Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 Halloween WOW

It was my year to host the Halloween WOW (Witches of Wye). I also invited some 'town witches' (guests), so that made 13 of us (a coven??). Trolling the Halloween store, I noticed the trend this year was zombie children. There were no fewer than five life-sized tots in crouching positions leering up at me with yellow teeth and red eyes, drooling with anticipation at chomping into my flesh. Then I saw one little tyke walking alone before me (he was moving, and had normal coloring, so I assumed he was still 'one of us.'). He was scared stiff, moving s-l-o-w-l-y and cautiously among the 'children.' When his mom called to him from another aisle, he lit out pretty quickly. I'm pretty sure he had nightmares that night.

I've collected lots of Halloween decorations over the years when we held an annual party, but I didn't put a lot out this year. I wasn't spending a week digging a 'graveyard' in the front yard. I do like to decorate though...

I was a gruesome witch. Excy wouldn't even take my picture or kiss me goodnight (warlocks not allowed at a WOW). We had another witch, of course, and a student from Hogwarts, but for the most part the girls didn't dress up this year.

I like my witch and ghoul pumpkins, and you can't really see the severed body parts, bugs, and spiders and cobwebs around the porch...

I took black plastic trash bags and shredded them, stringing them in rows above the entry.

I made a wreath by spray-painting a grape vine wreath black and entwining snakes and bugs around it, also painted black.

My zombie digs out from the earth every year. I put a kerosine lamp and lighted pumpkins on the walk to illuminate him and added snakes slithering up the drive.

Some of my vintage-inspired decorations, like the little cat band and the 'conductor.' The ghosts I found at flea markets. That's Leatherhead lighting up the mantle.

One of my many witches with her roses full of bugs...

Celebrating Lynne's October birthday with a Mickey's cake -- they're the best...

I made the ghosts by spray-painting butternut squash and painting them. We painted the tombstones and the boys did a wonderful job, I wish you could see them more clearly. Surrounded the arrangement with spanish moss and spare eyeballs. Put out pumpkins full of chocolate and candy corn.

A few of the witches solving the problems of the world...

And finally, the best costume of all -- Excy's son Corey wearing his cat Dixie as a hat. She stays as still as he likes to do this...You have heard of the Cat in the Hat? This is another take altogether...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Watch that Snake!

Tonight one of the best screwball comedies ever made is on TCM.

I have watched every screwball comedy classified from the AFI and other lists, and I know whereof I speak, having made the 'Golden Age of Hollywood' something of a passion.

One of my bucket-list dreams is attending the TCM Film Festival in LA some day soon.

Not only does The Lady Eve star Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck, but it features a solid cast of character actors who, if you don't recognize the names here, you probably will when you see their faces: Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, and William Demarest. All they needed was Edward Everett Horton to make my viewing complete (he was probably tied up in a Fred Astair-Ginger Rogers vehicle).

Directed by the brilliant Preston Sturges, the one-time white-hot director who burned out too quickly, (his best movies beside this one being Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story, two other must-sees),this 1941 film has Stanwyck doing what she does best - playing a smart woman several steps ahead of everyone else - in this case, she's a con artist who tries to hoodwink - and then of course falls for - wealthy Fonda, a slightly dim-witted, affable guy who is looked after by his 'right hand man' Demarest (Uncle Charlie for those of you who grew up watching My Three Sons).

Watch it for the witty repartee, the gorgeous gowns, and the old passage-liner crossings. They really don't make them like this any more, and more's the pity.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gray Matter

I went to a high school reunion party two weekends ago featuring classes from 1971 to 1977 (I'm class of '76, perfect since we were the Patriots). I was only the second girl in our class who has 'let her hair go' -- parlance for not coloring it anymore. The other person has lovely salt-and-pepper coloring...

As much as my old classmates and friends, all now in their early 50s to 60s, oohed and awed over my gray, to a one they all said they would not look good with gray hair. In fact, as the night wore on, my girlfriends decided my hair was not gray at all, but 'Platinum' (I don't think so...). I think they just hated calling it gray.

I really am 'Gray Light' like my name, and I have been for many years now. I began turning gray in my late 20s but wasn't ready for it so colored until my mid-40s. My hair was auburn but photographed very dark. Dad's hair was black and by the time he was in his early 30s it was salt-and-pepper. His mother had snow-white hair by the time she was 40. I guess I could deal, but I'm glad mine hasn't gone white on me. I lived in DC during the Bush years (Sr) and keep remembering how First Lady Barbara looked like his mother, although they insisted on calling her the 'silver fox.'

When choosing to grow out your gray, it's a universal fact no one looks good at first. You just have to suck it up for awhile. But there are tips to help the process. The gray begins at the roots, obviously, and your part begins to resemble what I call a 'skunk stripe.' Unless you like looking like Cruella D'Ville or Mortitia Munster, you'll want to add highlights that help blend the shades together, which look rather startling until they transition. Blondes and red heads have an easier time of it. But you also need the transition highlights to avoid looking washed out and dull. Just because you don't want to color doesn't mean you've given up and don't care for appearances.

Being in the pool 3 to 4 times a week, I put a clear gloss on my hair every 3rd month or so to keep it from getting brassy looking. If you don't like your gray or feel it needs to look more glam, you can add silvery highlights that help it along. I haven't done this yet because the reason I stopped coloring in the first place was to get away from the tyranny and expense of coloring, and because I didn't want my hair to look like cotton candy after decades of abuse. Now that I don't color anymore it has grown soft and shiny again on its own. My stylist says if people do add highlights they won't need to do it often.

The length is another thing altogether. As long-time readers know, I toyed with a bob, and my parents think I should cut it, but after considering it I guess the underlying reason I haven't is I've had three brain surgeries that have shorn my hair, and with the possibility of surgery in the future, I've decided to keep it long until I can't. And Excy likes it long. He'd like it longer, but I don't want to get all Pentecostal or anything. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Going gray is a highly personal decision. One of my closest friends hates it. I think it reminds her we're old. I've never been mistaken for a younger person with this color, that's for sure. And you have to watch certain colors and change some makeup if you use it.

But I'm used to it and it's authentically who I am.

I do think it odd younger kids are coloring their hair gray, though. I'd never have willingly done that at their age.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What am I Saving These For??

Let me run my freak flag up the pole a bit and tell you what I've been saving for several years now:

Cat whiskers. (I call them 'whiskey's for some reason). So now I joke to Excy I have DNA on our deceased 'kids' when cloning is less expensive...but seriously, I don't know why I save them.

I keep them in an old breath-mint tin with a picture of Lucy and Ethel stuffing those bonbons in their mouths.

It's amazing how many one finds when you keep your eyes out for them. I've simply thought they were too special-looking to toss out or vacuum away. Togo's in particular are white and long and very curly. Reminds me of walrus whiskers.

I met an artist a few years back who lives on the mountain and she's offered to teach me how to weave baskets with horse hair. I figure when I take her up on it, we can use the whiskies to top off the horse mane baskets.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fox Drama

Those new to this blog may want to check out my posts from June and July discussing Francis and Mr Fox, who have raised a family of kits under our tack room. Francis and three of the kits remain and if they are hanging around, come up for dog food once or twice a day...

Last week I glanced out the bedroom window to see two of the kits in the back yard waiting for a handout. When I went out on the terrace to throw them some dog food, to my horror one came scooting forward on her two front legs. Her hind legs were useless and seemed paralyzed behind her. Still, she acted normally and ate a lot, just extra-nervous because of her vulnerability. Her sibling kept close-by and trotted after her when she went into the woods.

I googled information and the contact of a wildlife rehabilitator, but unfortunately my em came back a few hours later. Excy and I discussed the possibility of trying to put her out of her misery if we needed to. We didn't want her to suffer.

We didn't see her the next day. But the day after that, she showed up as hungry as before, and still scooting around on her front legs. But this time, she stood on all fours to eat. A few days after that, she came walking up but very wobbly. I am amazed at her tenacity and spirit of recovery, and so glad we didn't make any hasty decisions!

This morning she was sunning herself on the 'Fox Rock,' a flat table-like rock I had a neighbor move from the woods with his forklift to our bamboo grove. Some of our late, beloved animal companions are buried in a ring around it. Francis Fox and the Mr began using it so often over the summer we named it Fox Rock. I could tell it was Shaky Fox on the rock (Excy likes to call her Draggen' Lady). Suddenly I noticed a tuxedo cat under a nearby tree watching squirrels eating seeds under the bird tree. It took off in pursuit of the squirrels and swaggered back when it didn't catch one, and not until it was four yards away did it notice the fox.

That cat has balls of steel.

His tail puffed up, he walked right up to the fox, who was standing up by now, her ears pinned back. The fox pointedly didn't look at the cat and the cat finally moved on. I guess looking at it would've meant engaging in a fight. The cat finally headed towards our nearest neighbor, who lives in a trailer with a billion yappy dogs.

Excy got up and threw out some dog food for the Shaky fox who seemed to be moving around better. When she runs too fast her legs tend to splay out from under her, though. We weren't able to grab the camera for a picture before it was all over. We haven't seen Francis for days. I guess she's on walk-about.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All Your Daily Vegetables in One Serving

Dang. This isn't a cooking blog, I promise. But several have asked about this soup, too, and not only was it easy it was delicious. It was in the Kroger recipe book in case it looks familiar. Enjoy...

White Bean Soup with Vegetables
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
clove garlic, minced
2 med. carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 med. Yukon Gold potato, chopped
1 med. zucchini, diced
3-4 sprigs parsley, minced
1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary AND thyme (or 1/8th each dried)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups white beans soaked and cooked (or 2 cans organic white beans)
1 T. unsalted butter
Fresh ground black pepper and salt, to taste

Heat a medium Dutch oven or stockpot over med. high heat. Add olive oil and then add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and potato. Saute until vegetables are tender. Stir in parsley, rosemary and thyme. Then add zucchini, stock and beans. Cook 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Freezes nicely if you have left-overs.
Serves 4

Monday, October 11, 2010

This Skull's for You

Someone asked to see the buffalo skull so here it is:

Excy and I love Native American stuff. Nine years ago he saw a skull in a magazine that was exquisitely painted by an Indian artist. He thought he'd like to do that. I assured him that was fine, but I didn't want dead animals on my walls, and it'd have to go down in the studio.

He is extremely difficult to surprise with presents. One of those irritating people who always correctly guess what the gift is. So a year after this conversation, I looked up some ads in the back of Western Horseman and found a buffalo skull and had it sent to the p's so he wouldn't even see the box (good thing, as it was HUGE). When he saw it wrapped under the tree, he thought it contained horse blankets, since he had mentioned those, too. I got him this time. He was very surprised when he unwrapped this gift! As you can see, it still isn't decorated, but for Halloween I string lights inside, which makes it look slightly demonic.

For all you soup-lovers, here is the recipe for the Roasted Squash and Apple Soup -- enjoy! I am making White Bean and Carrot soup this afternoon...

Roasted Squash and Apple Soup -- serves six
1T. unsalted butter, melted
1T. olive oil
1 med. yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic (or two spoonfuls of minced garlic from a jar)
1 lb. butternut squash peeled and cubed one inch pieces (I used two)
2 granny smith apples peeled and cubed (if making garnish, reserve half an apple)
1 mcintosh or gala (sweet) apple peeled and cubed
1T. rosemary, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t pepper
4 c. chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 sprig thyme plus more for garnish
cream or milk

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl toss together the onion, garlic, squash, apples, rosemary, salt and pepper with the butter and oil. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and cook 30 minutes, turning or rotating after 15 min. so veggies cook evenly. They should be brown and soft. Scrape veggies into a soup pot, and if any have carmelized and stuck to the sheet, add some broth or stock to scrape it up and into the pot.

Add remaining stock or broth and sprig of thyme and simmer partially covered for 10 min. Remove thyme sprig and use your immersion blender (LOVE THIS), or puree in a blender. (If using blender, go out and buy a immersion blender to save yourself a lot of trouble. Okay, for now, if using a blender, let the soup cool and do in batches making sure the blender isn't too full). Soup needs to be smooth.

Reheat and taste and then add cream or milk and more broth to desired consistency and season to taste. I always end up adding more Ms Dash salt and pepper

If serving for a party or just wanting it to look pretty -- For garnish: saute some apple chunks in butter until brown and tender. Spoon in the center of each bowl and finish with a spig of thyme.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Did Today

I made roasted apple-butternut squash for our supper. I will post or email the soup recipe to anyone who wants it.

I made a Sour cream bundt cake, and put a lemon glaze on it. If anyone wants the recipe I will be happy to post it or email it.

I repotted this aloe vera today. It was given to me by a master-gardener friend who died a few years ago. It has out-grown two pots so far. Since it is easily breakable I put it in a BIG pot so it can grow there for a long time, but since it outgrew the first pot that was much bigger than it was last summer, I'll be interested to see how it goes. The friend was dear to me, and I want to nurture the plant a long time.

I mixed up another batch of a home remedy to keep the coons (and other critters) out of my plants. The stuff works like a charm! In two quarts of water, add one tablespoon cayenne pepper, one chopped yellow onion, and one chopped jalapeno pepper. Boil 20 minutes then cool. Strain and pour in a spray bottle. Use every three days or whenever it rains.

Tomorrow I will work on some halloween decorations. I'll post the results.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Revelations Challenge

Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire in Vanity Fair, I have compiled some Q&A's -- how you answer them changes from day to day, but on this day, here are my answers...I challenge you to take the quiz on your blog...

Quickly name a unique item you have in your house.
A buffalo skull over the mantle.
What are two of your favorite names?
Elwood. Lenny.
What do you consider a necessary luxury?
What car would you like to drive?A real Woody.
What is your favorite color and has it changed over the years?
Blue. No. Just the shades.
What quality do you most admire in a man?
The ability to make me laugh. And the ability to pick up the check.
In a woman? Loyality. Humor.
What is something you long for?
Z Chocolat from France.
If money were no object what would you buy yourself?
A new wardrobe.
What charity would you donate a million dollars to? Animal charities.
What book have you just finished reading?
Olive Kitteridge.
Name one book that made an impact and why? To Kill a Mockingbird. It's held up so well over the years and it brings racisim and bigotry to a level every person can understand.
Name one liquid always in your refrigerator? Orange Juice.
Name one food item always in your refrigerator? Cottage cheese.
What could you eat everyday:
An avacado.
Everyday I drink: Tea.
TV guilty pleasure: 'The Real Housewives...' (all but the Atlanta wives).
TV show I don't miss: 'Burn Notice'. 'The Closer'.
Name a favorite fictional character from a book:
Elizabeth Bennet.
From a movie:
Elwood P Dodd ('Harvey'). Lisa ('Rear Window').
What phrase or motto do I overuse: This to shall pass. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
I own a lot of: Greeting and note cards.
I collect: Animal Fetishes.
I try to avoid: Negative people. Traffic.
One thing I know: Life is what you make it.
Everyday I: Read.
The last time I wrote a note or letter and mailed it was:
Yesterday (I mail at least 3 a week).
Dog or cat? Meow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

There is Superstition...

I was going to make love to Excy last night, but I couldn't find my Power Balance bracelet.

Of course, you've ordered your PB bracelet by now, right??

The PB bracelets have taken the sports world by storm, and athletes believe they keep them in optimal physical shape and improve their overall performance. Many world champs won't compete without them. I understand baseball players -- they've always been a superstitious lot -- but Shaquille O'Neal, surfer Andy Irons, formula one winner Rubens Barrichello, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, among others?

The bracelet is touted as "reacting positively with your body's natural energy field." The company that sells them didn't exist three years ago and today has sold more than 2.5 million worldwide in the past 18 months, at between $30 to $50 a pop.

The thing is, they don't work. It's all psychosomatic. There is no scientific evidence these bracelets do anything. A clinical researcher and chairperson of the American Board of Sport Psychology says "Between 15% and 30% of any population or group will have what's known as high-range hypnotic susceptibility, which makes them inclined to look for outside answers, search for improvement and be vulvernable to those giving them simple answers to what they're striving for."

Lots of people think the placebo effect is fine. After all, if wearing the thing makes you feel you perform well or better, who cares? But let's not go overboard.

Monday, October 4, 2010

House Work Is Wonderful - well, let's not go that far...

I was interested to read an article about mindfully cleaning. Not just tackling housework, but purposefully and thoroughly giving yourself up to the task at hand. OKKKaaaayyyyyyy........So I have been slowly and Zen-fully (for lack of a better term) putting myself into my household tasks. After all, one spends so much time repeatedly cleaning and doing laundry, finding a way to turn it into meditative practice can help your peace of mind.

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, author of We Plan, God Laughs says if your space is clear, you function better and your mind is open. Every week before Sabbath, she says observant Jews clean their house in preparation of Passover. Talk about getting your house in order.

I know I function better in a clean environment. Truthfully I'd prefer not to clean it myself, but I have learned through the years I do a better job than someone I've hired. I guess it's a matter of caring about it more.

A Zen proverb encourages you to find meaning and enlightenment in everyday tasks by chanting: before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. (I think my chant would be Thank God I don't have to chop wood, carry water. But I get the idea).

The endless repetition of housework mimics the endless cycle of life itself. Don't get me wrong: I will never pick vacuuming over going to a movie with friends. And my favorite part of housework is when it's finished and the house is clean and feels cozier to me - but I prefer cleanliness and order to chaos and dust. As long as I have to do it, I may as well do it gratefully and mindfully.

But if someone wants to help me iron, I will really be grateful.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Viva la Barbie

I was born in 1958. Barbie was introduced to the world by Mattel in 1959. Although her extreme beauty and fantastic proportions introduced girls early on to the insecurity of setting standards of beauty no girl could possibly achieve growing up, Barbie became an immediate sensation. My Barbie dolls from the '60s and '70s aren't worthy as collector's items - they have been far too active, having lived lives full of adventure. My Barbies lived hard, surviving as many adventures as the Perils of Pauline. Their hair being shorn is the least of their problems, though I noticed every single one has a bad haircut. They've been run over, kidnapped, drowned, dragged behind runaway horses, buried in avalanches, shot out of rockets; one poor girl parachuted from the sky into an active volcano.

Ken was always just her sidekick. Too effeminate to be taken seriously as a boyfriend, my girls were always attracted to G.I. Joe; real men, who managed to rescue her from pygmies or a failed space-station, or would be her covert-op during one of her many spy adventures. (I was spy-obsessed, never missing an episode of I SPY, Get Smart, The Avengers, Man from U.N.C.L.E., or a James Bond movie. I loved playing a spy, and resuscitated an old brief case of dad's for my attache case full of the latest weaponry).

If Barbie were life-size, she would be 5'6" and weigh 110 pounds. So far so good. However, her measurements would be 39-18-33. Yikes. I'm 5'8" -- the last time I weighed 110 lbs I was 33 years old. My waist was 18 only when I was 15 yrs old. But, I choose to focus on the positives of emulating Barbie. She was my one-and-only 'adult' doll, and taught me that using your head (as long as it didn't pop out of your neck for a quick replacement), along with feminine wiles, could be a powerful combination. (All you feminists can recoil in horror now).

My Barbie was always as smart as a rocket scientist (hey, a girl can dream). And even though she was a tomboy like me, she sported a fabulous wardrobe. (In fact, Barbie has 20 million dresses, many by big-name designers, making Mattel the world's largest fashion manufacturer). Some of my favorite clothes were handmade by my grand moms, though.

Barbie began her many careers as a model, but by the '60s she had become an astronaut, a flight attendant (this seems quite a come-down from astronaut), travel agency owner, doctor. Rock star, TV personality, Olympic finalist, and in '86, an astronaut again. What I liked best about Barbie was the effortless way she incorporated the fantasies and dreams of her owners, who had far more varied professions for her than that. (Equestrian high jumper, anyone?)

Barbie has always had fabulous homes -- penthouses, vacation homes, 'dream' houses. She has owned a Ferrari (cherry red), Corvette (pink), Jeep (white, I think), as well as other cars, and a Vespa.

Her best friend is Midge (always hated that name), she remains close with her little sister, Skipper, and she's always been an animal lover. She's had five horses, a poodle, afghan hound, two puppies, a cat, and a parrot. She even befriended a giraffe while on a safari in 1989.

Barbie remains ageless, 18 forever, unlike her many admirers. My childish dreams where she was the heroine and catalyst of many fantasies helped shape my dreams. Maybe certain feminists disagree, but I say long live Barbie. She was always a fun girlfriend. And despite her voluptuous proportions, she looks healthier than those slightly anemic-looking Bratz dolls, who remind me uncomfortably of the big sad-eyed children in the pictures that were so popular in the '70s.