Saturday, December 30, 2006

Lighting a Candle

As the year comes to an end, there is always a sort of taking stock or reckoning. How did this year measure up or what special events took place to mark this year differently from the last. And in that quiet place of retrospection, I'm taking a moment to remember all the people who died in 2006. Their unique passions and contributions will be missed. By no means a comprehensive list, these are just a few who shared their light in the world and are no longer with us. Hopefully they are in a much brighter, more peaceful place.

Robert Altman
Etta Baker
Joseph Barbara
Peter Boyle
Ed Bradley
James Brown
Ruth Brown
Red Buttons
Oleg Cassini
Bebe Moore Coleman
Betty Comden
Eleanor Thomas Elliott
Ahmet Ertegun
Gerald Ford
Betty Friedan
Moses Hardy
Dr Jane Elizabeth Hodgson
Steve Irwin
Patricia Kennedy Lawford
Coretta Scott King
Don Knotts
Gerald Levert
Al Lewis
Enolia McMillan
Jack Palance
Gordon Parks
Wilson Pickett
June Pointer
Billy Preston
Anita O'Day
Lou Rawls
Dana Reeve
Anne Richards
Aaron Spelling
Mickey Spillane
Martha Tilton
Jack Warden
Wendy Wasserstein

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Technical Difficulties

It's been raining so hard on and off the last few days. This morning I was washing out my coffee cup and realized there was no hot water. The basement had flooded again and the pilot light to the water heater blew out. And I haven't had internets for two days. Found out this morning when the repair guy traced it back that it's because the box outside on the street pole is leaking and collecting water. We have a connection now but it may be spotty until they can replace the whole box. Where is all this dang water coming from?

So I took the not-showered 999999999 (hello there, that's Dora wanting to chime in with a message -- my desk is her latest new playground) hair up to Bellingham to tear down the Allied Arts show. Hit a pretty heavy sleet/snow squall near Everett and it was all as dark as evening. This is not fun I say.

However, the show was sold out. My little table was practically empty. Last minute, day-before-Christmas shoppers must have been frantic for smelly stuff. Which was good for me. But I heard rumblings that over the holiday the building had been burgled and several jewelry cases were broken into. Not so good for those folks. So sad. Everyone works so hard, for such little money, that something like that is especially stinky. It's stealing money directly from some little artist's wallet -- not pilfering a few bucks from some corporation. Not that I'm advocating stealing in any way, but there is a difference when stealing hand made stuff from some small show and stealing a t-shirt from Wal-Mart. Sigh.

I thought that driving home through some of the pretty neighborhoods there and seeing the nice mansions on the hill above the water, then meandering back through Chuckanut Drive would remind me why I still live here. But it was so full of broken trees from the wind storm. The skies were so rainy, dark and grey that you could hardly see beyond a little patch of grey water. And it didn't quite do the trick. It's the yucky stretch of year where it's hard to find the pretty. Partly because you don't want to venture out much. Partly because it's so rare these days.

Came home to catch up on some sleep. I really, really need it. I'll just be here napping for as long as it takes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas -- full of family, friends, good food, great fun and the peace of the season.

Remembering those we can't spend the holiday with, but thinking of them and sending them love. Joyous greetings to those who celebrate different ways, for different reasons. The magic and peace of the season should know no limits and include the entire planet.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa's Flight

Last night's Christmas Ship by electric boat was really special. To see all the boats up close and swim with the fishes so to speak. I was the captain, so it was a little harried, trying to avoid getting squished in the crush of much bigger yachts. But tucked in a little corner, bobbing in the night air, listening to carols and boat horns while enjoying the lights of the skyline. No place else on earth . . .

So little time to write today, I'm cooking away for the Feast of Seven Fishes. It's an old, old tradition, mostly Itallian. Christmas Eve is to be a feast of 7 different seafoods, usually in 7 different courses. Why 7? In Biblical numerology, seven is a number of perfection. It also symbolizes: The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church — baptism, penance, Holy Eucharist, confirmation, marriage, holy orders and the sacrament of the sick. The seven sins of the world — pride, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust and greed. The seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. Seven hills of Rome. Seven winds of Italy. Seven Wonders of the World. Or whatever. We've just always believed it's good luck for the new year and made it our own tradition.

Tonight's menu:

Thai Lime Shrimp

Silky Southern Oyster Stew

Seared Scallops With Apple Brandy Cream

Crab Towers

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

Brazilian Moqueca With Tilapia

Roasted Salmon with Tomato Buerre Blanc

Hot Buttered Rum Cheesecake with Rum Caramel Sauce

Hoo Doggy! Diggity Dog! I'm drooling. Happy, Happy Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

and oh, what a BLITZEN

More last minute gift buying, gift making, baking and holiday cheer. It's a bit of a whirlwind, trying to get it all done, feeling like there is not enough time and that we can't possibly accomplish everything we wanted to do during this holiday festivus. I know I'm not alone. It's a little more stressful and a little less cheery this year.

Tonight we are heading over to Gasworks Park to see the final night of the Christmas Ship. Another one of our holiday rituals. Usually we have a big group and there is dinner and drinks in Fremont first. This year it's a much smaller group and everyone is coming from somewhere else last minute so the dinner is probably drive-through or a cold snack out of the fridge before we head out. But we've rented one of the charming Electric Boat Company ships to dally around in the parade of yachts for this year's hoopla. I'm so excited! No standing out in the drizzle and mud. Taking our own beverages -- and nip is allowed for the hot cocoa! Sacks full of our own snacks, holiday cookies! A warm little chugger of a boat with plastic sides to keep us toasty, cheerly little strings of lights! I've never seen the Christmas ship from the water before, although I've seen it from probably every land location imaginable -- the locks, Golden Gardens, bonfires at Alki, all over here and there. So this will be something new and exciting. Can't wait.

Tomorrow is by far my most favorite ritual. No, not the wrapping mess. The Christmas Eve Champagne "FEAST OF 7 FISHES" that we do at my place each year. I'll post pics of tonight and get into that tomorrow when I can grab a minute. I still need to finalize a little bit of the menu with my friends who are doing 3 of the 7 courses. My Hot Buttered Rum Cheesecake is wafting through the house right this minute. It will be drizzled with Rum Caramel sauce . . . are your eyes rolling back in your head? You will die when you hear the whole menu. Cool Yule, Y'all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Prancer and Vixen

First, a little soap business. Most of the Winter Holiday Seasonal soaps are sold out at this point. What's left is Spiced Hot Cocoa and Three Kings. The other Winter items are all still available. And while it's getting to be very last minute at this point, I have two days left where the office is open and packages are being sent out the same day as they are ordered. Quite a little bunch of them this week. But Friday is my last day until after the New Year. And frankly, anything sent now will arrive after Christmas, but still in time for festivities during the holiday week or New Year's.

When I return in January, there will be a big clearing out and reorganizing while I do inventory. And I'm planinng on having a hullabaloo of a year-end sale next month, so check back here or the Sale section of the web site in early January. Fa la la!

So as things wind down, I have more time to personally begin preparations and celebrations. Usually this is my favorite time of year and I've got so many activities I want to jump into during this little week or two. But this year, maybe because of all the weather and chaos, it doesn't have quite the same enthusiasm. I'm still not quite finished with all the gift buying, but almost. There is very, very minimal baking this year. Collectively we've decided that we just don't need the temptation and all have resolutions to get more fit and less fluffy. So we'll do just enough to enjoy for a few days, and not have plates full sitting around all next month.

Yesterday was our annual holiday family outing -- where we all get tickets to some fun holiday event, have dinner out at some new hot spot, and be merry.

Happy Hour: Troiani - lush, sexy bar with delish food deals and yummy drinks
Dinner: Assagio - who doesn't love Mauro? greeting everyone at the door with a big squish and a kiss. Lovely menu, always good.
Festive Event: Seattle Men's Chorus - I have always wanted to see their holiday concert and hadn't quite gotten around to it yet. What a hoot. Completely fun for everybody. So much joy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I watched Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth" last night. I had planned on watching it immediately when it first came out, and for whatever reason (probably "too busy" or something dumb) I missed it when it was actually in theaters here. So we had it sitting all this time on our Netflix list for the moment it was released on dvd.

Beyond shocking. By the end of the film I was scared to death. All of these predicted changes are going to happen in my lifetime, and looks quite like the planet is doomed, as are we all, if things don't change -- well, yesterday. How likely is that given our current lifestyles of consumption and our current government run by oil men? I've just personally gone through a year of some of the worst weather I've ever endured. And it was nothing compared to say New Orleans last year. Each year is going to get drastically worse. So totally, completely, undeniably scary that I was feeling that sort of numb, shaky feeling I had on September 11 while watching the events of that day. Too overwhelming to take it all in really, but enough to realize how completely out of control it is, how helpless, hopeless, inevitably changed forever.

Obviously the final message is the we DO have the knowledge, tools, science and technology to make a huge change right this very minute and that we must absolutely start this course today. Every one of us. So while I felt utterly overwhelmed and helpless, I tried to fight it and do something. Even if it was just turning down the thermostat and turning off most of the lights in the house. It felt petty and small. We're making a list of what we can change every day to make a difference just here in this little matchbox house. But it needs to be so much more.

I think what struck me the most was that WE, here in America with our air of superiority, are the worst offenders. For some reason I was suffering under the illusion that we were a little ahead with our culture of "green" and recycling. That countries like China or India, with their immense populations and industry were doing more damage and that the fight was to get these other nations to understand the problem. But China and other countries are already producing automobiles that are light years ahead of our big SUVs and even our hybrids. Knowing that the US alone contributes more than 30%? More than entire continents put together? What is our problem? We KNOW this stuff. Why are we still driving Hummers and wasting so many resources? Even here in this so-called little cocoon of "green" type folks here in the Pacific Northwest, we are still not doing nearly enough.

I don't have any answers right now. Only more questions, and renewed commitment to make both my home and my business more ecologically vigilant.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bundles of Packages

Today begins the shopping for me. After much pushing, I've got final lists together and specific stores to hit. I am not a real shopper. I make a list of items I need, plan out a route that hits the few stores necessary with minimal fuss, and make it snappy. If there wasn't holiday shopping, I would almost never just wander into a store to look around. It's pretty rare that I browse around a little shop or boutique just for fun.

So you know what that means, right? When I finally walk into a store I want to buy EVERYTHING for me! And the one for them-one for me rule is really trouble for my budget. Not to mention, I totally need to scale back on my stuff quotient. But head out to the ca-ching ca-ching, I must. I'm keeping myself on a short leash and avoiding the cutest places where I already know I have trouble. A few of the items I need to buy are so far off my radar that I can't possibly be tempted in there, right?

And then the rest of my gifts are handcrafted little goodies that I need to start tonight or tomorrow. I'm finally getting into the season myself, after weeks of providing holiday shopping enjoyment for everyone else. Including the emergency soap and lip balm order that came in with a panicky call this morning. Oh, which brings me to one little note. If you've tried to reach me by phone over the long weekend with no power, well, I had no phone. And now that I do? It's the plug in the wall directly, no walking around the house wireless, no memory, no answering machine, retro style. Well at least I have service. But a new phone is one of the things on my list today. So if you get endless ringing . . . email me. Or try back tonight. I'll be back in the saddle by then.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The lights are on

Storm of the century. Or something. It was bad. First the flooding. I had the sump pump on in the basement and it was coming in faster than I could pump. A new hole in the foundation looked like a hose with the water on full blast -- pouring out the wall and across the floor.

I spent the afternoon sopping up and trying to make headway, while gathering candles, flashlights etc because the warnings were dire. And they were right. The wind picked up around 5 and the lights started flickering. I heard the news report about the woman who got trapped in her basement with the water rushing in and got drowned, and started a full on panic. That could be me! Especially if the power goes out and I can't pump any more.

However, as the wind picked up, the rain stopped and we began to dry out downstairs. Had a little warm dinner and wandered around the house peeking out the windows to see what was happening. A tree in the back yard had snapped and gone over, but by some miracle it fell away from the two houses in which it was sandwiched and landed on empty lawn.

At 1am the winds began to howl even more fiercely, the power popped and within the next few minutes heard two huge planes overhead coming into the airport for a landing. Unbelievable. Cracking limbs and trees everywhere, you couldn't even follow where they were coming from but we knew it would be a mess. Nobody slept. By 5am we were getting calls to see if everyone was alright. Nobody had power. Nobody. Neighborhoods north, south, east and west, all dark. And from our windows we could see lights on the highway, but that's it. Headlights.

So we ventured out for hot coffee and food. Found that within a few blocks to the west and downtown were fine. Home Depot and supplies was just a couple of miles away. All was good. We were stocked and ready to wait it out. Until it started getting really cold when the sun went down. And we were bored. Go out to dinner? Make it an adventure and camp in the dark? And then blink, blink, the block across the street came on, the other one too and suddenly we were in the heat and light again. I ran from room to room turning on every single light I could find. The tree lights, the outdoor holiday lights, all of it. Just because I could.

And then another round of phone calls. Sister freezing in the dark, parents cold and hungry. So we had a big feast here. Got everyone warm. Began preparations for sleeping arrangements, showering, where to put all the various cats and dogs. But a few hours later, the sister's lights came on. The parents decided to duke it out another night at home and just come back in the morning. Saturday was a little chaotic. Picture a 1000 sq ft house with a Christmas tree that takes up roughly 500 sq feet. You know how when you go to the breakfast buffet it never occurs to you that the Mount Everest of food on your plate is not actually consumable. Something similar happened at the tree lot. We can't even see the tv in the living room. So that, and 5 people, 2 cats, and a really long dog. Holiday baking, making gifts, generally entertaining ourselves in 2 small rooms. Sorta fun. Sorta nuts.

So today when the herds left to accomplish things outside in the world today, I needed to clean. Like really clean. Just to get a feeling of control and order back in my life. There are all kinds of people still in the dark and cold. I guess it's hard to find a hotel room. But there is so much of the city that never suffered much, or just got one free day to stare at candle flames and nap. Seems like we could certainly accommodate everyone here and get them a bowl of soup, a warm bed, and shower.

Lots to ponder. Like why people think they can grill inside their homes with live flames. Or start fires in their fireplaces with gasoline. Being the first one into Home Depot, buying every last generator on the floor and then having a huge mark up sale in some empty parking lot to people who really need them and have to pay twice the price. Hoarding ALL the batteries you can find on the shelf instead of sharing.

Can I squeeze in a nap before the herds arrive back? Yum, smell of clean and a quiet house.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dasher and Dancer

Dashing up to Bellingham this morning to restock the Allied Arts show. And the sweetest little shop, A Lot of Flowers in Fairhaven, is getting a sleighful of pretty much everything to stock their store for holiday buying these last couple of weeks too. Love those gals.

Mail orders are still welcome (and coming in fast). They are shipping out the following day and there is still penty of time to get your order before Christmas. And as I mentioned yesterday, there are a few little goodies on sale now too.

Wow, it's blowy out there. The winds are fierce this morning. I'm going to have to chase some holiday lights across the lawn which have tried to dodge the bushes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Secret Sale

Well, it's not really going to be much of a secret for long. I'm going to add a few items to the Special Sale section today. Sort of a last minute shopping sale for folks still looking for holiday gifts. I need to work on it a bit this morning, but I'll have it all up by noon today.

I'll move the solid perfumes, the Holiday Cheer Bath Confetti, the Spiced Hot Cocoa Milk Bath and the Holiday Sachets to that section. They are the perfect size, perfect price for so many little gifts this time of year -- Secret Santa's, office co-workers, teachers, a little something for a hostess, the neighbors, the gal at the hair salon, stocking stuffers . . . pretty much anybody you can think of. I've not done this in the past because I've always worried about "running out" of something before Christmas actually gets here. But pish. I've got a supply of holiday items that need to be sold before the end of the month and why not do what big stores do?

There are two weeks left here -- I'll ship out my very last package on the afternoon of Friday, Dec 23rd. And then I'm closing up shop until Tuesday, Jan 2. Get 'em while the getting's good!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dashing through the Rain

No time to chat today. Just as I was beginning to start a little fret about how this December was slowing down a little too fast . . . ring ring bling ca-ching goes the phone. Huge last minute wholesale order and a few more mail orders. Plus I'm packing up stuff to go back up to Bellingham again this week. I want to make sure I keep that show stocked this year and not let the good stuff run out during that last week of shopping blitzen.

And there's a flurry of errands to run this afternoon for office supplies, like black ink that runs out at the most inopportune times, and picking up my printer order, dropping off bills and packages at my friendly post office. Everyone there knows me by name now and it's quite chatty and nice to stop in (as long as there isn't a line out the door). Please, I'm begging the Postal Gods -- don't take away that most useful of all technologies, the Automated Postal Machine. There are rumors that we aren't using it enough at my station and they are thinking about moving it to some other station. I would absolutely die if that happens. How else would I send my weekend packages, my late night packages, or avoid the hour-long wait of customers who only go in a couple times a year and need extra help (and tape and someone to fill in their forms, etc.)

Dashing off. Hate this rain today. My little cat babies are mesmerized by the dripping gutters and are planted in the window all day, so I guess it's ok for them. But they don't have to go out and drive around.

Hoping to get some time at the computer tomorrow for a little private last minute sale. Check back later!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Do Nothing Sunday

Yesterday we put in a few hours of garden clean up before the rain started. Then we spent the rest of the day putting up the tree, the house decorations and then the outdoor lights. Big day. All of my decorations are vintage and antiques. Old glass ornaments I've collected over the years adorn the tree, the table tops, the mantle, the wreaths.

I was so worried about the kittens this year. They are insatiably curious and are getting into everything. They've just discovered all the tabletops and love to play with everything, knocking everything to the floor and batting things around. But in the end, I decided that I would decorate the tree pretty much as usual. So far they haven't shown much interest in it, except for the great big indesctructable balls we put on a couple of the bottom branches for them to knock around. A few of the best ornaments were kept in the box. And the table top displays are a bit abbreviated this year. Which is not a bad thing.

I really didn't feel like cluttering up the house this year. The fireplace mantle is still a work in progress. I couldn't come up with any ideas about what I wanted to do there. Just a string of lights so far and the usual houseplants. But the wreath is up, the antique postcards are tucked in their little wire rack. My favorite sleigh with a few old Christmas balls is on a little side table that the kittens can't reach. And the tree is so darn fat that it takes up half the living room anyway. Who needs more than that?

So today I've got a whole day of nothing planned. Really. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. When was the last time I ever did that? Hmmm. I can't even remember.

I refuse to go out into the shopping madhouse. I refuse to sit in my car in traffic for even one minute. I will not work on anything today. Mail orders are still in full swing. We have two weeks left and there is plenty of time to ship stuff. But those will happen tomorrow. I will work on Monday when normal people work. So there.

Another cup of coffee, that mystery book, maybe a nap this afternoon with those cuddly little fuzzy faces. Ahhh.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Typing in my jammies

I've caught up on all the mail orders and am beginning to catch up on the paperwork and desk chores here. It's a winding down kind of feeling. And it's very nice. In no time at all I will have bills paid, bookeeping up to date and piles filed or tossed. I don't think it will ever be completely organized, but I'll know what color the desk top is again -- if only for a few days.

Need to find my notes about what I was thinking about doing for the spring already. Weird, right? But I actually need to start a batch or two of spring soap next week. And get a few orders in for supplies. With the spring newsletter due out by the end of next month (in time for Valentine's orders), there is not much time to dally about. I already need to start planning out next year's show schedule, if you can believe it. I've begun collecting a folder full of applications for 2007 that have started arriving in my (still mangled) mailbox.

The merry go round never stops. Just slows down for a few blissful weeks. I always laugh when people ask me what I do during the winter months. January, with its inventory, taxes, spring newsletter, full throttle soap production, year long planning, etc is really not a vacation. It's just the one and only month that I don't have an outside show. Still . . . I'm very much looking forward to a little time holed up in the office by myself (and the kittens who have become enamored with the jungle gym of boxes and bins in here).

Now where was that Christmas list? I've got shopping to do. And tree decorating tomorrow.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Speed Racer

If everything is under control, you are going too slow.

- Mario Andretti

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Sunday evening, after shlepping the last bin of stinky stuff to the car, lumbering home, and tottering up the stairs, I collapsed. I was completely done in. I had been holding up bravely to cross that final finish line and that was it. Face down in the pillow.

Monday was a day off to collect my sanity. And today is going to be a rather large day of digging out from under the tremendous pile of stuff here. Four shows of inventory were piled up in all corners and they need to be unpacked and re-grouped. Orders that have waited since the end of last week need to be shipped out lickety split. And little bitty tags need to be applied to another round of goods for the Allied Arts gallery in Bellingham. I'll be up there tomorrow morning to fill in any holes. So if you've stopped in there the last few days and I was out of your favorite item - not to worry. There is plenty more and it's on it way. If I can only find it here under the mountain of boxes.

I'm also trying to figure out if my method of always making my list too long, constantly biting off more than I can chew, etc. is helpful or really sinking me. It dawned on me the other night that this is really crazy making and I did it all to myself. If I made a short list, would I be blissfully happy because I was constantly accomplishing my goals and had time left over? Or would I just be accomplishing a whole lot less? If I made a truthful and realistic list, would I accomplish just as much, or more, and not be quite as harried? Is my reaching for more than is humanly possible motivating me to do more? Or just stressing me out?

It's just the season of madness, I guess. And nobody ever quite figures out how to do it all. In the end you do what you can do. Accept what you can't. Be happy with whatever happens. And just keep trudging along.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Long View

I am really looking forward to next week. This last month of overwhelming work is sort of like getting caught up reading a gripping thriller novel. You find yourself so engrossed that by the time you turn the very last page, you suddenly realize that you've lost a whole day (or the sun is coming up), your muscles are so tense that everything is cramped and in pain, your eyes are twitching, and your knuckles are still white from holding the book for dear life.

I feel like I've been holed up, a hamster furiously racing on his wheel going nowhere. And I've been so focused on such small, bitty tasks that I've lost sight of the world outside, the big picture, the reality of it all. Once I get even the smallest of breathers from the relentless show schedule, I know I need to do a little perspective. Reflect back on what worked, what was a flop, what had value . . . and what didn't. There is a lot to sift through and it's a necessary step in making things better, more efficient, etc.

I might just need a few extra hours in bed staring at the ceiling and contemplating my sore toes. But that's not until next week. Today was a toughie. Barely keeping the balls in the air, dropping just one or two, but still going on with the show. And my excitement at the prospect of a stupendously prosperous weekend at Phinney Ridge is still alive and kicking -- even if my high kicks and rah, rah, rahs are less Rockette . . . a bit more Granny Pants. Just a few more hours of work left tonight. Must. pack. more. soap. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz