Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mail I Dread

For the first few years I was self-employed, I would panic when I got something from the IRS, or New York State or New York City tax departments. I always thought the letter would bring bad news about audits or that I owed some incredible amount of money, despite my using an excellent CPA to prepare my taxes.

Today I got a letter from New York State and I calmly opened it, thinking it was something about estimated taxes. It was something different and as I read it, I realized that I was getting a check -- for $400 which was attached to one of the pages. I believe what it was for was my paying too much estimated taxes for what I earned last year and I just apply the overpayment toward the next tax year. I think what this letter was saying is that I still overpaid. I'm sure my accountant would shudder reading this explanation -- but what the heck... I love found money!

These days I realize that although my pulse does not quicken at the site of a tax-related envelope, it does quicken at the sight of something from my health insurance other than the envelope I recognize as my monthly bill. Who knows what they have up their sleeves?

Friday, April 29, 2011

How good is your imagination?

Lachlan has sent me some photos of James' and her trip to the Florida Keys. Today's email was about their time in Key West. I have tried every which way, using every trick I know, to download and then upload these photos, with no success.

So I'm going to cut and paste a portion of Lachlan's email and you'll have to imagine what the photo looks like. In case  you don't know, every day in Key West, there is a celebration where everyone gets together to watch the sunset.

Ready to imagine?

Ole' Lachlan didn't catch a' thing fish-wise while here besides catching on camera some amazing coral reef critters with a disposable waterproof camera that I'll get the film developed from when we get back home (pic of me heading out to reef on sailboat this morning) but James is catching a lot of cool fish including barracuda, wowza!

Last night we had a blast experiencing Key West goings'-on with heading over to the Sunset Celebration watching various street performers perform while the sun set behind them (pic of James there) then walked down further into the historic district where we happened upon the hilarious, but they're serious about it, Conch Republic Parade where we were thrown purple beads and finally ended up at a highly-recommended restaurant, Blue Heaven which was fun, funky and food-tastic....I had pork tenderloin medallions set upon softened sweet potatoes and drizzled with a curry sauce, yum! James had a Jamacian jerked-sauce chicken dish which was lovely as well (Pic of us there at table w shiny faces due to it was quite warm last night) and a fun way to celebrate his birthday while down here! Kinda' fun to celebrate my B-Day in Hawaii w a luau and James' B-Day Key West-in.

Maybe Lachlan can resend the photos when she gets home.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Checking up on Persians

I'm doing another media breakfast this summer, and had made the food order/contract with the caterer and I asked two people at the client to review it with me. I get afraid of being complacent so I try to compare the date on the contract back to a calendar and go through the contract line by line.

I had said to these two women to be nitpicky and point out to me anything they saw that they questioned. Today I get an email from one of them who was looking at the contract and asked me "What is a Persian?"

This is Oshkosh, after all, where there are some odd names for food... I remember one year a caterer listed "cannibal meat" when it was steak tartare. I remembered vaguely that a Persian was some kind of breakfast pastry.  The other odd name I remember is "Poor Man's Lobster" on the menu -- which turned out to be haddock. Supposedly haddock tastes just like lobster. Anyone want to validate that?

A Persian is an oval-shaped, cinnamon-bun-like pastry with a sweet, pink icing made of either raspberries or strawberries. It originated in and remains particular to the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Wikipedia goes on to say:

HistoryTraditional lore is that the Persian was named for U.S. general John 'Blackjack' Pershing but the exact date of its inception and circumstances of its creation are no longer known, giving rise to competing claims and myths among people in the region. Its recipe remains a general secret with long-running debates on whether the icing contains raspberries or strawberries.

The Persian is a variation of the Pershing, a doughnut made from a yeast dough that is coiled with cinnamon and usually finished with a plain sugar glaze rather than pink icing.

Two other Oshkosh names for pastries which we don't have in New York are Bismarcks and Bear Claws. Here we have rugeleh and babka!

Introducing Albert Pike

The other day Mary told me that it occurred to her that she should send me photos of something other than Milo and flowers -- and now she has been good to her word.

Serving jury duty today, Mary came upon this statue:

At the base of this statue, there is a Latin phrase. One of my client prides himself on his Latin so I sent him the phrase asking him what this means:

Laborum ejus superstites sunt fructus

In the email, I made my own guess:

Work is meaningless without fructose?

He soon replied:

Need Coke to function properly?

So I tried one of the online translators that offered this: 

To sink ejus superstites are fruit

What this statue is saying in Latin will have to remain a mystery for now. Who is Albert Pike?

This is kind of interesting in that if you read his entire Wikipedia entry, you keep waiting for some amazing accomplishment that would merit such a large statue in DC. The statue says he's an "author" but his written work was mostly poetry, the bulk of which was published post-humously by his daughter. So I believe that Wikipedia may be right in saying this is a Masonic thing:

Albert Pike (December 29, 1809–April 2, 1891) was an attorney, Confederate officer, writer, and Freemason. Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C. (in Judiciary Square) mostly due to his masonic connection with President Andrew Johnson, who pardoned Pike for treason after the American Civil War.


Mary turned out to be a better research librarian than I, but she comes by it honestly since her father was head librarian at Penn State when  librarians were scholars, not data manipulators.

So first, she found a translation for the Latin. Mary says it means:

He has lived. The fruits of his labors live after him.

Then she discovered:

Albert Pike was a complicated character - Northerner, Westerner, Southerner, poet, General, religious philosopher. The statue in Washington DC was moved from in front of the Scottish Rite Temple to where it is now next to the Department of Labor and the DC Municipal building in 1977. The Scottish Rite had friends in Congress and they see this as fitting that he was given a prominent space by official Washington. The woman at the base of the statue is Minerva (the Roman goddess of Masonry) or Athena (Greek version of Minerva - goddess of wisdom). Edgar Allen Poe praised his poetry.

And for her final bit of info, she brings the topic up to the present day with this tidbit:

Lyndon LaRouch hates him and wants his statue removed because he believes he is the father of the KKK

Monday, April 25, 2011

And now here's Macho....

I happened to have these photos of Stephanie's cat named Macho on my computer. Of course, Mother Cat Stephanie wants everyone to know these are not good photos of Macho, that he's actually much cuter than these. She also adds, "He weighs 20 pounds and is one big baby not a macho as his name suggests."

When I've been to Mary's, Milo loves sitting on my suitcase like this as well.

And here he is guarding the Easter candy -- this was from a year ago at Easter:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My New Job: A Cat Publicity Agent

It's not that I don't like cats -- we had cats growing up, but they were wild cats, stayed outside, but my sister and I would play with them, put doll clothes on them, etc.  I would definitely be willing to babysit a cat if someone was traveling. There used to be a cat named Leo who lived a few buildings over and the owner would let him outside and when I'd be out in my garden, Leo would come over to visit, and I would enjoy his company and found myself talking to him, asking him questions. So I can see how it happens.

One day I was working at my desk, wearing shorts, and had my garden door open (prior to getting a screen door) and was paying no attention and felt this fur object rubbing against my legs. I must have elevated two feet off the seat, but it was just Leo.

So now Barbara has sent her offering for the Kitty Beauty Contest with this explanation:

Yeah yeah -- I know what you are thinking, another cute cat picture coming your way, uh oh! What have you started?

I love Mary's cat and I think Fran's cats are exquisite, but of course I think MY cats are the best and deserve recognition too! A.J. is the grey & white one -- he's 10 years old and loves being older brother, we call him "A.J. the Good." Bean is the cute orange one -- 1 1/2 years old -- aka "The Beanster."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mary Attempts to Brighten Her Day

Mary says, "I cut this tulip from my yard, and when I brought it in to work and put it in water, it completely opened up. It's sunshine in my cubicle!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Man's Trash...

My helper, Marilyn, was here today, and we continued to cull through books. I would find myself stunned sometimes with a particular volume which I had zero memory of. That's happened from time to time with clothes -- where I feel if someone held up a sweater or a book and asked me if it were mine, I would say no, but it is.

So we had a whole carton of books to put out on the street and a smaller box to send to my friend Trish who has a very active book club. She brings my books to the club meeting and so I feel that with all those people, every book will find someone who wants it.

I was thinking that I could probably be harsher -- even though I've got rid of a lot. Maybe in a year, I'll go through them all again.

Marilyn, my helper, had taken a half-dead plant out in a grocery store shopping bag and put it in the trash. She later saw this plant retrieved from the garbage and sitting on someone's doorstep. Of course, I had this pang of jealousy -- and guilt -- maybe I should have tried harder to grow this plant, but I didn't want it anymore, and as Marilyn aptly pointed out, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

I became very aware, especially today, of how many wonderful books I have that I have not read. I remember reading somewhere that when we buy the book, we're not buying the book, but we're attempting to buy the time to read the book. I think that's what I was trying. I do love to read, but I find I must really concentrate to make the time to do it. Well, when I come upon a page-turner, I don't have any trouble making the time and will do little else in non-work hours than read the book.

So next time Marilyn comes, we have more books to cull, and a whole lot of paper to shred. I don't think we've shredded paper in a number of tax years and now that 2010 taxes are a memory, getting rid of the back up for some past earlier years seems appropriate.  We will also swap out summer clothes for winter. When we did the reverse in November, I was really strict and gave away a bag or two of clothes. I feel as if there's way more leaving this apartment than coming in, and yet there's so much more to give away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Word I Don't Know -- POLYMATH

I was reading a book review today about a biography of singer Ethel Waters. The reviewer says the author "reveals Waters to be a polymath."

Never heard the word; never saw it before. I know "poly" means many, but I had no idea what math means. As it turns out, a polymath is a noun which means "a person of great learning in several fields of study."

Meanwhile, it is still crummy, cold and rainy here. However, at least one tree on my block has sprung leaves; here it is. And, of course, I'm waiting for the wisteria on the building behind this tree which should be out in a few weeks.

From Cats back to Flowers

Fran found these tulips on Connecticut Avenue yesterday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

HELP! I'm a victim of cute cat pictures

Just got this one in the mail... Ok, I admit... it is sort of cute in a cat sort of way.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meet Angelina and Valentino

These are Fran's cats. Above is Angelina, and below is Valentino:
And here they are together -- Angelina on the left; Valentino on the right.

And one last one... relaxing after dinner:

Peek-a-Boo Azalea

Fran saw this on her walk which she describes as "Azaela breaking out of the big house, well,fence, for a Sunday stroll along Fessenden St, NW DC."

Fran later added: That azaela gave me a big smile. At first I thought someone might have plucked a blossom from the bush and placed it between the slats. But no, the blossom was at the end of a branch from a giant azaela bush behind the fence. More beautiful azaela bushes, these not fenced in, bordered the side of the property. Washington is so beautiful in the spring and today (sun is out) you could see the riotous color on lawns, tree foliage, the cherry blossoms, tulips, azaelas .... ahhhhhh. lovely.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What I'm Reading

This is a collection of short stories, all of which are about New York. I've read four of them and am enjoying the book. I did have a lovely moment this afternoon where I was sitting in my clean living room, with the washing machine and dryer going in the other room, the rain coming down hard enough to make noise, groceries having been put away and I sat in a big upholstered chair reading and I realized this was one of those moments of peace we don't get that often.

It's almost like the peace wants you to be aware of it. I remember I stopped reading and thought "What?" as if something was trying to get my attention and then I realized that everything was just calm and all was well.

More Milo

This is Milo, using Mary's purse as a pillow. I know Milo always likes snuggling into my open suitcase while I'm there. Mary points out the appropriateness of the ad that shows... Look at Milo's rear legs. Sleepy's is a mattress retailer.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Who uses "laconic"?

Ever since the dictionary post, I wanted to be aware of when I come upon a word I don't know. Tonight I was watching Jeopardy and one of the answers was laconic. That's a word I've heard of, have never used (which is good since I have no idea what it meant), but if I had to guess, to me laconic sounds like it means sad.

That would be my guess, but my guess would be wrong.

What it means is using few words, being concise. Now that I know what it means, I still don't think I'll ever use it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Show Biz Fran

Fran and her fellow Zumba-tistas entertained the audience during half time at a Wizards' basketball game on Saturday, April 4.

Here's our girl:

This is right before show time:

and finally, relaxing post-show with caipirhinas at a place called Zengo's:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Milo

Mary claims that Milo insisted on being in this picture. She expects he may be part cat/part ham.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring... continued

This gives you a good idea of Mary's front yard -- It looks fantastic!

She writes:

I don't think you can see how bright the garden is because the day started off dreary this morning, but the big yellow tulips in the back are now in full bloom - they kind of are mixed in with the daffodils in the first picture.

About this second picture, she says: The second picture is a close up of the red bud tree in the middle of the daffodils -- it's so amazing the way the buds emerge directly from the trunk and branches of the tree! The bark isn't really so white, that's just the result of the flash going off so close to the wood. 85 degrees yesterday, today it's in the low 50s. Tomorrow -- let's not think about that.

In New York, we had a lovely day on Monday, but today it was rainy and cold and tonight cold with thunderstorms. No spring here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Taste of Spring

Today it's sunny and in the 70s and I have my windows and garden door open. Tomorrow it goes back to chilly and rainy, but we'll enjoy today.

This is Milo and his flowers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Selling a Water Color

Does anybody know how to sell a water color? I have one for sale that I bought about 15-20 years ago at a gallery which no longer exists. At the time I paid $450 for it.

It's a very evocative painting -- like a late January afternoon and a corner of a Victorian house. I think I was attracted to that kind of sad mood; I identified with it; I got it, but now it just makes me sad. I took it down when my living room was being painted about 10 years ago and never put it back up.

I know I could just let it go and give to the thrift shop, but I thought I could at least try to sell it. I don't want to do eBay -- I guess I feel I wouldn't get the value of it.

When I was looking at it tonight, I didn't have my glasses so I couldn't really read the artist's name, but I guess that would be a first step... see how well-known the artist is. I'm open to any other suggestions. I am not trying to make back my money, but just do better than giving it away.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Crazy Lady

Found out yesterday that the crazy lady on my block has finally been evicted and is in a hospital. Whenever I would leave my apartment -- midnight on a Tuesday or 7 am or noon or you name it, she would be running about. I could see her deteriorating over the years. She could alternate between viciousness and sweetness, would be outside with no coat, looking disheveled one day and totally looking "normal" the next.

She was plagued by feeling that people were breaking into her apartment and stealing her diamond earrrings which got stolen again and again and again. Then those same people would steal her ID and other jewelry. Then the super was stealing her panties. It was all very sad, and I would make myself think about what a terrible way that would be to live since she really believed the thefts were happening.

The UPS guy told me her place was like a hoarder's, piled to the ceiling with stuff, and that the hallway stunk from her apartment. Yesterday the landlord told me that he lost seven tenants, one after another, who lived next door to her and had to move out. She would bang on people's doors and pee in the hallway.

What's sad is that she has a brother who lives in California who is a lawyer, or so the story goes, and a trust fund had been set up for her. He figured out that if he stopped paying the rent from the trust fund that someone else -- the public -- you and me -- would have to pay for her upkeep and he'd be off the hook. So that's what he did.

In the past few years, she'd taken up borrowing money from people and I got suckered in a few times. If I thought (which I did) that three dollars could help a person out -- she always asked for a precise amount -- I was all for it. Then I stopped loaning/giving money when I realized she had no memory of having asked previously and would ask anybody who passed by. She'd also go into the local stores trying to borrow money.

It took years to evict her, and finally while I was gone, marshals came and took her away in an ambulance. Yesterday, when the super and landlord were telling me this, I asked if her apartment was as bad as I'd heard and the super just nodded his head yes. He said there were pigeons living inside the apartment so you can imagine what it was like.

She'd always talk to me... well, not always... some days she'd be really angry at me for no reason and walk by me making a show out of ignoring me and then the next day she'd be asking sweetly how my writing was going and telling me what a pretty color my shirt is.

I know she is crazy, and I know she is now safe, and I really believe that. I worried that she would be out in the middle of the night without a coat or get beaten up or something, but the whole thing makes me sad too. It could be with the proper medication that she will be able to live independently again, but I can't shake the image of her strapped to some gurney and going away in an ambulance to God knows where.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recuperating Phil

I was thinking about when someone stops being solely a friend's friend and starts being MY friend too. I've known "Mary's friend" Phil for years and years and always thought of him as "Mary's friend Phil."

He was an early fan of my blog and in the beginning I let a month or so go by without posting anything and Phil emailed me and urged me to continue. That meant a lot to me so I think of Phil as my muse. He is also very loyal about sending cards for various holidays and I appreciate that. I think about all the work involved in buying the card, addressing it, having stamps, mailing, etc.

Anyway, today Phil had knee surgery and is home recuperating after everything went well, so here's a shout out to Phil, MY friend, but he can still be Mary's friend too.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Goodbye Dictionary

Today Marilyn, my personal helper, came for her monthly visit and one of the projects I started was I want to cull all my books. In the past, I've gotten rid of a lot of them -- recycled, sent to friends, etc. but I hadn't really taken a hard look.

I had decided we would do one shelf a month -- for now -- and in today's shelf was the typical desk-style dictionary. We were dividing the books into keep, give to friends, and put out on the street for passersby. It has been years since I've used a dictionary -- in fact, I had forgotten I had one.

I couldn't imagine any use I would have for a printed dictionry when more recent information was available on line. It's very weird to me that a printed dictionary has become obsolete, So we put it in the box to put out on the street. My, how times have changed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Turning into an Old Lady

Today I was getting a pedicure and couldn't find something and I asked the pedicure woman if it had fallen to the floor and she looked and said no and then she pointed to my lap and said, "Is that it?" I said, "I'm turning into an old lady!"

The good news is I finally found my glasses. Ever since I came home, I couldn't find them and were wearing these wobbly loose back up pair. Well, today I opened the washing machine to put the clothes in the dryer and what do I see? My glasses! Nice and clean. The one lens had come out, but I was easily able to pop it back in.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tornado Video

When I was in Florida, it was for a big air show, and a tornado went through the grounds of the show. I hadn't looked at any videos until someone told me that there is one taken from the Media Headquarters where I'm based during the show. This is where I did my media breakfast for one client and media lunch for another. I rented those round tables and white plastic chairs. I also had blue checked tablecloths which I guess they took up.

While this was going on, I was already at Tampa Airport thinking I would be coming home any time soon. No wonder the flight was so delayed.

One thing that people who were there spoke of is the noise. I have heard other people say that about tornados and you get a sense of it here. What's funny (but not in a ha ha way) is that we originally were going to have this lunch on Thursday (the day of the tornado) and decided to change it to Wednesday where it was mild and sunny. This tornado hit at 11:30 when the press briefing started in a tent, followed by lunch on these tables and chairs. This is filmed from the back porch of the Media Headquarters.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

More Spring in DC

Mary says:

It's a real early spring day here, cold but clear, with the sun in, then out, then in again. Meredith asked if things were starting to grow so I took a few pictures in the front -- many things are just starting to open up. I'm embarrassed to say I don't know what these plants are.You can't see it in the picture, but the low growing bushy plant has flowers that are blue and white. I'm going to ask Serena to walk around the front with me as we make a map of the garden.You'll probably recognize the yellow flowers.

here's to spring!

But back in New York, we can't report much forward progress with Spring. It's sort of gray and cold. The wooden fences in my garden are being replaced today, and that's going to be a big boost. However, I do miss the weather we had, for at least part of the time, in Florida.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Stuck in Tampa --- Almost!

Thursday was supposed to be an easy travel day. Had a flight from Tampa at 1 pm (see, no getting up early) and arriving at LaGuardia at 330. Easy, fast, home in time to have some of the day left. My plan was to leave the hotel around 10 am, get to the airport, return the rental car in a relaxed fashion and have plenty of time to check in and get to the gate.

However, Mother Nature had a different plan. There was LITERALLY a tornado going through the town I was in. I had on the television and I knew all the street names they were mentioning in the path of this tornado. Finally they said all was clear where I was as the tornado moved West and if you had to go out to do it now before the next wave of storms arrived.

I had checked on line and my flight was on time and I really thought by 1 pm there would be sunny skies. I contemplated for a few minutes getting back  into bed and doing the trip on Friday, but remembered threats of snow for Friday so I launched myself off. Lots of puddles, broken branches, etc. but driving was Ok. Was all checked in, at the gate by about 1130 and my card said they'd start boarding at 1220 so I sat there.

Soon, of course, an announcement was made that the flight departure had changed until 310, the gate changed so we all trekked to the different gate, etc. By the time we left, just going on  5 pm, there were FIVE DIFRFERENT GATES.

I was thinking that the worst part for me is about 90 minutes out from New York. I was tired, sore, hungry, claustrophobic, wanted to take my clothes off, undo my bra, put my feet up and yet I'm trapped in this seat in the dark.

Small blessings: The plane arrived at the gate closest to the exit which never happens to me plus the luggage came out pretty quickly also at the nearest carousel. I hate when the carousels are empty and I'm at carousel #1 only to be told "Delta flights come into Carousel #14 -- that's about a mile down the corridor."

So I got home, happy to be here, no make that REALLY HAPPY --evenewn though I had checked my voice mail, I had seven new messages, all from people who had heard about the tornado which moved past me headed straight for the airshow grounds where it did a bunch of damage to displays and to aircraft. All my clients were Ok.

I have moved Forward, Slow all day today, but I'll get caught up. My suitcase is still there where I left it last night. Untouched, but I'll get to it.