Monday, January 31, 2011

This is Awesome!

At the end of this video, there is a note that says it's not a real event. I think it should be. If you aren't chuckling by the end of this, there's something wrong.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Pardon Me for Not Getting All Worked Up.

Yahoo news feed.

Chicago Tribune--"Blizzard May be 'Life-Threatening'".

Daily Herald-"Storm Could be Bigger than Blizzard of '67".

The Chicago Sun-Times was a bit less dramatic. "Blizzard Watch in Effect".

We have a storm bearing down on us. It's coming from the west and has the potential to merge over us with a weak front coming up from the south. The snow starts today, this afternoon actually, with freezing rain upon waking up on Tuesday morning, giving over to all snow, very heavy at times, overnight on Tuesday. Then the winds kick up to blow around whatever has fallen and the temperatures will drop as they are want to do after a blizzard.

The National Weather Service says the following:

 I don't know why it's in all caps. It's hard to read. I guess they figure people will get their main weather info from other sources. Whatever the case, we are to have some weather requiring the removal of frozen water.

I don't mean to make light of the situation, too much. I feel for police, ambulance, fire and hospital personnel who have to be out in this. I anticipate the city snow plows will be pulled off the streets until Wednesday some time.I don't expect mail delivery or a newspaper on Wednesday. It's really not a laughing matter other than come on people, let's be sane about this. I'm going to the grocery after work. I had planned to anyway because I got paid and it's the end of the month and I'm out of stuff. Stuff is important to have. But it sure seems as if heavier than partly cloudy with a 5 mph breeze out of the south is ground for the ramping up of hyperbole.

I live in the Upper Midwest. We know snow, at least, we should. Take necessary precautions and don't go out if you don't have to. We're talking of shutting down the office mid-afternoon on Tuesday so we can all make it home safely. Prudent. I'm going to the grocery tonight. Prudent. It's the end of the month so I will pay my bills online. Prudent.

I guess it's true. Common sense isn't really so common. I'm going to see if I have more snow pictures from the past. It will be interesting to compare.

Beverage:  China Black tea


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Assembly Required.

The great "Hunt for a Dress" Day went from a depressing failure to a resounding success after Pam and I lunched. We went to Rock Bottom Brewery. Our server was attentive although she had to be flagged to refill Pam's drink and to bring us the check. The hostess wasn't at the door when we walked in and there was no sign saying you couldn't just go in and sit down. She was over talking with servers in a corner. She finished her conversation before coming to seat us, which I consider a service no-no. Pam had chicken mac and cheese with Parmesan bread crumb topping. I had a hickory BBQ burger made with turkey. The food was decent, maybe a bit overpriced. I'd go there again. Nothing to turn me completely away.

We'd not had success in finding anything try-on worthy other than a few things at Von Maur. The best was an iridescent silk shantung jacket. This jacket was gorgeous. I could see a green or blue floral with an ivory background under this jacket. The dress I'm wearing was awful and I know you all love the socks. Carole gave me those for Christmas. But the jacket. Oh wow.

And then we looked at the price. $210 and it wasn't on sale. "Let's go get lunch."

Refreshed from lunch, we headed over to Jo-Ann Fabrics. Since we both sew, even if I did find something off the rack that needed alterations, we could fix that, but let's go see if there are any patterns worth noting. Trying on ready-made also helped me determine what size pattern I needed to look for.

I used to sew, a lot. I made a lot of Carole's dresses when she was growing up. I made a lot of my clothes. Fabric stores were like bookstores. I couldn't go into them without coming out with a bag. I have patterns and material I have never used, two full boxes of material. Occasionally, I take it out and look at it and think I should just get rid of it, but I can't. "Some day," I think. If you sew, you probably know the feeling.

Special occasion fabrics never seem to go away. There may be unique colors, depending upon the year, but you can always find sparkly, shimmery and fancy fabrics any time of year. We headed there first, instead of looking at patterns. Why look at patterns if the fabric choices are black, periwinkle and plum?

They had a small section that was sari fabrics. Gorgeous, bright colors with intricately woven patterns. Aqua, purple, red, gold, royal blue and ivory, the colors were astounding. We round a gorgeous floral with a cream background, plus, there was adequate fabric on the bolt for either a dress or a jacket. Sold! Now to find a pattern.

We searched through all the available books; Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue, Burda and New Look. I've never sewed a Burda, which is European, or a New Look. It turns out New Look is owned by Simplicity. I know Simplicity. The very first thing I ever sewed, a vest, was a Simplicity pattern.

I scribbled down numbers and then looked through drawers. Some numbers weren't available. In the end, this is the pattern selected. I will not be making the ankle-length option. I will be making the short jacket and dress. Both are simple lines, exactly what I wanted. I'm not completely keen on the sleeveless part but I can live with this. Everything else is perfect including the price. The pattern was on sale for $3.99.

Pam vetoed this selection of fabric. But it's green, a wide variety of green, washable and easy care.

She also said no to the bedspread look. This was very soft and in a huge width. It has possibilities for a light-weight, fun jacket or a quilt.

It took some time and dragging bolts of cloth to the front of the store to look at things in natural light. People looked at us kind of funny, as we draped, stood back, changed complimentary colors and stood back again. A gorgeous shantung, which was my first choice, turned out to be way too light-weight and would have required lining. Nope, not going to do that. I did that, once or twice, a long time ago. I don't have to do that here so I don't want to. Eventually, I chose these two as my fabrics.

The green is the dress and the floral is the jacket. The jacket closes with a frog but I'm not going to search for anything until I have the jacket made. I may opt not to close it. 

The brocade was on sale, 30% off, which made the total cost of that fabric, $20.67. The green was not on sale but Pam had a 50% off coupon, rescued from last week's Sunday paper. That made the green fabric $6.97. Without tax, I have a dress and jacket for $31.63. 

One of my decisions was to have shoes dyed in the appropriate color to match the dress. Nope. I'm going with a beige. Pam may have a cream-colored purse that she bought for her son's wedding and has used only for that. I would have to buy a new purse as I only own the brown one I take everywhere. I have to get thread and a zipper, but even with those, I'm coming in at a bit less than $210. 

So, what started as an "exploratory" event turned into a huge success. I'm so thrilled by this I can't tell you. Now to make room on the kitchen table for the sewing machine. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


P.S. According to Blogger, this is my 700th post. I like that it's a success story. 

It was depressing.

Yesterday, Pam and I headed into the grand world of retail to start the process of finding me a dress to wear to Carole and David's wedding. (I'm going to call it a wedding even though they are married because it's just easier.) I had an idea in my head, a vision of what I thought I wanted. In a previous entry, I posted photos from the Alfred Angelo web site, showing Mother-of-the-Bride dresses which could come in exactly the same green as the bridesmaid's dresses. 

That's really not what I wanted. It's not my day. The day "belongs", if you will, to Carole and David. I'm there as their guest and, although I have a huge tie to the day, it wouldn't be good to dress like the attendants. I think Miss Manners would be shocked and/or aghast. But, those dresses I liked were the foundation for the search.

Should we go to a fabric store first or go to ready-made? I decided to try to find something ready-made, for no other reason that to see if a certain cut would look good on me. Off to Oakbrook Center and Macy's.

To say it was depressing is a huge understatement. Are we too early in finding spring wear? I know Easter is late this year, but there was nothing, nothing, on the racks for "mature" women. Macy's, Von Maur, JC Penney. A lot of stuff on sale but nothing that was even remotely useful. If I was age 2, I could find all sorts of spring dresses. At age 54, my choices were limited to black, periwinkle or plum. Not for a wedding in May.

I know it's just me but some things defied description.  Someone, somewhere thinks this is gorgeous. No, it wasn't even gorgeous when it first came out in 1963.

Need to be seen when walking somewhere. I have the perfect sweater or jacket for you.

The jacket was so red, my camera couldn't capture its true red-ness. Trust me on this. I love bright colors. I like red, but, ouch.

In my mind's eye, I saw a jacket, maybe solid color, over a simple sheath in a green floral. This would compliment the wedding party. Or, if I could find an unusual jacket, I could go with a solid color simple dress, "A" line or princess styling. This is a hugely important day but I really didn't want to spend a ton of money since I don't have a lot to start with. The last time I bought a dress was when my mother turned 70, 5 years ago. I just don't wear dresses. I have no place I go that requires a dress.

Oh look, Pam! Here's something in a green sort-of floral.

What are people wearing on their winter cruises? I remember, in years past, flowery prints and patterns in light-weight fabrics could be found at this time of year. I must have missed the memo on how we are all dressing in black and eschewing color for any celebration.

"I bet you could find something online." That's not the point. I want to check fit and whether the color looks good on me and I DON'T want to have to send it back. That is beyond annoying. I want to get it right the first time, even if that involves multiple trips to various locations over a number of Saturdays.

So, we headed off to lunch feeling quite defeated. I guess I'm showing my age. Other than saying, "Oh my god. Who wears this stuff?" and ruling out ruching and jersey knit, we accomplished nothing in the morning.

I did find something I would wear, just not to a wedding. Oh yeah. I would wear this jacket. Loud, crazy, unique, yup. It's a great spring and fall jacket.

But, it was not on sale and I won't pay $250 for a jacket not even one this cool.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


A Response Would be Appreciated

In the mail on Thursday was a large envelope from my daughter. Lovely trim on the edge, don't you agree?
With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought maybe she was early this year. Smart girl, get them all out now so you don't forget, something her mom really should do. 

Oooh nice little seal on the back, too. 

When I opened up the envelope, it was not a Valentine. It was the long awaited invitation to the "Blessing of the Vows" ceremony in May. If I'd been a bit more observant before I tore into the envelope, I would have noticed the stamp was quite unique and probably would have given me a clue to the envelope's contents. 
I think, so far, this has been their 2nd biggest expense behind Carole's dress. I know she and David thought long and hard about these. But, as Pam said, this reflects my daughter. 
Late May, in Virginia, where, in theory, things will be in bloom and the air will be warm and the day could be gorgeous sunshine. Their colors are shamrock green and pearl and the ribbon isn't really a shamrock green, but it so fits the invitation. 

Next step is returning the enclosed response card. I dropped mine in the mailbox at the post office on Saturday.  I suppose I didn't have to, it might be assumed I'm coming, but manners dictate that one respond if one is invited. I got the days off I requested for this wedding approved.  
Now, do I want to fly or drive? 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


He won, again.

--ring ring--

Answer the office phone.

"Is Michael there?"

"No, I'm sorry. He's out in the field. May I take a message?"

"This is Belinda at Chipotle and we drew his card for our free burritos. We were hoping he could do it today but if he's not in, can we do it tomorrow?"

It was all I could do not to laugh in her ear. See, this is a running joke within the office. Roughly once every 10 days, Mike goes over to Chipotle, which is a block from the office, and gets lunch. Toss your business card in their fish bowl and they draw a card for a free lunch. You get at least 6 burritos free. Mike's luck is such that we can count on free Chipotle lunch about every 3 months. They know him over there.

I got my usual.

Three soft chicken tacos with mild corn relish and lots of lettuce and cheese. Sometimes I get a soda. Sometimes I don't. They don't have Dr Pepper so I have to settle for Coke. The new guy, Gene, quipped that this is an awesome place to work. He's had free lunch once each week since he started.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crazyness on the Lunch Hour

I'm eating leftovers again and decide, after crunching numbers and listening to myself on tape off and on all morning, I need a palette cleanser for my brain. I head on over to BigFish Games. There's a lot of fun stuff on their web site for very reasonable prices. If you buy enough, you can get games free. Great time wasters, I, time wasters although I do feel challenged when it's a time management game and I can't beat the level.

They have daily games that are free. Sometimes, these are truncated versions of full-size games and it gives you a chance to try out something before you buy it. Sometimes, they are stand-alone games with no purchase available. The one I'm playing now is the latter. If you ever wanted to be a demolition "expert" or if you just wanted to blow things up, this is the game for you.

You can see, below, I'm up to level 10 here. You get a certain number of dynamite bundles that you have to use to take down the building and make sure it collapses below the yellow line. On some levels, there will be a red bar to the right indicating another building. You can't have any piece of the demolished building touch the red one or you have to try again.
You can see where I chose to put my dynamite for this building on this level. Here is the result.

I did it. Yeah, it's a time waster, but I have 4 minutes left on my lunch hour and there's something very satisfying about blowing something up.

It's They are PC AND MAC friendly.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper



Carole mentioned in an email to me that the section of Connecticut where she lives has had, so far this winter, nearly 50 inches of snow. They awoke to another 16-18 inches this morning which may mean they are approaching the 5 feet of snow mark. And to think it sort of "started" on Monday, November 8th when I was leaving to head back to Illinois after my visit.
This was wet stuff, almost half water.

Carole took this photo of their snow. This is to the left of my photo above. It was taken over the weekend, and doesn't reflect the latest dumping.
She uses some photo technique so this does look like a watercolor. The tree to the left in my photo is the tree to the right in hers.

It's snowing right now as I type this. We aren't to get dumped on as the NE US did, but it is a snowy January, snowier than most in recent years. As I was searching for photos of my sister, I came upon photos of another January 30 years ago. It was January, 1971, and this was the day after a blizzard.
This is the road that runs North South in front of the farm, which is off camera to the right. To the left is a gently rolling hill with nothing to stop a snowstorm coming out of the west northwest. The neighbor to the south of us had a front end loader on his tractor so he plowed his drive and then a single track down to us and plowed our drive.

I believe this is the storm that caused my mother to call one of the county commissioners and chew him out for not even attempting to plow our road up to us. We heard, from people to the north, that the plow made it to the farm on the other side of the visible woods, got into those woods and turned around because of deep snow. We were without power for three days, but we had ample supplies of wood for the furnace, and gas for the gas stove. Dad was working in Waukon at the time. He attempted to get home but turned back because the roads were impassible. The plow had opened the road within 24 hours of the snow ending but hadn't come back to finish the job to us and our neighbor.

Within 12 hours of her angry phone call, we heard the plow. It wasn't an easy job, to be sure. He had to dig the road open; he couldn't shove the snow to the side because there was no place for it. He was followed by a dump trunk that hauled the snow away. When they got to our neighbors, they carved a place to turn around and then worked at widening the road instead of pushing it all the way south to the main highway. They knew what they were up against. It would be 3 more days before the road was successfully opened to the highway, a 2 mile length from our house.

This is what the snow hill looked like across from the entry to our farm.
They had not shoved that bank up that high. This was the height of the drift coming off the hill. That's a 1968 Chevy van, the first year Chevy made passenger vans. That's my brother, Steve, standing on the top of the drift.

This wasn't the worst January snow that I remember. In 1968, out of the available 20 days for school, we had 7 and not all together. I can't find pictures of that snow. I didn't get my own camera until later so I don't know if we used mom's Brownie to take photos. I'll have to look at the photo dates to see if it was Christmas 1969 or 1970 when I took over family photographer.

So, as we battle feet of snow, I am reminded of the storm of 30 years ago. I think we missed only a week of school from this one. It's supposed to be in the 30's tomorrow. I haven't shoveled the snow from the last storm. I have to shovel both of them now. I printed the lyrics to my favorite snow song last year. It's playing in my head right now. I have a craving for pizza and a malted for supper tonight, and a good book and a couple of purring cats.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest Tea


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my sister's birthday. I'm having fun with the scanner in the office since my home scanner doesn't want to work.

First week of September 1970, before school.

I can't seem to get the photos square, however.

Spitting watermelon seeds at the gas station where dad worked. That's him in the background. They were having an open house event over July 4th, 1976. You had to get the seeds into a box and you won a prize.

And finally, on a merry-go-round at Paul Bunyan State Park in Bemidji, Minnesota in 1973.
Hope your birthday is special.

Beverage:  Blackberry Sage Tea


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 3

After an hour and a half of stitching plus three loads of dishes, there is a form there. I read my book for the month and I read 4.5 magazines this month. Now, I will spend time stitching. You'll get to see it develop over the next few weeks. I've come up with another theme so expect to see it sprinkled amongst my usual eclectic posts. 

Beverage:  Blackberry Sage tea


Monday, January 24, 2011

Zip-a-Dee Do Dah

John Denver had a song lyric that I like.
Music makes pictures
And often tells stories
All of it magic and all of it true. 
I had a lot of music in the house this weekend. I think the girls were a bit surprised because I'm not one to have a lot of background noise about. The TV isn't on just for the noise factor. The radio only comes on when I have to get up or I goof up on the alarm. I do have the game sounds on and there is music with the game, but it generally isn't loud enough to carry into other rooms. So, having music playing from the DvD player seemed to leave them a bit unsettled. But I felt like music.

On occasion, I would get an email thread from someone with the premise that you would score the movie of your life. What would the music be? The idea behind the email was you'd learn something about the person you sent the email too simply by asking what music they'd like to see behind the movie of their life.

I like jazz and not that smooth jazz that embraces Kenny G, Najee, or Spyro Gyra. I also listen to Scottish folk music as played by The Tannahill Weavers and Old Blind Dogs. I know pop music up through roughly the end of the 1980's and a bit into the early 1990's, but the current pop scene is foreign to me. I also like, for lack of a better description, "old" music, a lot of it Stephen Foster-ish and his ilk. Broadway show toons? Check. Andrew Lloyd Webber? Check. Theme songs from animated movies? Check. It adds up to a lot of material from which my brain has to choose.

Which leads to some of the weird songs I've had kicking around in my head lately. Someone took the term "earworm", which describes a type of worm that burrows into ears of corn, and applied it to that song that gets stuck in your head; you know, the one you can't get rid of. It's an apt appellation. Lately, songs stuck in my head have ranged from "A Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific to "Keeping the Faith" by Billy Joel to "Bra' Sailin'" by Old Blind Dogs to "Peel Me a Grape" by Diana Krall. That's quite the repertoire. I was thinking about the title to this post and suddenly, I heard Uncle Remus saying, "This is one of those 'zip-a-dee-do dah days, the kind where you can't open your mouth without a song zippin' right outta it." I don't know about my bursting into song, but my brain certainly did. And I could do a lot worse than hearing the upbeat
Zip-a-Dee Do Dah, Zip-a-Dee Ay
My, oh my, what a wonderful day.
Plenty of sunshine heading my way.
Zip-a-Dee Do Dah, Zip-a-Dee Ay.
Never mind that it's overcast and warm enough to make the snow melt straight into fog. You have to be cold of heart not to hear that and feel warm.

My earworms are certainly situational. Overwhelmed, I can conjure up songs of abandonment. Jazz is really good for that. "But Not For Me" seems to be one of my brain's favorites. "Blue Moon" is a jaunty melody that comes up a lot. "Piano Man" turns up because I wrote a parody to it for World of Warcraft last year. Plus, I like the fact I know ALL the words, including the stanza from the long version of the song.

I guess because I have a son-in-law in the Navy, I've had the anthems, with words, to all the military branches. We had to learn those when I was in school. Show of hands. Who knows the words to "Roll on Columbia"? I do. How about "I Love to Go A'Wandering"? Some 25-odd years ago, I remember reading an article stating that so much music, which would be considered "folksy" was in danger of being lost because it's not taught in school. Well, that gets into the whole cutback issue and what are you going to cut first, music programs or football? Let's not get into that here.

In grade school, we had music 3 times a week. In middle school, you could have it daily; chorus 2 times and band 3 times a week. It was the same in high school unless you were in multiple choruses and the band. I had music 2 times a day 3 days a week. We sang more difficult pieces. I sang a piece by an Italian composer. My music director had to contact his alma mater for someone to come spend 2 hours after school with me so I could sing the piece in Italian. I have no memory of whether we knew what I was singing about. He just wanted me to perform it "properly". It certainly wasn't "Shenandoah".

"Music paints pictures and often tells stories." Music gives my life another dimension. I played Dizzy and the CD David gave me for Christmas (Miles Davis and John Coltrane) and some Benny Goodman and Ella. I'm missing a Tannies CD but "Four on the Floor" filled the house with Uileann pipes and Jonny Hardie's fiddle. Music makes doing laundry or dishes or cleaning kitty litter and finding tax information more than a little bearable.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Sunday, January 23, 2011


I like cookbooks. I think they are a fascinating read. In the living room, on one bookshelf, two shelves are devoted just to cookbooks. Plus, I had a stack on top of the bookshelf. 

I decided, last year, to go through the stack on the top, look through each one, and decide if I really wanted to keep it. Did it have things I would make or did I buy it just because it was interesting? The interesting but unusable ones would be given away. How is it working out? So far, I haven't found one I couldn't make something out of with an eye towards more cooking from that book.

Some weekend mornings, I can get up and get a decent breakfast assembled that's not reheated frozen muffins or cereal. Today was one of those mornings. The selected cookbook was this one. There are some very interesting recipes in this book. I selected IHOP's banana pancakes.

The recipe starts by making banana-flavored syrup. I opted not to make that. I won't have a use for it except for these pancakes. The batter came out quite light and smooth.

One of the things I kept forgetting to do was sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top after pouring 1/4th cup of batter on the griddle. I would say half of the pancakes the recipe made, and it makes a lot, don't have pecans in them.

They cooked up nicely although I have never seemed to be able to master the art of completely even pancake cookery. I don't know if it's the way the burner lies on the stove or my skillet isn't flat to distribute the heat evenly. Whatever. One side gets done first while the other side is barely cooked.

Still, when the sliced banana was added to cover the pancake and the whole thing drizzled with maple syrup, that's a breakfast.

No, whipped cream on this would be overkill and would ruin the flavors. 

The best part is the stack that I now have to freeze for almost instant breakfasts in the weeks ahead.

Yum indeed.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Xylophone is Never on a Billboard

When I was growing up, we farmed. Farm families rarely get what could be termed a "vacation". Someone has to come milk the cows and feed the pigs. Forget a summer vacation because there might be hay to bring in or corn to cultivate. School runs from the end of August to the end of May. The best you could do was drive to a cousin's for an extended weekend, assuming you could find someone to watch the animals.

My dad had wanderlust. He loved to travel. He liked farming, it's what he knew, the life he grew up in. But he really wanted to travel. Once he sold the milk cows and got out of that, we went places and did things.

We went to the Black Hills in 1972. Dad took a look at the map and saw how close this place called "Devil's Tower" was, so, we crossed into Wyoming and drove to see that. This was waaaay before Steven Spielberg turned it into an icon for alien life enthusiasts. I went back in 1974 but have not been back since.

We went to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1974. It was part of a two week vacation that saw us leave Iowa, heading east, hang a right towards Indianapolis, head south to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama, turn right and drive over Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, turn around and head north along the Mississippi, through St. Louis and home again. It was great, even if, at times, you wanted to kill your siblings. My friend, Jon, lives in Chattanooga and says the view from Lookout Mountain hasn't changed all that much although there is more development. That cannon, he says, is still there.

I couldn't, and still can't, read in a moving car or bus, without getting motion sickness. I can do cross-stitch and I remember knitting and crocheting, but while my sister and brothers could read, I was left watching the scenery. I also wound up taking 90% of the photos so you'll rarely see me in any of them. I would get bored and we kids would get antsy. Somewhere along the line, my mother stumbled across a book of travel games. It was a big, thick book that had word searches, crosswords, finish the photo, match the picture, all sorts of games. It was passed around to each of us and we could do one thing from it. Crossword puzzles didn't seem to bother me so I would do one of those, which sparked lively discussions of a 5-letter word for a container, usually for beer. My mother has a great vocabulary and my dad would, occasionally, surprise everyone with what he knew.

At the back of this book were suggestions for games that could be played without paper or pencil and required simple observation. One of our family favorites was called "Bury the Cow". In this game, you picked a side of the road and counted the cows as you passed them. If you passed a cemetery, you lost your cows and had to start over. At first, this was a fun game to occupy the 2 hour drive to grandma's. But, as there weren't a lot of routes between Monona and Cedar Rapids, you eventually figured out, if we took Highway 13, the person on the right side of the car was going to lose. There were more cemeteries on the right side of the road than on the left.

For long road trips, particularly ones involving Interstate driving, another game became a family favorite. Called the "Billboard Alphabet Game", the premise was finding a word on a billboard, street sign, or building name that started with a letter of the alphabet. Everyone could play and what letter you got depended upon who started, and stayed because sometimes someone would drop out, in the game.

One grew to hate certain letters, however. Why does "Kwik-Trip" have to be spelled that way? There are only so many "Dairy Queens" around. "V" wasn't much better. At least with "U", traveling on the Interstate would net you the "No U-Turn" signs. Shell's "V-Power" gas hadn't been invented yet.

"X" is, absolutely, the worst letter to get in this game. Even the book said someone getting "x" could use a word that contained the letter and not try to find a word that started with "x". Back when we were traveling as a family, triple X stores weren't that common on our routes. Thank heaven for "Exit 263" ahead.

As a parent, I handed down the Billboard Alphabet Game to my daughter. It really is a great game to play with kids, particularly kids learning the alphabet. It teaches not only words, but also observation. I find myself, on long drives, such as going to Connecticut to visit Carole and David in November, playing the game in my head. "Okay, I need an 'F'." It's a great way to pass the time on a drive.

Now that you've read this post, I'm willing to bet on your next drive, you'll be more observant, looking for words that start with the more obscure letters. Let me know if you find something other than "XXX-Rated!!!"

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast Tea


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wordy Words

My friend, Kevin, read yesterday's blog post about temptation.

"So, what are you going to do for 'u', 'ubiquitous'?" he asked. As I had the "u" post all planned, I laughed, but it did get me thinking.

Words. Love 'em. They are 'ubiquitous' and human language depends upon word comprehension. It's been argued that our pets understand simply language simply because of repetition; "No!", "Sit!", their name, as examples.

You wouldn't be reading this blog if my communication was in hieroglyphics. Someone might take the time to decipher the code but the bulk of people would not.

Words. I believe I have mentioned how I had to write a thesis for my degree in English. It had to be a minimum of 15 pages and cite at least 7 sources. At the time we took the class which helped you create your topic, write your paper and then learn to defend it, in my Victorian English literature class, we were reading Lewis Carroll, Alice: Through the Lookingglass and What She Found There.

Lewis Carroll was a master of words. I like Through the Lookingglass better than Alice in Wonderland simply because of the use of language. I wrote my senior paper on "Nonsense Language in Through the Lookingglass". My argument was that seeming "nonsensical" language, was actually highly logical in structure and this sprang from Carroll having a background in math.

As with a quote on language and invective earlier this month, a few lines from Through the Lookingglass have stayed with me.
"When I use a word,"Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone. "It means just what I choose it to mean - neither more or less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean no many different things." 
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master, that's all." 
Being able to master words is a good tool to have. We use words, carefully chosen, to comfort, incite, rally, inflame. In college, I knew a couple people whose grandparents had come from Germany right after World War II. They said their parents never listened to Hitler on the radio. They always read his speech the next day. Reading took the passion, the pregnant pauses, the vocal inflection right out and they could see exactly what he was using language to do. In this age of instant text, part of me yearns for the days when you actually paused before sending things into the ether. Words, so capable of solace, are also so capable of wounding.

As I come to the end of this theme, which has been lots of fun, I'm looking ahead to doing another theme, maybe not right away, maybe at the beginning of February. One thing that has challenged me is using the word of the day in a sentence. I used to save these and, when I wrote letters to friends, would challenge myself to use them, correctly, in sentences. I discovered my favorite word, obnubilate, this way. Here are the weekend words. I could challenge myself to, for a month, use the word of the day in a blog post. Jessie has asked me to consider a photo a day. Both are interesting, both worthy of exploration.

After all, isn't a picture equated with some kind of amount of verbiage?

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Vexes #9

This morning, I got around to making pumpkin coffee cake for breakfast. It's a recipe I found in one of the many, many, many collections I've collected over the years. This one is from Quaker Oats.

I've had the ingredients for over a month but not the oomph to make the dish. Last night, I set everything out.

The smell as this was baking was heavenly; toasted oatmeal, pumpkin, spices. The directions were to spread the batter in a 9 x 13 pan and I would have bet you $5.00 that this limited amount of batter, stretched thin over the pan was going to burn. It did not. It puffed up golden and wonderful. This is going to be an excellent complement to whatever I decide to take for lunch over the next week and as a snack.

But what vexes me is you only use 1 cup of pumpkin. Pie and muffins are the same way. You've read the size of a "standard" can of pumpkin. A cup is 8 ounces. 15 - 8 = 7, less than a cup. I don't have recipes that call for less than a cup of pumpkin. If I make half of batch of pumpkin muffins, that's half a cup of pumpkin. I still have some left.

There must be a reason pumpkin is packaged in less than ideal for cooking cans. Perhaps it's the size of the can. If it were a full 2 cups, or 16 ounces, it would take up more shelf space.

So, what do I do with the extra? I could put plastic over the top and stick it in the fridge, but what will happen is that it will get moldy or hard and I'll wind up tossing it. I guess I'll add it to the materials destined for the compost heap, then rinse and recycle the can.

I wonder if any company has tried to market one or two cup cans of pumpkin puree. It would take a bit to ween consumers from this standard size, which has been around as long as I can remember. But it seems to make sense. If you need one cup, why are we buying 1 and not quite another only to toss the not quite?

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea



The phone bills provide me with monthly stress. They come due at a time of the month when what's available won't always cover what's being charged.

I get two bills. AT&T provides my Internet and local phone service. I have a land line, and understand, it's what I want, and DSL. If I were to go to cell service only, I would probably have more choices in phone service, but AT&T seems to provide the only land line service available. There was a time when others tried to compete, but they withdrew. Plus, I don't want three separate bills nor do I want "bundled" service that includes cable TV which I will not watch. It's not that I boycott TV, as appealing as that is sometimes. I just don't watch TV so why pay for a service I don't use?

Anyway, this is my long-distance bill for December. Now, the company that provides my long-distance is very inexpensive and provides very good service. When I call them, I get a live person. I've had to call them, in the, probably 10+ years I've had them, exactly 3 times. The company is Working Assets. My friend, Melody Eastman, suggested I look into them. I have been so very pleased with them over the years.

I have no idea how the bill came to be a whole 67 cents. I know I was late with November's bill, thanks to the alternator mess so I must have overpaid. While that's probably not a good payment strategy when one is trying to reign in expenditures, this month, it worked in my favor.

What's also unbelievable is that I will pay this online, quickly and easily. Carole has probably fainted. "My mom is living in the 21st Century?"


Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Saturday, January 15, 2011


I yield.

It started on Wednesday when, totally out of the blue, I craved pot stickers. No idea why they sprung into my consciousness, but that's what I wanted to eat, hot, fresh pot stickers with warm soy sauce in which to dip them. There is this fantastic Chinese restaurant on the way to and home from the office and they make these incredibly good pot stickers. I could just call ahead...

No. No. Their pot stickers are expensive, although worth it, but I really don't have the cash for fresh pot stickers, as enticing as the idea is.

I had to go out today to get those three colors of floss I don't have for this stitching project. I have some old floss in probably close to the right colors but this particular project needs to be done as directed. Once I've done it, if I do it again, I can say, "Oh this is close to that" and use 'this' up. Until that time, I stick to the numbers.

After getting my floss, the temptation for pot stickers became too strong. Instead of sitting for 20 minutes while fresh pot stickers were made, I went to Dominicks. A brand named 'Ann Chun' has frozen chicken and vegetable pot stickers. There are 11 in a bag (at least the bag I opened) and they are $4.99 a bag. At the restaurant, you get 6 for $6.95. The frozen ones claim to be organic and with no MSG. I think I'm getting a better deal. When cooked, they looked just like the ones I remember from the restaurant.

They tasted just as good as the restaurant ones.

In walking to the frozen section, I had to pass by the candy aisle. No feet! Don't go down that aisle! You really shouldn't be looking. It's an unplanned expense and those will sink your carefully prepared budget.

They are on sale! And this is a good snack to eat while stitching. (sigh) Okay fine.

While you're at it, pick up a bottle of maple syrup so you can make pancakes in the morning, says the brain.

So, I have yielded to temptation. Probably not a good thing. It says "Party size" on the bag. I'm a party. Ah the smell of a freshly opened bag of M&M's with peanuts. Darned Dominicks for having the bag on sale.

Yes, I worked more on the stitching when I got home, in between dishes and then making pot stickers. Today's work is this. And yes, M&M's with peanuts are perfect for noshing between stitches.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Friday, January 14, 2011


The new project has been started.

No, I won't tell you what it is. You'll have to come back as it progresses and see.

No, I won't tell you whom it's for. Said person will just have to wait.

I have to go to the cross-stitch shop tomorrow, however. I am missing 2 colors and very low on a third. This is odd because I have 4, count 'em, 4 plastic bins of DMC floss, arranged in numerical order. Perhaps the 2 missing colors are in some forgotten project. At one point, I was buying, every time they were on sale, DMC floss in an attempt to have every color made. When you could get them 5 for a dollar, I'd buy $5.00 worth, hence the 4 plastic bins full of color.

But, after a while, it seemed rather silly. Some colors I'll probably never use, but, doggoneit, I have them.

This is 18-count, meaning 18 little squares to the inch. I can't do this with my glasses on. I have to perch those on top of my head. I might be using the wrong size needle, too, but we'll see.

So, watch this space. I'll post photos as I work.

And for those who wonder, the last project I did, the gnome, it went to my son-in-law for Christmas. I told a bold-faced lie to Carole and David and said it was going to my friend Patt. Now, Patt was in on the lie, so, does that really make it a lie? It was to go with a book I got him for Christmas, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino. The book is hilarious. As David put in their zen-ish garden in the front of the house, I thought it an appropriate tome. Indeed, when the book arrived at The Bookstore in downtown Glen Ellyn, where I buy all my books, Jenny looked at it and said, "Oooh, this is something Deb would like!" and then burst out laughing when she was told Deb ordered it.

Now for appropriate stitching music, television or video.

Beverage:  tea (using up several bags)


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rinse, Repeat and Rest

Today is a day of rest...

for my hair.

When I got it cut and styled at the end of October, the stylist said going one day without washing it out of every 10-15 would be a good thing. It would cut down on the brassy yellow that develops.

So, today was that day.

Every weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, I haul out the purple shampoo and give it a wash in purple goodness. I average 15 days in letting it go one day without washing.

But I tell you, in spite of some people's assertions that you don't need to wash your hair other than running water through it, my hair gets limp and greasy-looking if I go a second day without a wash. I can't stand it. Maybe that's conditioning, the self-imposed idea that it looks bad if I don't wash it.

I'm still kind of amazed at how that brown dye, now almost 2 years old, has stubbornly clung to the ends where it's not been cut off. I don't notice it until I take a photo and there it is. And it's interesting how gray hair isn't completely gray. Some strands still produce melanin. It's really noticeable right after washing.

I did wonder how different I would look if I got a box of Nice 'n Easy 118, the color I used to use. I like my gray hair, make no mistake about that. It's who I am and a favorable cut makes all the difference in the world. But sometimes, I look at that image in the mirror and remember when that was brown hair. The reverie comes to a screeching halt when I remember how long it took me to grow this out and what I looked like when it was 3 inches of gray and 5 inches of brown.

Some things I don't need to revisit.

Beverage:  V8 blueberry pomegranate juice