Saturday, December 30, 2006

Private Drive - Friday 12/28/2006

We took a drive down one of the many private roads of Acton yesterday. I'd driven most of this road with my mom about a year ago, but the unpaved part was rough on my little Toyota and we didn't make it all the way through.

Hydra and I took the Tahoe and did just fine. We drove very slowly and waved at everyone we met so we wouldn't look like interlopers. There's quite an enclave of houses down this valley. Everything from a few gigantic mansions to one gigantic mess of a place with old heavy machinery and trailers and cars scattered all over about 5 acres surrounding a house.

One of the things I found interesting was that the deeper we got into the valley, the more houses posted No Trespassing signs.

One place had a dozen or so longhorns with their horns cut off and this little calf sort of caught my eye.

Really, there's nothing more to say!

And then we got home, and the sun was cutting across the hill behind our house. I love this. You can stand here in the late afternoon and watch the shadow creep up. I love to sit out here in the summer and witness the way we spin away from the sun.

See the moon up there in the upper right?

Sir Knight - Thursday 12/28/2006

Hydra pointed this out to me on our way down to Valencia to see a movie and run some errands.

This house was just built a few months ago, and see that? There's a suit of armor on the front porch.

Now that's unusual. Hydra thought I'd like it. Even better, while we paused there for a few seconds to get the shot, a biker guy in full leathers came out on the porch and looked down at us.

What? You think you can come to our quiet little town and put a suit of armor on your porch and people are not going to look? Isn't that kind of the point?

Or are there just too many other suits of armor inside, and this is spillover?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wind - Wednesday 12/17/2006

Winds were startlingly high in Lancaster, CA on Wednesday. To the point where you had to lean into it a little just to stay upright.

This is a photo of the clouds that were being blown past the theater where we spent about half the day.

We saw Dreamgirls and Rocky Balboa yesterday. Early matinee, lunch and errands, late matinee. Oh sweet indulgence!

Both movies surprised me. I didn't realize there was so much story in Dreamgirls. And the music, though not very Motown, is used in a very interesting way. You don't really hear the songs they are singing, you hear the emotional content behind the songs and their reactions to what's going on between them. Pretty smart stuff. It got to the point where every time the amazing Jennifer Hudsdon opened her mouth to sing, I started to tear up.

If you have any affection at all for the Rocky movies, this is a great ending story for the character. This one and the first one are the best in the franchise, because they stay close to the character they don't have silly villians. I was very happily surprised. There were lines here and there that sounded so like the old Rocky, it was kind of like seeing an old friend again.

It also made me think about Stallone's contribution to film in general. Rocky was a very successful independant film five years before Sundance first launched. It probably had a lot to do with the rise of indies.

The first and last Rocky films are really about trying to reach your dreams and about self-respect for best efforts. They so captured a part of the U.S. pysche that effects from the movies recently became part of the Smithsonian's collection.

Okay, and here's the other connection between wind and Rocky, that I hadn't even thought about till I wrote this. Rocky III may have saved our lives. Hydra and I saw it together in Fort Wayne, IN. We liked it so much we stayed in the theater and saw it again. When we got back to the place we usually parked our car outside our apartment, a huge tree had fallen (due to a big wind storm) and taken out a powerline on its way down. It was very startling to see the tree where our little car would have been...but it was even more chilling when we got upstairs and found that the power had gone out at the exact time we would have arrived home if we hadn't stayed for the second showing.

Cue spooky music!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Old Things - Tuesday 12/26/2006

I find using old things very comforting. I'm not hugely into antiques, but I love the idea that this cup has graced other tables in other times. I gave a few very old things as gifts this year...a pretty silver spoon engraved with the year '04 (as in 1904), and a pretty porcelain ladle, amongst them.

The inventive and super-sneaky Hydra managed to smuggle this gorgeous teacup out of the antiques mall without my knowing it. I have a number of teacups, so I really can't justify buying another.

This one is truly unique to my "collection," because of the shape. I don't have any others with that slight curve inward at the top. Violets and Johnny-Jump-Ups are near and dear to my heart, since they dotted the back yard when I was a little kid. My sister made me violet leaf salads when I had a cold, because they were said to have helpful nutrients in them.

My writing practice usually starts with a cup of tea, as it did this morning, with this new cup to accompany me.

I'm grateful that Hydra supports my creative life and my silly fascination with tea and tea things.

Books! Tuesday 12/26/2006

Since Liz asked, and I was so weirdly thrilled at the idea of sharing the titles of my new books, here's another photo for today.

From bottom to top:

I Like You by Amy Sedaris, just for fun.

The Joy of Cooking because my dear mum saw how Dodger has torn up my beloved old copy and sent me a shiney new one.

Thirteen Moons
by Charles Frazier, because I loved Cold Mountain

Best American Short Stories 2006
, because it's traditional and I enjoy it

Best American Travel Writing 2006
because I am thinking about doing some of my own.

The Gun Seller
by Hugh Laurie because I'd mentioned I was way down on the holds list at the LAPL, given the author's newfound U.S. fame (I've known about him since his Fry & Laurie days, but did not know about this 1996 novel)

A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel because we're going there this spring!

If you'd like to see what I read in 2006, it's all here.

Christmas Day - Monday 12/25/2006

What a good day! We opened Christmas presents from people in other states first thing, along with a couple of items from each other. Then trekked the 100+ miles to the cousins' house in OC--stopping on the way for coffee in Pasadena--and were greeted with this amazing proliferation of poinsettias!

For you folks in less fortunate climates, please note that the bush on the left is actually in the ground! The others came from Home Depot and were distributed amongst us as we left. Two of them are in front of our fireplace right now.

This Bird of Paradise unfolded rather spectacularly in the front yard. It was a bright sunny day in the upper seventies. Shutterbug, who's been here several times this year, was hoping to see this in bloom. Unfortunately, it has to be a virtual view. (It also rained every time she was here...not fair!)

Hydra, left to his own devices, brewed a pot of the coffee that was one of his gifts this year and found his own coffee mug. Isn't that a creamer?

Traffic was great going down and not bad coming back. Traffic is always part of the story in SoCal, unfortunately. We talked to friends and family on the phone during the day, ripped lots of wrapping paper, and shared lots of surprises.

Thanks to Hydra and my mom I have a big stack of books vying for my attention right now. One of which I was #267 on the LAPL holds list for the last time I checked!

Christmas Cards and Way Deep Thoughts - Sunday, 12/24/2006

I love putting up the Christmas cards we receive. This year Hydra and I wrapped the pantry door with gold paper as a background.

Neither of us is religious, but we both love Christmas.

Most cultures set aside days upon which to celebrate things that they deem spiritually or socially valuable. There are reasons why we tend to do these things around the same times of the year, because all our roots spring from the natural cycles of the earth.

We mark the season in which the sun begins to return to us because even in warmer climes, we are happier in the light. When the days begin to grow longer, it's a sign that the planet is still working correctly on its most basic levels.

For me, the season between winter solstice and the changing of the calendar year (in my part of the world) is a time for reflection, assessement and sustaining connections. I write to people I haven't written to in a year, but whom I still hold dear. I think about the things I hoped for in the past year, and take a look at how I rose to the challenges, or didn't. I look ahead to the coming year with hope, and renewed energy, and sometimes a little trepidation.

I hope everyone finds her or his time of the year to stop and look at what you're up to, and be sure to give yourself credit for what you have done that has provoked some thought or provided some joy.

Dance a little jig for the movement of the moon and stars. Do it when no one can see you.

It might just make you stupid happy, and that might be just what you need.

I See Dead Santas -- Saturday 12/23/2006

These inflated Christmas displays are pretty, but just wrong on so many levels. Most especially, when they are turned off during the day, which sort of tarnishes the magic (while at least granting a respite from the vacuum cleaner sound of the blower that inflates them).

Um, no honey, Santa's just-- resting his eyes.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Three Squashes and a Pomegranate - Saturday 12/23/2006

What can I say? I am endlessly fascinated with food.

Each of these squashes had cooking instruction stickers on them, and they were just 88 cents a pound at Food 4 Less. All pretty much the same recipe: cut in half, lay cut side down in a pan of water, and bake for a varying amount of time in a 350 degree oven. I hope they will taste a little different from each other.

The dilemma: try them all during the week, or save them and serve them as part of our vegetarian New Year's Eve dinner, for comparison sampling??

The pomegranate is there for moral support and color-interest. Pomegranates: you burn about as many calories picking the juicy bits out as you take in by eating them.