31 October

Halloween, 1975.
I am five years old, and my mother has made me a Pocahontas costume. My skin ispale enough that her Clinique makeup makes me look the part. I have rawhide cords woven through my braids, and breathe in the scent of the makeup on my skin. That scent is one of three that define my mother.

* * * * *

Halloween, 1976
My first Halloween in Georgetown, CO. My mother turns me into Laura Ingalls Wilder, because our teacher told us any costumes worn to school had to be characters from books. This inspires her to sell handmade sunbonnets in her store. They’re popular.

* * * * *

Halloween, 1978
Georgetown, again. This time I am BatGirl, with black satin ears. I’m excited about wearing the costume again, the next February, for KinderFasching, but we’re not in Georgetown, then.
* * * * *

Halloween, 1980
It’s cold enough that I had to argue with my mother about wearing a jacket under my costume. I think I’m a witch. I don’t remember. It’s the first Halloween that my friends and I go trick-or-treating without supervision.

Halloween, 1986.
It is Friday Night, and also a time change. At least it’s that way in my head. I could be combining similar memories, though.

I’ve spent the evening with a bunch of my friends, drama geeks all of us. We played “Freeze” at the party, and Becky (Snow White’s stepmother) and I (a geisha) end up taking home prizes. Mine is a coke-bottle radio. It even works. After the party, I stay up to watch the clocks change, watching the 1982 Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I have a spiral notebook and my favorite pen, and I scribble stories and poems while the television provides company and accompaniment.

* * * * *

Halloween, 1991.
I am getting ready to take the train to San Francisco to hang out in the Castro with J. Our costumes are lame: she is a bumblebee, and I am a mime, and all around us the costume of the moment (at least among USF students) is pregnant teenagers, or pregnant cheerleaders.

We pay a dollar to the guy running the airport shuttle, who is giving rides across town. When we’ve had our fill of the engergy and spectacle, we walk down Market street, stopping at Safeway to buy cupcakes with orange frosting. Halloween is not complete without those. It is a rule.

Earlier that day, under some compulsion, I spent half an hour talking with my grandfather, by phone. It was to be the last time I ever spoke to him, alive, for he died a week later.

* * * * *

Halloween, 1992.
I wake from a dream in which I was speaking with my grandfather, to find I’m holding the phone, which has no dial tone. I hang it up, pick it up again, and the dial tone has returned. I remain convinced that the phone call was real.

* * * * *
Halloween, 1995
We choose not to wear costumes to work, but Gateway buys cupcakes with orange Frosting for everyone.

* * * * *
Halloween, 1998
We hang out with my mother and grandmother, passing out candy to the little kids. When the door is closed, we mock the children with store-bought costumes, which consist of plastic masks and smocks or pinafores with a picture of the character the costume is supposed to represent.

* * * * *
Halloween, 1999
The pumpkins we carve are from the vine that took over our back yard. We write a note to ourselves: Never plant pumpkins or narcissus in anything but a very controlled space.

* * * * *
Halloween, 2002
We celebrate by opening the doors of our brand new house to the neighborhood, and later by making sure all the kids know we give out good candy.

* * * * *
Halloween, 2003
This year the festivities go on for half a month, it seems, or at least all week. Our friends graciously invite a bunch of us to carve pumpkins on their light-colored carpet, after which we take a flashlight tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Other friends are involved in an improv performance that week. On the actual day, we host a small gathering and watch Harry Potter (even though we’ve all seen it) because it’s on, after the trick-or-treaters disperse.

* * * * *
Halloween, 2004
New house, new town, new state.
We have pumpkin lights, but this year I haven’t felt the urge to carve a pumpkin, I think because my house is still all in boxes. Does the NaNo kickoff party count as a Halloween event? To me it does.

UnMutter: 24 October 2004

I say… And you think… ?

  1. Blackout:: curtains
  2. Platinum:: blonde
  3. Leather and lace:: bodice rippers
  4. Court:: jester
  5. Mind your own business:: childish
  6. Gambling:: poker
  7. Lily:: calla
  8. Evasive:: maneuvers
  9. Turn-on:: rain
  10. Suspect:: usual

Knit One, Purl Two

A couple of months ago, before we actually left California, I mentioned that in packing, I’d found my grandmother’s knitting bag, and that as all my friends had taken up needles, I was inspired to do so as well.

The desire to learn a new craft has been in the back of my head ever since, but it’s only this weekend that I got to unleash it. While we were at Barnes and Noble on Friday night, I bought the Klutz book on knitting, which included a couple of needles and some practice yarn.

Yesterday evening, I decided to take the needles out for a spin, and I opened the book and attempted to follow the instructions for casting on. Now, while I’m not a GOOD knitter, I’m generally a good interpreter of directions, even the ones that are mostly diagrams. Also, both my grandmother and my (male) fourth grade teacher had, at one time, taught me a bit about knitting, so I should have been able to pick this up really quickly.

Slip knot around left needle.

Cast on next stitch.
Um, sorry?

The proof of how bad the directions from Klutz were, lies in the fact that Fuzzy had no problem following them (though he was only successful at casting on ONE stitch, and I had to show him what a slip knot was).

This morning – well, really this afternoon, as we’d been awake at six am, and didn’t get out of bed til noon (me) and three (him) – I was determined to prove myself capable of basic knitting, and so I found a website that gave instructions which made sense.

And while I’m badly out of practice, and my first stitches look worse than the ones my fourth-grade self had created, I’m at least feeling less like a moron and more like a person who has some kind of a brain.

So, yeah, today, I’m learning to knit.

Talented. (xposted from OD)

I feel talented. Oh, yes.
Yesterday I managed to not only trip, but also to fall off a flat surface, sprain my ankle, and STILL not spill my venti soy chai.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a flat surface.
And I feel more pathetic than talented.

Our garage has, at the driveway end, a 2-inch drop from the floor of the garage to the cement surface of the driveway. Last night, after we returned from PetsMart, dinner, and Barnes and Noble, I was walking around to the back of the car, to get the bag of books, and instead of watching the ground, I was looking up, hoping to avoid having a gecko fall into my hair (They’re harmless, but, ish, who wants one in their hair?).

First the world went out of balance, and then there was a soft crunchy sound, as my ankle twisted, and all my weight went onto the side of my foot. I’m sure I looked like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz in that moment, except, you know, more busty and better dressed, but all I felt was hot flames of pain.

I limped pathetically into the mud room, reclaimed my chai (it had been rescued by Fuzzy and placed on the washer), and then herded the dogs in front of me to the kitchen, where I could sit, and they could greet me without knocking me over.

Two ibuprofen and 20 ounces of chai later, I was able to do laundry. We made it to bed at 4:30. This morning, after a painful walk to the bathroom on a foot that still hurts and an ankle that is stiff, more than actually swollen, I made Fuzzy wrap an Ace bandage for me.

Two more ibuprofen, and I managed the stairs to sit here, in front of my computer – my beloved green and aluminum desktop thing, lovingly reassembled by my husband (mostly, I suspect, to stop my incessant whining about my slow, dying laptop).

Yeah, I’m talented.
Or something.


If my blog, lately, is all about the house, well, tough. I’ve been reading, but we’re so focussed on getting moved in, getting organized, tweaking things before we get complacent and never bother, that everything else seems unimportant. Well, everything except NaNoWriMo, and I think I’ve got a handle on what this year’s novel will be.

* * * * *

Last night, when I went to drag Cleo in from her perimeter patrol of the back yard, there was another gecko visitation. This time, however, it stayed on the wall, and didn’t threaten to land in my hair. They’re cute little lizards, and they eat the mosquitos. Anything that eats bugs is welcome in my yard. (Even spiders, as long as I don’t have to SEE them.)

* * * * *

It’s nearly 7:30, and I’m still a little sleepy, but I’m feeling listless, and can’t sleep. I’m sitting in the room that is currently our computer room, and will eventually be the library/game room. The entire western wall is a giant window, and I’ve got it all the way open, and am watching the sky lighten. I sort of wish it faced east, but, this is nice, too. All the windows have tinted screens that diffuse the light and heat, but also make it difficult for people to see into the house, unless they’re standing directly at the window with their noses pressed to the glass. Anyway, the sky is amazing, and there are so many trees – if you look out the back windows from any upstairs room, all you see is the treeline, and one neighbor’s chimney, which I think is pretty cool for a suburban neighborhood. If you wanted to turn naked cartwheels across the bridge that connects the east and west wings of the 2nd story, you could do so, safe in the knowledge that the neighbors couldn’t see.

The import of that last bit of babbling: We don’t need draperies. I’m not a fan of drapes anyway – I leave windows open whenever possible – but this just tickles me. All the windows have vertical blinds, anyway, and box valences might be in order, for color, but no heavy draperies.

* * * * *

One thing I love about my new neighborhood is the total sense of, well, neighborhood. We have a nominal homeowners association (fee: $36/year), and they do welcome packages, and maintain the park in the center of our section, and stuff like that. Yesterday, Brett, who is either president or on the board, came over to introduce himself, and make sure we didn’t need anything. (Apparently he was good friends with the sellers, who told him to make us feel really welcome), and then he brought over Russ, who does everyone’s lawn. Every time we’re outside, someone else driving by slows their car, tips their hat (well, virtually), and drawls, “Welcome to the neighborhood, y’all.” It’s kind of homey.

Also – and this has made me smile every time we’ve driven back to the house with a new load of stuff – people really decorate for Halloween. One house up the main street of our area, rivalled Willow Glen’s Christmas “disco house,” but, you know, in Halloween style. Flickering light over the front door, cemetary in the yard, ghosts and witches dangling from trees – it’s a bit over the top, but in a good way. Even the more restrained families have something seasonal in their decor, though, lots of pumpkins made of leaf-bags, lots of scarecrows and autumn wreaths. Today we’re buying some outside stuff for decorating, and I’m missing my ceramic ghost lanterns a lot. Can’ wait to put them on the mantel.

* * * * *

As I discover things about the house, I’m acting like a kid in a candy store. So, despite the title, “List-less” here are some lists.

Features I Like A Lot
Dishwasher – has option to wash ONLY top or ONLY bottom rack.
Fridge – having way too much fun with water dispenser. Jeremy, Brett, Liz, Clay? I have ice now. Crushed or cubed. :)
Pool – The fountains are on the timer with the filter, and they’re just so neat…it means the pool is a ‘feature’ even when it’s too cold to swim.
Patio – the wooden deck is larger than I thought. We’ll have to get an umbrella until we can build a pergola, but our table and chairs will definitely fit.
Yard – No grass, just ivy and paving stones. The dogs don’t seem to mind. The paving stones are shaped like Texas, which wouldn’t have been my choice, but I’ve convinced myself it’s whimsical, not annoying.
Living Room – The accoustics are AMAZING.
Garage – We’re actually parking inside it. We’re determined that we will not use the garage to accumulate crap. No, really, we won’t.
Front Yard – There’s a string of lights down the front walk to the driveway. I love that.

Things that Must Go
The motion sensor light in the upstairs bathroom. It’s driving me crazy. Well, it was. This morning I finally figured out how to override it so that you don’t have to wave at it every time the lights go out.

Most of the carpetting. It’s not ugly, but the sellers have dogs, and I think their collie had fleas. Also, with my allergies, and the fact that they had cats, getting rid of as much carpet as possible, is just a smart idea. Flooring for the two offices and the family room has been ordered. We’ll do the dining room next month. The library, guest room, and master bedroom will remain carpeted, as will the stairs and bridge (to muffle sound).

The lava rocks in the back yard. I love the ivy, hate the rocks. I plan to plant actual living plants in the planter (right now there are plastic ones), and put something softer in place of the rocks. Maybe something mossy, or some kind of springy groundcover.

The wallpaper in the master bath. I don’t mind the blue stuff in the kitchen – just have to change the accent color from pale blue to terracotta to warm up the room, but the red stuff in the master bath has to go.

The paint jobs in both offices. Mine isn’t so bad. Green tea paint, solid on one wall, brush strokes on the rest. I plan to bring in lavender, add a chair rail, and do deep lavender on the bottom half of all the walls, to break up the green. I’d thought about repainting the entire room, but I sort of like the dusty, muted color. It’s relaxing. Chris’s office has floral stencilling, and a cloudy sky paint job. It also has pink (well, mauve) blinds. I offered to switch, but he just shrugged and said, “Your window faces south. Too much light.” Well, then, he can suffer. But I think we’re painting his lower wall a deep red, and then doing gray above it. And no, it won’t be a semi-gloss. Ugh.

It’s now about eight in the morning. I’m going to go cuddle with Fuzzy and the dogs for another hour or so, before I drag Fuzzy out to breakfast.

Falling Geckoes and Other Updates

Anxious, and poorly rested, we made it to our walk-through just a few minutes late. The sellers were out of the house, but showed up to apologize for the mess, and make sure the maids arrived. We dashed from the house to the bank to grab our cashier’s check for closing costs, then from there to the title company, where we signed thousands of pieces of paper. Note: Rattikin Title has very cool pens.

They were supposed to call us as soon as we’d funded, and they DID, but they called the apartment, where we were NOT, and not my cell. So we didn’t get keys til nine AM Friday, but, that’s not that big a deal.

Drove to Arlington, acquired keys, got to house – no power. Was fun watching the dogs explore their new space. The open space above the entry and living room, as well as the bridge that bisects it, really confuses them: they hear us talking, one of us upstairs, one of us downstairs, but cannot place the source of the sound. There is much running up and down the stairs and back and forth across the bridge.

By six, we finally had power, cable, phones, and hot water, as well, the guy from the flooring place had come buy to measure rooms – we’re yanking the carpet out of the bedrooms we’ve claimed as offices, and the living room, and replacing it with wood laminate. Later this year, we’ll be re-doing the dining room floor in tile (probably). As we left the house for the last time, to finish clearing our stuff from the apartment, a small white gecko landed in front of me, having fallen from the garage door.

The kitchen table and entertainment center were delivered on time, and are all assembled. I’ve got a temporary desk and chair, and we’ve ordered the flooring materials, as well as a washer and dryer. I spent a lovely hour reading in the tub, watching the pool fountains. I’m about to go take a shower, as I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes.

I’m tired, happy, excited, and totally in love with my house. Our belongings should arrive in a week or so…life is going forward.

T3: Kitchen Gadget Store

::Kitchen Gadget Store::

Onesome: Kitchen- What’s your favorite room in your place? Do you migrate towards the kitchen, or prefer to cozy up in the living room?
Maybe it’s because I come from an Italian family, but the kitchen is the center of every house I’ve had or visited. I mean, I love curling up by the fire, but the kitchen draws attention. One thing I love about the kitchen in my new house (two more days!!!!!) is that it has a breakfast area, as well as a breakfast bar, so there’s a lot of opportunity for interaction. Also, the kitchen is large enough for more than one person to be involved in cooking.

Twosome: Gadget- What’s your favorite gadget type item and why?
I am totally and unashamedly in love with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but that’s more of an appliance than a gadget. In the realm of actual gadgetry, I think my favorite is the vintage ice cream scoop. After a childhood spent being admonished not to bend the handles of the good spoons, the ice cream scoop seemed like a badge of adulthood. Plus, it makes the ice cream come out in cute balls that look like something from a restaurant.

Threesome: Store- What’s your favorite store, even if you never actually buy anything there?
Sur le Table and Barnes and Noble are two of my favorite stores that I frequent – the card section of the latter is just as appealing as the book section, to me – but my favorite store of ALL TIME is Zandbroz, a variety store with a modern twist. It combines everything I love: neat housewares, eclectic reading material, foofy pens, nifty toys, and a coffee bar/soda fountain. If I had the cash, I would /so/ open a franchise.


We sign papers in about nine hours, and even though we’ve been in escrow just about a month, it feels like this last month has crawled by. Partly, I think, it’s because of this apartment, not that the apartment itself is truly awful (I loathe it, yes, but I do tend to exaggerate a tad). If I were twenty and it was my first apartment, I’d probably think it was nifty, really, what with the decent kitchen and deep tub and all. And again, if we actually lived here, really LIVED here, with all our usual belongings, it would be a completely different case.

But we’re almost done. Tomorrow we do a walk through, at nine, and then race over to BofA, buy our cashier’s check, and go sign. In a marathon session, the escrow officer is taking the sellers right after us, and then everything will be faxed back to California, and we’ll fund same-day. This is one of those times when the two hour time difference comes in handy.

I’ve had a tradition of bringing Starbucks to escrow with me, but this year I won’t be able to do that, because of the walk-through and having to hit the bank, so I’ve sent my realtor a potted orange chrysanthemum, all decked out for Halloween, and sporting a mini-pumpkin. Or at least that was the picture on the TCU Florist website. I’ve no idea if she likes mums, but, as flowers go, they’re fairly innocuous, even if they are orange. And hey, seasonal is always fun.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between California and Texas real estate is the pace. Aiee. While I’m sure part of the impression is caused by being in nesting limbo, it seems as if everything here moves at a snail’s pace. Things stay on the market months, not weeks, and there’s this funky “option” period which last far longer than the contractual three days I’m accustomed to, in which one can change one’s mind. (This should not be construed as a complaint. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just accustomed to a faster pace, and it’s been difficult for me to adjust.) Also, and I don’t know if this is a normal thing, or just the way my Realtor operates, before anyone writes an offer in California, the Realtors on both ends have talked a bit, and felt each other out, so you pretty much know, going in, if you’re going to have an acceptance, and if there will be scary issues. That doesn’t seem to be the case, so much, here.

The other issue I’ve had with this whole transaction is control. The last two times we bought property, I pretty much processed my own loan, and the underwriter worked with me as the processer, and I was much more involved. In this case, I’m not using my own company because we’re not approved in Texas, yet, and so I feel out of the loop because I’m JUST a client.

Thankfully, the people at the lender I’m working with are new enough that they’re greatful I know more than they do, instead of annoyed, and have given me every piece of information I asked for. I did have to lecture them about pushing for an early close, two weeks ago, and then NOT BEING READY today, but things are working out.

So, why is this entry titled “sleepless” instead of “antsy”? Well, we went to bed at nine-thirty, and I was tired, but the dogs aren’t accustomed to being in bed that early (and neither are we) and Zorro spent the last forty minutes walking back and forth across my rib cage. He only weighs eight pounds, but when all eight of those pounds are balanced on one tiny foot that is wedged between two of your ribs, they feel like a thousand.

Also, I did something to the nerve in my right hip, and it’s killing me. I’m going to blame this very uncomfortable, office cafeteria chair that I’ve been using, as well as the fact that three flights of stairs have made me not really want to go out and move around much. Having one of Cleo’s bully sticks underneath me for half the night (she “buried” it in the bed, apparently) didn’t help. Ibuprofen and icy hot took the edge off, but it’s that wrap-around pain that feels almost like a kidney infection – only almost – but since I never drink enough I’m sitting here guzzling red gatorade while I babble at my blog.

And there you have it.
I am sleepless.

Attack of the Vampire Sharks

Well, no, not really. And yet, sort of.

I just finished reading Incubus Dreams, the latest Anita Blake book by Laurel K. Hamilton, so I guess it’s natural that I have vampires on the brain. Though, I’ve been intrigued by vampire lore as long as I can remember. Also, it’s October, so, hey, it’s even seasonal.

One rainy weekend when I was about fourteen, I spent the day curled up with a copy of The Annotated Dracula, which was basically Stoker’s novel accompanied by a bunch of nicely snarky footnotes and comments – everything from explanations of the gesture which wards off the “evil eye” to a really groovous recipe for chicken paprikash. I remember finding it amusing when the notes included the wry comment, “Isn’t it interesting how a journal entry can stutter.”

Now that I’ve been blogging a while, that comment doesn’t amuse me quite so much. Oh, I still appreciate the inherent snark, but I’ve come to realize that journal entries do pick up the conventions of speech, more than they follow the standards of formal writing. At least, in my case anyway. So if I use dashes or ellipses (often with a healthy dose of literary license), it’s because I want to give the impression of a mental stutter, a minor paradigm shift, much as, I suspect, Stoker was doing in Jonathon Harker’s journal entries, within the novel Dracula.

Of course, this has nothing at all to do with sharks, vampiric or not. But, as I said, I have vampires on the brain. And over the past two weeks I’ve been following the stories of two white sharks, one in Massachusetts, caught in a shallow inlet, and the other at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (The latter has recently survived it’s 18th day in captivity, which is a record.) I’ve had a ‘thing’ for sharks even longer than I’ve been into vampires (and by ‘into,’ please understand, I mean in fiction and folklore. I have never been much for the goth scene.) So I have sharks on the brain, as well. My fascination with them is twofold: they’re amazingly beautiful, efficient, apex predators which should be protected, and I, like others, associate them with the very primal fear of being eaten.

With NaNoWriMo beginning in two weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about. Oh, I’d never cheat and begin the actual writing ahead of time, but, plotting, character backgrounds, that kind of pre – it’s all legal. Last year, the story just happened. It flowed from my brain through my fingertips to the computer, and I never had to stretch for it. This year…well, I’m more focussed, but the process will be more structured, more intentional, less organic.

So, I woke up at six this morning with this sentence echoing in my brain. If a drop of your blood falls into the ocean, you are bound to the sea for life. And an image of a young woman in the water, and a large shark eyeing her, making some sort of judgement and accepting her, and then moving away. And I was tasting blood in my half-awake state, as well. So, I guess the story will be about blood and water and vampires and sharks, but I’m not sure how to tie them together. I did ask my husband, a longtime World of Darkness fan, if there were were-sharks, and he said there were, but…I don’t know…I prefer to invent my own folklore, not steal someone else’s.

Vampires. Sharks. Blood. Water. Rain.

Food for thought.

T3: Wild Blue Yonder

::Wild Blue Yonder!::

Onesome: Wild– Whoa! …wild times lately! Florida and neighboring states have been blown away; the Northeast has been deluged; California is shakin’ again; and the Pacific Northwest is getting ready to erupt. Okay, what’s too wild for you? What will you live with and what do you want to stay far, far away from?
Weatherwise, I can put up with anything except dry desert summers (think Arizona) or serious winter (think South Dakota). Anything else is fine, though I have to say, as someone who spent most of her life in California, it is not earthquakes that you have to worry about. Yes, they happen. Yes, they can be really horrible. But people who live in EQ country know how to build for them. If you’ve ever been at the top of a tall building during a quake, and felt it sway, you’ve experienced smart construction. (Swaying is good, the alternative is breaking.) So, it annoys me a lot when people from places like Florida say, “Oh, I’d never move to CA. They have earthquakes.” Well, I’d never move to coastal Florida, because there are hurricanes there *every year*, and yet people still rebuild.

Otherwise? I never ever ever ever want to experience apartment living again. Ever.

Twosome: Blue– Blue Delft? Off the wall: What color are your day to day dishes. …and does anyone in this crowd have some really nice stuff you like to break out for the upcoming holiday dinners?
They’re stoneware with cobalt blue trim. Very clean. They’re either faux Pfalzgraff or faux Dansk, but either way, I love them. They’re great because all of our serving pieces are in primary colors – mostly blue, but also red and yellow, and combinations thereof. I’ve mixed the Princess House apple orchard mugs and chips/dip dish, and some Mexican pottery in with them. For holidays, well, sometimes we use my grandmother’s Noritake, but it’s really much to delicate for my taste (it’s a single misty pink and grey rose, with a platinum band. Last year I found a set of Debbie Mumm Christmas Dishes at Tuesday Morning and I’d love to get another set or two in similar styles to go with them, for fun. (I don’t believe everything has to be matchy matchy.)

Threesome: Yonder– Oh, man, science fiction is reality: the private sector has reached space and is getting set to visit on a regular basis. Would you like to go out yonder? I mean, if the group with the five-seater offered you a suborbital flight, would you be up for that?
It’s fun to dream about, but I don’t even like planes (they’re uncivilized, but fast), so I doubt I’d enjoy the experience. Fuzzy would.