Monday, December 24, 2007


This is a two part blog post - the other half can be found at Trapped Under Something Heavy.

Well the Solstice Party on Saturday was a big hit, thanks completely to all the hard work and contributions by everyone. We had representatives from all the family branches, including the honorary ones, so it was a really good turnout (although Jake blew us off and missed out on some awesome cheeses). This is the appetizer spread before the herd came in and trampled it:
Here the assorted guests arrive and greet each other with small gifts of creature comforts; what we consider to be proper Solstice gifts - things to get you through the long dark winter.
We set up the tables in the living room, since the Christmas tree is in the dining room (it has the picture window). I know, it isn't Martha Stewart, but Martha never had these guys over for dinner! As it was, we nearly burned down the house with the candles on the table (good reflexes there B-ski!)
I pose with the Bohemian for a lovely shot - he is such a sweetie!
The Elf Prince was not so pleased with the disruptive humans, but he did allow us to photograph his displeasure, which is something, I guess.
Two of the biggest trouble makers in the bunch, but then the bad apple doesn't fall far from the crotchedy old tree, does it? This is as close as it gets to them both smiling:
We had a few newbies this year to the gang, which always kicks it up a notch. Does it look like they had a good time?
And that is all the pictures you will see here, but if you want to see the rest of the party, then head over to Bea's for the rest, at Trapped Under Something Heavy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Every time I try to photoshop out the red-eye in this picture the kids come out with black eyes. They look like the Evil Elves, who got kicked out of Santa's Workshop for smoking in the storeroom,(Santa's Workshop is now a smoke-free enviroment, though at one time, even Old St. Nick was a righteous pipe puffer - I have the pictures that prove it) or something like that.
But doesn't the tree look pretty? We have to rearrange the entire dining room to make this work, but what the hay? (Decorating tip for the cheap but stylish - the tree skirt is a round tablecloth I bought at Walmart (gasp!) and cut to open up and fit around the tree. Its cheap, its washable, and it doesn't look half bad!)

I completely avoided the heinous boiling of honey and molasses yesterday and just made cornflake balls, which are outrageously easy and so yummy! But, alas! The boiling doth await me, yet again today...just no escaping it, I suppose. Maybe I'll start with the cheeseball(s) stuff - its easy too and I can work up to the boiling (whimper). What's that? You want I should give you the recipes? Well,...OK! (shaking head) I know- I'm such a procrastinator.

Cornflake Balls

start with 1 pound +2 oz. of dark, semisweet or baking chocolate (it needs a little sweet to it, but the better the quality the better the balls) (I used 1 pound Callebeaut and 2 oz Scharffenberger, both semisweet, and OMG - they rock!)
chop up chocolate and place in double boiler on med-low heat

6 cups of cornflakes
1 cup slivered almonds

gently toss in a huge bowl until mixed together.
meanwhile, back at the stove:

stir the chocolate with your largest rubber spatula occasionally, until its smooth and fully melted. pour over the cornflake/almond mixture in the bowl. Toss gently, for what can seem like forever, until the chocolate has fully coated the cereal and nuts. Scoop by big spoonfuls and place in small mounds on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Let cool and box them up.
*note - on warm days or humid days this can be a tricky thing to make - opt for a dry cool day; it will be easier!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Twas The Week Before Christmas

And the wind was whistling through blogland! I know, I haven't been here either - I'm one of the whistlers. But hey, I got several types of cookies made and frosted (the frosting is the real pain in the behunkus, don'tcha know?) this weekend. Bea and I headed out early Sunday morning (that's right - we weren't in church, ya'll! Pfft! Heeyah...!!!) to finish up shopping for the big day, as well as for our annual Solstice Party, which is on Saturday, and kicks off the festivities for my family, of which, Bea is considered a member (poor girl - don'tcha feel for her?)

My god, we were so productive!

Of course, afterwards, we felt it was our due to reward ourselves with a little Sunday Denial, so we picked up some sushi and hunkered down with a bottle of the bubbly (had to check out the quality of the case we bought, see?) later that evening. OY! It was so good! And a much needed respite from the crazy pace of these past few days.

This week is going to be pretty much the same, and that's OK - its only once a year, right?

At least I don't have to go out shopping for anything else at this point - and I didn't go all postal (I really hate crowds) while we were out shopping, so there's two more pluses!

I can't promise I will be writing everyday, during this next two weeks - really who can? But I will be back in full force in January - the dreaded, loong, depressing anticlimax of January, where I eat all of the Christmas candy the kids left and hibernate in darkness. Now, is that a bad thing? I will come out, sometime around February 2nd, to see if my shadow is there, and nibble a few roots, so not to worry!

I am actually hoping to find some time to go get a bloody tube of burnt umber - my pictures are stalled, waiting for the BU. I tried mixing a brown, but its opacity and dullness was just annoying and not what Ihad in mind. None of the hobby shops in town have what I need, and Michael's is in an area of Cary that is Verboten this time of year - dare I say the name? Crossroads Shopping Center is a traffic nightmare on a slow day (very bad flow - I hope they fired the yutz who designed that parking lot sprawl - sheesh!), and after Turkey Day, we "go not gently into that" hellhole that passes for a shopping center. Its really for the best.

Ah crapola! As lovely as it is to sit and write, I know that I'm supposed to be making Liebkuchen right now. always freaks me out to make it alone - its the boiling of honey and molasses that gives me the heebie jeebies - I have a bad habit of walking out of the room, just as it begins to boil over the edge and gurgles merrily down into the bowels of my stovetop. Have you ever tried to remove boiled sugar-type things from inside your stovetop? Its bad- its real bad. It will make you not go in the kitchen for a long, long time.

Usually Bea helps me make the bad boiling sugar stuff - two sets of eyes and two brains generally yielding better results - but this year she is making biscotti at her house, so I'm on my own. It is really good biscotti - probably won't be any left for anyone else, because I keep eating it all (is that wrong? If loving biscotti is wrong, I don't wanna be right!).


Alright, I'm going....sigh...

(Boiled honey and molasses....wahhhhhhhhh!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm taking the day off, kiddles! Only a little over a week until the big day, and my kids will be out of school on Friday, so I have to carpe diem baby, and go get stuff done!

Be back on Monday, unless the muse strikes! (am visualizing an inspirational clocking right to the forehead - Wham!)

Hope everyone has a great weekend - me? I'm going to try and get out there early in the morning, the next few days, so I can avoid the crowds and not go postal (emphasis on the word try!)


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Road Trip With Cheddar Rabbit

As suggested by Bea, here are the pictures from our trip up to Ohio last fall; also referred to as the "Dammit Cheddar" series. We headed up to Ohio to see Velveeta Wingnut to exchange history information (see Family Dynamics Posts) and go shopping for Depression Glass (it looks so good juxtaposed against all the NC pottery, don'tcha know, and Ohiya is the place to go to find it!). Unbeknownst to us, Cheddar Rabbit had stowed away onboard. (He is called Cheddar because that's where I found him, in Cheddar, on our way to Wales, the year before last. Hey, his brother's name is Stilton - it could be worse!) Here is Cheddar, riding shotgun with Bea:
He's a terrible side-seat driver, says Bea. This is Cheddar sitting up on the dashboard, as we zip through Charleston, West Virginia. On the eve of leaving for this trip I came down with some heinous virus my youngest gave to me - hoof and mouth, or some such silly name - really virulent for a first-timer, and I was delerious at this point, so why not take some pictures? (Please note that Cheddar is wearing a TMNT (Ninja Turtle, for the initiated) samurai belt, because his boy, the Bohemian, thought it was a nice touch, before he left him in the back seat of the car...!)
We were starving, and in West Virginia, there isn't much to choose from; not along the interstate, anyway. We detoured off, looking for food-type substance and found this place. Bea actually thought they would have hotdogs. We made Cheddar wait in the car (for his sake, as well as for ours!) and went in. I ordered a beer, in a futile effort to blend, and hoped they wouldn't try to take us into the back room, which I was somewhat anxiously watching on a moniter sitting behind the bar, while Bea went to the Powder Room. It was very Pulp Fiction-esque- I kept waiting to hear, "Bring out the gimp!" Strangely enough, they did sell hotdogs, which weren't bad. so our mission(s) were accomplished (there was peeing too- very crucial) and we got the hell out of Dodge, baby.
This is Cheddar at an antique store in Beckley, West Virginia. I always find good condition Depression Glass, at a reasonable price, here, so I'm not going to tell you where it is - it's all mine, mine, I say! (Cheddar feels a little ashamed of the Tapdancer - Greed is so unattractive)
On the way back from Ohio, still deleriously ill, I took a blue million pictures of Cheddar with Pilot Mountain (or Mount Pilot, for you Andy Griffith fans) as a backdrop. I took that many, and yet you only see one, because Cheddar had gone all prima donna and wasn't staying still - hence, the naming of the "Dammit Cheddar" Series. The truck right behind Cheddar, in this picture that made it, was less than pleased with us, for blocking his way, while we shot this picture. Hold your water, old man - this is Art In The Making - all the more important for the Capital letters! There is a kick-butt Hardees just north of Winston-Salem, that I have to stop at every time I go that way. They are one of the best Hardees ever, in the world. I love me a Thickburger ya'll!! Evidently, so does Cheddar. Back, back! You rodentous creature of plush! That's my Thickburger - mine, Mine!!!!! (Think Daffy Duck, for inflection here)
And that, gentle readers, are the pictures of our brief foray into Ohiya. Notice that not a single picture was taken in Ohiya - like I said, I was ill and delerious for most of the trip. But doesn't Cheddar look like he had a most excellent time? In spite of being vilely ill, we did have a fun trip, in an epic saga kind of way. And it would appear, from the picture, that Cheddar managed to abscond with one of my french fries - Dammit Cheddar!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pet Peeves

Just for Julie, over at the artful flower, a few of my pet peeves.

1) I hate to be called "someone" - I have a name, you know!
2) I hate to be interrupted - it makes me just not want to talk to you at all.
3) I hate wrinkles and gathers in my sheets - I cannot sleep if there are wrinkles in the bed .(I think I might have just edged Julie out of the Crazy Lady Of The Year spot)
4) I hate carpool - it makes my stomach hurt, just to think of queing up with people who can't figure out how it works, and its December, people!!
5) I hate waiters/waitresses who are too busy to listen to when you place your order, and then try to tell you that you ordered it that way, when you complain.
6) I hate Christmas music played before the middle of December.

OK, enough peeving for now! I may drown in the black abyss of negativity!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Family Dynamics, Part IV

Kaneville, May 3rd, 1904
"And now I guess the beautiful summer time, so much talked of, has come at last. "

Kaneville, July 28th, 1904
"Mrs. Mary Downs and daughter, Pearl, of Simcoe Canada, who were called home to attend the funeral of the former's brother, William Toy, have been spending a month with the former's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Toy.

The mink is a very unwelcome guest in Kaneville. Your scribe had 40 chickens killed one night last week."

I was trawling the VCP (Venango Citizens Press), looking for an obituary on Jonathan Klotz, one of my thrice-great grandfathers, when I stumbled across these articles. They had been written by my 3rd great grandaunt, Sarah Agnes Darling, nee Toy. She wrote articles about her family and neighbors for about 9 years; none of which are particularly literary in content, but are chock-full of the comings and goings of her family, with the occasional dry comment about the weather, or a neighbor.

Why is this important to me?

For the past 6 years, I have spent a week out of every summer going up to PA to find family history data. I know my way around the Pennsylvania Room in the Franklin Library with my eyes closed. I know the back roads almost as well as my father does, and he grew up there.

One of the first cemeteries I discovered in my quest was Rynd Farm; a quiet little place that sits above Oil Creek State Park. There along with her brothers and sisters, Agnes Toy Darling is buried.

But she hasn't been completely at rest.

When I took my father and my aunt up there the following year, I could not find her headstone. We searched the whole place, but no Agnes. When I went back alone, there she was.

It occurred to me, at that time, that there was something she wanted me to do- maybe a few things.

I began the collecting of her articles that year.

I started trying to get both sides of our family to meet up there every summer.

I began the enormous task of compiling a comprehensive family history that includes all of the branches of the Toy family of Western Pennsylvania, because there was nothing like it compiled anywhere.

I started corresponding with family members of the different branches - something that hadn't been done since the branches drifted apart.

These are all things that I feel Agnes Darling wanted me to do, for her.

I learned that she was also a family historian; a cousin out in California had a journal written by her grandmother, Nevada Feely Toy, that contained information on the Toy family and where they had come from, prior to migrating to Western Pa. We both felt sure that the information in that book came from Agnes Darling.

There are no surviving pictures of Agnes Darling, other than a tiny head shot of her in a family reunion picture, taken around 1935. She's in the middle right, surrounded by her nieces and nephews; my great grandfather's brothers and sisters.

That's her, the bitty little head, off to the right, in the middle.

This is her biography:
Sarah Agnes Toy was born in 1861 in Venango County, PA. Her family had recently moved to that area, along with scores of other people, following the discovery of oil in 1858 by Colonel Edwin Drake. She grew up in the shadow of the infant oil industry, a tough place to live and thrive. While some of the prospectors did strike it rich, most of them worked hard, played hard, and died poor. The nearby city of Petroleum Center was termed "the wickedest place east of the Mississippi", and was filled with saloons and houses of ill repute. Not the most ideal place to raise children.

She was the fourth child of Jacob Toy and Catherine Goldinger. Her eldest sister, Mary Jane (1852-1922) married a man from Canada, and moved there in the mid 1880s. Her oldest brother, William M. (1853-1904), my 2x great grandfather, fell from a derrick in his 51st year, and died shortly afterwards. Her other older brother, John (1858-1872), died at the age of 14, in an accident having to do with racing horses. Her younger sister, Hannah (1864), got married and moved to California, prior to 1900. Agnes was the only child left to her parents who could take care of them in their old age.

Sarah Agnes didn't get married until she was 29 - a ripe old age for the 19th century. She married James Darling (1861), who was a driller and a well shooter in the oil fields. "Shooting a well" means carefully lowering nitroglycerin into an oil well shaft that has begun to dry up, and then dropping a piece of metal called a "torpedo" into the shaft, hitting the nitro and blasting the shaft. The blast causes fracturing of the shale in the well, allowing more oil to be pumped from the well.

A year and a half after they were married, on September 24, 1891, James Darling and another man, decided to use nitroglycerin to blow up some stumps that were in the way in a field. (the crazy shit these people did with nitroglycerin, and crude oil would curl your hair! The newspapers of the time are filled with stories of people burning down their houses, trying to start a fire indoors with crude oil, or using nitroglycerin to blow up stuff.) They were both killed instantly. She was left a widow, with an infant, born that year, to care for.

Agnes moved back in with her parents and life went on. She cared for both her invalid mother, until her death, as well as her father, who passed away in 1912, after a series of strokes. She never remarried. When her father, Jacob, passed away, he left her the farm, as payment for her years of caring for him and his wife. She outlived everyone in her family, including her only son, Floyd, who died in 1929.

The stories of Agnes Darling abound: My father used to tell us how she would pull on her hip waders to go out and clean the rocks out of her creek. Once, when some boys were throwing rocks into her creek, she came out of the house, waving her father's pistol and shot it into the air. I actually met one of those boys, one summer when we were up there. My kids were down in her creek, looking for fossils, when an old man came up and started talking about bears in the area. When I asked him about Ag he knew exactly who I was talking about, and told me the story of the rocks in the creek, and the pistol.

Tell me she wasn't standing right there, while we were talking to that man!

My father also told me how his grandmother would go out to visit Ag to buy eggs from her- she was too proud to just take money, even from a family member- and that Agnes kept bantam chickens, whose eggs she would give to my father, because they were little and cute (he calls them "banty" chicken eggs). His grandmother also obtained digitalis from Agnes, to help with her heart problems, so it would appear that Ag knew a thing or two about herbal remedies as well.

I went to the Oil City Genealogical Library this past year, to do some poking around, and struck up a conversation with the librarian working there. I mentioned Agnes' name and she perked right up. "Oh! My mother and grandmother used to talk about her all the time! They were neighbors."

After more than 50 years since her death (1955), her presence is still palpable, in that part of the world.

She is a major force in my research, and every time I encounter another person who knew her, I can feel her presence in the meeting.

Someday, I will go to join her, and the rest of the ancestors, and I will have come home, but in the meantime, it is a comfort to have her at my shoulder, whispering in my ear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Poem, By R. Toy (Two, Actually)

Well, the poem triptych I posted on Friday had to be one of my more popular posts. Go figure. You can't sell a book of verse in a book store, but evidently bloggers are big poetry fans. Good to know, as I have tons of it lying around. I fancied myself a tragic figure, in my youth, and wrote volumes of self-pitying piffle with which to immerse myself in my own deepness.

Ahh, Youth!

Sometimes I miss that self-absorption, but most of the time when I do, I look at my eldest child and think, "et tu honey?", because he is already so very deep; so very tragic; so very on his way to writing dark verse to showcase his goth-like tendencies,...and he's 10, for crying out loud. In my father's words, "it's f***ing immortality- its beautiful!" (and yes, he was pretty liquored up at the time he said this, so we use it as blackmail whenever possible. what can I say, it's my f***ing immortality baby!)

So, in an effort to show that I can write verse that isn't dark and foreboding, I submit to you, gentle reader, a few verses of a lighter caliber.
Exhibit A:

Swing Song

I touch clouds
with my feet
then back to earth I plummet,
flying up
in a moment,
magical charms
to lure the sky
trying to tapdance on the sun's face
I keep ending
combing grass
with my toes.

Exhibit B:

(Can't give you the title - it's someone's name)

endless legs
tossed over the chair's arm
impossibly at ease, positioned
catlike - all indolent grace.
wearing faded flannel
and those same damn jeans
(it seems)
you've always worn,
hair on end, you smile
in conspiracy.

partner in crime,
you are
my brother.

All right, Bea - it's your turn to post a few verses! Come on...!! You know you want to!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Family Dynamics Part III

(My youngest child's teacher has left abruptly, for the rest of the year, leaving her third grade class in an uproar. I will be at school on Monday, trying to help fill in the gap, so this is going up on the blog boards Sunday night.)

Before blogging, but after the kids came, when painting was nigh on to impossible, (is it me or does this sentence have a plethora of commas?) I took up researching family history. I know - wow-wee. I guess if you're not a book fiend and a history lover it would seem tame. My own family doesn't really have any interest in digging up long-forgotten skeletons, so its a lonely pursuit, with few compatriots.

I do have one research buddy; one that came from digging up those ancestors (information digging, not cadavers, silly!). Velveeta Wingnut is in actuality my 6th cousin, although we have so many things in common, it seems closer to us both. We discovered each other through one of those genealogy message boards. She was looking for information on a cemetery up in PA, where her family is buried, and I had recently discovered it, on a trip up there, and taken photographs of the headstones. We started exchanging information, along with many smart-assed asides (obviously a genetic trait!), and by the next summer, I was making the trek to go see her in person.

I am not the kind of person who befriends virtual strangers on the internet and then goes to visit them. Ever. So this was unusual. I was a little nervous about showing up at her doorstep. But not two seconds after we got there, it was like we had known each other forever. Has that ever happened to you? It's happened to me twice before; My roommate Jeff, in college, because we were both huge Kate Bush fans, and Bea, who just walked up to me, after poetry class one day (I was walking along, looking at my shoes - its what I do people), and struck up a conversation that has yet to end. So this was the third such moment of meeting a perfect stranger that really wasn't that strange after all.

We stayed up late that night, shooting the shit (so to speak), and catching each other up on, well, a lifetime spent apart. We discovered that, besides our passion for history, we were both artists (her draftsmanship blows me out of the water), we love Chinese food, old films, Monty Python, quirky British films, antiques, ghosts, filthy jokes, and rescuing stray animals (she saves dogs; I save cats). Her daughter thought it was great to meet her "new cousins" as well. Here is a picture of my evil twin sister (relax, I'm her evil twin sister too), and her daughter: If you want to see what she's all about, go check her out at her website here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Good morning....zzzzz.....! Man, it was really hard to get out of bed today. I had to pull the Mom Privelege and get the boys to bring me coffee in bed, so I could wake up enough to get up. I know, I'm just breaking your heart - Bea will probably print this picture off and draw devil horns and a beard on me. The herd came in and planted themselves on the bed, as you can see, which makes it even harder to get out of bed ("Help! I'm lazy and I can't get up!").

But didn't the Bohemian do a good job taking this picture? I really hope Santa brings me a new camera, so I can let him use the old one - he has a great sense of composition for an 8 year old. The Professor (my oldest son) might be an academic whiz kid, but the Bohemian is my artist (not to mention a tall drink of sugar - mmm! that boy is sweet!)

It's one of those short days at school today, so I'm going to be busy later today, cracking the housework whip over my minions, who have been quite remiss in their weekly chores - what would Santa say??? (Hey, whatever it takes to get them in gear, baby!)

Next week, I want to get back into the Family Dynamics groove and write about the stuff I normally eat, sleep and breathe - family history. I had done the grandmothers but, fearing that I was boring my potential audience, I stopped. Now that I realize I'm never going to have that much of an audience, I'm going to try and write more for myself, which was the point of blogging in the first place - not to try and get on the cheerleading team. In the words of my father, "I was never much of a joiner".

Oh yeah...I wanted to put up a poem that is the summation of how I feel in the winter; both about life in general, as well as about getting up in the morning (never my strong suit). This is actually a couple of poems I had written and then rewrote together for a class eons ago, but it still applies, every damn winter.

Flutter, honey, this is for you:

Autumn blows in-
and bitter is the remembered taste
of autumns past-
the sure knowledge of loss
and sorrow.
How is it
I come to this season, always
and purposeless?

watery-eyed November.
The days trickle away
without much effort
from me.
Cocooned in semi-hibernation
I lie in bed and smell winter
's dank breath, feel it
or something else, sniffing outside
waiting to prey on me, or
it is from within.

#3 Terza Rima

Paranoid Reflections

Autumn blows in, sharp and cold,
and bitter is the remembered taste
of autumns past, shrouded in mold.

I hide in my bed, I cannot face
a world turned gray by wind and rain-
sweet Summer's youth is laid to waste.

Wat'ry-eyed November, the days trickle away,
I lie abed, smelling Winter's dank breath
and hear his knife-like fingers rattling my windowpane.

A torturous game the seasons play, on me and on the earth.
I hear them now, outside my door, chuckling in their mirth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Making A List, Checking It Twice

I made a few lists the other day, in an effort to be more organized. One list was the Christmas cookies I'm going make. Now, in true procrastinator-fashion, I'm trying to whittle it down to making less cookies. So here they are, in order of what has to be made first:

1) Nutmeg Logs (labor intensive)

2) Peppermint Party Cookies (easy-peasy)

3) Sugar Cookies (the cut-out and frosted kind)

4) Liebkuchen (a pain in the ass, but I gotta have them)

5) Cornflake Balls (really easy, and killer)

And these, which I'm waffling on:

6) Molasses Crinkles or

7) Ginger Creams

Both are ginger/molasses based, but while the crinkles are work before you make them, the creams have to be frosted afterwards (they might need shaping too - its been a hunded years since I made them). So I'm debating which is less work, versus which one I just have to make. I'm also toying with a few others like:

8) Mock Baby Ruth Bars (easy, but I'm bored with them)

9) Gumdrop Bars (I've never made them)

10) Springerle (No one but Bea and I will eat these little german rocks)

In a perfect world, I would make all of them, and still have time to greet my husband at the door with a casserole in my hands, backdropped by an immaculate house and smiling, well-groomed children. (Ok, maybe not even in a perfect world, but in a Disney-esque fantasy world, it could happen!) But I digress...

We now return you to our previous program....!

Honestly, I think I'll just stick to the first 5 and call it a day - I have "Red Suit" duties to perform, as well as a dinner party to throw on the 22nd, and its not like any mice or a fairy godmother are going to pop up, sing a song, and Bibbity Bobbity Boo all my chores away. just can't find good rodent help anymore. I wonder how hard it would be to train the cats to clean house? It can't be any harder than getting two boys to clean house, right?

I did plan the menu for the Solstice Party, so I'll know what to buy, and what to delegate; and we did get the tree up today, so there's a couple of things I can cross off already.

Alla ka zoola, mitcha ka boola, bibbity bobbity boo -

What the hell does that song mean?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's Just Another Day

Well, the Bohemian (pictured below as a bubble blowing pirate - oh, just go with it!) is home sick, again, with the creeping crud that's going around school. Kind of cuts into my ability to be Ho-Ho-Ho-ing, but that's OK - I stayed up late making lists of the stuff I need to do, so I'm ahead of the game...for now. I think we're going to go get the tree tonight, since its going to warm up by the weekend, which can make for a sappy, drippy tree trunk - not in my trunk, baby!

I had promised to show a few pieces of pottery from Moore County, after looking at my pictures and realizing that there were precious few examples in them. No one has ever said "don't take pictures of the pottery", but it seems kind of tacky to be shooting pictures inside their gallery. So, I'll show you some of what I've collected over the years, since its almost all from that area.

What you're looking at below, is (from left to right) vintage A.R.Cole, two Ben Owen III melon vases, and a Waymon Cole, also vintage artware. The little bowl is vintage ceramic, Homer Laughlin's Orange Tree pattern. This is also the oh-so-groovy, New Age section of my books - well one portion of them , anyway. The books and the pottery fight for every square inch of shelf space in this house. Horrid shelving - I want to rip it out one day and put in real cabinetry.

This bookcase is all Ben Owen III ash glazed pieces, except for the Jugtown Fox crock; called that for the incised rings around it - a trademark of a 19th c. pottery family by the name of Fox. You will note that the books are also fighting for space here too - these are part of my antique book collection -as you can tell, I don't decorate with much Target/Pottery Barn/Crate and Barrel kind of stuff. What can I say? I want to live in a museum.
And there ya go - yet another peep into my sanctuary - don't say I never gave you anything! I'll be back tomorrow with more of the normally scheduled angst and mayhem; unless the Bohemian is still a poor, sickly little thing (Hah! Did you see that kid?!) and I have to hover near his side for his gasped instructions: "Mom,!" And the sad part is; this is exactly the way his father sounds when he's sick - don't even ask what its like if I get sick - didn't you know? Mothers are not allowed to be ill...ever. But that is a rant for another day - probably some time January.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ho Ho Hum

There is just no getting around it, try as I might; Christmas is in three weeks and I haven't done doodly-squat to get ready for it. I'm just not feeling the love for baking a dozen different kinds of cookies, festooning my house with stuff that the cats can, rip down, play with, eat and take a trip to the vets for, and horrors of all

What's up with that, you might ask?

Ambivilence thou art the Tapdancer!

It could be that it is a colossal, all-weekend job to get all of us to put our crap away, so there's room to put up the holiday schmaltz, and I hate cleaning house anyway (is there really some woman out there who just lives to tidy up after the hordes? If yes, honey, we need to talk!)

It could be that having bought a new heating/cooling system, Christmas is going to be kind of tight - how do you explain that to kids who still believe in Santa? Its not that I think they need a boatload of plastic shit to break/lose/leave around on the floor for me to find and scream about, but yeah, I do love the look on their faces when they see the tree on Christmas morning. I've worked very hard to keep the magic alive, but its harder on a tight budget.

It could be that the idea of baking all those cookies, while I'm trying to not gain weight (pshhhh! because to try to diet during December is Few-Tile chile!) is also daunting enough to put it off, though in all fairness, I can't begin baking until this weekend, or stuff just isn't fresh enough to cut it for the holidays (I really hate stale cookies - they're right up there with ...ulp...fruitcake...mmulp...I think I just puked in my mouth thinking of fruit-...IT).

I also sent out notice that we would be having our Solstice Party this year, so tack that on as extra work in all the departments - cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping. I do want to have the party - it was so un-festive last year, when my younger brother hosted it - it seemed more like a Superbowl party, which is fine, but it isn't what we dream of nostalgically when we look back through the mist of years and remember what made Christmas special. THAT is my personal mantra, when it comes to the holidays - how are my kids going to remember this?

We have also been pinned down for the visit to the inlaws during the Christmas week already, which always depresses me. I love my husband, but over the 20 years we have been together, my tolerance for his Fundie parents has gone clean away. I think the breaking point for me was when my mother-in-law told my oldest child that he was going to grow up and become a terrorist, and that his parents (us) were unfit to parent. Nice, huh? All because they lost control of a situation with the kids and my oldest son wrote a letter to an imaginary person to vent his rage, calling his grandparents (in the letter only, not to their faces) "Butt-kiss God Lovers", which of course they found and freaked out over. We were not there, being in Wales at the time, so our welcome home gift was this story, told from my mother-in-law's favorite place - atop her soapbox.

I know, how can I be so unfair to them? Personally, I love the term "Butt-kiss God Lovers" - I think it sums it all up quite succinctly.

But it does make visiting them quite stressful, to say the least. It didn't help that the hubby really didn't confront them in a timely or decided manner - he kind of let it slide, while just not talking to them at all (are all men this good at communication? Oy! I shudder to think...). I see them once a year, at Christmas; I think I'm going to need sedatives or maybe a straight jacket, to keep myself contained, but in the meantime, here I am, ambivilent and procrastinating.

After that pile of fecal matter, my family's Christmas looks tame. There is always the question of who my mother will choose from among her children to be The Reviled One, as we like to term it. We're not sure why she feels compelled to do this; maybe its how she deals with her stress, but every year she picks one of us (well, one of us that isn't my younger brother - he is exempt - don'tcha love favoritism?) and makes our life hell. One year she told me, two days before Christmas, that she didn't get me anything, it was just too much of a hassle - I know - WTF? I think it was last year that my sister was the RO - her special diet needs were too much to accomodate, and nothing she could do was good enough. I think there was also an altercation on the actual Christmas Day (we get together at the end of the week after), at my sister's house, involving my mother and the other guests. My older brother too, has been the not-so-lucky recipient, with endless drunk phone calls and criticisms of his cooking, his kids (who are great, btw!), his life, etc... And OMG, the drunk dialing...sometimes when she gets on a roll, we call each other and send out the warning: don't answer your phone - Mom's on the loose! But let's not lose sight of the other father and the deep dark abyss he falls into at Christmas (that no one can talk to him about - sigh )- he morphs in frickin Eeyore this time of year, sighing and moping; bah-humbugging at every occasion - if ever there was a good excuse to get someone drunk, he is that excuse - he is nothing, if not a merry drunk, which is far preferable to my mother's version of tipping it back - it might have been a story she was telling you, but its been 15 minutes and the point is nowhere in sight. You try to go to the bathroom, and she follows you in, still talking...!!!!

But see? That is so much tamer then the potential crisis of Faith we will have to endure with the in-laws. It almost puts me in the mood for the holidays,...almost.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Quest For Stuff; Road Trip to Bumfuck, Egypt

Yesterday's festival of playing hookey segue-wayed into the once-a-year foray down to the mecca of NC pottery - also known as Moore County. Some of the folks throwing pots in this part of the world can trace their family's pottery tradition all the way back to the 1700s, while others have settled there more recently to take advantage of the built-in pottery buying clientele. Bea and I used to be serious collectors of Moore county pottery - back before kids, car payments, mortgages, etc. We would go down four or five times a year and drop 300 to 500 a trip on pieces made by the then up and coming Ben Owen III, Vernon Owens, and Billy Ray Hussey, to drop a few names. This being an epic journey; its been forever since we went; Ms. Q, Bea, and I set out with the intention of loading up the car with many and sundry clay beauties. This is the entrance to Jugtown, the place that put all the Moore county potteries on the map back in the 1920s. Moore county potters were in a decline at the time, what with commercial pottery underselling them for daily wares, and Prohibition putting them out of the jug business as well (though I understand there were still jugs being made for the moonshiners). A man named Jacques Busbee, from Raleigh, wanted to get the artware industry going on here that was happening in other parts of the US, so he set up shop, rounded up a few potters, and he was in business. The first two potters he hired for Jugtown were Charlie Teague and Ben Owen. They were both young men in the 1920s and willing to expand their pot-throwing repertoire into the artware realm. Charlie later quit and moved on to do his own thing, but Ben Owen stayed with Busbee and it was his skill that brought Jugtown international acclaim.
I love the windmill with the little pot on it. One of the things I always loved about Jugtown, even as a kid, was the cool handcrafts that they sold alongside of the pottery. I bought a beautiful loomed runner this time - picture to come later - the back seat doesn't photograph well, don'tcha know?
This is one of the wood-fired kilns at Jugtown. They use both wood and gas-fired kilns. The gas gives really consistently beautiful results, but the wood-fired pieces can be truly spectacular. I have a particular affinity for the wood-fired glazes, like ash, and frogskin - its always such a miracle of skill, weather and luck when an amazing piece comes out. We went to a Billy Ray Hussey kiln opening many years ago, where we actually helped unload the kiln. It went very slowly, because we were all oohing and ahhing over the pieces. I loved how they made funny pinging noises as they cooled down - they almost seemed alive in my hand! When we popped into Ben Owens' place to fondle a few of the elite (that we're too broke to buy), the pots had just been brought in from the kiln and they were all pinging - I love that sound! We stopped off at Crystal King's to see what was going on, but Crystal was out of town on a trip to China - go figure ! But her grandmother and uncle were there to shoot the breeze and keep up the stock. The King family is another of the long-time potting families in these parts, and while Crystal is still young, her work is really excellent quality - I think she's going to be one of the next really hot potters in that area. The Medusa head below is one of my most favorite figures that she's made. Unfortunately she had so many issues with cracking that she gave up trying to remake this, but its still a great piece, replete with the serpent that shows up in so many folk pieces from the region.
One of our last stops was Westmoore Pottery, which is run by David Farrell. They make primarily reproductions of Moravian pottery, which is usually redware that is slip-decorated with intricate, patterns that are evocative of the Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs. No small wonder, as they are from the same cultural background. The NC Moravians settled in what is now Winston-Salem, and when they came, they brought with them two master potters, whose wares are the inspiration for what Westmoore makes. They also sell fabulous hand-blown 18th c. reproduction glassware that was killing me - it was so beautiful! (Note* Ms. Q is in the foreground in this shot of Westmoore - hi Pookie!)
Mid morning we had to stop and get a bite to eat before my blood sugar went so low I was forced to kill and eat an unwary pottery customer - and that tends to piss people off. So we hit the sole eatery in the area, and had some killer hushpuppies and a barbeque sandwich. The BBQ was western NC style, so it was a little weird to me, but the hushpuppies were outstanding! I moaned and groaned in ecstasy the entire time I ate them - I think I might have scared off a few customers, but damn! they were awesome! Bea is looking a bit rough at this point - we DID get up at 6:30 to go...
We also went to Ben Owen III's place, but I was too busy fondling the way-too-pricey-for-me-but aren't-they-gorgeous pieces to take any pictures. I actually asked a man buying a fantastic piece of ash-glaze if I could just hold his vase for a minute (and then I crooned to it - "who's a pretty piece of ash?" - don't judge me - you didn't see that vase). We had an enormously big time...I bought way too much pottery (though its been almost 5 years; aren't I entitled to a little extravagance? Its all going for Christmas presents anyway...oh yeah, what a juicy rationalization...I bet I keep half of it!) For more pictures of this trip, check out Trapped Under Something Heavy later on today...Bea will be posting her pictures there.