Doing some holiday stuff

I thought I would make some home-made vanilla extract. There are lots of recipes online for it.

I ordered Grade B Madagascar (Bourbon) vanilla beans online. Evidently, Grade A is more for cooking, but since Grade B beans are drier, they work better for extract.

Most recipes call for you to "split" the vanilla beans, meaning cut them lengthwise leaving a small part connected at the top of the bean. But the recipe that came with the beans suggested that splitting was fine to do, but that it really doesn't add anything. So, I just chopped the beans up.

Also evidently, you can use (cheap) vodka if you just want the flavor of the beans. That makes the extract more versatile. But I decided I wanted some flavor from the liquor, so I used a combo of dark rum, Rye whiskey and Bourbon whiskey.

Now, I just have to let it sit for a couple months, shaking the bottle every so often.

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Well, that was odd.

Friend and I went to see a supposed horror movie tonight -- the Babadook -- but it seemed to really be more about a woman's long term mental illness.

Throughout the entire movie, a woman (actually 2 women) behind us made a noise...like a whimper or a high pitched whine. Basically, the movie was scaring the crap out of them...at first, I thought it was part of the sound track for the movie, but in the end, the 1 woman got loud enough that we realized it was from her!

I don't think either of those women should go to any more 'horror' movies again! I don't think they have the constitution for it!
I had forgotten about Spacehog until it turned up on a random rotation on my iTunes today...




I have been having a much needed very relaxing weekend. Dinner with a friend Friday night...movie with another friend this morning (thumbs down on latest Hobbit movie!)...wine tonight with a 3rd friend.

Started getting Christmas stuff together to take to the family dinner later this week at my sister's.

Also got the camera out yesterday -- I was FREEZING but I got a few shots off at the gazebo at Maymont --
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Dragons...love....tacos....

I just sent a gift box off to my nephew, his wife and my 'great' nephews and niece. I love illustrations in children's books! Dragons Love Tacos :)
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A friend at the tree trimming told me that they forgot to bring a Buddha ornament. It was left on the back door today. There were so many folks there that I have forgotten who told me that...but appreciated!
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Night before last, I went down to the Flood Wall in Manchester and took some pics. Sometimes, it is uncomfortable be alone in the dark by yourself...but I'm glad I got out with the camera!
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When that sun goes down...hope you raise your cup :) This was posted on Facebook by one of the kids bright-eyed, strong young people from my ESL class.

Vampires are back!

In the past, I've had repeating dreams that deal with death or vampires. The dreams often show up during transitional times in my life, so I've associated these death dreams with change in my life, as in the "death of the old me, rebirth of the new" -- that sort of thing.

I figured I had previously written about my 'Elevator Death Dream' or my 'Vampire Roommate' dreams -- repeating dreams from previous years -- but I can't seem to find posts about those when I search.


The dream last night wasn't exactly a repeating dream -- the details in the dream were slightly different, but it was similar enough, that I realized during the dream that this had happened before.

The setting is that one my friends owns a house where a vampire lives. And in each repetition of the dream, I am driving up this long dirt road to get to this house on the hill. There's a vampire in the house, and along the road, I get increasingly nervous about the scary landscape. Eventually, there is a scene where I'm driving as fast as I can back down the hill being confronted by strange white skinned people standing in the road, etc. Kind of a combo of Dracula and The Ring

I never actually meet the vampire. In each repeat of the dream, it's a dream about some big, bad "thing" that I haven't met head on yet.

My first couple thoughts about the 'big, bad thing' that I'm processing are: 1) my thoughts about going overseas to teach English (with all the decisions that have to be made there) and 2) my father's health has taken a turn for the worse (a situation that still has loose ends).

Tree Trimming

The tree trimming was a success. I wasn't quite my normal self, but I enjoyed having folks over. I didn't take any photos of guests, but here's one of the tree --
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I went out the next day with the camera -- it was really nice to walk around without thinking about cleaning or cooking or anything like that.
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Red Dog takes a break....

A few years ago when I was feeling kinda down, I was out shopping and saw this cute little red dog...I bought him home as a pick me up. I had no idea that the dog was connected with books and cartoons...or that his name was Clifford. Over the years, I have kept him sitting out on my coffee table.

As I plan a possible jaunt overseas, I had read an idea to take a mascot with you and to take pictures of the mascot as you travel. I had thought about taking the red dog with me...

Today is prep day for the Tree Trimming party, and here is the red dog taking a break --
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Usually during Tree Trimming prep, there is a some sort of accident. Last year, I was moving an already baked key lime pie, and somehow tilted it...and it slid out of the tin and into the sink! One year the garbage disposal got stopped up by eggshells, and it took forever to unstop the drain! This year, I dropped one of my red stoneware plates and cut myself slightly during cleanup...Hopefully, this is the only misfortune for the year!
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The prep started last night with making a sweet potato pie --
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And continued today with chocolate pies which I make because my sisters like chocolate --
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And punch, which almost nobody drinks, but for some reason I like making, lol! This jar was given to me years ago by a friend, and I use it every year to mix up the punch and chill it before the party.
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A few pics not posted elsewhere...

Seems LJ is back again? Here are a few pics that I have not posted on Flickr or Facebook --

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I have been busy preparing for my upcoming "Tree Trimming" that I have every year. One last push, and then I can just enjoy the night :)

LJ problems...

I was going to post a few pics...but LJ doesn't seem to be uploading any pics right now.

LJ is an old platform, and I'm thinking it may be time to go my separate way....

Wow..sore!

A friend and I went down the street to get the Christmas tree last night. Getting it a week early will give the branches a chance to open up and give me a chance to get the lights on it before the tree trimming next weekend.

This year, there were no wagons available..and although we used to always carry the tree every year with no problem, for some reason this year the tree felt VERY heavy! And I think it must be heavier than usual because the friend was breathing hard, and my arms are sore this morning! Maybe the trunk is thicker in this tree than usual.

Here's the tree first put into place last night --
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***
On a different note, I've been looking at Firechat. It's a typical chat client with one exception -- if there is no internet connection, I believe it tries to pass messages along to other phones using Bluetooth -- meaning, your message could get delivered by another phone when that phone gets back to an internet connection.

I have never seen anyone near me on Bluetooth (it always says 'You are alone here'), but sometimes I go into various internet chat rooms. It feels very 1990 to go into a chat room :)

In this case, it is one for French speakers, and I was pleased that my eyes immediately understood the abbreviated text. My expanded text is in the blue color to the right of each post.
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Christmas Lights at the Botanical Garden

I headed to the Botanical Garden last night for one of the member nights, thinking it would not be crowded on a cold, misty night. I was correct -- not very crowded, although I did not get any pictures that really made use of the mistiness.
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River Last Evening

Did some house cleaning yesterday, then headed to Belle Isle to take some pictures before having dinner with a friend. Pleasant and beautiful day for November!

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One friend said the birds look Photoshopped! But they were there, just like this, I swear, lol!
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Quiet Saturday

After I spent time doing some chores around the house, I headed to the VMFA to see the Forbidden City exhibit. I don't have a lot of interest in costumes and cloth, and there was a fair amount of that in the exhibit. I am more interested in writing, books, scrolls, and there was that as well. I'll probably go back on a day when there are fewer people -- a perk of membership is going multiple times.

No photos in the Forbidden City exhibit, but they are allowed in the standing galleries. I spent some time in the more classical galleries, as well as the 20th century French and German paintings gallery.

The first image is from outside the museum.
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Not sure why this one attracted me. I think maybe that it has some of its original color.
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This Egyptian carving attracted me because it is of butchering an animal. I grew up helping 'kill hogs', so I know a little about slaughtering and butchering an animal. I also found the carving interesting because it is 'nipple articulated', lol! Even though they carved 2 dimensionally, they did try for realism -- down to the men's nipples!
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This last one is at home -- I like how the shadows from the Ficus leaves fall on the wall.
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Day off

Selfie that I took in a mirror the other night. I like silhouettes, and this one came out better than I had thought it would -- I think I like the contrast of the yellow behind the shadow.
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I spent the day getting Christmas lights onto the hedges. Here's a pic from tonight --
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Probably not the wisest to bring the cell phone into the shower with me, but I noticed the light outside.
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Purpose of praying for someone

My sisters and I have been having followup conversation via text messages (is it really 'conversation' if you can't see the other person?)...

Basically, I told them that I don't want anyone praying that I change or soften...if my parents want change, they should pray for themselves. I'm perfectly happy if someone is praying for my health, safety, happiness, etc. But change? No, don't pray for me like that.

Turn of events

Took my middle sister and niece out to lunch today for Thanksgiving. I briefly saw my youngest sister to give a hug. It was good to see them.

I had felt sorry for my parents -- dad is recovering from surgery, so they did not feel up to having lunch. So, I felt sorry they were stuck at home.

So along with 1 sister and niece, I took them a sweet potato pie that I made last night. This was the first time I had been in to their house in 6 1/2 years -- since they refused to allow my ex to come with me for the holidays all those years ago.

For me, it was being nice -- "loving" as I put it in my post from yesterday.

Sadly, my visit seems to have had unfortunate consequences. My Mom told my youngest sister that my visit was the answer to her prayers, that God was softening my heart.

Sigh...My parents have spent the last 20 something years since I came out to them praying for me not to be gay.

Sadly, it seems my visit has encouraged that silliness. And this was NOT my intention. Not at all!

When my youngest sister told me that tidbit on the phone, I had a flush of anger -- the same anger that burned through me 6 years ago. That anger years ago made me realize what was and was not important to me. To use a concept from my parents' religion, that anger burned the chaff from the wheat..and helped me to realize that I needed to separate from my folks.

The anger today only lasted a bit and was not so intense...but it helped me to remember -- this is my own life. And I need to keep my parents at arms length and make my own decisions.

I had been worrying that if I took off for overseas to teach English, that they might die while I was gone (their health is declining). But the anger performed its purpose -- reminded me to live my life for myself.

A Tumble of Pictures

Here is a "tumble" of pictures from around town lately. The Buddha picture is from the Bangkok vacation, now nearly a couple years ago - I was daydreaming of it a few days ago.

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Celtic Knot
karmicdragonfly
Karmic-Dragonfly

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In order to be effective truth must penetrate like an arrow — and that is likely to hurt.

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