Gifts

Dec. 25th, 2014 10:17
torquill: The magician Howl (happy things)
I'm blessed with a second family this year, and I can't think of a better gift.

I've been given acceptance and love without having to earn it. I've been included without question. My needs have been not only respected, but anticipated. And my difficulties have been met with an outpouring of patience and compassion surpassing any I've ever seen.

I'm learning that every one of us has a huge heart. D wears hers on her sleeve as much as L doesn't, but both of them care tremendously. M's battles with demons and hardship have made him kind. And Akien, who has done more for me than any single person I could name... he has given me what my soul has craved, like food or sunlight, for most of my life. At least six things he does (every time I try to count I find more) have evoked a response from some part of me deep inside that says "This is all I have ever wanted." And he does them just because he can sense I need it, even when I couldn't have put my finger on it.

I cannot imagine what would be more precious to me than this.

So my emotional animal gets the gift of rubbing up against someone and feeling our souls touch, and of being part of a clan; my rational mind gets the gift of handing off control for a little while; my libido gets the gift of the sexiest man alive; my body gets the gift of a careful and attentive medic; and my self-preservation instinct gets the gift of someone who accepts all of me without censure, and works to keep me safe.

I don't yet have Enough, but I will. As rapidly as I've been doing everything else, I suspect, especially with this abundance to draw on. I didn't expect it, but this year has brought me tremendous joy. I can only hope there is more to come.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
This year's recipient for my Untied Way donation was a dark-skinned man in a wheelchair. Poor, black, and disabled... that's a tough row to hoe. I feel for him.

I started doing it two or three years ago, when I got off 80 at the Central offramp and impulsively handed a $20 to the guy on the curb. He was a scruffy white guy in his late 20s who looked like he'd been homeless for a while; I'll never forget the look on his face when he stepped back again and actually looked at the bill I handed him. If you've ever been really poor, you know that expression -- he had just discovered that he could afford to eat that day, or to get off the street for a night, and his relief was so profound it was hard to keep his knees from folding. He had expected a buck or two, and suddenly had the grinding stress lifted off his shoulders, even if just for a moment. I drove away and never saw him again.

But the next year I did it again, for a different guy. I always seem to end up getting off at Central near the end of December, for one thing or another, and there's always somebody there. Last year I think it was a woman, beaten down and looking older than her years. This year all I could give was $10, but I hope it made a difference anyway. I had to roll past and slap it into his glove like a relay runner because the light was green, but he caught it, and maybe even caught my "Happy Christmas" to go along with it.

Most of the money I've spent on Christmas this year was for charity, and I'm okay with that. It's not much... $10 for this, $25 to be doubled by the health-food store and used for the food bank, but I've never lost sight that however tight things are for me, they're tighter for somebody else. I won't erode my own footing for them, but I do what I can. Like Jon Carroll suggests, I give just a teensy bit more than I feel like I can afford... usually it's just one donation, though I hope someday to be able to manage a few more. It's something, anyway, even if it's just a little birthday candle in the dark.

Happy holidays.
torquill: The magician Howl (happy things)
Time to take stock and appreciate what I have, before I look to what I'd like to have.

Cut for neatness )
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (weirdness)
Today's musical began an hour or so ago with Fenric's opening bugle, when he realized that was no ordinary bird warming up on the counter -- it was one of the magical Willie birds!

He's been quiet since, though you couldn't pry him out of the kitchen with a crowbar. I expect the main overture to start in a couple of hours, and the climax of the piece involves circling furry land sharks in the dance of Pulling The Turkey Out.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
What more evidence do you need that a group of people truly has its own culture than the fact that they have their own set of observed holidays?

I observed Pi Day by baking, of course. Rhubarb seems to have gone out of season already in the stores around here (a month or so early, and it just happens to be the year I divided my own crowns in the garden...) Failing that, I fell back on other supplies, and made a very tasty butterscotch peach pie from home-canned peaches. It's lovely with vanilla ice cream.

I took the rest of the triple batch of pie crust and made 25 miniature crusts, ready to become mini-pies in a few days. One set will be pecan for Thursday evening, as our hostess loves pecan pie; the other set will, once I process the necessary ingredients, become lime meringue pies. I got an influx of limes, you see, and I need something to do with the juice after I've stashed away the zest. The first step is to make lime curd; the second step is to take whatever lime curd survives predation and use it to make pie... :)

If you ever have the opportunity to pick up a copy of Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook, buy it without hesitation. It is, hands-down, the best reference book for pies I have ever seen. I should take the time to scan it someday, put it into PDF for when our copy completely disintegrates; it's out of print and difficult to find even now. It's the first thing I reach for when making any pie or similar object.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (heroes)
Yesterday went as smoothly as could be expected... I had to do an early-morning grocery run to fill in a few gaps, and the goose got done so fast we ended up sitting for dinner about an hour and a half early, but all in all it was pretty good.

Still haven't seen the Doctor Who special, as Greg doesn't want to see it (he's not caught up yet, and doesn't care that they're usually stand-alone specials). Maybe Wednesday.

I gave a few quite good gifts, and got a few myself -- no phone, but I didn't really expect one. I now have a copy of Julie Sahni's "Classic Indian Cooking" thanks to [livejournal.com profile] hopeforyou and [livejournal.com profile] starry_sigh, many thanks; that will provide some fun cooking experimentation in the next several months. There were various other trinkets, including the Kaldor City audio plays -- those are rollicking fun, though I shouldn't listen to them in the car because Paul Darrow has a tendency to make me double over laughing. Nobody gnaws on the virtual scenery with quite so much panache.

I woke up this morning feeling well in over my head because of the bike, but it was unexpectedly clear. So I begged Greg's forgiveness, bought more sand, and overhauled my dad's sandblasting booth... the handlebars, gooseneck, and fender supports are all ready for primer tomorrow. I'll do that and wet-sand the other pieces before rain again on Wednesday. Whee.

I counted the number of painted pieces on this bike: 18. No wonder it's taking forever. At least I still have some audio plays to listen to.
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
With only a few days left until Christmas, I got the itch... so I started mixing cookie dough like a fiend today. I made dough for chocolate refrigerator cookies, soft gingersnaps, plain sugar cookies, and the family peppernuts. The chocolate cookies were new to me, but the Farm Journal hasn't let me down yet, and the dough tastes good. :)

The sugar cookies were also new; since my goal is to make a filled/cutout cookie with lemon custard in the middle, I wanted a plain, basic sugar dough to start with. I reached for Mark Ruhlman's "Ratio", knowing that he has a ratio for the simplest cookie possible (sugar, butter, flour). So I mixed up a batch according to his recipe: 2 ounces sugar, 4 ounces butter, 6 ounces flour. At least we have a good electronic "scale".

What I discovered is that this ratio fails with rice flour. It's odd, as I would expect weight to be the great equalizer between wheat and Asian rice flour -- they pack differently, but wouldn't the amount of actual material needed be the same? Apparently not. I adjusted it (1:3:3 seems to work well), added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt as suggested, and got a cookie dough that tastes just marvelous. If the cookies themselves taste anything like it, I'm sold. Ruhlman mentions that it's the quality of the butter that causes these cookies to succeed or fail; in that case, I highly recommend the store brand at Smart & Final, as it's fresh, very cheap, and tastes great. There's enough water in it to help with lifting baked goods, too. :)

So tomorrow I'll be baking these, as many as I get through, anyway. Not sure whether I'll get to making the lemon custard for the sugar cookies just yet. I made my Ninja Fudge today, so it's done and chilling in the fridge. I still have pie crust to make in the next few days; we need a mince pie, and I've had a request for another pumpkin pie too. Pie crust means more Cinnamon Pie Destroyers, which will make Greg happy.

Before Friday, we need to buy fruit (at least some D'anjou pears and a pineapple, maybe a grapefruit if there are some good ones out there) and our traditional lunch fare of sausage and cheeses for Christmas Day... I've been done with shopping for a while, and I'm ready to start wrapping. Whee!
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
Before this was dubbed Veteran's Day, it was a day for us to remember that even after the bloodiest war, one which claimed countless lives, we could still find peace.

The red poppies of Flanders Fields were watered with human blood, but on November 11th, soldiers were finally able to emerge from their foxholes and walk upright, in peacetime, like civilized men rather than as fodder for the war machine. They gazed across the fields strewn with their fallen comrades and saw the true cost of war.

I am grateful to all our living service-members and vets -- I know quite a few, by now. Your service has enriched this nation. But today isn't about you; it's about striving for a time when no one has to be sent to fight and die on foreign soil. It's about the hope that follows the blackest night, when the dawn finally comes. It's about war's end, and remembering that no matter how long and how horrific the fighting may be, we can hold to our hope for armistice, for truce, for peace.

Veterans, I salute you. Let's all hold hope for the end to every war.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
It's more than a day on the calendar. Thank you to the veterans out there, including [livejournal.com profile] the_ogre, [livejournal.com profile] shadowwalkyr, [livejournal.com profile] unseelie23, [livejournal.com profile] doktor_weasel's brother, and I'm sure at least a couple of people I've forgotten.

The country has ill-used its troops of late, but I am still grateful for their service.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to.

I need to see whether I can get a copy of Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas In Wales" in digital audio. We just watched the video again, for the umpteenth year, and even though I'm able to recite parts of it right alongside the actors by now, I still enjoy it.

And books that told me everything about the wasp... except why.



Happy Christmas, everyone.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
I have no desire to summarize 2005. It was a very difficult and stressful year, and while adversity builds character, I have enough characters for the next fifty games. I'd like a break, please.

It is, however, done. I passed its last moments listening to [livejournal.com profile] knaveofhearts tell "So there was this girl" stories with my brother [livejournal.com profile] foogod and the Weasel, after [livejournal.com profile] eyeofcanaan had departed for work. We had a quiet little gathering, toasted the new year with my mom, and finished watching "Time Bandits".

Today is the end of the winter holiday and the period of grace, and tomorrow begins the Season of Growth. I have a good load of personal goals to implement, and some large changes to plan for. By fall I plan to be attending Davis, picking up my lost dream of going to university again. There's the more immediate juggling act of how to keep school from taking over everything, so that I can put together a moderate veggie garden to help me stay sane.

November marks the midterm elections. It's too early for me to have a lot of hope, but there is potential there.

In August I turn 30. I've never been really hung up on the whole "30 OMG I'm old" thing, but it is a round number. I wonder how I'm going to feel about it.

There's the feeling that a lot of large pieces have been rearranged, and might be in position to start coming together, finally. I might actually get the hang of all this yet, if the orbital crisis bombardment will let up for a while. A lack of earth-shattering surprises, that's my request for the year.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
...or something will, anyway.

I threw on ratty clothes quickly today so that I could assist my dad in climbing onto the roof to examine the chimney to the living-room fireplace. Then I cleaned out the fireplace itself and climbed in, in an attempt to pull some of the dead leaves off the ledge of the baffle. I didn't manage that, but I did brush a lot of soot off the top and back of the fireplace. (I wore a mask; no dying of Black Lung Disease for me.)

The upshot is that it all seems to be in fine shape. The ceramic liner is uncracked and firmly mortared; the brick portion below the liner is solid; there's no appreciable soot buildup in the chimney; the fireplace itself is fine, and the baffle looks good from top and bottom. Some of the outside mortar has crumbled a little, and needs to be replaced for the sake of the bricks, but it's not a structural issue. It's solidly built, and weathered Loma Prieta quite well.

I scrubbed the screen, so that will hopefully be okay. We can start up a fire in it this evening to give it a test -- I'm sure there will be a terrific smell of hot dust as the exchanger warms up, but there's no way to clean those vents without demolishing a little bit of the arch to the dining room, since it was plastered so close to the vent grates on one side.

The living room looks wonderful with all that space, lit up by several lamps and the glitter of the tree. The family-room fireplace has the greens along the mantel, and a couple of stockings, and I hung some christmas lights along the windows... that kind of makes up for having the tree in the living room this year. I've always missed having the tree in here, though.

It looks like it's going to be a wonderful holiday.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
Every time I do this, I realize that mail-order deadlines are tighter than I think they are. My apologies... I never require that a gift be on time, just as I don't require that one be given at all.

My gift list is now up... Read the disclaimer, please. I include it for a reason.

As [livejournal.com profile] ceolyn said, some may consider it tacky to have a list of suggested gifts, but I think it's worse to get the look of "oh, wow, they gave me a gift and I have no idea what I would do with it even if I liked it, but I need to try to thank them sincerely anyway". If you were thinking about getting me something, consult the list and email my mom to coordinate. If you weren't going to get me something, ignore this post. Simple, painless, confidential, and everyone's happy. Non?

My budget is tighter than it has been in recent years, to the point where I'll be trying to find something for under $20 for the weasel and may rely on my mom for gifts for the rest of the family. I have a few little things in mind for some friends, but my sheer mass of credit-card debt precludes giving anything not made by my own hands for almost free. I'll be happy to spend time with people, though (ecstatic, even -- school made sure I haven't seen anyone as much as I want to).

Three and a half weeks of school to go. I'll see you on the other side...
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
My birthday list is up. Please read the disclaimer...

I have to attend a wedding on August 21st, so I'm looking at the 20th for a gathering. I'm usually pretty lousy at deciding on what to do for a party, so I am most definitely open to suggestions. Movie? Barbecue? All pile into the hot tub? It can't be too expensive, but I'm up for the cost of a movie and maybe dinner. What movies are due for that weekend?

I can't do a nifty poll or anything, so you'll have to go through the effort of commenting instead of doing the clicky boxes. Oh, the angst. :)
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
Well. I'm feeling better both physically and emotionally, and I'm ready to start on another year.

My calendar is odd. I'll walk you through it... )

So I am now standing at the birth of another year, looking at the tiny pinpricks of the personal seeds I have sown, and ready to leave the dead year behind and concentrate on new life and new possibilities.

I don't make formal resolutions, at least not at New Year's -- I've never seen the point of waiting until a certain date to implement a change, particularly some of the radical ones that people seem to set their hopes on. My changes for the year are mild, mainly to do more personal reflection and mental housecleaning. I also need to shovel out my current dwelling, which is more part of a "to do" list than a resolution. And I need to get employment more than ever, which is more hope and a continuation of effort than anything else.

Here's hoping this year is better than the last.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
Actually, that quote isn't quite accurate... I remember this year all too well.

I'll be happy to see the end of this year. )
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
Here is is, the day at the start of The Holidays -- that five-week period of craziness at the end of the year. There is a period of meditation slated for Thanksgiving, almost like a religious holiday of sorts, to reflect and give thanks before embarking on the madcap consumerism of the next four weeks.

So what am I thankful for? )

I start work tomorrow. I'll be doing the late shift from 1-9pm; I don't envy James, who agreed to take the morning and set out traffic cones at 5am. The mall may not open until 9, but that didn't stop Macy's, Penny's, and the Disney Store. Thank God everything opens at a sane hour from Saturday on.

I've been describing my job as "dodging cars for money". Someone said that actually made it sound exciting. I'll try to remember that when I'm on my sixth hour of standing in the same intersection, trying to remember that the person attempting to cut across traffic was not the same driver who tried to pull that trick twenty minutes ago, even though after a few hours all the cars look the same.

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torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
Torquill

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