November 29, 2014

Ho, Oh, No!

      All of the American readers out there have had their Thanksgiving holiday and have hopefully recuperated from the controversy of Black Friday and what stores are open and which are not on Thanksgiving Day. The shops are already decorated and keeping holiday hours and the holiday season, as well as the marketing season, is in full swing. It can be a difficult time, a time when it's easy to lose perspective. I've stopped worrying if my greeting to someone is politically correct. Why should the holiday season be about worry? I have friends and family from all denominations and the good ones know that however I wish them happy holidays it is heartfelt. That is my attitude for all of the holiday season. Anything negative ought to be discarded, and anything that truly warms your heart should be embraced.
      Here in Philadelphia we have found Christmas Village at Love Park. Yep, there are vendors like everywhere else this time of year. But there is more. There is the beautiful clock upon Philadelphia's City Hall that shines down on the park. It measures the hours now as it has for over a hundred years. Each December when we visit there I gaze up at it in the snow and cold night air and it inspires me. Here they have live carolers and my husband is one of them. He puts on a jacket and scarf and a top hat and it is as if he has stepped out of a holiday greeting card. He is Christmas from another time. The park is filled with families and smartly dressed men and women cutting through the park to catch a train or a trolley or stopping to browse. The women are in boots and pretty scarves huddled against the cold Pennsylvania winter.
      At a nearby college we might see an orchestra playing grand holiday music with bells jingling and cymbals clanging. Joyful songs we hear only once a year and thoughtful songs that just maybe we ought not tune out entirely.
      On Christmas morning we gather early with family and youngsters to celebrate our special traditions. We take turns opening all gifts, and the next doesn't get unwrapped until the one before has been fussed over and discussed. We take the time to hear the story behind why each gift was chosen by the giver and to say "thank you" personally. There are handmade gifts and thoughtfully chosen surprises and comical trying on of many things. By the time we have gathered for our holiday we are filled with spirit. It is a good thing, because it takes us all day. It is, as it should be, a celebration.
      As so, this year, as every year, I look forward to the holidays. I don't do all of the trinkets and decorations that I used to, I only do those that bring me joy and good cheer. These once-a-year holidays are numbered and I am only allowed a handful really, should I add them up at the end of life. I will not waste a single one of them forgetting its meaning. I will always be able to feel as I do when I look up at the clock upon City Hall.
 The stage schedule at Love Park Philadelphia:
See you next week!     


November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Here is my recipe for the Ambrosia I have been making for Thanksgiving for many years.
Have a safe and happy holiday!
1 20oz. can pineapple chunks
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Dash Salt
1 16 ounce can pitted light sweet cherries, drained
1 16 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups tiny marshmallows
1 cup whipping cream
Drain pineapple, reserve 2 tablespoons syrup. To make custard, in a heavy, small saucepan combine reserved pineapple syrup, egg yolks, sugar, vinegar, butter or margarine and salt. Cook and stir over low heat about 6 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly and coats a metal spoon. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl combine pineapple chunks, cherries, oranges, and marshmallows. Pour custard over; stir gently. Beat the whipping cream till soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into fruit mixture. Turn into a serving bowl. Cover and chill several hours or overnight. Serves 10 to 12 and all those little folks who hate turkey.
See you on Sunday!

November 22, 2014

Time, Time, Time

     A few days ago I hung another year on the line, as  Paul Simon says in his song Havin' a Good Time. It is autumn now on this lovely planet and in my life as well. Again a song is rattling around in my mind, a song from my youth. It's another Simon and Garfunkel tune, A Hazy Shade of Winter.

      I was born in 1953, sometime between the dinosaurs and The Beatles. I also grew up in Venice, California. When the Haight-Ashbury era had lost its glamour, the hippies came to my home town. It was amazing. It was a time of fantastic music, art, expression and ideals. I grew up during a great renaissance. There were war protests and activism and through everything, even through the questions of racism and women's rights, there seemed to be one rule. You were cool or you were uncool. To me it seemed that, if you were yourself, just and open minded, with a clear sense of right and wrong, and you were accepting of your fellow man, then basically you were cool. You didn't try to repress anyone else or their ideals. I even remember lively political discussions in which people kept an open mind and exchanged opinions peacefully and with respect. Then, on the other side, if you were uncool you didn't accept the people around you or their opinions. Everyone had to look the way you did, like what you liked and believe what you believed. All of that was uncool.
      It was a great time for me, as an artist. I did learn to play a bit of guitar, something I think nearly every kid of the sixties at least tried. I love music and can still probably play most of the major chords, but it was not my art. I learned that I preferred to listen to someone who had a real passion for the guitar. I sewed like crazy and made most of my own clothes and the more distinctive they were the better. I danced, even taught dancing for a while. It was art and I loved it. I drew and painted, wrote poetry and embroidered on velvet. I collected purses from India and painted the lyrics of popular songs onto my bedroom mirror. My father thought it mad and drug enhanced. My mom loved Paul McCartney.
      It was a hard time too. Not just for me personally but for the nation. I sat in a classroom listening to the news of the Kennedy assassination and remember walking home that day to find my mother crying in front of the television. It was heartbreaking. To this day there are discussions about the guy on the grassy knoll and theories of how many bullets were fired and by whom. Questions for which we may never know the answers. It happened in a time when those who were cool were suspicious of the government which was largely deemed uncool. After all, it was a government which was sending our young men into an unpopular war and was lying to and manipulating its population. But it was a government who could not stop its youth. The young people of America wrote music that voiced an opinion, songs about morals and right and wrong. It was a huge population of young people who wanted to be treated with respect. It was wonderful to be part of it. When I see a young person today "letting their freak flag fly" in the way they dress and mistrusting "anyone over thirty" it still makes me smile. It was wonderful to be growing up in a time where you knew who was cool and who was uncool. Look around now and see if you can tell.
    Time, see what's become of me
    While I looked around for my possibilities.
    I was so hard to please.
    Look around,
    Leaves are brown,
    And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.
    Hear the Salvation Army band.
    Down by the riverside's
    Bound to be a better ride
    Than what you've got planned.
    Carry your cup in your hand.
    And look around.
    Leaves are brown.
    And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.
    Hang on to your hopes, my friend.
    That's an easy thing to say,
    But if your hopes should pass away
    Simply pretend that you can build them again.
    Look around,
    The grass is high,
    The fields are ripe,
    It's the springtime of my life.
    Seasons change with the scenery;
    Weaving time in a tapestry.
    Won't you stop and remember me
    At any convenient time?
    Funny how my memory skips
    Looking over manuscripts
    Of unpublished rhyme.
    Drinking my vodka and lime,
    I look around,
    Leaves are brown,
    And the sky is a hazy shade of winter."

    Paul Simon

November 14, 2014

Relaxing in the Mines

      I admit it. I have to be making things constantly. It is unusual for me to ever just sit. If I do it is likely that I am sick or exhausted. Otherwise I am working or creating. A lot of my creating is work. Writing is work. Sometimes even knitting is work. Decorating, especially if it requires painting and moving furniture, is most definitely work. I love all of those things, but they are still work. So what do I do when I'm not working? When I need to free my mind and let my stories simmer or shut out those little worries about life, I game.
      Yes, gaming is relaxing. It is definitely a good ole waste of time and that's part of what makes it great. When Electronic Arts released The Sims  I was completely hooked from the first commercial. You could control the lives of virtual characters, and that was really fun for a little while, but the great part was that you could build stuff. Virtual stuff that didn't clutter up the living room or cost money. I could build Victorian mansions with gingerbread trim and put ball gowns on my little Sims at a whim and then have them stroll around a virtual little Victorian garden of my own making. If I wanted to, I could even call it Nanetteville. When there weren't enough toys already in the game or the right period pieces, I found little free programs where you could make your own Sims clothing, wallpaper and furniture. I got so good at it and enjoyed it so much I was offered a lucrative position creating and selling virtual toys for the Sims. Then it became work, very hard work. Some of the most demanding I have ever done. When it wasn't fun anymore I moved on.
      I played other games here and there, but I didn't find anything as addictive for years, until Minecraft. When I first saw it I was not very impressed but I played a few times with my grandchildren and began to see the possibilities. It had all the right elements. First there's that Zen background music. It's like the spa music that you get with a massage. Then there's digging. Who would have imagined that breaking up cubes for hours would be so delightfully mind numbing? If you want to relax, a good round of creative Minecraft is better than a drug. You can play the game in survival mode where you battle monsters and googlies and ghosts and stuff. That's work. I don't play to work. So when I am not working and my mind needs a break and the dishes in the sink have no control over me I do this...
If it's summer I go to Martha's Vineyard.

In the winter I prefer Fountainhead...


Thanks so much for visiting!

When You're a Lego

How does one measure success? Does it come in the form of a big paycheck, a promotion, a million sales? Does it come with glowing reviews or a heartfelt letter from a customer or fan? I suppose there are as many ways as there are skills in the world and for each of us it is measured differently. I personally have had many occasions in my life where I could say I had attained success. Some had financial value, many more times it was emotional. Sometimes it was recognition that was not given to me by another person but just something I felt within myself. A good pat on the back from one's self sometimes is worth more than the words of any other person. Since I am harder on myself than anyone I know a bit of self-praise can be very satisfying. It also reminds me that I like me.
      One measure of success that I have decided I would love to have, to show I'm successful as a writer, was unveiled this week. It was done for the clever and humorous group that puts together The Big Bang Theory. I must say the show has made me laugh many times. The concept of a collection of  "broken toy" personalities, combined with talented writers and actors is very entertaining. Aren't we all in some way a bit broken? In fact some of the finest people I know are a bit that way.
      So, this week they have released the Big Bang Theory Lego collection. Now there's success! How completely cool is it to be a Lego? It's the epitome of being recognized by the whole world! You have not only images of yourself in one of the coolest and best selling toys in the world, but little dolls of your characters and other people can make them come alive.
      So I have decided that I want a Stavewood Lego set. I picture a little Timothy Elgerson, little yes as a Lego, but taller than all the other Legos, except maybe Chewbacca. I can see him on a little black Cannonball, in his broad hat, riding around Stavewood. The Stavewood part, of course, would have to be built out of the Lego kit, colorful pages of instructions , the building complete with the part that is the spire on the turret. They would have to contact me, of course, because I know where the fifty rooms in the place would all have to go. There would have to be a more-than-Lego-tiny Rebecca and a Jude Thomas with a waxed mustache. Wouldn't you love a little Mark smiling at you from your desk top? There would have to be an expansion pack, a longer set of legs and torso so that Mark could be grown into a man. A Lego man. If you loved the set then maybe for Christmas your children could buy you other expansion packs such as The Mills and of course The Shack set.
      Ah, imagination. It is a fine and wonderful thing.

November 9, 2014

Fred Rogers and Feering Ronery

     Last night my husband and I attended a CD release party. He is a musician and I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed decades worth of entertainment with him while he shares his music. I have heard talent from the most crowd-pleasing professionals to those that shouldn't quit their day jobs. Some have brought tears to my eyes and others have made me laugh and walk around with a big grin on my face for days. The CD party brought exactly that kind of smile. Wayne G. Harvey and Mac Given of Square Wheels did a most delightful rendition of Fred Rogers' It's You I Like. Yes, that's right, that Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood fame. I admit I was more a fan of Sesame Street, and not as much of the mild-mannered Mister Rogers. To this day I still think Joe Raposo of Sesame Street was one of the most under-recognized songwriters of our time. Now I guess I've been a bit awakened to Fred Rogers as well.
      There are some things that I especially like when I'm out listening to music. I love to hear a familiar tune, but one that I have long forgotten. A song that takes me back in time and has me tapping my foot. I had certainly forgotten this song long ago. Wayne and Mac really got a grin out of me last night. They will likely both laugh to hear that I thought It's You I Like was the high point of my evening.

     I do also like new music. I love songs with pleasant surprises that are fresh and new to my ear. I have heard plenty of them living with a musician as well. Those tunes move into the "familiar" category for me and I listen to them often. 
      This morning, after two nice conversations, one with my lovely daughter, Jessica, and the other with an old friend who recently moved out of the country, I set out to work in my yard. It needed a bit of mowing and a lot of leaf clean-up. That sticky version of It's You I Like, kept rattling around in my head as I worked. But then something else happened. This has happened before, especially when I haven't memorized all the words to the new tune that I can't stop playing over and over in my mind. I think my brain automatically fills in the missing parts in order to make an entire song. It's You I Like somehow morphed into a song from the film Team America. Now I found myself singing something like: 
It's you I like,
It's not the things you wear,
It's not the way you do your hair--
But it's you I like.
I work rearry hard and make up great prans
But nobody ristens, no one understands
Seems like no one takes me serirousry
It's you I like!

     If I wasn't entirely mad before I started mowing my lawn, I believe I am now.
   Today I have a few pictures from my fall garden. I also will share a handful of links to some of the artists I have met over the years. Give them a listen. There might be one or two in the list that will become favorite songwriters and performers of yours!

First the garden...

There were few, if any, hydrangea blooms in our area this year. I'm hoping for better luck next summer.

The gaura plant did not bloom until September. I have no idea why. I was beginning to think I had lost it.

We had a hard frost last night. I suspect this is the last of this year's roses.

The river birch is huge now. The leaves have turned a beautiful gold.

The pond plants on the now overturned tub, enjoying the last warmth of the season.

The Anise continues to bloom. It is so pretty to cut and enjoy with a few ferns in a simple vase.

Here are the links to the artists I mentioned above, in no particular order. It is not by any means a list of all the great artists I have heard, just a few highlights. These aren't paid endorsements but I have a PayPal account for any that are interested... heh heh. Enjoy the music!
Pat Warn and Terry Bortman:
Square Wheels:
Todd Snider:
Chelsea Sue Allen
Orion Freeman
Kyle Swartzwelder

November 6, 2014

Blogging About Blogging

      After reading this blog from the beginning to make some changes and corrections I have to say I never thought about how much a blog is like a diary. In the beginning it was just a few pictures and fewer words. Then it evolved to more pictures and more thoughts put into words. It followed me through getting published, turning sixty and some interesting experiences over the past year. Rereading it was insightful. I saw little things, like the fact that my garden really did suffer this year from the hard winter of 2013/14 and that I not only have turned 60 without too much damage, but have found over the past year that I have enjoyed it very much. I saw a couple of gifts I made for friends last year and it's interesting what became of those friends and friendships over just one year. I am indeed older and wiser and my life is fuller than ever before.
      I am still making the artisan bread, although not every night. My hips did not want to be the size of loaves of bread, no matter what my taste buds said. I make up a bucket now and again and enjoy that batch for several days. It is still as delicious as the first batch. I did enjoy my champagne tub very much in the warmer months, but found that the water stayed quite chilly until mid-July. I finished my first saga of books and have had some serious interest by film producers. 
      It has been a couple of years since I threw away my hair dye and a chance look back at my daughter's wedding pictures from 2005 convinced me I made a very wise choice. Now I am finding that embracing sixty continues to make my life more wonderful every day. I had a clothing designer tell me once, in the 70's when I was modeling, that the most beautiful and satisfied women are always most comfortable dressing and acting their age. I am finding more all the time what great advice that was.
      Other things I see are that, although I have made many things over the last year, I haven't posted a lot of pictures of them. I suppose I take it for granted that I just make things constantly. I vow to record more of them. Sadly, my bobbin lace has not been one of them and I promise myself I will get back into enjoying my great bobbin pillow. I have turned out several projects on my loom and it is now loaded with this year's Christmas gifts. Instead of the fancier things I am now moved to make more serious everyday things. Things that remind my friends that they are on my mind more often than only on special occasions.
      I have made some socks and some jewelry and some new friends. I have had great visits from the best of my existing friends. It's been a beautiful year and I think I want this blog to go to another level, for myself, and all of you out there who write to me about it. Thanks!
A keychain I made:

A very special yarn bowl from a great friend:

Boot toppers:
Finding out my natural color of hair is better than dyed. Priceless!

 Thanks for visiting!

November 4, 2014

Falling Back

I usually pride myself on how easily I can adjust to a time change. If I just stick to the clock soon my mind and body will adjust. That however has not happened this year. On my little tour around my house I began to see that there just might be a reason for my dilemma. Here is what I found on the faces of the more interesting clocks in my home. In the front hall:

In the living room:

In the dining room:

And in the kitchen:
It seems as if only the kitchen clock is right. This explains so many things. In the new digital world I have a clock on my phone, another clock on my iPad and another on my iPhone and I usually wear a big old watch. Since those are the places my face has been far too much lately it seems I have sadly neglected all the lovelier clocks in my world. This is something that must be remedied as soon as I have the time. 
"You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip
 by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip
 by."   J.M. Barrie