Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras is, as you know, French for Fat Tuesday, which is the vernacular nickname for the day before Lent begins. So named because it was the day to use up all the animal fat in the house before refraining from eating meat and animal products during the Christian period of abstinence, the forty days of Lent.

Carnival, which comes from a Latin phrase meaning "removal of meat," is the three-day period preceding the beginning of Lent, the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday immediately before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the Lenten Season. The three days before Ash Wednesday are also known as Shrovetide ("shrove" is an Old English word meaning "to repent"). The Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday is called Shrove Tuesday. The entire three-day period has now come to be known in many areas as Mardi Gras.

Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter. Now it is more common for penitent persons to give up behaviors (such as smoking or sex) than to forego eating meat. Nevertheless, in the Christian year, it is a time of introspection and sacrifice and an important season in the church calendar.

An old fashioned tradition where I grew up was to have a Pancake Supper at the church to use up the lard and butter. It never fails that on Fat Tuesday I feel a compelling urge to go to IHOP and eat my fill of pancakes.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Closing Ceremonies

Could the costumes have been uglier? Really…who is in charge of the dress code? I watched the last day of the Olympics and, to be honest, I am glad it is over. Usually I enjoy the Winter Olympics, but this year was a disappointment all around. Arrogant athletes who did not perform as expected, examples of poor sportsmanship, rowdy behavior in the host town. I would give a D- to the US teams who “blew out” and came home empty handed.

During the Opening Ceremonies, many of the US athletes were mugging for the cameras and acting like they were in a college homecoming parade. This “attitude” continued to be displayed during the entire two weeks, with team members “dissing” the medals (the ones they did NOT win), putting down their co-participants, and…literally…falling down on the job.

Does anyone else think it is a little obsessive to work 10-12 hours a day, 365 days a year, for four years to participate for four minutes in the Olympics? The only participant who seemed to enjoy himself was the “Flying Tomato” who did display a zest for the sport and for living.

Now what? Out here in the Pacific Northwest, Spring is still elusive, but should arrive soon. The outdoors beckons and we will get away from the TV watching anyway. That is…unless you are hooked on Survivor!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Diary of Knitting An Olympics Scrap Cap

Settle down to watch the Opening Ceremonies after gathering supplies together:
16” circular needle size 6, set of 4 double point needles size 6, 7 little markers, and pieces of scrap yarn at least 2 yards long for each row of color. Choose a fair size ball of yarn for the border. (CO plus 9 rows = 20 yards.) Pick a color that looks good next to your face. Cast on 84 stitches. [For 22” circumference.]

Begin the seed stitch border. Join the round being careful not to twist stitches. *Round 1: K1,P1 all the way around. Place marker at end of round. Round 2: P1, K1 all the way around.* Continue from * to * for 1 ¾ inches. (9 rounds.)

Keep knitting each evening as you watch the events:
After the seed stitch border, work straight in stockinette stitch for another 3 ¾ inches. Change colors at the beginning of rounds. Move the marker at the beginning of each round. Work one, two or three rounds per color. Use your imagination to choose combinations! Keep it bright and unusual.

Keep going round and round. Seed stitch in olive green. Then navy blue, deep purple, bright red, hot pink, light lilac, metallic variegated, pale turquoise, deep aqua, sunshine yellow, bright pumpkin, maroon variegated, dusty mulberry, royal blue. When the piece measures 5 ½ overall, place a marker every 12 stitches.

By the final weekend:
Start decrease round K2tog before each marker around. Repeat decrease round every other round 3 times more to 56 stitches. Then decrease every round until there are 7 stitches left. Forest green, pale lime, medium grape, sky blue, bright pink, dusky gold, bright green, denim blue, burnt orange and back to olive green for the last few rounds. Thread tail through stitches and pull firmly. Draw through to inside of hat and fasten. Tie and cut joined ends from the start/end of each stripe.

Put on your Scrap Cap and settle down to watch the Closing Ceremonies.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

George Birthington’s Washday

This phrase was a joke my father always made every year which used to embarrass me when I was in high school, but now makes me miss him and his light humorous comments on life. Now that we have Presidents’ Day, we slide over the real birth dates of Lincoln and Washington. To further confuse the issue, both of my parents had February birthdays that were close. I have to look into the genealogical records to remember which is which. My father, Clarence “Andy” Anderson was born February 19, 1896 in Taylorville, Illinois, and my mother, Winifred Barnes Anderson was born February 21, 1895 in Kansas City, Missouri. More than a century ago.

They have both been gone a long time now. When I lived in Missouri I could visit the gravesites in Forest Hill Cemetery and many times Windy went with me to tend the burial places, and to leave flowers and mementos. Once, when Andy was visiting, he left a half-buried baseball by my mother’s headstone. I had told him many times that she shared his love of baseball and she never missed a radio broadcast of the world series. Her team was the Brooklyn Dodgers.

They were wonderful parents and I have many happy memories of my growing up years. They passed on to me a passion for freedom, a legacy of protest of war and other injustices against mankind, and a commitment to protecting the environment. They taught me to read at an early age and filled our home with books and conversation. Few knew my father was deaf. He spoke very clearly, read lips, and with the help of a hearing aid kept up with all that was going on around him. He was an early advocate for the disabled and worked all his life to open doors for other deaf people.

Much of what I believe in today and most of what I do to make the world a better place is a result of growing up their child. They gave me love and wonderful gifts for which I am eternally grateful. At this time of year, I want to honor their memory.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Icicle Falls

Amid the brouhaha of the outsourcing of port management and the last drop being wrung out of Dickie’s birdshot bungle, the national morning news suddenly showed a shot of Multnomah Falls at an icy standstill, frozen in motion as it plummeted down from the cliffs. This incredible natural phenomenon is only a few miles from my front door and I saw it on Saturday on my way up The Gorge to Catherine Creek. All along the way, smaller waterfalls that lined the highway were icicles and tourists were stopping to touch and photograph. In some spots, large chunks of ice had fallen into the roadway and strewn their diamond-like beauty all about.

It has been a deep freeze week coming on the heels of an unseasonably (even for Oregon!) wet January that has made the ground a frozen muddy morass filled with footprints and animal tracks. It strikes me as a trick that I moved from the Midwest in search of a milder winter and encountered instead a rough weather season at the same time Missouri is enjoying a warmer than usual few months.

Hiking in the Sandy River Delta yesterday I encountered ice on all the ponds and even the river had ice formations along the bank in the shallow waters. Princess is drawn to the water, but then backs off when she sees the ice. She has watched on TV all the scenes of dogs being rescued from rivers after falling in, and she is cautious. Buddy stays home on these long jaunts as his little back legs still are not up to strenuous walks.

Coming in from the windblown walk with frozen fingers and red cheeks, it is nice to have a hot shower and a cup of hot tea. Sometimes hot chai latte. Then sit down with a good book or the TV news and just take life easy. My days don’t have the regular rhythm they had in Osceola, but most include some time outside with one or both dogs and some time on the couch with one or more of my projects. Today is probably going to include a nap.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Death Risk Quiz - Macabre But Informative

Item lifted from WebMD website: “Researchers have created a new quiz to gauge the chance that people aged 50 and older will die within four years' time.

The 12-question quiz appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association. It covers topics including age, BMI (body mass index), smoking, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and trouble with daily activities due to poor health or memory problems.

The quiz is designed for older adults who aren't living in nursing homes or other institutions, write Sei Lee, MD, and colleagues, who invented the quiz.”

Here we go with the “older adults” appellation again. Now it is directed at people over 50. (Have you noticed how the age keeps going downward?) Anyway…if you take the quiz, you can see the major indicators that predict health risks.

My score was 3, two points of which were my age and one was for being underweight. My body mass index (BMI) is 18.2. That puts my risk of death within the next four years at less than 4%. If you are over 50 years of age, you might want to calculate your own score. [Younger readers stop at this point.]

Here is the quiz, as it appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

Age. Use this point guide:
Age 60-64: 1 point
Age 65-69: 2 points
Age 70-74: 3 points
Age 75-79: 4 points
Age 80-84: 5 points
Age 85 or older: 7 points

Sex. Give yourself two points if you're a man; no points if you're a woman.

Weight, height, and BMI (body mass index). Give yourself one point if your BMI is below normal (less than 25).

Has a doctor told you that you have diabetes or high blood sugar? If so, give yourself two points.

Has a doctor ever told you that you have cancer or a malignant tumor, excluding minor skin cancers? If so, give yourself two points.

Do you have a chronic lung disease that limits your usual activities or makes you need oxygen at home? If so, give yourself two points.

Has a doctor ever told you that you have congestive heart failure? If so, give yourself two points.

Have you smoked cigarettes in the past week? If so, give yourself two points.

Because of a health or memory problem, do you have any difficulty with bathing or showering? If so, give yourself two points.

Because of a health or memory problem, do you have any difficulty with managing your money -- such as paying your bills and keeping track of expenses? If so, give yourself two points.

Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with walking several blocks? If so, give yourself two points.

Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with pulling or pushing large objects like a living room chair? If so, give yourself one point.

Add up the points.

Interpreting Scores
Here are the quiz scores and four-year death risks for the people Lee's team studied to create the quiz:
0-5 points: less than 4%
6-9 points: 15%
10-13 points: 42%
14 or more points: 64%

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Big Chill

Along with much of the rest of the country, Northwest Oregon is experiencing record-breaking cold. When joined with the infamous Gorge Winds that I have written of before, this makes for a wind chill factor of minus12 degrees which is right on the cusp of where frost bite will set in rather quickly. Undeterred, Phil and I donned long johns and our Columbia Sportswear gear (thanks, Andy) and ventured forth for the first hands-on (“feet-on”) field trip for our Friends of the Columbia Gorge Hike Leader Training.

Driving up Highway 84 this morning, my sturdy SUV was being whipped all over the road with wind gusts of up to 50 mph. At Catherine Creek parking lot, we exited the warm car into the rather frigid morning, layered up, and shouldered our packs. After a short period of milling around and commenting on each others’ hats, we took off. Nineteen hikers in two groups warming up as we hiked along different routes to the same destination. Our group was defined as those who had done six miles or more during the past week and were able to keep up a brisk pace. The Wimpy Group were the strollers who took a shorter less steep trail. As the day moved toward noon and we moved toward The Arch, the wind died down to a stiff breeze and some of the many layers of clothing became unnecessary.

The groups met up at noon and at the lunch break, we stretched out on the ground and ate our meal at leisure, no one in a hurry to get back on the trail. We all agreed that it was a good thing that the hike was not cancelled as had been discussed yesterday when the winds were really blowing. We all felt intrepid and able to embrace the big chill.

It is important for me to add that you should not try this at home. At least not without the proper gear and a plan to cut things short if any of the group experiences any symptoms of hypothermia or other ill-effects. The admonition to seniors to stay inside and warm is probably good advice for the majority of folks who are out of condition and unused to cold weather.

But, after walking every below freezing day of a long winter in Osceola, I felt I was on a springtime stroll today. I didn’t even wear the giant down Cabela coat. That was an absolutely required garment in Missouri. I left behind the fur-lined boots and the giant boxing glove style mittens. My friend back there and I used to meet on the street near my house and barely recognize each other under all the piled on clothes. We knew who it was primarily because we were the only ones brave enough to venture out. Today was cold for Oregon but not so much for me. Nevertheless, there are cold warnings for tonight and records are being broken for this time of year. So tomorrow I will stay in and have a toasty Sunday.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


A few years ago, the smelt run on the Sandy River was a big event and the locals lined the riverbank with dip nets and filled buckets to take home. In recent years, the smelt have not been so plentiful. But this year, the Sandy is running clear and cold and the conditions are promising that this could be the year of the return.

The smelt have been sighted in the Columbia a few miles west of here. The fickle little fish may take a right turn and head up the Sandy River to spawn. Or not. They could just stay in the Columbia or turn up the Cowlitz in Washington. But the residents of Troutdale and Wood Village are hopeful. We will all watch for the long-handled dip net stuck in the umbrella hole at Jack’s Snacks and Tackle that will signal a smelt run.

The little business is close to my house and on my route to Lewis and Clark Park or the Sandy River Delta to run the dogs. I doubt I’ll go smelt dipping myself, but I would love to see the schools traveling by. There have been only two runs since 1989. Isn’t it about time for the little fellas to return? We’ll be down at the river watching.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Welcome Back, Jack

Down below freezing this morning and frost on the windows and the street. It is the first day of a predicted cold front that will keep temperatures below freezing through the weekend. On the plus side, the sun is out and the ice sparkles like diamonds.

Still tangled up in yarn and knitting away on my projects for the Knitting Olympics. The TV is on and I catch the news from Torino as I have my second cup of coffee and plan the second Olympics project. The first hat went really quickly and is now finished and on my head. Just in time for a chilly day’s walk.

Also on the agenda is reading the book for the next Book Club meeting in March. One that is familiar and has been read and reread already. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Surprisingly, at the Monday night meeting when I was comparing it to another book, one member suddenly interrupted me and said “Don’t tell the ending, I haven’t read it.” I thought she was kidding, but in fact she wasn’t.

We then got into a discussion of high school reading lists and all agreed we were not devoted fans of Silas Marner. Divided on House of the Seven Gables. Younger members liked Lord of the Flies, but that was before my time. My favorite was Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities which I remember as the first piece of great literature that surprised me by being really enjoyable to read. It remains a favorite.

What book do you remember from High School English? Did it instill a love of reading or cause you to stay away from the classics forever? What would you choose to read on an icy winter stay-at-home day?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Think First, Shoot Second

Quail hunting requires some sense of diligence and watchfulness. But if you hit someone on accident by mistake because you weren’t paying attention and it was late in the day and you were hunting without a stamp from a car no less, then there is no question what you should do. Blame the victim!

“You made me do it.” The White House spin is to put it all on the poor soul with a face full of birdshot, saying that he should have informed the armed Veep that he was standing in his line of fire. Now it is true that being out in the boons while hunting is going on is a risk that also requires some sense of diligence and watchfulness. And an orange vest.

So who’s to blame. How about the whole hunting party, including the hostess who waited patiently in the car rather than get her boots muddy. We have just learned that the Secret Service is there to protect the Vice President, but not to protect people from the Vice President.

When my daughter first heard the news, she thought Cheney had shot Dan Quayle! So the dance of politics continues but with armaments. Scary thought!

Monday, February 13, 2006

“The Sweet Doing of Nothing”

Translation of a great Italian phrase I learned watching the Olympics. This is the day for it! After a busy week of parties and activities and guests, Monday yawns empty and unscheduled. The dogs and I are being lazy and practicing doing nothing. Actually, for them, that translates into napping and sleeping followed by a snooze. For me, it is being on the couch with the Sunday paper that I didn’t have time to read on Sunday, today’s paper, my book, my knitting and some nice music on the radio. I don’t have to go anywhere, do anything, attend any meeting. Just enjoy the sweet doing of nothing.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Knitting Olympics

It amazes me that I continue to discover more wonderful things about Portland each day that I live here. Now I learn from a front page article in the Oregonian that Portland is the “knitting capital of the world.” And in keeping with that reputation, many knit shops here are joining in the Knitting Olympics.

The rules are simple: start your project on Friday February 10th and finish it by the closing ceremonies. Choose anything you want to make. Plain or fancy, simple or challenging, big or little, wood or acrylic. Just do it. Prizes will be awarded. Medals and gift certificates to (suprise1) knit shops.

This works for me. I just finished the afghan I was crocheting for a friend’s baby and the lime green wool cable hat I made for myself. For the project, I am going to make another hat. Candy stripe this time using leftover yarn from the giant blue plastic bin. You can’t have too many hats in my opinion. And since I will be spending a lot of time outdoors in the upcoming months wearing the same Columbia Gore-tex coat every day, a hat is my way of making a fashion statement and adding some variety to my appearance.

Some patterns call for two needles, but I like to knit in the round either on a long round needle or on four or five double pointed needles. I have completed the casting on part and now I am choosing scarps of color to start the brightly colored bands. If it works out the pattern will appear in this space at the end of the games when I submit my entry to the judges.

By the time you read this, Friday may have passed but you can still join in. Just grab some yarn and some needles and get going. Dig around in the archives for the simple scarf pattern I posted awhile back. This is the perfect activity to accompany hours sitting on the couch watching the competitions.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thirty-Four Years Ago

On a cold dark night…Winifred Lora Graham was born at Roseville Community Hospital in Roseville, California. The celebration included dancing in the delivery room as, unlike today’s expectant parents, we did not know it would be a GIRL. After three boys, this was an exciting surprise.

She is named after both grandmothers. My mother, Winifred E. Barnes Anderson, and Bill’s mother, Lora Fay Graham. Winifred Anderson died before Windy was born, but Lora Fay is still alive and pushing 100 years.

Throughout her whole life Windy has brought joy and happiness to her parents, her brothers, her friends, her co-workers, her neighbors and all who come across her path. I wish her the very best for today, tomorrow and the rest of her life. It is a privilege to be her mother, and to now live close enough to spend time with her. So…


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lengthening Days of Late Winter

If I was still working (which thankfully I am not) I would no longer be heading home in the dark. As winter begins waning, the days grow longer and we are reminded that Spring will come. These past few days there has been an “absence of precipitation” as the newscasters say. The sun came out and lit Mt. Hood in bright white light. It is so good to be outdoors in the day time in the sunlight!

Down by the river, the water is swift flowing and still full from the runoff. The mighty Columbia is only one mile from my house, but not easily accessible on foot so I hop in the Pathfinder and drive out Marine Drive to the Jetty. On a weekday the place is almost deserted except for an occasional fishing boat at the launch. The salmon are running and farther upstream, there is a problem at the Bonneville Dam as sea lions try to get to the fish before they get into the fish ladder. Steel gates are being constructed to keep the predators at bay.

Down at the Jetty or farther east at the mouth of the Sandy River are the spots where I will watch for the returning geese and other waterfowl as they head back from their sojourn in the south. In about two months, both of these places will be awash with wildflowers as Spectacular Spring comes to The Gorge.

Phil and I are going through Hike Leader Training with Friends of the Columbia Gorge and we will be leading free hikes for the general public during April, May and June. The tourists start coming then. For now…in the longer days I am out enjoying the peace and solitude.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Million Little Pieces

For those of you who haven’t read it, (is there really anyone out there who hasn’t?) it’s a “memoir” by a face-down-in-a-urine-puddle-in-the-alley drug addict about his recovery from the grip of terminal alcoholism and heroin use. Using stream of consciousness writing interspersed with sixth-grade-level expletives, he drags us through endless days in dreary rehab and endless nights in the dreary reaches of his mind. It’s been on the best-seller list due in part to the recommendation of Oprah who, as we know, controls the reading habits of the nation.

But oh…now we have accusations that instead of a true memoir, this is a compilation of a Million Little Lies. Accusations that James Frey, drug addict and generic jerk, might not have written a true account with the accuracy of a clear-minded individual making notes in a journal on a Sunday afternoon. So James goes on Larry King Live and defends the book. Oprah calls in and defends him.

Then Oprah has an awakening and decides she was duped and James goes back on her show to take a verbal beating. Acting, I might add, just like a relapsed addict in a therapist’s office sitting with head down and arms hanging between his legs (no tail). He does not defend himself this time in the presence of this formidable Defender Of Truth who makes every effort to ostracize and shame him. (Timed coincidentally with the release of his new book.)

So what? How many druggies do you know who can remember last week much less put down in excruciating correctness every detail of being high months ago and then living through rehab to tell about it. Uh…that is the definition of being high. A break with reality. Duh. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. What I want to know is when does Oprah plan to have George Bush on her show. He could use a little chastisement and ostracism and a good chewing out for duping the American people.

But it would seem that lying about the details of one man’s drug addiction is more heinous than lying about WMDs and a preemptive war for oil in the Middle East. What is wrong with this picture?

First we are upset about Clinton’s blowjob, and now a druggie’s misrepresentations of a sad and pitiful life that might be even worse to read about if the truth were told. It’s hard to “spice up” drug addiction, but he did and millions of little minds enjoyed it. So…if you haven’t read it, now you don’t need to.