Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Epiphany

When I said that I was "undecorating" our house our cousin Terri said we should wait till the 6th of January, Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men come.
Can't wait that long, at this place the Three Wise Men came, tore through a million gifts, left a mess and then left themselves.  So I grabbed a broom, a vacuum, a shovel, lots of boxes and packed Christmas away.  If anyone shows up January 6 they had better be into snowmen because that's the only thing they'll find to bring gifts to, so bring stovepipe hats, carrots, lumps of coal or a corncob pipe, never mind the gold, incense, myrhh or frankincence.

Cat are Strange

Our cat is not quite this bad, but nearly.  Every cat we've ever had hated noise, heading for the hills at the drop of a book.  Ms Kitty is different.  She loves loud noises, the sound of things falling, clinking, clunking, rattling.  
With other cats when I fired up the vacuum, they were gone, huddling under the bed, couch or other darker, quieter spots.  Not Ms Kitty, she follows the vacuum, studies it, would ride on it if I let her, and if she had hands instead of paws she'd take the job over.  Strange!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aftermath


Three days after Christmas and all through the house, 
Candles and ribbons and garlands have all come down. 
The tree is unlit, the baubles stored away,
Nutcrackers back in boxes to await another day. 
Santa and his sleigh, elves and reindeer,
Stuffed in the closet to wait for next year.
The sugar cookies are all eaten, the candy as well,
Rest of the lamb is frozen, the fruitcake was a hard sell.
So Christmas is gone, packed away for a year,
Soon the bills will be coming in, oh dear.
It was fun, what a delight, from my duct tape bear
to all the colored lights,
Well I'm out of rhythm, I'm out of rhyme, 
So I'll wrap up this ditty, just close out this line.
To friends far and near, I hope your Christmas was bright and clear,
I'll end this now by just saying, "Happy New Year!"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Art

While reading Twitter this morning I read about a contest for artists, they want people to submit a portfolio, including a self-portrait.  The contest is for the best self-portrait.  The actor Steve Buscemi is one of the Judges and the winner wins 6 months stay in New York at The Edge or $7007  and the fan favorite portfolio wins a $1,000.  So I entered Mac with a self-portrait he has just completed and 2 other paintings.
He has been feeling very Spanish lately, so you might notice a theme here.
You can view his portfolio at http://www.artistswanted.org/macg


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beautiful Picture


Our daughter April always says she takes an awful picture, though I'm the one who had to have her driver's license picture retaken because the State didn't like it.   So I'm putting this picture in to show that she does take a good picture.

It's Christmas


Woke early like a bunch of kids and started with our Christmas stockings and worked our way through masses of gifts, fun, fun, fun.  April and I, independently, came up with the idea to make calendars with personal pictures on them.  April went the whole way and made her calendar, I uploaded my  pictures and had a company make mine.  Loved the ones I made and loved even more the ones she made for us.  She also made us shadow boxes representing our interests.  Mac's had a guitar, paintings and paints and his pub.  Mine had a keyboard, my paintings, my favorite book Pride and Prejudice and fairies.  She always says she's not crafty, but she really is, and very imaginative. 



 In addition to those handmade gifts she made Mac butter cookies which he adores and a decoupaged sign for his pub.  She hand made me a pillow that she stenciled  a fairy on. 
Mac always surprises me with handmade gifts, giving me his version of solar snowmen, a ducktape bear (don't ask), and a beautiful Christmas firescreen. 










All in all it was a wonderful Christmas, we ate too much food, watched way too many episodes of Mythbusters and had a wonderful time.  I wish Christmas could happen more than once a year.




Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve


Let's see, stockings hung by chimney with care, cookies  baked, pumpkin pie baked, berry crumble baked, cranberry sauce made, most of the packages wrapped (Santa Mac still has work to do), lamb is marinating, rolls out of the freezer, eggs boiled, but not yet deviled, shrimp in fridge soon to be steamed.  Yes I do believe it's Christmas Eve here at the Gutierrez's, so Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Joys of Christmas


For me the major joy of Christmas is having my daughter April here.  She really is the only present I want each year.  It's so good having her home.  We sit and talk for hours about books, authors, movies, she quickly looks things up on the laptop to settle any question we have about who wrote what, who starred in what and what kind of a review did that get.
She took over the cooking of the experimental gumbo yesterday when I had a kitchen accident and it was wonderful, no,  better than wonderful, better than we've eaten in any restaurant.  She also made cream puffs this week and they melt in your mouth.  It has been great cooking with her, I can't remember doing that with her when she lived at home.  Tomorrow we'll do the pumpkin pie (a frozen one) and the blackberry cobbler (from scratch).
She has to leave the day after Christmas, cats, work and other needs call, and   I'll miss her more than I can say, but right now it's just incredible having her here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Birthday

Tomorrow would have been my Mother-in-law  Patty's 96th birthday, she was born in 1913.  I was a very lucky wife because I had the very best Mother-in -law in the world.  She died in 1989 and I still miss her.  She was always full of life and and laughter, a joy to be around, always making something or cooking something.
Patty's family emigrated from Spain in the early 1900's, moving first to Hawaii where they paid off the cost of their trip by working for C & H Sugar in the cane fields.  Her mother Maria hated the Islands with their half-naked women and as soon as they could they moved on to California where they followed the crops picking whatever was in season.  Patty was born in Fresno and was named Pazquela after a family friend, but she and her siblings loved being Americans and Anglicized their names as quickly as they could----Dolores became Dotty, Pazquela became Patty, Consuela became Connie, Feliciano became Phil and Modesto became Mac.
Patty married Mac's father Rafael during the Depression, and though times were tough they began to prosper because  she was such a good money manager.  They worked regular jobs instead of picking crops, paid cash for a house, sold it bought a better one and continued their assent into the middle-class.
She was always so good to me, coming to visit when we were far from home, to Germany several times, to Texas, to Colorado, to Georgia, when my own mother only visited us twice in all the years.  She came and cooked for us and taught me Spanish recipes, sewed for our daughter, did my ironing which I hated to do--sometimes April would outgrow her clothes before they came out of the ironing, told me stories of her growing up, and Mac as a little boy.
I cried when she died, it was worse than when my own Mother died.  When I start cooking at Christmas time I always think of her and how she could make a meal out of the empty pantry, she was a wonder.
She was easy to buy presents for because she loved everything.  And when she traveled there were no strangers for she talked to everyone and made new friends.
So this Christmas, like every Christmas, I miss her and wish she were here so we could tell her we love her.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ima Needs


As we near Christmas Ima needs a few things:
Ima needs for the snow to ease up in Maryland so her daughter can fly out tomorrow morning.
Ima needs her cat to realize she's not one of the Flying Wallendas so she doesn't end up with any more Vet bills for Christmas.
Ima needs a little less rain so her yard can dry out, for her boat to quit floating off, and her bones to stop aching.
Ima needs to hear less about health care and climate control and more about jobs 'cause she has a lot of friends out of work.
Ima needs the cleaning elves to slip in before Christmas and do a little majic.
Ima needs to find a recipe for cookies that will help her lose weight not gain it.
And most of all Ima needs to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hunting Kisses With Miss Daisy



Here it is Christmas '09 already, I remember our first Christmas here in '03, we'd been here 6 months and had made some new friends, all certified and bona fide rednecks, and quite proud of it.  No Feng Shue here, just good ol' common sense, Sushi was the girl next door, after a few beers.  We had been invited to a few Christmas parties, Bill was preparing a wild turkey he'd finally bagged after years of trying, Owen was having a ham he'd cured from a wild boar that had wandered onto his land.  But the most surprising thing was Bubba's mistletoe display, his whole front porch was covered with it.  When asked how he had managed to get such a display, when the only mistletoe we'd seen came in little bags sold by the boy scouts, Bubba's reply was, " Man, you don't buy it, you shoot it!  You see I take my 12 gauge out in the backyard and let fly, and it rains mistletoe!"
Rains mistletoe huh?  There's mistletoe growing in our woods on the oak trees.  Hmmmm...... so there I was out in the woods with a Daisy air rifle thinking I could shoot down at least one sprig of mistletoe, no store bought mistletoe for this redneck wannabe.  But thus far I'd brought down what looked a lot like poison ivy, two pine cones, one of which bounced off my head, some round seed pods that resembled ship mines from World War II,  and I'd managed to tick off a squirrel who was now frantically taking a close inventory of his nuts.
I couldn't  really tell if my neck had gotten any redder, but I could truthfully swear to you that my b**t was turning blue, it was d**n cold out there.  So even though my mind said stick it out, my b**t said to get it back into a warm house.  Now we know who the boss is, because I was shortly back in the house with a Coffee Royale in my hand and the boss was in front of a raging fire in the fireplace.  By the way, you can buy mistletoe for $1.19 a bunch right inside the door of the nearest Piggly Wiggly.






Thursday, December 17, 2009

State of The Janet


It's a beautiful winter, almost, day and I thought I'd do a state of the Janet report.
I just finished reading "The Gathering Storm" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson which I enjoyed thoroughly, more than the last 3 or 4 Robert Jordan books and I'm starting "The Middle Window" by  Elizabeth Goudge, originally published in 1938, it is a beautifully written little book, as are all of hers, I love her use of language.
Last watched on t.v.,  MythBusters, they are an absolute hoot.  Last DVD we've watched is  "Cranford" a wonderful British short series full of extremely talented British character actors, not the least of whom is Judi Dench.
Last shopping, ordering Christmas dessert plates, Christmas salt and pepper shakers, easier to buy new than try to resurrect the old ones,  and new salad forks, Mac likes small forks, hates long dinner ones.  My regular Christmas shopping is all done and wrapped.
Last activity: baking Christmas cookies, sugar ones and Spanish Wedding cookies, though technically not Christmas cookies I wanted to make Spanish cookies and all the recipes called for lard or shortening and I just couldn't do it.
Wearing, most of the ingredients for Christmas cookies.
Next activity, cleaning up the mess that is now my kitchen.  I'm not the world's neatest cook.
Tonight's plan, watch football.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cousin Isabel


Every family has one or maybe not.  Isabel is a very special lady.  She is Mac's 2nd cousin and emmigrated from Spain in the 1930's with her family, Mac's Mom's Aunt Victoria and Uncle Peter.  I first met her at our wedding in the 60's where she caught the bride's bouquet.  She was a beautiful woman, petite, elegant and Spanish to her fingertips.  She never married, saying she'd stay with her parents until they were gone and then join a convent.  She was, and is, deeply religous, in a very old country way.
When her father died she and her mother began traveling, to Mexico to see her brother, to Spain to visit relatives and then the world.  They rode the Trans-Siberian railroad across Russia, rode the train from Capetown to Cairo, walked the Great Wall in China, visited the Holy Land numerous times, to Rome to meet the Pope, they were always on the go.  And when her mother passed on Isabel continued to travel, to Antarctica, to South America, to Japan and the Phillipines.
We only see her infrequently, the last time at a dinner we had for the family before we left California, but we eagerly await her Christmas card each year as she catches us up on her travels.  This year she has been to Mexico, Spain and Cambodia!  She amazes me.  She is older than Mac's oldest brother Ralph, and he's 73, but she doesn't seem to have slowed down at all. I haven't any recent photos of her, but saw one from Mac's brother George's wedding this year and she looked great.
I'm beginning to think that if you never slow down they can't catch you.  Way to go Isabel.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sun, The Sun, The Sun!


After days of misty rain, pouring rain, drizzling rain, fog, overcast skies and gloomy enough weather to make me think I was living in Germany again, and where I spent one of the coldest summers of my life, the sun is finally shining.  I know it won't last, they've forecast a 70% chance of rain today, but for now it is warm, around 70 degrees and sunny.  I feel like I ought run outside and do one of Snoopy's dances of joy.  But unfortunately the ground is so saturated that my yard is underwater and my dance would probably turn into a swandive, and given my lack of coordination would not end well.
We live in a swamp, and I accept that it's going to be wet here, but right now they say we're running about 10 inches above normal in percipitation, and that's way too much.  On our daily walk we go over a wooden bridge that crosses the lagoon and the wood is so wet it feels like you're walking on ice, very scary, because, as noted above my coordination leaves a lot to be desired.  I've been known to trip over the electric light beams in automatic doors!   I need dry terrain in order  to get around safely.  So I guess I'll  stay inside and enjoy the play of sunlight across  my dusty tables.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Authors


I've been reading the Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordon for years and years.  I read the first book in the series "Eye of the World" sometime in the late 90's  and was immediately hooked.  I've always like science fantasym  dating way back to the days when I read  Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz series, in fact I prefer series to stand alone books, it lets you really get to know the characters.  Which brings me back to the Wheel of Time series.  As I said, I was hooked from the first book and would often have to wait more than 2 years for the next book to come out.  Sometimes the wait was worth it and sometimes not, it was, and is, not a perfect series, but one that I enjoyed immensely.  Then in about 2004 I discovered that the author Robert Jordan was very ill, and though he fought to the end, in 2007 he died of amlyoidosis a fatal blood disease.  It was so sad, through reading his books and his blog I felt like I had come to know him.  So even beyond the lose of a favorite author I felt like I'd lost someone I knew.
Because he knew he probably wouldn't survive his illness and would be unable to complete his series, he left copious notes and directions for his wife Harriet, who was also his editor, and she chose another author, Brandon Sanderson, to complete the series.
It was supposed to be one more book but became so wordy it has been broken into 3 books.
I'm reading the first of the 3 and enjoying it very much.  But there is a strangeness to it.  Though the characters are the same, the plot a continuation of the the series, it is different.  I think Sanderson is doing a wonderful job, but oh I wish Robert Jordan were still here to tell his story.
So to all the authors out there whose series I'm reading, George R.R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon,  S.M. Stirling, please take care of yourselves, I enjoy your books so much and don't want anyone to finish them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

And You Think Cats Can't Read


Under the thousand or so presents under, around, near and across the room from our Christmas tree there is one that is for Miss Kitty.  It smells like nothing at all, has no catnip in it (which she doesn't like anyway) and has nothing besides a name tag with her name on in to differentiate  it from any of the other presents.  True it's large, but there are other large presents scattered about and indeed next to hers.  
But where does Miss Kitty now sleep?  And where has she slept ever since it was put down there?
On her present of course.  So you decide if cats can read.















Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, Not!

An apple a day may keep the Doctor away, but it won't do anything about the drawer full of pills I have.  I have a friend whose husband says she takes a pill a day for every year they've been married, and they've been married more than 35 years.  I'm not quite that bad, but I take more than I'd like.
More than 10 years ago they discovered that I had high cholesterol and they've been feeding me pills for it  ever since.  I'm not a big meat eater, never have been, I love my veggies, and as an Irishman I have to have my potatoes which make me fat, but shouldn't add to my cholesterol level.  I walk at least 2 miles each day and I measure nearly everything I eat, but I still have high cholesterol.  So they put me on Niacin until it made me sicker than a dog, so I was switched to Zocar until it began to make me sick and then it was Lipitor to which they added Zetia, which they decided was worse for you than high cholesterol, so they upped my Lipitor.  Which is why I was up early today, I had to have a fasting blood test.
I'm now taking more Lipitor than I ever wanted to take and they had to ease me into this level because it kept making me sick, so if my  cholesterol  levels aren't what they want them to be they can just add an apple a day to my pill inventory because I'm not taking any more medications!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Christmas Time at the Gutierrez'



It's really starting to look like Christmas here, my inside decorating is done and Mac has a good start on the outside.  I'm actually through shopping and I have the credit card receipts to prove it.  Everything that has come in has been wrapped, except for the ones that came in yesterday when I thought I was through.  I wasn't going to wrap Miss Kitty's present, but she keeps trying to break into it so I guess I'll have to lug it back upstairs and put some paper on it.  I've been banging out Christmas Carols on the piano (which needs to be tuned) and Kitty has been doing backing vocals.  It's the time of year I think about family and friends, near and far, and wish for them many happy thoughts.


Monday, December 7, 2009

UPS

We have lived in places where going to the post office was something you planned for well in advance because you were going to be spending a good part of your life there with grumpy, disgruntled people.  All that change when we moved down here.  Our post office is wonderful, full of smiling clerks (except for the new grumpy lady who we're hoping it temporary Christmas help),  who move you quickly, and I do mean quickly, through the line, help you in any way they can and speed you on your way.
Our mail lady who delivers to the house is even better, holding our mail when we're gone, even if the post office forgets to, finding some way to get all my packages into our box without destroying them and just being a really nice person.
Now the United States Postal Service says you aren't supposed to give Mailmen/women Christmas presents, well I say Bah!  Humbug!  I'll do as I please.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Cats


As I've mentioned before we've always had cats, which means we've always had cats at Christmas time.  Each of them has reacted differently to the holiday.  Some ignored it and some really  loved it.  The first to really love it was Louis, he would lay under the tree for hours stretched out on the packages.  He'd wander the house enjoying the smells and looking at the decorations.  One year he ate Christmas, literally, he ate some of the tinsel off the tree.  We found out when we saw it coming out the other end, it was gently removed.  Apparently tinsel is very dangerous for cats, it can cut up their insides.  We were lucky, he wasn't hurt but we stopped using tinsel.
Then one year  we gave Louis  Nysea, a large, furry, female cat  for Christmas.  We thought, that though he was neutered, he'd like her.  Well he spent Christmas in the sink in the spare bathroom refusing to come out or talk to anyone.  This was after he'd tried to annihilate Nysea, turned out that as much as Louis loved Christmas he hated female cats more.
Then there was Bear who seemed to dislike the smell of Christmas or at least he saw it as his mission to obliterate its smell by p****g under the tree.  We tried everything to stop him, the cat sprays that are guaranteed  to keep cats away, moth balls an even stronger smell and aluminium foil,  a sound and texture that cats are supposed to hate.  He totally ignored all of these things and when the mood was upon him he p**d.  So we learned to put everything in boxes or bags so he couldn't hurt them.
Fergie  our furiously,  furry orange cat climbed the tree, shot straight up it,  but of course the tree was tied up because we'd learned from other cats that was necessary.
Now we have Miss Kitty and she too loves Christmas.  The first year we had her she brought her friend Tail out and they both lay in front of the tree staring at all the lights.  I don't put glass ornaments on the tree just resin ones and I don't hang anything too low, but knock on wood she's been wonderful.  She naps under it in the afternoon, that's when she's not in the closets going through Christmas presents or upstairs helping me wrap them. Sometimes she spends her night there smiling a little cat smile like she knows something very special.
Our daughter April can't believe it, she says her cat (the evil Renji) would have been up the tree, taken all the ornaments off and used them to escalate the cat wars in her apartment.
I guess we're just lucky!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas


More decorating has been done, most, but not all, of the Christmas cards are out in the mailbox and I've started wrapping presents.  I'm feeling really good.  Next stop is the sewing machine, I have Christmas pillows to make for an upstairs bedroom.  
I've been loading candles into holders, but either the candles have gotten fatter or the holders have gotten skinnier because they don't want to fit.  Hate to shave candles, hate to shave anything, but it can be done.
I'm starting to think about baking some Christmas breads to put in the freezer, and Mac wants me to make some Spanish Christmas cookies, I've never made any but I'll give it a go.
Fa, la,la, la, la,la,la......

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Etsy Shop


I have been meaning forever to set up an etsy shop and finally got around to it yesterday.  It is called "MacQue Art Studio" and you can find it at esty.com by clicking on seller and typing in "macque".  I also have a link off of Facebook.  So instead of getting my Christmas stuff done I've been playing with esty and shopping there, it is such a unique site.  If you haven't used it give it a try, and look for our shop!  I'm trying to figure out how to add a button here on the blogspot to go there, but I haven't figured it out yet.


Here are two of Mac's paintings, wouldn't they be a beautiful Christmas present?



What's Cooking?

The kitchen smells heavenly.  I made vegetable beef soup, think it's the first time I've done that.  It's for lunch tomorrow and...