Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Platypus: Anomalous

Some years ago, we Armstrongs were camping in the Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland, Australia.  Someone in our camping party mentioned that there were wild platypus to be seen, at daybreak, if one was very, very lucky and stealthy.  Well!  That's all it took for me: we WERE going to arise before dawn and hike a few miles to a spring somewhere-or-other, and sit quietly.  We could pretend that we were part of Wild Kingdom.  Our kids didn't know what Wild Kingdom was, but our kids have always been game for just about anything.  Hunting platypus in the wild was just one more thing to experience, they supposed.  (They were about 5, 7, and 9 at the time, I think.)

We DID get to see a platypus swimming merrily in the morning light.  We've been told since then that most Aussies don't ever see a platypus in the wild - only zoos and such.  Here is a cute photo of a couple of baby platypus: 

 I like the duck-billed platypus
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude.
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude.

by Ogden Nash

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Global Positioning

Timbuktu.  Far, far away, in Mali.  On Africa.  Here's a very, very rough description of where one will find Timbuktu on a map:

Find Cork, Ireland.

Head south.

Find Lisbon, Portugal.

Head south.

Find Casablanca, Morroco.

Head south.

Find Marrakesh, Morroco.

Head south.

Head south a little more.

Head south/southeast.

Head south a little more.

You should be able to find Timbuktu.  In Mali.

Ha!  As good as GPS!

I heard on NPR this evening some nonsense about some scientists studying dung beetles and how they (the beetles) use the Milky Way to navigate their balls of dung along a straight line.

I did not utilize the Milky Way to find a path to Mali.

It must be a slow news day.

Snow tonight!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Week Post-Flu-tum

Well, it's been a week since I lifted my head off the pillow and declared myself healed.  I don't know what it was I suffered.  As flu stories go, mine sounded pretty mild.  A fever, lots of sleep, a headache, and now, a lingering cough.

Well.  Whatever it was, it IS past-tense and that's that.

I went out and rode my bike 20 miles today.  I think it was a mistake, because I do not feel good.  I took a hot shower and two aspirin, and I am waiting for the aspirin to kick in.  (The knees, it's the knees...)

And tonight is Oodles of Leftovers Night at our house.  BBQ chicken, chevre quiche, linguine  and clam sauce, braised lettuce & peas (it's GOOD!  Try it!), a couple of bananas, (build that post-bike-ride potassium back up),  and probably a chaser of a handful of chocolate chips and milk.  (Magnesium?  Yes - that's it: Magnesium! And calcium! Right!)

On my bike ride this afternoon I observed a slew of robins and meadowlarks.  Lots of red-breasted and yellow-breasted birds all over the fields and woods.  I don't know what that means, I am only reporting what I observed.

A happy note for us flatlanders in a square flyover state which has experienced drought for upwards of two years:  (WOW: that sounds so bleak.  But it is, to the farmers and ranchers...)

It is going to rain tonight, after midnight.  I might like to get up and open a window to listen to that sound of nature which we have not heard for quite some time!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter, Winter

The low tonight is 10º F.  This is good!  This is very, very good!  That temperature will kill some of the bugs that we HATE to experience in our spring/summer/fall months.

Ticks, grasshoppers, millers, moths?

I wish everyone could sing the praises of freezing weather.  Really: freezing weather is our saving grace, here in the Mid-West.  Embrace it, unless you embrace pesticides and chemicals.

The only thing better than 10ºF?

10ºF with a boatload of snow.


Monday, January 21, 2013

I Can See the Light. Do I Go to It?

Things to do during the flu:
Sleep some more.
Sleep even more than you can possibly imagine sleeping.
After there is no more sleep left in your body, read a book.  Or two.  Maybe, three?

I read The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong, Craftsman Homes, and Short Stories of Truman Capote.  The jury is still out as to what I will be able to recall from any of these books.  I have been popping 1/2 tabs of Benadryl every four hours since Friday morning.  (I am a lightweight, and it has kept me pretty darn comatose and/or happy all these fever-ridden hours...)

After there is no more sleep in your body, and no more literature-musing in your head, move on to TV.  I watched a lot of An Idiot Abroad on TV.  It suited my mental well (or not-) being.  And then, happily, the Australian Open is now playing.  Hooray for a sport that I understand!

Eat a lot of soup.  Soup, soup, soup.  Vichyssoise, carrot soup, faux Pho, leftover vegetables-in-the-bin soup.  It doesn't matter, really, what soup you choose to eat, because you won't be able to taste it anyway.  The key is to keep those liquids going in as quickly as you as you sweat and sneeze and blow.  Gross.  I know. Boy, do I know.

Breakfast, anyone?  Malto-Meal.  Comfort food from years ago when you had a mother who made it for you.  For some unknown reason, what I received from that Spouse o' Mine was scum-covered.  I couldn't taste the Malto Meal, so all that was important was the texture.  Texture: FAIL.  Love from that Chef o' Mine: PASS.  (Is this a good time to mention that the leeks in the vichyssoise had not been rinsed, and so it was a lot like eating picnic food in a sandstorm?  I can say this with authority since I have now experienced both.  Bless his heart.)

And so here I am, I can see the light.  And I am thinking it's the light at the end of the tunnel of fun, and not that other light that we are supposed to go to when things aren't landing jelly-side-up.     

What mulled and rolled and tilt-o-whirled through my mind through a lot of my fever and sleep was that I can thank my lucky stars that this is not my life, every day.  I am pretty blessed to have good health on most days.  This veer-off into Fever-Land?  I think it's reminded me to be more compassionate to those in sickness and handicap.

It got my attention.
I am well.  *sigh*

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Flu Still!!!!!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013


There are lots of good things to say about being 52.  There are lots of things to counter the good things to say about being 52.  Case in point:

I have cotton in my ears today.  It is not a good look. It looks STUPID.

But, it works.  If I venture outdoors when it is 8º and breezy, then I pull out my cotton balls and put some in my ears. 

NO EARACHES.   No aching pain from ear-down-to-throat.

But I look stupid.

The other night in Kansas City, we left the bagpipe concert and it was ~ 21º and windy.  I had a scarf attached to my coat, and so I wound the two sides up across my head and ears (no cotton to be had that evening), and then back down behind my neck.  I looked like a Babushka.  Even that Spouse o' Mine commented that I looked Eurasian. 

But my head was warm.  

My sister Barb and I used to argue about fashion vs comfort. Barb was all for comfort.  I sought fashion anytime it was feasible.  But now I am 52, and my sister is up in some heavenly cloud somewhere, laughing and laughing at me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


It's troubling to think that I can lie down on the loveseat in the living room on a Sunday afternoon to nap during a football game on television, and have the most vivid dreams of being chased by a large and wily polar bear, and then dream that I accidentally drove my car into someone's wet pasture and a hippopotamus arose from the bog and attempted to eat me.  I cried for help.  "Help me!  Help!  Help me!"  to no avail.  I could feel the inside of his mouth with my arm and hand.  I was elbowing him violently with my other arm.

"Paul!" I asked upon awakening.  "Was I not thrashing at all?!"

"Sheesh, Trish", he snorted.

Sunday afternoon, Sunday afternoon.

Winter Weekend

That Spouse o' Mine and I joined daughter Gillian in Kansas City yesterday for sushi and a bagpipe concert.  It was fun, it was cold, (26º), it was nice to get out of the house!
There were lots of these to be seen:

At the sushi restaurant, that Spouse o' Mine commented that a college kid sitting nearby had neglected to remove his baseball cap upon entering.  And then I had to retell something I had heard or read recently: "The baseball cap should be worn in the direction that your life is travelling."  I guess, unless you are a catcher?

There were lots of these quarter caps coming in the door at the bagpipe concert:

 (Yes, that's me, standing in the middle of the intersection in the dark.  Pretty Kansas City lights, yes?)
And finally, two newcomers to the Armstrong Bird Watch:
House finch
 Sharp-shinned Hawk

Friday, January 11, 2013

January's Joys

It's January, and that means:

Forced bulbs!

On another note, instead of taking a photograph of yet ANOTHER sunset, I will describe this evening's glory: swimming pool green in the east, moving counter-clockwise around the sky, around to long, broad paintbrush strokes of pink in the north, then graduating into bright pink short sweeps of the brush towards the northwest, moving on to a bright golden, then lemon-yellow mackerel sky of sundown in the west.  The finale: Bright, hot pink sundown, melting down to a deep cadmium red horizon.  Glorious.  And the thing is, it only lasted about fifteen minutes.  Amazing.

It is 60º tonight.  Tomorrow night's low is forecast to be 15º.  Yikes!

And finally, geriatric calico Puzzle is incensed to have found a duck (A Duck...) in the mudroom this evening.  Said duck (none of my ducks have names: they all look identical), was found this morning in the duckhouse, belly-up.  And really cold.  I brought her in to warm her up, I filled the bath tub with water and gently set her in.  Withing 15 minutes, she was happily paddling and sipping water.  I left her in there for some time, paddling and chirping and standing in the shallow water.  Then I took her to the mudroom to dry off, and eventually back to the duckhouse outdoors.  A few hours later I went out to check, and she was once again belly-up.  Hm.  Not at all good.  I repeated the above treatment, and now Madame Canard is going to spend her night in our mudroom.  At least I can check her on my mid-night trip to the bathroom.  (That Spouse o' Mine, after hearing the whole story, claims she's faking it to get in from the cold.  {He is joking.})  But Mme. Canard does not realize that her days are numbered if she doesn't straighten up and fly right...soon.

I bought a ham today, and we are going to enjoy ham and beans and spinach tonight.  Tomorrow's cold front is the impetus for the ham: Split pea soup is THE BEST thing to have on the stove after a cold day outdoors.  And that's where I plan to be tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A Day in the City

I went to Kansas City today to enjoy lunch with daughter Gillian. 

Gill looks good all the time - even on a sand bar with a bloodhound on scent.

Today was not to be so outdoorsy...except that it was, and it was fun!  Our plan was to head to a French bistro for lunch. 

(Our BIG plan is that whenever we two have lunch, we try a different restaurant every time.)  

 I drove from Gill's apartment, the two of us chatting and whatnot, and then we got to where we were going (or so we thought...).  Apparently I drove about 10 city blocks south of the restaurant.  Oops.  We did some window shopping and some scoping out of other restaurants for future lunches.  I suggested, in that it was nearly 50º out, why don't we walk the distance to Aixois? 

And so we did. 

Most of out walk took us through the residential neighborhood of Brookside with its decades-old Craftsman-style homes.  Such a pretty neighborhood!  So much old limestone and pretty old craftsmanship and architecture - it was certainly worth the trek.  It is so trite to state, "They just don't make them like they used to."  But really: they don't.  I am an Old House fan, to be sure.

After a Croque-Monsier and a Croque Madame, we strolled down the avenue - nope: Boulevard - once again.  It was a really nice lunch!  Must do more frequently...

Monday, January 07, 2013

Books I Might Like to Re-read in 2013:

  • Giants in the Earth (O.E. Rölvaag) 
  • The Cruelest Miles (Gay and Laney Salisbury)
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
  • Year of Wonders (Geraldine Books)
  • On Writing (Stephen King)
  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! ( Richard Feynman)
  • The Jeeves Omnibus (P.G. Wodehouse)
  • The Roald Dahl Omnibus (Roald Dahl)  {My kids were raised on titles such as Dirty Beasts/The Giraffe, the Pelly, and Me}
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Child, Bertholle, Beck)
  • Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Samuel Coleridge)
  • Come Hither (Walter de la Mare)
  • A portion of the Old Testament

I have no qualms about re-reading books that I have enjoyed in the past.  Case in point: Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Moby Dick.  Love them!  I have to enjoy them again and again, much like someone might watch Gone With the Wind a million times.  Hey.  There's another good re-read...

What are you thinking about re-reading in 2013?  I might gain a new must-read by looking at your list!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Duck in my Tub

I hate vetting my animals.  It's not that, so much, as that I hate that my animals may be wanting in some medical need and then I have to figure out what it is.  If you have a kid, he can say, "My head hurts."  "Lookie, my hand is bleeding." and so on.  And you can then proceed with proper maternal nursing or first aid.

With an animal who speaks no English, one can only surmise.  Our Appaloosa, a decade ago, came up to the feed bin with part of her cheek peeled away.  Whaaaa???  (That entailed a lot of stitches.)  A cat in my childhood arrived home clearly injured in a catfight, and lapsed into some sort of a coma for a couple of days; my Mom said nature would take its course.  And yes, on the other end of the tunnel, ol' Nero awoke and commenced fiddling again, happily.

So last night, I brought the ducks in to their duckhouse.  Twelve of them.  Where was Number 13?  I walked out onto the snow & icy yard, and there she was, unable to walk, lying on the ice.  If I had missed her, she would have been some fox or coyote's evening meal.

I brought her inside for the night.  This morning, she was still unable to stand.  I looked online for all sorts of answers, and none seemed to pinpoint the symptoms I was seeing. Most sites said to fill a tub/pool with warm water.  So that's what we did:

She really liked those baths.  Finally, this afternoon, I took her out in our yard where her companions were foraging for winter sustenance. (Note: we feed these critters morning and evening in the winter.  We do not feed them in the summer, because their job description reads: eat bugs.)

Well, what should happen when I set this poor female duck on the ground, but the two drakes in the bunch run clear across the yard and try to mate with her.  REALLY?  She looks just like all the rest of the ducks...why jump on her all the time?  Is she a floozy?!

Anyway, at least now we know it is not some awful-sounding thing like "egg-bound" or "botulism".  In Aussie-speak (that Spouse o' Mine):" The drakes are randy this time of year, aren't they?"

Sheesh.  An epiphany, of sorts.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Twelfth Night

Here we are, the Twelfth Night.  No kids at home.  Our last night of Christmas Tree, of Advent lights in the windows, time to put away the Christmas china and linens.

I am listening to Christmas music tonight:

I don't know if you can link to that unless you use Spotify, but if so, please enjoy.

The College Boy has headed to parts west, his bedroom is clean (without my help...!) and his linens and bath towels already in the mudroom for the laundry.  They do acquire a nice, mature responsibility after a few years away from home, don't they?  But this house, this evening, is too quiet without him.  Him and his guitar, his music, his computer things.  Too quiet.

We have a duck in our mudroom tonight.  I suppose she shall spend Twelfth Night with us.  The cats are pacing in consternation.  "A duck by our food bowls?!"  I am not sure what is wrong with the duck, but she is not walking, and was lying shivering on the cold ice when I retrieved her at dusk tonight.  I can tell she hates being in the mudroom as much as the cats hate her being there, and I hope she is alive and walking in the morning.  Twelfth Night hope springs eternal.  (I have to note that these ducks are not pets at all, merely "Ducks-on-a-Junebug" instruments in the summer {i.e., bug-eaters}, and egg-layers whenever they feel like doing that.  I just don't want to have to deal with a sick or suffering duck.)

I told myself I would make a positive list..of something.  And here it is:
  • Once a week that Spouse o' Mine and I will do some sort of home improvement on This Old House, ca. 1887.
  • I am going to read my Bible more often.  (My Mom has read it through several times; I hope to aspire to that sometime.  The best part?  My Mom knows her Bible verses and chapters.)
  • I am going to travel more.  Not to Tahiti or Togo, but to see family.  
  •  I have a new cookbook, (Thank you, daughter Gillian!) and I am going to go through each recipe, if possible, this year. 
  • Cello, year three.  I need to improve. 
There are probably more things I can list, and these are not New Year's resolutions, just a "positive list" that will keep me fresh.

And so, there I have it: Twelfth Night.  And one more fun song: 

And finally, what our house looks like tonight, Twelfth Night, 2013:
 Yes, yes, it's the same photo as my blog photo, but after tomorrow, that will change to something new.  I just love that this is what our home looks like:

Welcome, friend.  Come inside.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Today held some more XC skiing out yonder (yonder being the pasture and beyond).  It was warm out (34º) and the snow was icing up, so I know that this is our last day of Nordic Frolic for an unknown period.  Well: till the next good snowfall.  College Boy Graham went out with his skis and the pups this morning, and that is always a fun thing to watch: A boy and his dogs.

Tonight sees some Green Chile Chicken in the oven for that Spouse o' Mine and me.  College Boy Graham is off to friends' house/apts for a final hurrah and RISK-playing before he boards his plane tomorrow to head back to Washington State.  Boo-hoo.  I am maudlin, as always, the day before his departure.  Tomorrow he will go with his father to Kansas City and visit his sister/our daughter, Gillian, at her job at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  Although I was initially in the plan of the day, I am staying here to serve a funeral brunch at our church tomorrow morning.  This probably works out for the best anyway; I am better at picking up my kids from the airport than letting them off, curbside.  Something about boo-hoos out in public when my kids leave me and our home...ah, you get the idea.      

I made a pound cake today!  The ducks have been laying ever so many eggs here in mid-winter: anywhere from 6-11 each day.  We eat a lot of eggs, and we give a lot away.  That Spouse o' Mine has Chinese students who deem duck egg as a delicacy, so when Dr. Armstrong walks in hauling 3 dozen giant eggs...well, that's an Asian celebration, I suppose.  We also give our eggs to our food pantry at church.  They seem skeptical about duck eggs, and are not nearly as thrilled as the Asian students about receiving them.

Last night the snow was bright, as was the moon, as were my non-drowsy eyes.  I think I was awake from 2:30 am-WHO-KNOWS-WHEN.  I purposely did not take a nap today, (I usually take a 20-minute catnap after lunch), but rather hit the XC trails on my skis. I hope this, the Eleventh Day of Christmas, sees me sleeping well.

Tomorrow I shall buoy myself up to celebrate our last day of Christmas!  What - a somber morning of funeral (someone I don't even know) and bon voyage to the College Boy, back to school, the afternoon I shall make a positive list of ...something positive.

Stay tuned...

The Tenth Day of Christmas

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the Ninth Day of Christmas,

Dear Winter gave to me:

Fourteen degrees of snow and wind

Lots of indoor housework

Hundreds of snow geese

A few less Canada geese

One buck with many antlers.  Points?
(A multi-pointed buck)

And six does,

All frolicking in the snow.  And 14º wind.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Eighth Day of Christmas

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it's midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year!   ~Ogden Nash
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