Category Archives: Totally off topic

My Daruma has two eyes . . .

Remember this guy from a month or two ago?

Here he is today. With two eyes.

Can you guess what my goal was?

Of course, the real goal continues to be just showing up every night.

Going off to soak my bruises now.


Lucky day

I found this a couple of weeks ago. Was just walking along, glanced down, and there it was. I forgot all about it until it fell out of my art journal this morning.


The Month of Azaleas

In Japan, May is the month of azaleas.

Around here, it’s the month of birthdays. Three in my family, which we have a habit of stretching so they pretty much dominate the month. We are big on birthdays, and do them up right.

Here, for instance, is a little birthday package I recently put together for a friend:

First Child was born on my birthday, leading us to the inescapable conclusion that our birthday is sort of a birthday squared, as it were.  We indulge ourselves as much as possible.  Neither of us worked today, we both slept in (a practice he takes much more seriously than I do), and we made ourselves our mutual favorite cake:  an old-fashioned southern coconut cake.

I had a lovely day and was spoiled by friends and family. Lunch was brought in. I puttered all morning, bringing in flowers for the house.

See? I told you–azaleas:

There were lovely gifts:

And from My Better Half, a fabulous printer to replace the one that is rather less fabulous than it was several years ago. It prints. It scans. It spits out unbelievably professional looking photos. It takes instructions from every computer in the house. It mixes the cocktails, makes the beds, and cleans up after the dogs.* And it does it all wirelessly, which blows my mind. Magic. Isn’t it pretty?

And of course:

Happy birthday, First Child. And many thanks and much love to Second Child and Better Half and my friends.


*Okay, so I lied about the dogs and the beds, but it makes a mean vodka gimlet.

Arts and letters (or “what would Leo say?”)

Sometime during the day today while the Better Half and I were out doing errands (there’s a milestone birthday coming up at our house and we’ve been busy preparing), two identical signs appeared in our front yard.  They are (I assume) urging people to support the school budget during a referendum coming up here in our little town. I’m guessing one or another of my liberal-minded friends put them there, but I’m okay with that.

This is what the signs say:


What I want to do is take a huge fat marker and write across the top of each one:


But my Better Half won’t let me. Spoilsport.

Still, I’ve got my finger on the trigger of that marker . . .

A little rejuvenation break

Yesterday was one of those days–a rendering unto Caesar day. I got my car emissions tested (and passed–hurrah for 10 year old Subaru wagons!). I filled out and submitted First Child’s junior year FAFSA. I renewed my car’s registration.  And I did the paperwork for renewing my drivers’ license, which expires this week (as soon as this post is done I’m hopping over to the DMV, which I actually never mind much because I think of it as free time for some recreational reading).

So this morning I’m indulging in a little fortification. I dropped Second Child at school at 6:30 and headed straight to the shore, where I had a wonderful walk. It’s finally really spring here (even a Southern transplant like me can tell it today), the air was warming, and there weren’t many people afoot when I got there (by the time I finished my walk all the regulars and their dogs were out taking the air).

The tide was waaaaay out and the sand was left in wide corrugations.

The rocks were nearly as green as the trees and the grass finally are:

The flowers in people’s gardens are in wonderful bloom:

It was a nice day to have gotten up early.

I came home, sat zazen, did a little yoga, and finally broke down and tried the green smoothie that my fellow writer and dear friend Sandi keeps assuring me will change my life.  She wasn’t completely convinced that my Cuisinart would do the trick, and she was right about this–my big handfuls of baby spinach, frozen blueberries, and frozen strawberries turned into something more like a granita with little flecks of green it in than like the smooth drink it would have been if I’d been using a real blender. I persevered, though, and thinned the icy slush with some orange juice, and–success!

With all due respect to my regular oatmeal, this may well be the breakfast of champions. And Sandi was right–it is delicious and doesn’t taste a bit like spinach (I like spinach, but, you know–I was sceptical about the combination). And my green smoothie isn’t green at all, due mostly to a heavy dose of blueberries. In fact, I think it looks rather nice against this little Japanese maple tree and my wabi sabi well house.

But I really think I need to buy a blender now. Right after I get done at the DMV.

Bad baby and the clever sheep: creativity on the fly

When I was about 11 years old, I accompanied my mother to the grocery store one day. We ran in for just a couple of things, and then stood in the checkout line behind a man who was buying only a single item:

  • one small jar of Gerber baby food

It was an ordinary jar of baby food, except for a few small details.

  • the jar sat on the checkout conveyor belt upside down
  • the bottom of the little glass jar (now uppermost, on account of being upside down) was smashed
  • the twinkly bits of broken glass were all still there
  • the baby food, where you could see it through the cracks and splinters of glass, was moldy

Strangest of all, neither the man making the purchase nor the woman ringing it up, taking the man’s money, and handing him his change, said a word to each other or indicated in any way that this transaction was at all out of the ordinary. She rang, he paid, she gave him his change, and he left, carrying the jar carefully in his hand (broken end up).

Mom and I spent the rest of the day theorizing about this, and trying to outdo each other in coming up with explanations for what we had seen.

  • The man was a quality control inspector from store headquarters, bringing back evidence that damaged goods were being sold in the store.
  • The man was so poor he could only afford damaged items or those past their “sell by” date, so he would sneak into the store, dent cans and crack jars when no one was looking, then go back and buy them after they’d been drastically reduced in price.
  • He was a jewel thief posing as a store inspector, and there were diamonds hidden in the jar.
  • The man was a scientist who happened upon the broken jar as he was on his way to pick up a box of crackers, and recognized the flora within it as a rare and potentially therapeutic type of mold that he needed to study back at the lab.
  • The man was a spy, and the jar had been broken by a treasonous government employee who had hidden microfilm of the secret plans in the jar, breaking it so the spy would know which jar to retrieve; clearly the checkout woman was  in on the whole plot.

Our favorite theory of all?

  • The man had a very bad baby.

When Second Child was very little, and First Child was in elementary school, we often had reason to drive down a road in our town on which there was a small sheep farm. The farm was bisected by a stream with a pond on it, and often the sheep, as we passed, were on the far side of the pond. We could not figure out, driving by, how they got to the side opposite that on which the sheep pen and the farmhouse stood.

So I challenged them every day to come up with a new explanation of how the sheep got across the pond. At first they told me “they swam,” or “they walked a long way to where the stream was narrow and crossed there.”  Before long, however, they really got into it and began offering even better explanations:

  • They sheared the sheep with the longest wool, spun it into yarn and knitted a raft on which they floated across.
  • They saved all the little twigs that got stuck in their fleece, waited until they had enough, then tied them together and made a bridge across the pond.
  • They waited until the farmer wasn’t home, then broke into the farmhouse, stole the farmer’s credit card number from his billing statement, used his phone to call LL Bean and order a kayak, then went back to the pasture and waited for it to be delivered.

And so on.   Got a mystery in your life? A little creativity on the fly can help.  Oh, and if you happen to know the answer to the baby food mystery, please let me know. Mom and I are still really worried about that baby.

You’re never too old for chocolate bunnies

I’m going to be out of town this weekend, but as we were walking through the grocery store the other day, Second Child was at pains to point out to me “the good chocolate rabbits.”

Hint, hint.

“I’m going to be away this weekend, remember? Anyway, you’re 15 and your brother is practically a grown-up,” I said. “Aren’t you getting a little too old for Easter baskets?”

She was indignant. “You’re never too old for chocolate bunnies,” she said.

I must say that even as my traditional sense of religiosity was waning (never send your kid to a church-owned college if you want them to grow up believing), I still loved Easter. Maybe part of this is because I grew up in the South where Easter really did mark a time of rebirth and the reawakening of the earth (it never occurred to me at that tender age that the earth is vitally alive at every part of the year, but, you know).

Easter meant church, a new outfit–and, yes, chocolate bunnies and a baked ham dinner.  For my kids it’s always meant chocolate bunnies and a new book.  And a baked ham dinner.

Here in the frozen north, where I had to scrape ice off my windshield before driving Second Child to school yesterday and where there were snow flurries yesterday afternoon, we do see spring coming back at last.  And even though a check of the weather for the mountains where I’ll be spending the weekend has prompted me to add a wool sweater to my backpack and throw my winter parka into the trunk of the car, the spring light is here.

And, yes, before I go I’m leaving some Easter goodies in the tender care of my Better Half, who has promised to deliver them to the kids on Sunday morning.  And if I get back in time on Sunday afternoon I may even pull off that baked ham dinner.  If not, it will materialize at some point during the coming week.

However you celebrate, I hope you’re with people you love this weekend, and who love you. And that spring, whatever form it takes where you live, is springing.