Thursday, July 31, 2008

“Equal Means Equal”

That’s how Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick put it when he signed the measure repealing the 1913 law which was the final impediment to same-sex couples from other states marrying in Massachusetts! The repeal of the 1913 law (which most likely was originally enacted to prevent interracial marriage) took effect immediately.

The tourism slogan may be “Virginia Is For Lovers”. But imagine all the lovely places in Massachusetts folks could get married and then honeymoon!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Power of Language

Senator Barack Obama is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. He has been ever since the final primaries on June 3, 2008 and Senator Hillary Clinton’s concession speech on June 7th. Recently, Senator Obama has increasingly been described as being presumptuous; as suffering from hubris.

In my opinion, there is a current of racism inherent in this criticism. To me it smacks of the old idea of the “uppity black” “exceeding his station” in life. Nor do I think it is an accident that “presumptuous” has become the word of the day. Not long ago Senator Obama’s critics were describing him as elitist. That didn’t do the trick for them. So the crowd who brought us “death tax” as a replacement for “estate tax”, settled on “presumptuous”. In that word they found a way to strike the old chord of racism, while maintaining plausible deniability.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Harvest

Before I headed off to Carrie’s shower on Saturday morning, Chuck went to The Country Hen in Hubbardston to buy eggs during their farm store hours. He also stopped by the Farmer’s Market in Barre and brought home some zucchini and summer squash. Tonight I cooked up the squashes along with some olive oil, onion, garlic and artichoke hearts. I added some rosemary and a little bit of crumbled bacon. A few more veggies, such as tomatoes and eggplant and I would have been in the neighborhood of a ratatouille. But it was just fine as is.

I once described some recipe I had concocted to my nephew J.R. and his wife Lorrie. As I listed off sherry, olive oil, garlic, onions, a splash of cream, etc. J.R. got a grin on his face and said: “You could cook shoe leather in those ingredients and it would taste good!” Yup. Cooking is not rocket science!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Night

- More wild thunderstorms and rain, but all is well.
- I’m bleary eyed from processing Carrie’s Bridal Shower photos in iPhoto and Photoshop Elements 4.0. But I sure did learn a whole lot!
- I also had to figure out how to use Apple’s iWeb for the family photos, because I couldn’t get create and upload access to Apple’s HomePage! Ever since Apple made the big switch from .Mac to MobileMe, there have been hiccups and glitches. I can’t complain too much because from early 2005 until a couple of weeks ago it had been incredibly smooth sailing.
- Hope your weekends were everything you wanted them to be...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

So Good!

The upcoming nuptials between my niece Carrie and her fiance Al are now just weeks, not months away. We love Carrie like a daughter and we are very happy that she found such a great guy. There’s just one very, very serious problem. Al is a die hard New York Yankees fan. Egad! So, here in Boston Red Sox Nation, it’s a mixed marriage. That fact, however, was difficult to discern today at Carrie’s Boston Red Sox themed bridal shower!

Lots of behind the scenes planning and plotting by Carrie’s sister Kate, their Mom (my sister) Gail and Carrie and Kate’s Auntie Linda made for a great afternoon hosted at Auntie Linda’s home in Rhode Island. Gail flew up from Georgia to surprise the bride-to-be, laying low at our Mom’s home until the shower. It was a fun wing ding and a good time was had by all!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Good News

Not sure if it was my icky illness or the wild weather earlier this week or something else, but I’ve been at sixes and sevens for several days. I’ve still been ticking things off my to do list, but I haven’t felt very zippy.

I did find some good news though:

Jeff not only survived, but blogged his way through his recent medical adventure!
PoetMama is expecting her second child, another daughter!
Barbie2Be has launched her new business!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has figured out which jalapeno peppers we should avoid. So that means if we can figure out where our jalapenos come from, we can make this yummy appetizer - maybe with a bit of pineapple.

Also, something nice is happening to someone nice, tomorrow, but I can’t post about it yet. You never know who might be reading Pink Granite twixt now and then!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Say When:

I’m sure some other parts of this planet would be happy to have some of this torrential rain.
Because we’re all set for now - really.

Screen shot from WBZ4 Weather Radar

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Probably Not What George W. Had In Mind...

Thanks to Papamoka, we have this video created by his circle of extended family and friends on the northern shores of the Quabbin Reservoir. Percussionist Doug Plavin clearly knows how to get people movin’ and groovin’!
Do pay close attention to the funding source credit at the end of the video...

Silver Plus Paper

Happy 26th Wedding Anniversary J & K!

Under The Weather

Actually, sick-as-a-dog. Hopefully, I will be 100% in no time.
The good news is that the last 24 hours guarantees Chuck will be the first person to be canonized while still alive!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

This & That

:: Thank you to everyone who has been clicking off to sign the petition urging the U.S. Census Bureau not to edit the 2010 Census. (See July 18 - “Call For Action & Accuracy” below.)

:: I am very much enjoying the television series “In Plain Sight” on the USA network.

:: The New England region has the highest consumption of ice cream per capita in the United States. It makes me proud to be a New Englander! We eat ice cream year round. My favorite since childhood is coffee ice cream (regular churn, not soft serve) in a sugar (not a waffle) cone. These days, the best I can find is at Friendly’s. It used to be Newport Creamery, but nowadays, they’re almost exclusively in Rhode Island.

:: I have the opportunity to purchase Photoshop CS3 for better than half off the exorbitant list price. But I could also upgrade from Photoshop Elements 4.0 for Mac to the recent Photoshop Elements 6.0 for Mac, for about a quarter of the CS3 sale price. Chuck is a patient man. He’ll probably be fast tracked for sainthood after he dies just on the basis of living with me. And the me he is living with right now is incessantly wrestling with this CS3 vs. PSE 6.0 decision.

:: Summer being in full swing means I am in my seasonal country music phase. I’ve never lived south of 41 degrees latitude (or west of 93 degrees longitude), but how can I not enjoy music with lines like Brooks & Dunn’s “I shaved my legs. I paid my money. Play something country.” Or Sugarland’s “Friday, payday, Lordy gotta get away, had it with the wife thing; livin’ on a shoestring.” Or Toby Keith’s: “I ain't as good as I once was, but I’m as good once, as I ever was”!
Toe tappin’ bliss..

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ultimate Happy Dance

It was through DancingMorganMouse that I found the ultimate happy dance video. It’s definitely worth a look. I smiled all the way through.
Click here to see the video.
You can learn more here.
By the way, feel free to join in as you watch. That could only be a good thing for you and the planet in general!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Call For Action & Accuracy

Back in 2000, I had a temporary job with the U.S. Census Bureau as an enumerator. I went through a training course and learned how to accurately and thoroughly gather and report data. Making sure that maps were correct, new homes noted and finding out how many folks were living in communities was all very important. My work with the Census Bureau was sometimes challenging, (especially after a negative editorial was printed in a regional newspaper) but always interesting. Some folks were kind; some were rude and mean spirited. Some people, often elderly, were obviously lonely and happy to find another human being standing on their front porch. Even if all I was there to do was gather some basic information and deliver their Census form.

Working for the Census Bureau also strengthened my respect for how important home ownership is to folks. Some people had exquisitely tidy and well tended yards, others, well, looked like the before photos for a house and garden makeover show. But people were proud of what they had, protective of it and seemed to love making it more their own. Sometimes that seemed to mean making it look more like the before photo, or planting a whole flock of plastic pink flamingos or operating earth moving equipment of all sizes to reshape the very land itself. But the important thing was it was theirs and it provided them and their family, with safety, shelter and a deep sense of place.

Unfortunately, I learned today that the United States Census Bureau will EDIT the data which will be carefully gathered by enumerators and submitted by individual citizens during the 2010 Census.

The U.S. Census Bureau will NOT count legally married gay couples as married. Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau will EDIT the data submitted by married gay couples and change their status to "unmarried partners"!

An excellent organization, People For The American Way, has organized an on-line petition to the U.S. Census Bureau. You can sign the petition here. I urge you to take action on this. As Dan Kennedy of Media Nation reported the other day in this post, “one in five Americans lives in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized”.

We can’t allow the Census Bureau to edit out the fact that a same-sex couple is legally married. You can tell them it’s wrong by signing the PFAW petition.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meet Poly & Dani

Yesterday, both of these beautiful butterflies dined on our Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in the dooryard. The top one is a Black Swallowtail - Papilio polyxenes. I’m pretty sure she is in fact a female so let’s call her Poly. The one on the lower right is a Monarch - Danaus plexippus. Because I can only see the underside of the wings, I can’t guess at gender. So let’s call it Dani. If you look closely, Dani wasn’t dining alone. Unfortunately Dani’s companion rushed off before I could catch his or her name.

Note to self: Grow more Milkweed!

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Font: Helvetica

Fifteen Innings!

I didn’t want to care about tonight’s last night and this morning’s All Star Game at the soon to be “old” Yankee Stadium, but I couldn’t help it! It was a great game! Tied at 3 - 3 in the eighth inning, it stayed that way through the second seventh inning stretch in the fourteenth inning! Finally, the American League, packed with Boston Red Sox players, scored the winning run in the bottom of the fifteenth!

The best part was seeing all those great players, who are fierce competitors and rivals across 162 games every season, all hanging out together in their American League and National League dugouts. It was a bit surreal watching Derek Jeter, captain of the New York Yankees hanging on the railing, shoulder to shoulder with Jason Varitek, captain of the Boston Red Sox. Oh, and then J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox was named Most Valuable Player of the 2008 All Star Game. So good, so good, so good!

No need to wish me sweet dreams tonight!
Home field advantage, here we come!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Same Stars

“We gaze up at the same stars, the sky covers us all, the same universe encompasses us.
What does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the truth? Not by one avenue only can we arrive at so tremendous a secret.”

- Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (circa 340 - 402)

The first sentence in the quote from Symmachus makes me think of this community within the blogosphere. As Roo asked of
Ronnie the other day: “Does she [Sarah Faith] realise the number of virtual aunts and uncles she has?” I don’t suppose she does - not yet! But in addition to a wide circle of family and loved ones in South Africa, Sarah has lots of folks around this shrinking planet thinking, worrying and caring about her, celebrating her safe arrival and her beaming parents’ joy. That can only be a good thing.

The second sentence sends me off to more complex issues of belief, faith, religion and sadly, folks taking sides. Years ago I clumsily groped toward what Symmachus wrote so eloquently. I said that we all started out with the exact same set of Tinker Toys, we just built different versions of God with them; different explanations of the universe; different understandings of life. In the present day, to extend the image farther than I should, I would say a group of people got together and decided one particular Tinker Toy assemblage was the best; the right one; the only one. Then another group did the same thing with their favorite assemblage and before long we had monotheistic religions.

After half a century, I believe it’s only the common, human, moral truths that really matter. The most fundamental of these is the Ethic of Reciprocity or, as many of us know it, The Golden Rule. To loosely quote Hillel: “All else is commentary.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bound - To Be Determined

Chuck and I recently watched a television report on high end bookbinding on “CBS Sunday Morning”. The exquisite bindings by Herb Weitz and Jamie Kamph were dazzlingly beautiful and tremendously expensive.

That prompted Chuck to pose the following question:
If you could choose one book to have bound in a fabulously deluxe, once-in-a-lifetime way, what book would you choose?

Would it be a childhood favorite - perhaps the book one of your parents read to you at bedtime?
Would it be the first book that turned you on to a new genre or a new way of thinking about life?
Would it be something you wrote yourself?
Would it be a religious text?
Would it be your favorite cookbook?

I confess, I can’t decide. Neither can Chuck!
I thought about my favorite dictionary; The RH2 - The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged.
I thought about the book of poetry that my poem “Two Days In August” was published in.
Or perhaps “A Lantern In Her Hand “ by Bess Streeter Aldrich, which was the first stunningly powerful book I ever read as a child.
Then again, maybe “Gone With The Wind” which I read every summer all through junior high and high school.
Oh my! There are so many wonderful possibilities!

What book would you choose?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Once Again Corporate America Doesn’t Get It

The uniquely southern, delicate and light baking flour “White Lily” is no longer being produced in Knoxville, Tennessee. The J.M. Smucker Company (Oh Lord, I am biting my tongue and holding my fingers in check as I type the name “Smuckers”) bought White Lily and decided to stop milling the flour where it had been milled for 125 years. I referenced the famous and decidedly regional White Lily flour last year when I urged any reader in the southern United States, to make these “Touch of Grace Biscuits”. I knew better than to attempt to replicate them using a non-southern style of flour. But Smucker’s didn’t. They claim no one will be able to tell the difference. However, in a blind test for the New York Times, no one was fooled. You’d think that the company founded by Jerome Monroe Smucker in 1897, would be respectful of the more senior White Lily Company.

This time it wasn’t our fault. We weren’t the kiss of death. But we feel for the generations of southern bakers who have had part of their flavor heritage and taste tradition irreparably changed.

Thanks to Natalie “Alabama” Chanin of Alabama Studio Style and the Alabama Stitch Book for the heads up about White Lily.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Little Tweaking

Jessica Sprague posted a Photoshop Tutorial yesterday that she called “ShaZAM!” She suggested that we try the technique on a photograph and post the before and after imagess. As always, her tutorial is very clear and involves two duplicate layers of the original photo. You treat each layer a little differently, (one as Screen, the other as Overlay) and adjust the opacities until you achieve the desired result.

As I went through Jessica’s Shazam techniques, I couldn’t help but compare it to something I learned over on Ree’s website Pioneer Woman. Ree sometimes takes her SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) photo, duplicates it as a layer, then applies Hard Light and adjusts the opacity. That can give a very electric, almost overblown effect. For a gentler effect she recommends applying Soft Light to the duplicate layer. I’ve found that works very well, usually at a 50% opacity.

So what you see below is Chuck, a truly handsome and photogenic subject, standing on the side of the Cadillac Mountain Road in Acadia National Park in Maine. He is proudly holding his National Parks Golden Age Passport card, which he got when he turned 62. Our friend Gale up in Bar Harbor calls it his “Old Man's Card”!

The top photo is straight out of the camera - our old non-digital Canon SLR, of blessed memory. The middle version shows Ree’s Soft Light change. The bottom one shows Jessica’s Shazam technique. Oh and in the bottom two, I applied a narrow burnt edge, using a technique I learned from Ro Paxman over at Scrap Girls. I don’t have a link to the technique, but you use an Adjustment Layer for Levels, move the sliders to blacken out the photo. Then use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to set your edge and feather it (I used 5 pixels). Hit Delete and Deselect. You can then apply a Gaussian Blur to tweak it even further.

So which one do you like best? Yes, I agree. Chuck is adorable in all three. But look at his face, his hand and the waterfall behind him as you assess which version is your favorite. Thanks!

Just click on the layout to get a better look.

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Font: Helvetica

: : Update: Check out graphics wiz and author Claudia Snell’s comment on this post. She provides a nifty way to build on Jessica’s technique!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Beah Heah

Translation: Beer Here - as spoken with a somewhat exaggerated New England accent.

In an ideal world, Chuck and I would go up to Bar Harbor twice a year; once in the spring, once in the autumn. But the last two springs we haven’t been able to go. So yesterday we decided to make a day trip to southern Maine. We figured we would bring a couple of pairs of Birkenstocks to be repaired and we would bring our empty Bar Harbor Brewing Company beer bottles to be returned. We had no plans to purchase any new pairs of Birkenstocks, but we did definitely want to replace the beer!

Note #1: Remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned we had a Special Problem? The lead sentence was: “Chuck and I aren’t big drinkers.” That’s important to keep in mind as we go along.

So off we went. The day was sunny, in the mid to upper 80s (30 C), and much drier than it had been recently. We stopped for lunch at Flo’s in Cape Neddick. Totally decadent, totally yummy. Then continued on up to Portland. Once the Birkenstocks were dropped off for repair, we drove farther down Forest Avenue to RSVP Discount Beverage. We’d never been there before, but a call to the Bar Harbor Brewing Company the night before, meant we had a list of several places that sold “our” beer.

We think of it as “our” beer, because we don’t drink beer. Well, we never used to drink beer until we ordered a bottle of “Bar Harbor Peach Ale” at Poor Boy’s Gourmet Restaurant in Bar Harbor. Out came an ice cold, 22 oz bottle of incredibly tasty, complex beer, made by the very local, very small Bar Harbor Brewing Company. (Note #2: The purists are correct: beer is beer, ale is ale. But to me, it’s all “beah”!) That was several years ago and every visit to Maine, we would buy a mixed case including all of their varieties and make it last until the next trip up to Mount Desert Island.

RSVP had three varieties of “our” beer on the shelf. We asked a very helpful and knowledgeable gentleman if they had any of the other varieties. He said no and then asked if we knew the brewery had been sold. Sold? I swear you could have seen the color drain from our faces! We know we are the kiss of death, but because we had been to the website and called them the night before, we were really caught off guard. Bar Harbor Brewery was literally a Mom and Pop operation. All the beer was brewed, bottled and labeled on site by the husband and wife brewmaster team. While we had been reeling, the RSVP man was still talking and brought us over to the new version of Bar Harbor Brewing Company products, in average size bottles, in a traditional cardboard six pack. Sure enough, there on the side of the label were the words: bottled in Portland, Maine.

We asked the bearer of bad news how many of the original 22 oz bottles of BHBC beer he had on hand. The number involved cases. We told him we’d buy it all. Seriously. We also managed to pick up a bottle of the previously elusive Kahlua Especial. (Please see Note #1). Because I wanted to be certain we could make our mortgage payment this month, I asked Chuck to charge the beer and Kahlua to our credit card, rather than the debit card!

Once the nice folks at RSVP had loaded up our Subaru we drove back down Forest Avenue. Along the way we decided to check out the other liquor stores on our list in the hopes of finding some of the other Bar Harbor Brewing Company varieties in their original form. The first place was a bust, but at the second, finding no parking, I dropped Chuck off and circled the block while he went in and investigated. As I rounded the corner, Chuck emerged, gave me the thumbs up sign and waved me into a no parking area. My car flashers on, Chuck and the staff ferried out more cases of beer to the waiting vehicle. We made a clean getaway, credit card slip in hand and went to our last stop, Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods in Portland, Maine is one of their huge, fabulous, flagship stores. We looked neither left nor right and made a beeline for the beer. Sure enough, they had some of the Bar Harbor Brewing Company varieties in the refrigerated section. We emptied the shelf. Then we found Rob. We explained our plight and our quest. Yes, he had more in the back. "We’ll take it." A dolly was procured. The bottles were counted. We stopped by customer service to let them know Rob had gone above and beyond the call of duty and we checked out, our third credit card slip in hand.

Back at the Subaru, we were running out of room, but we managed to stow the final cases. Laughing, we looked at one another. What the heck had we just done? We pondered the question and continued to chuckle as we drove to a restaurant we had heard good things about on WCVB’s “Chronicle”: “Susan’s Fish & Chips”, back over on Forest Avenue. Chronicle usually makes very good recommendations. In this case, Chronicle was wrong. The food was really sub par. Which in our experience is par for the course in Portland. We’ve dined at half a dozen restaurants, mostly down on the waterfront, and we wouldn’t recommend any of them.

Fed (technically), we drove our precious cargo home. Three hours later, we arrived to find a message on our answering machine. It was our credit card company. They wanted to talk to us about a possible fraud with our card. At first our hearts sank. Both our debit cards had been compromised a few months ago in the Hannaford Grocery store security breach. But as Chuck dialed them back, the penny dropped. Yup. Our credit card company thought that some frat boys in Maine were throwing a kegger! Nope. It was just the two of us. And as we stood in our kitchen surrounded by cases of Bar Harbor Brewing Company beer, Chuck told the credit card company about our adventure and couldn’t resist adding: “But we really aren’t big drinkers.”!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Three Hs - Part Two

Spent the better part of today trying to figure out what projects I could accomplish in the air conditioned bedroom:
- Sewed on a pocket button
- Folded laundry
- Discovered “Grain” in Photoshop Elements as I digi-scrapped on the laptop
- Talked with my Mom when she called me from the casino in Connecticut
- Watched/listened as the Red Sox beat the Twins 18 - 5
- Paid bills on line
- Watched Masterpiece Theater’s Inspector Lewis with Chuck
- Ripped the seams on an old pair of Chuck’s shorts for a new project
- Called L.L. Bean to see if they had any new shorts for Chuck

Was not able to clean the sink, toilet, tub and the rest of the bathroom from the bedroom
Was not able to prepare meals in the bedroom
Was not ---- well, you get the idea...

I wish I could just roll with this heat and humidity. I wish I knew how to relish the steamy, thick textured summer air; the afternoon thunderstorms that roll in from New York, across the Berkshires and into Worcester County. I wish I could sit on the front porch with a cold drink, a good book and not be aware of the little bead of sweat forming on my upper lip, even as I sit in a state of complete torpor. I wish I did not wish for so much to change with that which I cannot change.

But this can always cheer me up...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hazy, Hot & Humid

Hi -
I’m tired and hot and soooo very close to whining that I should not be typing and certainly not allowed to post!
The meteorologists say tomorrow will be the last really miserable day. Then it will become less humid, but still hot.
I am not a happy camper.
What’s that you say? Where’s my “Attitude of Gratitude”?
I don’t know.
I will look for it in my air conditioned bedroom, as I lie on the bed, in front of the fan, which gently moves the cool, conditioned air around the room.
I believe that Willis Haviland Carrier (1876 - 1950) was both an inventor and a hero and should be canonized. As I once wrote: “I’d light a candle in his honor, but it’s just too freakin’ hot!”
I think I just felt a little A.O.G. wash over me.
That’s better.
P.S. To all my lovely, loyal readers in the Southern Hemisphere, please feel free to upload cool thoughts and cool weather. I will be happy to share what we have with you. Thank you!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cathy and Her Friend Sarah Rock!

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded Cathy Zielske’s PDF for her driend Sarah’s “Sesame Noodle Salad”. Tonight I finally made it. It was WONDERFUL! It also was very quick and easy to make. Of course, being who I am, I didn’t actually measure anything nor did I follow it to the letter (serious understatement!).

You go download the PDF of the recipe and look at the pretty photograph of Cathy’s Salad.
I’ll wait here.

Got it? O.K.
The following is NOT the recipe. It’s what I changed:

Vegetable Oil became Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar became Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
Dark Brown Sugar became Honey
Cayenne Pepper became Hot Pepper Flakes
Minced Ginger became Dried Ground Ginger
I omitted the Cilantro (ick)
I added a little Sherry

Main Ingredients:
The Noodles became Brown Rice (Yes, that is a significant difference!)
I omitted the Scallions (ick)
I used Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Tofu - Teriyaki flavor

I also stir-fried the asparagus in the marinade, in a wok and removed it with a slotted spoon. That had the additional advantage of cooking the garlic, which is a must for me.
I cooled everything as I went along and served it all at room temperature.
I added some diced, roasted red peppers for color.
We both loved it and Chuck wanted me to be sure to write down what I did.
I have.

Now, go make lunch or dinner or at the very least, your shopping list!

More Pictures!

New Mom Veronica has uploaded more photographs of the lovely and getting-stronger-every-day Sarah Faith! Swing by Ronnie’s blog and make those happy “ooh” and “aah” sounds as you smile!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Rafter of Wild Turkeys

Are two adults and two poults (chicks) sufficient to declare we had a rafter of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) around here today?
Hearing no nays, a rafter it is!

Around noontime today, I glanced out the window and saw something large moving in the southwest corner of our front yard. When I realized it was turkeys, I got my camera. I took one shot through the multiple panes of a closed window. The result was somewhat impressionistic! So I carefully opened the front door. I took a couple of photos through two screens - the storm door screen and the porch screen. That’s the first photo at the top. I quietly opened the storm door and stepped out onto the porch. The remaining photos were taken through just one layer of screening. (They were heavily tweaked using Apple iPhoto ’08 and three were lightly enhanced using Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac.) From when I first saw the beautiful creatures to when they left the lawn and disappeared into the woods, was no more than five minutes. And we have never before been lucky enough to see poults on our land.

A few years ago, there was a female turkey who would walk around the yard, moving in and out of the woods as she circumnavigated the house. There also was a Ruffed Grouse who was so unimpressed by humans that it would just step slowly into the brush as we walked by or simply move to the side of the driveway as we drove the car along. We also had the neighbor’s cows come through a few times, but that’s a story for another day!

You can click on the photos to get a better look.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

In Memoriam

Today, my Mom, Chuck and I attended the memorial service for my Uncle Bill. It was a solemn and moving ceremony. Uncle Bill served in the Navy during World War II and left service with the rank of Lieutenant. Today, as Aunt Bev stood surrounded by their seven children and their extended family and friends, the Navy honor guard presented her with the American flag. In listening to the sharp, harsh report of the military salute and the playing of Taps, I heard echoes of yesterday’s Independence Day fireworks and the waning notes of all the patriotic music. It seemed a fitting weekend to lay Uncle Bill to rest.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Our Fourth of July

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
- From the preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776

I looked back to last July to see what image I had posted for last year’s Independence Day. As I read through what I had written, I decided to re-post it today. Why? It says exactly what I feel, remember and think about every year, on this important day.

"As a child, on the Fourth of July, I used to do a little pageant/musical presentation with our family friends T & E. T was a year older than me and E a year younger than me. At twilight, we would put patriotic, all-American music on the big console style Magnavox stereo and blast it out into the backyard from my parents’ living room. We three girls would sing and march around and then for the grand finale we would light sparklers. I don’t think sparklers were illegal back then. They were so darned exciting and magical - little handheld fireworks that lasted a surprisingly long time. We would write our names in the gathering darkness, while our appreciative audience of parents and grandparents would laugh, applaud and sing along.

One year, I set up an Independence Day display in the dining room. I remember I took a little black cast iron pot from the fireplace and had small flags from all over the world sticking out of it. It was supposed to represent the melting pot which was the United States. I also had informational cards with quotes from The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. I probably walked every adult through every detail of my American history project! Lord, they were patient and kind people!

I grew up believing in everything pertaining to the Revolutionary War, the founding of our nation and the brilliant fundamental beliefs that a group of intelligent, savvy and ever so wise men drew up. I believed that our country and our founding documents were quite miraculous. Not in a religious sense, but in an intense alchemy of time and place and persons. I felt blessed, lucky, fortunate to be who I was, living where I was and in the time I lived. Vietnam and Civil Rights and Nixon swirled about my childhood and were discussed in my religion class five days a week, in my post Vatican II parochial school. But the ethics of that newly modern religion were inextricably linked to the ethics of the United States founding fathers and informed my moral compass forever.

I may not have had a history display set up yesterday, nor did we have any of those delightful sparklers in hand. But I cried watching dozens of brand new United States Citizens being sworn in. I applauded the fireworks and the cannons of the 1812 overture and my heart still beat faster at the sight of the American flag, at full staff, rippling in the muggy July air. Those who read Pink Granite regularly know my anger and sadness over the current state of affairs in this country. Now you know a little more about how I came to feel so passionately about such things."

--- As posted on Pink Granite July, 5, 2008

Image of The Declaration of Independence courtesy of The National Archives.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thread and Stitch

For years I have kept an oversized index card with the all of the Coats & Clark thread colors I own written on it. I tuck it in my purse and whip it out after I’ve chosen fabric and I’m ready to pick out thread. But because I tend to buy close shades, I usually have a good supply, in a wide range of colors. Recently, I needed to replace a spool of beige thread, # 116. So I simply grabbed the empty spool and went to the fabric store. I was dismayed to find two changes:
One: The “Dual Duty Plus All Purpose” is no longer mercerized cotton covered polyester. It’s now “Dual Duty XP All Purpose” polyester covered polyester.
Two: The color numbers have all changed!
Fortunately, one of the employees at Joanne’s Fabric rustled up a conversion chart. Soon, I was able to locate the new version of # 116, the # 8020 “Cream”.

If you’d like a copy of the Coats and Clark Conversion Chart, you can find a PDF of the chart here. I downloaded it to my computer for easy reference.

While I’m on the topic of sewing, I have to recommend the Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin. I had read enthusiastic reviews on other blogs, including Rice at Voodoo Cafe. But I was hesitant, because despite a half century (gulp) of sewing, crewel embroidery, needlepoint, mending, repairing, quilting and hemming --- hand sewing had always been at best, a stick-my-tongue-out-of-the-side-of-my-mouth-for-concentration activity. At its worst, hand sewing was an onerous necessity. And Alabama Stitch is all about hand sewing cotton jersey (generally repurposed cotton T shirts) into beautiful, functional pieces of clothing and other useful items.

When I saw the great price over on Amazon, I decided to go for it and I’m very glad I did. It was worth full price just for the information Ms. Chanin provided about “Loving Your Thread” (page 21). I immediately put her advice to good use on a few mending tasks and it was a revelation. The few moments of smoothing and attending to the thread before I began sewing made a huge difference. I wish I had been taught that step years ago. But I’m so glad I know it now.

To see what Alabama Stitch is all about you can look at the Alabama Chanin website. You can also look at the Flickr Photo Pool Slideshow where folks have uploaded pictures of their completed projects.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wishing You...

...nothing but blue skies.

In 1926 Irving Berlin wrote “Blue Skies”. Frank, Ella, Bing, Willie and the McGuire Sisters (just to name a very few) have all recorded it.

You can listen here.

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sweet Cheeks

Heinz, as in the ketchup, ran the above Deli Mayo television advertisement in the United Kingdom. Then, the H.J. Heinz Company pulled the ad. According to Heinz spokesperson Michael Mullen:

"Heinz has confirmed that it withdrew a UK TV commercial for Deli Mayo last week because it was not in accordance with Heinz’s long-standing corporate policy of respecting everyone’s rights and values.

“Heinz pulled the ad in the UK because our consumer research showed that it failed in its attempt to be humorous and offended people on all sides,” said Michael Mullen, Director of Global Corporate Affairs for Heinz.

“Heinz apologizes for its misplaced attempt at humor and we accept that this ad was not in accordance with our long-standing corporate policy of respecting everyone’s rights and values.”

What the heck?
“Offended people on ALL sides”?
How many sides are there?

I e-mailed Mr. Mullen. I let him know that I thought Heinz should have taken a deep breath and waited for whatever fuss and bother there actually was to simmer down. I told him I was offended that Heinz had pulled the ad.

I thought the ad was cute, amusing and it certainly made me sit up and take notice. (Last time I checked, that’s exactly what a good TV ad is supposed to do.) Initially it was the difference in the accents that caught my attention, then hearing “Mum”. By then I was starting to think “I wonder what that sandwich spread is all about? I think I’d like to buy some of that.” Then I heard: “Hey! Ain’t you forgettin’ some’in?” and I was completely sold!

If you have an opinion about this, here’s how you can contact Mr. Mullen:

Many thanks to Roo, over in England, who clued me in about all this. If you drop a note to Mr. Mullen, why not swing by Roo’s blog and let him know.