December 30, 2018

THE Holiday. You Know The One.

[a belated Christmas report that I forgot to post!]
All told, THE holiday was great. And a lot of work. ALL of us helped. Bigsis guy brought 99% of the food. The bro helped by being able to be here, as he drives the farthest and is down to just one kind of cancer. He also brought delicious homemade beef jerky that made one of the cats try to break into the kitchen cabinets to get to it. Bro and french bro cooked breakfast on Christmas. Mrguy manned the eggs. He also cleaned the entire house, bought the liquor, wrangled the cats and their complicated schedules / medications while also troubleshooting the many things that come up on the fly during the day. And he cleaned constantly while the rest of us trashed the place.

When it comes to prep, the mama wants to help and that complicates matters. Middlesis guy did the hard work of shepherding the mama during the day, which as host was something I couldn't do. And she made these amazing stuffed potatoes while the mama slept.


I took the night shifts. When mom's asleep we use a motion sensor that helps us know when she's on the move and needs an escort to the restroom. The "ding dong-er", as we call it, is a godsend. However it sits at cat height and the cats loooove her, so when she's here there are many false alarms when the cats are restless and wander into her bedroom to see how she's doing. Eventually I realized that mrguy was not getting any sleep, so I took the speaker with me and slept on the sofa for a few nights, rising to help the mama. I love how she never questions that we're up when she needs to use the restroom in the middle of the night.

I insisted on not getting worked up about the holiday in advance. When Christmas was at the mama's house bigsis and I would go home one day in December before Christmas and do the tree and set the table for her. Now that Christmas is at our house we set the table on Christmas Eve, because three of the cats love to walk on the dining table. Nobody wants to eat at your house if they suspect the cats have sat on their napkins ahead of time.

I was happy to find that I'd segregated the previous year's linen so I knew what had been used, and even made a diagram of our table arrangement, which we then ignored.

We are still pretending it's 1945 on Christmas. You got your crystal champagne glasses of granny's, the wedding silver of mom's, augmented by some of ours, silver epergnes (we used to have bigger ones but they were absurd and we sold them to make room during the mama's move), we use linen napkins (but none of it matches with a group our size) and a must have is the wax angels that everybody but me likes. I put them on display, and stuck cans of pinto beans under the two large ones to weight them down, but I couldn't find something that was as stable for the little gold ones. I used ortega chile cans as their angel support, which only slightly worked. One angel did a stage dive and now I have to do plastic surgery with a hot knife to repair some fingers and a cheekbone. My brother-in-law appreciated the naked can of chiles I left on the credenza.

I was hoping someone would notice. I like to leave a little something to laugh about.

Now Christmas is over, I'm sneezing and pretending it's an allergy (hope springs eternal) and mrguy has the same allergy. This is the time of the year where the mama's schedule confuses her, so she called to complain that she's at her house and not with us. Tomorrow she gets her wish and I pick her up for a New Year's visit to our house.

December 29, 2018

Christmas Cactus Report

Readers of mrsguy know that I am hot for Christmas cactus. I'm still on the hunt for a red one.

This year I decided that life was too short to only allow myself to buy half-dead cactus from estate sales. I was going to buy a red Christmas cactus this year, dadgummit! Well I never found one, but I bought these two beauties that are giving me so much joy on the front porch. 

The dark one has huge triple flowers and the lighter one has buds that are a peachy tan color that then turn into fat pink flowers. 

This third example is one from my collection downstairs. It's a little slow to bud, but it's white. And to complete the story, the gator aloe and the aeonium are from the ancestral garden of the mama. 

Down in the breezeway under the house our other cacti, Max and Bernice, Grandpa and the one from my mom's house all bloomed this year. I'm making some pots from cuttings for friends who want to try a Christmas cactus, so if you're reading this and want one, please let me know.

Merry Holiday 2018

Tree N Sunset 2018

It is a tradition.


Can we talk about "learnings"? I have a visceral reaction to this icky, non-standard word, like the feeling I get when I inadvertently touch a slug when I'm gardening...what's that thing??? Learnings!! No!! Also the word "optics".

Apropos of slimy things, I learninged the other day that if you wait long enough, Hachiya persimmons do turn into real food. My review of a Hachiya persimmon is that they may not be worth the wait. They are, however, super cool to feel in your hand when they're very ripe, somewhat like handling an egg yolk. Looking at this photo I realized that the persimmon and my hand are equally wrinkly.

The persimmon and I are also soft to the touch.

December 21, 2018

Your Salami Awaits You

A few weeks back I spent some quality time in my mom's storage cupboards in the garage of her apartment building. One thing I found was middlesis guy's hidey hole. It's the place where she stashes things that people give her on Christmas that she doesn't want to take home on the plane.

And that's where I found the salami. I brought it back upstairs and showed it to her. We both wondered whether you could still eat it. It had been there at least two years, and I can only imagine that it is now either a rare delicacy or could kill you. I imagine that it went in the trash. I'll have to ask when I see her.

UPDATE: middlesis says that fear of death or illness outweighed the possible anecdotal value, so she threw out the salami. There's our answer.

December 17, 2018


I was late to the Systems department bakeoff, but found the last of their savory entries and their bacon. I squeezed the oil out of the bacon before eating it. All flavors made more delicious by their being eaten off of the Pearl Harbor plate.

Yesterday was our neighborhood party, held by our nextdoor neighbors, the ones who nearly burned their house down recently. Despite this, I am particularly fond of them I love their holiday party. This is the third year, and this party has helped me know all of my neighbors better. It's super fun and they're from all over: Nigeria, India, Otherlandia (can't remember!), and then others are super local and have lived here all their lives (like our hosts).

Speaking of our hosts, they love deviled eggs, so I made some yesterday. That helped leaven my mood. Plus anything that takes me into my spice drawer makes me happy.

Hooray for a splash of smoked paprika and a scattering of parsley.

December 16, 2018


It took me a lot of time to get around to decorating the tree. Last weekend Ears was sick (and he still is). That was super distressing and I couldn't finish the tree. Procrastination ensued in other forms.

Yesterday I finally got around to finishing the tree. I had really picked out a weird one, whose branches pointed in all kinds of directions. This made doing the lights super chore-ish. And then my usual Christmas music failed me.

As I've mentioned in previous years I have some downright lugubrious music I like to listen to while decorating my tree. This is all well and good, but I have observed that it's been a rather cruddy year and recreational ennui isn't as fun when you feel an abundance of the real thing. Another observation: whoever sequenced The Raspberries' Greatest Hits is a genius. But even that made me feel blue. This called for soaring violins, over-the-top arrangements, twangy guitar and occasionally inappropriate application of zither. It was Judy Time. And time for the Blue Comets' greatest hits and I'm sorry, Ava, the band from Samoa, you are going back to Hawaii to resell at the record store.

December 10, 2018


They must have hit something beautiful:

December 9, 2018

Adventures In Cat Husbandry

Ears is his papa's special boy. And after the struggle we had at first getting him and his little friend strong and bug-free he's been the strongest fellow ever. Strong like a horse, faithful like a dog. He got sick the other day, then sicker. The vet thinks it's bronchitis or asthma. It's hard to see him sick.

Here he is in stony lonesome, at the vet.

Not shown: I looked through the window from our exam room into the surgery. I noticed that it took four people to draw blood. Three to hold him down and one to do the deed. He never scratches or bites, but he's SO STRONG.

Today he's back on the couch. I'm about to make him a Christmas tree, and then get him some antibiotics.
Good times.

December 2, 2018

Mugo Pine, 2018

Yesterday I began the Christmas season by getting my mom what may have been the most beautiful Christmas tree ever. I delivered it to her, and then middlesis and I put it in the stand. Mission accomplished! The two of them decorated it today.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, I went back to Home Depot today to get our own tree. As I suspected, Mom's tree was, in fact, the most beautiful tree ever. But I found a funky one I liked, and tried my luck at finding a red Christmas cactus in the garden shop. Nope! But my search took me past the garden ornaments and the whim took me. My initial plan was to hang them in our maple trees, but when I looked at ornaments and trees together I realized that my vision wasn't going to work. The mugo pine, however, would be the perfect candidate for decoration.

It's a topiary tree, and before we owned this house someone had spent years lovingly crafting it into three puffballs on chubby branches. It's kinda weird, kinda adorable. When we redid the front yard last month I couldn't say goodbye to it. I wanted to work around it, because when the previous owners redid the front yard they left it in place. This I know from Google Street View. So we've committed to the mugo pine and I am going to celebrate him.

I festooned him with the Home Depot ornaments, as well as plastic vegetables, my plastic woodpecker from the 1980s, a plastic lobster and the action figure of librarian Nancy Pearl. This is still a work in progress, but I'm loving it. Business in the front, party in the back.

November 26, 2018

Norway Day 4

Our last day in Norway was great. We weren't able to make contact with our cousin due to the previously mentioned Jurassic technology problem. Oh well. Instead, mrguy took us to Kode, where we got our first exposure to Hilma af Klint. Her paintings were awesome. Then we took in the Nikolai Astrup show. What I particularly enjoyed about his paintings is that the setting was a farm called Myklebust. My family also lived at a farm of that name, but I don't know if it is the same one (there were several by that name).

Nikolai Astrup's wife, Engel Sunde, filled their house with textiles, some of which she collected and some of which she made. This interior scene is really compelling. In addition to her groovy textiles this painting shows that someone in the household, presumably her, was growing an Easter lily, fuschia, and what looks like an aloe. In Norway, in the early 1900s. I wouldn't have thought, and maybe that's silly of me.

A few more paintings, now. First, mrguy identified this one from sight as a painting by Anton Graf. He was correct. He and I are now kinda experts at spotting late 18th century Eastern German court paintings.

And this painting I loved -- paintings of dead loved ones are both weird and touching, especially when the subject is a child.

After we were done at the museum, mrguy escorted me to the University of Bergen library, where I could look for bygdebøker. Once ensconced at the library, mrguy went off to buy more records. He didn't really have a mission at the library and doesn't read Norwegian, but knew of a record store he hadn't visited already.

Back at the library: with assistance from a librarian I was able to find the section in the library that contained the bygdebøker I needed. I had a great hour and a half figuring out the organization of these books and, really, confirming and extending the family history research I had done twenty years ago, and to take it back another few generations. Yay!

I felt guilty with my pleasure, and after an hour and a half I texted mrguy and we went to a great bar, where we had a few beers. Awesome chairs, there.

And then we went back to the apartment and I spent as much time as possible after packing and before falling asleep using my Norwegian ISP address to access resources on the National Archives digitized collections online. Oh now I wish I had a Norwegian IP address every day! They have digitized newspapers, which would be amazing to read and use for research.

So ends our trip to Sweden and Norway. They are both delightful and different from each other, and I hope that we some day return.

November 23, 2018

Norway Day 3

We met our cousins at their hotel, near the center of downtown. It was fixin' to storm mightily. I like this photo because it shows the view beyond the cousins. At one point I was doing an internal double-take because I was talking to my cousins with the Bergen Fish Market in the background. It got better.

They took us on a bus ride and then a walk in the neighborhood, Sandviken, where my family lived in the late 1800s. It's a part of town where their fellow tradesmen in barrel making and butchery lived and worked.

These buildings are where the ships brought animals from the countryside to be butchered.

From these warehouses the meat would be carted around that point in the background of the photo above and over to Central Bergen.

My family lived up the road from the warehouses, in a series of apartments close to their work. On the second floor, at the balcony, over what is now a kebab shop is where some of my family lived, while others lived in the building across the street. I remember visiting the yellow place in the 1970s, when a friend of the family still lived there.

In the present, we walked down the cobblestone street past these places. It was so pretty and relatively untouched.
I took the shot above to show what it looked like looking back up from the warehouses toward the kebab shop. At this point we had to take refuge from the rain under a construction worker's scaffolding and tarp. It was raining in all directions.

We took the bus back to town to see the site of the old meat market. It's fairly famous as a landmark, and my family for many years had a butcher stall there. After my great grandfather died, my great grandmother continued to run the business until the 1960s. Pretty remarkable.

The building was refurbished (and is still under construction). We went in and had some coffee at the Starbucks to warm up. Here's the view from inside the Kjøttbasaren:

We were soaked through from our walk in the rain earlier, so we parted ways with our cousins and went home to take a shower and get into some dry clothes.

For dinner we stopped at Pingvinen. Had some vegetarian lapskaus and fish and yummy cheeses. They were also playing a lot of good music (ex: Cream's Disraeli Gears, all of it, in album order).

Then we found ourselves back at Appolon, and realized that they were doing rock pub quiz. Bunch of grey haired white guys hunched over cafe tables with pieces of paper? Definitely Pub quiz.
After pub quiz ended (it was all in Norwegian), the dj played a song that mrguy played on. I explained to the dj that mrguy was on that record, and it turns out that it was one of his favorite bands.

So ends another epic day in Norway.

Norway Day 2

As mrguy said, this was epic.

We had rough plans to meet our cousin in the morning or afternoon. What I didn't know was that she'd drowned her phone that week and was using a loaner phone -- Jurassic technology. I'd sent her an email suggesting we get together around 1pm on Sunday. She didn't get it. And so we were drinking coffee in our jammies when the doorbell of our apartment rang and it was my cousin. She couldn't reach us and it was a beautiful day so she walked 6.5 Kilometers from her house to our apartment.

She's a delightful person -- smart, direct, knows everything about everything and is recently retired. She volunteers at a place that offers activities for people with Alzheimer's, so she understands what we've been going through with Mom's illness. We talked for several hours and then met up a few blocks away to go on the funicular to Mt Fløyen. The view up there is stupendous, the goats are adorable and being with my cousin after all of these years was amazing!

We came back down and went back to our apartment for a bit before meeting up with cousins again in the evening. We spent a lot of time at 7-11, eating margherita panini. Oddly satisfying, as was being able to scarf and get some rest, instead of using all of our time in restaurants. I had such plans for dining, but it wasn't going to turn out to be the best use of our time. Plus we got to see stuff that made us laugh, like this:
We hooked up with our cousins later on. It was so great. In addition to my younger cousin, who I had met before, we met an older cousin who is 85 or so and more spry than I am and completely hilarious. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. An even younger cousin, a college student, picked us up and drove us out to near the airport, speaking Norwegian most of the time. Just to be clear, my mind is being blown the whole time. I am *in* a car in Norway with *relatives I haven't seen in decades* and they're all speaking another language and we're all related.

When we got to a beautiful house on a fjord, we were at our destination. A cousin's house. Big, gorgeous, has a boat house, and the fresh water for the house was specially piped in from across the fjord. Children ride show horses and the wife is from Biarritz. And yet, these are the most down to earth people. So lovely. All interested in family, family history, and sharing stories. We sat at a long farm table and discussed family and family trees. And then it was time to go back to town.


We had made a pinkie swear earlier in the day to go to the beer bar / record store, Apollon, when we got back to town. Had to take a picture of the setting.

What a day.

October 6, 2018

Norway, Day 1

I had so many plans for Norway. In the end, we didn't do 95% of them. Planning is fun and the actual trip is fun and what you end up doing that you'd planned for is a teensy part of the Venn diagram.

Mrguy excelled at navigation and accommodation-picking. We got to 2 Døtre in the late afternoon and found a gift bag waiting for us, a present from my cousin. Chocolate, a book about the wooden houses of Bergen, and two rain ponchos. She is so thoughtful.

We looked around the neighborhood. This is the view down our street. Our apartment was just a few blocks from Greig Hall.
I loved the architecture, and how buildings were set at random angles next to one another.

After dinner we went to Garage, to see a band called Virkelig. I'd done my research beforehand, because I wanted to see some rock music by a band who performed in the norwegian language. The venue, The Garage, was great. Just the right blend of grubby and cool. The crowd was small -- maybe 50 people, mostly younger, and a few who might be the parents of the band. The band played as if for a stadium, and all the kids in the audience sang along. It was such a sweet scene.

So ends day 1 in Norway.
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