Thursday, February 28, 2008


Image from cute overload

I can see that my posts are going to be sporadic for a while; this is my busiest time at work and life is particularly full. Also trying to dig a little deeper into what I want to share here, so we'll see where that leads me.

Meanwhile, do visit this site where there is a web cam with a direct view of an eagle's nest in Maine. Of course they aren't always on the nest, but it's worth checking back periodically to get a view of them.

I am delighted to have my partner for Jess' Easter Swap! I have to get a couple of boxes out this week (problem in one case, sorry Helen, is just finding a box to fit!) and then I'll focus on something special for my partner....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Worth reading

I used to read all the time. I've loved books ever since being read to as a child, and I believe that reading is one of life's pure pleasures. And yet, reading is one of the things I rarely make the time to do anymore. Getting out of the habit as at first the fault of my work; I started my career as an editor and proofreader at a small publishing company and so I had to read, letter-by-letter closely, almost all day long. I will tell you that this makes picking up a book at the end of the day pretty much the last thing you'd want to do. For the next -- what? -- well, 16 years or so my work entailed writing, editing, and proofreading. Meanwhile, I lost my taste for the current fiction of the day. I don't know when it was decreed that every piece of contemporary fiction had to include at least one mind-numbingly horrific scene, but it seemed to me as though no one were capable of writing any kind of a story that didn't include real violence against children, or women, or both, or sometimes men but usually when they were children. Every life seemed to have child abuse in the past. Is it just me? I couldn't find much I enjoyed and I burned out on all my classic standbys (classic English lit., then people like Ann Tyler and Marge Percy, Roddy Doyle -- oh, there were others I 'discovered' then read everything she/he had written). I got more into non-fiction and still love a biography and can read a cookbook as though it were a novel. Craft books don't count for these purposes....

But the truth is that I haven't read much (for myself) for the past few years, other than Harry Potter. So I was delighted when my friend Lisa loaned me Julie and Julia and The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin. Thanks to a number of winter colds and freezing days at home, I managed to read both this year. For me, two books (plus one more, hang on) in two months IS something to write about. I suspect most of you would enjoy Julie and Julia, since it's a book by a blogger. Her blog got discovered and from it came the book deal; I may be the last of us to have read this book but if you haven't heard of it, she decides to spend a year cooking ALL of the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Even if you aren't that interested in cooking, the way her blog changes her life will intrigue you. Books like this -- written by hip young things living in New York City -- always make me feel a bit dowdy and out of it, but I felt that way even when I was a young thing myself so maybe it's just a fundamental style difference. But I don't think you'd be disappointed if you picked it up at your library. The Jacques Pepin autobiography is astonishing. Again, even if you're not big on cooking you will be captivated by his story and glad YOU didn't grow up in France during WWII.

And yesterday I finished reading a book my neighbor lent me -- Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan. Stay with me on this one. Maybe you've seen his show on the National Geographic Channel -- The Dog Whisperer? Anyway. Even if you don't have a dog, even if you do have a dog but aren't a fan of his show, or if there's any chance you think you might one day get a dog, or maybe if you had one at some point in your life, or maybe if you'd like some insights into your relationships with your family members (seriously), I recommend this book. Oh sure, I promised this wasn't going to turn in to an all-dog blog, and I'm standing by that. But I think you'll be just blown away by his insights into human psychology AND dog psychology; I am telling you that I've thought about my upbringing and about my relationship with Ken and how I function at work and how we're raising Dean (let alone how we're attempting to integrate a puppy into our lives) in an entirely. new. light. This is NOT a book about how to house-train a puppy. It is a book about fundamentally understanding the role that leadership and about the act of following a leader play in our lives. No kidding. (added bonus: the dog IS listening to me.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

One year, five days

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

Albert Einstein

I knew it was coming up; I had it written in my calendar and everything. I thought about it quite a bit, too. But then I let my one year anniversary here at Infinity More Monkeys come and go without so much as a mention, until now. February 18 was the day. Aside from all the usual life suspects that kept me from getting to it here, I felt I'd already read everything there was to be said by other bloggers when they celebrated their one-year mark. We know what makes this experience life-altering; we know why we do it despite set-backs, fatigue, uncertainty. I've still got boxes to get together and send off to friends I've made here and so am honestly hesitant just now to offer another drawing for a gift to bestow upon a randomly chosen commenter, although I feel with a blogversary that's a given. Maybe once it seems a little more like spring here, I'll get something together.

In the meantime I will say that each time you visit, each time you comment, it means something to me. It makes me feel connected to the world in a way that nothing else ever has. I visit your blogs because I care about you. I am genuinely interested in what you have to say, I enjoy seeing what you're up to, what the weather is like by you, what you're working on, what you're struggling with, what makes you happy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for widening your circle by one, for letting me in.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lend a helping hand

(This is one of the photos I sent to Alison; can't wait to see what she does with them!)

Do you have a moment to do a small favor? A couple that my sister-in-law knows about, Sarah and Dan, is trying to win their wedding photography and so they need you to go here and vote for them. They are finalists in a "Real Couple" contest based on the story about how they met and got engaged. I don't know them but apparently that's true of a lot of people; they aren't front-runners in this thing which I'm guessing is based more on how many people you can get to go and vote for you than how adorable you are and I thought it would be nice if we could get them a few extra votes. Vote just once, please (the rules!) and thanks in advance for helping out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Pledge

I wonder if somehow this thin ice formed while a leaf was still there -- underneath it -- but I don't think so. How did the ice form itself, though, in such a leafy shaped way? I don't know. I do wish that "leaf" or "ice" began with the letter "D," since that's my next letter in the ABC-Along but if I keep my eyes open and my curiosity active then something will catch my eye....

I promise, though, that I won't go cheap and use "dog" for the photo -- in fact, I make a solemn pledge not to let this turn into the all-puppy blog. It won't be so easy; life has changed entirely as I knew it would, but my goal here is to fight to keep my creative life alive even in the face of new (though welcomed) demands. I'll simply say for now that I honestly did allow myself to take a deep breath and appreciate -- drink in -- the beauty of being outside at 3:20 a.m. in 18f. weather. It's not that I wanted to be there. I wanted to be in bed. Sleeping. But the puppy needed to be out and so I was out but instead of being upset about it I listened to the nearby owl and had the perfect view of the newly full moon to make me appreciate the moment. Part of being up for getting the dog and being willing to be the one primarily responsible for house-breaking him was the knowledge that it would force me to be outside a lot and I wanted to get something out of that. Even at 3:20 a.m.

Jess asked me if I'd needle felted any doggies yet. I haven't, but may put some birthday gift $ toward the supplies. Go check out her Easter swap; I don't think I can resist this one!

Thank you for all the kind birthday wishes! I almost wasn't going to mention my birthday here just because it's the type of thing I'm usually fairly private about, but I wanted to share my enthusiasm for birthdays generally and wanted to encourage everyone to think that birthdays are good things and never something to be glum about nor to ignore. I encourage you to celebrate your birthday this year -- every year -- in a way that feels exactly right, but to celebrate. Dean even managed to do the thing I never seem able to do: get the photo exactly as the candles (a representative 3 rather than the actual 46 of Dean's card!) are being blown out....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Very Happy Birthday!

Here's the magnificent card Dean gave me this morning for my birthday! It's cold here today but the sun is shining, and we're all together for the day to celebrate. I've had a wonderful breakfast, fresh coffee, amazing gifts, and we're off shortly to do some book browsing and exploring; tonight we're going out for a Korean meal and then back home to put some candles in the brownies we made yesterday. Sweet. I tell Dean to always enjoy and celebrate a birthday -- never be sad or waste your birthday in any way. Birthdays are precious, each milestone is significant, and your age is just an interesting number -- a marker for how far you've come and for remembering how wonderfully the journey has been going so far.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Laura Jane was kind enough to bestow this Funky Blog title on me -- what fun! Hope I can live up to the name. There were no particular rules attached about passing this on, and since she and I travel in some similar circles I'll reach out to Cocoa as another blogger worthy (in all the best ways) of the title and who has been very helpful to me on a number of fronts.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Clouds, cute

Finishing my "C" entry just under the wire for the ABC-Along 2008; "clouds," and I had help with the idea. Took a long time to get them looking how I wanted them to; never so few clouds as when you're waiting for them!

And, meet the newest member of the family! Biscuit, who's making me so happily busy I barely have time to post....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Wishing you a lovely, homespun Valentine's Day! This is not a made-up, "Hallmark" holiday as some protest; this is an ancient celebration of love, and of expressing love. How you honor it, celebrate it, is up to you -- no one says you must go out and spend lots of money. I made Dean a little gift that he'll find in his lunch box (photo tomorrow!) and we made cards for each other that we will exchange at dinner time. Dean made cards and bookmarks for his classmates. I am very disappointed that I am required to be at a Board of Trustees' meeting at school tonight; it bothers me that this large group of adults doesn't care that it's an important family holiday but we'll enjoy the first part of our evening together at home, anyway.

Don't you love this photo? Hurray for PhotoShop, since the original was very underexposed. I'm saying this must have been taken during WWI; see the Red Cross caps on 2 of the dolls? And the clothing is clearly not WWII vintage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


It's another day for cold-weather wear, that's for sure! We had more snow and ice last night, and more's on the way today. These two sweeties have the right idea, although I can't imagine what it must have been like in the days when shoes were just leather -- no insulated, waterproof boots to keep your feet dry.

After my previous post with the child's birthday photo, I did a little research on the history of children's birthday parties. It seems that the basic premise -- a separate party just for children with other children in attendance -- is yet another thing we have to thank the Victorians for. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be able to wave a wand and view today's world without the Victorian Era having ever happened. Sort of like It's a Wonderful Life, you know? -- seeing the world as it would be if you'd never been born, or in this case, if the Victorians had never existed in England. Our culture would be entirely different, and social history a completely different story. It's staggering, really, if you think about it. But I digress. The point of a child's birthday party was both to demonstrate wealth and place in society and to give children opportunities to learn social rules, practice manners, etc. The concept of a birthday party with guests all the same relative age of the child came to pass after the industrial revolution and the popularity of schools -- your classmates became your social group less than the children of your parents' friends. This was the period in which birthday parties really became popular in the U.S., which makes me think my guess is close for dating the party photo. I had a nice email from Alison about the art and science of dating old photos and am looking forward to sharing some more with her.

I like going on those kinds of journeys, making those connections. Seeing something (an old photo), thinking about it, asking questions, doing some research. I spent some time on Monday, too, taking this journey: I was thinking of the song Joy is Like the Rain, which I remember from an album my mom had that was recorded by a group of nuns. I'd hoped their version was available on iTunes and while it wasn't, a harpist who'd recorded it also recorded another song I love but haven't thought about in a long time -- The Ash Grove. So that lead me to purchase a version of that song, but then I was very disappointed that my favorite verse wasn't in it. More research showed that there are indeed variations of the song out there, and the version I know and love is even referred to as "the Girl Scout version." Hmmm. Next, I found the sheet music online that included the lyrics, which has made it possible for me to learn to play it on the piano.

It is hard to make time to live life this way. To give yourself the gift of time of thinking, remembering, researching, learning. I like that playing around on the piano again forces me to use my brain in a very different way than I do in the usual course of a day. It's hard that it means that there are now -- what? -- four baskets of laundry waiting to be folded and more dirty laundry to be washed which will make the back-up for folding even longer. It's even harder that there's nothing really to "show" for the fact that I've learned a simple tune on the piano, and it causes me a moment of awkwardness when Ken comes home and says, "what did you do today?" (although he is generally supportive and I DID do the dishes and clean up the kitchen, after all). But all this leads to the good (great?) that can come from tooling around on the computer for a while -- making connections with people, making mental connections, living life and thinking about the world in a different way. Can you give yourself that gift once in a while?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another vintage photo

This gem is labeled on the back "Dolores Birthday Party." Isn't it wonderful? My guess is that Dolores is front and center, with the white leggings and dark hair. There's no date, but I'm going to guess early 1900s; I say that because of the giant hair bows on the girls that remind me of the ones in photos of my grandmother -- the two children in sailor suits probably also give a hint at the date, as do the appearance of regular lace-up shoes (third girl from right) as opposed to boots, but I don't know enough to be able to really interpret those clues. Dolores' family must have been well-off to be able to hold a party for 16 children, wouldn't you think? I'm not sure when children's birthday parties came into vogue; more to research!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A few things to share

I realized that my final post from yesterday now reads from the bottom up, which is a little confusing. Sorry about that! The end of day photos and comments are first, and then the last part is what I wrote at the start of the day.

One of many benefits of the clean out was coming across a few things I'd been looking for. One was a box of old photos I'd bought in Chicago -- a town where you still find lots of neighborhood junk/"antique" stores where you can pick up a nice stack of vintage photos for a few dollars. I'll share some over the coming days; for starters, here are a couple of great ones:

Next, I did post my letter form "C" to the ABC-Along:

I'm having trouble finding something out there that begins with the letter "C;" Dean keeps saying 'cardinal!' and I keep explaining how unlikely I will see one when I have my camera and am able to get close enough for a decent shot, but we'll see. I realized today that one unexpected result of my project will be a seasonal record of the year -- with luck by the time I am on "G" or "H" the pictures will start showing signs of spring.

If you're interested in receiving something from my clean up project (a quilting or sewing pattern? cross stitch kit? ribbon? fabric?) leave me a comment and make sure there's a way I can get in touch to get your address. I'm waiting to hear from some of the people who left me comments yesterday and hope to take some things to the post office tomorrow.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Clean up!

Be careful what you say to a lawyer; Helen's making me fess up about the fabric situation. These 2 photos were taken in my bedroom; the rest of the stash is IN the closet and in the attic. I've got tomorrow's work cut out for me.

Vast improvement:

Break time!

Good morning! It's 6:50 a.m. here, I'm finishing up my cuppa joe, and getting ready to spend the next 5 hours cleaning up in my craft room. I was doing some organizing yesterday afternoon and Ken said, "aren't you cheating?" -- no dear, it is not a contest, and it's going to take me way more than 5 hours to tame this beast. How about you? Have you got something you're going to work on today? Leave me a comment, hop over and see what Helen is up to, and let's see what we can accomplish today.

Natalie won the quilting book giveaway, and I can tell you already that I've got lots of stuff to send out into the world. Leave a comment today and be sure to include a method for me to contact you, and odds are good you'll end up with a little something.

Get cracking!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Countdown to clean up

Not the best photo, but I did accomplish a few things last year and one was finishing and hanging this quilt that I had, ah, begun as a baby quilt for friends who were expecting. The child is something like 16 years old now (we gave an alternate gift at the time) so it hangs in our bedroom instead. It is a true square, and the colors are richer/deeper, but there you go.

Are you joining me and Helen for clean-up day this Saturday, Feb. 9? I'll be here, posting from time to time between 7 a.m. and 12 noon EST; Helen will clock in on her blog from 12 noon to 5 p.m. on -- gosh, is it Greenwich Mean? Well, the time by the clocks in England, in any case. Let us know if you're catching up on some of your own projects -- cleaning, completing WIPs, whatever's your fancy. Helen sent me some inspiration in the form of chocolate-covered "mint cake" which is not really cake but more candy -- wonderful stuff.

I've shown you all my messes, and I have been making progress every day. Ironing the pile of linens that's been waiting (napkins, tablecloths, table runners, place mats), picking up, sorting out, throwing out, giving away as I go. Facing all the issues of how I get myself into this situation in the first place has been tough, but worthwhile. And I WILL still come clean on the fabric front -- just need a brighter day to take some better photos. For your information, the rest of my home is not a disaster; my issue is that I put my effort elsewhere, almost always, and rarely into taking care of things for myself. No more, I say. Well, I also say, given that we've got a puppy coming I'm yet again taking on something that will take me away from my own pursuits.... So it goes. Tell me what you're working on and what your goals are.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Progress and a puppy

We have a winner!

Beverly, whose birthday mojo is already clearly working, is the winner of the rubber stamps. The next item I am giving away is the book Seasons of the Heart and Home; Quilts for a Winter's Day which you may check out at Amazon and then come back and leave me a comment on this post by 5 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 7 if you'd like to be included in the drawing.

Fabric. Oh, fabric. Fabric will be coming -- both in terms of pictures of the bins of it all over my house, and in terms of some that I will give away in the spirit of cleaning up. I am proud to be able to report that I AM making interim progress and will have narrowed down at least somewhat my to-do list for next Saturday's transatlantic clean-a-thon.

Meanwhile, well, we got a puppy. We won't be bringing him home until the 15th; that's the start of 10 days at home for us. (New England schools typically get the third week in February off as "winter break" and then a week again in April for "spring break." Crazy, but we'll take it.) We've got about a million Legos to get up off the floor before the puppy comes home. We've been talking for the last few years about getting a dog, and Dean's upcoming 10th birthday (in April) was the incentive to go ahead. We all put a lot of effort into researching breeds and options, and settled on an Irish Jack Russell, which is the smaller, less hyperactive, less yappy and non-hunting relative of the Parsons or standard Jack Russell. It's one of those decisions that I know I will spend some time regretting, but the regret will be outweighed by loving the new member of the family. A dog changes everything, including the boy who grows up with one.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Always a sad day

Nine years ago today, I lost my dad to cancer. Groundhog Day is always sad for me -- I never quite know what to do with myself. At his request, I scattered his ashes in the Gulf of Mexico off of Siesta Key Florida, where he lived his last 10 years; if I could, I'd walk down to Crescent Beach there to watch the sunrise and think about him and set a flower afloat. This picture of the two of us was taken in about 1992, on the dock in his backyard at Siesta Key. I honestly do think about him every single day. The pain of losing a parent becomes less sharp over time, but it never goes away. He knew Dean was born and was delighted -- especially that we followed family tradition and gave him "Austin" as his middle name (my dad's, my great-grandfather's, my brothers' and nephews' middle name as well); "Dean" was also my way of honoring my dad, who was Denis. But he never met Dean. He was already very, very sick by that time and then my sister, against Dad's wishes, moved him to Seattle -- long story, but the result was that I wasn't able to show him his last grandson.

He was an interesting guy. He taught me how to fish (we spent hours upon hours on that dock of his), he shared his love of old movies, Cubs baseball, and Bears football with me. He showed me precisely why the work of Walt Disney was genius (Dad, too, worked in film and animation) and he gave me his recipe for red beans and rice. He worried about me ("you're working too hard") and he would have been very proud to hear when I was promoted to Senior Vice President at my old job. He would have been awed, perplexed, delighted, and worried when I walked away from that job to take the job at Dean's school but he would have loved Dean to pieces and would have told me what a good job Ken and I were doing raising him. I remind Dean to take off his hat in restaurants ("do it for Grandpa Denis"), to shake hands and look a person in the eye when he meets them, to see the beauty in nature, to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and to tell good jokes whenever the opportunity arises. And I taught Dean to fish. I guess if I had one wish, it would have been that the three of us could have spent time fishing together. "Fish fish fish!" Dad would have said, and then we'd have all cast our lines in and settled back to enjoy the sunrise and the comfortable silence of simply being together.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Week of shame, entry 4

Why is it so hard to move photos around in Blogger after you upload them? I can't get these two photos to switch places....

So then first is my computer table "nook" (which, just for your laughing pleasure, I would describe as being currently "cleaned up"):

And then here's Dean, working away on one of his projects on a bit of room I made for him on my "work table." This is where I set up my sewing machine when I'm using it. Especially late afternoons, as when this photo was taken, Dean likes to be with me in my craft room with each of us working on our own projects and generally listening to a story tape together. My computer table nook is to his right, the heinous closet mess is to the right of this nook, and the big scrapbooking table would be behind Dean and to his left.

Helen continues to give me the good, stiff advice I need, and I am very much appreciating all the suggestions and encouragement. I've already tipped my hand to Helen, but can anyone else identify what's been missing from all this mess? The supply you'd expect to be seeing more of, given the point of the original project? Tune in tomorrow....