Monday, May 31, 2010

A pause to reflect

I grew up on a farm outside the small northeast Iowa town of Monona. While I lived there, I would think about leaving. The town wasn't "big" enough for me. My dreams demanded that I go some place larger than Monona.

But when I think about my life, I feel, very strongly, that small town lifestyle I learned growing up has given me a resilience I might not have gotten had I lived in a large city. It could be argued that it's also the time period in which I grew up; pre-computer; but I think there is just something about a small town lifestyle that teaches you how to roll with the punches. It's less forgiving, to be sure, if something goes wrong. The closest hospital is a 40 minute drive, even in an ambulance. You can't run to the 7-11 at 2 in the morning for a Slurpee and a can of cat food. A trip to the mall involves a full day because that means driving to Dubuque or La Crosse.

The small town life also means everyone knows everyone else and I will admit, I don't care for that aspect of it. I am a private person. There are just some things I don't want people knowing. Don't bother pointing out the irony of my having a blog. I can see that, but there are some things that not even the blogosphere needs to know. It is, for instance, no one's business about my comings and goings from my house. As long as I'm not doing anything illegal, why should you care if I am up until 1 a.m. In a small town, that's not the case. I think it is the nature of life in that environment.

It's good for kids. Growing up, I knew that if I had a problem, there were places I could go to be safe or to call my parents. I also knew that if I got stopped for speeding, for instance, my parents would know before I got home. One of the local policemen took a very active interest in my youngest brother and other young men in the community. He was concerned they were headed down the wrong path. His death from cancer at the young age of 33 left a void in the community.

You could walk to school or the pool or the grocery or the park and know people knew who you were and would keep an eye out for you. Doors were never locked. The Victorian custom of going to visit unannounced on Sunday was still in fashion. In August, it was nothing to come home to two bags of vegetables left on the front step. If your mom got sick with the flu in the winter, there were any number of people who would drop off a casserole or offer to take you "up town" to get groceries. That was just the way it was.

Perhaps it still is. My mom is getting older and is slowing down. She's had her knee replaced and I sometimes think about moving back. I drove through Monona last week after my business trip. Downtown is a shadow of my memory. The town is still viable and there are new homes on the west side. I thought how the community could certainly benefit from retail development and some other businesses.

Big cities have the latest and greatest. They have the captive audience to fund the businesses and services people seem to demand. But I think there's an intangible that we miss when our focus is solely on cities of 50,000 or more.
There's a quality of life in small town American you cannot get anywhere else. I would hate to see it fade.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Fun is where you find it.

So I made a bit of a miscalculation today. Yesterday was hot and steamy so I went to Dominicks and then came home to stay. That meant I still had to get to the hardware store for garbage stickers, Whole Foods for fruits and vegetables and Target for some great specials on a few items I needed.

We were supposed to get rain last night but more today. I checked the radar, calculated my driving and what I needed and figured I'd be home just about the time the rains were slated to fall. The NWS radar does not take into account the guy at the hardware store who had never done a special order; the gal in the meat department at Whole Foods who seemed to think I was invisible and helped 2 people before me even when I said, "Excuse me. I am next."; or the gal in Target who had to have everything totaled separately so she could see the running total on her Target card.

I was standing in the Target line when I heard a rumble. "Is that thunder?" I asked, already knowing the answer. The woman behind me said, "It's probably pouring by now." "Oh great, I have the windows off the Jeep." I did. I had run around yesterday topless but with the threat of rain, I put up the top last night. This morning, I took off the front windows. Of course it's going to rain.

I walked to the front doors and it was sideways.
I stood there for a minute in the vestibule wondering if I should wait it out. I could see the top of the Jeep and the rain was coming from the northwest, which meant the passenger side was getting wet. I decided, meh, and pushed my cart into the teeth of the rain. It was raining so hard, it was gray.

Once everything was packed into the Jeep, the next question arose. The wipers don't work. Do I attempt a drive home in this, just counting on Rain-X to help me see? I sat in the Jeep for a few minutes and decided, "Sure." I know the way home intimately. I have 2 stop lights to get through and the rest is residential driving. I can go slow to see any parked cars. (This vexes me: Illinois law states you must have your lights on when your wipers are in operation. Hello? Yes, I'm talking to the drivers of the minivans I passed. ARG!)

The effect of Rain-X finally wore off about 8 blocks from home. It was still raining heavily and the driver's side was getting as wet as the passenger's side. There were massive puddles by quickly overloaded storm drains. Of course I drove through them as fast as I could. You have not lived if you have not driven your Jeep through water to make a spray. Yes, had you been in the passenger seat, you would have gotten more wet. I unloaded the car in the driving rain, put on the windows and stood, dripping in the kitchen while the cats just looked at me. They don't like thunderstorms and were quite worried, comforted only by my presence, wet as it was, in the kitchen. They are currently in the office with me.

That was raw fun. It was a wonderfully warm rain. If I'd had working wipers, I would have driven faster through the puddles but I couldn't see clearly after the second one, so I had to slow down. Whole Food's paper bags disintegrate very nicely upon getting wet. I took a bag but bought more fruit and veggies by volume than the bag could hold. I stood in my living room before leaving thinking, "Should I take another bag? Nah. I'm not getting that much." They made it to the kitchen but fell apart as I set them down with my apples and potatoes rolling all over the floor.

What a great way to kick off the summer season.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Momma and her kitty.

I staggered out of bed on this impossibly gorgeous morning and someone wanted my lap. Both have followed me around since I returned from my overnight to Iowa. I guess it's to make sure I'm not going anywhere.

Pilchard's not one to be picked up. She allows it or, if I'm swift, reluctantly agrees to be cuddled if I catch her. But the past two days, she wants to be in my lap. When Carole and David were here, she actually demanded my lap. This was quite the event and I had Carole document this. Some day, I'll get a photo of myself and Mija.

Memo to self: Next time, don't wear a black tee shirt while holding a black cat.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Friday, May 28, 2010

Quick Trip

I was in Iowa Wednesday afternoon to Thursday afternoon. It was a quick trip for business, in and out. I was able to get everything done on a long, hot, sticky, dirty Wednesday. That provided me with a nice Thursday to drive back to Wheaton in a leisurely fashion.

Finally, after weeks of gray and clouds and moisture, I got up to great weather.

I took the windows off but not the top. I decided it was a ways to drive home and I wasn't quite ready to have a sunburn although my left arm did get pink.

This was taken at the scenic overlook north of Guttenberg. The sky was as clear as I remembered it. Clouds would have been embarrassed to be on the horizon. The air temperature was perfect for driving with the windows off. I couldn't have asked for a better day to travel. It was so worth the stiff back and tired legs when I got home.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gray watch - months gone by

Carole took this when we went to Brookfield Zoo on May 6th. This is in the penguin house. There was this sign that said "Waves in Action" or something like that. That's David, Carole's boyfriend, on the left there. In front of us is this window. We are looking up at the top of the rock not visible. Above us is another window so you are in an alcove. You hear the sound of water and then this wave crashes over the rocks above your head and sends a cascade of water onto the window above you. It's as if you were under the wave. It all happens so fast, you're quite startled. Both of us jumped back while Carole and her friend, Matt Kane, who was watching, roared with laughter.

You can see kind of how long my hair is and that if I got it cut in the same hairdo I've had for years, all that tan still visible would be gone. I'm not liking, too much, the hair on my neck as summer approaches. It does look really nice when I take time to dry it. There is a natural curl to my hair but it has to reach the length it is now for that to be visible.

I'm thinking of trying to tweeze a hair cut out of this paycheck but I really need to investigate short hair styles. I'm tired of the one I've had for the last 4 years. But I don't want something I have to blow dry and style before going out the door.

With a long weekend upcoming, I should have time to look for hair styles.

Beverage: China Black tea


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

He's back.

He's back. He was gone for about a month, but he's back. He fled when Zeke mowed the lawn but was back about an hour later. All's right with the world.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut Tea


Sunday's project finished.

If I set myself a goal one of my big problems is not that I can't accomplish the goal, it's that I get down on myself, quite a bit, if I don't get it done. If life interferes with a goal, I can feel that it's hopeless to finish the task. It's one of my personality flaws, something I will always struggle with.

It also could be argued that if I didn't pick a gigantic task such as "clean the basement", that is nebulous in scope and composed of a large number of smaller tasks, then I would feel as if I have accomplished something. I've tried to look at large tasks like "clean the basement" as a composition of smaller things; clean off the shelves on the west side, organize my tool area, remove unused boxes, as for instances; then the overall goal becomes much more attainable. Perfectly logical. I'm not logical. It may be crystal clear to you and muddy as the Mississippi to me.

But, I set out to do a task on Sunday that I had been postponing. I have been griping to myself that I could never find decent sized food storage containers and that I would have to buy some at the end of this month. I made exquisite teriyaki chicken and rice for supper, including home made teriyaki sauce of which there is extra. I have enough leftovers for several lunches, which is a wonderful thing and it was just so good. Well, I needed the right size container and I couldn't seem to find lids, you know the problem. I decided I simply had to organize the containers.

I wound up with two containers missing lids and that's it. The sizes I use the most often, lunch-size, I guess you'd say, have been moved to the front. The freezer boxes you see are going downstairs on the shelf unit. If I have the cash to buy something in quantity that requires boxes, I will know where they are. I don't need them upstairs with all the other containers.

It was quite liberating, really. I have perfectly adequate storage, a delightful surprise. I don't need to buy anything. One task accomplished.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut tea


Monday, May 24, 2010

We were down to 2 scoops.

So I got another big bag of cat food. In spite of the upfront hit to the pocketbook, in the long run, the 18 pound bag is the best option. Yeah, it's in the way in the kitchen but I work around it and then they eat enough that the food can go into the container.

I had to keep it safe.

Beverage: China Black tea


Sunday, May 23, 2010

It has been a whole year.

397 posts later, it has been a whole year since I started musing about random things in the blogosphere. I decided to change the look of the blog as I go into year number 2. Everything's still right where it was before, it just looks different. I have the perfect photo for the mast head, but can't get it to lie where I want it to.

I gave myself a challenge to have a post a day, but, as you've come to see, I go on tangents where there are 3 or 4 posts in a day. I didn't set out to overachieve, it just sort of happened. In a year, I have talked about cats and socks and jazz and what irks me and what I like and my family and friends and food. I've gone through a whole change of seasons with their attendant photos. I've met people, lost track of a couple if the return of a letter after Christmas is any indication. I've grieved and rejoiced. I've experienced great kindness and perplexing antagonism. Life has been good and bad but mostly it just is. I think of the "Serenity Prayer":

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I like to think, maybe it's delusional, that this has been the motto of my life since 2000. I haven't always succeeded in knowing the difference, but I have tried.

In March, I met with a guy from the development department of my alma mater. He was going about the country meeting various alumni, taking them to dinner (which I certainly appreciated) and talking about life, what my alma mater means to me. He asked how I saw life now and where I was going to be in the future. This caught me off guard and I had to think about it. I replied that I thought about the future as I looked at my finances, what can I do to make that part of my life not so rocky. But, really, I don't look that far ahead. I prefer to be here and now, in the moment. I want to see the blessings and the happiness in the moment. I may not have windshield wipers that work but the beading of the rain on the windshield is quite interesting. He said, "Wow. That is really zen." Once again, I was caught off guard.

In this year, I have come to see that life is what it is. I can no more control life than I can control the tides. There are sections of my life I can manage but the rest just is. Life is about fixing holes in socks, washing rugs that have been peed on, making muffins and sleeping. Life is about watching the clouds on a sunny day and walking in the rainy on yet another heavily overcast one. I'm thankful you have chosen to come along with me on the journey. I am indeed blessed.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw would have been 100 on Sunday. NPR did a nice piece on him which you can read here.

Artie Shaw was interviewed and profiled extensively for the Ken Burns' Jazz series on PBS. As one of the last remaining band leaders of the swing era, his memories formed a core around which that era could be examined in the limited amount of time allotted to it. He said one of his fondest memories was of giving a concert on an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific. The sailors had seen some of the bitterest fighting and a lot of men were not coming home. The USO arranged for Shaw and his band to give the guys in this battle group a taste of home.

The band was set up on one of the flight decks which was lowered into the carrier. The sailors weren't told which band was coming only that a jazz band was coming to play for them. As the deck rose to the top, Shaw and his band started into their signature song "Begin the Beguine". He said he remembered the roar that went up from the men. He said he could still hear it 60+ years later. There was film footage of that event shown in the program. Men sitting everywhere on this carrier and Shaw standing front and center starting the song.

"Begin the Beguine" is one of my top 10 favorites. It's a song I love to play when the top is down on the Jeep and I'm driving along at 60 miles per hour. I think of Mr. Shaw and his story every time I hear it and I think about those guys in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from home, doing something I wonder if I ever could because the world's freedom depended upon the performance of their job. Shaw said he never wanted to be a "popular" entertainer because he felt you gave away too much of your music. Yet one song cheered thousands of guys and has gone on to cheer millions. That's my definition of "popular".

Happy 100th Birthday! I'm sure the concert you're giving on Sunday will make the angels sing.

Beverage: China Black Tea


Cheer for a gloomy day.

I would like warm weather. Seriously. The sheer amount of rain and chilly temperatures make one gloomy. I tend to overeat or not eat well when it's like this. When the water seeps into the basement, it gets depressing and with the cool temperatures, it's taking longer for the floor to dry off.

I've had this tradition for the last 8 or so years of wearing Hawaiian shirts for the week beginning with the first day of spring. Most of the time I have to wear a turtleneck under them or a sweater over them, but there have been a handful of days where I can wear just the shirt. Wearing loud and flowery is a mood brightener. I also like to think of them as talismans, that good luck will come with loud and bright. It hasn't always worked but, like anything else, it's about mood and point of view.

In this gloomy May weather, I have resorted to the Hawaiian shirts again. I made this shirt over 15 years ago. It's held up quite well. That's a heavy duty cotton fabric. It was for my ex-husband but he didn't wear it very much. He didn't share my like of loud and brassy.

This shirt is a guy's shirt. A college friend who was a Navy nurse got this in Hawaii for me at the PX there. So this is my only real "Hawaiian" shirt. I've had it for 9 years, I think. The only problem I have with it is that the buttons don't stay buttoned. The top and the bottom ones do, but the 2 in the middle have a tendency to come unbuttoned. It's not due to strain. The shirt is, in fact, the perfect size. They just don't stay buttoned. I wear it when I'm not going any place other than the office. "Free shows" are for Madonna, not me.

These shirts are from the men's department at JC Penney. One of my complaints about women's shirts is that their current crop of what they call "Hawaiian" shirts are simply not distinctive. These are muted with the one on the left having a sage green background. These are great for attending meetings. I can express myself via dress without having the boss roll his eyes. I don't want to wear the company polo shirts all the time. They are nice, to be sure, but boring. A pressed muted tone Hawaiian shirt is just as nice and so comfortable.

JC Penney used to have women's Hawaiian shirts that fit my definition of "loud" or "bold". I've had this one for, I think, 20 years. The fabric is more silky. I have to iron this shirt, even if it's dried in a dryer. Most women's Hawaiian shirts tend to be like this. They favor these kinds of flowers but not in bold colors. And they have what are called "cap sleeves". Oh please. My arms are not the firmest anymore. Cap sleeves just emphasize that fact. Women's shirts tend to be tapered through the waist. There's nothing "tapered" about me. So, I gravitate to the men's department where I can get bold, brassy, loud shirts that fit right.

These last two I have had since the late 1990's. I got them both in Target's men's department. They are also of a silkier material and I have to iron them before wearing although if I have the foresight to hang them in the bathroom for a couple days before wearing, the steam from my showers will relax the wrinkles some. The white one has a button problem too, but not to the extent the one at the top does.

I have 12 Hawaiian shirts, total. I went through them this spring and got rid of a couple that simply didn't look good on me anymore. I must confess that walking through a department store and seeing the bright colors will draw me over to the rack. My friends remind me of my vow, "If I bring clothes into the closet, I have to get rid of others to make room." I probably should get rid of some anyway, but that anguish is not something I want to do now. So, no new clothes. Plus, it's easy to walk away when you don't have ready cash to spend. Now if they were to give the shirts away...

So, here's to hoping Hawaiian shirts will brighten the day. The weather, according to the Weather Channel, is to be HOT on Sunday, near or above 90. I just want to be able to turn off the heat. I'm remembering last year and having to turn it on in August just to take the damp out of the house. Could we not have a repeat of that?

Beverage: China Black Tea


For the person who has everything...

Poking about the web this morning and I stumbled upon the following...

4 Amazing But Completely Unnecessary Kitchen Gadgets

By Seth Porges,

A typical toaster costs $15, and does a fine job of crisping your crusts. But for just $285 more dollars, you can watch your bread burn from behind a double-paned glass window. Unnecessary? Definitely. But boy is it fun watching the bread brown. Here's the toaster of the future-and three other expensive, over-the-top, but still awesome kitchen gadgets.

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

Sure, you can make tea by heating water on a stove top-or you can pay $250 for a single-purpose tea maker. That being said, this product is kind of amazing, and probably the most futuristic way around to drink a decidedly ancient beverage. Fill the tea basket with loose leaves, press a button, and the basket automatically lowers into the hot water like an elevator before pulling back up when the seeping is complete. I've tested it, and believe me when I say that this thing is a conversation starter. As with many coffeemakers, you can program this tea maker to have perfect tea ready and waiting when you wake up in the morning.

Magimix Vision Toaster

When images of a transparent toaster hit the Web a few years ago, they went viral, proving that there was a definite desire amongst consumers to see their bread brown before their eyes. Sadly, the pellucid product in question was just a concept, one that inspired Magimix to create its own see-through toaster — a $300 countertop showpiece that toasts the bread behind a double pane of glass.

Wesco Spaceboy XL Trashcan

At PM, we're suckers for all things space. So when we saw this rocket-like trash can (which will give a whole new meaning to "space junk" when it comes to the U.S. later this year), we were almost able to justify the space-high price. Almost.

Cut Brooklyn Knives
Prices vary

To some people, a kitchen knife is little more than a way to slice and dice. To others, it's a work of art, and a culinary samurai's most valuable tool. Cut Brooklyn knives are handmade by a single Brooklyn-based craftsman, and have earned a reputation for delivering some of the best-quality cutters on the market — a fact that has also earned them price tags that range in the ballpark of several hundred dollars. Still, even at these prices, would-be owners will have to wait-demand has so far exceeded the supply a single craftsman is capable of delivering, that he's suspending new orders until at least the summer.

Actually, knives could justify a high price tag. I paid a lot for a Cutco knife but I love it and would actually gradually replace all my knives with Cutco if I could afford it. I never have to sharpen the knife and it goes through everything. I have a Cutco potato peeler and scissors and they are incredibly durable. If I have to pay more for something I'll probably never replace, I think that's cost effective.

Now the tea pot....

Beverage: China Black Tea


Thursday, May 20, 2010

I couldn't care less.

No. Really. I. Don't. Care. Will you wake me when it's over?

I watched this show, maybe, a handful of times. It was on cable, remember, and I don't pay for TV, never have. If I was in a hotel room and it happened to be on, I would watch just long enough to decide the only person I really would like to meet is Charlotte, the one on the left, and even, then, we'd have a light lunch and part company, wishing each other well while walking away things, "Oh my god. Could she be any more superficial?" I can't relate.

I'm giving this movie admittedly free publicity (as if it really NEEDS any more) because a woman whom I know only from the Internet and only because she's the friend of a friend announced in a mass email that she has won 4 tickets to the premier next Thursday. "The hard part is trying to decide which of you wonderful women in my life deserve this chance to be at the very first screening of this movie. So, I think I'll settle it by having you tell me which of the girls you are and I'll decide." Huh? As I don't actually know this woman and she lives not anywhere near me, I could safely pass on this pseudo-contest.

When I had not responded with intense, nearly orgasmic excitement at the mere idea that I could write an essay which compared me to a fictional female, she sent me a follow-up email asking when she could expect my response. I thought about my reply and decided if my friend dumps me over this, well, it wasn't much of a friendship then, was it? My reply was, "Never. I won't be participating." She pressed for a reason. Surely I could see this was a huge chance to see "the. movie. of. the. year", emphasis mine. I sent back a "No thank you. I cannot travel to your location and I'm not interested in seeing this movie." I resisted the urge to say, "...and don't call me Shirley." I figured the quote would be lost on her.

You'd thought I had just equated her face with an elephant's derriere. How could I not want to see the only movie out there that empowers women to be who they are? Oh please. Princess Leia did a better job of that in 1977.

This TV show was something that had not been done before, when it premiered in 1998. It put women in control of their lives, all of their lives, which included making choices about sex. "Sex and the City" will go down in television history as a milestone. But people like Bea Arthur, Carol Burnett, Dianne Carroll and Dianna Rigg showed women not as door mats or nice pieces of furniture, but as women with minds of their own.

I don't get it and, admittedly, I'm not the film's target audience. I would rather point and laugh at the clothing than point and 'oooh'. The few times I watched the show, I came away perplexed at the choices presented and the one that was picked. Now this is TV and it is not real and plot lines generally have to be wrapped up in 20 minutes. Still, I would have liked more realism.

And maybe that's where I part ways with this fervor. I was told, way back in college, that the Greeks wrote all the original plot lines. There is no new plot to be discovered. What we do write are just variations on something that's been around since humans discovered storytelling made the long dark nights more bearable. I didn't find the storytelling to my liking. Of course, I'm not going to find the movies exciting.

My friend stepped into the email fray and told her friend that I was way too busy in my very exciting life and did not have time to fully immerse myself in the SATC2 buzz. Now that's a great bit of fantasy writing, I have to say. I guess that has placated the woman or she has, kindly, removed my name from her emails because there hasn't been another shot fired at me since 3:45. I'm busy next Thursday anyway. I have a date with an alternate avatar in World of Warcraft and I intend to go mash mean baddies and not give 4 New Yorkers any thought.

Beverage: English Breakfast Tea


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Celebration of Humanity

On yet another of those reading jogs that takes me into corners of the Internet, I stumbled upon an article about a charity called "Need It Keep It". The idea is that you start with a dollar, enclose it and a letter about what the dollar is for, put both in an envelop and hand that to a complete stranger. So, if you get 20 dollar bills, you hand out 20 envelopes to 20 random people you meet somewhere. The letter says that you can keep the dollar or add to it and pass it along, but always pass along the letter. There are no strings attached to the dollar. If you need the dollar, keep it. The idea is that charity and giving are innate and make us feel good, that we are doing something during this economic time when so many are struggling.

If you go to the organization's web site,, and sign up, you can get a copy of the letter to go with the dollar.

So simple. Anyone can do this with any amount. As I poked around and signed up for their Facebook site, I discovered Yahoo has just done a story today about this. I'm sure there will be more. 5 dollar bills, 5 letters, 5 envelopes, 5 stamps and a phone book. I could do this. You would have no idea if your dollar hit someone really down on their luck or someone for whom money is no object to material goods.

I am reminded of "Hello Dolly". Dolly Levi says, "Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow."

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Resolution Assessment

I haven't, in some time, publicly reviewed my progress through the year on my New Year's resolutions. This kind of nags at me, a little voice reminding me that publicly telling people where you are on the road to whatever it is you're doing helps keep you moving in that general direction. Oh you can stop and read the "Historical Marker" information and get off the road way to hike this inviting trail, but you've told yourself you're going on a journey with a decided end and you'll never get there if you don't keep moving.

So, it's time for a little assessment.

Read a book a month.
Nope, but I'm really close to finishing book #2 this year and book #3 is waiting.

Read a magazine a week.
Not in April. I'm working on it in May, having finished 3 and am working through 4, so far. May is an odd month with the first starting on a Saturday and the 31st ending on a Monday. That means there are 5 weeks in May, 5 magazines which must be read.

This is the stack I am endeavoring to plow through. There are some long past prime magazines in there, I think Discover from 2008. I quit getting Discover, which is an incredible magazine, because I got behind. I've also, very reluctantly, decided not to renew my Mac/Life magazine. I don't own an iPhone and, increasingly, I feel the magazine is heading towards covering peripherals such as the iPhone and not the home computer. I get Cooking Light which is a wonderful read and which keeps me focused on improving my diet. I get 3 Scottish magazines. Don't look at me like that. It's going to take me a long, long time to get there so these magazines are the closest thing I have to feeling the soil beneath my feet. I also get a magazine, which you can see on the top of the stack, from Best Friends Animal Society, a no-kill animal shelter in Utah which I financially support. Even in this very rocky time of my life, I was able to scrabble together a $15 contribution. I believe how we treat animals is indicative of how we treat each other. A friend sends me Angels on Earth magazine which gets read when it shows up. I used to get the venerable Reader's Digest magazine, a Christmas present from another friend. At first, I felt rather silly. I associated RD with heavily conservative and "old" people. But, they added a financial columnist in February of my subscription and darned if I haven't learned a few things about managing my money. Give me a minute here to wipe the egg off my face.

Don't bother pointing out that the number of magazines I take in exceeds my goal of reading one a week. I'm aware of that. It's just that I will probably read more than one a week. Set realistic goals and then exceed them. Eventually, that stack will go down.

Write a friend a real letter once a week.
Fail. I did write a few letters last month, but my correspondent capabilities are sadly lacking. As you notice, I've very good about blogging and I keep a daily post to my Facebook site. Still, the written word means something to me and what better way to celebrate that than with a letter.

Add one more fruit or vegetable to my daily diet.
Moderate success here. I'm proud of this. I have shifted my thinking to incorporate fruits and vegetables. I desperately needed dish detergent so I went to the store yesterday, even though funds are quite limited at the moment. Bananas and frozen blueberries went into the basket. Yes, they are going into muffins but some of the bananas will be eaten as is and sliced into cereal. I was very distressed that my Cheerios were $4.48 for a 13 oz box when I could get the same amount of Life cereal for $2.00. I love Cheerios but I can't spend that much.

Anyway, I've become enamored with a friend's Facebook post about a meatless day once a week. It's no secret that animal emissions and effluvium are problems for the environment. Plus, there is the whole issue of the overuse of antibiotics in the production of meat. My eating lower on the food chain will help. Plus, it's good for me.

The only problem is that fresh fruits and vegetables are not cheap. I must shop when I have money which is at the beginning of the month. Fresh doesn't keep for 2 weeks, even in the crisper. I can't stand frozen spinach but love the fresh kind. If I have apples in the drawer, it's not uncommon for me to eat 2 or 3 apples a day. But that means they don't last long. Hence, toward the end of the month, the fresh fruit and vegetables have given way to frozen peas and corn and carrots. Some day, I hope I can go to the store once a week and buy the fresh fruits and vegetables I'll eat for that week.

Pay off one credit card.
So close. I think, in either June or July, I'll be able to do this.

Pay for everything with cash.
This is a success, although I have had to charge gas and, at the end of April, desperately needed household items, like toilet paper. (No cracks about using my stash of magazines.) It really helps not to have the cash to spend. I have to plan what I'm taking to work for lunches. Sales hold little meaning to me anymore. Other than wishing I had a wee bit of disposable income to buy more stickers for the non-existant letters I write (conscience pokes self), I'm discovering how little I want for things, when my basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are covered.

Not stay up past 11:30 on work nights.
Failure. I find too much to occupy myself and wind up thinking, "Oh I haven't checked this site lately." My eyes have been itchy of late which is a direct result of staying up late. I must be better at this.

Finish a craft project languishing in a drawer.
Technical failure. I haven't considered what to work on. I would like to have the weather warm up so I can go sit on the deck or the front steps or have the windows open consistently. I may not achieve this resolution this year and I'm okay with that. I had huge success cleaning my house before Carole and David arrived. I'm very, very proud of what I accomplished in those weeks leading up to their arrival.

Don't get down on myself.
Success, sort of. I see this as the changing of my attitude. Life is what it is. Some days are bright and sunny. Other days are gloomy with water in the basement. Every day, I am blessed somehow. It can be hard to remember and I have neglected writing in my blessing journal daily, which I need to get back to doing because it helps keep me focused on the positive instead of the negative.

I have a friend whose outlook on life is, I believe, way too gloomy. I know you cannot make someone change unless they are willing to do so. There have been times I have wanted to throw up my hands and walk away from him. It exasperates me so much when you're trying to show them a different way of thinking and they have a negative statement for everything you say. I haven't walked away because, to me, the interaction seems a necessary part of my changing my point of view. I am reminded that I too can fall into this trap of negativity. It is a conscious choice on my part not to go to that place. In so doing, life, while being the pits sometimes, is still a wonder and I can be most happy in the place I am.

So, that's the assessment for this month. I am progressing in my goals, albeit slowly. As Kang says in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror VII, "We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom."

Beverage: English Breakfast Tea


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Makes you think.

I like to follow the oddball link that sometimes comes up in my Internet travels. Today's link was in Yahoo's Personal Finance section. I know, for some of you, it will come as a shock that I actually read financial sites. Since the melt-down in October, I have read more financial information than all my years on this earth prior. Yes, all this information has caused the decimal place to fluctuate from the sheer volume of opinion and advise out there, but I can say that I'm more educated than I have ever been.

Which lead me to this little gem.

"How Rich Are You"? This article profiled a little widget that takes all known salaries of everyone on the earth, adds yours and comes out with a graphic that shows you where you fall in the richest category. Yes, most of us could stand to have a few more pennies, but this really opens your eyes when you see where you rank, even at your current salary.

I'm the 86,086,957 richest person on earth!

Discover how rich you are! >>

Try it.

Beverage: China Black Tea


Call Me

Last Friday, I came home to a few voice mail messages. One of them was from Steve. No last name was given. It was just "Hello Debra. This is Steve and I'm a recruiter."

Now, I admit to my heart jumping a bit. Who wouldn't, in this economic climate, like to be recognized as a valued part of the business community and to be recruited for a better paying job? That would be wonderful. More money would certainly help my finances and I know I can run an office. I like what I currently do, don't get me wrong, but I'd also like a few more challenges.

I couldn't completely hear what Steve said. Sometimes the kitchen phone seems to garble conversation. I saved the message and went to listen on the office phone. That phone gives me fits. It's cordless and sometimes the battery just doesn't want to charge. I tried to listen to the messages but the phone kept dying. I set this task aside as one to do later, and then promptly forgot.

Last night, I listened to all my messages. There was Steve's perky voice again. "Hi Debra. This is Steve and I'm a recruiter." He went on to ask if I was still in the market for full or possibly part time employment. "Call me and we'll talk." As Scooby-Do would say, "ruh roh."

#1 - A legitimate recruiter would know that I'm interested only in full time employment, an 8-5 job, with benefits. They would say, "I represent a client with an opening in your field" or some such thing. Hearing his pitch clearly set off alarm bells that this "full or part-time" employment opportunity was selling newspapers in front of Walgreens.

#2 - No phone number was left. That's right. Dear ol' Steve, perky and happy, left me a message with a "Call me" and then didn't leave his number. I actually listened to the message twice to make certain I did not miss anything. No. There is no phone number given. The alarm bells turned into laughter. Even if I was desperate, which I'm not, for a part-time job, I couldn't get a hold of Steve.

If I'd heard the full contents of the message on Friday, there is the possibility I could have hung up and dialed *69. This gets you the last recorded phone number which called you. But, even that is no guarantee I'd get the elusive Steve. I've been going 'round and 'round with 5th 3rd Bank and if I don't make it to the phone to get the call, they don't often leave a message. I could have found out the last person to call me was 5th 3rd or some charity trying to part me from my non-existent excess money.

Folks, this is highly effective recruiting, NOT. I think my initial instincts on this call are correct. I'll let it pass me by.

But thanks for a good laugh, Steve.

Beverage: China Black Tea


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Time to conduct an experiment.

You have, no doubt, heard about these bags. Perhaps you have even purchased chips in them. As Sun Chips were Carole's favorite, I bought a bag for her visit.

The bag is empty and I have decided to test this 100% compostable idea.

Tomorrow, I am tossing the bag into the compost bin. I don't have that much on a daily basis, to add to the bin so we will see just how long it takes for this to break down, if it ever does. I'll spare the photos of the compost bin.

I felt the bag was flimsy when I picked it up. The other kind of chip bag seems more sturdy. I thought just picking the bag up would break the chips into a million pieces. Honestly, I don't think I saw more small pieces at the bottom than usual, but I do admit that I don't eat chips that often to compare.

So, we'll see. Will this compost as advertised or just sit in the compost bin like any other piece of non-vegetable/fruit waste?

Beverage: Flat Club Soda


My chair. No. MY chair.

Mija decided, after the visit from Faux, that my office chair is the perfect place to sleep. She was up off the ground where Faux could see her and out of the traffic.

Of course, what this means is that when I get up to go to the kitchen for a refill on the tea, I have to move a cat to sit down. It's funny. She will hop up on the chair next to me, sit there and purr up a storm as if to say, "I know that chair is warm. Wanna move so I can lie there?" I wish there was a way to capture her purr and put a link up here. It is so amazingly loud.

She had preferred my chair to sleeping with me until last night. I guess she associated my room with Faux and was worried she'd run into him. I awoke this morning to a purring cat next to me. Ah, all is right with the world.

Now if we could just negotiate chair rights...
Beverage: Flat Club Soda


Monday, May 10, 2010

Stormy Weather

Woke up to the news that jazz great Lena Horne had passed away. I have two songs in my collection by her; "New Fashioned Tango", which is a slightly silly ditty, and her signature song, "Stormy Weather". This link takes you to the YouTube of her singing the song from the movie of the same name.

The following, while probably not considered at the top of her resume, brought Ms. Horne to a wider audience.

Lena Horne on The Muppet Show. Part 1. Part 2 and Part 3. Given her life, the song selection in the show could be considered autobiographical.

A toast to an incomparable legacy.

Beverage: China Black tea


Sunday, May 9, 2010

To the Guild "mom"

The guy who got me to start my World of Warcraft guild paid real money to get me the item you see to the left. Bill has been my best WoW friend and the one person whom I have known the longest in this game. You go to the Blizzard store and can purchase a number of items that are exclusive to the store. There is a mount, which a friend bought for me, and two other pets, which is what this item is classified as. I received those as Christmas presents.

Bill said this was for the "Guild Mom". I am really touched by this thoughtfulness. I would not be able to afford this and I rather enjoy collecting this kind of silly item.

I'm not sure if Bill reads the blog but "thank you".
That's Bill's gnome character, Bilmo, to the right.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut Tea


One sort of final Faux foto.

We played Trivial Pursuit on Wednesday night. Carole got all the various permutations we have of the game and we took one card box from each. We lined them up and I think we had something like a dozen, and started at one end. When everyone had taken their turn from that box, it was stuck to the end of the line and a new box selected. It was a lot of fun.

When we were finished, we put all the card boxes back in their original game boxes and piled them up in the living room. I am going to take everything off to the top of the wardrobe, clean it and stack things in a better fashion, sometime, probably when I accidentally kick these boxes and things go flying, or I have company coming again.

The stack made the purr-fect fort.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnet Tea


Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day. My cats have been extra lovey, probably because they were out of food in their dishes.

It's a brilliantly beautiful, if cool morning. There's a stiff breeze. I wandered into the kitchen for breakfast and those horrid little black ants about an eighth of an inch long were all over the counter. I had left an empty jar of chocolate syrup to soak before recycling and they had attacked the jar rims with a vengeance. I can't find where they care coming in, however. That's what really, really frustrates me. The jar has been removed to the deck and the counters sprayed down with Lysol Kitchen Cleaner (another one of my 'loves'). I have the last of the dishes to wash sitting on the stove. I'm going to give the spray a time to work, then wash it off, rinse and pour a small amount of bleach straight onto the counters, moving it around with the wash cloth. I'm hopeful that will remove any 'trail' pheromones the ants might have laid down as well as remove any last molecules of food. Then, I can wash the last of the dishes and maybe put this problem to bed.

I have sorted laundry and a load is washing. I've read a computer magazine and sorted a pile of newspaper clippings. Why did I save some of this? Who knows. It was relevant at the time I saw it, but it certainly isn't now. Recycle and then take the paper recycling out to the main can. I put the serving sized pieces of the Grape Applesauce Cake Carole and I made on Wednesday into bags and tucked those in the freezer. Now I have dessert easily packaged for work or home. Honestly, I haven't been this productive in weeks. I think it's the good night's sleep I've had over the past week, even on an air mattress.

I know you're wanting to know what my daughter gave me for Mother's Day. There are two cards, one from her and one from the cats. You may think it's cheeky but I rather like the fact that card companies have cards purporting to be from the pet. Yeah, yeah, yet another way to part you from $2.69, but the cards are generally funny and who doesn't need to laugh more.

In addition to her simply being here an extra day, which I consider a gift in and of itself, she paid for admission to the museum and to the zoo as well as my lunch at both venues and brunch on Wednesday. I wish I could have been the one paying but she understands and reminds me that this phase will pass and I can reciprocate at a later date.

She and David gave me a wonderful gift by removing the trash trees from the front flower beds. This is the north side of the front.

This is the south side of the front.

Yes, both beds are still rather weedy. I need to get out there and really weed and remove the plants I don't want. They also sprayed Round-Up on the tree stumps they could see. Supposedly, this will kill those volunteer trees.

I've come to realize that I am blessed that I have Zeke to mow my lawn when I want. Given my allergies, there is just no way I would be able to mow and not be horribly sick, even taking medication. Now, it needs to warm up so I can be outside in small chunks of time and maybe, perhaps, things will look better. This was a great gift for me. I now just need to swing by the hardware store and purchase yard waste stickers for the weeds to haul them out to the street.
David managed to make all the stuff we removed fit into my last two yard waste bags and the can.

There was an actual gift this year. Carole went to Boston over St. Patrick's Day.
While she was there, she did most of the touristy things and wound up at a shop selling foodstuffs. I've always said tea is a perfect gift for me. This tea is similar to the tea tossed overboard by colonists at the Boston Tea Party. It's dark with a bite, just the way I like tea. This is loose leaf tea. I can get 3-4 cups from the amount of leaves I use.

So, this is a good Mother's Day. While the day feels like every other day, that is, of itself, a blessing. I kind of feel like baking. I tried a new muffin recipe but either the oven temperature was too hot or the time listed in the recipe was too long because they burned. That's sad because muffins, as you know, are another one of my 'loves'. But I have hundreds of muffin recipes in this house. Let's see what I can find.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut Tea


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back to "abby-something"

We're almost back to what life was like prior to Monday and the arrival of Carole, David and Faux. Mija and Pilchard still walk through the house anticipating that Faux will be somewhere they don't see. But the quiet has returned and, with copious amounts of kitty treats, we were calm last night. Was it a "just long enough" visit or too short? I don't know.

I spent Monday through Thursday night sleeping on my air mattress.
I got it over 2 years ago for just this purpose, to have a spot for someone to sleep since I don't have an extra bedroom with a bed. Some day maybe, but not now. Redoing Carole's old room as a guest bedroom requires a plethora of steps I'm not quite motivated to do all in one fell swoop. Plus, I can't afford the new bed required.

The air mattress served its purpose. It's heavy duty and worked well as temporary sleeping. There must be a minute hole somewhere as I always awoke with 50% of the air gone after pumping it up to full every night. Mija would sleep with me on the mattress just as she does on the bed. I've let all the air leak out of the mattress and will put it away over the weekend. I'm not sure if I'll find the leak if it's as small as I think it is.

I slept in my own bed last night and have to admit that I didn't want to get up this morning. As it's Saturday, I didn't really HAVE to get up but a day abed isn't me. I do have things I want to get done.

Mija did not sleep with me last night. I think I'm going to have to physically bring both her and Pilchard into the bedroom to prove there is no cat lurking in the shadows. Both are happy and there have been lots of purrs. If I could purr, I would to. This is what contentment feels like.

Beverage: chocolate hazelnut tea


Friday, May 7, 2010

Mostly all grown up.

It took a couple of hours but Faux remembered the house where he grew up. By yesterday, he was right at home. Here the beast is in the hallway.

He gave a a huge, huge scare last night. On Monday evening, once the kids had brought in their things and gotten settled, we let him out of the bedroom and followed him as he struggled to remember places and things and look around for the cats I'm sure he expected to be here but who aren't. He went into the basement, which probably smells more like old home than the upstairs which has Mija and Pilchard scents all over.

The kids stayed an extra day and we went to the Brookfield Zoo. When we came home, the screen in the window in the office was outside and the window was standing wide open. Mija was nowhere to be found but Pilchard was sitting on the table in the office just looking at us. She would not come to me. We felt panic rising.

I closed the window and started calling. Mija took an agonizing 5 minutes to come. Faux was nowhere to be found. We felt, given his knowledge of the house and the yard, he probably seized the opportunity to get out of the house due to the open window. You have no idea how upset we were.

DuPage County Animal Care and Control said cats that are pets generally do not wander more than 3 blocks from home so Carole walked a circle three blocks in all directions from the house. David went to every neighbor and asked to look in their back yard. I got on the phone with the Wheaton police and the emergency vet as well as the county. No Maine Coon cat had been found and turned in. We were told to put his litter box outside as he could be lost since he hadn't lived in the area for almost 3 years. I filled out the "Lost Pet" form.

Carole felt he would come back, that he wasn't very far away from us. He was just being a cat and deciding when he would put in an appearance. She found a 4-leaf clover in the yard and said that was a sign he would return. She asked that I make homemade macaroni and cheese for supper. It's her favorite dish.

While I was draining the pasta, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. There, at the top of the basement stairs, sat Faux, looking at me as if to say, "Hi. Did you want me earlier?" My cry of "FAUX!", scared him and he ran into the bedroom where Carole was. She scooped him up, hugged and kissed him and started a lecture on coming when called which, we all agreed, went in one ear and out the other. So, we had to call everyone we'd notified to let them know he'd come home.

After putting up with the hugs and kisses, he went into the living room and plopped down on the rug.
He's a wonderful cat, really. Today, he wanted scratches and tried to get into the basement, but we closed the door last night to prevent that. He was not amused as the luggage and a few things Carole is taking with her from the house, were moved to the car. He could tell, after a 3 day respite, he was going back in the moving box. She scooped him up for the requisite photo and he growled, loudly and long.

We remembered the kitten we got in August of 2007. Oh that he fit into a shoe box now and could be easily transported.

And here he is 3 days after he was dropped off on the front porch.

He was the length of her piccolo.

He very much is her cat, but we do think, had he actually gotten out and not come back, he could have lived with my cats until such time as she could come back and get him. It certainly would have been interesting.

He may be complaining about being in the car for another 12 hours until they get to their next stop, but he's traveled fairly well. People have posted to Carole's Facebook posts that they could never travel with a cat. Well, we can't verify how travel works with a dog but as long as you give the cat some room to move, the ones we have traveled with have been good. You can get a tranquilizer for the animal, but we've never found a need for it. We provide a spot for the litter box, food and water and the cats have always found a place to go to be comfortable. Faux just needs to tolerate 3 more days and he'll be in an apartment where he won't be moved for some time. It might even have a big windowsill to sit in.

Beverage: Huckleberry Tea


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Size is relative

Carole's been visiting as she moves from Seattle to Connecticut. Of course, that means Faux is back in the home where he grew up. It's been rather "interesting" as we mediate hissing and growling between 3 grown cats of the same age. They figured out territories quite fast. By Tuesday, when the door to the bedroom where Faux was being isolated, blew open while we were gone, they had decided where each would go to avoid the other.

It just so happened that Wednesday night, this opportunity presented itself. Pilchard's head is smaller than Faux's. She's also a bit smaller in body size although she's a couple pounds heavier than him.
If Carole had to leave him, I could make this work. They have not gone at each other with claws or teeth bared. Faux is a bit confused because the room where he lived is not as it was when he left and the house certainly doesn't smell of the cats he remembers. But we are very pleased with how well the visit went.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One final observation.

Heading into the U505 exhibit, reproductions of various newspapers chronicled the timeline of the world inexorable march toward war. I had to photograph this one. Notice the headline under 'Pact Pushes U.S. Near War'. I stood in front of this display chuckling.

I wonder, did Thomas Payne or Ben Franklin or anyone complain in print that George Washington was paying too much for powder? Did Robert the Bruce do an analysis of his costs of providing arrows to his troops? Is the incidence of graft with regards to people supplying goods and services to the Armed Forces a recent occurrence or is this just always the way it was?

Og comes into Nog's cave. "Say," Og says to Nog. "You seem to have a nice quantity of meat there and it's good stuff, not the gristly crap handed out at the end of the day."
"I'll let you in on a secret," Nog says to Og. "I jacked up the price of rocks I supply to the king. I can afford the good stuff."

One particular aphorism springs to mind, but I won't say it. It's too obvious.

Beverage: Boston Harbor tea


It's a puzzle!

I have found a couple of game sites on the web I frequent where there's a lull at work. Tweeler and Big Fish Games have games in both PC and Mac format. Games have a free play mode as well as the ability to download a trial. Tweeler games free trial can be as long as 80 minutes, while Big Fish's trial is an hour. The graphics are excellent and, at $6.99 for 90% of their games, you can't really go wrong. The best part is that if you find a game you like, it sometimes is on sale at Big Fish for $2.99 as they have daily specials.

I'm partial to the time management games, where you have to accomplish so much in a given time, or the puzzle games where you move a certain number of pieces in a given time. I also like the find object games but can be frustrated when you are out of hints and can't find an object. This impedes your progress through the levels. I like the puzzle within a puzzle game where I can earn additional hints by doing other puzzles.

We were walking through the museum and reached the section about modern farming. One of the ways the museum heightens the experience is by making the floors, walls and ceilings part of the exhibit. Witness the carpet in the farm section.

Not only did I laugh at the 'holstein-ness' of the carpet but the pattern reminded me of a game where you have to align the squares to one another to create the ultimate picture.

So, if I rotate this square one turn to the right and this square one turn to the left, the one below this one has to go to the left while this square has to go to the right. No, that's not right. Let's turn this square 3 times left and this one twice right.

You folks just go on. I'll be here awhile.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


This museum does spotlight technology.

I needed to use the little girls' room. In place of knobs and faucets, there was this. You stuck your hand under the right area and, viola, soap and warm water. No knobs. No blobs of soaps. No adjusting to get the right temperature. No trying to find the automatic on switch on one of those faucets that sits there, mocking you because the sensor is the size of a poppyseed. It's all stainless steel, so it's also easy to clean. It was one large trough.

To the right along this sink, just out of the photo was a small icon for the dryer. But someone walked in at that point and I thought they would find it odd I was taking photos of the bathroom.

After lunch and a full cup of tea, I used another restroom and saw this hand dryer.
It looks straight out of a bad sci-fi movie. In the movie, the evil scientist has taken over the museum and installed these innocent looking hand dryers. You stick your hands down into this and the two pieces clamp together. You're sucked into his laboratory where he turns you into mindless mutants following his every command.

No, it's not that cheesy. You stick your hands into the area highlighted in orange and a blast of hot air dries your hands in about 10 seconds. It doesn't sound possible, I know, because we've all been exposed to those hot air dryers that tell you to hit the button, stick your hands in the air flow, rub them around for 30 seconds until the air ends, then wipe them on your pants because they aren't dry. 10 seconds. I swear. The air wasn't uncomfortably hot. There was a lot of it and it was powerful. I think kids might have some difficulty keeping their hands in the flow as it was that strong.

In the movie, "Desperately Seeking Susan", Madonna's character uses the old style air blowers to dry herself off. You can't do that with this. The air is kept right inside the area where you stick your hands.

Yes, I'm impressed and you could jokingly say, "Doesn't take much to impress you, does it?" But what's also impressive is that these technologies make bathrooms cleaner, cutting down on paper towel waste, and reduce energy consumption. It probably costs a bundle to retrofit a public bathroom and, let's face it, if you are Macy's, Nordstrom's, Bloomingdale's and their ilk, this is not what you want your lavatories to look like, a wall of stainless steel. But in other locations where the masses go, this would be quite effective at doing what needs to be done.

In a museum spotlighting new technologies, you expect something bright and shiny everywhere.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not your typical museum food.

I don't remember food at the museum being this good. I remember the museum had a Pizza Hut outlet when we were members. Finnigan's Ice Cream Parlor is still there. I remember long tables and a series of cases with packaged food. Nothing was fresh and the walls were lined with vending machines to supplement whatever you pulled from the case.

Not anymore. The vending machines have been scaled back and there was a bakery/cafe near the food court. We opted to go to the food court because there were a lot of choices.

To the left is Carole's lunch. She got mostaccioli with meat balls in marinara sauce, red devil's food cake and apple juice.

David got macaroni and cheese, rice, a chicken kebob with a dinner roll, German chocolate cake, an M&M cookie and apple juice.

Niles got a vegetarian salad which he said was pseudo-Korean, fries and a dirt cup.
If you have kids, you remember this. It's crushed Oreo cookies, chocolate pudding and gummi worms on the top.

There was so much to choose from; a deli, a grill, a pasta and pizza bar, a 'homestyle' grill as well as prepackaged food. I was torn between pasta and a deli sandwich until I saw the make your own salad. It's a selection of mixed greens, chicken, dried cranberries and crispy noodles with a Thai peanut dressing. For dessert, I had double chocolate cake, of course and hot tea.

Yeah, it's pricier than pulling something out of a freezer case, but everything was fresh and it didn't taste like it had been sitting around for 3 weeks.

The other nice thing about the food court is that school groups, and there were many today, were not eating in that space. You could take your time to browse and make a decision without worrying that some 3rd grader was going to bump your tray and send your meal flying. We had a great meal without feeling rushed. That makes all the walking worth it.

Beverage: English Breakfast Tea


5 1/2 hours on the feet, but so worth it.

I went to the Museum of Science and Industry today with my daughter, her boyfriend, David, and her friend from high school, Niles. I had not been in the museum since early in the morning in January 2009 when my company's structural engineers did a study in preparation for the redoing of the west exit. We were there before the museum opened and didn't really walk around.

This place was originally built for the World Columbian Exposition, one of the few permanent structures. Daniel Burnham had the ultimate design concept for the fair and is credited with taking the swampy south side of Chicago and creating the lagoons that are still south of the museum. There was a very small exhibit of artifacts in the museum but I remember, when we were members, on the 100th anniversary of the building and the fair, a grand exhibit of the building and how it fell into disuse until rehabilitated. It has seen a number of additions and expansions. We were able to see about half of it in the 5.5 hours we were there.

Carole and David took hundreds of photos. As I have only one memory card left, I am limited to 25. This is one of the side hallways. These planes, originals, hang above the model railroad.

One of the highlights of the museum has been the preservation of the captured U-Boat, the U505. Briefly, in the week before the D-Day invasion, Chicago native, Captain Daniel Gallery, chanced upon the U-boat near the Canary Islands. In the span of 6 minutes, Captain Gallery and the ships and airplanes under his command disabled the sub. Men boarded the vessel and prevented it from sinking. It was then towed to Bermuda where it was searched and anything that could be learned was. The capture was kept completely secret until after the war and the sub went on a tour of east coast cities. It was decommissioned after the war and Captain Gallery convinced the Navy to give it to his hometown. It was towed through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into Lake Michigan, arriving at the shore across Lake Shore Drive from the museum. In September of 1954, it was moved across Lake Shore Drive and positioned on the east side of the museum. In 1971, my family made a trip to Chicago and I remember taking a tour of the sub.

On the occasion of its 50th birthday, it was announced that the sub was in dire need of preservation. Chicago weather is not kind to outdoor artifacts. Without some sort of preservation effort, the sub would become unsafe for tours. The museum launched its biggest preservation effort ever, to move the sub into a climate controlled area. My company provided vibration monitoring for the building of the room to house the sub. I was not on this project personally other than a few things at the beginning as I had several large projects in downtown Chicago to oversee.

In April of 2004, the sub was moved from its east museum site to a north site where it was lowered into the ground. Luke, who had worked on the monitoring project, was invited to watch some of the moving of the sub so we drove down and watched the machinery creep along toward the room where the sub would rest. I had not been to the exhibit since it had opened. We did not have time to take the sub tour as we wanted to see the IMAX presentation on the Hubble Telescope.

The exhibit is incredible. There is a lot to read and take in about the sub, the technology of the day and the capture itself. We were going to go to the Art Institute today, but that was scuttled in favor of spending at least an hour just walking around this area. This is an outstanding example of preservation.

The one thing that struck me about the sub was how much the rear copies the outline of a whale. I know I have seen photos of whales with their flippers down as they glide through the water.

While it does cost a fair penny to get into the museum, it's well worth the trip and the time.

Beverage: English Breakfast Tea