Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sigh...this is truth.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Beverage: water


It's been marked down, too.

I know I need a hair cut but I have $6 at the moment. I keep the bangs trimmed so they are out of my eyes. The rest is going to have to wait.

Oh look! I've been marked down $20.

Such a deal.

Beverage: Christmas Blend tea


Jessie and Deb go to IKEA, again.

We hadn't gone to IKEA since August, when I bought my office chair. It was 16 degrees with a breeze out so it felt like about 7.

Why isn't Jessie wearing a coat? Because all of her coats make her look like Vim the Michelin Man and we weren't there to buy, we were there to measure and look. So, WHEN, not if she got overheated, we'd have to carry the coat and it wasn't worth it. Plus, the bracing air temperature is good for you in small doses which is what we got when we walked from the car to the store.

All we did was wander, measure, pick up, examine, dream, wish and make notes. She wound up taking a bunch of photos with her iPhone. These will be used for future reference. Will this chest of drawers fit here? Is this credenza the right height? Is this too long? Maybe this won't look good here.

In our wanderings, we entered this department. This display struck me as humorous. I remember reading somewhere why 10:10 is the preferred time for clocks but I can't find it now.

No, I didn't buy anything. I just wandered. Jessie got a picture frame for a cross-stitch she completed and needed to frame. Grand total: $5.36. Then back into the cold and over to Panera for soup and sandwiches.

Beverage: Christmas Blend tea


No Moon

This stuff prevented any sort of view of the full moon while I was awake on Friday night. It did clear off but long after I went to bed.


I've seen some photos taken on Friday night and it would have been an incredible sight. I even remembered to bring the tripod home from work just to take photos.

But, when I got up from the computer at 11:45 to make more tea and saw, in the streetlight to the north of the house, snowflakes ambling down from the sky, I sort of knew I was sunk when it came to viewing the moon. I did check before bed, but it was still very overcast and the radar showed light snow all over the area. Phooey.

Still, this is an interesting snow. It's huge flakes but they are very, very fragile. You can't really pick them up to look at an individual flake without them falling apart. They are very translucent, too.

This kind of snow is easy to clear. I just backed out of the drive and drove off. It's lousy for snowballs, however, because it has no water content.

And yes, if you live where snow is a part of your life, you are very aware of what kind of snow makes the best snowballs. Too wet and it's an ice ball which really, really hurts when it hits and gets you into all sorts of trouble with mom. Plus, your mittens get soggy way too quickly which makes your fingers sting and you have to come inside long before you want to because you've gotten all three pair of gloves wet. Too dry and the snow doesn't pack, doesn't stick together. Some winters, you get maybe one or two really good packing snows. The rest of the time, it's too dry, too cold or not enough to be useful. This year, we've had several good snowball snows.

I miss making snowmen with Carole. We never could make anything that resembled a cat.

Beverage: Christmas Blend tea


Friday, January 29, 2010

It better be clear tonight. I don't care about the cold.

Perhaps you have seen the news reports that tonight is going to be one of the best viewings of the full moon. The moon is at perigee, meaning it's closest to us in its orbit. It just happens to coincide with this full moon. I intend to be outside in the frostiness trying to take photos. I'm borrowing the tripod from the office just for this.

I think I've mentioned before that my dad loved to look at the stars. When I was around 12, he got a telescope as a family Christmas present. It was green and wasn't very powerful, but I saw some of the craters on the moon, smudgy rings of Saturn and a blurred big red spot on Jupiter. I also saw the neighbors feeding their cattle, chickens on the roof of the hen house and cows coming back to the barn in the evening. For a long time, I had the telescope. I don't remember if I gave it away, it broke or if someone else in the family has it. I know it's not in my house any more.

In reading about this event, I stumbled across names for the various full moons. Some I knew. Most I did not. These generally take their names from Native American tribes, chiefly the Algonquin, who lived from the East Coast to Lake Superior. Native Americans marked the passing of seasons by the name of the month of the moon.

January - Wolf Moon, Old Moon
February - Snow Moon, Hunger Moon
March - Worm Moon, Crow Moon
April - Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon
May - Flower Moon, Corn Planting Moon, Milk Moon
June - Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon (Partial Lunar Eclipse for this moon)
July - Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, Hay Moon
August - Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon, Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon
September - Harvest Moon
October - Hunter's Moon
November - Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon
December - Cold Moon, Long Night Moon

Incidentally, the December full moon, which falls on the winter solstice, December 21st, is also going to be a full lunar eclipse. It will occur in the predawn hours but, if I get up early enough, I should be able to see the whole thing. They last around 73 minutes. I think the last one I got to see in its totality, Carole was still at home so it's been a good 2-3 years now. The partial eclipse mentioned above might be visible from Chicagoland but west coast people will have a much better view.

I'll post photos tomorrow.

Beverage: Earl Gray tea


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Comfort Food

Yet another post as I'm rediscovering foods.


I mentioned on Sunday that I had finished cleaning the cupboards, tossing lot of stuff I don't need anymore. I found some tubes of Wilton frosting. They were like concrete. I don't remember the last time I actually decorated a cake using any of the Wilton stuff I accumulated 20-odd years ago.

I did discover several boxes of jello.

I make a box and then have it for lunch the next day. I've had cherry and mixed berry so far. The cherry wasn't as set as I would have liked but the mixed berry was very nice. I don't know what's next and I don't remember exactly how many are in the cupboard to be used up. Eventually, they will all be gone and then I won't buy jello because it will just sit.

Growing up, we had jello with pretty much every supper. I kept that as I cooked for my family. I have a number of salad recipes which call for a particular flavor of jello. In August, I made an applesauce salad that had cherry jello mixed with applesauce. I'd forgotten how good that was.

And, if, like me, you had jello with pretty much any kind of fruit in it with your meal, you know about the pink mashed potatoes when your jello would melt and mix in with the other food. In my mind's eye, I can see corn swimming in green jello, peas in orange jello with a thin film of melted butter over both, red tinged mashed potatoes and slightly soggy bake and serve rolls whose bottoms sat on the edge of the plate but not far enough off the melting salad.

Thanksgiving dinner ALWAYS had red jello with fruit cocktail in it which meant my turkey, rolls, smashed potatoes and dressing took on a rosy hue. Few things brought smiles to kids' faces faster than serving jello topped with Cool Whip for dessert. One of the first things I learned to make in Home Ec as a 7th grader was a whipped gelatin dessert. I had been cooking with my mom for several years now and when our first real assignment was to make jello, it was a piece of cake. Heck, I even knew how to make layers. It still baffles me when someone says they can't make jello. I did know a gal in college who, even supervised, could not get jello to set.

This period of forced poverty has caused me to revisit some foods I had forgotten, such as tuna casserole and jello. I was thinking how nice beef stew would be. I have to grocery shop this next weekend. I'm thinking stew meat, potatoes and carrots need to be on the list. I'm cooking more and certainly enjoying it more.

Ah jello. I need a can of sliced pears and a small tub of Cool Whip. Dessert anyone?

Beaverage: Earl Gray tea



I don't get gadget lust. I generally don't want the newest and fastest and first one on the block thing because I'd rather wait until the bugs are out. And I'm getting, more and more, to be of the "if it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it" opinion.



for the new Apple gadget whose name I really, really, really don't like.

Never mind that it's probably a glorified iPhone. I don't have one of those. I find it a mite confusing. If someone wanted to give me an iPhone and pay for it and then show me how to use it, I'd take it, but I won't get one on my own. I have an iPod that I have used exactly 7 times. It's buried on the table in the office.

I think I would use this. It's supposed to be really light-weight and, having had to lug laptops around for work, light-weight is attractive. The bigger screen with similar controls to an iPhone is attractive to me. Would I watch video on it? I might although I don't watch movies on my mac. That's why I have a DVD player.

So, I'm wishing I had a lot of disposable income right now because I certainly would be one of the people at the store the first day you could get these. They just need to change the name. It conjures up all sorts of images I don't want.

Beverage: Assam tea


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Happy Birthday, Sis.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Monday, January 25, 2010

It's about time!

Scots Jump for Joy as US Plans to Lift Haggis Ban

I've had the US version of it. Some of it is really good. Some of it would make a landfill cry. It's best served with a whiskey sauce.

Today is Robert Burns' Day, a time when Scots celebrate the life of the man dubbed the poet o' Scotland. He was born on January 25, 1759 and died July 21, 1797. There are all sorts of biographies about him which I will leave to your perusal. You probably know him best as the author of the New Year's Eve ubiquitous anthem "Auld Lang Syne", of which people only know the first verse.

Around this time of year, Scots will have what's called a "Burns Supper" where, in the U.S., a haggis knock off is served. It is usually piped into the room, meaning a bagpiper plays a tune while the haggis is brought into the room. The following is recited before the haggis is cut and served:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Why haggis? The Scots have always been looked down upon by their English neighbors to the south. Considered beyond rustic, much of their culture was banned after the 1754 uprising lead by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, often referred to as "Bonnie" Prince Charlie. He didn't stand a chance in taking the throne of Scotland for himself but he did succeed in causing widespread hardship for those who supported him.

Haggis was born of hard times. When you don't have much to eat, you will make do with what you have. Is it gross? Well, it depends upon your definition of gross. I don't think it's any grosser than sausage. We all know what goes into that and yet we look forward to our brats and wurst.

I shall look to the east tonight and toast the Thompsons who came over on the British Bark "Sterling" in 1842.

Beverage: Water


I think I have a hero.

I've never heard of this guy, Billy Brag, before. I'm thinking, however, having read about his latest pot shot at gov'mint, he might be my new hero.

The real link is really long so I'll just say, go here.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


This is interesting.

I stumbled across this post. I normally would steer clear of such things as I don't want my blog to be a place of political rantings. This isn't although it does have some political comments in it. It's about the economy. I wish more was being discussed about the points raised.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


She wuvs me.

This past weekend marked a great change in Pilchard. I have taken to coming home, doing a couple of household chores and then sitting down in the settee in the living room to play with them and read a bit. Pilchard has started to come sit in my lap for upwards of 30 minutes. In fact, when I came home on Friday and didn't sit down in the settee, she followed me around meowing. I scratch ears and chin and back and the base of her tail. After about 30 minutes, she gets up and walks off.

So, I'm sitting at the computer late Friday night. She hops up into the chair next to me, stands on my right leg, looks at me and starts meowing. Now, 16 pounds of cat standing on your leg is not the most comfortable thing ever. I raised up my arms so she could see my lap. She climbed in and sat down. Immediately, she looked up at me with this very contented, self-satisfied look on her face.

But imagine trying to type at your computer with a pillow in front of you. I may have my office chair at a good height but my computer desk is not the best in the world. Add a cat in my lap, particularly one who expects ear and chin scratches and I'm not typing or pushing buttons in my game very well. My online gaming friends know my productivity will be lessened when I type, "COL". She leaves after about 30 minutes, sometimes less depending upon what I'm trying to do while she's lying there.

This happened every time I spent more than an hour at the computer. She would come in and demand my lap. This is new and it's not unwelcome. I think it's another example of feeling comfortable in my house. Mija will come and sit in my lap occasionally but she hasn't taken to lying down in it.

It's a wonderful feeling knowing the big black cat is happy.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the kitchen of...

I wish you could smell my house right now. On very rare occasions, the scent from the back room where the litter boxes are would melt plastic but usually, there's no scent. It smells like, um, house. The diffuser is only in a certain area of the living room and I like that my whole house doesn't smell like a pine forest. There's a time and a place for that. When I change the sheets on the bed, I spray them with this lavender bedding spray. For a time, my bedroom and the hallway smell heavily of lavender. But when it's diffused, I climb into a fresh bed smelling ever so inviting and promoting a good night's sleep.

I'm still baking. In the oven right now is a Chocolate Gingerbread Cake. The batter was incredible; spicy, smooth, chocolatey. And the aroma of the baking cake is filling the house now. It's intense, inviting and chocolatey. It's got to cool completely before I can partake of a slice. I have ice cream, although it's not straight vanilla which is what this smell tells me I should have. Oh well. The grocery is 5 minutes from the office, less if I make the light. I did say I needed oatmeal, bananas and blueberries.

I used up all the blackstrap molasses to make this cake. Molasses is one of those items that you buy and then rarely use. If you make gingerbread cookies every Christmas, maybe you use it faster than me. I have a marinade recipe for chicken that uses molasses and I gradually worked the bottle down to the cup I needed for this cake. I don't think I'll replace it right away. I'll do without until I really can't stand not having any in the cupboard.

And why do I have a can of cling peaches in pear juice? The obvious answer is that I was going to make something but didn't. I don't care for peaches. I'm thinking I should just open the can and dump the contents into the compost bin. I won't use them. If I was interested in peach cobbler, I would buy fresh or, barring that, frozen. Recycling them is probably the best thing I can do.

Muffins will have to wait until later in the week. I have to clean up the kitchen first. And, I'm going to have to put the cake slices in the freezer in the basement. I have filled the above the fridge freezer with muffins and two kinds of brownies.

I finally opened the box of tea my sister gave me for Christmas. This Christmas Blend is a combination of Assam, Keemun, Jasmine, Ceylon and Sumatra teas. I drink all those alone so it stands to reason I'd like this and I do. It's packaged by Stash Tea. It was the perfect accompaniment to "Add the molasses mixture in thirds alternating with the flour mixture."

It's been a good weekend.

Beverage: Christmas Morning tea


Some day, I'm building a fort.

It's a testimony to how the economy is not going forward.

We're shipping unused equipment back to our shop facilities in Louisville. We get charged a fee to have equipment on our shelves. In a normal year, we keep three or four pieces of each type of machine we use. As times are not normal by any means, we are looking for ways to cut overhead without cutting jobs. Shipping unused stock back to the shop is one way.

There are 4 more machines in my office awaiting clean out and they, too, will be headed out the door in big brown boxes. I'm sure Robin, our UPS guy, was more than a little surprised. He shouldn't have been. We had to call the shop and have them ship us the empty boxes as we didn't have any to ship equipment to them.

I'll believe the economy has turned around when we call the shop in a panic and ask for 10 machines to come next day.

Beverage: Orange Juice


The end of January and it's 44 degrees.

And it was just a week ago we had ice.
It can look like an ice dam, but that is purely looks. If I keep the gutters clean, it forms icicles and just drips off the western side of the house.
The eastern side rarely gets this many or this dramatic ice. I would imagine that has something to do with sun exposure.

This brings up something I've been pondering this winter but I haven't been able to find an answer to. Notice the icicles. In addition to being rather dramatic when the sun hits them a certain way, they are evenly spaced. No, really, they are. It doesn't always look that way, given the vagaries of melting, but they are all spaced roughly an inch apart. I noticed this back in December when we had the season's first rain/sleet/snow mix. Here are a couple of photos, one of the deck rail and the other of the top of the recycling bin.

Notice the evenly spaced icicles.
I've done some off and on searching to find out why. If you compare these two photos to the above photos of the back of the house, the icicles are about an inch apart, it's just that the amount of frozen water at the top will meld them together.

Could someone explain this? Yes, it makes me a nerd or a geek or a neek or a gerd or something, but I'm curious.

I leave you with one final example.
Beverage: Orange juice


Saturday, January 23, 2010

This is silly.

I received a bag of M&M's with peanuts, my absolute favorite candy, and a bag of M&M's with peanut butter, for Christmas. Last night, during a raid of Naxxramas, I finished off the ones with peanuts. It is a sad day but I'll survive.

I was cleaning up the bags last night and noticed the nutritional panel. This always so humorous to me. I know, by law, all food products are to have a nutritional label. It's just that, well, if you buy a bag of M&M's with peanuts, you really aren't that interested in the nutritional value of the candy as you are about whether there is an equal amount of reds, yellows, oranges, browns, blues and greens. Each of these was the 2 pound bags and both bags claimed "8 servings" in each bag. So, my favorite candy is 220 calories per serving.

I noticed there were layers to the colors in the bags. I got the yellows, oranges and reds first, followed by the browns and blues and then the green ones at the bottom of the bag. I could have sworn I shook the bags to mix them up but there were predominant colors as I worked through each bag.

I wanted these to last awhile so I would dump out a handful and eat them one by one. I always, always, sort my M&M's by color and then eat all of one color first. I'm sure that says something horrible about my personality but that's the way I eat them.

I'm out of M&M's now. The Valentine ones are available; pink, white and red. If I find them on sale and I have some extra cash, a bag of those would be fun.

I'm curious. How do my friends eat their M&M's? Do you eat them one color at a time or doesn't it matter?

Beverage: Scotch Blend tea


Why do I have this?

Today is a day for getting things done.

I have done three, count 'em, three stints in the settee for ear scratches which has allowed me to finish one magazine and start another.

I am caught up on my newspapers except for the one at the end of the driveway and it's drizzling right now so I'm not going out to get it, so there.

I did one load of darks and have a load of blankets washing. The thing about getting caught up on the wash is that I am at capacity in storage. That's a spring task, try it all on and get rid of what doesn't fit or belongs in "The Museum of 'Oh My God, You Really Wore That?'"

I made Katharine Hepburn's Brownies. Who knows if it's her recipe but, wow. I could eat the batter as licking the whisk and the bowl was so good. Next up is Ox Yoke Inn Poppy Seed Muffins and Chocolate Gingerbread Cake. Carole's fiance posted to my Facebook that he'd like a dozen muffins. I think a nice assortment is in order.

I finally cleaned out the cupboard where the baking materials are kept. I tossed all these extracts and flavorings I have had since time immemorial. I saved the two half bottles of vanilla. Obviously, I couldn't find one so I bought another. I have boxes of jello so I'm going to make all of those. It doesn't count as a fruit, however, so I'll still need to eat an extra fruit. Which reminds me, I need to run to the store for more bananas and to see if Tangelos are in.

Oh man, I love Tangelos. It's the one citrus fruit I will eat raw. Not Mineolas, but Tangelos. Mineolas are too bitter for my taste. Tangelos have, maybe, a 2-3 week freshness window and if I don't go to the grocery every few days at the end of January, I miss them.

I found the above extract, still sealed, in the back. If you know me, you know I don't like peppermint. Why do I have this? Obviously I bought it for something but I never used it. I have no idea if it's still good.

Should I just dump it down the drain? Would someone want this? I'm trying to reduce and only have in the cupboard what I will, in fact, use. I won't use this.


Beverage: Scotch Blend tea


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Three words: Don't Go There

As we have down time, I do a lot of web roaming. It can't be called searching because I'm not looking for anything specifically. I'm just clicking on links with interesting titles.

Today, Starbucks asks tea drinkers to pay up, caught my eye. (Follow this link to the actual article.)

If you know me, you know I don't go into Starbucks unless I'm with someone who goes there or I'm getting a friend with a known Starbucks habit a gift card. Years ago, when they first wandered or strode mightily or used a scorched earth policy, depending upon your perception of their proliferation of stores, I could go in and get a tea, just a tea. It could be black or green. It could be herbal or a semi-well known name. Occasionally, they had some different teas on the menu, depending upon season, but I could walk in and get a dark oolong-style tea.

Then they went to Tazo and "experience" teas. I could be "envigorated" or "energized" or "rested" or "reflectioned" or any of 8 different adjectives. I couldn't get an English Breakfast or an Earl Gray. I had to decide what my adjective was and order that way. That's when I quit going to Starbucks for tea.

Yes, tea drinking can be, for me, a calming, enlightening experience. I love to sit on the deck in a summer's warm rain with a steaming mug of English Breakfast. I love to laugh with friends over multiple small cups of woody Chinese Restaurant tea while sharing dishes of stir fried rice or moo shoo gai pan or oriental beef or almond chicken. I drink copious amounts of Assam while playing World of Warcraft and a good book, a cat and hot Lapsang Souchong make a chilly Saturday afternoon go by fast. I am totally enamored of Market Spice's Huckleberry tea and you cannot go wrong gifting me a box of tea, even something you get at the grocery store for $2.00 a box. I'm not a big fan of herbals but I'll drink them.

Starbucks is not where you should be going for tea, folks, it just isn't. Starbucks built their reputation on purveying coffee in forms that make it almost unrecognizable. That's "Cee - Oh - Eff - Eff - Eee - Eee". Nowhere does tea figure into that word. You should not be surprised that the company that gave you $6.00 cups of the same stuff your parents brewed for $6.00 a can would eventually raise the price on steeping dried leaves in bags, fabric or paper.

In larger cities, entrepreneurs have started tea houses where the preferred beverage served is tea. Some are better than others and there are two in Wheaton, where I live. I don't frequent them often because I find they have to charge more for their tea than I'm willing to pay, although I understand this does cover the rent, utilities, salaries and stock. The very positive side of these shops is that they are run not with a corporate mentality, but by people who love tea, first and foremost. Some of the most interesting tea flavors are to be had in these small shops. Teas will often exceed coffee on a price per pound basis, particularly if you look at organic loose-leaf teas.

So, really, tell Starbucks to stick to coffee. If you don't have a tea shop and don't want to order tea off the Internet, just go to a grocery and get a goodly supply off their shelves. Let Starbucks crank out the $6.00 cups of coffee. Ask for hot water and then add your own bag. You'll get exactly what you need at pennies per cup.

Beverage: Huckleberry Tea (what else?)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cruel, Just Cruel

After the first two week of the year being in the deep freeze, this week has been marvelous. It's funny that, in November, 34 degrees is "cold", but in January, that same 34 degrees is downright balmy.

We've had fog at night as the air condenses all the moisture evaporating off the snow during the day. This muffles sound but it also traps aromas.

I arrived at work today, got out of the Jeep and smelled pancakes and bacon from the Danby's restaurant a half block away.




I had the last of the Rice Chex with a sliced banana this morning. Yes, it was good and good for me, but..........

Beverage: China Black tea


Useful Things

You know how it is with some gifts. They are very nice to receive even if you aren't quite sure what you're going to do with it.

I have received my fair share of those kinds of gifts and I'm certain blog readers have received some head-scratching gifts from me. We try and select something we think the recipient will like and appreciate and use. In our mind's eye, we see them lounging in their bathrobe eating their morning oatmeal out of the flourescent heart shaped bowl we found ON SALE, at that one place over there. In reality, the recipient opens the gift and wonders just what possessed you to purchase the item let alone give it to them. Then they weigh whether you'll ever see it in use versus selling it at a garage sale.

Sometimes, setting the item aside and coming back to it later gives you an "aha!" moment, where it really is a very useful item and why didn't you think of this before. I am enjoying a couple of these right now.

This is the first item I am enjoying. It's a reed diffuser Carole gave me for Christmas a couple years ago.

If you've done any reading of the blog you know I can't have a real Christmas tree because of the huge amount of chemical sprays on the trees to keep them healthy and then preserve them once they are cut. I even have difficulty walking on a tree lot. My eyes get itchy and I start to have upper respiratory distress. But I miss that wonderful pine smell.

Yankee Candle has done a great job of recreating the pine smell I miss. Yes, it's probably all done with chemicals and I can't have a candle burning for longer than a couple hours or I start to notice it.

The diffuser puts a very light pine scent in the air. It sits in the living room and I don't always even notice it unless I linger near where the diffuser is. If it was in the office, where I spend a lot of time, I probably wouldn't be able to have it, as I'd start coughing. This works very well and I do like the smell.

This is the second item. This is a miniature tea pot. It's in the Winterberry Christmas pattern from Pfaltzgraff. I like this pattern and for a long time, Carole and her dad would get me pieces of this for my birthday and for Christmas. There are only a few things I don't have from this pattern, but I don't really need them as I don't entertain where the whole set would be nice.

My mother gave me this for Christmas some years ago. You make the tea in the top part and pour the tea into the cup. It makes 2 full cups.

I drink a lot of tea and was looking for a way to have tea ready to go when I play my game in the evenings. This has been sitting behind the microwave for a long time, untouched. I figured why not try it out.

I love it and I'm kicking myself for not using it sooner. I make a cup of tea and put the bag into the top portion with more hot water. I just leave it. I have, then, 3 cups of tea ready for consumption. Yes, it gets cold, but I just nuke the cup and am ready to go. The cup itself is about 10 ounces so this lasts for a good half hour or so, depending upon how hot I make the water.

You can bet, when it's clean, I don't put it back behind the microwave anymore.

Beverage: China Black tea


Dear American Consumer,

You're stupid!

I made a bunch of muffins over the weekend. It started with Apple Oatmeal and then progressed to Peanut Butter and finally Poppy Seed. I enjoy having muffins in the freezer. Then, when I'm running late, I can grab a couple for breakfast. I'm going through this notebook I have and making what I have the ingredients for. Next up will be banana chocolate chip muffins.

The Poppy Seed muffins contain pecans and raisins. I had to go buy raisins but that's something I should keep on hand since I add them to a lot of food including my weekend oatmeal. It is nice that Sunmaid has a gigantic bag of raisins which is resealable. Even though the boxes were on sale, the big bag was a better bargain at regular price.

I open the bag of pecans, which is also resealable, and chop a half cup. When I put the bag aside, I noticed the back and the warning.


Maybe it's me, but I thought everyone knew pecans grow on trees. You can't live in the southern US without knowing what a pecan is. I remember a visit to my ex's sister and brother-in-law's in San Antonio, Texas in November. Pecans were all over the ground under the trees at that time of year.

I guess the one thing I can think of for a warning like this is that a nut processor probably has a variety of nuts going through their factory and, if you're allergic to peanuts, which are legumes, you might not be allergic to pecans. But they need to be kept apart so the peanuts don't, somehow, contaminate the pecans. Therefore the "may contain peanuts" is probably understandable. If you are allergic to peanuts or nuts in general, you shouldn't be buying nuts in the first place regardless of how good they are for ones diet.

Yet another example of the aphorism, "Common sense isn't so common."

Beverage: China Black


Thursday, January 14, 2010


If you're having trouble reading this, read it out loud.

The job I had at the University of Chicago is done. Rodney and I went there today to pull the equipment. We saw this sign.

Some things one simply MUST pass along.

Beverage: Water


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Does this box make my butt look big?

My sister sent me a box which contained Christmas tea and a plastic bag with her annual cookies. She makes the cookies which our grandmother made at Christmas. I tried to make them and failed miserably. She does an exceptional job and it's a joy to receive these every year.

You can see the box. It's a box so Pilchard, being a cat, had to sit in it.

I have no words for what that look translates into.

Beverage: China Black Tea


January 10, 2000

I started working for my current employer on Monday, January 10th of 2000. This date makes it easy for me, a math-challenged person, to remember how long I have been with them. No, if you don't know me, I can't tell you where I work. That memo came out, um, 2 years ago, from the president and owner. No employee who was on Facebook, MySpace or had a blog was to name the name of the company on penalty of termination. Seriously. Really. Not kidding or making that up.

This is the longest I have every worked for anyone in my life. I've done a lot of different things. Door-to-door sales (Avon), clerk in a bookstore, PR assistant for a hospital and then for a financial firm, Communications Assistant (I answered phones) for the Indiana University Student Health Service. I've done a lot of volunteer work through church and school. The best "job" I ever had was raising my daughter.

I like this job because no day is the same. I used to get out of the office more, but have, over the past couple of years, spent more time running the office, which is okay, too. My boss is retiring in a couple years but I don't want his job. There's too much he has to do that I absolutely loathe. I like what I do even in this economy when we don't know where our next job will be and are struggling to break even. We've all taken pay cuts to keep our jobs which is far preferable to trying to find something right now.

I should bring something in for the guys to celebrate this milestone. Will I stay with this company for another 10 years? Who knows what tomorrow will bring, other than it's supposed to be 35 and beautiful out? I'll keep on keeping on and follow the path where it leads.

Beverage: Coke


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Status report

It's been 10 days since I posted my resolutions. I've decided that Saturday is a good day to take stock of the week just passed and see how I have done with regards to any of them. I may not do this every Saturday, but I shoveled today and until the aspirin kicks in, I'm stationary.

In review, I resolve to:
  • Read a book a month.
  • Read a magazine a week.
  • Write a friend a real letter once a week.
  • Add one more fruit or vegetable to my daily diet.
  • Pay off one major credit card this year and not use that card for the remainder of the year.
  • Try, in one month, to pay for everything I might need or want, excepting gas, with cash.
  • I will not stay up on work nights past 11:30 p.m.
  • I will finish a craft project that is languishing incomplete in a drawer somewhere.
  • And, most importantly, not get down on myself when I fail to do one of the above.
So how have I done in these past 10 days?
  • I've finished a magazine.
  • I bought juice at the end of last year as well as a 6 pack of V8. I had pears in the fridge and ate one a day until they were gone. I have added frozen vegetables to the few things I have cooked and I'm drinking the V8 as well as having 8 ounces of juice daily. Juice is higher in sugar than the real thing so I won't drink more than 8 ounces daily. But, many health magazines say you can get the same nutrients if you mix the juice with half water. Orange juice does not lend itself to that treatment, but cranberry and cranberry grape certainly do. Plus, it makes the juice last longer. As I look at the lack of money for groceries, making things last longer is good.
  • I have not written letters and I have thank you notes to write.
  • So far, I have not charged anything, even the gas I bought last weekend. This is very good.
  • I have missed two days of not being in bed by 11:30 and I need to work on that. I was really tired the next day.
Baby steps. I remember reading that any change in behavior takes about a month to do. This is a good start for me.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


He was once a little green slab of clay.

Art Clokey died yesterday. He was 88. I am ashamed to say I thought he had passed on years before.

He created Gumby and Pokey. I have fond memories of watching their half-hour cartoon during the week or when someone picked up distributorship and the 3-4 minute shorts were included as part of another program. It was never, to the best of my knowledge, a cartoon on its own on Saturday mornings.

I tried to get Carole interested in Gumby but it never resonated with her.

If you know of "Davey and Goliath", a claymation series put out by the Lutheran church, Clokey did those and used Gumby often to satirized what he was doing on Davey and Goliath. Eventually, Gumby had 2 friends named Prickle and Goo and had to foil the nefarious Blockheads, whose heads were blocks. There were other characters introduced over the course of 35 years, but I didn't like those. I really prefer the first few shorts where it's just a green slab of clay and his talking clay horse.

Rest in piece Mr. Clokey.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Friday, January 8, 2010

It's tragic.

I am officially out of instant hot cocoa.

I know. I know. For a chocoholic like me that fact that I admit to drinking an instant chocolate beverage almost makes me a heretic. And I know that I should be warming milk, melting unsweetened chocolate, blending in sugar (organic, if you please) and heating the mix, while stirring constantly.

You do that after I've shoveled the walk and the driveway apron. I'll take the 2.5 scoops of powder in a mug with hot water.

No no. I have no intention of buying those {insert brand name} boxes with their suggested serving size pouches. Those aren't anywhere close to what I want my hot cocoa to taste like. I'm not sure what I'm going to do now. Maybe I will make hot cocoa the long way which does result in a much better drink made exactly to one's specifications.

But, I tell you what. I'm going to be on the lookout for a nice instant. You can't beat coming home from the office, turning on the kettle and curling up with a cat and cocoa. I just don't want to have to wait 45 minutes to do that.

Beverage: my last mug of cocoa


It's not that bad.

Yet another friend says I need a new purse. I've had this purse for probably 3 years now. I know where everything is. It has pockets for everything I might carry. Nothing is loose and rattling around. The zippers still work. You can see one of the loops that holds the shoulder strap kind of in place has come undone. It's water resistant. I probably paid $20 for it on sale at JC Penney.

I don't get the need for more than one purse. This works for me. Why do I need another? I never go anywhere that would need something more elegant, with maybe sequins or made out of satin.

What do you readers think? Do I need a new purse? If so, why? And "because" is NOT an answer.

Beverage: Assam tea


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Scaring the Cats

Iowa 24 Georgia Tech 14

The girls knew something was up. I was not on the computer. I turned on the TV, something I think I've done exactly 3 other times since they've come to live with me. It was on at 5. I made the leftover pizza and popped a beer and plopped down in the settee to watch TV, something I have never done in their memory.

I started dishes with the intent to get the kitchen cleaned up in the event I would need to bake something for Dan'l. As the game started, Mija jumped into my lap and settled down. Then Iowa scored their first touchdown. I shouted, "Yes". Mija leaped off my lap and bolted down the hall to the bedroom. Ah yes. They have never been exposed to the actual Hawkeye fan, the one who yells at the TV.Pilchard went under the Christmas tree and just watched me.

Once I settled down, Mija came back and Pilchard spent quite a bit of time sitting in my lap. Dang she's heavy. When it appeared Iowa was self-destructing which seems to be, if you've been a fan for any length of time, a genetic trait of football teams, and I grew quiet, expecting us to implode I had both ladies in the settee with me.

But when we scored in the 4th quarter and put the game away, I jumped to my feet cheering. They took off and didn't come back until I was talking to my mother. They are getting ready for bed and so am I.

It was a great game, close, with lots of excitement for both teams. Football season is now officially over. I would like to find $30 so I can get an Orange Bowl Champs tee shirt. It's now time for basketball and that hasn't started out quite so well. My girls will need to get used to me jumping up and down because there's a lot more of that in basketball than in football.

What a great year for Iowa football. It's always great to be a Hawkeye, but it was even sweeter this year.

Beverage: Water


Comfort Food

I'm eating leftover tuna noodle casserole for lunch. For some reason, I had this intense craving for this dish so I made it for supper last night.

Growing up, this was a staple in the repertoire. Canned tuna. A can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. A soup can of milk. Egg noodles. 350 for 45 minutes. Serve. This was enough to serve the 6 of us with vegetables on the side. I used to make it years ago, a lot, because there were two meals from this. I can't remember the last time I made it. It has to be more than 10 years ago.

I don't know what triggered this longing for something of my youth. It's been the last 2 weeks that the urge to make this has been the strongest. I can't stand cream of fungus soup (My grandmother put it in everything.) so I use the low fat cream of chicken soup and a half can of milk. I also don't add as many noodles as I remember my mother adding, but everything else is the same. I made it last night with rotini pasta. I nuked frozen peas and carrots and made tapioca pudding and it was a perfect meal for a brutally cold night.

Plus, I have leftovers and my kitchen was warm for a couple hours while the casserole baked. I now have a craving for scalloped ham and potatoes and Pam was talking about porcupine meatballs which is a Christmas dinner staple at her house. I want to bake snickerdoodles and maybe make some sugar cookies in heart shapes. Nothing like starting the year in retro mode.

Maybe it's part of a whole change in view. I want to retreat from some portions of my hectic life and go back to a simpler time. Part of that mindset is recreating those foods I remember with fondness. A small benefit to this is that what I crave made enough to feed the third battalion. Leftovers for lunch keep me out of the fast food joints spending money I don't need to spend when I have a box of chicken breasts in the freezer. I just need to buy the occasional item to go with the main course. It makes me more financially sound, too. This is pure win.

Now, can I keep it up for the entire month?

Beverage: Lapsang Souchong tea


Monday, January 4, 2010

...and there was much rejoicing.

Finally used up my birthday present from April and Perry. They gave me a gift card to Steak 'n Shake. I was so happy. During the Christmas season, they have this incredible white chocolate milkshake. There was enough on the card to either go twice by myself or grab a friend and share the experience.

When Jessie and I decided to get together for some long overdue girl talk, naturally the conversation turned to chatting over food. "I have my birthday present from April and Perry," I said. "Steak 'n Shake! I have been dying to go to Steak 'n Shake all month!" Jessie exclaimed.

The one wrinkle in this was, did they still have the white chocolate shake? It was after Christmas and this was a 'limited time offer'. You know those. It would be offered on December 32nd between the hours of 25:15 and 26:87.

We went to a Steak 'n Shake sort of close to Jessie's. We walked in, had a booth cleaned for us, sat down and the waitress put down the placemat and silverware. I got the placemat with the special shakes on it. Excitedly I asked, "Do you still have these?" "Oh yes," said the waitress.

Jessie got chili with cheese, a steakburger, cheesy fries and a Coke. I got a small salad (in keeping with the 'add more fresh fruit and veggies to my diet' resolution) with ranch dressing on the side, chicken fingers, fries and, viola, a white chocolate shake.

I am not fond of peppermint so there is no peppermint chocolate shake for me. Although the whipped creme topping was lacking in height versus the illustration, it was incredibly delicious. I'm happy. I don't have to go to Steak 'n Shake until maybe February now.

The gift card was just enough to cover lunch and leave a nice tip for the waitress. Thank you, April and Perry. It was the perfect birthday present!

Beverage: water


I'm confused.

I logged onto the computer on New Year's Day. It was 9:30 in the morning. I wandered off in search of oatmeal and hot tea. Firefox and then Yahoo booted up and I opened my email to delete the plethora of "50% off sale NOW!" emails I knew were waiting from those online stores with which I do business. There was an offline message.

This is not unusual of itself because I have cyber friends all over the world. While I look at "real" time as Central because it's where I've spent 90% of my life, other people are ahead or behind me in time zones. Friends know that sending me a Yahoo Messenger message when I'm not online will result in me seeing it right away when I do log on.

What was unusual was who this was from.

I have not talked to him in almost a year. When we parted company, it was not without some rather pointed comments. It took me 6 months to finally erase all his contact information from everywhere; phone numbers, Internet address, instant message address (there were several of each) and, ultimately, home address. But erase it I did, although it did nothing to erase the huge, huge wish that things had turned out differently.

I can go weeks without thinking about him and then have days strung together where he's always there. Writing about the first anniversary of his visit helped a great deal in putting the restless memories to bed. I was able to let go of some parts of the fantasy and accept the more concrete reality of never speaking again and never wanting to speak again.

But here was an Instant Message with the robotic request from Yahoo Messenger to allow it to add me as a friend to his friend's list.

I sat there, I'm not kidding, a good 10-15 minutes with the mouse hovering over the "Accept" button, while I wrestled with demons that blasted out of the inner closet where I had shoved them. Do I or don't I? The big problem is the knowledge that I will be sucked back into something I worked so hard to be rid of. He could not/would not commit to our relationship for various reasons and it makes no difference if he was around the block, the state or the world. The inability or unwillingness to find a common ground between what he was giving me and what I wanted split us apart. He's not a bad person. On the contrary, what made this exceptionally hard was the goodness, kindness, caring and concern I saw and experienced first hand in him. But I won't be excluded if you want a relationship, whether that exclusion is accidental or on purpose. And that's where the impasse lay.

I finally clicked "Accept" and the program informed me that he would be told of my acceptance. That's where it stands. There has been no further communication, real or via a program, since. I accepted because my curiosity about why overcame my reluctance to start anything, even a mild friendship, up again. There is/was so much I don't know, so much that was left unsaid. I wanted to find out if I could get answers, get the information I desire, even if it meant there was nothing between us anymore and we would, finally, go our own ways and I would wrestle no more memories.

A friend has suggested this was a new girlfriend's way of getting back at him. I don't buy that because why still maintain my contact information and, more importantly, letting a current girlfriend have what would amount to unlimited access to your computer? He, more or less, walked away from me and, in doing that, I would think keeping my contact information is the last thing he would do.

Another friend has a different take. It is her considered opinion that this is "New Year's Remorse", as she calls it. He was, perhaps, alone and drunk and looking over the debris of the past year. Perhaps he felt a twinge of sadness for how things ended. Perhaps he just wishes to not have there be anger. There were other, less charitable and more morbid suggestions for why contact was made, but I tend to think well of people until proven wrong. In any case, she tells me not to expect additional contact.

And this leads to my confusion. I can't contact him. I don't have his email anymore. I did a very, very thorough job of erasing it from my planner. I remember bits and pieces of it and yes, yes, I know once you have an email, it's impossible to not be found. But I don't want to do the deep work it would take me to find this. I don't want to look on Facebook and try to friend him knowing that he probably isn't going to reciprocate. Mercifully, Facebook doesn't tell you your friend request has been denied. I just want to know why, after these long months, did this show up in my instant messenger, at the start of a new year.

This is one question that is probably not likely to be answered. I guess, in my heart, I know whatever this was was a mistake and there is not to be further contact. Gradually, I'll let this go as I have let other things go. But the answer to the question you're wanting to ask but not sure quite how is, yes, if I got what I was seeking, yes.

Beverage: water



I went to Jessie's yesterday. We had not hung out together since she moved to a new apartment. It was cold, even for an upper Midwesterner like me. When I got to her apartment at 1:15 p.m., it was 14 degrees but there was a breeze which made the windchill below zero. Frigid is very much an appropriate term.

But I do think I need some of this frosty air. I actually like how crisp it is and how it seems to fill every inch of my lungs when I take in a deep breath. I like to think it flash freezes any nasty bugs that might be lingering in my system and kills them. Dressed properly, I think a walk around the block is a very good thing to do in these frost-bitten days.

What's also incredible is the clarity of the days. Once the clouds moved out, on New Year's Eve, we have been treated to fantastically glorious days of intense sunshine and dazzling blue skies. I took the above photo on the way to Steak 'n Shake, but you can see the blue. If you can find a spot out of the wind, where just the sun shines down on you, it's comfortable, warm even. I like to stand in sheltered areas and let the sun bathe my face.

These days are another reason I am an upper Midwest person. Blue sky, yellow sun, white snow all add up to a beauty I would miss living somewhere else.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Adding to the resolutions

I think I need to add a couple things to the resolution list.
  • I will not stay up on work nights past 11:30 p.m.
  • I will finish a craft project that is languishing incomplete in a drawer somewhere.
I love to craft and it relaxes me. I should be doing more of it.

And, the whole month of December was such a blur because I just stayed up way too late. I can't do that anymore. I must be in bed by 11:30 when I have to work the next day. It's currently 11:20 p.m. as I type this so I don't have much time to get into bed.

But at least I've put it down so people can point at this post and say, "See? See? This is what you said."

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Gray watch - month 6

I know I'm a month late but I needed someone to take the photo. I feel awkward asking the guys at the office. "Hey, would you mind taking a photo of just my hair please? It's for my blog."

But Jessie and I hug out together this afternoon and I have no compunction about asking her.

I thought wearing my JC Penney ear muffs, which I ADORE, would be good. You can see how long it's gotten since I can't afford a hair cut. If I got it cut, I'm pretty sure there would be no dyed hair left, assuming I got the same cut I usually get.

Right now, it's a bit annoying as I'm not used to shoulder length hair. I often pull it back into a small pony tail, but there are pieces which aren't long enough and don't fit in the rubber band.

Maybe not having cash isn't such a bad thing. I actually don't mind the length and how it looks right now.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Free Toys are Best

It's a very cold day today. The high has been 14 with a wind out of the northwest. That makes a windchill in the negative numbers. Clear, brilliantly blue skies however. If you could stay out of the wind, it would probably be comfortable, even with the air temperature.

I'm ever so grateful that I have cats who are scared of the outside. Betsy, Rascal, Half-Pint and Shakespeare would have wanted to go outside in this. They would have stayed by the back door and meowed to go out. "It's sunshine, mom," they seemed to say. "I must be out." You can tell a cat that it's too cold to be outside, and there is the very real danger in extreme cold, of a cat's foot pads freezing. But, the cat will look at you and you know he or she is just laughing, if cats could laugh. Some times, we would let them out knowing that they would go as far as the deck, realize it was cold, and come back in.

It's still quite chilly in other parts of the house, however. I have the small space heater keeping the office reasonably toasty. I should go make muffins which would warm the kitchen. Pilchard is asleep on the rug in here with me. Occasionally, we hear the scuffling of someone having fun. We both look up and Mija is chasing something through the hallway. She's having a grand old time. I think I can safely say they have settled in fully now.

I get up to go see what she's so enamored of and it turns out to be a rubber band that fell onto the floor. She's chasing it up the hallway and back, occasionally getting it stuck behind the food or water dishes. She comes to the office door and sits looking at me when she chases it behind the ottoman or the settee or into the front closet and can reach it. She doesn't meow, she just sits, looking at me.

You know the feeling. Someone is watching you. I turn and it's a cat. How do I know she needs assistance in retrieving her toy? I don't really but she's looking at me and so I get up and she runs over to where the rubber band is and I realize that's what she wants. Once unstuck and dropped on the floor, she happily chases it around again. She did that for about 45 minutes and is now asleep amongst the sheets on my bed.

Yup, when I die, I'm coming back as the cat of a middle-aged lady.

Beverage: China Black tea


Friday, January 1, 2010

It's Over.

2009 is finally over.

Not quite the worst year of my life. I think that dubious honor goes to 1991, which started with Iowa losing in the Rose Bowl followed by my father's death. 1992 is close because my great-aunt and grandmother passed away in that year.

I look back over the debris of another year passed and I wasn't the best friend I could have been; the best mother I could have been; the smartest with my money or the best at planning the few things life lets me plan. But I try to live by one overriding principle, "You make the best decisions you can at the time you need to make them." Unfortunately, for me, it seems my "best" decisions are often wrong, or, at least last year, that's what they seemed.

Jessie posted to her blog about New Year's Resolutions. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish this coming year. The usual stuff popped into my head; lose weight, travel, read, get my finances in order, be a better person in whatever manner that takes. But, at some point, I'll fail in my standards of what each of those means and that will set me up for getting down on myself. I know me a wee bit too well.

I thought I could put up things I won't do. That way, I will have kept something. I resolve:
  • not to rob a bank this year.
  • not to drive my car on the sidewalk.
  • not to pick my nose in public.
  • not to swim to Michigan from Navy Pier.
  • not to skydive off the Hancock Building.
But that sort of defeats the purpose of resolutions. So, I'm going to try to do the following:
  • Read a book a month.
  • Read a magazine a week.
  • Write a friend a real letter once a week.
  • Add one more fruit or vegetable to my daily diet.
  • Pay off one major credit card this year and not use that card for the remainder of the year.
  • Try, in one month, to pay for everything I might need or want, excepting gas, with cash.
  • And, most importantly, not get down on myself when I fail to do one of the above.
The last one is going to be the hardest to keep.

Beverage: Assam