Monday, December 31, 2007

Here's to a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2008!

"In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship but never in want." ~ Traditional Irish New Year’s Toast

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing." ~ Abraham Lincoln

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

And finally . . .

Auld Lang Syne

by Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne,

We'll take a cup o' kindness yet For auld lang syne
We twa hae run aboot the braes

And pou'd the gowans fine; we've wander'd mony a weary foot

Sin' auld lang syne
We two hae paidled i' the burn, Frae mornin' sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar'd Sin' auld lang syne
And here's a hand, my trusty friend, And gie's a hand o' thine;

We'll take a cup o' kindness yet For auld lang syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne,

We'll take a cup o' kindness yet

For auld lang syne**

Happy New Year!!!

** translation:

Should old acquaintances be forgotten, And never brought to mind? Should old acquaintances be forgotten, And days of long ago !

Chorus: For old long ago, my dear For old long ago, We will take a cup of kindness yet For old long ago.

We two have run about the hillsides And pulled the daisies fine, But we have wandered many a weary foot For old long ago. We two have paddled (waded) in the stream From noon until dinner time, But seas between us broad have roared Since old long ago. And there is a hand, my trusty friend, And give us a hand of yours, And we will take a goodwill draught (of ale) For old long ago!And surely you will pay for your pint, And surely I will pay for mine! And we will take a cup of kindness yet For old long ago!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I've been getting a great head start on my New Year's Resolution to "organize, organize, organize". I'm not saying that if you walked in my door you'd think you'd stepped into the world of Martha Stewart, but I've been tackling the disarray a little bit at a time - a pile here, and a pile there. And I have to say that with every trash bag taken outside, and with every bag of clothes taken to the Salvation Army, it is like a weight off my shoulders.

Now, if it was only this easy to unclutter my waist line . . .

I've been reading this year at a record setting (for me) pace, and recently started my 110th book*, World Without End by Ken Follett. This is a sequel to his opus, Pillars of the Earth, that I read in 1991.

As described in the book's synopsis, "In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England centered on the building of a cathedral and many of the hundreds of lives it affected. Critics were overwhelmed-"it will hold you, fascinate you, surround you" (Chicago Tribune)-and readers everywhere hoped for a sequel.

"World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge, but this sequel stands on its own. This time the men and women of an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas-about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race-the Black Death."

The audio book is 44 hours long, but is pretty gripping so far, so it should be a good read/listen.

* Books read in 2007

Lonesome Dove - audio
Black Orchids - audio
A Comedian Dies - audio
What Came Before He Shot Her
And Then There Were None - audio
The Big Four - audio
The Mysterious Mr. Quinn - audio
And Be a Villain - audio
The Blade Itself - audio
The Moonstone - audio
4:50 from Paddington - audio
Road Rage
Before Midnight - audio
Shopgirl - audio
Bloomsday Dead - audio
American Pastoral - audio
The First Cut
The Right Attitude to Rain - audio
Wednesday’s Child
Dead Center - audio
I, Claudius - audio
Painted Veil - audio
Well Schooled in Murder
The Shifting Fog - audio
A Great Deliverance
Dracula - audio
Innocent Traitor - audio
The Strange Case of Cr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Mistress of the Art of Death - audio
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Sin Killer - audio
Moral Disorder and Other Stories - audio
Simple Genius - audio
The Observations - audio
The Watchman
Dead Man’s Folly - audio
The Ballad of the Flim Flam Man
Whose Body? - audio
A Deadly Shade of Gold
The Daughters of Cain - audio
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Murder in Belleville
Murder by the Book - audio
The Looming Towers - audio
Jack Maggs - audio
Wise Blood
Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven - audio
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates - audio
Requiem for an Assassin - audio
Look to the Lady
Obsession - audio
Devil of Nanking - audio
The Water is Lovely - audio
The Wandering Hills - audio
A Stabbing in the Stables - audio
Crusader’s Cross - audio
By Sorrow’s River - audio
Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows
The Old Man and the Boy
Folly and Glory - audio
Pegasus Descending - audio
Death of a Maid
The Plot Against America
The Faithful Spy - audio
Tin Roof Blowdown - audio
The Naval Treaty - audio
The Perfect Paragon - audio
The Queen’s Fool
Mad Mouse - audio
The Sherlock Holmes Collection - audio
Into the Wild - audio
Tilt-a-Whirl - audio
On the Road - audio
Whack-a-Mole - audio
From Doon with Death
The Careful Use of Compliments - audio
Injustice for All - audio
The House Sitter - audio
Fifty-Seven Heaven
Everyone Dies - audio
Diamond Dust - audio
Ulysses - audio
Death of a Snob
The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Killer on the Road
Jeeves and the Mating Season - audio
How Right You Are, Jeeves - audio
Playing for Pizza
Dexter After Dark - audio
The Winter Queen
No Country for Old Men - audio
Love Over Scotland
Slay Ride - audio
Persuasion - audio
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - audio
I, Richard - audio
A Christmas Carol - audio
Shakespeare - the World as Stage - audio
I am America - and So Can You! - audio
A Redbird Christmas - audio
Hell for the Holidays - audio
Big Numbers
Holiday on Ice - audio
A Christmas Story - audio
The Real James Herriot
Jolie Blon’s Bounce - audio
Hide - audio
World Without End - audio

Saturday, December 29, 2007

This week's jigsaw puzzle. My mindnumblingly slow time to solve? 5:43.

Click to Mix and Solve

Friday, December 28, 2007

(Last night's sunset . . .)

I went into the office yesterday, but it was slightly less lively than the morgue. Everybody is out for the holidays, so I left early, and just worked from home today. It's been great having a few days off, and being in town. I've been working - a small project at a time - on getting de-cluttered and better organized.

The dogs and I have been going on long walks, I've been listening to my iPod alot, and really enjoying the time off. I almost made it to the movies today to see Sweeney Todd, but it turns out it started at 11:10 am, and not 11:40 am . . .

I downloaded Raising Sand, the new album by Robert Plant and bluegrass star, Allison Krauss tonight. If I didn't know it was the Led Zep front man on the understated vocals, I would never have guessed it, but the album is great on first listen.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Drum roll, please . . . my resolutions for 2008 . . .

  1. Organize, organize, organize
  2. Take a photography class
  3. Take better care of myself
  4. Sew
  5. Read
  6. Apply to grad school
  7. Attempt some home decorating
  8. Travel with my niece
  9. Learn a new language
  10. Be positive

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm exhausted . . .

I didn't work today, and after spending the last two days eating and drinking all kinds of good things, I wanted to get some exercise. The girls and I walked 3 miles this morning, then I came home, ate breakfast, and rode my bike down to the Bolsa Chica wetlands to go hiking and birdwatching. With the recent rains, everything was so green and pretty, and I saw a few cool birds and things.
A flock of Canada Geese . . .

A Ground Squirrel . . .

Buffleheads . . .

White Pelicans . . .

A Brown Pelican . . .

Monday, December 24, 2007

The ribs are done for tomorrow, the brownies are baked, the lasagne is in the oven for tonight, I've got Chris Isaak's Christmas album playing on the iPod, and I've poured my first glass of wine.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Love, Diane, Nanners and Noodles

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Click to Mix and Solve

Check out this site that has online jigsaw puzzles - it took me awhile to figure out how it worked, and that is my excuse as to why it took me 6:46 to solve this puzzle. How long did it take you?

I'm almost done with my holiday gift making. The peacock stick pearl and silver necklace and earrings for my friend Chris who is coming by on Christmas afternoon are ready to go, and red holiday socks for my mother are a half a sock away from being completed. The next couple of days will involve a lot of cooking. I'll start marinating the ribs for Xmas day today, slow cook them tomorrow, and then serve them on Xmas. Lasagne is on the menu for Xmas eve . . . so, yes a new diet is on my horizon!

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's time to review my stated resolutions for 2007, which were posted 355 days ago:

  1. Floss every day - this lasted about a week

  2. Create and live within a reasonable budget - I did manage to make nice contributions to my retirement accounts

  3. Run a 5k and a 10k - I "ran" 2 5ks at a pitiful pace

  4. Improve my Spanish - I told the sandwich guy thanks in Spanish today

  5. Travel somewhere new (I hope to go on a walking tour of the Berkshires in the fall) - Accomplished!

  6. Start work on a novel - nope!

  7. Visit NYC (I may be able to combine 6 and 7 by attending a Mystery Writing workshop in NYC) - Accomplished!

  8. Clean out and organize my closets - I made a couple of trips to the Salvation Army and will endeavor to make another trip before the end of the year

  9. Paint/decorate my bedroom (this one is already moving forward - my brother is helping me paint my bedroom - the winning color was "Green Tea") - Sort of accomplished! I do have painted walls, new window treatments, some new photographs on the wall, and it is slightly better organized.

  10. Organize my record keeping - Ummm, I did just bring home some file folders

  11. Use up (at least some of) my yarn stash (before I started the Parrot on Acid/Deadhead sweater, I did start a sweater from my "stash") - some progress made

  12. Learn to play a musical instrument (my friend Mike is going to re-string my guitar) - nope!

  13. Apply to grad school to get a Masters Degree in Library Science (I have a not so secret wish to become a librarian) - I went back and reviewed my application, but got sidetracked trying to figure out if they really want academic references from someone who last attended grad school in 1987?

  14. Knit for charity - sort of, kind of - when I finished the baby blanket that I was going to give to Binky Patrol, I gave it to a friend who had just had a baby. She works with a lot of animal rescue groups, and she played matchmaker for Hanna and me, as well as with my mom's little dog

  15. Lose (and keep off) 10 lbs., and exercise regularly (I'm starting Nutrisystem tomorrow) - I lost about 7 lbs., and have gained most of that back . . . besides walking, I have not been exercising regularly

  16. Plant my side yard with native vegetation and get it certified as a Backyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation - nope, but here's the dealio. I have lots of sparrows living there in overgrown lantanas and an aloe vera plant. I kind of hate to disrupt their happy little world

Other things on the list were:

  • Work on my obsessive compulsive need to make lists - nope! see last Saturday's post
  • Read the Bible (I have a "One Year Bible" that breaks up the Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs into 365 daily readings - I bought this as a to do for 1999 - you know, just in case the world really was going to end at Y2K I figured it wouldn't hurt to get a leg up, and have yet to get past February . . .) - nope!
  • Read/listen to 75 books - I made my goal of 72 books last year - actually read/listened to 75 books - and hope to do this again - accomplished! I just started book number 108!
  • Do yoga - does 2 classes in January count?
  • Expand my business sources and relationships (I did make some headway on this in December . . .) - not enough!
  • Organize my photographs - nope!
  • Learn more about how to best invest my savings - nope!
  • Learn sign language - nope!
  • Become more knowledgeable on environmental issues - maybe a little . . .
  • Volunteer my time - nope!
  • Teach Nanners to not get dishes out of the sink and off the counter - not even close!

Looks like I can just re-cycle this list for 2008

Thursday, December 20, 2007

When I was a young girl, I would go out on deep sea fishing boats with my father and brother. On one such trip, one of the crew snagged a bonito and handed his pole to me to reel in. I was used to catching mackerel, but mackerel don't fight like bonito. Bonito fight like the dickens, and tend to dash under the boat and around it, so that you have to keep moving around the boat as you reel in the line to keep it from breaking . . . I did bring it in, and to this day, nearly 40 years later, it remains my most exciting moment as a fisherman.

So imagine my delight when Big Numbers by Jack Getze (a book I learned about at Reviewed by Liz) starts out with the following:

"'You said you've never been deep-sea fishing, Austin, so I'm guessing you don't know dick about giant bluefin. But when you were a kid, jigging off that pier in California, did you ever hook up with a two or three-pound bonito? . . . Remember how hard those bonito fought, the way they bent the rod near double?'"

We don't know who's asking the question, but we do know he intends to send Austin Carr to a watery grave. Back up three weeks, and for the rest of the book we meet many, many people who are actively trying to kill Austin and a few more who might like to. His ex-wife won't let him see his kids because he owes her $58,000 in back support, his insane client who just took a bath on some junk bonds wants to kill him, his boss has him in his cross-hairs, and a stranger with a goatee won't go away. Add in an ailing rich guy, a hot redhead and Mexican bartender, and you have about half of the cast of characters. The book is fast paced and fun, and I finished it in a few reading sessions. I was taken by pleasant surprise in learning whodunit, and look forward to reading Getze's next book.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My most recent holiday listen in my iPod is Holidays on Ice, a collection of short stories by the fabulous David Sedaris. The stories are:

"SantaLand Diaries" - Sedaris' recounts his experiences working as an elf at Macy's department store. His elf name? Crumpet!

"Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" - A Christmas letter from the Dunbar clan. Mrs. Dunbar has had a busy year, what with the appearance of her husband's illegitmate Vietnamese daughter and her assuming responsibility for a crack-addicted baby grandson.

"Dinah, the Christmas Whore" - Sedaris's sister Lisa brings home a friend that delights the family.

"Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol" - A frustrated theater critic caustically reviews the local grade schools' Christmas pageants, from 1st and 2nd graders attempting the Nativity Story to 11 year olds dramatizing A Christmas Carol. It is perfection.

"Based on a True Story" - A member of the media begs a church congregation for information on a heartbreaking story involving a local resident.

"Christmas Means Giving" - Battling neighbors try to outdo each other with holiday generosity, in a perverse variation on keeping up with the Joneses.

These deliciously evil stories had me chuckling as the dogs and I took our morning strolls - I highly recommend this book!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

(Bush's To Do List)

Where my obsessive-compulsive nature becomes most apparent is in my need to make to do lists, especially on the weekends. This is my actual unlikely list of things to accomplish this weekend:

  1. Take Hanna to the Vet's (time for her annual 5 in1 shot)

  2. Clean closet

  3. Buy new eyeglasses

  4. Get new cell phone

  5. Decorate the tree I bought last weekend

  6. Go hiking in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands

  7. Go to the driving range

  8. Buy Groceries

  9. Buy wine for Xmas gifts

  10. Buy Gift Cards

  11. Make Earrings for Kelly, Lisa and Allison (I'm having dinner with Kelly and Lisa on Sunday)

  12. Knit cashmere socks for Mom for Xmas

  13. Sew two sweaters that I have finished knitting

  14. Check out Delta's baggage limitations (I need to bring a sleeping bag and pillow to Yellowstone)

  15. Look into joining the re-opened neighborhood gym

  16. Pre-pack for Yellowstone (to make sure I'm not missing any key articles of warm clothing).

As a betting woman, I'd have to say that the over/under on how many of these will actually be crossed off the list is 7 1/2.

Thanks to The Gilded Moose for introducing me to my new favorite website - the Sugar Bush Squirrel . That's right people. Sugar Bush is kicking it poolside wearing the world's greatest pair of little squirrel sandals.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I am just turning into an old softie this holiday season. True, you couldn't pay me to see "P.S. I love you", in which, I believe, Hillary Swank plays a young widow who finds love again, but I am eating up the sentimental Christmas stories.

The latest is A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. In Redbird, we meet a bevy of kindly southerners who open up their hearts and their lives to, among others, an injured baby redbird, a northerner coming south to rest his scarred lungs, and to die, and a poor crippled girl. Sure, as the listener you know it is unlikely that it won't all turn well at the end, but Flagg gets you there in a wonderful manner.

And for this weekend, I have A Christmas Carol on DVD, and A Christmas Story (the book upon which the beloved movie about Ralphie and his desire for a bb gun is based), on my iPod. Just to make sure I don't melt into a big sugary puddle, I'm going to put off listening to A Christmas Story for now, and instead listen to Hell for the Holidays, by Chris Grabenstein, first.
And I know I'm alone in this, but I think the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie looks kinda cute . . .

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I have been on a really fun roll with the audible books I've been listening to this past week. First up is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This audio book is only a few hours long, but is a great book to read around the holidays. The story of Scrooge - not a bad man - but a good man who has lost his way - is a reminder to appreciate the things that are really important in life. Bringing joy and helping those less fortunate.
Next up is Bill Bryson's biography of Shakespeare. Or rather it is almost an anti-biography, pointing out how little we actually know about the man. I have been to Stratford-Upon-Avon many times, have had the pleasure of attending plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theater, and I enjoy Bryson's writing style. I also enjoy Elizabethan history, so this book was an all-around winner for me.
Finally, this morning I started Stephen Colbert's I am America and So Can You! For my money, Colbert and Jon Stewart are the two funniest men alive, and Colbert's audio book does not disappoint.
All three of these books are fairly short, (I figure I can justify some shorter books after listening to Ulysses), and I recommend them all.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A flip-top mitten in four easy steps . . .

p.s. taking photos with one's left hand is harder than it looks.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My holiday snowglobe collection is now at two - thanks eBay! I found another snowglobe I would like to bid on, but I'm not sure if a Nativity scene in a snowglobe would be inappropriate? While I'm not overly religious, I also see no reason to piss off those who may be watching from heaven . . .
I'm planning to get my Christmas tree this weekend, and do a bit of shopping. I'd also really like to get busy with some jewelry making and a bit of knitting. (I know - how will me heart withstand all this excitement). I'm making some flip-top mittens to take with me to Yellowstone that (and this is the theory) will allow me to use my right hand to operate my camera while still staying relatively warm. And finally . . .
Don't ask . . .

Friday, December 07, 2007

In one month - on January 7, 2008 - I will be back in Yellowstone to check on the wolves and other beasties. I booked my flights today, and this afternoon I'm off to the doctor's to find out why my toe won't heal . . . hopefully, it won't interfere with snowshoeing!

Here is a view of the Mammoth Hot Springs area taken today.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My original tenant in the studio apartment was a little old lady who drove me crazy. She put "Bush 2000" signs in her window, ripped out the nasturtiums I planted to grow up a trellis, would randomly buy herself new toilet seats for my handyman to install, and then deduct it from her rent, and smoked so much that we had to replace all the light fixtures and shower stall when she moved out.

However, she did plant paperwhite bulbs, which still sprout and bloom every year, and smell unbelievably sweet.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The postal service is offering a range of holiday stamps this year . . . .

Holiday intarsia knits . . . .

Luigi's Madonna . . . .

But I decided to have my own customized holiday stamps made . . . Hanna in antlers! I ordered them from, they are legitimate stamps, and I can't wait to send out my holiday cards this year and increase my reputation for being . . . ummm . . . eccentric.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In the spirit of the season, allow me to share this recipe for Coconut Cookies. I made them last weekend (I had leftover coconut from the Carrot Cake I made for Thanksgiving), and they are very, very good and very, very easy. One note - I used sweetened coconut.

Makes about 2 and 1/2 dozen cookies

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add shredded coconut, mixing well with a rubber spatula.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed, just to blend. Beat in sugar, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in coconut until thoroughly mixed.
4. Drop rounded teaspoons of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2-inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, until the tips of the cookies are pale gold. Slide the parchment papers, with the cookies on them, onto wire cooling racks and let the cookies cool completely.

Monday, December 03, 2007

TONIGHT ON ABC TV . . . (the following is lifted from an earlier post)
A Charlie Brown Christmas is known for being an innovative animated show, in part, because of its use of a jazz soundtrack, and jazz versions of many holiday classics.

At the time it was first made - in 1964 - the tv execs objected to not only the music, the use of children to voice the characters, and the lack of a laugh track, but the speech by Linus on the true meaning of Christmas, which quotes from the book of Luke:

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord."

"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.""That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." - Linus Van Pelt

With the holidays upon us, Linus' wise words should guide us - and should guide me in particular - Peace on Earth, and good will toward men.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Samantha's new sweater came out better than most of the sweaters I make for myself. Here, she and Hanna wait for a cookie from the dog bakery.

I'm a big fan of Bill Bryson's books (Especially In a Sunburned Country and A Short History of Nearly Everything), and right now I am listening in my car to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and absolutely loving it. I will likely find an excuse to drive around today, just to listen to it. It's a memoir of his growing up in the '50s and '60s in Des Moines, Iowa. While I was born 10 years after Bryson, his description of life in simpler times, and growing up in a world where you played outdoors all day, penny candy was usually wax objects filled with cough syrup like liquid, and silly putty was considered a cutting edge toy, is laugh out loud funny. I highly recommend this book to anyone who remembers those days.
For the stubbed toe update, I think I have injured the "Metatarsal Phalangeal Joint". It's not the toe itself that hurts, it's the joint where the toe joins the ball of my foot. I've got a pretty big lump to the side of my foot. I'm not even sure what doctor to go to - the GP? Directly to an orthopedist? Or a podiatrist? But I will get it checked out next week.
I broke down and bought some new outdoor Xmas lights yesterday, since the old ones had faded to the point that all the bulbs looked basically the same color, and put those up today. Since I also changed the battery in my smoke detector, I feel like I have accomplished plenty, and plan to enjoy the rest of the day.
Go Bolts!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Bird of Paradise has recovered from being trampled by Hanna . . .

Samantha models last year's sweater (it's awfully chilly this morning) . . .

Hanna models her holiday collar . . .

And yes, this photo did make me immediately throw all the the dog bed covers in the washing machine . . .