Archive | December 2012

Farewell 2012 – Can’t Wait for 2013!

As I sit here on the couch listening to the washer and dryer run, waiting for Jon to finish playing with paint samples and put the movie in (yes, I’m well aware of how lame we are…), I decided to do a little 2012 tribute blog.  Some of the year was great, some not so great, but I suppose it can’t all be rosy.  So here goes, in no particular order…

1.  I hit my one year anniversary at my new job, a job where I feel valued and appreciated and love my co-workers!

2.  I went on an amazing trip with Jon… nine days in Georgia, North and South Carolina.  The longest trip I’ve ever been on with him!  You can read about it from the beginning here

3.  My wonderful Martini kitty, my feisty girl with a protein allergy who loves sneaking meat and hates being brushed, was diagnosed with low grade diffuse alimentary lymphoma.  Cancer of the blood cells.  We started chemotherapy treatment in November, and I was heartbroken.  So far, Tini is hanging in there.

4.  I celebrated my two year wedding anniversary with my fabulous husband Jon.  We didn’t do anything special, but our trip was our anniversary celebration (see #2 above).

5.  I went to Michigan to visit my Grandma, who is 95!, and to attend my cousin’s wedding.  And I got to see many of my aunts, uncles and cousins!  I’m really lucky to have the family I do.

6.  Jon and I got to visit some fantastic exhibits at some great museums.  Gauguin at the Seattle Art Museum, King Tut at the Pacific Science Center, all the wonderful collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the interactive musical experience at the Motown Museum.  And all the amazing historic home tours that we visited on our Grand Tour!

7.  I completed my third half-marathon!  And it was for a great cause!

8.  Jon and I went a fun wine tour in Washington and Oregon for the President’s Day long weekend.  Wine, historic hotels, and even some antique shops!

9.  I got a promotion at work!  Talk about felling valued and appreciated!

10.  We went on a fun long weekend trip to Chelan, where we tried lots of great wine and had one of the most fun and memorable drives home ever!

So, while the year certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were some ups and downs, I feel pretty blessed to live the life I do.  Here’s wishing that 2013 is an even better year for all of us.  Happy New Year!

Chemo Kitty Has Some Hair

One of the most frequent questions I am asked when someone finds out that Martini is going through chemotherapy is whether or not she is losing her hair.  I have to admit, I wondered about that myself.  Would I end up with some sort of scrawny hairless cat who needed to wear a sweater all the time to keep warm?

After a month and a half, and three chemo treatments, Tini is just as furry as she always was.  Well, almost.  Remember she had to have her belly shaved for her ultrasound?  Well, the vet says that her shaved patch probably won’t start to grow in until after chemo is over.  Apparently most cats don’t lose their hair, although some lose their whiskers (Tini still has hers so far).  I guess that’s one less indignity that she will have to endure.

She had just received her subcutaneous fluids, so she was mad at me and wouldn't look at the camera.  But you can see her fur coat is intact!

She had just received her subcutaneous fluids, so she was mad at me and wouldn’t look at the camera. But you can see her fur coat is intact!

So far, so good.  I hope it continues to go this well.

Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou

In 2009, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the largest modern art museum in Europe, did an amazing thing.  It emptied all of its galleries, all of its permanent collections, of every piece of artwork done by a man and put them in storage.  And then filled the entire museum with art by women.  Every single gallery.  Every single piece.  By women.  It exhibited only women artists for a period of two years.  Now, some of the collection is on the road, and it is currently at the Seattle Art Museum.

On Saturday, Jon and I headed down for a little break from all the holiday hustle and bustle for a visit.  The exhibit is only in Seattle until January 13, 2013, and we wanted to see it before it leaves.

So, the first thing I want to say is… this is the painting that was on their flyer.

The Blue Room by Suzanne Veladon, 1923

The Blue Room by Suzanne Veladon, 1923

This painting by Suzanne Veladon was painted in the Post-Impressionist style in 1923.  Although it was painted during the roaring twenties, and there were plenty of glamorous upper class women to paint, she chose to paint a member of the working class.

So, why is this painting significant?  Well…  The exhibit started out fine, with several very nice works by artists I had never heard of before.  Natalia Gontcharova, Romaine Brooks, and Tamara de Lempicka.

Romaine Brooks was born to wealthy American parents in Rome, but unfortunately, her father abandoned the family and her mother was emotionally abusive, preferring to dote on Romaine’s mentally-ill brother.  Romaine moved to Paris and lived as a poor art student until her mother’s death in 1902 gave her the money she needed to live independently and paint what she wanted to paint.  Sadly though, Brooks largely stopped painting after 1925; she only completed one painting after World War II.  The self-portrait below was in the exhibition, and it was one of my favorite works.

Au Bord de la Mer (The Edge of the Sea), Self-Portrait by Romaine Brooks, 1914

Au Bord de la Mer (The Edge of the Sea), Self-Portrait by Romaine Brooks, 1914

Tamara de Lempicka was another artist I was unfamiliar with, but whose artwork really resonated with me.  Tamara was Polish, born to wealthy parents in Warsaw, and went to boarding school and traveled extensively as a child.  She married a ladies man whom she was enamored with, and when he was arrested by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, she searched for him in prisons and managed to secure his release with the help of a Swedish consul.  She and her husband then fled to Paris where she took up a bohemian lifestyle, with multiple lovers of both genders (her first husband left her in 1927 and they divorced in 1931).

Tamara de Lempicka was one of those artists who knew success early on, and her paintings of the 1920s and 1930s are apparently her most well known.  She painted with a clear Art Deco style, and her works exude sexuality.  She fled Paris in 1939 when she saw the writing on the wall that World War II was coming, and moved to Hollywood, where she lived a life of high style with her second husband, the Baron Raoul Kuffner von Diószeg.  Her works are collected by Madonna and Jack Nicholson.  I really like the painting that was in the exhibition.

Girl in a Green Dress, by Tamara de Lempicka, circa 1930

Girl in a Green Dress, by Tamara de Lempicka, circa 1930

After that, the exhibit went downhill.  I got a little worried when an exhibit room had a warning label before you entered.  “This Exhibit Contains Mature Content.  Discretion Advised.”  Oh boy…

That room contained a giant-sized (I’m talking about 20 feet tall) woven textile (probably wool) representation of a vagina.  Other notable works included a whole wall of photographs of a topless model adorned with different patterns of chewed gum, a video of a woman violently brushing her hair, a series of photographs of a woman with crotchless pants posing with a machine gun, and what I like to call the “Feel-Up Box.”  This was a video of a woman wearing a box over her upper half, with a piece of fabric covering the front.  She then invited men to put their hands in the box and feel her up.  But not for too long, because she was timing them with a watch.

Much of the remainder of the exhibit was overtly sexual, and angry.  It just seemed like the entire exhibit was angry feminist art, and I didn’t think it was very representative of several decades of art by women.  I guess I just don’t understand modern art; to me art will always be something that requires talent, and putting a nylon over your face and filming yourself as you cut holes in it with scissors just isn’t art to me.  And in case you weren’t completely weirded out at this point, the exhibit ends with two more disturbing works.

The first – dead birds in crochet.  Yep…  Three cases of dead, taxidermied sparrows dressed in little crocheted sweaters.

And the finale… A film of a nude woman on a beach, hula-hooping with a hoop of barbed wire.

I won’t make you endure any photos of these later exhibits…  I’m sure I’ve already scarred you enough.  And if you want to visit Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, and you don’t have to pay out of pocket (hooray for our membership!), I would suggest that you quit after the second gallery.

Lincoln’s Sanctuary

Recently, I read Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier’s Home, by Matthew Pinsker.  It was a great find at the library book sale, and I couldn’t resist picking it up for $1 when I saw it.


Lincoln’s Sanctuary, by Matthew Pinsker

If you have never heard of the Soldier’s Home, it is on the grounds of a property that was established in 1851 as the Armed Forces Retirement Home, also known as the Military Asylum.  Its purpose was to care for the invalid and disabled veterans of the army.  The cottage was originally the home of George Riggs, the man from whom the property was purchased.  The cottage dates to 1842.  So, how does that relate to Lincoln you ask?

Well, the Soldier’s Home is approximately 3 miles from the White House, which was considered to be well outside of the city in the 1860s.  And it enjoyed a location atop a shaded hill, so it enjoyed cooler temperatures and breezes than the White House did.  It was a perfect summer retreat for someone who lived in Washington D.C., close enough to be able to travel daily to the White House, but far enough away to feel like you were getting a break to the country.

In all, Lincoln spent 13 months living at the Soldier’s Home during his Presidency.  He first visited 3 days after his inauguration, and his last visit was the day before his assassination.  He was able to use the peace and solitude to get some of his best thinking done, and as a result, he was able to produce some of his best work there, including, it is thought, the first drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Matthew Pinsker does a wonderful job going chronologically through Lincoln’s Presidency, hitting the high points of Lincoln’s thoughts and actions, and tying these events in with Lincoln’s time at the Soldier’s Home.  Of course, some of it is speculation, because there aren’t surviving records to corroborate it, but the author makes educated guesses on Lincoln’s writings and conversations with others based on historic eyewitness accounts of visits, diary and journal entries from the time, and public records of when Lincoln and his family were in residence at the Home.

The book offers a look at the more intimate side of Lincoln’s life.  Those moments when he was able to let his guard down and enjoy his friends and family.  It also provides more than one eyewitness account of the sheer exhaustion and fatigue he experienced during his Presidency, when people expected him to be available to receive them at any hour of the day or night.  It made me think of the line of photos of Lincoln that hang in the Lincoln museum in Springfield, Illinois, where 5 photos document the aging process.  In those photos, Lincoln goes from a young to an old man in the span of four years.

I do wish there were more description about what the Soldier’s Home was like when Lincoln stayed there, but the book is an insightful look into a place where Lincoln spent a significant amount of time, where friendships and professional relationships were developed and nurtured, and where crucial political decisions were made.  I’ve wanted to visit the Soldier’s Home since I first discovered it was open to the public, and this book made by want to visit even more.

Be aware however, that it is not a quick or easy read, and has a tendency to be rather dry.  Someone with only a cursory interest in Lincoln or the Civil War probably won’t find this book holding their interest.  But to the true Lincoln scholar, it offers another perspective that had not, to this point, been explored.

I didn’t know until after I read the book, but apparently it was commissioned by the Soldier’s Home to increase awareness of this amazing historic site, which was recently renovated and opened to the public in 2008.  And the proceeds from the sale of the book to to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to maintain the Soldier’s Home.  What a great way to fundraise!

Martini the Crab… with a UTI?

Martini is a crab this week.  She has been beating up her brothers incessantly.  Plus, the week has been insane.  Not just busy insane, but the kind of week where I think a padded room sounds kinda nice.  Quiet… and peaceful.  I need a break…

Monday: Tini was scheduled for her CBC to see how her blood cell counts are.  I had to be  at work no later than 8:30 to sit on an all day interview panel.  Jon was going to take her, but he ended up having to work.  I had time to get her to the vet, but not take her home afterwards.  So I brought her to the vet, then my parents met me there and took her home so she wouldn’t have to stay there all day.  There are certainly perks to having retired parents – thanks!

Tuesday: I got Tini’s blood work back.  Her counts are excellent!  Even better than 2 weeks ago.  I was pleased.  But when I got home from work, Jon said she had been crying all day and restless.  Then that night, she didn’t want to go to bed.  Hmmm…

Wednesday:  I got up and when I went to clean the litter box, Tini had missed and peed on the little rug we tuck under the front of the box.  This coupled with the crying and the restlessness bought her another trip to the vet, this time with Jon.  They got a urine sample and we find out tomorrow.  I was feeling like a terrible kitty mother… like maybe I was overreacting, but this evening she had another accident on the little rug.

So, if my hunch is correct and she has another urinary tract infection, hopefully she’ll be back to her more cheerful self soon.

And in rare work news… this week I’ve been repeating a new mantra.  “Come to work, do your job, get along with others.”  If only I could get others to follow it.  And if you see me in a padded cell, and I’m sleeping… don’t wake me up, ok?  I need a rest.

2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune

Today I went Christmas shopping with my mom while Jon was at work.  Although we didn’t end up going to the antique shop we intended to, I did get some of my Christmas shopping done for Jon and my father-in-law.

When I got home, I tried out a new recipe for Green Olive and Feta Meatballs.  I served them simply, with some Spanish rice.    They turned out really well, and it is certainly a recipe I will make again!  I was looking for a wine to go with our meal and I pulled out a bottle of 2009 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune.

This was a wine that we purchased in the Willamette Valley, when we visited Domaine Drouhin Winery.  It is a French wine that they imported to the winery to show the similarities and differences between the Maison Drouhin’s French and U.S. winery operations.  For those of you like me who have trouble reading French labels, Beaune refers to the appellation in France where the grapes are grown, and Chorey is the French village where the vineyards are.  It is located in the Burgundy region, which is known for its Pinot Noir wines.


On the nose, there are scents of smoke, tobacco, and cherry.  The flavors are of cherry, smoke and a light spice.  We liked this wine during our visit, and it didn’t disappoint now.  Well, that’s not quite true.  The disappointment was in the fact that we drank the last bottle!

Feta and Olive Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup chopped green olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped onion (I would say these are optional – I didn’t use them, and they turned out great!)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then shape into 16 golf ball sized meatballs.  Place a couple inches apart on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


I have to admit, I have been a bit obsessed with owls lately.  I don’t know why, but it all started with the owl pillow.  My sister in law has a pillow, in the shape of an owl.  She named it Hootie.  Last time we were over at their house,  I fell in love with it.  I coveted it.  And I hate to have to admit it, but in a weakened emotional state fueled by one too many glasses of wine, I threatened to owl-nap it.  I didn’t (but I did cuddle with it that night).  Sadly, I don’t have a photo of Hootie, and I can’t find Hootie online, and I’m sure my sister in law would refuse to email me a picture, lest I lose control and threaten to owl-nap it again.

But luckily, Jon took me to Molbak’s a few Sundays ago to go Christmas ornament shopping.  If you live in the greater Seattle area and haven’t been to Molbak’s, you are missing out on an experience.  It is a nursery, but they stock gazillions of Christmas ornaments in the fall.  Every ornament you could ever imagine.  Including owls.  Lots of owls.

Admittedly, owls are popular lately, with all sorts of owl fabrics, owls on dishware, owl piggybanks (yes I got one of those too!), and other owl decor.  But the ornaments!  I was in heaven, walking around looking at all the ornaments!  But I was strong, and in the end, I didn’t buy them all.  But I did buy some.  And a sock monkey ornament and a felted penguin too (what can I say, I’m weak…).

So, if you love owls too, enjoy.

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2011 J. Albin Lorelle Pinot Noir

When Jon and I were down in Seattle in October for the Calexico concert and the King Tut exhibit, we walked down to Pike Place Market one afternoon.  While we were there, we stopped in for a minute at the Pike and Western Wine Shop, which is just to the north of the market.  It advertises itself as having a local focus (Oregon and Washington wines), but it also has various wines from around the world.

A bottle of J. Albin Pinot Noir piqued my interest. We tried a few J. Albin wines a couple of years back at a Memorial Day weekend wine tasting at Carlton Cellars (you can read that post here), and I was pleased with the wines.  So the fact that this one had a very reasonable price tag ($14 for an Oregon Pinot Noir) made me pick up the bottle and bring it home.  Jon and I opened it up the other night.

The wine has flavors of strawberry, cherry and a light spice.  Not a lot of structure, and I don’t think it will age (Pinots don’t age all that long anyway…), but it is very drinkable.  It is grown in the Laurel Vineyard, which is one of the older vineyards in the Willamette Valley, on young vines.  I think this a wine that could certainly improve as the vines mature.  This will be one to watch for!

Chemo Kitty Passes the First Test

Oliver says, "Tini, are you done yet?  Can I have some?"

Oliver says, “Tini, are you done yet? Can I have some?”

Martini has now officially been a cancer patient for three and a half weeks.  She has been subjected to two chemo treatments, and one to two sessions per day of up to three additional drugs, plus subcutaneous fluids for dehydration every other day.  When we first discussed this treatment, Jon and I were willing to give it a try to see if it helped to give Tini some time, and a better quality of life.  I was skeptical…

Tini has tolerated the treatments well, not getting sick, and she doesn’t spend any time being mad at me for the drug regimen.  The only time she gets bent out of shape is that night every other week when she has to swallow three and a half pills, one after another – chemo night.  Although she is a moody, bitchy, kitty, she doesn’t hold a grudge for long.

Since she hasn’t been vomiting, the vet decided to cut her anti-nausea med and the GI coating med down to once a day, except for the days immediately before, during and after the chemo treatments.  We cut her back to once per day starting last Thursday and have gone fine – no vomiting!

Yesterday was her first check-up since starting chemo.  An exam and a CBC (complete blood count) to see how she’s doing.  She has been feeling heavier, and eating like a horse (the prednisolone stimulates appetite), but until yesterday I didn’t know how much weight she had gained.  The result – two and a half pounds of weight gain!  At her lowest point, she was 5.8 pounds and now she is up over 8 pounds!  I’m so happy to see her plumper, more hydrated body!

The CBC results came back with nearly flying colors too!  Her red blood cell count is a smidge low, but her other blood levels are good.  She is tolerating the chemo so far!  The vet wants to continue the treatment protocol for six months – assuming she continues to do well.

And for cats with her type of lymphoma that respond well to this type of chemo protocol, mean survival times are between 367 and 800 days.  I hate having to think about her in terms of statistics, but I could get another couple of years with my little girl!  And that is what this is all about.  Because she isn’t “just a cat” to me…

King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

Jon and I went to the King Tut: Valley of the Kings exhibit with Jon’s parents, sister and brother-in-law on October 21, 2012. The exhibit is on display at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, through early January 2013. I had been excited about going for a while, but we had a pretty busy summer, and we figured that the crowds might die down in the fall when there aren’t quite so many tourists in Seattle. Jon and I were planning to head down to Seattle to see the Calexico show on Friday night (you can read more about that in my previous post), so we decided to just stay another day and hang out with the family and see the exhibit on Sunday. What a great weekend!

The exhibit starts out with a movie in the ante-chamber (that’s a play on words folks, because King Tut’s tomb also has an ante-chamber!) before you are released to go into the actual exhibit. Once you begin there is a big crowd of people, because even though they do a timed entry, you are still entering the exhibit all at once with the other people at your time. Once you are in, you have as much time as you would like to view the exhibit, but there is no food, no bathroom and no re-entry.

The first several rooms of the exhibit contain statues of various pharaohs and advisors from different periods in Egyptian history. Some of the statues are full bodies, some are just heads. They explain how the facial features actually are portraits, which serve as a good representation of what that individual looked like. They can also tell, based on finding a statue that doesn’t look like who is it supposed to be, that the statue was appropriated by a pharaoh for re-use. Basically, pharaohs sometimes took statues of earlier pharaohs, and had their names carved over the name of the previous ruler. I guess ego isn’t something that is new to this world!

They had a sarcophagus (a box that was built to hold a mummy) for a royal cat who had died and was mummified. They did not explain whether the cat died of natural causes and then was mummified, or if the rulers had their pets killed and then placed in the tombs with them. At any rate, the box was carved with all sorts of cat pictures that were pretty neat.

As you get further along in the exhibit, you get to see gold artifacts from both King Tut’s tomb and others. No, you won’t see his death mask (the Egyptian government has decided that the mask is too fragile to be traveling the world and will remain permanently in Cairo now), but you will see lots of beautiful gold jewelry, including earrings, pendants, bracelets and breast plates. There are also gold chalices, and boxes inlaid with gold and other precious stones. The detail on all of it is exquisite, and it is hard to comprehend how they did this beautiful work 3,000 years ago without the metalworking technology that we have today.

Then, you get to King Tut’s “tomb”, or at least this exhibit’s representation of it. King Tut was buried in a very small tomb compared to all the other pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, and archaeologists believe that it because he died unexpectedly, and they had to use a tomb that was originally meant for another individual of lesser status. But even so, it had four rooms. There was the ante-chamber, the annex, the burial chamber and the treasury. They were all stuffed to the gills with artifacts. The Egyptians believed that the mummies would magically return to life in the afterlife, so they needed to be buried with all the stuff they would need in the afterlife. King Tut’s tomb was no different.

Archaeologists believe that the tomb was robbed twice, but both times were shortly after King Tut was placed there (within months), because the stolen items were oils and perfumes that were perishable. I’m not sure why they would go for oils, and leave the gold, but that’s just me. That must have been some awesome oil! The next pharaoh went on a campaign to try to scrub King Tut’s name from the records, erasing his name off of statues in his honor, etc., and archaeologists believe that this was good for him in the long run, because his tomb was quickly forgotten and covered over. At one point, there were worker’s huts built over the entrance to the tomb, and the inhabitants likely had no idea what they were sleeping over!

So, the stuff, you ask. The exhibit showed some pictures of the items in the tomb, which included a model boat, complete with oars and sails, figurines of animals, furniture, sandals, and jewelry. When the tomb was discovered, they had to be very careful about removing all the artifacts for preservation, and items were piled high on top of each other in a jumble. Removing one artifact could cause the rest to come tumbling down, so it took 7 weeks to clear out the ante-chamber. King Tut’s mummy was not uncovered until a year and a half after the tomb was discovered!

There were figurines in the form of humans called shabtis, which were representations of servants who would magically come to life in the afterlife so the pharaoh didn’t have to do any work. I would love to have a shabti, although I would want it to come to life right away, and deal with the big pile of laundry on my floor.  The mummy’s organs were also preserved in canopic coffinettes and placed into the canopic chest.  The exhibit shows one of the coffinettes, which are made of gold, and inlaid with carnelian and colored glass.  All four have individual decoration.  And they are magnificent!  Oddly, the ancient Egyptians did not see the brain as important, and they discarded the brain during the mummification process.

A wooden box was also in the tomb, and within the box were two tiny coffins containing the mummies of King Tut’s two daughters, both fetuses.  One fetus was about 5 months along, and the other was 8-9 months (they did remove these mummies before sending the coffins off to tour the world).  It is known that Tutankhamen did not have any surviving children, because the throne did not pass to a descendant of his.

I thought the exhibit was excellent, but I wish they would have provided a bit more information on what the items were used for or whey they were placed in the tomb.  I mean some things were obvious, like a bed or a chair, but what did a ewer hold?  And what was a unguent vessel used for?  If you have a chance to visit, you should – and plan on taking your time!  Maybe it drives Jon’s family nuts that I’m always the last to finish, but at least they don’t try to rush me through!

The exhibit didn’t allow photography, so I don’t have any photos to share, but OregonLive has a Photo Essay with some fantastic exhibit photos.  Check it out here.