Happy BD Grandma!

I think I’m a day or two late but happy birthday to Grandma! Grandpa loads my blog in the morning and prints new posts for her, so I hope she’ll see it. I’ll post this picture of us from not too long ago, where she complained about my hair hygiene and made us laugh.

I shared that story with my 15 year old cousin after she posted on Facebook that she was recently at Old Country Buffet with Grandma, who told her her haircut was the ugliest one she’d ever seen. I love it! Grandma tells it like it is.

It was always fun to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. You got ice cream and sugar cereal and hamburgers and trips to the mall and painting parties and a cool dog. We videotaped ourselves lip-syncing and dancing and dressing up. Then we’d make her pictures crooked just to hear her holler.

And who can forget this picture I posted on my website over ten years ago: she came all the way out to Massachusetts to see me in college (or maybe it was for graduation?) and, well…

We all raise our glasses to you, Grandma!

Ramming around, gadding about

(as Grandma says)

Sorry for the absence… been on vacation for a few days with my mom and her friend who are visiting Ireland. Poor David stayed home with the pups but he’s probably happier there anyway. A couple teaser shots:


near the Black Fort, Inishmore, Aran Islands


Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry


Mom baby-talks the baby sheep

It’s a small world (with a lot of fences)

I’ve developed a fascination with customs and border patrol shows, where people try to bring sausages into Australia and then argue for hours about paying a fine because they didn’t declare their booty. I’m hoping to glean some tips on what exactly makes for legal import, what paperwork you need to visit a given country, and what it is about immigration enforcement that gets people so riled up. It’s uniformly sad to raid, arrest, and deport a hard working person. I won’t say whether it’s good or bad for the country’s resources, just that if someone is willing to cling to the underside of a truck to sneak into a new place, the old place must be pretty bad indeed and I have sympathy. I find the American debate about illegal immigration particularly bizarre for being a nation of (mostly) immigrants. How long must one squat to make it legal? Ten years is not enough if you ask the lawmakers, but a couple hundred apparently takes care of it. A couple hundred years of history is but a blip over here, as well as in the grand scheme of who has the “right” to keep someone out because they got there first.

Meanwhile, Irish radio advertises Cuban vacations. The complete lack of info on Cuba in the U.S. leaves it a foggy, concrete, communist country of the 1960s in my mind… and apparently it’s a nice place to take a vacation if your country lets you go. When I was trying to book a flight through London from Spain after the ash cloud canceled the direct Irish flight, the agents had to consider what country’s passport I held to know if the UK would let me through. It’s bizarre to me that you can’t just go somewhere.


In other news, my brother has jumped into the world of blogging and is posting his magazine articles as well. His writing appeals to a broader audience than my ranting (I realize you are only here to see me fall off a cliff like other tourists or to look at my dogs), so go on and visit at General Tomfoolery! Bookmarked in the sidebar as well. Also Arliss the cranky bunny has a new post up.


From a day touring a bit of County Tipperary (and a smidge of Co. Waterford) with my stranded guest, Carlton, a few weeks ago, I give you a lot-easier-to-upload gallery of pictures:

The first four pics are from Cahir Castle, built in 1142, including a view of the town and some from inside the castle.

The next six pics are from the Rock of Cashel, which had earlier structures but most of the remaining ones are from the 12th and 13th centuries. Despite the scaffolding, this is a fascinating place and very well preserved/restored in many parts. The tour guide was quite good and the soaring walls and fresco remnants (I think they’re still called frescoes in Ireland) are worth a visit. The view on a sunny day is pretty too.

The last picture is from the Vee Gap area of the Knockmealdown Mountains, but either volcanic ash or a general haze kept the view a little dull. Carlton and I went on a fuel quest right about then and fortunately the GPS found us some just in time.


This just in: David has just arrived! Our company driver picked him up at Shannon. I hope he isn’t mad that I didn’t get up at 3 a.m. to go get him and have to take a day off work! I will see him at lunch. He claimed his steak on the plane (good old business class!) was better than any he’d had at home and he felt sorry when he saw the folks in “steerage” when he got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I pointed out we will be back in steerage soon enough, but this year we get to enjoy horizontal plane sleeping.

His account of the arrival at the house:

*going to the door*
Dogs: Who the F*** is thatOH it’s YOU!!!
*commence Velcro/shadow dogs and a lot of Walter jumping*

Dead fish

Been very busy planning the move. My stuff ships out Tuesday, but I have another week or maybe a little more, depending on the employment permit arrival.

Anyway, I found this while cleaning up for a fun going away party:

My first pets and their method of dispatch:

I also found evidence of hours spent at our first home computer, an Apple IIGS, for a school report. I drew a diagram I saw in a textbook, I think around 5th or 6th grade:

And here we have Amy creating a Rudolph-pulling-Santa’s sleigh photo op. I don’t know if we DID anything once dressed like that or if I just made the outfits and had the picture taken, but there ya go.

Pack, purge, panic

Some random thoughts to prove I’m still alive.

I did indeed have cadaver bone put in during my osteomyelitis treatment! It was irradiated, powdered, and mixed with what is basically plaster of Paris, but it still sounds exotic. Unfortunately I’ve had some additional dental pain recently. You’d think I traumatized my teeth or something.

Arliss had her fourth surgery a week ago (vet and I agreed she didn’t need a CT scan after all) and she’s doing great! She even gained weight in the last two weeks.

Loving the Indy Winter Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. The place is PACKED and I love seeing cyclists with panniers riding in the snow! Note: the local chickens went on strike when it got super cold the last couple of weeks, so eggs were harder to come by. I like being able to get a half dozen a month since we don’t use more than that, and then I can take the carton back to the farmer to use again.

I discovered recently-reopened El Sol de Tala. This town has more Mexican (I use that as a geographic/ethnic term loosely) restaurants than you can imagine, but this one place stands out. They even have a veggie menu. It’s not the same old enchiladas anymore, people!

Following a craving, I had French toast at Denny’s, and even if they hadn’t ruined it with cinnamon and powdered sugar, it still was nowhere as good as Dad’s. He also blows away every pancake on earth.

I’ve finally heard from some of the relocation folks and the target start date in Ireland is March 1. There’s so much to do that it’s hard not just to plop on the couch with 81 SVU reruns on Tivo and ignore the obvious (that’s how many were scheduled in this two week period). One of my current focuses (okay, foci) is pantry raid: use up all the groceries that line our cupboards and freezer. In the past week we had breakfasty stuff to use up biscuits and fake sausages and last night I made chik’n and rice casserole. My freezer has several fake meat products that I’ve always kept as backup, but usually have been creative enough not to need for most cooking. I see a lot of chili in our future for the ground ‘beef’ crumbles…

Happy veggie Thanksgiving

I took this week off work and have been pretty much lying around, still recovering from last week’s illness and also unfortunately doing some work from home. I have (not particularly intentionally) reverted to my night owl ways, staying up very late and sleeping until normal persons’ lunch times. Something about 2 a.m. just seems like a great time to start projects or settle down to watch TV to me.

After illness and work stress and just not wanting to leave the house, we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving. It’s the first time I did not eat with one of our families. It was great! Of course I missed the folks at home, but I just didn’t want to drive six hours in a day, or even to David’s family event closer to home. And get this: I made great food I was excited to eat! Being vegetarian at Thanksgiving provides a lot of side dish opportunities but is overall not the meal I used to look forward to when I was a kid. This time, I chose the menu, and holy cow I haven’t had gravy that good in years.

thanksg09b thanksg09a

The mushroom and spinach galette was ok to good (NPR article/recipe); the pastry is a bit dry for my tastes but the filling has promise in another application. But the gravy recipe at that page was terrific! I suppose all the fat (olive oil) and flavor (onions, garlic, veg broth, spices) just came together in a way that reminded me of the tasty drippings of yore. Tasty, yes, but again this year I adopted a turkey instead.

David made mashed potatoes and I whipped up the standard roasted veggies for a meal so filling I didn’t have room for the pumpkin pie I also made. I’m excited about the (gravy) leftovers! I had intended to do a Quorn turk’y roast as well but Kroger was out and we had way too much food anyway.

eatmorveg
eat more chicken vegetables graffiti, Indianapolis

Of course today was Black Friday, and while I look forward to the ads for some reason (still a holdover from a history of the expectations of the season), I’m not usually compelled to go out in the fray. This time I considered it, then figured out I could shop online and actually pay less with online discounts than going to the doorbusters at ‘o-dark-thirty. Then I went back to bed!

When we were kids, we would craft our wish lists from looking at the Sears Wish Book and any other catalogs that came to the house. We often had rating systems to indicate how badly we wanted particular gifts. I remember the moms and grandmas and aunts getting together after Thanksgiving meal to discuss who was buying what for which kid–we knew to stay out of that room so they could decide! From then until Christmas was an exciting time, and I don’t think we were too spoiled, but maybe I just think that because our cousins got more junk than we did! It was easy to think we sacrificed for the family financial good when they had new stereos and TVs in their rooms each year while we just shared a video game system two years after it was initially released. I think our families were careful to get the items we would really play with, and the anticipation of Santa and stockings and the surprise Big Presents at the end of marathon gift opening sessions all made for a pretty neat holiday–not to mention the big family meals and waiting to watch each person open something in turn rather than tearing into the pile at once.

I still really enjoy Christmas, but I try very hard not to ask for or purchase items that won’t be valued and used. I definitely take more pleasure in buying for others now and in watching what others receive. It’s relaxing not to worry whether I’ll get some new gadget because I’m now in a position to just get it myself if needed. I try not to take that for granted. And I’ll be making my own gravy this Christmas as well.

It’s just my llama and me

I’m anxious about a dentist appointment today, since I have a tooth root area that feels way funny and I don’t think I have the psychological stamina (nor the excellent insurance) to go through any more fancy dental work. Plus I think I had a root canal on this one anyway so I’m not sure what the problem could be that isn’t really bad! I remembered one of my favorite Sesame Street clips, though, which makes me feel better:

I just called an automated prescription refill line for my mail-in pharmacy benefit. I’ve called this line for refills many times, and while the voice actuated ordering is really annoying, usually it’s quick and, oh, automatic. So I went through the whole automated refill process, including confirming my address (which it knew) and my credit card, confirmed I didn’t want any other refills, and then it said it was connecting my call and I was on hold for ten minutes. What?? Usually they confirm immediately and ship without me talking to a CSR. This must be the cost savings from the mail-in pharmacy selling their operations to someone else. Awesome! When the CSR answered, she asked me all the same questions again, and I asked, “Why am I talking to you?”

Yesterday we held a family party for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary! It was nice to rehash the old stories. Grandma wrote Grandpa a letter which recounted how he’s not often outwardly affectionate, and gave an example of her tough day home with the kids when he came home and didn’t reassure her as much as she would have liked. She asked if he loved her, and he said, “I come home every night, don’t I?” Somehow this seemed very sweet given my gentle grandfather’s nature.

60th

swimbikerun, etc.

Some recent items:

Congrats to my little brother (though he’s noted as a Clydesdale, and darn it if I’m not basically Athena weight!), Matt, on completing his first triathlon last weekend. It was in downtown Indy and so far there are no reports of anyone dying after swimming the canal.

mattswim

Matt’s first triathlon 08.16.09 from Amy D on Vimeo.

Friends recently invited us to Symphony on the Prairie, where we heard Queen music in an outdoor picnic setting. Drunkenness ensued. Also the guy who sounded like Freddie Mercury threw in “I’m gonna sit by you, another one rides the bus!”

Had a bunny date at my house. Rabbits who happened to be named Bill and Hillary met, and Bill humped Hillary repeatedly. She looked annoyed and went home with Waldo instead.

I grew huge ass zucchini!
hugezucc

And my pepper is finally turning red!
redpepper

Also note we now have cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and a wine rack! David’s work slowed to a backwards crawl but at least he had time to work on his own place.
zucckitchen

I looked away or took a phone call or something while working, and Walter apparently brought me Thing 1 for a game of fetch.
thing1

Rode my bike to the state fair this weekend. I’ve never gone and wanted to get it out of my system. The prospect of fried food overrode the sadness at some of the animals (I managed to walk into the swine building while they were being auctioned). Of course the first building I wandered into had the rabbit judging going on. Poor buns.
fairrabbits
There were a number of bizarre sights at the fair, including middle-aged white women belly dancing in a group (I got stuck watching this because it began pouring rain and this tree kept me dry):
bellies
An awesome mullet with balding and feathering at the same time:
mullet
Suckers with their feet in nasty brown muddy water getting ‘toxins’ removed (what a freakin’ racket):
foottoxin
Miss America seasoning (I almost bought it but it wasn’t worth eight bucks for a joke):
missAmSeason
And a lady playing show tunes on an organ in the middle of Pepsi Coliseum while competing horse teams trotted around her:
organhorse
It was all worth it for the funnel cake, mint ice cream, and onion rings.

Even though a draft horse farted on me.

“Ah, he always smelled that way”

When I was young, we’d go visit my great great aunt and uncle’s farm on the west side of town. Uncle Walt and Aunt Dorothy had 80 acres, and at various times, cows, chickens, corn, a pond, an inground pool (this was the most exciting part for my brother and me at the time), dogs, woods, strawberries, you name it. They had a long dirt lane and when you drove on it, the resident dog (jobs included guard and groundhog killer) would come running to meet you.

My mom and her mom both spent lots of time at the farm when they were young. I am SO glad we got to go visit too, but I wonder what it would have been like to live there for whole summers. There are stories of using dynamite to blow up field rocks and my mom getting lost as a toddler and the dog finding her.

They lived in a creepy-cool 1850s(?) farmhouse and the upstairs, a place we rarely visited, wasn’t even vented for heat. The dirt cellar had amazing jarred veggies on old shelves. The big wraparound porch had rocking chairs and bees would visit the flowers while you sat around and talked.

The old barns were really amazing to me. I was not very adventurous and didn’t explore as much as I should have, but the falling-down old chicken coop and slatted corn sheds fascinated me. My memories don’t include the animals that lived there, since Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Walt were older by then and rented their cornfields to other farmers, but the old buildings were right there by the house as a reminder. There’s a picture somewhere, one I clearly remember, of kids bottle-feeding a calf. I remember the wooden ramp with rails where the grown cattle apparently climbed on the truck to go to slaughter. My mom said Uncle Walt would cry when they left.

Whatever happened to that world? It must have been amazing to be an American farmer through the bulk of the last century; the changes in fertilizers and yields, the move to families shopping in big grocery stores, the selling of this beautiful property in the country to be another fancy subdivision after the old farmers went off to assisted living facilities. Uncle Walt suffered from illnesses related to his life’s work, but I just remember him sitting in a recliner and telling deadpan jokes. (When asked why his dog was so spoiled, he responded with the title of this post.) Aunt Dorothy climbed on top of the shed in her 70s to paint; I remember her still liking to eat Long John Silver’s food, of all things, in her 90s, long after moving away from the farm and going deaf.

I was thinking of the farm after watching Food, Inc. last weekend with friends. Please go see it–it’s amazing what we don’t know about the food we eat and where it’s sourced. I visited a farmers’ market just before the movie, and went to another one this past weekend, but yet that’s not where the bulk of my food starts. I’m trying to take advantage of more markets this year while we are in growing season, plus we are growing more vegetables ourselves. When I stop to think about this basic thing, food, it amazes me what an industry it’s become. Now there are even concerns about ‘food security,’ whether from national perspectives or right here in my city.

Maybe it’s not helpful to idolize the old family farm in this day of WalMarts and a bigger population, but I know none of Uncle Walt’s cows stood knee deep in their own manure their whole lives, nor did his chickens live in cages the size of a sheet of paper. The unchecked growth of factory farming and seed law signals to me the dirty politics and the greedy side of capitalism that tosses aside any reasonable treatment of worker, animal, or planet.

The power of consumer dollars: a vote every time you eat.

I’m very excited about the upcoming opening of our first non-profit community grocery in a rehabbed building in an underserved part of the city: Pogue’s Run Grocer!

More dorky bike media coverage

Bike to Work Day was a couple Fridays ago in Indy, and although I was actually on vacation, I biked-to-vacation by joining the masses who converged on the circle downtown. Then the rest of the schmucks actually had to ride to work! Ha. I rode home and drove to Tennessee for a Smokies trip.

I bought a nifty camera mount to use my little Flip video thing on my bike, but due to downright user error and low batteries, I have little to show for my experiments. I hope to post a real ride soon.

Here’s the Lilly contingent gathered on the circle.
btwd2009

The Star caught us getting organized in their gallery.

View this gallery at The Indianapolis Star: Bike to Work

There was also a pic taken at Indy Cycle Specialist before we left but it doesn’t seem to be posted. Meanwhile, someone from the Indy Star interviewed a few of us and, as usual, I was quoted slightly out of context and with only the dorky movie reference included. It’s still better than the rabbits jumping around misquote, and probably better than being on TV last fall.

In the meantime, I’ve been to NJ for a conference (where I also sat in a ca.1745 church’s cemetary to read for awhile), IL to transfer rescued rabbits, the northern part of the state for the annual family holiday/race day cookout, and enjoyed my tax dollars at work at Ohio’s Air force museum and that hiking trip in the Smokies national park (which ended with an energy museum visit in Oak Ridge, but I accidentally called a sex line in Jamaica when I misread their phone number on a billboard!). Being off work is great!