Saturday, December 31, 2005

Farewell to 2005

I love those Year in Review type magazines. World Magazine usually puts one out, but I haven't gotten it yet. They made some changes earlier this year with the way they mail things. It was supposed to make the magazines arrive in a more timely fashion. It didn't. I used to get my magazines the week of their issue date, now I never know when I'll get them.

There were several changes this year at the plant, starting last January when Brent Spikes resigned, followed quickly by Scott Reid and Bob Moody. Bob was the last one to leave, in March. They were replaced by Jake Spears (I never thought I'd miss Brent Spikes), Donald Rhoton (who actually seems ok), and Howard Schmidt (who won't even move here and is running the plant from Atlanta--or I should say trying to). Keith Tartt resigned in November, and as of yet, hasn't been replaced.

Virgil Mann passed away in January after battling cancer for several years. He was much loved and will be missed.

In June, I lost my 7 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever to complications from canine diabetes. He was my baby, and a good dog. And yes, he was blind, too. I still miss him.

Then in August, we lost TJ, the puppy I'd gotten after Dakota died, to parvo.

After TJ died, I wrote this poem:


Heartbreak


Unexpectedly you came into my life.
You brought me joy, you brought me light.
Then suddenly you were gone again
And I’m left with the darkness of my grief in the night.

They say things happen for a reason
Yet all I can do is ask why?
Why am I left alone with
These empty arms, this ache inside?

There are no answers to my questions.
There are no reasons I can see.
At night hot tears fall to my pillow.
There is no comfort yet for me.

(August 7, 2005)


And finally, in November, we lost Sam, also to parvo.


It just didn't seem fair. It was not a good year for dogs in our house. However, good old Katie turned 10 on November 25, and is still hanging in there.

2005 was not a good year for knitting either, as tendonitis kept me from it for much of the year. Here is the final tally:

6 frou-frou scarves, three washcloths, two baby sweaters, a scarf and hat set, and a pancho. Not much to show for a whole year. I've also done most of a baby afghan, but I ran out of yarn. Fortunately, I found some on e-bay, and I'm just waiting for it to get here.

In karate, I was promoted to ni-kyu in April, and to ik-kyu in November. My next test will be for shodan. I learned three new kata, Chinto, Kusanku, and Agena no sai. As a brown belt, I spent most of the year teaching. In our dojo, once you make brown belt, your training pretty much grinds to a halt. I've been a brown belt for nearly as long as it took me to get from white to brown, and I've got at least another year to go.

Sheesh, I've gotten myself depressed now. This really hasn't been a very good year for me. It has been marked by losses in my life--personal losses, but still very grieving to me. For a time, I'd even lost my means of comfort, knitting, because of my tendonitis. And I even feel that I've lost, to an extent, my means of release, karate, because of certain people who joined the class and other dear friends who left.

So here's to 2006, a new year with new opportunities. A fresh start. May it be an improvement over 2005.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Almost Over

This year is almost over, and I didn't get a single calendar for Christmas. That is odd. I usually get at least one. Last year, I got five. I suppose I'll have to go out and buy one tomorrow.

I rented Polar Express for Cody. Boy am I glad I rented it before I bought it. It was awful. Even Cody said, "That wasn't very much like the book." The few parts that were like the book were very good, but all that extra junk they put in there ruined it for me. The roller coaster rides, the ghost, the engineer clowns, the bit with the cotter pin and the ice cracking, the extra characters...wasn't any need for all that in there. The story was good enough to stand on its own. We'll just stick with reading the book, thank you very much.

I also rented The Island, with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson. It was good, but I don't like that futuristic style of filming where everything is either blue and gray, or brown and orange. Nor do I like the style of filming in which the camera constantly jiggles, giving the entire movie a dreamlike quality. This movie had both. However, the story line was really good: clones grown for the purpose of having their organs harvested discover the truth about who they really are, and escape to the outside world. It's worth a look-see.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Few More Zoo Pictures

First off, a couple more snakes, like this Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake:I think it is funny that they are trying to provide naturalistic enclosures for these snake, so they have this one on a floor made up to look like a road. On the back wall is painted an old timey truck.

Meet Rita, the Reticulated Python. It's hard to tell how big Rita is from this picture because there is nothing there to use for perspective, but she is 21 feet long, and very grumpy. She got mad one time and cracked the glass of her enclosure. The guy said it was because they didn't het her food hot enough. She eats a 35-40 pound pig every few weeks. I had a cousin, Mark, who had a couple of baby retics many, many years ago when we were both teenagers. Every time we went over there, I wanted to play with the snakes. He eventually sold them when they got too expensive to feed.

I can't remember what species this little beauty of a frog is, but I think it is in the poison dart frog family.Apparently one lady had never seen a gar before, and described it as "a fish-thing with a beak".
She said it didn't even look real because it was so strange looking.

I believe the tiger was as cold as we were, because he kept trying to get inside. They had him shut out of his little house, though.

He's hard to get good pictures of, but I finally got some decent ones.
Same with the ostrich. I finally got a good pic of this female ostrich.
The zoo doesn't have any males. I wonder about that.
This cute little creature looks like a cross between a raccoon and a red fox. It is acutally a red panda, cousin to the giant panda and closely related to racoons.

I didn't get any good pictures of the giant pandas this time. They were both sacked out snoozing away. Here is an old pic from a previous trip, though...
This is Ya-Ya, the little female.
There was only this juvenile giraffe outside. The rest were in their houses staying warm.

I tweaked a little on Bambi, and he looks better, but I still don't know what to do with that awful house. I thought about drawing a couple of dragons in the front yard, if only I could find a picture to work from. I think I won't worry about it and go watch some TV.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Trip to the Zoo

This morning started out warm and sunny, so we headed for the Memphis Zoo. However, by the time we got there, the day had turned cold and cloudy. The first thing we did once we got there was go into the gift shop and pay outrageous prices for a couple of jackets. It was so cold, the orangutan was huddled under his blankie
and a couple of reindeer felt right at home at North Pole South.
The lion was awake, and we could hear him roaring all over the zoo.

This big silverback gorilla was a real beauty. As was this golden Pheasant.
We have a special guest at the Memphis Zoo. This is Andre. He was displaced from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans by hurricane Katrina. He has a home here as long as he needs it. And finally, my favorites, the snakes:
A cottonmouth,
and a copperhead.More tomorrow....

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Is It Really December????

It was so hot today, my air conditioner came on.

These pictures are part of the art test I'm taking for Art Instruction Schools. I'm almost finished, but there is one part that has me totally flummoxed. It is a drawing of a house that I have to finish. I have no idea what to draw on it. I've added a few details to the house, but I don't think that is what they are looking for. I really would like to get some professional art instruction instead of learning from books. I don't know if this is the way to go--that is, can I afford it-but it is an option I'm looking in to. In any case, I've worked on two of my four goals for the week. I've also found a new knitting project. I'm making a scrap afghan to get rid of some of my left over yarn.

Cody and I are going to the Memphis Zoo tomorrow if it isn't raining. If it is, we'll go Thursday.

Monday, December 26, 2005

I Could Live on This--Literally

Broccoli Salad

3 c chopped broccoli--florets only
1 purple onion, chopped
1 12 oz pkg bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 c grated cheddar cheese

Toss together and use with the following dressing:

Broccoli Salad Dressing

1 c mayonnaise
1/4 c sugar
2 tbsp vinegar

A couple more Christmas pictures:

The throw that Angie crochetted and Cody with the drawing I did for him:

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day!

After a rather sleepless night during which I kept thinking I was hearing someone walk around in the living room, Christmas morning dawned chilly and rainy. This is probably the only morning of the year that Cody is awake before I am. However, I make him stay in bed until I'm up before he can go into the living room. It's an old family tradition to video the kids walking down the hall to see what Santa brought. He is usually pretty good about this, but last year he got up on the pretext of going to the bathroom, and just went on down the hall and saw what his gift was. Then he had to pretend to be surprised when I got up...

Cody is a kind of funny kid. Usually he passes up the big stuff under the tree and makes a beeline straight for his stocking. This year was no different. So first thing we looked in our stockings. Yes, Santa still puts stuff in my stocking--usually knitting stuff, but this year it was socks. Cody's big gift from Santa was a portable DVD player with a carrying case and car cigarette lighter adapter. He'd kill me if he knew I'd posted this picture, but he was very engrossed in his movie.



He did receive some new DVDs also, Garfield The Movie, The Red Green Show--Stuffed and Mounted Six-Pack, and The Santa Clause. I got the entire collection of Keeping Up Appearances.
We did open a few of our gifts before going to church, but saved most of them for afterwards. I didn't want to have to rush through it in time to get ready and go. After church, we finished opening presents. Cody mostly got money this year--$135. I told him he could buy groceries next week with that. However, he did get several gifts as well, including this Mississippi State jersey.


My own favorite gift is this darling little bear given to me by my dear friend Carole Scala:



After the gifts were opened, we went over to Beverly and James' house for dinner. On the menu was smoked turkey, roast brisket, dressing, sweet potato delight, broccoli casserole, broccoli salad, strawberry jello salad, hot pickles, cranberry sauce, and home-made dinner rolls. Dessert included pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, and custard pie
.
Here is the table:

This is Beverly's mantle:
And her nativity:
After eating way too much food and visiting until James needed to go to bed, since he's working nights, we came home and spent the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying our new gifts.
When I was a child, I thought Christmas Day should never end. I thought time should just stop right then and there and it would be Christmas Day forever. But time never stopped, and Christmas always came to a close, just as this one has. All we have left now are the memories, but they've been good ones. I hope all of you had as good a Christmas as we have, and may God bless you in the coming year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

I woke up this morning to an impressive list of things I had to do today. It goes something like this: peel, boil, and mash sweet potatoes; mix sweet potato casserole; make sweet potato pie; mix broccoli casserole; make Mammaw's fruitcake cookies; make Bartley Snacks; make sausage balls; make dinner rolls; and finally, slice up Turkish Delight and coat with powdered sugar. I ran into a snag pretty early on--I was almost out of sugar. That means--yes--a trip to the store! Absolutely the LAST place I want to go on Christmas Eve. Despite this difficulty, by 10:00 Santa was in Nepal, and I had finished several items on my list. So I got dressed and headed to Wal-mart. Funny thing is, the minute I walk through the door, the first person I see is Dana. And guess what she was doing. You got it, eating! It's kind of a joke at work about how she's always eating. By 2 PM, Santa was in Moscow, and I'd finished my casseroles and baked my sweet potato pies. There was a minor tragedy with the pies, though. I was supposed to cook them at 425' for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350'. Well, guess what. I forgot to turn the oven down. The crusts are pretty burnt, and the top of the pies are quite brown, but the inside--read "the good part"--is ok. Then the pumpkin pies went in...I remembered to turn the heat down after the proscribed time, but forgot to reset the timer! What a day, what a day!

I went over to see Beverly, and see how things were going there. We decided not to do a big snack table since James has to work nights tonight. We'll save that for New Year's Eve. So I didn't have to do the Bartley snacks this time. I had a "Doh" moment, though. Beverly asked me if they were supposed to take some present with them when they went to Texas last week. Insert forehead smack here. I thought I was all done, now I have two more gifts to mail...Heavy sigh. At 5:15 PM, Santa was in Paris, and we went over to open gifts with them. Their dogs, Annie and Artex also joined in the festivities. Upon returning home, Cody and I watched It's A Wonderful Life and read T'was The Night Before Christmas. Cody was sure to leave some cookies and milk out for Santa. Last radar check before bed has him in Florida. He's getting close and we need to get to bed or he'll pass us by. So as the final words of that famous poem say,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Bev and James

Me and Cody
Annie

Artex

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fantasy Creatures

The neat thing about drawing fantasy creatures is that no one can tell you, "Oh the head's the wrong shape" or "the arms are out of proportion". It's my imagination, I can make them any way I want to.

A co-worker and I were talking today about how much we still had to do before Christmas. I told her that I hadn't even started cooking yet. She said, "Why cook? It's just the two of you." I replied, "Why shouldn't I cook? Just because it's only the two of us doesn't mean my son doesn't deserve a good Christmas dinner. " Honestly, sometimes it really gets on my nerves when people act like we're somehow less than a real family just because it's just me and Cody.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Once again, Cody and I will be tracking Santa on the NORAD website. This is a very cool thing. Ya gotta try it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pictures of Family

The same lamp from yesterday, drawn from a memory and a different angle. I actually think this one looks better than the one I drew from the photograph. As you know, yesterday was the shortest day of the year--or the day with the least amount of sun. Maybe that's why I've been drawing so many light producing things lately.

Here also are some family pictures. The first one is my older brother Russell, his wife Yoke Wan, and my adorable nephew Joshua Nathaniel. I wonder a bit about this photographer, though. Why in the world didn't he make Rus sit up straight????

The next picture is of my sister's two boys, Nathan and Andrew. She didn't write the date on the picture, but Nate is 5 and Andrew 6 months.

My other brother doesn't have any children yet. I can't even post a picture of him because I haven't gotten a new one in about 5 years.

When I was growing up, there were two little boys who lived down the street from me that I always felt so sorry for. They had the most boring Christmas tree I'd ever seen. They always got a real tree and flocked the thing solid white. Then they had red lights and red balls on it. So the whole tree was just red and white. To add insult to injury, their outside lights were also --you guessed it--red. Back in those days, outside lights were a single string along the eve of the house. If someone had lights going down their porch columns, we all said, "oooooo". Nowdays, of course, people have lights literally everywhere. But then, lights have gotten a lot safer than they were back then.

Speaking of solid color lights, all the rage, at least down here where I live, is solid white lights. I think they are boring. Give me multicolored lights anyday.

Finally, tomorrow is my last day of work until after New Year's. I have a whole week off, and I've set myself a few goals for that week.

1. Finish art test for Art Instruction Schools. That doesn't mean I'm committing to them, but the local community college doesn't offer any art courses.

2. Finish this Wings on Water project from Drawing for Dummies by Brenda Hoddinott. It is about half way done.


3. Find myself a new knitting project. For a while, I had so many WIPs going that I didn't allow myself to start anything new. Now, however, I've just about finished my list and need to find something to work on.

4. Try not to gain too much weight!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wednesday Ramblings


I seem to be on a trend here lately, drawing things that produce light.

Abby and Zach came over Monday wanting to see Monty. Cody had been telling Abby about him Sunday at church, and she said she'd never come over to our house again because she was so scared of snakes. Well, Monday she came over wanting to see him, so we got him out. She did pretty good, actually, touching him and even holding him. But she screamed and ran out of the house when Cody showed her the dead, frozen mice in the freezer! She was more scared of them than the snake.

Yesterday at work, Miss Ruthie wasn't there, so they had Robert Ford working in her place. Robert Ford is quite the character, but is very likable. It's funny, though. No one ever calls him Robert, or even Rob. It's always Robert Ford--his full name. Anyway, he likes to mess with me about taking karate and stuff. Well, he hooked his foot up onto the conveyor and said, "I bet you can't do that." I said, "Of course I can, " and proceeded to do the same thing. The guy working behind us said, "I can do it too," and proceeded to remove his prosthetic leg and laid the whole thing up on the conveyor. The look on Robert Ford's face was priceless. He was looking at that leg like he couldn't figure out for the life of him what that thing was.

They were there at the party last night, of course. James called me at 5:24 and plaintively asked me if them three would be there. I told him of course they would. Back when she first started, she asked me to try to help her talk sensei into having parties at the dojo on Saturday nights. So you know they weren't going to miss a party. She is the boy craziest person I've ever seen! I think she is still in love with James, even though he doesn't want anything to do with her. He is ashamed of those few short weeks when he did like her. If I ask him about them, he'll say, "I didn't know what she was like then." None of us did. She's also in love with Justin and Josh, and I she's been looking pretty hard at Brian here lately. She bought them all new gis for Christmas presents--James didn't want his. He tried to get out of taking it, even to the point of offering it to me, right in front of her, to boot. She just doesn't get the hint.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Light in the Darkness


Cody is rather upset with me here lately. Yesterday when I picked him up from school, he told me that another kid in the band stuffed a plastic bag down Cody's horn. It was sounding terrible and Cody was thinking he just couldn't play. Then the bag came out and he knew why his playing sounded so bad. Cody was mad about it, but I thought it was funny. I couldn't help but laugh. I tried not to...

Poor Cody is all broken out in hives. But today was his last day of school, so he is happy about that.

We had the dojo Christmas party tonight. I made a big pot of Ro-tel, hoping to take home the leftovers for us. Those people didn't even leave us the pot scrapings. Ok, here is the recipe:

Ro-Tel Cheese Dip

1 lb Velveeta cheese
1 can Ro-tel brand tomatoes

Heat until melted. Serve with nacho chips.

Optional: Brown about 1/2 lb hamburger meat, drain and add to cheese dip.

Funny, while I'm at work, I can write long, eloquent posts in my head, but when I get home and sit down in front of the computer, I go blank. phooey...

Monday, December 19, 2005

I DID IT!!!

I did it! I mailed the LAST two boxes of Christmas gifts today. I think this is the first year I've ever gotten all the presents in the mail in time to get to their destinations before Christmas. Heh, one year I mailed my sister's family's gifts the following Easter!

I tried today to sketch some people, and it turned out rather pathetic. I decided that I definitely need more practice to draw people.

So I sketched out this wishing well instead. This one was kept to the 5 minute limit.
Perhaps some personal definitions are in order. These are my own ideas, and not necessarily dictionary definitons.

Sketch: A quickly rendered line drawing in which shading and details are kept to a minimum. Note the well sketch above.

Drawing: A detailed representation of something in which shading and values denote details and lines are seldom, if ever, seen. See Lily below:


Note: Lovely Lily is a drawing exercise in the book Drawing for Dummies, by Brenda Hoddinott. Although I drew this one, Brenda still ownes the copyright, so ya can't copy this.

The purpose of this blog is to practice my quick sketching skills. As you can see, I can draw pretty well, but it takes me a long time. I want to be able to do a decent representation quickly and accurately.

On to other topics...

Yesterday afternoon, I mentioned to Cody that I hadn't made ANY of our Christmas foods yet.

He said, "Make them during Christmas week."

"I have to work all this week."

"So make them during Christmas week."

"Honey, this is Christmas week."

"WHAT!?!?!? I have to go to school during Christmas week?! What kind of retarded school district is this?"

I did get some of our candy made this afternoon. I made a batch of chocolate fudge, and a batch of my Uncle Verne's World Famous Peanut Butter Fudge. Ok, so saying it is world famous may be stretching it a bit. BUT he did send me a couple of pounds for my birthday one year when I was still in Italy. I shared about half of it with my shipmates, so it is sorta world famous.

And I know you've all been anxiously waiting, so here is the recipe:

Peanut Butter Fudge

In a heavy sauce pan place:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup or cane syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 tbsp butter or margarine.

Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil until it reaches the soft ball stage, about 235 on a candy thermometer.

Add 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1 tsp vanilla and beat until thick and creamy. Pour in to buttered 8 inch square pan.

When I make it, I always use a round foil pie pan, because that's the way Uncle always did it. That means to get square pieces, you have to eat the trimmings...

Cody and I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia yesterday at the movies. It was pretty good. Cody said he already can't wait until it comes out on DVD.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One of Those Days

Ever have days when you just really don't know what to write? I'm having one of those days, so I'll just leave you with these pictures and go watch Muppet Christmas Carol with my son.

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