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Ebony's Pearls
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Date:2015-04-25 16:57
Event type:Sticky

This journal is filled with adult content.

I regularly discuss things of interest to adults: responsibility, politics, religion, survival skills, cookery, science, filk, hobbies, government, current events, literature, history, human rights, jobs, finances, weight, disabilities, gardening, and more.


Date:2014-12-16 21:11

In Numenism, we don't, as a religion/belief/lifestyle,celebrate Christmas, or Yule, or any of the 36 other celebrations that occur in December. We do have Cookie Day, celebrated on the 12th day of the 12th month (or the closest weekend).

Refresher on Cookie Day: This is one of our two set holy days in Numenism. The other holy days are portable and flexible, but Cookie Day is the 12th day of the 12th month. It's a day when we celebrate bounty, community, and connection through the medium of cookies.

We do like to participate in the celebrations of our friends' events, and that means we do participate in Christmas as a secular celebration. We don't get all bankrupt over gift-giving and generally settle for giving cards or food - and would prefer that others reciprocate. After all, there are plenty of gift-giving opportunities throughout the year, there's no need to burden one day with all those expectations.

Exchanging gifts with others to celebrate the birth of a god is kind of a weird concept, but if it makes folks happy...

What would make more sense would be to give gifts to the newborn god - monetary gifts so the preachers, priests, ministers could devote time to officiating and assisting in the religious community, or giving items needed to support those goals. The god(s) generally already have everything, so what we can give are the things that adhere to the precepts of the religion.

Failing that, it makes more sense to share activities to build memories than to give more stuff - especially when you can spread the gifting out throughout the year and therefore provide a slightly higher and more personalized grade of gifting.

Piling all your gifting on one day means someone is always going to be disappointed, going to be frustrated, going to overspend because they feel they need to. It's just not affordable, really.

So, when people ask us what we want for this time of year, we try to deflect it, and failing that, we offer up a desire for memories, time together, and pressed for tangibles, we ask for food gifts or consumables we can share.

Among ourselves, we give pretty much any time of the year, whenever the need or the whim strikes us. We don't have a day set aside for mass gifting. The gifts we give tend to be either specific to Numenism or to the person we are gifting.

Numenist-specific-gifts tend to be things that most people don't perceive as gifts. Strips of cloth cut from clothing worn to special events to braid into Story Ropes/Quilts (we often wear special bandanas or scarves for this very purpose). Items for our extensive Elven Chess sets (rocks, feathers, interesting twigs, seed pods, antler bits, bones, etc.). Charms for our Standing Announcements. Memorabilia for our Memory Boxes. Tokens for Firsts and Annuals. Hair baubles for Rites of Passage.

Story Ropes/Quilts: These are made up of fabrics from special events so we can tell the stories of them. Each Celebrant is encouraged to have a Story Rope or make quilt pieces of special fabrics from community celebrations to remember the participants and the event. When we "tell the story", we recount and remember the people and connections formed through these ropes/quilts.

Elven Chess is a patterning game where a table is set aside and one or two or all of us study the table top and place an item on it. The rules are simple: the pieces are natural items (rocks, sticks, seed pods, leaves, feathers, bones....), you can only place one piece in your turn and have to wait until at least one other person places a piece (or, if playing solo, must wait at least 1 hour between placing each piece), you can only move the pieces you place, and the game ends when the person who started it says it ends. A pattern or rhythm is built up in the playing board, and the goal is for the players to sense that pattern and participate in it.

Standing Announcements are poles set up to stand upright (a christmas tree stand works well, so does screwing "L" brackets around the bottom), then painted and decorated to represent a person or family. The top often has a candle holder or place to put a small lantern. These are brought to celebrations to provide lighting and to share accomplishments.

Memory Boxes are containers that hold small tokens and memorabilia from one's co-adherents to mark memories of activities done together. They can be ticket stubs, tiny handmade tokens, buttons, charms, rocks, and things that evoke memories or hold a strong meaning.

Firsts/Annuals are celebratory events like First Word, First Step, First Tooth, First Day of School, First Day of College, First Job, First House, First Dentures, and Annuals like First Fire - lighting the first fire/turning on the heat the first time for winter, First Flowers, First 'Mater Day, First Triple Digit Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries.

Rites of Passage are the usual things: Births, Puberty, Majority, Partnering, Eldering, Dying, Funerals and Memorials.

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Date:2014-12-12 21:58

Itzl is getting up in age. He's had one emergency knee surgery that his fans helped pay for, but his other knee is going to need repair soon. I'd like to get it done before he's too old to risk in surgery, but don't earn enough to set aside enough money fast enough to do that - this surgery is very expensive and his health insurance won't cover it as knee problems are considered a breed specific issue.

So, I thought about doing a blog for pay, documenting Itzl's life in stories and pictures, sharing what it was like to train a service dog and live with one.

I checked around for funding programs that are long term, that have a monthly or per blog pay system instead of a one lump sum system, since that seems it would work best for Itzl's needs.

Several people recommended Patreon, but that seems to be more for musicians. It's certainly mostly geared towards musicians, even if it does say it does blogs and other creative writing endeavors.

I'm muddling my way through it as I haven't found the instructions on how to connect a blog to Patreon. Sometime in the hopefully near future, I'll have it set up, if not with Patreon, then maybe with some other method.

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Date:2014-12-09 19:35
Subject:Cookie Day Recipes

Plain jane cookies are as welcome as the fancy-schmancy ones. There is no contest.

You bake the cookie that is either your favorite or is your specialty and if we end up with half a dozen different chocolate chip cookies, so be it.

I like trying out new recipes and experimenting, so no one (sometimes not even me!) knows what I'll make for Cookie Day, but I rely on D's snickerdoodles, and M's oaties, and J's peanut butter cookies every year. I know those will be there and be good. K alternates between his thumbprint cookies and his pumpkin spritz bars.

We don't make a booklet of the cookie recipes or demand that people leave spouses, pets, or children behind. We don't send invitations because everyone knows it's on December 12th every year. We don't dictate what type of cookie or the ingredients. Some cookie exchanges say all cookies must be home made - we don't. Cookies are cookies. While we prefer home made because that ties in with the whole concept of Cookie Day, we know that things happen - the batch burns and there's no time to bake more! You break an arm or a finger or get a serious paper cut. Bakery cookies, and even Oreos, are acceptable. It's cookies and the concept is the important thing - the getting together, the sharing, the stories, the bonding, the celebrating. We can celebrate with vanilla wafers just as easily as with chocolate macadamia meringues shaped like mangers and gilded with real gold. We don't require an RSVP - do you RSVP to a ritual or other religious service? See, so we don't demand RSVPs. Either the spirit moves us to attend or it doesn't. We don't specify a quantity other than "lots". And while it's nice to pretty up the cookies and show them off on fancy platters arranged in decorative ways, it's not essential.

Our rules are simple: show up and bring cookies. You can take your share of cookies home in the box you brought - it will be emptier of your cookies and fuller of other people's cookies.

We don't do prizes. This isn't a contest.

We do share recipes that may or may not appear on Cookie Day. Below are the recipes I have made and will probably make again, but not all of them in any given year.

Read more...Collapse )

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Date:2014-12-08 21:55
Subject:Cookie Day

Cookie Day is this Friday.

Since it's on a Friday, we'll celebrate all weekend.

We've been fasting from cookies since Thanksgiving, so it will be nice to break that fast with a cookie orgy - fruitcake cookies, cuccidatas, springerle, three sisters cookies, snickersnaps, vanilla cherry mint spirals, chocolate vanilla spirals, checkerboards, sugar cookie cut outs, gingerbreads, honeycakes, snowfire drops, almond crescents, biscottis of all kinds, peppermint kisses, egel cookies, macarons, macaroons, snow on the pumpkin, pizzelle, palmiers, alpenkakor, oaties, peanut butter, nutella bites, cinnamon scrolls, cat tongues, thumbprints, rugelach, fairy shortbreads, butterscotch shortbreads, green tea shortbreads, lebkuchen, pfeffernusse, Russian tea cakes, unicorn spirals, piggies, snickerdoodles, snowcaps, nussecken, millifiore slices, spritz, ruby snails, German chocolate cookies, rosa puvvulu, wookie cookies, lemon bars, dream bars, bienenstich cookies, samoas, and more.

I love Cookie Day for so many reasons.

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Date:2014-12-03 09:45

Before Santa Claus, there was Krampus and Frau Perchta. According to the stories I grew up on, Krampus and Frau Perchta teamed up to socialize children and even young adults. Once a year, Krampus - a furry, horned, cloven-hooved creature with a disturbingly long tongue, part man, part beast, sort of like a goat man with horns and one hoofed foot (the other was a human foot) - and Frau Perchta - a handsome woman dressed in white furs and with an owl headdress and with one swan foot and one human foot - would visit each village and family to make sure the children had been kind to animals and helpful to their parents. Children who were kind to animals received an orange or an apple from Krampus, and a silver coin and candy from Frau Perchta. Children who harmed animals or were not helpful to their parents received birch switches from Krampus and straw and pebbles from Frau Perchta. That day used to be the last full moon before the winter solstice.

Once Christianity came along, the stories of Krampus and Frau Perchta got darker - Krampus began carrying chains to bind bad children and sometimes pushed a wheelbarrow or barrel to carry them off and torture them until they behaved. Frau Perchta would slit the bellies of bad children and fill them instead of their shoes with straw and pebbles (they supposedly survived this operation so Krampus could haul them off for torture...).

When St. Nickolaus appeared, Frau Perchta disappeared and he took her place. St. Nick and Krampus would appear in the evening or during the night on December 5th. Krampus became meaner and uglier and St. Nick left presents instead of just candy and silver coins.

For a while, the stories of Krampus became really dark and mean, then between 18 and WWI, the Victorians made scary and amusing Krampus cards (which are quite collectible now). The World Wars dried up the greeting card market for Krampus cards - and the printing shops where these cards were produced destroyed. With the disappearance of the cards and an active hatred of Krampus by Hitler, by WWII, Krampus had been so thoroughly suppressed only remote areas still remembered him. But they did remember him, and Krampus has revived and is more a festival than a punishment for children. People (mostly men, but women are reclaiming Frau Perchta) dress up in furs and horns and fake long tongues and get together to run through the streets. They wear chains and carry baskets full of switches (except the women carry bags of candy), and as they run, they swish the switches and rattle the chains and try to make a frightful noise to scare away evil spirits. The women throw candy.

When my children were small, they received oranges, silver dollars, and candy in their shoes when they woke up on the morning of the full moon just before the solstice. We dropped the custom as they got older and I kind of wish we hadn't.

I think a revival of Krampus is a Good Thing.

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Date:2014-11-27 20:45
Subject:A Day of Cretaceous Eating

Four or five years ago, I was asked to create a collection of recipes that a person might have eaten in the Cretaceous Period. It was for some sort of dinosaur project, and I was to ignore the fact that Humans weren't around then. I was to assume time travel.

So I did a lot of research to find plants and animals that existed back then that have ancestors today, or good substitutes. My goal, although apparently not the goal of the person who asked me, was to make it look and taste as realistic as possible.

These recipes were the result of that research. I've made all these dishes, and they are pretty tasty.

Read more...Collapse )

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Date:2014-11-27 16:15
Subject:Numenous Star

We have now written, re-written, discussed, debated, rewritten, verified, and rewritten yet again the chapters for the Numenous Star, the ministerial sourcebook for the Numenous Way. It is a companion volume to The Numenous Way, a sourcebook for Numenous Celebrants.

Underway is the formatting of it, which may take as long as the writing of it.

It's a hefty tome and we're considering dividing it into 2 volumes: essays on each of a minister's tasks, and the Celebration Structure section.

The essays would cover such topics as the Numena, Numenous Philosophy, Love and Beauty, Evil and Betrayal, Celebration, Community, Connection, Conversations, Offerings, Traditions, Houses, Living Numenously, Patterning, and more.

We have 30 common celebrations. Not everyone will celebrate all of them personally, but a minister may officiate at all of them. Some of these are Rites of Passage celebrations that a person would celebrate only one in their lifetime, some are Firsts, and some are annual or repeated as needed.

We read other books written for clergy - Christian, Jewish, Wiccan/Pagan, and decided that Numenism was different enough that none of them were a good fit for the Numenous Way

There's also this: all of the original founders of Numenism have now died. Others are my age, which means they are starting to die off of old age, too. And we never were good about recruiting or attracting new adherents. Our small numbers are diminishing rapidly. I haven't met in person with another Numenist in a couple of years. Most of our work is done remotely, via telephone or snail mail, and occasionally email.

I know on line I've been pretty much the sole presence because other Numenists were leery of the internet. Now I feel like I'm collecting the knowledge we've gathered over the decades as some sort of "bank" in case anyone stumbles across it and decides to revive it. Putting this onto books will hopefully, in that case, prevent people from repeating all the work we did.

So far, we have the basic Celebrant book that gives information on how to be a Numenous Celebrant with essays and basic celebrations.

We have the Token Ring, which is information on Numenism for teens.

We have Moon Ripples, which is information on Numenism for younger children.

We have the Numenous Pleiad, which is a collection of essays written by the 7 people who have been Numenist elders.

We're working on the Numenous Indagation, for those aspiring to be Numenous Priests, and Eldering Numenously, a workbook for those wishing to become Elders in Numenism.

After that, it's cultural things such as traditions and celebrations.

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Date:2014-11-24 11:39
Subject:Still Not Born

Still not official. Still don't know my real name or my birth date or where I was born.

This search is exhausting.

Perhaps I should have pursued this decades ago when I got divorced and the state tried to deport me back then. The state backed off and let me be and I thought everything was all hunky-dory and good to go. My name or birth date wasn't what was in dispute then, just that I was born outside the US. But bringing up a military father ended that, I guess.

Then, in putting my affairs in order for retiring, I discovered that I needed a birth certificate, which I'd never needed before.

Getting that document has been the most interesting and difficult and frustrating thing ever.

In this lengthy and expensive process, I have discovered that I wasn't born where I thought I was, I don't have the name I thought was mine, and I wasn't born when I thought I was.

The most interesting thing about this is that I was not adopted. I could see having difficulty with all of this if I'd been adopted, but I wasn't.

None of this would be an issue if America hadn't gotten collectively so paranoid. Everyone needs the exact correct papers - birth certificate, driver's licenses, passports, state IDs, voter registration forms, work IDs, current bills in one's name and address, mortgage papers, and on and on and on, and mine aren't copacetic for some reason, without the birth certificate that doesn't exist anywhere on earth.

I just want to give up and sell my house and move far, far away - set up my own country where I don't have to go to court and visit embassies and such such to establish that I am real and here and old.

It's just a lot of work. And money. Lots of money.

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Date:2014-11-14 21:53

I know it's been a long time since I've spoken of Numenism here. I've reduced how often I speak about it because it seems people aren't deeply interested in it, and proselytizing has never been my way.

But, now and again, I do speak of it.

One thing I'd like to talk about is celebrations.

In Numenism, we have both very few and a great many celebrations.

That's not a contradiction.

Officially, there are two major Numenist celebrations: Cookie Day and Founders Day. All Numenists celebrate these two holy days, alone or in community.

Unofficially, Numenists are happy to help others celebrate their special and holy days. We also have a lot of times - rites of passage, Firsts, anniversaries, annual events, and so on. Some of these are done in the Numenist style, and others in the style of the actual celebrants, where Numenists are supporters.

That means we take joy, directly or vicariously, through the celebrations and holy days of our friends.

Until one holy day is rammed down our throats not just for the day that is holy, but for weeks and months leading up to it, all other holy days and celebrations subsumed or sidelined or even eliminated to allow that one holy day to bloat and spread out, contaminating everything.

That doesn't usually happen. Most religions keep a tight hold on their holy days and hold them to their set times and set symbols and rituals.

Somehow, though, in the USA, one religion's single holy day has actively been shoved down the throats of everyone, while the shovers have screamed persecution and made wild claims that there was a war on their one special day. They've used that bogus claim to force people to deal with that one single holy day for weeks and months before and after it, to the point that the shovers no longer maintain the integrity of the day and the celebrations and rituals concerning it.

Why yes, I am talking about the behemoth called Christmas.

I do enjoy the carols and songs, the food, and the symbols and stories concerning the holy day. I appreciate them best in their brevity, but I am willing to allow those who celebrate Christmas as part of their spiritual beliefs, their religion, to do so for the whole month, even though that dilutes the specialness and sanctity of the day.

And that's the problem.

Yes, people exclaim that they wish the joy of the Christmas season would last all year round. I think they are going about it the wrong way. The joy and camaraderie are attitudes, not objects, and they can definitely be expressed and appreciated all year long. That's not what we are getting, though.

What we're getting are belligerent people demanding we use the one single phrase they will accept or they'll ruin a business that is more diverse and accepting. We're getting angry people demanding we use their symbols and songs for months before the holy day. We're getting violence from those who demand everyone ignore their own sacred and holy days in order to kowtow to that one holy day - and not just for the one day but every day for months before it.

Belligerence, anger, willful destruction, and violence doesn't embody the spirit of the holy day of love and good will and joy very well, do they? But that's what we're getting with forced peppermint candy canes, snowmen, and the single phrase, "Merry Christmas" with the implied "or else" following silently and aggressively behind.

That just sucks all the joy out of the holy day.

I am (obviously) not a Christian, so I can't alter this militant attitude from within.

All I can do is quietly and cheerfully celebrate as many different holy days as exist between Labor Day and New Year's, each with their own symbols and rituals, and on the day that belongs to them.

That means I will celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September with the patriotic symbols and fervor reserved for that holiday and without a vestige of Christmas symbols.

I will celebrate VJ day on September 2nd with remembrances of the end of WWII.

I will celebrate 9/11 by reciting the names of those lost that dreadful day and donating to emergency rescues.

I will celebrate Uncle Sam Day on September 13th by displaying his picture with sparklers and hot dogs.

I will celebrate Citizenship and Constitution Day on September 17 by reading the Constitution aloud and eating cake.

I will celebrate Oktoberfest beginning September 19 with soft pretzels and bratwursts and oompah music.

I will celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day with geocaching and feasting.

I will celebrate Native American Day on the 4th Friday by remembering my father's people and eating frybread and Indian Tacos.

I will celebrate Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Sukkot, Canadian Thanksgiving, Frankenstein Friday, Mischief Night, Diwali, Samhain, and Halloween in October.

I will celebrate All Saint's Day, All Soul's Day, Dia de la Muertos, Veterans Day, Sadie Hawkins Day, American Thanksgiving, Guy Fawkes Day, NaNoWriMo, and World Kindness Day in November.

I will celebrate Bodhi Day, Cookie Day, Krampus Nacht, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucia, St. Stephen's Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Hannukah, Festivus, Solstice, Hogswatch, Decemberween, Pancha Ganapati, Saturnalia, Mother's Night, Yule, Yalda, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Zamenhof Day, Newtonmas, Human Light Day, Soyal, Hogmanay, Chalica, Dongzhi, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Sadeh, Chahar Shanbeh Suri, Malanka, Feast of Alvis, WInter Veil, Winter Fair, St. Nicolas Day, Christmas, and New Year's Eve in December.

And I will say "Happy (fill in the blank)" on the day of the holy day, and only on that day. If there is no holiday on that day, I will say "Happy Holidays" because there are so many wonderful, delightful, and different holy days and celebratory days.

I will decorate for each holiday the day before or morning of and remove the decorations the night of or the following day.

Yes, even for Christmas.

Some decorations are versatile and can be used for multiple celebrations, so those will be brought out frequently.

Because the way to prevent Christmas bloat is to give each celebration its full and fair attention on its day.

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Date:2014-11-14 20:02

I am reminded of tarot because during this week, a friend spoke of it on his FB, several people mentioned it on their diaries, and for some reason, even though I have never purchased a single deck of cards, let alone Tarot cards, from Amazon, they've been recommending decks to me.

Not just any decks, either. For some reason, they seem convinced I want to use the druid deck. It appears 3 or 4 times in the front page recommendations, and it pops up in every recommendation suggestion, whether I'm browsing for flea goop or sewing supplies.

So, let me tell you about me and Tarot.

I've been given several decks over the years. For some reason, people think if you're Pagan you must do Tarot.

In order to interact with other Pagans (and, I suppose, have some Pagan street cred), I learned Tarot, learned some basic spreads, and used the decks I was given.

The problem with all the different decks I've seen is that the symbols on them don't mean to me what they are supposed to mean. Some of them are on cards in ways that make no sense to me. I couldn't read them based on what was showing.

I was pretty good at reading the cards as long as I didn't actually look at them.

I finally found blank playing cards that you could draw on yourself. I'm not an artist, not a good one, anyway, but by designing my own deck, using the symbols that resonate with me and suit our modern age, I've become even more accurate with Tarot readings.

Honestly, though, I do much better with trinkets, odd bits, and an embroidered cloth I have. The cloth has symbols embroidered on it with directions and seasons and colors that are meaningful to me. By tossing trinkets on it, I can do readings that are fairly accurate - as accurate as I want them to be.

There are so many different divination and communication methods that I am loathe to limit myself to just one.

The decks I have (except the one I made) are pretty, but the only one I'm comfortable wit is the one I made. I won't reject gift decks, but I'm less likely to use them.

And I don't think I'll be buying the deck Amazon keeps recommending.

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Date:2014-11-01 12:19
Subject:Dilly Soup

I love dill pickles. In the summer, I carbonate the dill pickle juice for a refreshing lawn mowing drink. I crave dill pickles in the heat of summer. I stir dill pickle juice into chicken noodle soup to make a Germanic Avgolomeno.

And creamy dill pickle soup with crusty French bread is a delicious cold weather treat.

5-1/2 cups chicken broth
1-3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cups chopped carrots (smaller dice or julienned)
1 cup chopped dill pickles (smaller dice - about 3 large whole dills - I use Best Maid pickles, the giant pickles, and 1 or 2 pickles are enough)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup water
2 cups dill pickle juice (if it's very salty, you can cut it with vinegar)
1-1/2 teaspoons Old Bay or Old Bay type seasoning
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Garnish (optional)

sliced dill pickles
fresh or dried dillweed or parsley
black pepper

Simmer broth, potatoes, carrots and butter until the potatoes are tender. Add the pickles and continue to simmer.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sour cream and water, making a paste. Vigorously whisk sour cream mixture (2 Tablespoons at a time) into soup. The flour may form little lumps, but as the soup cooks, it will be absorbed. It's OK if the potatoes mash up some - that will thicken the soup and give it a lovely texture.

Add pickle juice, Old Bay*, pepper and cayenne. Cook 5 more minutes and remove from heat. Serve immediately

*Old Bay seasoning consists of a blend of dry mustard, paprika, ground celery seed, ground bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger - all ground together.

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Date:2014-10-27 19:58
Subject:Lacking Provenance

The saga of collecting the info I need to retire meets another roadblock.

I am still not born.

In my quest to secure proof of my birth, I have discovered that my name is NOT my name, that the part that is in common is NOT spelled the way I thought it was, that I was not born WHERE I thought I was, that I was not born WHEN I thought I was.

I have moved past wondering if I exist. I have accepted that I am some sort of space alien.

I had better damn well prove out to be the daughter of the King and Queen of the Universe at this point. I am holding out for nothing less.

If/When I finally get my paperwork in order to prove I was born, I think I will deserve one hellacious and bodacious birthday party.

If I were being appraised on the Antiques Roadshow, they would say I lack provenance. I wouldn't be admissable as evidence on CSI because my chain of custody is missing a few links. And while I can get documentation on my ancestors going back 10 generations as well as for my descendants, finding documentation for me makes me the weakest link.

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Date:2014-10-25 18:29
Subject:In the Closet

Today, I tackled the closet I have studiously ignored for nearly a decade, the closet holding odds and ends of my kids that have been tossed in and forgotten.

Mostly, it was clothes they were "saving for a garage sale" that never happened.

Over time, the closet became packed - and a haven for the field mice that come into the house each fall.

And I still studiously ignored it, since the mice rarely ventured into the rest of the house.

But - it needed cleaning. Desperately.

So I decided today would be the day and I prepared for it. I bought a box of contractor trash bags, and set aside several boxes for things that might be suitable for resale or giving away. I corralled a pitch fork, shovel, and rake (having mucked out my son's room a couple of times, I have experience), as well as a pair of rubber gloves, a face mask, and a broom and dustpan.

Apparently, the mice made themselves completely at home in that closet. The implements of cleaning came in very handy.

Sadly, nothing was worth salvaging. The mice peed on everything and fouled it all beyond cleaning.

I expected to use up all 25 contractor bags, but only used up 5, so it was bad, but not lethal.

The carpet had to go, too. That's OK. I'd planned to remove the carpet anyway as I will be removing the "wall" between the closet and laundry room in order to expand the laundry room in size: put in a folding table, clothes rack, and ironing board, and a proper floor rather than the cement it currently possesses. I have to replace the wall the electrician and plumbers ripped apart and will take the opportunity to use some heat tape and re-insulate the wall and put in insulation for the outside walls as well.

The "wall" I will be removing will replace the door into the closet so it presents a solid wall to the library (currently acting as storage for kids and deceased parent).

This will give me both a larger laundry room and another wall for bookshelves - a win/win all around.

From the height of the clothes rack to the ceiling, I will put in storage shelves and will place seasonal items there.

Next step: to convert the dining are of the kitchen into a walk-in pantry, remove the upper cabinets and replace them with shelves up to the ceiling, replace and extend the counter almost to the window. It will need a new floor, too, since the current floor is linoleum so worn it has holes in it.

I had dreams of converting the window to a door leading out to a screened in deck for breakfasts and such, but in reality, I doubt I can afford that. So I will place a wheeled butcher block/table there.

I will also paint my appliances to all match as they are different colors (what was on sale, you know).

The hole kitchen will be redone in Blue Onion because I like Blue Onion and think it is yummy.

I thought about replacing the wall between the kitchen and the crafting room with shelving and counter, but honestly, I think the wall is better for now. I could change my mind later.

Then, when the pantry is in place, the kitchen re-organized, and the library sorted back into usability, I can sort and organize the crafting room. I have a lot of things I will be passing on once that's done (I reckon 2 years from now) - leftovers of projects I've completed - wood scraps, mostly, since I am a reluctant wood crafter. I have no real skill for it and no desire to develop a skill for it. There are also supplies of crafts I don't think I will continue - once was enough for me. Plus, there are crafting supplies left behind by the kids that I won't keep.

That will then let me re-organize the Snuggery and bedroom and sort out the get-rid-ofs.

None of the rest of the house has had mouse issues, so the things I sort out will be suitable for a garage sale or to give away.

I'm giving myself a 5 year deadline to do all this.

Then I'm putting the house up for sale, retiring, and moving somewhere more suited to my needs.

Yes, I know, I'm putting a lot of work into this house, but it needs it. Once the house is organized and I've gotten rid of all the excess, got it painted and prettified, it will be so much easier to pack up and move. Right now, the mere thought of packing up to sell the house and move just makes me sick to my stomach.

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Date:2014-10-15 09:06
Subject:Haunted House

Someday, I'd like to run another haunted house like I did back in the 70's. With modern technology, it would be way more awesome.

There wouldn't be blood, gore, or strobe lighting, as those are just stupid tricks that ruin the experience.

The patrons would start by waiting in the Cantina, with lively music, aliens, costumed characters, and drinks (but no food - we don't want people vomiting on tour).

I'd have thick rubber sheet walls in a dark hallway with bodies pressing from the other side and moaning like hungry zombies. I'd have blinking eyes in odd places. In one place, there would be a beating heart beneath the floorboards. I'd have a course of pendulum blades and wrecking balls swinging over a moving floor. I'd have holographic ghosts. I'd have a mirror like Erised, and another with a snarky "mirror on the wall" person, and third one that would be like Dorian Gray's mirror. I'd have subliminal music that controls the patrons' heartbeats. I'd have animatronic monsters. There would be a wall of hands in another hallway. There would be portraits that would be "off" in subtle and disturbing ways. There would be odd breezes - some cold and some hot, and "steam jets" releasing cool steam. There would be foggy areas with aliens doing bizarre and therefore frightening things. There would be scary shadows appearing in unexpected places. There would be rooms where patrons would peer into mad scientist labs and alien places and re-enactments of frightening scenes from fairy tales and stories. And there would be other things.

At the end, the patrons would be led through a graveyard with Weeping Angels and other things.

They would finish in the Cracked Cauldron, a bar with calming music, food, drinks, and friendly costumed characters to allow them time to de-brief, vent, and recover - and there would be screens showing patrons going through the house, including footage of themselves. They can purchase the videos of themselves going through the house, and photos of various characters, and other souvenirs.

And they can buy tickets to go through again.

It would be expensive. It would be just scary enough to keep people on the edge, but not so scary that it would cause heart attacks. Because it would be techie, it could be altered for each trip through, things moving around, being slightly different.

There would be no one popping out, no one touching the patrons (except possibly through the rubber walls or the wall of hands - but the patrons would have enough room to roll or squeeze past without contact if they choose).

The pendulum hall could be set to go fast for teens and slow for those using assistive devices. The subliminals could be adjusted for age and abilities, too.

It would be terribly, terribly expensive, and I'd need at least 2 IT people, and a bevy of techs and costumed people and at least one animatronics expert, and design and make-up artists, and people to work in the Cantina and the Cracked Cauldron. Oy - the wages alone would be daunting.

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Date:2014-10-11 19:38
Subject:Fashion vs Style

My whole life, I've been the dowdy one, frumpy and therefore inclined not to even bother to attempt to be fashionable. No matter how nice it looked on someone else, on me, it would immediately become shabby, and definitely not shabby chic, just sadly shabby.

I thought I was doomed to always look like some back country granny and never bothered with fashion. I wore a "uniform" of a solid color turtleneck top and long solid color skirt and flat granny shoes. I wore my hair in a bun or a braid.

Yes, I still looked tatty.

Then, I met this wonderful woman who dressed amazing. She was always put together, and over time, I noticed she pretty much wore a "uniform", too, and it was her accessories that lifted it from "uniform" to fashion statement.

Another friend of mine decided she'd develop a style of her own, as well, and shared the website that inspired her.

That website was filled with older women, like me, who developed a style all their own that didn't rely on modern fashions.

I realized that modern fashions just weren't meant for me.

So, I spent a few months researching style as opposed to fashion. I reviewed what I liked to wear:: colors, cuts, accessories.

I went through the patterns I had, and the fabric I'd collected from sewing for others all the time.

And I came up with a cut of clothing I really, really liked. Actually, I came up with several, but I started with just one.

It was a 1950's "little black dress" that was a princess cut, flared. I didn't like the sleeves, so I used the sleeve from a 1970's dress pattern I had. And I added to that a long, sleeveless vest, sort of a lab coat without sleeves.

I kept the turtlenecks, but now they went under the dresses I sewed.

Serendipitously, the style of boot I loved came on the market in my size and in a variety of colors and at a price I could afford.

It took me most of a year to buy them all - but I ended up with 5 pairs of Victorian style, lace front flat boots in blue, red, green, black, and brown. I'm still waiting to find purple and a dark mustardy yellow, but if I never find them, I will be happy enough.

I had some left over red with black polka dots fabric that I made up into the dress pattern I liked, with black sleeves and the red and black cuffs, and a black lace hem. I can wear the red or black turtleneck with it, with or without the black vest, and with either the black or red boots. I added a black rose barrette and a couple of rhinestone hairpins, and suddenly, it was a style. Yes, it was put together from scraps, but it looks pretty good.

Next up was some fabric left over from curtains I'd made up for a friend. It was pink with red roses and white daisies on it. Not my usual color choice, but I had enough fabric to make a dress, so I did. I could wear a green, pink, or red turtleneck under it, and the green or red boots. With ribbon roses in my hair, it was an outfit, not just clothes.

Then I got 6 yards of a pink and green batik that was on deep sale. It made a lovely dress. It has tiny splashes of dark yellow in it, so if I ever find those yellow boots, I could wear them with this dress. I can wear the black, red, or green boots with it. I put tie-dyed silk flower barrettes in my hair.

I had some blue fabric left from a quilting project where the person had miscalculated how much fabric was needed. On closer look, the fabric looked as if it were printed with teeny beads of different shades of blue that formed hearts. I made that up into a dress (a bit short, not quite enough fabric...). With blue stockings clocked with rainbow butterflies, the blue boots, and blue daisies in my hair, it looks well-put-together.

I still had lots of black fabric, so I actually made up a "little black dress" with the 50's pattern. I added a black and white striped pillow ticking long vest from making pillows. With a black turtleneck and black hair flowers, I add the black boots and black and white striped stockings.

I still had a lot of pillow ticking left, so I made a dress from it. I can wear any of the turtlenecks with it, and any of the boots, depending on which turtleneck I wear. I can match the hair flowers to the turtleneck, too.

Today, I went to the Columbus Day sales at the fabric store and got a lovely Moroccan patterned fabric in blue and green with gold geometric patterning, and a pink and green batik over printed with sprays of gold flowers. Those will also become dresses and will match everything I have so far.

After the first of the year, I plan to change things up a bit. I have this lovely light denim peplum jacket I made that has batiked dragonflies on it. I would like to make up several more such jackets, and pair them up with full cut Turkish/Russian style pants that tuck into my boots. If I keep the colors to the colors of my boots, I should be good. I can continue to wear the hair flowers.

The only actual accessories I have are the hair flowers. I can't really wear headbands because my head is too small and the back is too flat to hold them in place, so hair accessories have to be clip-ons. I'm thinking I might go with daytime "fascinator" style flat tiny hats that I can clip on, as well.

My clothes aren't fashionable, but they do constitute a style, one that has garnered a surprising number of positive comments. When I wore the blue dress and boots last week, quite a few people commented positively, and 2 asked how to design their own style. Today, when shopping, 7 people made positive comments about the rose dress and red boots. One was at Hancock's, so I showed her the patterns I used.

I think I do need to add more accessories.

That's kind of where I'm failing - accessories.

I suppose I could wear necklaces, but they'd have to fit over a turtleneck and not be so long they interfere with my hearing assistance dog, who spends a lot of time in a pouch on my chest (mostly to keep him from getting stepped on - he didn't get as big as expected). I can (and have) made a few pouches to match/contrast with what I wear, so that can be an accessory. The pouch pretty much precludes brooches because it would rip them off when moving, and pinning the brooch to the pouch just hasn't worked so far.

Should I add bracelets, earrings, finger rings?

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Date:2014-10-10 13:47
Subject:It's Quick Bread Time!

This time of year just cries out for the baking of rich, decadent quick breads.

My standby quick bread is pumpkin nut bread, dense, moist, nutty, delicious with coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or apple cider as is or toasted with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

But I'm also partial to cornbreads mixed up with things like creamed corn, sweet potatoes, or pumpkins.

This is one of my favorites for fall eating - it pairs so well with most kinds of beans.

I make it with either canned sweet potatoes or canned pumpkin. Both give it a rich, harvesty orange color. Instead of baking this in a pie tin, as I do with most of my cornbreads, I bake this one in loaf pans like I do the quick breads. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (or cup4cup gluten-free flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups full-fat sour cream or yogurt
1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups canned sweet potatoes or canned pumpkin

Grease and flour 2 9x5 loaf pans. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together.

Beat the eggs lightly, then whisk in the sour cream. When that's incorporated, whisk in the vanilla and butter. Last of all, add the sweet potato/pumpkin (which ever you've chosen).

Add the wet mix to the dry all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until barely mixed. You will have lumps and may even have a few dry spots - this is OK.

Divide the dough between the 2 loaf pans and smooth the tops.

At this point, you can baste the tops with a cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice/sugar blend or a streusel topping. I like the streusel topping, myself.

Put the pans in the oven and bake for 65 - 80 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean).

Cool 10 minutes, then de-pan and cool upright on a rack. Cool completely before wrapping in plastic for storage (it keeps for a week in the refrigerator).

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Date:2014-10-09 19:01
Subject:Election Board Rumors

You know all those rumors that the Oklahoma Election Board is randomly cancelling people's voter registrations?


For starters, the way registration is set up in OK, it takes 4 years to cancel a voter registration - and then only for inactivity (not voting for 2 major elections).

There were some people who, because of FEDERAL mandates, received postcards to verify their address and if they didn't respond to the postcard, then the process to cancel the registration was started.

And mostly this isn't happening because all the election boards in OK are understaffed and no one has the time to sort through registrations to target canceling any group of people or anything like that.

Some election boards only have 2 employees, and they are far too busy keeping up with the regular election board duties to willingly take on anything not essential.

There is virtually no voter fraud in OK (and the few cases there were were caught quickly and too many* of those were people trying to prove how easy it was to commit voter fraud - boy, did they get proved wrong and boy did they have to pay for that error in their judgement!).

So, please, if you were one of the ones panicking and spreading the false rumors that OK is deliberately canceling voter registrations, stop it.

That may be happening in some other state (probably not, at least not to any great extent, because I bet their election boards are also understaffed and under funded), but it's NOT happening in OK.

Oklahoma has neither the funding nor the staffing to execute pogroms of this sort.

We should be proud that Oklahoma has such an awesome Election Board, that works hard to make sure all qualified people are registered to vote, and makes it easy for Oklahomans to vote even if it means the Election Board employees have to work so much overtime to make it happen.

Instead of attacking these people, we should be helping them because what they do is vital to giving us a voice in our government.

*one is actually too many

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Date:2014-10-09 10:10
Subject:Edible Leaves

I sometimes wander through the survivalist forums, and it always amazes me when people say things like "tree leaves aren't edible".

Not all tree leaves are edible, but there are plenty of trees whose leaves are not just edible, but tasty and nutritious.

Spruce and pine needles make a nutritious and delicious tea. It's particularly good in winter.

Linden, hawthorne, birch, beech, basswood, rose, sassafras, Chinese toon tree, Japanese wisteria, Rose of Sharon, red cedar, black tupelo, maple, walnut, hickory, alder, some viburnums, chestnut, some acacias, and even oak leaves are edible in the US.

Range outside the US, and there are more trees with edible leaves - Moringa, Toothbrush tree, Cassod tree, Digudiyara, terebinth, pisoria, baobab...

They aren't good for a steady diet, but they are certainly good for enhancing your diet and as s survival food.

I have no clue why these survivalists are willing to ignore a large and often delicious source of food.

Maple leaves, especially the red Japanese Maple tree leaves, are tasty when deep fried in tempura batter.

Tempura Batter

1 egg
1 cup ice water (can use ginger beer instead)
1 cup flour
Optional: 1 teaspoon sugar (beat into egg and water, before adding flour)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (add with flour)

Beat the egg frothy, then beat in the water. When these are well mixed, add the flour with a light stir of chopsticks, just enough to moisten. It will be lumpy and may have pockets of flour. This is how it should be.

Deep Fried Maple Leaves

Collect maple leaves, wash and pat them dry. Lightly brush the leaves with maple syrup. Heat oil to 350ºF in a wok. Dip the maple leaf in the tempura batter, and fry until crisply golden. Drain.

You can drizzle the leaves with maple syrup or not. I don't because they are sweet enough as is.

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Date:2014-10-03 18:28
Subject:News or Nice

With all the bad news on the internet and TV and probably radio, it's important to know that what we hear there is what reporters want to say, and it's not the whole truth.

They tell us only about the crimes, the tumult, the killings, the wars, the meanness.

What they DON'T tell us is that around that meanness, day after day, century after century, millions of people are doing nice things for others.

You're doing nice things for others, aren't you? I know you are.

And so are you, over there, sometimes even making sacrifices to do something nice for someone.

Sure, it's little stuff.

But it's those little acts of kindness that build civilization. All those nice people who never make it on the news are the civilized millions for each act of cruelty, for each mean-spirited thing.

When we witness someone else being mean, or bear the brunt of their meanness, it's important for us to know that mean person is the aberration, the freak, the odd one out who gets all the attention because it's so uncommon. It makes the news because it's news-worthy according to the reporters.

It's like the weather - it's the tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, and killing heat spells that garner the most news. The nice days just get a bare mention.

Or if you work in phone tech support - all your calls will be the ones that have problems, and those are generally just a couple percent of all the people using the program.

You hear the bad stuff all the time, over and over, but all around us, good things are happening. People are doing nice things, kind things, sweet things, for one another. Making sacrifices - small ones, big ones, and doing it just to make someone happy; not for money, not for thanks.

Kindness is common, too common to report on.

Maybe we should be the reporters of kindness, telling others of nice things that we saw happen, that we did, that was done for us.

What it comes down to is this: what do we want to be - news or nice?

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