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» Saturday, November 28, 2020Thanksgiving and Christmas Changes
It wasn't the most sterling of Thanksgiving weeks. I've been experiencing some problems with my stomach and lower GI tract all week. It was at its worst last Saturday, but it has slowly improved all week. Wondering if it has been some type of stomach flu, but then I've never had anything like this last so long. Since I needed to check in with my doctor anyway to renew a prescription, I made an appointment for the next week.
Came home from the gathering at Alice's this past Sunday with a turkey carcass, so on Tuesday we had made turkey soup. Of course after that we had to play freezer Tetris to get the soup stored, except for the one container we kept out to have soup when the bottom drops out of the thermometer, which we were told was coming up. In the meantime we had low 70s for Thanksgiving and the surrounding days.
We ended up staying home for Thanksgiving after being invited to the Lucyshyns like last year. I was still having minor stomach pains. We only knew there was an invitation open recently, so we had already prepared to spend the day on our own: we'd bought two packages of turkey thighs (so we'd have leftovers), diced butternut squash, baby carrots, roasted potatoes, and stuffing. I cooked the turkey in two glass baking dishes. One baking dish was used to make the gravy, in the other dish I cooked the turkey thighs partway, then, James having already put together the stuffing mix with fresh celery and cooked it up on the stovetop, laid the stuffing under the thighs and cooked them all the rest of the way until the turkey was at the proper temp. Meanwhile, I used the lower oven to roast the potatoes, waterless cooked the carrots, and warmed up the butternut squash, which had been cooked and mashed already. Missed most of the initial broadcast of this year's socially distanced Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while cooking, but saw almost all of the National Dog Show, and then rewatched the parade (NBC apparently had nothing better to broadcast Thanksgiving afternoon) while we ate. Dessert was Hershey's dark chocolate pudding (sprinkled it with Andes peppermint bits for a "punch," but they were sticky and stale, so I threw the rest away), which is as good as it sounds.
We did some minor Black Friday shopping the next day: first we hit Staples, which had a set of 22 InkJoy gel pens on sale for $10. We then went to Target, where I went looking for a double cube storage set. I had found them online but was bewildered when we arrived at the store not to find them with the furniture (but while we were waiting for help found a nifty-looking convection oven/microwave/air fryer in appliances—not sure we want to drop the cash on it, though). Once we did find the double cube we rode it up front on the platform at the front of James' power chair, checked ourselves out, and he carried it out to the truck. Easiest Target purchase ever. Then we hopped next door to get James a new wireless keyboard, which he'd reserved at Office Max (water fell in the old one, and alas, the hair dryer did not help it recover as it did my own keyboard). When we got home, I put the double cube together. It replaced a dog's breakfast combination of a small teak table, a storage cube, and a cloth storage bin under one of the living room windows. Now two cloth storage cube boxes are stored neatly in the double cube compartments, and my CD player and my cassette player are set on top.
A surprise came in the mail as well. I believe I wrote that I found a cheap DVD player that could be hacked to play Region 2 (British) DVDs. Well, last week it quit working! I sent a letter of complaint to the manufacturer and they sent me a new one.
Saturday we had a fun visit to Hobby Lobby and then a routine Lidl excursion. The weather report was calling for torrential rain on Sunday, and the first Sunday of Advent is when I traditionally put up the outside lights and the window candles. So when we got home I put out the outdoor Christmas lights. We have multicolor net lights for the small bush right in front, and then I scatter multicolor strings on the top of the larger bushes to one side of the door. Well, the multicolor strings (I did three this year, scalloping them on the outside of the bushes as well) worked fine, but one section of the net lights burned out. After nearly ninety minutes trying to get them re-light, I tried bunching them so the gap that was out wasn't so noticeable. It looked terrible. I went rummaging in the garage and found two more strings of multicolor lights, and a shorter string of LED lights. I arranged the two larger strings on the top of the front bushes, and then scalloped the short string underneath. Looks much better.
I also had a new wrinkle on the front door wreath this year. Most of the "picks" on the wreath were faded from the Georgia sun, as was the bow. So I had gone down in the library, pulled off the old picks and the bow, and attached bright colorful new picks (three Christmas-y ones and then three woodsy ones and three holly corsages), the three green baubles from the previous decorations (the green had not faded at all, so I reused them), and a new bow. The ribbon I could find for the bow was not as wide as I wanted, so I wasn't satisfied, but the new picks look nice. Plus at Hobby Lobby I had picked up a string of multicolor battery-powered LED "seed" lights. These were nestled on top of the wreath and do look quite nice. Bet they eat batteries like crazy, though.
[On Sunday I did put up all the window candles, as well as the indoor door wreaths, so the first Sunday of Advent decorating was done.]
» Sunday, November 22, 2020
Once again, fairly "major" things accomplished at week's beginning: finally, the bathing of the dog (this is just hard anymore because the hose on the new shower head is not long enough so I have to sit on the toilet lid and bend over to wash Tucker, rather than kneeling down where it's more comfortable since I got knee pads). Of course washing Tucker means washing all his bedding, but that was done as well, plus I cleaned out the mixed utensil drawer in the kitchen, as I simply could not stand all those stray twister seals any longer. I just kept a dozen unused ones, and hope I don't regret it!
Tuesday was a little unnerving because, although I did a two-mile walk and trimmed the bushes out front without any problem, I had a little dizzy spell while I was putting something up in the kitchen, so I rested for the remainder of the day. Wednesday was better, and laundry got done and I cleaned out a bunch of old videotapes from under the guest room television stand, except for the one of my parents' old home movies and another of our wedding receptions, and tossed a few things in the garage for good measure.
Thursday morning we were up and out fairly early to go to Costco. The COVID-19 increase in case reports news has sent everyone after toilet paper again. All Costco had left was some bamboo-based two-ply stuff. I got it anyway, just in case, even though I hate two-ply. We also shopped at Costco before lunch and Lidl afterwards, with James' podiatry appointment tucked in between. Thankfully, no ingrown toenails this time.
Friday we had to go to Petco to get Snowy more seed—if he wasn't such a picky eater I would have to do this less often, but he picks out only the canary seed and the millet and leaves the pellets and even the oat groats behind, which isn't good for him—and went to Sprouts, where we found butternut squash cut up: hurrah!!! We had a nice lunch with Alice and Ken at Okinawa in Marietta as well, and when we got home I watched Arthur Thanksgiving, which, thank goodness, did not have any songs in it like the Arthur Christmas special. Curious to why Arthur's little dog Pal (Pal is lost, which is the crux of the plot) speaks—only with other pets of course—in a British accent!
James was quite taken with the compression socks he got from the Walmart at Town Center last time we were there, so we went back on Saturday to get him more. Unfortunately they only had them in huge sizes (13-15). We did get more sugar-free candy and a new set of spatulas. He ordered the socks when we got home.
James was back to work today, but I got a little bit of extra weekend when Alice and Ken hosted a pre-Thanksgiving gathering. Juanita brought the bird of honor, and there were lots of other goodies. We stayed in different small groups, and I was outside for a while. Sunday is usually James' quiet day, so I connected to him via Zoom, so he sorta got to come as well.
» Saturday, November 14, 2020Little Successes and Little Women
Started our weekend with things already accomplished: I'd brushed out the dog, finally got my safe-deposit box re-established and renewed a CD (only for six months because interest rates were so loathesome), made an eye exam appointment, and wrote out Thanksgiving cards. (Also, alas, the shrimp we had for our anniversary made me sick. Dammit.)
Thursday, after doing most of the shopping and mailing the cards, we also got the lift for the power chair checked out. The crossbar was definitely not holding the chair as tightly as it could, so I'm glad that's been fixed. We also went to Barnes & Noble. I found an interesting bargain book about the history of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Unfortunately it was not the end of our grocery shopping, as we needed no-salt-added mushrooms and one Kroger didn't have them, so we had to go to another. Two Krogers on Friday are two too many. However, this was balanced out by a nice lunch at The BBQ Place with the Spiveys, Aubrey Spivey, and the Boulers (we hadn't seen the latter in a while).
We did have a nice time on Saturday morning when we attended the Marietta Farmer's Market. We brought Tucker with us and he had a great time greeting the many other canines wandering about: we kept bumping into the same spaniel who wanted to play, a supercilious poodle who was having none of it, a very shy puppy who was going to grow up to outweigh Tucker probably five to one, and a tiny Yorkshire Terrier who came on very strong despite probably weighing five pounds dripping wet. Tucker wasn't sure what to make of him, or of a huge black mastiff-like dog (a Cane Corso, perhaps, or a Presa Canario) who was very chill (big dogs, of course, have nothing to prove!). He was lying down when we encountered him, and Tucker circled him warily, keeping his distance. I think he thought it was a bear!
The rest of Saturday was more routine; James had his club meeting, so I did some chores and then sat down to watch the newest reiteration of Little Women by Greta Gerwig. In general I liked it. The idea of doing it as a series of flashbacks was interesting, and especially where there were parallels, as when Beth was sick initially and then later sickened again, it worked well. Saoirse Ronan was a great Jo (but does Jo never comb her hair? the real Jo would have worn it in a snood or in braids, as she has it at the beginning of the book, to keep it out of her face while doing chores), and for once Laurie looked like I imagined him (although Timothee Chalomet still looked like a kid at the end, which was disconcerting; no effort was made to make him look more adult, which, as a result, made Florence Pugh, as Amy, look older than he was and Amy was four years younger than Laurie). I must be the only person in the world who did not adore Christian Bale as Laurie (in the 1994 version).
For once Beth actually looked as sick as she was, but Beth herself, even though they do the incident with Beth catching scarlet fever from the Hummels and with Mr. Lawrence giving Beth the piano and her giving him the slippers and Jo taking Beth to the seashore to improve her health—well, even though Jo is there I never get this real sense of a close bond between Jo and Beth the way it is in the book.
The home interiors looked very realistic, as did the candlelit dim rooms.
I even enjoyed the ambiguity of the ending. It plays with the fact that Louisa Alcott never intended for Jo to marry anyone and only "made her a funny match" to please her publisher. She got her wish with her pseudo-Jo in Jo's Boys, as Nan Harding becomes a doctor and remains single.
Everyone has commented about Florence Pugh's performance, and I thought she did well as older Amy, but she looked ridiculous as young Amy. I have to say that in any of the versions where they use the scene where Amy burns Jo's book, this is probably the most hateful Amy I've ever seen, and that includes Ann Dusenberry's dreadful Amy in the TV miniseries version in the 1970s. In this version, as in the TV version, Jo should have let her drown. She was always whining.
I know the Marches were poor, but I do not see Mrs. March allowing Meg to show up at the Moffats looking like she was about to do housework. What on earth was that awful burlap-looking thing she was wearing when she got out of the carriage?
James Norton was stiff as a board as John Brooke. The only good thing you can say about him is that he was a better looking John than Eric Stoltz.
Once again it's Marmee's miracle arrival that saves Beth, although not so blatantly as in the 1994 version. After a bout of scarlet fever that severe, Beth was not going to be downstairs sipping soup the day after her fever broke.
And once again the March family has a Christmas tree, although historically they were not common in people's homes until the 1890s. Alcott doesn't indicate that the house is decorated for Christmas during either of the book's two Christmas scenes. The only ornamentation mentioned are Beth's roses and "Amy's pet geranium." The only Christmas decoration I recall Alcott mentioning at all was when Jo momentarily remembered Christmases when she was small and the Marches had money: "No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies."
I have to say I felt this new version dragged, even with the altered narrative. I kept looking at the clock. Never a good thing.
My favorite of the film adaptations is still the 1994 one. Especially for the score. Oh, that wonderful score!
My favorite version of Little Women is still the book.
» Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Outside my window...
...another warm day. I sure can't wait for it to be real November weather. I'm looking forward to wearing my sweatsuits.
I am thinking...
...today is our 30th wedding anniversary! I can't say that it seems like yesterday, because there's a lot of water under the bridge between 1990 and today. But it's all been good (except for the hospital stuff).
I am thankful...
...thinking about that "hospital stuff"—thankful for Dr. Shash, and Dr. Kongara, and Dr. Starr, and all the doctors and nurses and staff (even at Piedmont, the place we hated most of all), and the nice people at the dialysis clinic.
In the kitchen...
...I have been concocting an anniversary feast. We have shrimp and I have made a scampi sauce for it with a combination of ghee, butter, and Smart Balance, lemon zest and lemon juice, and garlic paste. It tastes yummy and we will have it over linguine. We will have this for dinner instead of supper because despite the date, it's still a work day.
I am wearing...
...my Owly t-shirt and blue-silver-and-white pajama pants and white socks.
I am creating...
...well, dinner. Also have made an appointment (next month, so my Medicare will have kicked in) to get my eyes checked. Dying for new glasses; the ones I'm wearing now have had a nosepiece broken off since last December. Now that James has a prescription we will probably being going to Costco to get him some glasses. It seems to be the cheapest place.
I am going...
...to write out my Thanksgiving cards today or tomorrow.
I am wondering...
...what 2021 will bring. I have ordered my 2021 mini-Susan Branch calendar and a new journal. After this year, the future will always be frightening. I know I should be optimistic but something deep inside me is afraid that just around the corner there is something about to bite.
I am reading...
...I just finished Neither Wolf Nor Dog, about a writer who is summoned by a Native American elder to tell his story and who is taken on an odyssey to truly impress upon him the havoc Europeans pressed upon the tribes that lived here before us. Very moving and sad. Am now reading New England Flavor, a New England writer talking about his boyhood living on a small New Hampshire farm in 1908.
I am hoping...
...the vaccines they are talking about on the news will be effective.
I am looking forward to...
...the outdoor gathering at Alice and Ken's house next Sunday. Poor James will need to work, but I've promised to bring him a care package.
I am learning...
...how to make a good scampi sauce! The last time we didn't have lemon and the sauce was overly buttery and had no contrasting flavor. A little bit of juice and zest has seemed to have made all the difference.
Around the house...
...James is tapping away at his computer finishing up some notes. Snowy's taken a break from singing. Tucker, of course, is under the table on a chair, asleep, his body on one chair and his head pillowed on the other, with one leg dangling down. I don't see how he's comfortable that way, but...there it is.
I am pondering...
...how it got to be two weeks till Thanksgiving already. Summer, as always, lumbered by so slowly, but sweet autumn goes swiftly by. Alas, we are having a rather dull season livened only by one or two bright trees per mile. Even the lovely maple tree down the street is rather dowdy.
A favorite quote for today...
...thinking about "all that hospital stuff," a classic:
"Happiness hangs by a hair." . . . Mary O'Hara, Wyoming Summer
One of my favorite things...
...cold weather...so please come back!
A few plans for the rest of the week:
Thursday we have an appointment to get the power chair lift on the truck serviced. Since we got the new chair earlier this year, I had noticed that the crossbar that keeps the chair secured to the lift did not depress in the seat as far as it did into the old chair. We called to have it looked at, but no one called us back, then they turned around just a few weeks ago saying the lift needed a 6-months' checkup, something they'd never asked us about with the original lift or its successor. We're also talking about going to the Farmer's Market on Saturday.
A peek into my day...
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» Sunday, November 08, 2020Triple Strike
Reached an autumn milestone for this year: it was the final lawn mow for 2020. Won't have to pay for it again until April, but sure as little green apples something will come to eat that money. I thought I would have some spare money this month to get ahead on bills, but wham, Medicare charged me for three months instead of just one. Always something else.
We spent our three-day weekend getting quotes on glasses frames now that James has a new prescription, plus doing the usual grocery shopping. It was yet another Hallmark Ornament weekend, and we went to the Dallas Highway store with coupons and came home with a needed gift. While we were at Target pricing glasses I noticed they had a DVD sale, three for the price of two, which netted me Greta Gerwig's new version of Little Women, 1917, and the first season of the new British series of His Dark Materials, which surprisingly was only $18. On Friday we had lunch at West Cobb Diner with Alice and Ken and Mel and Phyllis.
So those were the nice things. One must have balance.
Late in January James saw his primary care doctor and was due for a followup late in March or early in April. Except when he called they told him our doctor (I have him as primary, too) was on leave. This was about when everything started shutting down for COVID-19, so James just talked to some else. During the summer he had a couple of video appointments with other doctors, as they told us out doctor was still on "extended leave." I had a horrible suspicion and rather fretted about it all summer. Any time I had to call Kaiser I asked after him. They would tell me he was still "out of the office."
So when James saw him on Wednesday all I feared was true. He did have COVID-19 and was hospitalized at the end of March. He was in the hospital 28 days and spent seventeen of those on a ventilator. When he was finally released he could stand up but had no strength to walk. He spent the next two months in rehab and only started taking patients again at the end of last month. He also had been a rather large man, and it looked like he'd lost at least a hundred pounds. You can see all the figures on television, and listen to the interviews with survivors. But the glass screen is still one last barrier; it doesn't quite hit a hundred percent of "understand" until you've talked to someone who made it through the ordeal.
Anyway, we asked him honestly if it would be safe for us to go to South Carolina to visit James' mom, and he said he couldn't recommend it with all James' co-morbidities. They are truly expecting a second surge of the virus for the winter. James is pretty bummed.
Friday we learned that actor Geoffrey Palmer had died. As Time Goes By is probably my favorite British comedy series after The Good Life; I always have loved it because it's a show about adults, and ordinary misunderstandings that happen between people who live together. Palmer lived a long and busy life—he was 93!—but it was still melancholic.
And now it's Sunday morning and we've learned the sad news about Alex Trebek. I'm a Jeopardy fan from way back, when it was a daytime game show hosted by Art Fleming. If I wasn't in school, I was watching Jeopardy; it was one of my favorite things to view if I was home sick. I used to tell my mom I was going to New York (where the show was filmed at that time) when I was eighteen to try out (no Teen Tournaments back then). Alas, it was cancelled the year I was eighteen. So when Jeopardy came back in 1984 I was delighted. I'd already seen Alex Trebek on other game shows like High Rollers and Wild Cards, and enjoyed him as a host. He fit Jeopardy like a well-tailored suit, and visiting with him daily was always a treat. We will miss him.