Friday, December 16, 2011

A Sad Farewell to my Sweet Isabelle

I’m so very sorry to tell you that, Isabelle, my sweet Furgirl, died yesterday at the age of eleven.

This will come as quite a shock to some of my Facebook friends who were , less than a week ago, told she was suffering from nothing more than a “hurt toe”. In the end, though, it would be this misdiagnosis that would lead us to a much better close to Isabelle’s precious life than we might have had otherwise.

For this at least, I will always be eternally grateful.

It became apparent by the next day, Tuesday, that Isabelle was suffering from something much more grave than a simple hurt toe. Her limpness quickly became lameness and that spiraled into a complete inability to bear any weight on her left leg at all. I was able to help her walk when I needed to with the old sling/towel trick, but by Wednesday morning there was absolutely no question that she needed medical attention quickly.

The day was rainy and Isabelle’s steep decline had left her weaker than I could have even imagined possible just a few days before. The thought of loading her in and out of the car was more than I could stand for either of us and so I called a new veterinarian in the Paducah area, one that we’d heard had a practice that was entirely mobile.

Bonnie Jones of Purchase Area Mobile Vet Service was at my door just an hour and a half later. Isabelle, amidst a barrage of treats that included, to her great delight, Cheez Whiz, in her own soft bed, was quickly diagnosed with a likely torn or damaged ACL (an injured ligament deep within her knee where the upper and lower bones of the leg meet). Having had some experience with people and this injury, I immediately knew this, in and of itself, was quite a serious injury. But, more than that, I also knew in my heart, had known since I wrote this, that something else, something more sinister, was likely afoot. A dog as hyper exuberant as Isabelle would not normally be brought so low by even a useless knee.

There was nothing else to be done but run the tests that would give us the complete picture of her condition.

Early yesterday morning, Dr. Jones, her assistant and I carefully loaded Isabelle’s bed and Isabelle into the way-back of my Subaru. Just one more short night on earth had noticeably robbed Isabelle of a staggering amount of the ridiculously good health she enjoyed for mostly all of her eleven years. The faraway look, the look that started as just an occasional flickering shadow (did I really see that?) in Isabelle’s soft brown eyes had deepened. Deepened and spread to a point that almost seemed like a trick of the imagination, deepened to an extent that I wouldn’t have thought possible the day before.

As I waited with her outside the clinic while Dr. Jones cleared the way so the dog in her weakened state would have no wait, but a straight shot to the testing rooms, I reflexively snapped the last photo I would ever take of Isabelle with my iPhone. The camera, as it sometimes will, captured not only the look in her eyes, but the pain that was behind it. My girl was hurting, I knew.

And not from a blown knee.

Isabelle walked with much difficulty as I helped with the sling, into the clinic. She did this for the sole reason, I believe, that she knew I wanted her to. What I had been led to believe would be some pretty extensive testing was cut short when the true nature of Isabelle’s condition was discovered. Her lungs were being overtaken with the disease that was choking the life from her with a speed and ferocity that could not possibly be fought. Soon, it would leave her gasping for air.

We could not-- would not-- let that happen.

My heart was heavy and broken with the truth, but my brain—ever slow to catch on—kept babbling.

She is running low on her anti-inflammatory meds, I told Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones stared back at me.

Saturday, I said to myself. It must be done by Saturday.

We loaded Isabelle into the Subaru and I brought her home. I dipped her favorite treats in peanut butter and loaded them with what the doctor said was the maximum dosage of her pain meds. A dose so large that it made me weak in the knees to feed it to her. I covered her with my soft suede throw and then put my gently heated electric blanket over that. I grabbed the pillow off my bed and lifted her sweet furry head onto it. I could not persuade her to let me help her or lift her on to her bed. For whatever reason, she preferred the floor. And so that’s where she stayed. I lay down next to her, just as we did during the ice storm. I petted her head and stroked her fur and told her over and over what a good girl she is and that I love her.

It soon became obvious, even with the unimaginably large dose of pain meds I had given her, that Isabelle—a lifelong world class napper--could not rest. I could pet and soothe her into a fitful sleep, but it wouldn’t last more than a few minutes before she would wake with a start and reach blindly for me with her big paw, suddenly confused, and I would comfort her and soothe her into sleep again. I realized that pattern couldn’t go on until “before Saturday”, couldn’t go on until Friday, and that Isabelle should most certainly not suffer another night plagued as she was by the motherfucker that sought to engulf her.

My heart was broken and at the same time grateful, so grateful, that I could give Isabelle an end that would be dignified and devoid of more suffering and that I could rob her sickness of its last terrible victory. So grateful that Isabelle would be able to draw her last breath in her own living room, the very same room that she first came home to as a puppy eleven years before.

I called Dr. Jones and set a time.

Isabelle died late yesterday afternoon after she drifted off to sleep. She was surrounded by people who love her, friends both old and new. I held her great paw as her big heart stopped and whispered my last words to her, a phrase I’m happy to say she heard many times throughout her life,

“Mommie loves you.”

I stayed with her until the end and after. I loaded her precious limp body into the car and took her to the place that will turn her into ashes.

I’ve cried a thousand tears and I’m sure I will cry a thousand more, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. It could never possibly BE enough.

No one can ever live up to the heart of a retriever.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Gee-Baby, her Imaginary Nursery, and the Olioboard that Made it Happen.

So, I'm sure all three of my readers remember that I had a grandbaby back at the end of October, right? I'm happy to report that said grand baby is thriving, gaining weight at nothing short of an alarming pace, (she weighed in at a slight 4 lbs 3 oz initially) and becoming more and more alert with each passing day.

In fact she dropped in for a visit:

See that face?

It's saying,

Yah, I'm cute and all and I'm fairly quiet at the moment. But my stomach hurts and I assure you, I can get medieval on your ass in point five seconds. So don't tempt me.

We didn't.

What we did do is briefly discuss (with her parents) her crib bedding set which is as yet unpurchased due to her unexpected early arrival. Instead of coming via a shower, the set will come in the form of a Christmas gift. It only took a brief conversation in which I suggested they check into the Dwell Studio Line at Target (which I love beyond all reason) to get me thinking in terms of a nursery and what it might look like. Of course, what I like about the Dwell line is the great colors and patterns that are nice jumping off points for design but aren't completely gimmicky and based on princesses and flowers and hearts and rainbows shooting out one's ass all the live-long day. Not that there's anything wrong with that if it's what you're into. But it doesn't take being a novice grandmother to a granddaughter (and the requisite shopping for same) for long for a person to realize the whole "princess/diva" theme has gone a Barbie-mobile toddler tiara too far. Holy CRAP, you wouldn't believe the tee-shirts, dresses, and tu-tu's that scream (essentially), "spoiled rotten brat and proud of it" endlessly. Not to mention the pink, The Pink, THE PIIIIIIINK! Dear Lord, it's just way, WAY too much.

But I digress.

What I'm actually working on design-wise presently, is my own kitchen redesign. I'm in the middle of painting my formerly bright shiny oak cabinets in a satisfying black, and doing some fairly exciting (to me anyway) re purposing in that room. It is my goal to document that process here and with pictures.

We'll see if that materializes.

Also, I'm beginning to consult with my very own mother on redecorating her bedroom, my cousin on her (almost) complete repainting project and, last but certainly not least, Nikki May's currently hopelessly stalled front porch project. And this last project is halted by weather, premature birth, the holidays, and what next...war, famine, pestilence, perhaps? Let's hope not. Lest we forget, STALLED does not mean stopped, however. We are planning some indoor work on that one soon (like cushion sewing).

Meanwhile, Mom's bedroom paint colors on the table are: taupe, chocolate, deep gray, medium gray, and, most recently, a Farrow & Ball color called Claydon Blue--Claydon Blue 87 to be exact and it looks something like this:

Recommended all over the innernets by House Beautiful and numerous other design blogs, it's one of those colors that the more I looked at it, the more it intrigued me. I logged on tonight with the intention of ordering a sample only to discover !GASP! it must be discontinued because it's nowhere to be found on the F & B site. Which, of course, has the effect of only making me want it more! Damn you, Claydon Blue No. 87! What a design prick tease you are! (And if YOU have any information/thoughts/insights about the color, pretty please post in the comments?)

It was at about this time that I decided I needed to to a mood board for Mom's room, not to mention actually figure out how one of those things are done and in pursuit of that goal, I dutifully headed on over to Olioboard.

And, Oh Em Gee, people. Oh Em Gee. As I remarked on Facebook, I did NOT need to know about this site, nor the thousands of design possibilities at one's fingertips.

I'm not sure how many hours I spent pulling this nursery together, but I am sure I enjoyed every single second of doing it. Obviously, this is not a traditional looking girl's nursery and that's one of the things I like best about it though I'm pretty sure Kamryn's parents are in the market for (and will end up with) something more traditional. Regardless, once I happened upon that deep yummy blue paint color from The Land of Nod, my imagination was, like it or not, off and running.

Kamryn actually already has a crib that happens to look much like the one pictured and a white chest of drawers. The child's rocker pictured is a representation of one I myself had as a kid and that I would gift to Kamryn for the nursery. The Dwell Studio crib bedding and curtains are extremely affordable. The two squares to the right of the dresser are Dr. Seuss fabric swatches which I think would be great to cover a lamp shade and make a tiny throw pillow for the rocker as well as some misc. pillows for the crib. One could substitute the Seusse fabric in place of the matching curtains, even, though I think the black and white swatch would work best for that. The mobile in the center is from CB2 and one that I've been in love with for a while. I just about flipped when I realized it blends perfectly with this color scheme. It, too, is affordable at like 19.95. The white wooden tree bookcase, which I love, is crazy expensive. But that's something I think could be easily made by hand either entirely with wood or through a combination of paint on the wall and wood. Ditto the "Share Your Toys -The Management" sign, a sentiment I really love, but I do think that graphic could easily be printed and similarly framed for a whole lot less than $86.

If you're interested, you can click through to this Olioboard right here and see a larger version of the items as well as details on where it can all be bought and for how much. If you're looking for a mood board site I highly recommend this one, though I admittedly have no experience with any other.

As for me and Olioboard, I can only imagine this nursery design will almost certainly be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Design Find: Combine (or tractor) Gear Candle Holders. Courtesy of The Tool Shed.

I took a little trip to my Grandma's house back in September (it might possibly have been October) to meet my Dad there and to catch up on...farming. Not that I know much about it. The point is, it was perfectly beautiful fall weather. The kind that makes you want to weep and clutch your chest and lasts five minutes.

This is Grandma's house (a panoramic shot via Autostitch); it is located deep in the heart of southern Illinois between Benton and Mt. Vernon and not nearly far enough away from the maximum security prison where John Gotti died for comfort. The house is surrounded on all sides by cultivated fields. The building to the extreme right in the photograph is: The Tool Shed. The other stuff besides the house and The Tool Shed are much newer.

The Tool Shed has been there since perhaps the 1940's (? maybe longer). When I was a kid growing up (I'd like to say mostly in the eighties, but I'd be lying) and spending holidays and vacations at Grandma's house, the Tool Shed was (well, and still is) the most likely spot in which to find male persons of the farming persuasion. I spent many early summer/fall/winter/spring evenings perched in my three step booster chair watching as the creamy whipped potatoes and fluffy yeast rolls slowly cooled on the table while we waited for my Dad, his brother(s), and their Dad (or some configuration of this group) to deign to leave The Tool Shed, come in the back door, wash their hands with Lava soap, and sit down to dinner so they and the rest of us could eat.

There was no eating before they got there. And there was no discernable sign of impatience on the part of my Grandma, no matter how long the pause between placing dinner on the table and the time the eating began. Nobody had to be told what time dinner was served because it was on the table at the same time every day and that time was either five or six o'clock, I can't remember which. Occassionally, like kids do, I would become convinced I was in danger of collapse from hunger if I had to wait another minute and, on those days, I was sometimes sent out to The Tool Shed to remind those who already knew dinner was ready that dinner was ready.

Not that I went IN The Tool Shed. No, I'd climb off my booster chair, head outside, hop down the the front porch steps, walk down the sidewalk, and begin crunching my way across the gravel drive going around the old Studebaker and past the big gas tank (both gone now), until the massive door of The Tool Shed yawned in front of me, exhaling the scent of motor oil from its inky inscrutable depths. There were always guys milling around out front, sometimes just my family members (Dad, uncles, Grandpa), at other times other men as well. They were usually smoking. They paid me little mind, and knew why I was there.

"Dinner is ready" wasn't exactly a newsflash.

I'd learned the trek was futile by the time I was in double digits. As a teenager, I could be found at the dinner table chin in hand and resigned to cooling potatoes as inevitable fact of life. By then, however, I'd thought to wonder just what the hell was so fascinating out there and to include "Stag film playing secretly in back room" on my list of imaginary possible explanations. It would have to be good to distract one from Grandma's delicious horticulture beans and perfectly latticed fruit pies (as often as not topped with real Dairy Queen frozen soft serve), I reasoned.

Anyway, honestly, the stag film theory is unlikely (but I'm open to anyone's confession--leave it in the comments).

And on that day, the day just a few months ago, the perfect fall day in either September or October, fast forward thirty years or so and I actually got to poke through The Tool Shed my very own self. Which is where I found the items in question:

Don't these just scream VINTAGE CANDLE HOLDERS to you? They did to me. To my father and uncle who accompanied me they screamed:

Something is seriously wrong with the person who would think of these items as "home decor".

Of course, I'm not the type that would be deterred by such an attitude. And I think they're very nice, don't you? They are spare (extra? important?) parts off a tractor or combine originally. Stay tuned for another vintage find on that same expedition and subsequent re-mix.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hamburger Helper Potatoes Stroganoff: The Home Made Recipe (And my usual TMI back story)

I'm a little frustrated today because I've developed a home made version of a dish I used to regularly cook for my son, Chase, (now a father himself) when he was growing up that I wanted to post at All Recipes (my go-to cooking site). What I didn't realize until now that to be a posting cook you have to "join" and pay money. Hrrmph!

The recipe, in case you haven't guessed by now, is a home made version of the Hamburger Helper classic: Potatoes Stroganoff. A quick Google just now left me with the notion that this box dinner may no longer be available in stores and, yes, there is some weeping and wailing out there about the loss! Thus, this post may be more helpful to some out there than I first realized. You can thank me later.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly proud to announce that I fed my growing son Hamburger Helper on a regular basis. Let's just say I wasn't the more evolved cook then that I am today. In fact, I was SO bad that my cherished son grew up with the notion that Sloppy Joe sandwiches are Food of the Gods. And at age 26, he still holds this opinion. Yes, yes, leave your indictments in the comments. In my defense (if in fact there is one) I was a) Young b) Poor c) Extremely taken up with the Drama of Being in My Twenties. And people, if you either don't recall or have not yet reached your twenties, let me assure you: there is no more dramatic condition in this life than being in one's twenties. The HORROR! The INDIGNITY! The DRAMATIC SITUATIONS that no one else on earth can POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND!

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Anyway, to make a (largely unnecessary) back story even (unnecessarily) longer, for the record, I didn't start out as a Sloppy Joe Hamburger Helper kinda mom. Much like Nathan, Junior, the pages of "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care" was the dog-eared bible of Chase's first year. Dr. Spock's suggested schedules and baby menus served as the skeleton that his baby diet was constructed around. I read baby food jars with the critically suspicious eye of a nutritionist. Sugar?! No, thank you! Farina, Cream of Wheat! These were the whole grain, hearty cereals that served as the foundation of a baby diet calculated to promote healthy growth and development. Oh, those halcyon days when I could control everything!

Throw in four more years, a full time job (mine), a burgeoning tee-ball career (his) and the aforementioned Drama and let's just call it a recipe for Hamburger Helper, shall we? In any case, this is a more delicious version of the original that, for the most part, consists of whole ingredients. I cooked it the first time a few weeks ago once it hit me that the whole thing was based on ranch flavoring. And, yes, I could construct the ranch flavor from my existing spice cabinet and do away wtih the the dip ingredient. But for now, baby steps.

Most importantly, there is something about this comfort food that's hard to beat this time of year. I've probably cooked it three times in the last month. As a bonus, it's one of those dishes that's as, if not more, delicious reheated. I'm not seeing a recipe like mine anywhere else on the internet--the ones I have seen call for noodles (??) and some for cream of mushroom soup (NO!). I assure you, noodles were not part of the original stroganoff package and cream of mushroom soup would be an abomination in this dish.

Without further adieu:

Potato Stroganoff (serves 4)

1 lb ground chuck
4oz can mushrooms drained or--better-- half cup fresh sliced baby portobellos (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
olive oil
1 14-oz can beef broth
1 envelope ranch dip mix
4 small or 2-3 larger (more if you prefer) washed unpeeled red potatoes halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half moons
couple of tablespoons of minced fresh parsley (preferably from your yard)
half cup sour cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste.

Begin by mostly covering the bottom of a deep skillet with olive oil. Heat oil over medium heat until hot; add garlic, onions, ground chuck and mushrooms, season (but be stingy with the salt, the broth tends to be too salty, I try to by reducted sodium for this reason). Brown ingredients stirring occasionally over med to med-low heat until nearly all liquid has evaporated (15+ minutes). De glaze with the beef broth. Bring mixture to boil, add potatoes, dip mix, half the parsley. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are done, stirring occasionally, 15- 20 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch and simmer a few more minutes to thicken. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream and remaining parsley--do not boil. Return to heat if necessary to heat through (but don't boil!). Serve topped with a little Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, if you like.

[I am committed to seeing that, at least at my house, this will be the only version of "Hamburger Helper" that my granddaughter ever know. Also, I'll try and update this post with a photo of the dish if I ever get around to it. But, be warned, the stuff's not pretty. Just comforting and yummy.]

Friday, November 04, 2011

Kamryn Elizabeth

[Updated with 2 new photos 11/17/11 at 1:51 am]
[Updated with 6 new photos 11/13/11 at 3:45 pm]

[Updated with 3 new photos 11/4/11 at 11:46 pm]
[Updated with 3 new photos 11/1/11 at 12:00 am]
[Updated with 10 new photos 10/31/11 at 11:15 pm]

YES, I am Paducah's first Gangstah Grandma! And, damn, it feels good.

Kamryn Elizabeth was born after three exhaustive days in the hospital on October 29th at 6:30 a.m. weighing in at 4 lbs 3 oz (five weeks early) and measuring 17 inches long. She remains in the neonatal intensive care unit, but is doing well, is active, and sucking down 3 ml of formula every three hours.

[As an aside, I've been assured Kamryn will be an "only" just like her Grammy. So we'll have that in common.]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Guess who's iPet...

SEE how much better my Isabelle post looks over at iList Paducah. Where everything's properly formatted! Right here.

Golden Girl

A few weeks ago I participated in a 5K run/walk, a fundraiser for Project Hope, a worthy no-kill animal shelter that serves the southern Illinois and western Kentucky areas (send them your spare cash this instant!). I decided Isabelle would take the walk with me, her being a dog and all and that morning, as is her way, Isabelle caught on very quickly to the fact that she was having an Outing. She learned as a puppy to identify the word "walk". She will perk up her ears the minute the word is spoken, tilt her head to one side, stare intently into my face, every nerve and sinew aquiver, and begin the pant of excitement that translates loosely to,

Did you say WALK? Is it me? ME??? I'm going for a WALK? OHMYGOD REALLY? REALLY? SHIT! I gotta pee...

pant, twirl, sweat, slobber, tremble, release fur cloud--REPEAT.

The rattle of her leash (it doesn't come out often now that my yard is completely fenced for the dog's enjoyment) only confirmed her growing suspicion and amped up her already off-the-chart level of hysteria,


With difficulty (because of her extreme excitement level), I got her loaded into the back of the car. Once we set off, it was a constant stream of the sound her trying to pace in a space barely larger than a kennel, coupled with my ultimate pet pet peeve of the universe, the dreaded, the annoying, like fingernails on a chalkboard, the: mouth breathing.

And make no mistake? Isabelle knows exactly what mouth breathing is and that she isn't supposed to be doing it in the car (or anywhere near me). It goes something like this:



(shouting over my shoulder into the din)



(suddenly dead silent)

7.5 seconds later...






(suddenly dead silent)

Repeat above 10+ times on the 7-minute ride to the park.

Once there, I unloaded the shaking, drooling, mouth-breathing mass of quivering fur that perhaps, say, a mere 30 minutes earlier had been a boneless unresponsive heap of jointless dog on the floor. I clamped her leash on and began the arduous task of both walking her in a strange place and reminding her of her training. This means not allowing her to pull me, but rather, when she does, stopping, pulling up on the leash, turning the dog in a circle, commanding her to sit and then setting out again, giving her the command to "Heel!".

Much like with mouth breathing, Isabelle, all appearances to the contrary, knows what she is supposed to be doing. She's just. Too. Damn. Excited. To concentrate. For more than a few. Seconds. At a time. At first.

We make our way to the sign-in station in this lurching fashion: pull up-stop -turn-sit-heel-walk a few steps...pull up-stop-turn-sit-heel-walk a few steps, over and over. By the time we get there, Isabelle is beginning to respond slightly better to commands and has regained a small fraction of her senses. I can stop and sit her, saying "wait", giving her the hand signal (basically my palm in front of her face) and she will do so for brief periods before becoming distracted and trying to lurch away. This trick will get her another pull up on the leash, a tap of her haunch with my foot, and the "wait!" again.

By the time the race/walk was about to begin, Isabelle was mostly under control. We positioned ourselves firmly at the back of the pack (no running for me! still hate it!). I thought nothing of taking Isabelle along for a brisk three-mile (no, I'm never converting to metric) walk. It was a beautiful crisp fall morning, the perfect weather--blue skies, puffy clouds floating by. It was warming up quickly, though, and most everyone had shed the light jackets they had arrived wearing. Once the runners sprang away, we set out, me chatting all the while. Isabelle fell into step mostly beside me, and, after a time, I had to pull her back from straining on the leash only occasionally and then, a while after that, not at all.

We had completed perhaps the first half of the walk before I noticed Isabelle falling a little short. I glanced down at her, a little incredulous. Her face, almost completely white now, was near the ground and she was breathing in slow, tired pants. I heard a scraping noise that took me a moment to realize was the sound of her dragging one foot slightly. For the first few seconds, I couldn't understand what I was seeing. Like looking at those purposely illusory drawings you have to stare at for few seconds before the picture comes into focus, I stared down at Isabelle. She looked exhausted. Suddenly, a hundred observed but not studied moments began falling into place in my mind: Isabelle not being the first out the door in the morning; Isabelle with a strange look on her face sometimes, as though she can't quite make sense of something; a certain still quality she has now when she's resting...too still; a pause sometimes for a few beats between the time I say her name, and the time she looks over and becomes responsive.

In that moment, a bell that had been ringing in the distance for months, maybe years, became an ominous clang.

Isabelle is...old.

She just had her eleventh birthday.

I suddenly remembered a conversation I'd had with a dog lover when I was first considering adopting a dog of my own, probably a few months before I got Isabelle:

What's it like having a dog, I'd asked.

And what he said was that a dog is a little like having a child but speeded up in fast motion. With a dog, he said, everything--puppyhood, adulthood, old age--is compressed and condensed into a much shorter timeline. Of course, I knew this. We all know this, right? But something about the way he'd put it that day made the words stick with me. And as I stood there seeing Isabelle, usually the most rambunctious and enthusiastic of dogs, now stooped and nearly worn out from a walk that she wouldn't have even noticed not that long ago, I knew I was seeing that short arc for myself.

We would slow our pace and finish the walk that day. And, afterward, Isabelle was tired, but still excited and happy to be there. But as I loaded her into the car, she had to have help getting in. For the first time ever, she was too tired to execute her usual easy one-motion precise leap into the way-back area in which she rides. And I came away that day with a new appreciation for what I've always known is true: my time with my big, furry oldest girl is limited.

Even so, most days, Isabelle is able to gallivant around as if she were a much younger dog. She is often spry given a full night's rest. The vet told me when she was younger that Isabelle had some of the best hip joints he'd ever felt (especially in a retrieverish sort of dog--no doubt the benefit of some creative breeding) and these still serve her very well, enabling her to sproing through the tall grass on occassion. She will still jump enthusiastically into any body of water she encounters, although she won't stay in as long as she used to and she struggles more when hefting herself back out again, when her thick coat is heavy with the weight of the water. Isabelle, more often than not, is a very happy and fairly active dog indeed. If we're lucky, we still have many more years left together.

But since the day of the walk and for weeks now, Isabelle's life, at different times and in different ways, has been replaying in my head off and on. Even when I'd rather it didn't. I'm remembering times and days and incidents I haven't thought about in years. I suppose this is the normal process. This is what happens when one comes to a realization like I have.

In the meantime, Isabelle has been enjoying additional privileges and freedoms since my ephiphany and I suspect these will continue to grow. Her tendency, since puppyhood, to swipe food off momentarily unsupervised plates and ingest it quick as lightening followed by the, "Who me?" face has resurfaced. Only these days, she's getting away with it. I suspect this will continue. Whatever happens, I will be here for Isabelle for as long as she needs me. Just as she has done the same for me every day and every night since that October day eleven years ago when I spotted her, a fat shy blonde little thing, hiding behind her kennel. I mean, hello? Clearly, she was a puppy destined for doggie greatness.

A few weeks ago I began the going through my digital files and editing my photos of Isabelle and consolidating them into a single file. I felt the need to get them all in one place. That process, which began as a casual project, quickly turned to steady occupation, then semi-urgent mission, and, finally, to full blown obsession. It was a massive undertaking given my sloppy tendencies where things like photo files are concerned. Not only did I have to slog though Pinky's only marginally organized archives, but also the external drive that holds approximately a zillion images from my old computer and even some film images before that. Isabelle has been much photographed to say the very least, first with old skool film, then on my crappy Fuji digital camera that came free with something or other, then with my "real" camera and now with my iPhone. Isabelle, along with the rest of us, has advanced fully into the digital age.

Once I amassed Isabelle's photos, I became equally obsessed with the idea of organizing them into a little slide show; it sounds simple enough, right? I used the only program on my computer for such a project: Microsoft movie maker (probably not the best choice). Regardless, it's been cathartic--if exhausting-- to put together the the thing together (I'll spare you the details of my technical problems and nineteen nervous breakdowns, and countless viewings of Movie Maker "fix" videos).

I've often been accused of favoring Tallulah over Isabelle by those that read me here. But I submit the following video as evidence to the contrary. Doubters? This one's for you...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Design Find: Skateboard Table

I absolutely LOVE this idea for a either boy's room or for any skateboard enthusiast! A skateboard mounted on hairpin legs. Use a new or vintage board; legs are available here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beware the moon...

It's that time of year when the nights get colder, the dark gets creepier, the wind begins to howl and, if you're anything like me, you long to have the crap scared out of you by a reeeeally good horror movie. The bad news? They are in short supply. The good news? Tonight, Maiden Alley Cinema brings you one of the best on the big screen: An American Werewolf in London in hi-def!

(insert wolf howl here)

Originally released in 1981, this John Landis (Blues Brothers, Animal House) both written and directed film is a modern (by 1980s standards) day re imagining of the tale of the werewolf that is one the most well done, ever, period. The story blends comedy and horror in almost equal measure and does it so well that neither element is ever compromised by the other. The story takes us, not surprisingly, to (guess where?) Europe where two wise-cracking college buddies, David and Jack, played by David Naughton ("Wouldn'cha like to be a Pepper too?") and Griffin Dunne (son of late, great, celebrity crime chronicler and novelist, Dominick Dunne, and bother to the late Dominique Dunne, the actor that played the hickey-covered hysterical teen-aged sister in another horror classic "Poltergeist" and was later brutally murdered by her boyfriend at the age of only 22 a year after the release of Werewolf) respectively, Landis quickly does one of the things he does best: establishes a believable, easy reporte between the two friends who are doing the ol' "backpack across Europe" routine. We all know David and Jack. For instance (as David and Jack are walking the moors on a chilly moon bright night):


Did you hear that?


I heard that.


What was it?


Could have been a lot of things.




A coyote.


There aren't any coyotes in England.


Hound of the Baskervilles?


Pecos Bill?




Heathcliffe didn't howl!


No, but he was on the moors.

Wacka-wacka. Funny stuff. They're just imagining things. Bad things don't happen to the happy-go-lucky David and Jacks of the world, right? Wrong. Werewolf goes on to tell an improbable, sometimes funny, sometimes, scary, but increasingly eerie story that will stick with you. Like, as in, FOREVER. (I haven't been saying "beware the moon" for 30 years for nuthin'.)

"Werewolf" was nominated for two Oscars and came away with one for Rick Baker's ground breaking special effects make-up. Believe me when I say Landis' transformation sequences fueled by Baker's effects STILL stand the test of time as some of the best ever. This was the first of many Oscars for Baker who would later go on to win for: Men in Black, Harry and the Hendersons, Ed Wood, the Nutty Professor, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and, most recently, the Wolfman (2010). Baker also engineered the make-up for "Planet of the Apes" in 2001 (shout out!).

Also famously featured in "Werewolf" are pop moon classic songs "Bad Moon Risin'" by CCR and three versions of "Blue Moon" from Bobby Vinton, Sam Cooke, and The Marcels. Van Morrison's "Moondance" is featured in a lovemaking scene. Interestingly, Polygram studio execs in all their usual infinite wisdom wanted mega-stars of the time, John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd cast in the leading roles (as if!). Wisely and obviously, Landis refused. "Werewolf" has gone on to attain cult status enjoying its most recent re-release in 2009.

Tonight's special screening of "Werewolf" is also a fund raiser for the best little independent movie house in Kentucky. Tickets are $15 for members, $20 for non-members, and admission also includes two drink tickets (Schlafly Pale Ale!) and a themed food spread (any guesses?). Showtime is 7 pm. But get there at 6:00 for drinks, snacks and mingling with other smart people with good taste in movies like yourself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Which I Become a "Celebrity" (and we use that term loosely) Shopper over at iList Paducah

Yes, friends, for the low, low, price of lunch and half a bloody mary, turns out I'll shop, write, and slap my own ass in public for you. I'm easy like Sunday mornin'. Enjoy the whole article right here and be in awe (as I am) of Nikki May's totes awesome Instagram and photography skillz. (Have I mentioned my obsession with Instagram?)

In addition, porch progress continues apace! Watch this space (as in tomorrow) for report on all the latest--we've made huge strides!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nikki's Front Porch Re-Design, Chapter 1: Blogmailed. (And a backstory)

Thought I wouldn't be back, didn't you? Thought I'd leave you shivering with antici...[SAY IT!]...PATION! Right?

Yah, me too.

My good friend, Nikki May, shy, retiring gal that she is, has decided that I, as the Official Paducah Designer to the (wanna-be) Paducah Stars [tm], should not only head up and assist in the effort to re-design her front porch (pictured above) from drab to fab, but that I MUST ALSO fervently blog this event in the hope that the act of doing so will blast through the thick brick wall of writer's block that encapsulates me. To this end, she's employed various strategies such as assigning me writing and list making tasks, brainstormed some quite good potential commercial writing assignments (thus far to no avail) as well as taken to regularly exacting promises of blog posting from me, especially relating to her front porch re-do. Nikki's knowledge that indoor/outdoor spaces is a particular passion of mine (as well as one that we share) has proven to be my Achilles heel.

In short, it is Blogmail. (Like if blackmail had a dust covered blog.)

Yes, I must blog this. (Repeat.)

My lack of enthusiasm for producing literary prose on the subject should NOT be mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm about the project in general, however. For my enthusiasm for porchy, decky patio-ish outdoorish spaces simply knows no bounds. Since a spring storm deposited my original deck tent on my roof, I have spent the majority of this summer's warmer weather setting up my NEW deck tent (now known as ze casbah) and stuffing it with plants, furniture, pillows, throws, rugs, candle holders of my own design (unifying theme: gravel--I love gravel), and anything else that strikes my fancy.

A further personal challenge is to do this sort of thing on a budget, and I rarely if ever buy anything for ze casbah that isn't on sale, specifically, this means I'm not really happy if a purchase doesn't clock in AT LEAST at 50% off retail. I'll settle for 40% if I REALLY like it but, frankly, that pisses me off. I hunt the garden department clearance racks at Lowes for half-price plants (and you should have seen me at the half off half off sale)--and this doesn't mean I get crappy plants, it means that I buy plants that aren't in bloom THIS SECOND but that will perform quite well given food, water, and proper re potting. I search places like Big Lots and flea markets, I scour the Internet for ideas.

Ze Casbah:

In short, it is an obsession. And one that pays off nicely in a comfortable indoor/outdoor space in which to entertain as well the place in which I've whiled away the majority of my summer evenings this year. At this point, ze casbah gets way more play than my actual indoor living room. It is the first place I go in the morning and the last place I sit at night. Because, honestly, there is just something about that enclosed/not enclosed indoor-outdoor space. There is something magical that happens on a porch or a covered outdoor space or a balcony when you're surrounded by blooming plants and perched on comfy furniture and sipping a cool drink and I think it's this: That place is just for being there and enjoying this day, this very minute. It's neither inside (where things need doing) or outside (where the rest of the world is happening). It's just right here, right now. The place where you whisper a secret or enjoy the rain or curl up with a book. Or watch the rest of the world pass by. Your safe little place. A place that is very intentionally not one thing or the other.

And all that is to say this: for indoor/outdoor space, it's hard to beat the classic southern porch. Like, oh, I don't know, one that you might find on, say...a bungalow? And, seriously, how much fun does living in a bungalow sound like? Say it with me,

"I live in a bungalow!" (Try not to smile.)

Is it just me or does the word "bungalow" immediately conjure up images of a Holly Golightly conga-line? Who gets depressed in a bungalow? Nobody, that's who. Who wants to go to a party in a bungalow? Everybody, that's who. Who wants to re-do the front porch of a bungalow?

HEY! That's ME!
(to be read in the SNL "clucky chicken" voice.)
And, now, finally....

In general, Nikki and I agree that the porch will be divided into two sections: one side for a dining/drank sippin' area and the other side for a lounging/living area. We'd like to incorporate the following concepts/ideas/elements (in no particular order):

  1. The overall theme is sort of a romantic one, though we are vigilantly opposed to things that read too "sweet" or "twee". This means we have conversations in which we debate the merits of a particular fabric: does it look like grandma's bloomers (bad) or is it romantic? (good). Does it look like the drapes from "My Old Kentucky Home"? (bad) or is it romantic? (good).

  2. For the most part, Nikki's existing (rather large, actually) assortment of outdoorish furniture will be used. Some will be repainted, some left authentically weathered. Because we like weathered.

  3. Outdoor ceiling fans will be installed in the center of each end of the porch. A bit of an extravagance, but holy shit, ever been to Kentucky in July? The installation of fans will extend the life and use of the porch substantially. Said fans will not include light kits. Because ceiling fan light kits are generally heinous. Said fans may or may not include a rusty finish or distressed paint treatment. We would like them to look original or at least not shiny and new. More on that later.

  4. The porch floor will be primed and painted in two neutral (but light) shades.

  5. Sheer, diaphanous, romantic-ish curtains will be installed in some form or fashion, with the exact configuration/hanging method still TBD.

  6. Fabric will be procured and used to make seating cushions for all furniture/chairs and a lounging couch (My new term ="lounging couch". More on that later). This will serve to visually unify the space. A recent field trip to Hancock Fabrics turned out to be rather more fruitful for ideas in this regard than we would have imagined. Though some in the search party were traumatized by various quilt fabric situations. In addition, vintage linens will be involved. And, yes, fabric=sewing, but not by me. We know people. Behold the cushion fabric:

  7. Vintage linens:

  8. Vintage windows will likely be an element. Likely hung. Exactly how TBD.

  9. Porch rails will be added. Whether they will be added in this phase of the redesign (or later) is TBD.

  10. Lighting: we favor twinkly. This will be accomplished at least in part with tiny (tiny!) mason jars and in other ways still TBD. This may involve wire and tree branches. Again, more on this later.

  11. Organic material: Plants, of course. I favor a unified theme of galvanized bucket containers. I love me a galvanized bucket. Plus they come in various sizes and shapes and are fairly affordable as compared to ceramic (which is often too shiny for my taste) and terra cotta (which is a little snorifying). Already purchased: a twin set of...FIGS! (With figs on them.). Behold:

  12. Outdoor rugs at each end is part of the plan. The hunt is on for these.

  13. Everything is subject to change and mostly all the time. Though I do think at least half of these elements are going to gel.

More later...I SWEAR TO GOD!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Coming Soon: Nikki's Front Porch Re-Design

WATCH THIS SPACE for photos, commentary, additional unrelated blathering, and repeated Tourette-like ironic overuse of today's most annoying pop culture terms loosely relating [but obvs not limited] to mine and Nikki May's efforts to make-over the front porch of her Paducah bungalow.

No, seriously. I'm going to post about it.

Really! (Stop looking at me like that!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BREAKING NEWS (or: How I Found the Perfect Light Fixture in 2,000 Words or Less)

We interrupt this camping trip to bring you the following Special Report:

From the Decorating Division at Bizzyville HQ...Flash!...Almost exactly a year ago, long-time readers will recall my bedroom redecorating project and my well-documented obsession with painting pretty much everything charcoal. At that time, I repainted my bedroom, hung new drapes, and switched out the comforter set for a richer, more tone-on-tone effect (get me and the design terms). I stopped short of switching out the ceiling light fixture, however. The dreaded "boob light" has been an eyesore ever since offending my delicate (har!) design sensibilities with it's boobish, K-Martina-esque, cut-glass, brass studded elements (gag!). I posted back then of a plan to switch out that fixture in favor of something else from IKEA (Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh! [You have to sing it in your head to the tune of "The Siiiiiimp Soooooons!" Like me.] or something at least similar to the fixture at IKEA that I thought would be appropriate.

And then, like most of my projects, after days of hyperactive, frantic progress...nothing. La-la-la! Oh, I was offended now and then by the boob light. Okay...all the time, truth be told. And even though I would go so far as the occasional stroll through the light fixtures at Lowe's, or other local and regional (mostly) chain stores, I never saw anything that would work. Certainly nothing that thrilled me. And that's what I wanted: to be thrilled by my (reasonably priced) bedroom light fixture.

Is it SO much to ask?

If you're one of those lucky people reading this nestled in the comfy bosom (it's all about the boobs!) of a large urban area with a plethora of shops and stores to choose from, you probably cannot comprehend just how limited and sad the light fixture choices are in the backwater territory that is Paducah, Kentucky. Or for that matter, just how limited ANY design choices are in these parts. Especially if you're on a budget (like, say, myself). Down here, your choices are: Lowes, Wal-Mart, Home Despot. For serious excitement, we drive 45 miles to Target.

But that's about it.

And, yes, I can shop online. But that often gets expensive and then you get into shipping, and then what if one doesn't LIKE it, having never SEEN it...blah blah. This went on. And on.

And then.

And then!

I went to Atlanta. And we all know what's in Atlanta, right? That's right...


[Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh!]

Ya'll! Seriously! I could have PARKED MY SUBARU on that "K"! The place was H U G E beyond my wildest expectations. We could have fit super Wal-Mart in one corner and it would have no doubt cried like a little bitch in the face of the wonder. (To review, I don't get out much--certainly not much to the Big City. And hardly ever with my car in tow. And, obviously, NEVER EVER to IKEA [Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh!]).

Once in the door, and strolling through the endless, modern affordableness of it all, I was kind of crestfallen. We had only allotted a few hours to the joys of IKEA [Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh!]. We had already been to lunch and an art gallery and shops. By now, we were already verging on the tired (and had a full evening in the offing to boot). What we SHOULD have been doing was making lists! Getting there when the doors open! Planning ahead! Munching on trail mix and staying hydrated! We should have been hunting that place like the cheap, affordable design starved wolverines that we could be! Instead of tired, shell shocked slightly punch drunk middle aged women. Which is what we are.

Nevertheless! We resolved to make the best of it.

And we happened upon it pretty quickly. The bedroom light fixture of my dreams! It's big. It's unusual. It's white (the perfect contrast to the dark walls). It's a little crazy. Wait a minute...big, white, unusual crazy...


(Clucky Chicken!)

Trouble was, the "big" part. It was actually a big, funky white globe-like thing. The fixture was, in all honesty, HUGE measuring something like a yard across. Sure, I could hang it in my bedroom. Above my bed. And then it would rest approximately on my chest while I slept. Good times!

In the end, I had to concede: right fixture. Wrong size.


We pressed on.

We wandered through dining rooms and living rooms and kitchens and sat on magically non-puffy furniture that matched startlingly simple accessories. We marveled at stuff that could work this way and that: upended and upside down. So simple! Crap that was plasticky and inexpensive, but still not revoltingly Early American. WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR ALL THE CHEAP CHAIN STORES IN MY STUPID TOWN?

Finally, at a tiny tableau where the Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh design wizards had managed to perfectly stuff a completely equipped kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom into a mere 325 square feet, I realized I was home. Everything was tiny and within arm's reach. From my couch, I could spit on my bed and my dishwasher. I stretched out my legs and they were immediately met with a tiny foot stool a mere six inches away. On the TV (surprisingly large, but a flat screen mounted flush to the wall and thus not requiring any precious square inches), was only one channel: CNN of course, this being Atlanta. Perfect! News 24/7. I had Internet service and my iPhone. The walls were already painted a thoughtful charcoal. Yes, yes! Oh, yes. I was home.

(photo: Nikki May)

My friend Nikki, sensing quickly there was no use dissuading me, joined me in my new living room and offered me coffee from a thoughtfully placed mug. I accepted. In my new life, I was suddenly a coffee drinker. We sipped our coffee and greeted our fellow Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh shoppers. To their credit, they didn't seem surprised to see us and were even seemingly appreciative of our pointing out the finer points of our new living space,

"See that cabinet?" I said to a young Birkenstock shod woman with a baby in a stroller. The woman stopped, ran her hand over the top.

"You'd never know it, but that actually holds SHOES," I told her.

"REALLY?", she exclaimed, opening the false front cabinet and marveling at the shoes within.

"Huh-huh. We enjoy it," I added, nodding sagely and taking another sip of my coffee.

Two immaculately dressed young men wandered in and smiled at us sprawled out in my new living room,

"Coffee?" I offered holding my cup aloft.

"Uh, well..." the shorter blonde man began, laughing...

"...we'd love to, but we're kind of in a time crunch," the taller dark headed one finished for him.

I shrugged. "Next time, then!"

But, alas. The rest of the (exhausting) day bore down on us.

I bid my new home a sad and affectionate farewell. We pressed on. Through a bewilderingly large collection of rugs, faux plants. Miniature children's furniture. Mirrors! The kitchen accessories. THE KITCHEN ACESSORIES, OMG! Miles and miles and miles of them. I managed to somehow extract a set of glasses from the tumult. We wandered through the bowels of the place, no longer tiny room tableau's, but the stocking section. Where all the merchandise is kept. We eventually passed the lighting section. Wait! THE LIGHTING SECTION!

And there it was: my light fixture.

White, thrilling, unusual (weird, even), but this time, only HALF the size of the original fixture we'd admired upstairs!

Could I posssibly love Eye Keeeeey Uuuuh more? NOT REALLY!

And she lived happily ever after in her almost completely redecorated bedroom with her awesome and thrilling and affordable IKEA light fixture that came in approximately 500 unassembled pieces. But that's okay! I still love it!...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Camp Adventure Recap Park Two

[Editor's note: This post is part two of the story of a tent camping trip (my first) that I took in April. If you haven't read the beginning start here with Part One.]

So, there we were. Four middle aged women, a little medicated, a little inebriated, and, let's face it, a little crazy, snoozing away in a tent in a nearly deserted campground engulfed in the biggest storm system the region had seen in years. This same massive system would go on to produce 162 tornadoes across fourteen states, including a couple in our region, and cause a total of 43 fatalities.

A satellite image of the weather bearing down. Imagine four crazy sleeping campers tucked into the extreme western end of Kentucky.

I am still amazed at our ability to sleep under these conditions, even considering the level of medication involved, both liquid and otherwise. (In hindsight, I am also amazed that the untried tent sheltered us so well). Though I am a famously deep sleeper (once asleep), I remember waking that night several times to the sound of some ungodly howling wind in the distance, and the sound of the rain slapping the tent was fierce and constant for hours. Despite it all, when the wind and storm would rouse me, I could muster only a faint thought of, "Wow, that really sounds awful..." or, 'Gosh, this could be it...I suppose..." before quickly lapsing back into a comatose state.

This would go on into the wee hours of Saturday morning when what would REALLY rouse us all from sleep would not be the wind or the rain or the weather at all. What would wake us would be one among our number peering out the door flap of the tent and screeching in a piercingly loud whisper,

"Something's out there!"

Trust me when I say, that's a statement that is right up there with the very last things you want to wake up hearing at 3:00 a.m. in a frigid, dark, but still drippy and now eerily quiet campground. My guess is that the three of us still ostensibly snoozing by this point were about half awakened by this unwelcome news.

Not one of us stirred.

After a few seconds of silence, our one alert, lonely camper made a final, ominous, and VERY LOUD announcement,


before charging out of the tent and commencing to engage in what sounded like possible combat with whatever was threatening the camp site.

This last declaration was enough to stir the rest of us to clumsy, if confused action (I'll confess in my case to looking for my iPhone for the camera--I did want to squeeze off a photo or two of whatever was about to kill us all*). After a great deal of flailing around, one of us would be alert enough to charge out after the first hefting the world's dullest hatchet, whilst Camper #4 and I, vacillating between terror at what might be happening outside, and uncontrollable giggling hysterics at the use of the word "varmint" (both of us agreeing the last person we knew to use the term being possibly Jed Clampett), crawled together toward the tent flap to peer into the darkness.

By the time we got our head torches (still on our heads) switched to "on", it was all over. According to Camp Defenders #1 and #2, Camp Smokey Hoe Pie (don't ask) had fallen victim to a couple of marauding raccoons. The pair, described as a young, agile raccoon who had likely cased the joint and, finding our unsecured coolers easy pickings, had signaled to "Grandpa", a brooding, obese raccoon comparable in size to a human four-year-old. The pair then gleefully worked their way through half of our provisions prior to discovery. And none too quietly, either. The trash, the chocolate, the Reese Cups, an entire package of Bratwurst, and eight of our dozen eggs (smashed!) were consumed by the time Camper #1 realized what was happening.

Keep in mind that accessing some of this food required the little bastards to open not only the coolers, but also the Tupperware containers within the coolers. Accessing the garbage meant they either shimmied up an eight foot pole, or climbed atop two stacked coolers and jumped for it (it was suspended in mid-air). That's right, kids, it was a veritable raccoon freaking flying circus up in there. And for God knows how long, too.

According to Camper #1, when she shouted at them, the smaller, more agile raccoon made an immediate break for it, but big, fat Grandpa merely snorted in her direction and continued to casually enjoy his plunder. It wasn't until she was fully out of the tent and actively engaged in shouting and throwing shit at him that he finally decided he'd go ahead and waddle back into the forest.

Shell shocked, groggy, and creeped out to say the least by the predator encounter, the four of us, by now all out of the tent, were slowly coming to a few realizations. First, we'd survived the storm. Secondly, it was really, really cold. And, thirdly, damn, these head torches are handy! The restrooms, which were quite clean, warm and well lit (thankfully) were located about 50 feet away. This would have been a very dark (but no less frequent) hike indeed without the aid and effortless hands-free light of our our bright, shiny headgear. Since we were the only women in the campground, the restrooms and showers would quickly and happily become our personal domain for the duration of our stay. Our blow dryers, flat irons, lotions and towels would stay tucked away there--almost just like home. If, you know, home was a freezing cold campsite that had to be constantly defended against a pair of wildly aggressive rogue raccoons.

I won't lie, the idea of giant furry vermin pawing through and feasting on our foodstuffs was enough to make me weak with germ nausea. I mean, disease, hello? Botulism? Rabies? Trichinosis? Misfolded prions, anyone? My semi-recent experience in Biology class had left me with just enough knowledge flying ineffectually around in my head to keep me terrified at times like these. I mean, dear God, I had to go ahead and assume that, at the very least, fat grandpa and junior aren't regular bathers.

But, again, not for nothing was the chuck stocked for months. I had Lysol (previously used to spray down the ENTIRE bathroom facility prompting one nervy camper to suggest chemically induced asthma could possibly be a danger equal in severity to the germs themselves--to which I responded, "Did you bring your shower shoes? Because you know you can't step a naked foot...EVER...onto this floor, right?) and some antibacterial wipes which were used to wipe (and it pains me to say this) the raccoon prints ((skeeve)) off of everything. That accomplished, the coolers were stacked and the lids fastened down securely--this time with bungee cords.

By now, it was 4 a.m., and all of us were teeth chattering cold. Again, I had my doubts about how we would sleep in the now quiet camp in light of the fallen temperature and recent excitement, but once again, against all odds, we would pile back into the tent and fall again almost immediately to sleep...

[To be continued. Again.]
*My photos were all uniformly black. Alas.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Camp Adventure Recap PART ONE

[This is Part One of a post I started and have been meaning to complete since returning from this camping trip IN APRIL. I'm very busy.]

Well, here I my very first tent camping experience...alive and well having survived a multitude of wilderness horrors.

Challenge #1, the weather, was evident long before we loaded up our 10,000 lbs of camping gear and headed to LBL. Both the regional and national weather service(s) were calling for a weather event of potentially Biblical proportions in the run up to and including Friday. Our local weather guru and go-to meteorologist on Facebook,
Beau Dodson, had been warning of impending potential weather doom for days. Personal texts and Facebook comments ranged from (at best) "Good Luck" to (at worst) an unceasing chorus of, "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE OUT THERE".

To be honest, we never really considered calling the thing off, having planned it for well over a month. We wouldn't be denied just because of a lil' old tornado, or golf ball sized hail, or high winds, or severe thunderstorms. Or, you know, ALL FOUR at the same time. Which is what was ultimately called for.

We hustled to the campsite just as soon as we could tear ourselves away from a solid two weeks of frenzied packing which, even in the 11th hour before we drove away, showed no sign of abating. In the end, we didn't so much finish packing as just force ourselves to stop. And this only because the vehicle, a roomy SUV with an additional carry-all in the hitch, threatened to become inadequate to hold our constantly evolving list of "bare necessities". We arrived at the camp site at 1:00 pm, under menacing skies and constant threat of WEATHER and set about the important business of beer drinking and erecting the Grizzly Den .

Perhaps not surprisingly, the former would prove much less complicated than the latter.

Because the tent was new, it meant neither of us had experience pitching it and so were forced to, on occasion, resort to the indignity of instruction reading. This was usually closely followed by increasingly inventive and inspired cursing. Complicating matters was the state of the soil which was wet, soft, and pliable and not at all inclined to grasp our tent stakes which, once "set", took to springing out of the ground with alarming regularity. In addition, the area at the site designated for tent pitching, while really roomy looking when not accommodating an 8-person tent, we soon discovered was actually smaller than the tent's intended footprint. So, stay with me here: weather, soft soil, inexperience, an area of inadequate size=annoying. Eventually, we hit on the idea of covering the tent spikes with heavy rocks we hunted and lugged over from a spot some yards away.

Despite the challenges, after a few tedious and exhausting hours, the tent was up. Not only up, but covered with the rain fly and sprayed with silicon for additional
waterproofing in anticipation of the rain. It seemed very iffy at the time as to whether the rock covered spikes would hold. (They did. For three damn days. It was a miracle.)

Not too long after the successful tent pitching, Campers #3 and #4 arrived. And, in fairly short order, 4 out of 4 girl campers agreed: regardless of the weather, we'd be staying at camp for the duration, thankyouverymuch. That settled, we soon turned our attention to the important business of: dinner. For all of you picturing us huddled around a fire simmering a lone miserable can of pork and beans, think again. It's not for nothing we watch the Cooking Channel 24/7.

We fired up the gas burner and had soon boiled up a pot of lemony Old Bay seasoned goodness: shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, and kielbasa. For dessert, we lit our first campfire and enjoyed the obligatory 'smores--but with a choice of Hershey chocolate OR Reese cup. Exciting, no?

As if on cue, just as we polished off the last of the melted marshmallowy goodness, the rain began to fall. We had enough time to tuck away our foodstuffs in the coolers before ducking into the tent and hunkering down for what we hoped would be a not TOO eventful first night. When I say we hunkered down, I mean we continued the steady infusion of beer whilst perched on our inflatable mattresses wrapped in our sleeping bags; the four of us all dressed for winter complete with sock caps (it was freezing cold by my standards, temperature in the upper forties).

(View from the tent just before the rain hit.)

As the rain pelted the tent with increasing regularity, darkness fell, and the wind began to howl, we broke out what may have, arguably, been the MVP of the metric ton of camping equipment we'd brought along: flashlights for our heads. And by that I mean battery operated lights on an electric strap that we fitted around our sock-capped heads, and adjusted until the light rested just above our foreheads. I've just Googled and found the proper term for these things: head torches. And, no I do not have a photo of ANY of us wearing one. Because we looked positively ridiculous, a fact we noted pretty immediately as the four of us enthusiastically donned our new head gear. The lights had a constantly "on" setting or a "blink" setting. I'm sure the "blink" setting has a practical (perhaps emergency) purpose, but in our case, it was cause for a disproportionate amount of hilarity, having drank a little too much beer and finding ourselves in a tent in the woods in a near-deserted campground about to be engulfed in a monstrously large storm system.

As all four head torches blinked merrily away, giving a decidedly disco effect, we amused ourselves queuing up songs we deemed appropriate to the situation on our iPhones. Big winners: trance music: The Chemical Brothers, "Galvanize" and, less groovy but much more topically, REO, "Riding the Storm Out".

Despite the danger, the unceasing noise of the howling wind and rain, the beer, and the hilarity, we would all fall unexpectedly (and maybe inexplicably) into what we would later agree was an unusually deep sleep. I doubt it had anything to do with the sleeping pills we'd uniformly ingested earlier. This would last until the wee hours of the morning when we would unceremoniously awaken to a new challenge....

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Flood

Picture of Paducah's floodwall with gates installed taken about about 10:00 a.m. this morning. I believe that gate is approx at the foot of Jefferson St. downtown.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Installing the Floodgates. Paducah, KY

Gate at the foot of Broadway. Once installation starts, it's a 24-hr/day activity until they are finished. This marks the first time all gates have been installed since 1950. The last time any gates were put in place was in 1997.

Long view: Gate between Broadway & Jefferson

Gate going in between Broadway and Jefferson, downtown Paducah, Kentucky.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good-bye Cabana

This was formerly a semi-permanent structure, a 10x10 deck cabana, that stood on my back deck for three years. It survived the ice storm of '09, even. It did not survive today's 86 mph winds. I found it on the roof. The photo is blurry because there are raindrops on the lens of my iPhone. I was at Walgreen's (my favorite store) at the time of the incident.

Not to be outdone, I have purchased a new cabana. Because the weather will not beat me. Nor will anything else, thankyouverymuch. I do plan to wait until the weather is less Biblical to install it, however. I'm not THAT crazy.