only, but other areas are also open to biking, to horses, hayrides, skiing in winter, and, our favorite, dogs off-lead.

Most summer days I take Sheba for a walk there, though in winter we also go to Crane's Beach, another Trustees of Reservation property.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bounty of the Season

Here is this week's 'share' from The Appleton Farm CSA:basil, coriander, mint, leeks, savoy cabbage, potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash, celeriac, peppers, turnips, rutebegas, pumpkins and eggplant. We pay about $500 per year and this entitles us to a full grocery bag of our choice from whatever is available, plus various extra things (2 pumpkins this week, sometimes corn, or melons), plus pick-your-own, which we pick up each week from June through the first week in November.

I pick it up from the wonderful old barn shown below, outside and inside. The Appleton Farm had been continuously owned by the same family since the original land grant in 1630-something, until the owner died a couple of years ago. It's 700 acres of farm, field, woodland. In addition to the CSA, we are able to walk dogs off leash there in a large wooded area, and we do that most days, if we aren't at the beach. There's cross-country skiing in the winter, horse trails etc. A really wonderful place.

As for the CSA, it's great. Pick-your-own might be the best of all. Strawberries in season, green beans, tomatoes, herbs, many varieties of hot peppers and flowers - an amazing assortment of different flowers, including sunflowers. We also get lots of strange things like edamame, tomatillos, 15 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, purple and gold beans, as well as green ones.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging

A cold, grey, rainy afternoon. Gomez found a cozy place to sleep on the guest room bed.

Sheba was freaked out by a big thunderstorm last night, so I ended up sleeping with her on the sofa until it was done (blush). Today she is, as usual, just following me around and sleeping nearby.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Toulouse, Sunset

The COG took this picture last Spring in Toulouse. I just re-discovered it and put it up here because it's so evocative.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dyslexia Can Be Fun

Surfing the web looking for a shower curtain, I discovered one called the Kids Herpes fabric shower curtain.

Odd choice for a shower curtain print, I thought. On a second glance it was Kids Heroes fabric shower curtain.

Almost disappointing in its ordinariness.

The COG on his bike

The COG was never allowed a bike as a kid, for safety reasons. But he bought himself one last Spring and is really enjoying it, as you can see from the picture.

Today he talked me into biking the length of the Plum Island with him. Plum Island,which is more of a peninsula, really, is mostly a national wildlife refuge. It's an important stopover on the Eastern migration and it's where James does his bird banding. The road is about 6 miles each way, and half of it is unpaved. It's pretty flat, but it was bumpy. My bike isn't really made to use on unpaved roads and the bumping was.... let's just say I'm a little saddle sore.

But it was a great ride.

Life's a Beach

This little film was taken at the tip of Plum Island looking across the salt marsh and Plum Island Sound to Cranes Beach. That's where, in a kind of symmetry, the COG and I took a wonderful walk with Sheba yesterday. Today was cooler and greyer than yesterday, which was pretty much perfect, but it was still wonderful. The film doesn't really capture the wonderfulness of the place. It's hard to explain how beautiful the salt marsh is. In pictures it just looks flat, but it has wonderful textures, and very subtle color differences.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Gomez: The Cat of The Bride of The COG (for Amy)

Dogs are new to me, but I have loved cats as long as I remember. We only have Gomez these days, so it was fun to be around all the cats in Oregon.

Gomez has started sleeping with us every night since we got back from Oregon. Ninja always slept at our feet and it has taken me months to not feel her still sleeping there. So it has been a little odd to get used to it again. Odd but nice.

He has also become very affectionate to me of late. I think he is missing Son of COG, who is working full time, plus taking a math class at Salem State, plus bird banding etc. This morning he stretched across the keyboard of my computer while I was trying to type. Shoved along, he stretched out right next to me, purring loudly and sweetly touched the side of my hand with his paw.

There are a couple of times of day when he has scheduled affection in his cat day timer. Dinner time, of course, but even when his dinner is put out, he still wants to cuddle for a while before he eats. Then, mid-way through the day he usually tracks me down for a brief cuddle. When he has had enough, he disappears.

Since it's warm here today, he is outside in the shade having a mid-afternoon nap. However, he allowed me to take his picture.

He's a mellow cat. Sociable, but not very demonstrative. He's also a one-person cat, or one and a half. James is his primary person, but I am his emergency back-up person. It's little difficult for him to get to me, with Sheba guarding me all the time. Like an overly interfering secretary, Sheba feels it's her mission to keep my time uninterrupted by others. Or perhaps it's Sheba's deeply buried herding instincts, trying to herd her away from me. Or her not deeply buried enough 'kill all cats' gene.

Sea Lions and Harbor Seals and Whales, Oh My.

Among the many pleasures I didn't mention about our trip down the Oregon coast was the Grey Whales we watched near Coos Bay. The picture was taken by the COG and is of some combination of California Sea Lions, grey Harbor Seals, and Steller's Sea Lions on the rocks. They were pretty remarkable in themselves - barking loudly, draped on every available rock, and making the water the water churn with their swimming and diving.

However, it was the whales that were most amazing, and there are, alas, no pictures of them. There was one young one quite close in, who kept spouting and breaching the surface every few minutes. I got great views of his back, his tail etc. Slightly farther out there were many more whales and, with binoculars, you got a good view of the same sorts of behaviour. The grey whale is a baleen whale, so poses no threat to seals, although someone there told us there had been a killer whale within the week in Coos Bay. The grey whale migrates, but the young ones - probably what we were watching - often stay in this area all year.

Sheba: The Dog of The Bride of the COG

Andrew asked what Sheba looked like, so I'm posting this for him.

Sheba is a Border-Collie mix about 9 or 10 years old.

It's hard to get a good picture of her because she gets anxious when I start snapping photos and it shows on her wonderful face. Her expression in this photo is one I often see when she looks at me.

I've always considered myself to be a cat person and I can't explain why I love her so much. She doesn't do much. She just follows me around from room to room and sleeps near my feet. She stinks, she scratches herself, she chases the cat and she leaves a trail of hair behind her wherever she goes.

But when I look at her, I feel my heart opening up with the complete love and pleasure I feel only when I see the COG, my children and the people I love best. Isn't it strange? How did that happen?

The Heartbreak of F.A.D.D.

The Bride and Sister of the Bride discovered when in Oregon that we have F.A.D.D. -- Feline Attention Deficit Disorder. No matter what we were doing, when we spotted a cat, or something to do with cats, our attention was immediately refocussed on the cat/cat-related thing.

The COG mentioned that it was remarkably like the C.A.D.D. (Canine ADD) the Bride and the Other Sister of the Bride suffered from .... no, wait.... the Husbands were the ones who suffered, the Bride and her sister enjoyed it very much.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


A Chorkie's Day -Dog Gone Great!
Chorkies: Chihuahua-Yorkshire Terrier mix. Saw two little sisters on the beach in Yachats. Absolutely adorable, and I don't usually like either Chihuahuas or Yorkies.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dogs and DNA

I saw two fascinating programs about dogs on Nature this week. If you have a chance to see them, I highly recommend them.

Dogs were domesticated in a very short time. The transition from wolf to dog happened possibly within one human lifetime about 15,000 years ago. And when I say 'from wolf to dog', I'm actually talking about physical changes to the animals' skeleton and teeth, as well as behavioral changes. This seems impossible according to classic Darwinian theory, although there is a lot of recent evidence that species can evolve very fast to adapt to changing enviornments.

For example, in the 1950's some Russians were trying to breed foxes for their fur. The problem was they were too wild to breed in captivity and had to be kept in separate cages. So a geneticist was brought in to try to create foxes that would breed in captivity. He decided to breed just the least aggressive foxes. He chose the foxes by putting a heavily gloved hand into the cage. The ones that just sniffed at it curiously were chosen to breed, the ones that responded aggressively were not.

In just 10 years, there was a completely different breed of animal. Their facial structure changed so they didn't have huge crushing jaws, their teeth shortened, even the coloration of their coats changed and they began to act like affectionate dogs. In fact, their skeletal changes were the same as those found in what's called the 'proto-dog', and kind of post-wolf, pre-dog breed as we know them, found in archaeological sites. The program showed films of the changed foxes, and of them wild and aggressive, then different looking and playing happily with children a few years later -- just a few dog generations later.

So now, there is a theory that what happened to domesticate dogs is this: About 15,000 years ago people began to live in permanent settlemens, the problem of garbage was created. When they moved around in a nomadic lifestyle, they just left the garbage behind and it disappeared before they returned, but once they were settled in one place, they had to have some kind of rubbish dump where they took bits of waste, the skeletons of animals they were done with etc.

These dumps would have attracted animals, including wolves. The wolves that stayed closest to the dumps had a better chance of survival, because they were simply closest to the food. It's called 'flight distance' - how far a creature flees when he feels endangered. Short flight distance = increased survival (in this case). Imagine the humans bringing out the remaining bits of carcasses and dumping them, and the wolves that stayed very near by were the most likely to get the food.

They didn't say this in the program, but I'm speculating that this would have been the marginal wolves, the young males who were without a pack, the lowest on the totem pole. The most desperate ones. The hungriest ones. Maybe even the loneliest ones, as they definitely like company. The strongest, the alphas, would have had other, better, resources for food and could afford to retreat farther.

Anyway, as demonstrated in the Russian experiments, when you select for curiosity and lack of aggression (which is pretty much the same thing as flight distance), you also select other genes inadvertently and thus, you can change very quickly the actual species itself.

Isn't that amazing?

The DNA part is that a Swedish geneticist is looking at the matrilineal DNA of dogs. He started out doing forensic work with dog hairs and that led to a huge international experiment of over 3000 dogs from all over the world. Basically, it looks like they all came from East Asia somewhere, maybe China. But that's still in progress.

And based on Bryan Sykes studies of patrilineal DNA in people, the story is incomplete without looking at that, too. So there will be more to come on that.

One more note is that dogs may actually have had a great impact on human civilization. There was some speculation about whether it would have been possible to domesticate other animals without dogs (dogs were the first domesticated animal). It showed border collies in a very hilly part of Cumbria herding sheep (2,000 sheep in 2,000 mostly vertical acres) in ways and in places that humans simply couldn't do. One of the scientists interviewed pointed out that herding is exactly like hunting, except that the dogs stop before killing. Since this is the kind of terrain that is the natural terrain of sheep and goats, man couldn't have herded them without dogs ever. He actually said that without dogs, it's possible we'd still be hunter gatherers. Though I think that overstated the case.

Whatever the case is, it's pretty remarkable to see working herding dogs at work -- the kinds of signals that they have to understand are very complex. things like -- hey you left one behind, and no, get that other group over there.

Also, the served an important protective function just as watch and guard dogs in early times, making villages more secure and secluded farms more secure. Changing the kinds of settlements people were safe in.

Finally they interviewes an interesting Inuit man, who said that without the dog his people would not have survived in the Arctic circle. They depend on them to find seal holes, protect them from Polar Bears (yes, they can get rid of bears), get them home in whiteout conditions when humans can't tell where they are. And to keep humans from falling through the ice. Dogs will stop short because they can sense in their feet the changes below the snow.

I watched the second show after I wrote this, and it was also fascinating. I'll just note one thing. Dogs are the most varied species in the world -- 500 different breeds recognized. And in the mid-19th century, there were only 40. The proliferation since then of pet dogs -- lap dogs -- has caused the variety.

So much I'm not saying from these fascinating programs, but this is already too long.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Moonset Redux

It looks like the COG isn't going to post his pictures of the moonset in Bandon, so I'm posting one of his here. The colors are truer to what we saw. Amazingly beautiful, one of those moments that goes into your lifetime album of perfect moments.

Completely quiet, except for the waves.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pictures I wish I'd taken in Oregon.

There's a whole list of photos I wish I had taken to put up here. I'm still learning the blog thing.

1) The COG by the Mini. He loved it.

2) A picture of the moon viewing, while it was still light, just to set the scene. However, the COG took one and sent it out to family members, so that's OK.

3) Just for the sounds, a little film of the Japanese garden in the dark, with flute music and the sound of the waterfall in the background.

4) COG and Sister of The Bride and I tasting various things at the Clear Creek distillery. We ended up buying pear brandy, Marc, eau de vie de blue plum, and an eau de vie de douglas fir. Apparently this last is called eau de vie de bourgeons de sapins in Alsace. The woman who we met with for the tasting (just the three of us) told us that the whole company of 8 people went out and picked the little fir shoots early in the spring from the farm of the owner.

5) The dinner at Sympatico - I wish I'd taken a picture of each course. I loved the first course -- a corn souffle with a wonderful herb salad made from dill weed, flat leaf parsley and tiny mint leaves with a light vinagrette. Possibly made with walnut oil. Then we had a pasta dish -- a rough, irregularly shaped hand-made pasta with a light sauce of confit of pheasant in a ragout. This was most people's favorite. Then beef shortribs and hot slaw and blue cheese mashed potatoes. The potatoes were especially wonderful, just exactly the right amount of blue cheesiness. For dessert, honey ice cream and a peach half bruleed with some sugar. I loved this last course, but others felt their peach was too hard and should have either been riper or cooked longer.

6) The takeoff from Portland, as we flew above the heavy cloud cover, there was Mt Hood and farther away Mt. Jefferson (I think) in the sunshine, sticking up over the clouds. Breath-taking and memorable.

7) a couple more pictures of my lovely niece and nephew.

We're home now, getting back to normal. Had a great time.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Moonset Bandon OR 9/26

Woke up at 6am and saw this beautiful moonset over the beach in Bandon OR. This was taken through the window of the hotel with my cellphone. See Cranky Old Geezer in a couple of days for better photos -- with the actual stunning blue/pink colors.

What's the difference between horses and logging?

Horses make the landscape look more beautiful.

The Oregon trip continues.....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Bride is a Saint and a Martyr

This is the first of several beautiful views we stopped for this morning Before Breakfast, so the COG could take photos.

As is her usual wont, The Bride nobly forbore to complain that she was becoming paler, weaker, even faint with hunger, while the COG took photos. Not one word of Suffering passed her lips and, thus, she gained stars for her crown in heaven.

The morning light and the views between Yachats and Florence were a bit of heaven on earth, come to think of it.

Later, around Coos Bay, we started thinking more of Isle, MN with ocean views.

Oblivious to Metaphor

Oblivious to all possibilities for metaphor the Bride and the COG watched the setting sun when the day was done.

Admittedly, the Bride had to step away from the COG briefly to snap this photo of him.

Views, Seafood, Views

Oregon coast, Day 1: view from restaurant where we had lunch (Bride- salmon, COG - Pacific oysters, Both - Oregon wine)

The beach by the hotel where we stayed.

The beach by the restaurant where we had dinner (Both - Cioppino and Oregon Wine)

The view from our bed when we woke up this morning.