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Showing posts from 2009

Christmas Blogiversary

It was on a Christmas day a few years ago that I wrote my first tentative blog post. As quiet as I have been of late, I cannot let the day pass without writing a few words.

I'm two days into my longest vacation break of the year - a week and a half off. Not that this break is totally free from work-related obligation - I have to study tax law and re-certify as a VITA tax preparer to get ready for another year of volunteer tax preparing. I am not sure if I will sign up for another year. I have few other volunteers to assist this year, despite my efforts to recruit others, and don't know if I really have the time and energy to squeeze this in to my schedule over the next few months.

This is cutting in to my knitting time! And after opening packages today, I have even more yarn to transform!

I'm still basking in the glow of one of the most wonderful Christmas Eves in many years. We went to our son's house for dinner and presents with him, his girlfriend, and all four grand…

A Poem

I understood something last night, and I wrote a poem. Yes, I see myself here. Maybe not forever, though. From understanding comes change.


She's there.

Like a spider,
hands touching the webs,
alert to any disturbance,
to any renewed presence.

Every time
Every time
You open your electric door
to greet your friends,

She's there.

Reflections After a Week of Brushfires

I'm up much too early on a Saturday morning, in a good cause: feeding my niece pancakes. My brother-in-law drove through whiteouts to bring M. north so that she can audition at a local college's excellent music department. (I went there myself many moons ago, as did R.). They are off to the adventures of the day, and R. has gone back to bed. With coffee in my veins, sleep would elude me, so I will grab the quiet moment to reflect on recent events in writing.

Work, work, work. It has demanded much of my energy and focus for quite some time as we have grappled with a reduction in funding and a structural deficit. This week, the board of directors affirmed the path we think will lead the agency through hard times, "we" being the six-person leadership team. I have to deal with the hardest task that is at hand: the elimination of a half-time custodial position. I am the direct supervisor of the individual who will be laid off. Alas, he is poorly prepared in many ways to de…

December 4 Blog: Best Book

December 4 Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

I need to divide this blog into two parts: knitting and non-knitting. I'll take the non-knitting book first.

The best non-knitting book of the year for me is Lila by Robert Pirsig.

One reason is that it is the only non-knitting book I have read for pleasure this year. Indeed, it is the probably the only one since I started grad school in the fall of 2006. This is such a sad statement. It turns out that one of the downsides of working on a masters in public administration is that I had to read page upon page of dry, horribly written dreck. By the time I finished, I lost my joy of reading. It took the urging of a friend for me to open the pages of this book, and it took me months to read it.

Like Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the book is two journeys in one narrative. Phaedrus continues the philosophical journey he began in…

December 3 Blog: Best Article

December 3 Article. What's an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends?

I've searched my bookmarks and blog posts to see if any article hit me hard this year, and came up with nothing.

The question implies to me an article that would change the way I see the world, or how I understood something. I don't think I encountered anything quite like that The bedrocks of my world view are what they were at the beginning of the year.

And what are they?

We live on a planet with a limited supply of everything, and have almost surely reproduced beyond the carrying capacity of the earth. I'm lucky, I'm going to be safely tucked away in my grave before the shit really hits the fan.

Everyone sees the world in the same way. Each of us is the center of the story that every human lives. Each of us has to learn to see how what we do affects everyone and everything else.

Actions have consequences, and those consequences shape future actions.

Change is …

December 2 Blog: Best Restaurant Moment

AiiiYiiiYiii. What a day. Such a mix of effectiveness and ineffectiveness. I'm starting to get some of the computers at work ready for the great email migration, and getting a whole lot of work done, and spending very little time bonding with my iPhone, so there I am, feeling effective. And then I go to do a tax preparer training for the VITA program I am coordinating, and *ONE* person shows up.

Plus there are additional revenue cuts, this time from NY state, on the horizon... that news has been expected, and it came down today.

So it is a pleasure to turn away from my workaday world to:

December 2 Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

I was so lucky to have some great restaurant meals. It's hard for me to settle on which one was the best.

Was it the meal at Aroma Restro in Kingston, Ontario, with R. and Sharkey? I am remembering a salad that was chock full of macadamia nut…

December 1 Blog: Best Trip of the Year

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I may have found a way back into writing again. I can't or don't want to write about much of what I am doing right now for several reasons. My poor brain isn't coming up with other subjects. I can take inspiration from Gwen Bell, however, and write about the best parts of my 2009.

December 1 Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?

To be a really good trip, there must be an element of challenge. The trips we make over and over, to work, to parents' homes, to visit children, become more comfortable as they become more routine, but there will rarely be enough excitement to lead a trip to rise to the top of the experiential heap.

Sailing to Kingston at the end of August started out with much of the comfortable routine of driving to visit family. We have spent a lot of time on the Canadian Middle Channel, and sailed to Kingston many times over the past five years. This time was special.

We went to the Limestone City Blues Festival for the first time in three years. Just give me …

An offering: Holiday Bread

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I am struck dumb these days. Most of what busies my days either cannot be talked about in a blog, or has already been talked about by me in previous posts. I am not about to start whining, so it's easiest to remain silent. Suffice to say, the work is going as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

I can't write about my knitting either, since I am mostly knitting gifts for people who read my blog. Posts will have to wait until after the items have been finished and given away.

I do have something to offer, however: my recipe for holiday bread. I am making a batch tonight to take tomorrow to Cape Cod, where we will celebrate one of the best holidays of the year with my father and stepmother. I do love Thanksgiving, because all we need to give is a hearty appetite and appreciation for the wonder that is our lives, right now and right here.

This recipe has evolved from the one my mother used to make a wreath kuchen every year for Christmas breakfast. Once I learned how t…

Challenged

My professional life is rife with challenge right now. There be snakes hiding under rocks, and much need for discretion.

A few years ago I joined the board of a non-profit, and promptly was asked to be treasurer, as no one else knew anything about money. I contributed a lot over the years, and often felt that what I have learned was actually helpful to the organization. All for naught in the end. The agency lost the funding that was its financial foundation, and the board voted unanimously to dissolve. I am truly ambivalent about this decision. We finally found a talented Executive Director and with just a little more time, she may have dragged the organization (kicking and screaming) into organizational stability and a more secure future. We all ran out of time. And now I'm the one who is digging into what bills must be paid first, and thinking about how to responsibly dispose of all that paper.

At work the budget is still uncertain, as we still do not know how much we will be cut.…

News Flash from the Campaign

R. won the race for Town Supervisor - 328 votes out of 639 votes cast.

The current Town Supervisor staged a write-in campaign in the last week before the election. Our county just switched to a scanned paper ballot, so write-ins are very easy. He got 202 votes, and was the second place finisher.

The conclusion must be that the insurgent campaign guaranteed R. the victory.

The insurgency in the NY-23 campaign had the same result, where Democratic candidate Bill Owens won. This result is gratifying to me; I couldn't do a lot to help R. in our town, so I worked as a volunteer in the Owens campaign.

The overall conclusion: if you are going to play with the fire of mounting an insurgent campaign, you had best be prepared to be burned.

RHINEBECK!

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A week ago, I was lost in the altfiber paradise affectionately nicknamed Rhinebeck (the official name is the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival). It is a huge event, so big that I have to break down the experience into subtopics. I still have a bit of glow left from the experience.

Getting There

The treasurer of non-profit I work for went last year, and wanted me to go with her this year. I told her I was in. Then I learned a few months ago on the Ravelry forums that a local woman was organizing a group trip, complete with chartered bus and a block of reserved motel rooms. I told my colleague, and she agreed that this was the way to go. So I contacted the organizer, reserved 2 spots on the bus, and reserved a room for two nights.

Close to the last minute, my colleague was no longer able to go. She asked me to find someone to take her place, saying that she did not expect reimbursement for the bus. She suggested that I take my daughter. A. would have gone in a flash, but she had two midterms com…

Real life in ascendency

I have been a sorry excuse for a blogger lately. Real life has been requiring my attention.

My husband's campaign is going well. He has a game-plan, and he's sticking to it.

My daughter is working on grad school plans. She procrastinated long enough to make it difficult to take the GRE, so she is applying only to Canadian schools. I suspect that this was her gameplan all along.

The budget at work is under attack. We are in a holding pattern until our finders decide just how deeply they want to cut us.

I've been able to spend time with family during the past few weeks. Father, stepmother, mother, daughter, son, son's GF, grandkids, in time order.

I have two big projects breathing down my back at work - a migration of the email system to a new platform, and expansion of the tax prep program.

But right now I am taking some time for myself. I'm on a chartered bus heading towards Rhinebeck for the NY Sheep & Wool
Festival. And i'm writing a blog post on my iPhone.

Writ…

Knitting Blog: For the men in my life

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Two projects are featured here. One has been done for a while, but I didn't have a good picture of it on its recipient. The other project is one I finished yesterday, just in time to give it away.

The Studly Lace Scarf

This project is a combination of a pattern I liked and a hank of yarn I happened to have in my stash. The pattern was a dropped-stitch basketweave scarf in the spring/summer 2009 issue of Vogue Knitting, and was designed by Laura Bryant. The magazine shows it as a wide scarf, almost a shawl, in a delicate pink. The pattern has a cool feature: you deliberately drop certain stitches and let them run down from the top to the bottom of the scarf. A dreaded mistake is transformed into a design element.

The yarn I had was dark, shot through with yellow, reds and greens - a very different feeling. I also had only one skein. I decided to make the scarf narrower than designed, to make sure it would be as long as possible. I also knew that as much as I liked it as I was knitting…

Hope is hanging in there in my little town

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Did you feel the earth shift at 9 PM on Tuesday night? Because the techtonic plate of the politics in the town I live in shifted when the polls closed.

Tuesday was primary night in New York, and there was only one race on the primary slate here: Republican candidate for Town Council. Three candidates were running, and the two getting the most votes would get to be on the ballot in November and would go on to almost certain victory. The candidates:

- The woman who is a farmer and a county worker who has served on the Town Council for almost 8 years. She has been a sensible member of the board.

- The newcomer, a woman who belongs to one of the two fire departments and who first ran a few years ago as a write-in. This time she did her legwork, and filed a Republican petition, got the Democratic nomination at the caucus, and filed an independent petition to boot.

- The grande dame (EDIT: from the French, meaning "great lady") of our town's politics. This candidate is 88 years o…

The Real Deal

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It's kind of nice when things work out as well as hoped.

It started with a message: "So when are you going to invite me to go sailing on Minuet?" Which made me realize that a real-life invitation was in order to my digital friend Sharkey. After some date juggling back and forth, we settled on a plan: a sailing trip to Kingston, Ontario and the Limestone City Blues Festival.

Sharkey arrived on Thursday evening, and he was - ta da! - just like I pictured him! Of course, there have been some messages, some videos and a couple of phone calls along the way to flesh out his self-portrayal in pixel form. He had less to go on, mostly words both written and verbal, but I am happy to say that I portray myself honestly, and I was much as he expected.

The mystery man in all this was R., who neither blogs nor reads blogs. I've filled him in from time to time with information about the friendships I have made in my on-line world, but they are my world and my friendships. And Sharkey …

In my own mind, and miscellaneous updates

I'm still blogging in my own mind as I drive to work in the morning. The words don't make it back to my fingers and a keyboard, however. No big losses, I haven't come up with either a good solution to the world's problems, or with a good question about them. I'm thinking right now of the lyrics to a song that Stringfolks sang last night, "In My Own Mind" by Lyle Lovett:

VERSE 1
I get up in the morning
I drink a cup of coffee
I look out of the window
I try to get it started
I turn it all over
Plow it all under
I plant 'em in the springtime
Pick 'em in the summer

CHORUS
I live in my own mind
Ain't nothin but a good time
No rain just the sunshine
Out here in my own mind
I live where I can breathe
Ain't nothin but a cool breeze
Nobody that it won't please
Out here where I can breathe

There is some news around here.

In the "wife of a politician" department, the planned Stringfolks gig in October to raise money for local candidates and the Russell Ope…

Full Circle and Resurrection

It's official as of tonight: my husband is running for Town Supervisor.

In New York, a Town Supervisor is a unique position that is simultaneously chief executive officer, head of the legislature, and chief financial officer. It may not pay particularly well, but you have to go all the way up to President of the United States to find an elected position with as much authority and scope for action (within the relevant jurisdiction).

He's had this job before. He served from 1996 through 1999. It was a roller-coaster ride and a half. The day after he was elected, the outgoing Town Supervisor and town council passed a budget with a huge tax cut and increase in spending. Essentially they dumped everything in the piggy bank into a massive spending spree. The reason: to deny R. the cushion of a cash reserve, and to ensure that he would have to raise taxes. The trouble was, their books were so poor that they didn't know how much cash was in the bank, and spent more than they had. As…

Homegrown Tomatoes

It's been a cool, rainy summer this year. Right now it's 70 degrees outside, and raining again.

The height-of-summer veggies have been slowed by the lack of degree days. Last week saw the very first tomatoes in the CSA box - two tiny little things, not much bigger than grape tomatoes. I believe, though, that the box tomorrow will have more. The week after that should see the first local sweet corn of the season at Farmer Bill and Annie's.

One of the best songs that Stringfolks does is "Homegrown Tomatoes" by Guy Clark. We have killer 3- or 4-part vocal harmonies (depending on how many people in the band can make it to the gig), and begin and end a cappella. If there is a song we should have recorded, this is one - and alas, we have not.

HOMEGROWN TOMATOES (Guy Clark)

Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden
Get you a ripe one don't get a hard one
Plant `em in the sp…

A landmark in time

Today is my daughter's 21st birthday. She is officially an adult in every way there is to be an adult.

She came home this past weekend for a family weekend on the boat, and she already has her gift from us - grown up clothes for her grown up work as a researcher this summer. I baked her our favorite carrot cake before she went back to Montreal.

It's been a busy few weeks. I've been concentrating on The Budget at work. It's never easy, and there is always red ink in the initial budget. This year, less grant funding and flat funding from our core funders meant there had to be some significant cuts. There will be no raises for anyone in 2010, but everyone still has a job. Not all non-profit agencies are as fortunate. I think that the portents for 2011, however, look pretty grim unless we can win a couple of grants.

We had our first annual family weekend on the boat. This was never possible in the past - our son's ex refused to go sailing. There was enough room on the boa…

CSA Week #5, Good Music, and Good News

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Once again, my refrigerator is filled with goodness:



The list of vegetables included in this week's box is long, and we need to step up our eating pace.

We got:
Salad makings - lettuce, radiccio
Greens - rainbow swiss chard. kale
Onions big and green, a leek, and a head of garlic
Shell peas, sugar snap peas, and wax beans
Roots - carrots and beets
Red cabbage and broccoli
Tender baby summer squash
Fennel and Herbs

I've been focused on work and deadlines - July is budget season. I'm making progress, though I don't know what the bottom line is going to be yet. All of the routine work of the week is done, I got the financial statements out for next week's board meeting, and I completed a redo of a major grant, so today will be budget, budget, budget.

Last night we took a break to go hear some live music - the Clair Lynch Band at the Norwood Village Green Concert Series. It was fabulous! Four musicians on stage with lots and lots of talent, and not a lot of ego. They all gave each…

Milestone

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My diploma arrived today.

Sailing to Gananoque

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It's hard to believe that it's two weeks already since we spent a few days on Minuet, sailing from Clayton to Gananoque and back again. Life has proceeded at full tilt boogie speed ever since we reentered the flow of our daily responsibilities. I took pictures, though, and my memories haven't yet been completely submerged by the forward rush of our lives.

Originally this was to be the year when we would take a full week to cruise on Lake Ontario. Then our daughter asked us to visit her during the Montreal Jazz Festival, which would be occurring at the same time as our week of sailing. We shortened the planned trip to five days, allowing enough time to also fit in a trip to Montreal. Then the meltdown of the NY State Senate affected one of my husband's projects, and he needed to be close to a phone and Internet for a few days. In the end we had five days on the boat, which meant three sailing days. We juggled plans again, and decided to go spend a night in Gananoque. We…

CSA Week #4

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Farmer Bill and Annie have gone to the banana box model - a banana box of food each week. The take this week is luscious:



In the box were the following veggies:
- carrots
- green onions, both large and small
- one head of very fresh garlic
- one leek
- a good sized bag of shell peas. Shell peas - be still, my beating heart.
- a bag of mixed young lettuces
- a cabbage
- a big bunch of beets with perfectly fresh greens
- garlic scapes
- parsley and basil
- kale
- 3 cucumbers. Robert just made yogurt, and I'm thinking raita.
- collard greens

It's a long list, but I think we will be able to eat it all by next Tuesday. The biggest challenge is the onions, because Robert is not an onion lover. He will eat them cooked, however, so I will be able to use them.

Tonight we ate the collards. "Simply in Season" came to my aid again, with a recipe for greens with peanut sauce. I was able to use up an onion as well. I thought they were heavenly.

Tomorrow we will eat the peas, because they MUST be e…

Backlogged Blogger

I'm home after a wonderful week of vacation that has much to write about. Robert and I cleaned the house, we sailed, and we went to Montreal. I've also almost finished a knitting project that just needs blocking to be done, made progress on another project, and started a third.

I also have a new project in the wings. My son set up a Blogger page for Stringfolks and linked it to our URL. I am going to become the official webmaster for our band, and will be developing our webpage to something better than the pitiful thing it currently is.

Today I went back to work. Ah, the joys of Real Life™. Only 60 email messages and 4 voicemail messages, however, in a week's time. I have disposed of them, and taken care of all of the bills and purchase orders that accumulated in my absence. I'm ready to move on to the budget work that is the heart of July in my life.

I will be writing after I have shrunk pictures to a size that is uploadable, transferred pictures from iPhone to computer,…

In a different place

No CSA for us this week - we are on the boat for a few days. We thought we would be taking a longer trip on Lake Ontario, but our plans have had to change to make room for a rehearsal and for some business that R. has to do. Our son's GF will pick up this week's veggies.

It's changing here at the marina. Mike, the owner, died suddenly this past winter. His family is operating the marina, but we all miss the presence of the man with a large voice, an endless stream of stories, and a passion for opera.

The radio in the main building is tuned to a commercial station playing popular music, not to the classical music station. Soon there won't be much of Mike left here. It is becoming a different place.

CSA Week #2

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There were peonies in my CSA share this week. After a long day of work after a long day's drive the day before, seeing and smelling the flowers as I opened the cooler made me gasp a little, and break into a smile. This is definitely the best purchase I have made this year.

Also included in this week's batch of good things: lettuce, spinach, green onions, garlic scapes, a cucumber, kale, herbs (dill and cilantro), and beets.



I decided tonight on my strategy for eating what we receive: whatever we would be most unlikely to buy for ourselves will be the first item eaten, with adjustments for perishability. That means that the dish for the night is beets, because I have thrown away more fresh beets than I have eaten in my lifetime. Also, the greens are perfect tonight, and they won't stay nice for long. Simply in Season will be one of my go-to sources of recipes. Tonight I am making a whole beet skillet that uses every part of the beet, and seasons the dish with lemon juice, gin…

CSA Week #1

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Once again this year, I was not able to get my little raised garden plots ready for planting in time to do serious vegetable gardening. Two years of neglect due to doing grad school on top of a full-time job means a garden overgrown with weeds.

About the time I realized that my dreams of a veggie garden were not going to happen this year, I got a postcard from Farmer Bill and Annie, a small farm that I drive by nearly every day. I have bought a lot of veggies from their farm stand over the years. Their postcard offered me a share in their CSA.

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. I, the consumer, pay upfront for a share of the farmer's production. The farmer gives me fresh food every week. The farmer has a guaranteed, stable income and can plan what to plant. I have guaranteed fresh food with less work than tending a garden, and I am keeping a farmer in business.

CSAs are being offered by several farmers in my area. Some offer a very wide range of food, including meat, poultry, v…

Applied Chemistry

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Yesterday I took a little trip to a brand new type of store for me to frequent: the pool and spa supply store. (Up here, they all sell woodstoves, too.)

The reason: we are installing a hot tub in our solarium tomorrow. And hot tubs require chemically treated water.

I learned quite a bit about our water yesterday. First of all, it will take all this to manage it:




I learned that spa water needs to have a certain level of alkalinity and hardness to stabilize it, so that it is not subject to rapid swings in acidity and doesn't suffer corrosion of metal parts over time.

I learned that our water, which comes from a drilled well that is at least 80 feet deep, is too soft and acidic to be used as is in a hot tub. I didn't expect that. We will have to add calcium and sodium carbonate to the water whenever we fill the tub.

I also learned that there are lots of systems for managing spa water. The store I went to carries four product lines - chlorine, bromine, baguanide (a peroxide based syste…

A rant on the structure of our economy

This is a rant. While it may be based on some articles that I have read lately, don't expect me to link to references.

I believe that we have a severe structural problem in our economy and as a result, people are not getting value for their money, specifically for their tax dollars.

In my opinion, we have become a two class society, but it's not the classes you might think, rich and poor. It's people with security and people without.

I think of the people at the auto shop who repair my car. They do excellent work. Whatever health insurance they have, though, is whatever the business owner can afford to buy in the private sector. And whatever retirement they have beyond Social Security must be financed with money that they invest themselves.

Good luck with both of those things.

Meanwhile, I have a defined benefit government pension and a decent government health insurance plan. I pay for part of my insurance, but the rest is paid with tax dollars. Tax dollars paid by me, but als…

Summer is icumen in

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Ever so surely, the good weather is coming. It's still pretty cool - those who have planted their tomatoes and basil are covering them nearly every night up here, and we had a fire in the woodstove last night. When it is still light out at 8:30, though, you know that the warmest part of spring should arrive soon.

I spent several hours during last week getting our sails ready for use. Both our mainsail and our primary headsail are getting a bit long in the tooth, and usually need some repairs before sailing season starts in earnest. This year the mainsail passed inspection, but the genoa needed long stretches of new edge facings on both of the edges that are exposed to wind and wear. The genoa is a huge sail, and very heavy, so sewing the facings on is arduous even though the sewing itself is very simple. I folded the sails after inspection and repairs - the only time they will be neatly folded all year. Assuming that we don't need to take them down during the summer, they'l…