Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New Year Intents (not in tents)

We'll be ringing in the new year with a few friends tonight. Maybe we'll actually see midnight this year. Any bets?

Resolutions suck. I'm tired of being disappointed when another year has slipped by without accomplishing the tough resolutions. I am looking forward to 2009 and have made a few very attainable resolutions for the upcoming year. Wait, I'm not even going to call them resolutions and have that stigma placed upon them. Rather, here are my intents for 2009:

1. I will say "ott nine" as much as possible as it's the last of the "ott" years this century.

2. I will bring my re-usable shopping bags to ALL stores, not only the grocery store.

3. I will listen to ALL the songs in my iTunes folder and remove the ones I always skip over. According to iTunes, it will take me 12.2 days to listen to them all. Yikes!

4. I will continue to drive the hubby (a.k.a. the prince of darkness) crazy by leaving lights on around the house in rooms I am no longer in and blame it on the ghosts.

5. Rico and his kitties will receive lots of love and TLC.

6. I will not plant 23 tomato plants in our garden as I did last year. I will also not attempt to make homemade ketchup again. Blech.

7. And last but not least, I will grow taller to lower the body mass index number. Oh damn.

Have a safe and happy new year all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

A vintage photo from six Christmases ago. At the print shop I was working at, jobs were stored on CD's and stacked up quickly.

Hubby and I will be doing some traveling for the holidays but I'll be back soon. Enjoy the holidays and peace to you all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adorned Pole

This Disordered Life received the knit-up I sent for her guerilla art project. Since it's in the UK, does this make me an international guerilla artist? ;)

Photos courtesy of notmassproduced.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Have a Barney of a Christmas

1. Get a ruler.

2. Watch this:

3. Quickly, measure how far your jaw dropped. I had 3 inches.

4. Please tell me this is not our tax dollars hard at work.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Collaboration defined

Fellow blogger KMKat posted these videos on her blog the other day. They moved me so am sharing with you. View top one first.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Below is an email I received from a friend/former co-worker who should have her own blog because she is a great story teller with a wicked sense of humor. With four very amusing kids, a husband, a job and a farm with interesting critters, she has great fodder for entertaining stories. I can't imagine how she gets everything done on a daily basis and fitting in time to sleep. Maybe a blog will come later when a few more kidlets get into school full-time. I'll keep working on her. Her oldest son, Cody, is nine years old...

Cody had a little buddy call him tonight. They are busy making big plans about how they are going to start to save $100 a year so when they are 17 they will have $1,700 and will be able to buy a big truck and have enough gas that they can travel all over the US to go hunting for big animals.... blah, blah. Very detailed oriented. Anyway, Brandon (his friend) had to "call Cody back" cuz he had to eat supper. In the meantime, Chuck asked Cody what Brandon's last name was and Chuck said, "Ooooohhhhhh.... that must be balou & her hubby's neighbors." So fast forward 15 minutes... Cody was just sitting here gabbing with Brandon again and as I walk by I hear him say...

"Hey, do the people who live by you have a round shaped barn that has a round shaped roof with an antenna or spear thingy on top of it?"
"Yeah? Well that is my Mom's friend!"
"Yeah. My dad likes to go in their hot air balloon that has all the rainbow colors in it."
[long pause]
"HEY! Did you know that that lady that lives by you is missing a FINGER?!!"
[short pause]
"YEAH!!! Only 4... but you can't really tell. She showed me."
"No, I am totally serious dude."
"I WAS counting her thumb. Geez!"
"No, she didn't care. She showed me and my brother. And she was laughing. Aaaaaannnnd.... SHE HAS A CONVERTIBLE!!!"

Oh balou, your legend lives on here! :-)

I am big with nine year olds. I wonder if I added another chapter to the legend of balou after a school bus full of kids drove by a couple of days ago. It was -10˚ and I was walking outside from my office to the my purple wizard bathrobe...wearing snow boots...and a stocking cap...with a cat on my shoulder. By now I am probably known as "that fingerless crazy cat lady who does magic in the round barn."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The northerner instinct

Salmon are born with the instinct to return to their freshwater birthplace to mate and die. Dogs are born with instincts - like my German Shepherd that needs to know where his humans are at all times. Sea turtles that hatch on the beach follow their natural urge to run towards the water. Humans, now there's a different lot.

I am not well read on the subject of human instinct but it seems we know very little of it. The only studies I've heard of, which doesn't surprise me, involve human sexual attraction. I do think there is one non-sexual human trait worthy of study. It appears in many of the human species born in snow country and is one I've found myself taking note of and checking in on frequently. It was happening this past weekend with the threat of snow storms and sub zero weather. What is this urge you ask? It is to stock up on bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper with impending bad weather approaching. Is this desire to make, consume and digest French toast during snow storms instinct or learned behavior? I'm going with instinct, pure as the driven snow instinct. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pop!! go the bloggers

I had the opportunity to meet several other bloggers on Saturday night at the Pop!! restaurant in St. Paul, MN. Minnesota Matron did a fine job of organizing the get-together. The restaurant was a pleasure; good food, great service and a very patient young waiter dealing with a bunch of flirty cougars. Downtown St. Paul is a beautiful sight with wonderful light displays to celebrate the season. I took some photos but the camera wasn't cooperating and everything turned out too blurry to share. (Typical, blame the equipment, not the operator.)

I've always wondered about other bloggers. Are they the same people in the real world as they are in the virtual world? I think writing down the words describing inner thoughts surrounding our life moments makes us more interesting to our readers. This group proved to be just as entertaining as their blogs. We agreed not to blog about specific conversations but the topics ranged from everyday humor to our deep, inner workings. It was a great evening and I look forward to future get-togethers.

Here is a list of the folks that were there - give them a visit.

Minnesota Matron
Are we there yet
Licking Calcutta
The Philosophy Factory
Stitch Simple
Standing Still!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Guerilla Art Appreciation & Knit-Ups

There are as many reasons to perform or install guerilla art as there are forms in which it takes. For most of us, the first form that pops into mind is graffiti. Some of the other forms of guerilla art, at least the ones I have heard of include: sidewalk chalk, stickers, stenciled art, sculptures, flyers & posters, postcards, leave behinds such as art or gifts or money, inserts in books at libraries or book stores, or the well known message in a bottle. Subject matters of guerilla art are just as varied including: drawings, collage, doodles, paintings, beaded sticks, recipes, photos, good luck charms, secrets, humor, fortunes, quotes, poems, political or activist messages.

I recently discovered a new form of guerilla art from the talented Susan Sanford's blog, ArtSpark Theatre. Susan is a extraordinary illustrator and the creator of the art sticks I've mentioned in previous posts. She also brought to my attention another blogger, Grrl+Dog from Australia.

Grrl+Dog's blogger profile reads, "Grrl + Dog runs with scissors, colors outside the lines and barks with her own voice. She commits random acts of guerrilla knitting in the inner west of Sydney and is growing old disgracefully." She creates and installs wonderful guerilla art "knit-ups" in public places for all to enjoy. How could you not smile when coming upon a sign post wearing a knit-up. She usually has tags with notes on them as well. Here are a few examples of her installations from her blog (photos courtesy of grrl):

It's the blogger way to go from blog to blog to blog isn't it? ArtSpark posted a call for knit-ups to go to an Arts & Crafts Centre for people with learning disabilites in the UK. Another blogger, this disordered life, works at the center. Since I am a faster and more talented crocheter than knitter, I put together a piece of guerilla art/knit-up/crochet-up/graknitti for a pole at the center and sent it off yesterday. They requested the pieces have varied textures as some of the visitors have low or no vision so I added ruffles and bells. Here's some music (hit play) & a show:

After my Christmas gifts are made up, I'll be working on an installation for the 4"x4" post under the stop sign at the end of our road. Although trying to figure out how to add a 'from the car readable' version of "& smell the roses" to it is becoming a challenge.

Here's a video of some Guerilla Art Knitters from the U.S.:

Be on the lookout. You may be passing by a form of guerilla art every day and not even notice it. And if you see a funky stop sign post on County Road J, know balou is not too far away.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bug Eyed Pajama Day

I had an installer here all day Friday to install two additional satellite receivers. It was interesting to watch how he handled our situation with an old house. He had to run some long lengths of wire and drill through 112 years of layers to get us up and running. There is some wire laying on the yard that will need to be buried by more than just snow. We will take care of that when the ground thaws in the spring.

As a bonus for the add-ons, we are getting HBO and Starz movie channels free of charge for three months. We subscribe to the basic channels along with our local TV stations. The movie channels are a big treat. So guess what we did yesterday? We stoked up the wood stove, wrapped up in blankets and watched movies all day in pajamas. Hubby did sacrifice himself and put real clothes on to go outside and play with Rico and do outside things for a bit. All I accomplished besides movie watching was to make one meal and finish up a guerrilla art project that's going over to the UK (more on that tomorrow).

What movies did we watch? After a while they all become this pixelated blur in the memory but I think we watched "National Treasure Book of Secrets" twice, "American Gangster", "The Last Mimsy" and bits and pieces of others. I feel like a bug eyed slug this morning. Is there such a thing as TV overdose?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hands and Mourning Doves

My Dad would've celebrated his 80th birthday last week. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him. I've been feeling guilty because I can't remember the exact date of his birthday. I couldn't bring myself to ask's something I should never forget. And I have. Hanging on to the too few memories and it hurts that even one little piece went missing. I was nine years old when Dad died from a heart attack at the age of 44.

Little things will trigger memories of him. Yesterday it was hearing the coos of a pair of mourning doves. I always think of Dad when I hear mourning doves. I'll imagine that it's his voice and he's reminding me that he's not too far away. Who knows? Maybe it is him. And maybe it's just the little girl inside needing to be comforted. She's never very far from the surface.

One of my most vivid memories of Dad is from church on Sunday mornings. Being the youngest of five, I think it was his job to keep me occupied and quiet during the Sunday morning sermons in our little Methodist church. I would sit in his lap and he would hold my hand in his big, tanned, calloused farmer hands. Ever so gently with his fingernail, he would push the cuticles back on each of my small fingernails. I can picture this so clearly. We always sat in the pews on the north side of church. Often the windows would be open. There were trees outside the windows and the mourning doves would be coo-coo-cooing outside. If all the other memories slowly disappear, this memory of touching hands and mourning dove songs will never be forgotten.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oh them DTV no signal blues

Is anyone else feeling the DTV switchover blues? It hit the balou household full force this week. The TV ads and booklets make it all sound so simple. That is until you have problems or questions.

We own three televisions; one in my office (in a separate building), one in the kitchen (a tiny 20 yr. old black & white TV/Radio), and one in our living room which is connected to a Dish Network satellite. I braved Black Friday and picked up a small 10" digital to replace my kitchen set and a $40 antenna from Radio Shack. They said I wouldn't need a more powerful antenna unless I lived in a valley or a hollow. Which we don't. We live on top of a hill and as a crow flies, about 45 miles from the major TV transmission towers.

We got a converter box and hooked it up to the TV in my office. We're fairly technologically savvy and made sure connections were correct. There's a very large antenna in the attic of my office which pulls in the current analog signals just fine. When we turned on the TV and converter box, a real pretty blue box with "No Signal" popped up. Wait! Excitement! There was a blip of football! Oh. Disappointment. Back to the blue "no signal" box. This was the same with all the stations we tried. My PBS station didn't come in at all. No blips even. Only the blue "no signal" box. Unacceptable. This was the same scenario when I connected the new digital TV to the new indoor antenna. I searched the internet looking for answers and made some phone calls. The only answer I got was that we would have to adjust our TV antennas for each station and possibly put it in a higher location and perhaps buy a new antenna. Way back in the anals of the documentation were the words "digital TV signals can be finicky." Well. They don't tell you THAT in those nice TV announcements aired on our local stations.

Would we have to tune the antenna to each station? I had visions of my childhood. Oh the horror! First we had to WALK to the TV set and TURN the dial WITH OUR HANDS to change a station. Then we had to turn the dial of the contraption on top of the TV - again, WITH OUR HANDS. This tuned the antenna so we could receive signal from one of the, hang on, THREE stations we had to choose from. I can remember being scolded for turning the antenna rotator too far and having visions of the it's wiry arms spinning out of control on top of the metal pole that was strapped to our old farmhouse.

I thought digital TV is "the way of the future." I guess it is as long as you have cable, live directly under the TV transmission towers, have satellite TV or have wiry antenna arms reaching into commercial air space. I think this is close to the end of free TV. It is for us anyways. Tomorrow morning an installer from Dish Network will be here to wire up this 1896 house and my just as old "pump house turned office." Dish Network will get $10 more a month from us, all three TV's will get their signal beamed in from contraptions spinning in space above our big blue ball and there will be PBS.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Star Gazer

When I stepped out of my office last night, my eyes immediately raised into the night sky to see a beautiful crescent moon flanked by two very bright planets. I'm used to seeing Venus sitting alongside the moon but the second one was a surprise. Hubby said that this is the brightest we will see these for a very long time and the second illumination was Jupiter.

The three-way conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon will be visible to all around the world during the next few days. It's so bright that even light polluted city dwellers will see it depending upon clear skies. In Europe they'll get a special treat as for an hour the crescent moon will eclipse Venus. They say Venus reappearing on the border of the dark side of the moon is beautiful. I can only imagine.

One of the perks of living in the country is our bright starry nights. I'll often walk to the part of the yard obscured by the beaming yard light and stare into the depths of the universe. Usually with Rico on the end of a leash doing his business. The winter sky also opens up more of the stars to our eyes. I suppose the lack of humidity in the air plays a part in that. It seems that the more you stare, the further you can see beyond the obvious. Then the shivers set in and Rico pulls me towards the door which ends the gazing. Small pleasures.