Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy freakin' birthday to me!

Yesterday was my birthday...number 55. I thought the double-nickel deserved a little extra treatment so I took the day off and planned some special "me-time". I never get to do that since this is such a bazootie time at work. The appointments were scheduled, the weather forecast was ideal. All systems were go for a great day.

My first appointment was with a cup of gourmet coffee in my special "It's Good to be the Queen" cup. It was just me, my coffee, my knitting and the Today show. mmm-MMM-mmm --good stuff!

My plan was to take myself out to breakfast at my favorite diner: Bayou Kitchen. A plate of "gator eggs" with a side of andouille sausage and some cornbread was just what I needed to kick off the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the Bayou Kitchen operates on a rather whimsical schedule, known only to them and possibly determined by the hangover level of the chef. The Saints game on Monday night must have been a rough one for him. No Bayou Kitchen-- damn! So, it was off to my second choice, Bintliff's. But I did get a Cajun Benedict from their menu so I felt a little vindicated. It really was delicious!

Next it was off to my haircut with my favorite hairdresser, Nancy, my neighbor across the street. Not only does she do a fantabulous job cutting my hair, but we neatly solve the world's problems, as well as those of our immediate neighbors in our hour together.

Of course, at that point, the camera battery crapped out on me again. It was just as well, my next stop was a marvelous, relaxing full body massage. I really don't think pictures of THAT appointment would be either tasteful or appropriate. My friend Ellen did a great job of unknotting the tension kinks in my shoulders, back and legs. What a wonderful way to throw off the everyday stresses. Little did I realize how soon all of that good work would be undone.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful...lunch, an afternoon of napping and knitting, and anticipating a marvelous dinner out with Brendan at Portland's premier restaurant, Fore Street.

We had 6:30 reservations so we decided to take Isla up to Baxter Woods for her usual evening fun run as soon as he came home from work at 4:30. She did her usual amount of pulling and dragging, excited to be going to her favorite place. Once up there and unleased she was off like a race horse, sprinting through the woods, criss-crossing the path we were walking until suddenly she emerged from the bushes with a noticable limp. As we checked her front left paw my stomach flipped. Blood was gushing from the area near her large pad. As we looked closer, we noticed a gash so large that it had nearly severed the pad from her foot completely. Brendan ran home to get the car and I sat with her, trying to calm her, until he arrived. Those twenty minutes seemed like an eternity.

We made the decision to race her up to our vet's office, praying that it was one of their late nights to be open. It was now 5:30. The bleeding was profuse and she was obviously in a lot of pain. Our wonderful vet took her in right away, assessed the cut and determined that she needed surgery. Brendan called the restaurant, explained the situation and they told us to relax and get there as soon as we could... they would hold the reservation. That was huge, considering that a reservation there is no mean feat. I suggested that we reschedule but Brendan wanted to wait to see if we could still salvage a birthday dinner that was actually on my birthday. He's such a sweetie. We were both frantic about Isla's condition but he still wanted my day to be special.

They did surgery immediately, putting in over 20 sutures. The vet said it was a very bad cut and that there actually was tendon showing. Only time will tell if it heals completely because she warned us that injuries of this sort often re-occur. She also said that another vet from a nearby Emergency Animal Clinic happened to be there and mentioned that she had a case of a dog who nearly died because he had been running (also in Baxter Woods) and had severed his femoral artery. They came to the conclusion that the culprit in both cases was most likely broken glass.

The woods seem to have become a drinking hangout for a certain element who then get their kicks by leaving the broken bottles around. So many people are up there with their dogs running loose, I would hate to have another family experience the anguish we did last night -- or even worse. Isla absolutely adores going there and the freedom she has to just run at full tilt. Unfortunately, she probably won't be able to do that again. We will have to limit her running to the small field or the one behind Baxter School. It makes me angry to think that someone's selfish act of carelessness is going to cost her that freedom.

We could organize a cleanup to get rid of the glass that is up there, but it won't stop people from replacing that glass with more. We could post signs asking people to please take their bottles with them or put them in the trash can but I am not naive enough to think that signs will be much of a deterrent.

It's a beautiful spot that we are so lucky to have for ourselves and our dogs. I only wish there were some way to get people to realize that we are all caretakers of that beauty and that every act of thoughtlessness has a potentially tragic outcome.

An hour later, out she walked, still a bit groggy, whimpering and holding up her paw as if to say, "look what they did to me!" But she had kisses for us and a wagging tail when she saw us. We got our post-op instructions, pain meds and antibiotics, the dreaded "elizabethan collar" to keep her from pulling off the bandaging and made followup appointments. We settled the $335 bill (yikes!) and took her home. It was so sad to see her suffering with her large cast-like bandage. She's like a pirate with a peg-leg.

This birthday was heading south really fast. But, on the vet's suggestion, we decided to go to dinner since she was still pretty out of it and would most likely
sleep for the next few hours. So, with decidedly mixed emotions, off we went.

Fore Street is a magic place. Gourmet Magazine has ranked it #16 in the country for Restaurants of distinction. It is a restaurant that is always crowded but still manages to make each patron feel special. The hostesses were genuinely concerned about Isla's condition and one of them was extremely concerned because she often walks her dog in those same woods. After a very brief wait, we were seated.

We started our dinner with a well-deserved cocktail: a bloody mary for me and Kir Royale for Brendan. As we sipped, the most delicious bread arrived. All of their bread is baked by Standard Baking, the bakery where Brendan works on Sunday mornings. For appetizers we shared two choices: mussels steamed in a rich, garlicky broth (a perfect partner for that great bread) and an amazing tomato tart served on a delicate puff pastry with goat cheese and a delicate sauce. Brendan chose a venison dish for a main course and I had some lamb that was melt-in-my-mouth tender. Fore Street uses wood-fired stoves which give all of their foods a special flavor. We also ordered a side dish of garlicky mashed potatoes which were out of this world, with bits of skin left in them for additional flavor. Brendan ordered a delicious merlot to accompany the dinner. We were unhurried and the service was attentive without being hovering. I was very satisfied after the main course but I had to sample one of their legendary desserts so I picked one of their light ones: a blueberry sorbet. I wasn't prepared for the intensity of flavor. It was like popping a handful of the freshest blueberries from the wild barrens with the slightest hint of lemon. Just amazing!

Isla was never far from our minds throughout dinner, although we had decided that it served no useful purpose to dwell on her pain. We finished up and headed home. When we got there we found her sleeping just inside the back door, waiting for us to come home, resting uncomfortably in her big plastic collar.

It was a rough night. She woke up periodically whimpering and crying out in pain. We gave her a first dose of the painkiller at 5:30AM, along with her first dosage of the antibiotic. Brendan's schedule was lighter than mine today so he called in and stayed with her throughout the day. We broke our steadfast rule about allowing her up on the bed and neither of us regrets the decision, although it means we will never be able to keep her off again.

It will be a long road to her full recovery, assuming that can actually happen. Our immediate concern is that the healing process goes well, allowing her to keep the pad, her foot and ultimately her leg. She had such a rough start to her young life; she deserves so much more than she got yesterday. Please keep her in your prayers. She means the world to us.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A (Half) Day at the Fair

The Common Ground Fair in Unity, ME is one of those events we NEVER miss. It is an old-fashioned Agricultural fair with a healthy dose of Granola-heads and not a midway ride or cone of cotton candy anywhere in sight. Sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), this year marked their 30th annual fair. It is an immensely popular event, attracting people from all over the country (as evidenced by the "where are you from?" map festooned with colored pins just inside the front gate).

We get up early this morning and are on the road by 7AM, tote bag packed with cameras, knitting for the road, and some bagels to fuel us until lunch. We learned many years ago that there is no coffee served on the grounds in keeping with the ban on caffeine, processed sugars and flours and other non-organic elements. So we brew our own and bring it with us to sip on in the car.

The sky is a little overcast with temps in the 60's but that's ok. We actually prefer that to past years when the combination of a hot sun, high humidity and no shade in sight has made for a miserable day.

The ride goes quickly and we arrive shortly before the gates open. There are a lot of people there already, but nothing like the huge crowds we heard they had yesterday, the first of the three days. We buy our tickets from a vendor working the line and go in a few minutes past nine.

I'm excited at the prospect of taking some great pictures and I get off to a great start. We head for the farmer's market first so Brendan can pick up some of his favorite Russian Garlic and look over some of the other produce he will buy before we leave later this afternoon. The garlic is a big hit and often sells out early so he decides to get it early to ensure he isn't disappointed later. I wander around some of the produce booths, inhaling the wonderful smells of the herbs and enjoying the many beautiful arrangements of flowers, vegetables and fruits.

Watching this family preparing their booth, I am struck with the simple beauty of their arrangements and enchanted with the two little girls, still looking a little sleepy.

Their VW bus is full of beautiful fruits and
flowers like these:

Even the grayness of the day can do
nothing to mute the vibrancy of the colors.

This is our next stop:
The Onions were gorgeous and huge! The clusters of Sweet Annie hanging around the perimeter send an intoxicating smell that makes it impossible for us to leave without one to hang in our kitchen.

I love this little collection of tins at the entrance to one of the booths:

...and the woodcarving decorating the top of the entrance to this stall:

I spot another pretty little arrangement of mums and position myself to take the shot:

"Hey, Einstein...taking a picture here. Are ya blind, stupid or just rude?"... Geez, some people don't have the brains that God gave rocks!

Let's try this one again. *muttering to myself: IDIOT!*

There, that's better.

Ok, now it's time to head over to the Border Collie demo to watch some of Isla's distant cousins show off their smarts. I pull out the camera and then it happens... the *#$%@ing battery is dead! After only 15 minutes!!!!! WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? It isn't like I haven't been charging it for the past week non-stop! I am SO not happy right now. There is still so much to take pictures of...

...the amazing dogs working the sheep (and ducks!)

(Picture from MOFGA website taken in 2004)

...the barns full of chickens, rabbits, duck, goats, cows, and horses.

(also from MOFGA website)

...the agricultural pavilion with the winning entries of produce, crafts and artwork.

(MOFGA website)

...the craftsmen

(MOFGA website)

...the food (proof that delicious and all organic can co-exist!)

(MOFGA website)

...and, of course, MY favorite: the spinners and yarn sellers (because you can NEVER have enough yarn, right folks?)

(MOFGA website)

(Yes, that's a real live angora bunny on her lap. She is spinning the yarn directly off him. She said the good thing about the system is that he keeps her lap warm in the winter. The only bad thing is that he tends to pee on her every now and then... ewww!)

If you would like to view the entire slide show of photos from 2004's fair go here

Unfortunately, today's weather doesn't look ANYTHING like those pictures. As the morning progresses, the skies grow darker and darker and, just as we start to eat lunch the skies open up. We are cold, wet and pretty miserable. The exhibitor tents are crammed full of people looking to get out of the rain, triggering a nasty case of claustrophobia for both of us so we decide to cut the day short. It is just before noon. I manage to swing through one of the booths long enough to pick up some skeins of yarn at a great price...

wool/acrylic blend

100% wool

single ply wool

and Brendan makes a final stop at the Farmer's market for some gorgeous huge leeks, some onions and a few plump tomatoes. We declare the day a success and beat a path through the now-muddy parking lot to the dry, warm car. People are still lined up to get into the fair and the incoming traffic is backed up for miles.

We head home, put a fire in the fireplace and spend the afternoon napping and drying out! All in all, a good time as usual. Maybe next year we'll have better weather (and I will have a better camera!!!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Being a little behind is still better than being a big behind...

OK, so it's been awhile since I've written a post. The start of a new semester always has me chasing my tail, especially in the fall. Somehow all of the things I was supposed to get done over the summer eluded me and are now staring me in the face! So now it's hurry up and get them done before classes start.

Still I love September and the energy a new school year brings. I have come to think of it as more New Years than the one at the beginning of January. It feels good to see the students on campus (even the clueless ones who stop in the office to ask which floor room 200 is on!) My "mommy-antenna" goes into overdrive with every near-tears new student who I find wandering aimlessly in circles. I just want to put my arms around each one of them and reassure them that in a month they will be navigating the campus like they were born here.

September does mean a substantial ramp-up of my schedule, however. No more lazy, hazy summer days with (slightly) extended lunch hours and leisurely meetings under the shade trees. Now it is classroom presentations, committees, planning meetings and back-to-back appointments. And it will be a non-stop whirlwind of activity until early November when things begin to settle down a little. Hopefully I will still be able to find the time (and the energy) to knit and maintain a regular posting schedule but if not, be assured I am still alive...just buried under a pile of paperwork.

Anyway, I REALLY wanted this entry to be about some finished projects. Over the past few weeks I completed Meredith's bag for school. Being a science major (Molecular Genetics/Microbiology to be exact...the little smarty pants!) she carries around an ungodly load of books, lab manuals, binders, notebooks and other science stuff. I wanted to make her a sturdy bag to hold everything so I used the Constant Companion pattern, doubled the strands of wool and felted the crap out of the thing.

Here is what it looked like before felting:

And here is what it looks like now:

(Those are some of those monster science books on the top shelf)

I LOVE LOVE LOVE what felting does for a piece... except of course when it is done accidently. Brendan's sister made him a sweater when we were first married. He wore it constantly. I decided to wash it one day and, well, you know the rest of THAT story... That was one of our first "What were you thinking?" episodes.

Also on the FO list is the pair of Socketta Socks I was working on during my vacation. They came out well but I discovered a nasty secret about the yarn... the colors run!!! I washed them in cold water with my light green Green Gable sweater and ended up with some nasty blue marks on the sweater that I traced to the socks. Fortunately the marks came out with some pre-treating and additional washes but I was NOT a happy camper. Needless to say, I will be washing them by themselves for the next few cycles. Here are the culprits:

It's a good thing they are pretty or they would have been SEVERELY punished for bleeding on my NEW sweater.

The other finished project is (are?) the Fixation Footies I finally finished this week (also for Meredith). I started them while I was on vacation but once I got home life just kept getting in the way. She picked out the yarn last April and, while it isn't a color combo I would have chosen for myself, they really grew on me. Here they are:
They are headed up to Burlington tomorrow in a care package with Double Chocolate Cookies (courtesy of Dad) and ink cartridges for her printer. (She's no dummy... those suckers are expensive so she talked me into buying them for her!) Hopefully she will like the socks and actually wear them! Wouldn't that just float my boat!!

So on to the next project, a vest for me! And maybe two or three other things to work on in preparation for the December craft fair at work, perhaps some hats or bags.

But tomorrow morning I have a 7:15 breakfast meeting followed by a committee meeting followed by some student appointments followed by...well, suffice to say, a long day. So it's off to bed for me. Nighty night all!

Friday, September 01, 2006

How clever is this?

I have a nordictrak that is basically functioning as a very expensive clothing rack. Most of my friends who have treadmills have long ago abandoned them to garage sales. Here are four guys who may just spark a resurgence in exercise equipment sales and use...

I heard they shot it in a single take but the guy in the pink pants almost does a face plant at the 1:00 mark. Ooh, that would have left a mark!