Thursday, February 28, 2013

Foxy Lady

I've been an animal lover since I was a very small child. I love to be around pets and wild animals. I spent a good chunk of my childhood in zoos, at least when I wasn't reading about animals. Some days I think I like animals more than people. At least some days. And I love photos of animals.

One of the sites I follow on Facebook is Wild for Wildlife and Nature, which posts pictures numerous times a day. So many of the images are wonderful but I've noticed a trend recently that got me thinking. I've only saved a couple of images but a majority of them recently have been foxes. I'm drawn to the images of this shy elusive creature and I'm not sure why. Of course they are cute but so are many other animals. Why this creature?

A fox and a cat who've become inseparable friends

I've see them twice. The first was almost 15 years ago. I was waiting in my car at work to be let into the building. It was 5 in the morning. As I sat there, half drowsing I saw a blur through the windshield. I looked up to see a red fox darting across my path along a major road. I remember being thrilled. The second was just a couple months ago. Jeff and I were driving home when one came loping through the dark past us into the woods. Two fleeting glimpses in a lifetime of a magical animal.

So I read up a bit on the symbology of the fox. Foxes are crafty but aloof creatures. They are good at eluding people and predators. They are crafty at finding their way out of traps. Most of the totem pages say that they show the way through difficult confusing situations to places of simplicity. When I read that, a lightbulb came on. Work has been a difficult place recently. The politics are intense and often changable. And I'm not a good player. I find myself longing for a way to escape them, or at least navigate them. And suddenly I'm back to the fox.

 The man rescued the fox when it was a kit and raised it by hand.

Now I'm not a huge believer in totems or animals as symbols but it seems strange that I'm suddenly fascinated by foxes right now rather than before. I'm reading up on their calls (creepy sounding). I'm paying attention to their hunting habits and their family structure. I'm enraptured with them. I don't know if it has to do with my work politics or if I've just moved on to a new animal to learn about. Whatever it is, I couldn't help but share these pictures.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Cream

I can't remember if I've posted this recipe before but it's so good that it's worth posting again.

On Monday the weather stations were reporting that we would get 1 to 3 inches of snow on Tuesday. In the Midwest that's certainly not enough snow to cancel school over or really to take seriously. So I wasn't worried about it. When I went to leave for work Tuesday morning it was just starting to come down. I still wasn't thinking hard about it. But 10 minutes into my commute, when I could hardly see the stoplight a block away I was starting to think that it might be something more. By the time we had two inches on the ground they had changed the forecast. Now it was 3 to 6. Still not bad. By noon it was 5 to 9. And the snow kept coming.

The snow finally stopped at about noon today. We had over 24 hours of snow and ended up with about...11 inches. A far cry from 1 to 3 inches don't you think. When I would look at the radar there was Des Moines, right in the middle of swirling vortex of snow. Even worse, the storm was shifting mostly west. Storms that come from the east are never good. What I'm saying is that it's been a frustrating couple of days. At least for a snow/winter hater like me.

The one good thing to come out of the snow was that we finally got a chance to make snow cream. Jeff introduced me to snow cream when we were first dating and since then I've been a fan. We didn't have enough snow last year for any but most years we have at least one snow that is perfect for the recipe. You need a wetter snow, preferably big flakes. Dry snow won't work.

Set a soup pot outside during a big snow storm. You'll want it at least half full of snow. Then add 2 eggs (raw), 1 cup sugar (at least), 1/2 cup milk, and 2 tsp vanilla. Stir together until snow has a beautiful  pale yellow color. Spoon into bowls and eat immediately. It's sugary sweet goodness, even better than ice cream.

For those of you who are panicking about the raw eggs right now, this dish might not be for you. I'm a long time eater of cookie dough with raw eggs, so this doesn't even phase me. One of these years I might get Salmonella from them. But until I do, I'll still continue to eat raw eggs in my sweet treats.

Friday, February 22, 2013

On the Hunt

I've been reading a lot of books recently about book collecting. While I don't collect in a traditional sense, with one eye on price tag, I buy books that I love or that interest me. And I could see myself eventually becoming a collector. I certainly understand the urge. I'd collect picture books, and perhaps versions of Alice in Wonderland or The Wind and the Willows. That might be inexhaustible.

I don't often pay attention to cost of books but there are a few that are on my radar that amaze me with their prices. A decade ago I spent $80 or so to buy a children's book for my sister called The Sugar Mouse Cake. This sweet tale by Gene Zion is about a boy who gets help from a mouse to bake the most beautiful cake in the kingdom for the king. I've read it a couple times but it was one of my sister's favorites. It's also incredibly rare and valuable. Currently prices range from $70 for an old library copy to $480 for a decent worn but unmarked one. I've only seen ex-library copies. That year my sister wound up with two.
The second book I've been looking for is purely for nostalgic purposes but so far its rarity has made it a tough find. As a kid I liked mysteries and none were more loved than the Detective Mole series by Robert Quackenbush. My favorite of those was Detective Mole and the Secret Clues, where our deerhunter-capped, trenchcoat-wearing main character has to find the clues that will help the duck family inherit their uncle's mansion. The house had a dumbwaiter and secret passages. It, like another series I just read, had a very important sugar bowl. I loved this book. There are three used copies on Amazon right now, none for under $300. Abebooks, my favorite place to shop used rare books, has a couple copies but most are pretty worn sounding, at least the ones in my price range.

 And I could do more to shop online but for me that takes some of the fun away. Half of the fun is the hunt. I remember hunting for years for a copy of The Hungry Thing by Jan Slepian. When I finally found it, I grabbed the book out of the dusty box and clutched it to my chest. Of all the books I came home with that day, that was the one I treasured the most. The search had made the book even sweeter. I read it occasionally but I think most of my desire was to own it, to find it. I'm sure that the others will be the same way. Hunting is much better than just buying. For all you collectors out there, happy hunting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


For those of you who don't know I'm one of five children. The oldest and youngest are boys and the middle three are girls. I'm the middle child and the middle girl. I'm blessed to have wonderful siblings who I adore. We all get along well when we get together, even if we didn't always when growing up. My childhood was wonderful because of them. But it would be really hard to tell the story of my life without my little sister. Emilie, this is for you.

My little sister's birthday is tomorrow and I've been thinking about her all week. I was two years old when my little sister was born. Almost from the beginning Em and I shared a room. From before I can remember to turning 16 I shared a space with my sister. Of course we used to fight like cats and dogs. Sharing a room may be one of the worst things for siblings. Em and I, although most of the time we got along wonderfully, fought bitterly about the room. I'll admit that I was messy, and probably annoying to live with. We'd divide the room down the middle frequently but she always got the bathroom and the door, so I was at a disadvantage. I remember how excited I was to move to my own room at 16.

Sisters Exploring the World Together

Fast years and I can't think of another person (outside of Jeff) that I'd rather spend time with. I adore my sister. She's one of the most positive and energizing people I've ever spent time with. She is curious, intelligent, kind, peaceful, and wonderful. She has been my constant champion in all my endeavors and I can't thank her enough for that. She teaches me something every time we get together and she inspires me. Every time I see her I wish we had more time to spend. She's often busy but we still get together. She works two jobs and is going to school. I couldn't be prouder of her. She's not just a wonderful little sister but she's a lovely person.

My lovely sisters (me, Emilie, and Alissa)

Tonight I went through all my old photos to see if I can find pictures of the two of us. We were often dressed alike and treated like twins. My parents referred to us as "the girls". They bought us matching toys and clothes. I found pictures of that. But the big thing I noticed was the smile that my sister flashes in all of her pictures. And the smile that gave me. I'm lucky to have a little sister like her. I'm lucky to get to spend time with her. And even though we didn't always get along, I'm lucky that I got to grow up right next to her. I love you little sis!

Isn't that smile wonderful?


I woke up this morning with the name Westeros in my head. That shouldn't scare me so much except that the place doesn't exist, outside of five books and an HBO series. George R. R. Martin has held me captive for almost four months. I've read all five of the Song of Ice and Fire books back to back to back to back to back. I've watched almost no TV except for the first and half of the second season of the HBO series. Names like Arya and Tyrion come to mind faster than over half of my coworkers. To say that I've been a bit addicted is like saying that Houdini was a bit of a magician.

Last night I read the last word that has been written so far. I have five episodes left to watch before I'm forced to wait like the rest of the world for my Westeros fix. I'm sure Jeff will be happy to hear that I'm done for a while. This is all he's been hearing about for month. I talk about the Starks at dinner as if I'm sharing gossip about our friends. I'm trying to get him to watch the HBO series so I can discuss it with him (so far he's resisted). I have friends that I discuss the books with and I've been peppering them with questions and speculations for a while. It's really been a journey.

As I closed the book last night I had mixed emotions. I have no more Westeros to read (at least until the next book comes out). I'll miss these characters. I'll admit I was sad to see the series go. And at the same time I breathed a sigh of relief. I have books waiting to be read. I have stacks of stories that call to me. I even have library books that will need to be returned...soon. And for the last four months I've read almost nothing but Martin's words. I think I'm ready to take a break. I stopped reading series for a while. Now I remember the reason. Deep character development is wonderful, but I'm ready for a bit more variety. Now to tackle the stacks.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vivamus atque amemus

As Catullus says, "Let us Live and Love".

Happy Valentine's Day all!. I don't really celebrate the holiday the way Hallmark wants me to but I do like a bit of love in my February. I think the world always needs a bit more love. So tonight I'll read Neil Gaiman's twisted Harlequin Valentine short story and I'll break out a bit of poetry. A friend of mine got me started with the great Roman love poems. Here is the famous (perhaps infamous) love poet Catullus with Poem 5.

Let us live my Lesbia and love
and value at one penny
all the talk of stern old men
Suns can set and rise again
we, when once our brief light has set
must sleep one never ending night

Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred 
then a second thousand, then a second hundred
then yet another thousand then a hundred
Then when we have made up many thousands
we will wreck the count
least we know it or
any devil have power to cast an evil eye upon us
when he knows the total of our kisses.

Original Latin:
Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Have Cats on my Wall

Above is the picture that hangs above my fireplace in the living room. I normally wouldn't put cats up on my wall but this painting is special. It's an original oil painting done by Jeff's grandfather. Jeff's father's father to be exact. I've seen a number of his paintings and they are all good. I never got a chance to meet the man, he died before Jeff's parents were even married. But I've spent time in his workshop and I was stunned by his talent. This man was not only a painter (a rather good one in my opinion) but he was a wood carver, a zither player, and a carpenter. His workshop was in the basement of a house in downtown St. Louis. A house that Jeff's grandfather helped build. I'm amazed by his energy, by his various interests. I wish I'd had a chance to meet him. I bet I would have liked him.

P.S. I'll see if I can find a picture of him. Ignore the silly stockings on the wall.