Feeling Domestic

Have you ever seen this bumper sticker?

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 4.34.22 PMIt makes me chuckle. I’m not sure why, because it doesn’t really apply to me. But it amuses me anyway.

In recent years, with no children, pets, or elderly people in my house to clean up after, I haven’t had to spend as much time with housekeeping as I once did. I clean what needs to be cleaned but don’t worry about the general appearance of the place. These days, free time is usually Writing Time, not the formerly coveted Time to Get Things Done Around The House I’ve Been Neglecting.

Yesterday and today, I had two nice blocks of Free Time. Woo hoo! You’d think I might get some serious writing done, wouldn’t you? Nope. On this occasion, I made curtains.

(Note: as you’ll see from the photos [aren’t you proud of me for taking pics?], no one will EVER come to me for decorating advice!)

2015-04-25 14.25.39We replaced the basement windows last year. Because the old windows went below ground level, we put in smaller ones to prevent rainwater leaking in. The installer filled in the space beneath the new window with concrete block. Which isn’t real attractive, as you can see.

As you may know, I don’t like curtains. I like to let the light in and to see outside. Curtains and drapes are annoying to work with, expensive, and overall a pain in the neck. On the other hand, though, they’re good for keeping people outside from seeing in, and they also block cold in the winter as well as heat in the summer. So I grudgingly use them.

Except, ordinarily, in the basement. But because these funky new windows are ugly, it makes sense to cover them. (The little insert of paneling above the windows, as you can see in the picture above, fits the “funky and ugly” description too. But I’m not sure what to do about that.)

2015-04-25 14.26.32So, yesterday, I measured the window openings and figured how much fabric I’d need. Then I went to Surplus City and bought some inexpensive but kind of cute almost-eyelet (I say “almost” because the holes are embroidered but not actually cut out). It’s actually a nice bright white, but you can’t tell that from the photo. I thought it would be a cheery way to cover the weird window openings.

2015-04-25 14.26.13And it is, I guess. But at the store, I neglected to take into account that the fabric  was single layer on a roll rather than the usual double layer on a bolt. And so — oops! — I only bought half the amount I needed. Which meant I had to go back today and buy some more. No problem, as Surplus City is only about a mile away.

The project is done now, and I made curtains for five windows — the tally includes a valance for the window on the basement door — for $30. And they turned out okay! Though not a great seamstress, I’m better at sewing than I am at photography. I’m sure there’s a way to take pictures of bright windows in a dark basement, but it didn’t seem important enough to mess around with it.

2015-04-25 14.24.09-1My other project today involved a domestic activity I practice more frequently than sewing: cooking. Or, in this case, bread-baking. Remember my post last month about the Italian flour? (If not, go read it!) Well, we’re having a cook-out at the church tomorrow, and I thought it might be fun to make Craig some hamburger and hot dog buns. So I alternated my time between the bread dough in the kitchen and the sewing machine at the dining room table.

I used a recipe for dinner rolls but reduced the amount of sugar slightly, as the rolls seem a little on the sweet side. I looked online for recipes to give me some guidance (how long do you make a hot dog bun? do you cut out hamburger buns with a round cutter, or do you just shape them with your hands?), and gave it a whirl. The instructions I found said to make the hot dog buns 4.5 inches long, but I think next time (if there is a next time) I’ll make them longer, because they don’t seem big enough. I tried using a biscuit cutter on some of the hamburger buns and shaping others. The ones I cut turned out nicer.

Rolls on the Rise
Rolls on the Rise

One recipe had you brush melted butter on top before baking; another recommended beaten egg; and one said to sprinkle the tops with poppy seeds, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. So I brushed the tops with butter and coated some of the buns with the seasonings. They don’t look too bad now that they’re baked (I didn’t take of picture of the finished product, sorry), they smell heavenly, and I’m looking forward to trying them tomorrow.

But next time I have a few hours to myself, maybe I’ll actually do some writing!

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It’s a Visual World

kids 1990
Family shot taken in the fall of 1990. I think. It was about then, anyway.

I’ve never been an avid photographer. Just ask my family. You know, the family whose lives I failed to chronicle on film like a normal parent? Yeah, that family, the existence of which is supported by very little photographic evidence.

In Easter finery, 1992
In Easter finery, 1992

Note that I said very little, not none. I took these photos out of my thin family album and scanned them as proof that I did, in fact, take the occasional photograph. Craig and I are both camera-shy, so I’m not showing you any shots that include us.

Because I don’t have a lot of photos on hand, I often have a hard time illustrating my blog posts. So I’ve been trying to make an effort the past couple of months to take more pictures, so when I blog, I’ll have images on hand.

But then, having images, I didn’t produce any words. Hmmm… perhaps some day I’ll get this figured out.

Today, instead of writing a post and then searching for images to illustrate it as I usually do, I’ll post some photos and then try to think of something to say about them.

I took these on March 20 and called them “The First Day of Spring.” Except it was actually the day before the first day of spring. Either way, they don’t look very spring-like.

1st day of spring 2015 - 11st day of spring 2015 - 2







After a false start or two, spring finally did get here, as you can see:

magnolia tree 04.13.15Here’s the magnolia tree we were told never blooms.  True, it didn’t bloom last year, but it made up for this year. It got nicer than this before it was finished, but I was so happy to see the blossoms, I took the photo before they were fully open.

magnolia blossoms 04.13.15We took advantage of the beautiful weather one Sunday afternoon recently and took a hike along a short portion of the Great Allegany Passage. A person with a lot of time and ambition can hike or bike this old rail trail from Pittsburg, PA to Cumberland, MD, where it meets up with the C & O Canal Towpath that can be followed into Washington, DC.

Not being that ambitious, we merely walked from Frostburg, Maryland across the state line into Pennsylvania and then back, a distance of 6 or 7 miles.Borden Tunnel 04.13.15

Oh, no, wait — we never did cross into PA, but stopped just past the Borden Tunnel.

There are several tunnels along this trail. This one was wide enough to accommodate two sets of railroad tracks, though they’ve long since been torn up. About five miles north of this one is the Big Savage Tunnel — it’s three times as long as Borden, but only wide enough for one train at a time. We didn’t get that far along the trail, though.

048Earlier, with the grandkids, we visited the Paw Paw Tunnel on the aforementioned C & O Towpath. I didn’t have my camera that day, but my daughter had hers, and I’ve stolen a couple of her photos.

And no, the kids weren’t supposed to be on those stair step rocks. But seriously — wouldn’t you climb them if you were there?

Our trip to Paw Paw Tunnel was a lot of fun. Maybe someday we’ll get up to Big Savage to see which we like better.0431

The photo on the right shows the trail along the far side of the Paw Paw Tunnel, with a remnant of the C & O canal alongside it. This is the same trail that will take you (if you’re hardy enough to follow it) from Pittsburgh to DC. If you want to make the trip, let me know. I’ll meet you at Cumberland to cheer you on.

The stinker 04.12.15When we followed the trail near Frostburg, Craig stopped to rest on a rock that seemed to be placed there just for that purpose. I tried to convince him to strike “The Thinker” pose, but he wouldn’t do it.  Then he said something about having indigestion. So I suggested he strike a pose similar to “The Thinker” but half-sitting/ half-standing, and I’d entitle it “The Stinker.” I thought that would make a great addition to my blog, but he wouldn’t play. What a spoil-sport.

They say (“they” being people who love cliches) that a picture is worth a thousand words.thinker If that’s true, then this post now imparts more than 11,000 words’ worth of information.

Though I like photos, I’m not as visually oriented as it seems most people are. I’d rather read written instructions than watch an instructional video. I much prefer to read a book than see the movie version. And I’m not into YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram.

A lot of authors are producing book trailers these days — little video blurbs about their books. This baffles me. It makes sense to use a movie trailer, but I don’t get why you’d make a video about a book. It’s not the same medium, and it doesn’t quite compute in my mind how one relates to the other. Having no video snippets to use makes it very difficult to produce a trailer that doesn’t look hokey. I suppose it’s possible to do, but I’ve never seen one.

What do you think?


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Beware the Polyspore Gock

polyspore GockMany mornings, I wake up with a random word or phrase in my mind.

Quite a few creative people find inspiration in dreams. Most of the writing “experts” advise us to keep a pad of paper and a pen (or the electronic version thereof) at our bedside, so we can write things down when they come to us when we wake up.

Indeed, these thoughts are fleeting, and if we don’t record them when fresh, they’ll soon vanish like dew in the morning sun.

In my case, though, that would be no great loss. Once the sleepiness clears, I invariably realize all that brilliant stuff that came to me in my sleep was utter nonsense.

Take yesterday morning’s wisdom, for instance. I awoke with this profound statement running through my mind:

Or perhaps he just fears the polyspore Gock.

This raises many questions. The “or perhaps” suggests that the first presumption was that he feared something else. Like what?

Would he fear monospore Gock, or is it just the polyspore variety that’s dangerous? Or is neither dangerous? Maybe this whole fear-of-Gock thing is a groundless phobia. I suspect that’s the case, as saying he “just” fears the polyspore Gock makes it sound like it’s not worth being afraid of.

The statement is shrouded in mystery, to be sure. But I think I can identify the “he” in the statement. My waking impression was that it referred to the Dr. Pik character from Gannah.

And that would make sense. Pik was on my mind when I went to sleep, because I’d just been reviewing the print proof for the newly-released second edition of Words in the Wind. And Pik, despite his physical size and strength, is afraid of many things.

But polyspore? Gock? I have no idea.

I had a lovely afternoon yesterday finishing up the proof. This morning, I clickedLost and Found “Publish,” so perhaps by the time you read this, it will be ready for purchase. I did find the page for the print version, but as of this moment, none of the reviews have been transferred yet, and the Kindle version is not yet live.

Once the whole Gannah series is up and running, I can start thinking about promoting it. Well, actually, I’m already thinking about promotion. But soon, I’ll be able to get serious about it.

While I’m working on that, I’ll have to keep my eye peeled for that polyspore Gock stuff. I’m not sure it’s something to fear, or if I’ll recognize it when I see it. But I know it’s out there, because I dreamed it. And dreams are always true, right?

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