Monday, May 18, 2015

An Author of Note

See the photo and the by-line? My daughter is a published author. She writes columns for NFLSpinZone about the NFL. I really didn't realize how much she follows and absorbs and forms opinions on pro-football until I was visiting last October. Get into the car to drive to the wedding dress store and the radio is tuned to NFL analysis. She reads commentary. She follows teams. She plays Fantasy Football and follows certain players. She watched "Game of Thrones", but usually the TV is turned to ESPN or the NFL cable channels.

Her contract calls for a minimum of 5 columns per month. She covered the NFL draft, held in Chicago at the end of April and the first two days of May. Her by-line was on 5 columns in that time period alone. She's on Twitter and is followed by two running backs currently in the NFL. She's one of 2 women on a staff of 30.

The team she was assigned to cover, who needed a writer devoted to them, is the Cleveland Browns. We had a laugh about that but at the time she was getting married, Cleveland changed the team's logo and had a drama-filled end of March with their quarterback hirings. One might prefer to write about a team with very little drama, like the Packers, but it will not be dull for her once football season resumes.

Perks? Well, other than a small amount of cash at the end of each month, which is based upon her following, retweets of her comments and columns on Twitter and Facebook, and turning in her articles, there really aren't any. She doesn't get season tickets or any tickets, really, to the Browns. We won't be seeing her on ESPN talking head programs. I think the biggest perk is the joy and thrill of seeing her name in type and knowing that there are a lot of people reading what she writes.

If you'd like to read what she's written so far, even if you don't care one iota about pro football, you can go to this link. She said they had positions available for people to write about Big 10 football teams, but I would have had to write about Wisconsin or Purdue. Nope, I really can't and my interest in Big 10 football is not as deep as her interest in NFL football. I'm not inclined to do the research needed to write authoritatively about the subject. There are some things I know but that's not one of them.

I am so proud of Carole. She had a very bad 2012 and early 2013. Life has improved exponentially and 2015 is starting off to be fantastic.

Beverage: Fruit juice


Do a Study on This

It's human nature to want to know why our beloved pets do the things they do. "Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?" "Cats Can Hear You Calling Their Name:  They Don't Care." "A Cat's Purr Has a Healing and Destressing Effect." "Having a Pet Reduces the Chance of Kids Getting Allergies." "Pet Owners Have Naturally Lower Cholesterol and Heart Rates." These are some of the studies done with pets. If you've had pets in your life for a long time, you know these titles are true and probably rolled your eyes that money was spent on the study.

The Norwegian study on cats knowing you're calling them but just don't care was a particular eye-roll. Pilchard does that. I know she can't have gotten out, but I don't know where she is and she isn't coming when called and I'm starting to worry and what if she's stuck somewhere and I don't find her and...there she is. She's behind the recliner, just sitting there, looking at me as if to say, "I'm right here. I know where I am. I don't know why you're getting all panicked."

Here's something I want someone to study.

I went through the closet this morning, to get a shirt for a run to the grocery. Pilchard is lying at the foot of the bed. Why is it that she moves to lay on top of the clean clothes? I could see lying on something I've worn because it has my scent on it, but you can see these two shirts are still on the hangers. She got up and plopped herself down on top of the clean shirts.

Do you suppose it's scent related? Could she be attracted to the scent of the fabric softener? I usually try to use unscented but I'm sure there are subtle smells my far less sensitive nose can pick up. Are the clean clothes softer? She loves it when I bring clothes up from the basement and dump a pile on the bed. Both her and Mija will make nests in pile. In the morning, when I lay out my work clothes, someone jumps onto the bed and lies on them. If I want them to move, I just need to pull out a clean tee shirt and sit it at the end of them bed. The offender willingly moves to the new article of clothing. Why?

We cat owners joke that the reason our cats lie on the clean laundry is because they can tell it has no fur on it and that it's important we leave the house wearing something from our cats. I'm curious why cats do this. I don't know how you'd test for it, but it would be interesting to know.


A Hearty Goodbye

It's cleaning on a bits and pieces scale. I guess the "Today" show ran a segment on The Art of Tidying. I haven't seen it but several friends mentioned it. "How could you implement her program in an American house? I can't dump all my clothes in the middle of my floor to sort through them?" I've told them to read the book and then slowly work through their stuff. The author talked about relapses but claims, if you do her program as she suggests, you won't have a relapse.

The thing is, her program is for Japanese houses which are a quarter the size of my house, which is small. She talks about removing large numbers of garbage bags of what she calls garbage from people's homes. Instantly, I thought of the big black bags I use. "Twenty-three bags?" I thought, incredulously. Now, I'm thinking, garbage bags in Japan may not be the big 50+ gallon ones. Even if it's a small plastic bag from CVS, it could be used and considered as a garbage bag. Then 23 bags removed is not so outlandish.

I have another bag to go in a couple weeks. The work shirt side of my closet is cleaned. I'm down to the shirts that I will wear to work, that fit my tastes and that actually fit me. It was clean the bathroom time, too, and I finally decided to part with this.

I haven't used this in years, other than to put my pjs on it when I take them off in the morning. I used to think it was a vital necessity to have in the house. But now I realize that, although I do want to and should lose weight, the presence of a scale tells me I'm a failure for not being more rigorous in my exercise or eating. I don't need this silent shame in my life. So, it's in the give away pile. If there ever comes a time when I scale is needed, I think I know where I can get one, or two, or 14.

In the words of the immortal Rogers and Hammerstein, "So long. Farewell, Auf wiedersehn. Goodbye."

Beverage:  Fruit juice


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chasing the Storm

It's one thing to drive into the storm. The horizon gets dark blue black and you know you're in for a ride. It's another thing to see it creeping up on you. Such was the case on Thursday.

My friend, Terry, was in town on business so we managed to find time on Thursday night to get together for dinner. I got into the Jeep and headed east. Traffic. I didn't realize the Chicago Bulls were playing their last game of the season (They lost and so are out of the playoffs.) in Chicago. Traffic within 10 miles of the United Center crawled, at best. While at a stop light, I did more than just glance in the rearview mirror. The radio report was, "We're tracking a line of storms with potentially high winds moving east through the Chicagoland area." As if traffic wasn't moving well now, just wait until the rain comes.

It avoided me. I drove through some sprinkles, but the heavy rain, the stuff I can see in the rearview mirror, went around me. Later, during the evening, when we were eating, it rained heavily, but that, too, was gone by the time we left the restaurant and I drove home.

It needs to stop raining for a week and some of this should go to the southwestern US where it's desperately needed.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Giggle, Snerk

While searching for something, I found this.

Of course! I could do that! I may be up to something.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


A Fail But Not A Ruin

Perhaps you heard of the huge problem with 1-800 Flowers and Mother's Day. The company screwed up Valentine's Day flower deliveries, too, so they aren't doing real well in the flower delivery department. Carole sent flowers via Pro Flowers and I was thrilled, initially, with what I got. These were the flowers on Mother's Day.

Cut tulips can wither quickly, but these seemed to fade much faster than if I'd gone into the yard and cut some. The iris never opened, never. They turned yellow. That's it.

But the biggest disappointment was when I opened the box of chocolates that comes with a flower order.

The chocolates were not exposed to any heat at my house. The box sat on the table, out of sunlight. This could have happened in transit, in which case it's a UPS/FedEx delivery problem and possibly explains why the flowers faded so quickly. Temperatures hot enough to melt chocolate will ruin flowers.

The other problem could be the warehousing of these boxes of chocolates. There could be no quality control for checking to see if chocolates are perfect to be shipped. The small box is shrink wrapped and tucked into the bottom of the large flower box.

Carole said this is the second time this company has failed to deliver what was promised to me. (I honestly don't remember the other time.) They gave Carole a substantial amount of money back and a coupon for money off the next order. "I guess I can't order from them again," she said. I told her to tell them that, calmly, and email them the photos.

One thing that struck me about some of the comments I read regarding this 1-800 Flowers fiasco was how many people said "Mother's Day was ruined". I'm not sure if that's hyperbole in all cases, but it seems wrong to me. I don't get the attitude that feels an arbitrary day is "ruined" because you didn't get a very transitory expression of gratitude. That's holding your kids' feelings hostage to something over which they have no control. I would never say my Mother's Day was "ruined" because a flower company failed to uphold their end of the exchanging of goods for money. There are ways Mother's Day could be ruined but they have nothing to do with whether my iris bloom.

Carole hasn't said what compensation she was offered for this problem. I hope they make it right by her. The one good thing is the vase is cool.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


That's About Right

Yesterday's word of the day.

Yeah. Totally. Once again, the sheer amount of work that has been coming through the office doors has us scrambling to get the regular stuff done, let alone add anything new. And not even the thought of a truckload of donuts makes it better.

Baby steps, I tell myself. Sit and blog in between tasks. Break things down. Slow. Slow. And it all gets done.


The lawn got mowed. The back was really long and the mower complained, but it got done. I needed to organize the plants. Everything was just left from when it was potted. I'd walk onto the deck and think, "I need to get these organized" and that's as far as things went.  Mow the lawn and organize the deck.

This is as much as I ever want, from now on. I have to pot the white geranium in with the geranium at the far left that is tipped over. It's white, too. The rose geranium is going in with another but I don't remember what color that one is. Once everything starts blooming, I will have a riot of color.

I can't remember if I'm to sheer off the pink flower for more blooms. It's going gang busters, that's for sure.

The alyssum seems to like this pot, as do the datura and the primrose.

I moved the cat house. Something is using it during the day. It might be the cat. I could see it being put out in the morning and not really having a somewhat safe place to go during the day. I can rest a drink on the top when I'm out there reading or crafting or just sitting. The pansies will die off during the summer but, for now, I love their colorful faces on the table. I need to get three more begonias for the pot under the chair. That pot is to go on the front steps.

I need to paint the front steps and waterproof the deck. I need to empty the dirt from all the pots I'm not using anymore, box them up and ship them to my cousin who said she'd take them. Pilchard was irritated there is only one chair to sit in on the deck so I need to figure out how to bring another chair up from the basement so she can sit near me when I'm out there.

For now, this is my peaceful place. Even though I feel whelmed, I have a spot to go to just be.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Might Be Enough

I've had to go into the city frequently lately, for another big inspection job. Traffic is a fluid thing in a big city. One day, the drive will take you 45 minutes, start to finish. The next day, the identical drive will be estimated at 1 hour and 20 minutes. Having lived here a long time, I know how to get from point A to point B via side streets. Maybe not much time is lopped off the actual travel but it just feels, to me, to be more progress when I'm moving 6 blocks between stop lights rather than creeping along at less than 5 miles per hour in a stream of cars heading east. Plus, it's less wear and tear on my legs.

You'll never know what you can see along the drive.

A whole semi full of donuts? Probably not, but I can dream. That might be enough for my morning commute.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea


Monday, May 11, 2015

I Know That Face

Might this look familiar?

It's from a web site, One Drawing Daily. I don't remember where I stumbled onto the artist's offer to draw a pet from submitted photos, but I thought, "Let's see what he does with a black cat". I sent in the photo.

Later that day, I realized I hadn't given the artist Pilchard's name and I wasn't where I could stop and amend the post. Poof. The need to provide a name was forgotten. Then, the artist went to Rome and I really forgot all about this, until this morning when the drawing came through my Facebook feed.

You must go to his web page, link above, and look through the drawings. He's amazingly talented. It's a gray, drizzly morning in Chicagoland. It needs to stop raining so I can mow my lawn. This was a fantastic splash of sunshine.

Beverage:  water


Sunday Stitching

In the gray drizzle of a Sunday, while brownies were baking and then cooling, I did the rest of the stitching in the hoop.

I thought about stitching the lines representing the bodies or doing the outlines of certain butterflies, but I want to get all the butterflies done, and then decide if I want to do the outlines. Once the yellow butterfly at the top was finished, it was time to decide where to move the hoop. I moved it to complete the upper left of the design. Then, I will do the lower left, lower right and end with the upper right. I'm liking the variety in size and color. The only thing I don't like, and probably one reason Carole gave the project to me to finish, is the twistiness of the thread. It tangles so easily. Fortunately, this will be mounted so you can't see the mess that is the back. It's coming along nicely.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Mothers Day Brownies

Three weeks ago, NPR had, on their Facebook feed, a recipe for Decadent Chocolate Brownies. The recipe contained ingredients I had on hand, meaning no extra trip to the store. That's always a good thing. I did buy ice cream when I first encountered the recipe, in anticipation of making brownies but didn't make them until today.

It was different. First you had to line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Usually, if you use parchment paper, you also grease the paper. This recipe didn't have you do that. My paper is old. It's been around awhile, but it was still good to use.

I didn't realize this was a loaf pan size amount. That should have been a clue that these weren't your average brownies. I gathered all the ingredients and started baking. Step 2 was to melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter.

This is what the directions told you to do. Put a glass bowl over simmering water in a pot. It was nice that they didn't assume everyone has a double boiler. I used to have one but I think Carole took the bottom part of it years ago when she moved west. You wind up adding the rest of the ingredients to the melted chocolate so these directions keep the amount of dishes to a minimum.

It takes a bit to get it going but once the chocolate starts to melt, you need to continually stir it to keep it from burning. Mmmmmm. Melted chocolate.

Once the chocolate is melted, you add the other ingredients, one at a time. The recipe called for white and brown sugar. My brown sugar could have been used to pound nails. A quick internet search and I had soft brown sugar. I've put it in an air tight container but the best thing would be to use it up within a month of purchase. Yeah, well, that's probably not going to happen, so I'll go with the air tight container.

This gets poured into the prepared pan.

It's a lovely glossy brown, which is what it should look like, but it's not very much. The loaf is put in the oven for 35 minutes. The house begins to smell heavenly.

I thought, although my knowledge of brownies told me otherwise, the batter might rise so what I put in the pan might get bigger. It didn't. I have a loaf of brownies. They are cooled for a half-hour and then here it gets weird. You put them in the fridge and chill them further 2 hours. The time at the top of the recipe is not accurate for preparation. It says 45 minutes when that's not even close when you consider 30 minutes to bake and 30 minutes to cool BEFORE sticking them in the fridge. I was beginning to wonder about these.

After 2 hours, I took the loaf out of the fridge and dumped it on the counter, peeling off the paper.

It's a loaf, of baked brownie batter, a loaf. The ends and sides were dry and hard to the touch. I carved off an end piece.

The hunk is soft and gooey on the inside but dry and hard on the sides. I wound up slicing the ends off because I couldn't gnaw through them.

Perhaps raccoons would appreciate these, but I haven't seen a raccoon since last fall so I don't think I want to tempt them back. I was very disappointed by this because it's a half-inch of brownie no one can eat.

How does it taste? Well, if you can overlook the dry, crusty, exceptionally hard ends, they aren't bad. I warmed up a chunk and it went very well with vanilla ice cream. But, the bottom line is this is an awful recipe.

I saved the rest of the loaf and will see how it fares. I put it in a freezer bag and stuck the bag in the fridge. Will it dry out quickly?

I have other brownie recipes with a couple more ingredients or a few more steps that make better brownies and more of them. I am certain you can type "Brownie recipe" into any search engine and get a recipe that even a beginner can make. The ones made with cocoa can be just as rich as melting chocolate and butter together. This was a huge disappointment.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea



I have long wanted to capture Mija's purr. It's loud, but cell phone video doesn't seem to collect the full range of the frequencies of the purr. On Mothers Day, she seems to want to be by me quite a bit so I did some experimenting. You'll need to turn your sound up but you can hear her distinctive sound.

I will, on occasion, awaken to this sound. There is nothing more soothing than a purring cat.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mom's 80th Birthday

If everyone invited had come, we'd have had 54 people in the basement of the dentist's office in Center Point. As it was, 32 people attended. It was entirely family, but that's the way mom wanted it. It was enough to get her to agree to being recognized in the first place so if the only people she wanted to invite were family, that's who got invitations.

Toward the middle of the open house, we set fire to one of the cheesecakes and made mom blow it out.

The oldest great-granddaughter gave mom a wand and a crown.

Toward the end of the event, we had to take the obligatory photos. There's us kids.

It took a little convincing, but grandma wore her birthday crown. Here are my brothers and their spouses.

Then there are the great-grandchildren. My oldest niece, Christina, gave birth to her 5th child, Adalynn, the day before the party, so she wasn't in attendance, although my brother brought the other kids.

My other niece, Amber, came with her husband and daughter. We count Mary's two kids, on the right, as part of the family, too.

Once this was done, it was time for the extended family. Probably one of the best reasons to have a party like this is that you get to see the cousins you grew up with.

We spent a lot of time remembering the big family gatherings we used to have. Our 4th of July celebrations were originally at Ken and Effie's farm. But, when my mom's generation started having children, the sheer number of people running around proved to be too much to host, so we moved to the city park. I have just a couple of memories of July 4th on the farm; fireworks set off in the corn field by my great-uncles and ice cold Nehi soda pulled from a steel cow trough full of ice. There are far more memories of the time at the park and then going to the Monona city fireworks display.

We talked about our genealogy, what we knew. Of course, we regret that we didn't ask our parents more questions when they were alive. My dad had 6 siblings. Only the oldest is still alive and she has dementia. Of the 6 spouses, only 3; mom and Aunts Dorothy and Audrey; are still alive. We cousins know a lot and it was wonderful to share things, but there are things we will never know. That is, perhaps, the nature of existence.

Here is mom and Aunt Dorothy. I swear. Aunt Dorothy simply hasn't aged. She looks just like I remember her in my youth. She just laughs when you say that to her, but it's sure the truth. Some people have really good genes.

Once we got home, got things put away, food frozen and could sit, mom allowed that this had been fun. It was nice to see her as the center of attention.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


But I Don't Want a Party

When we all got together at Christmas, my sister brought up the fact that mom would turn 80 in April. She felt it was important to recognize this event with a party. Mom is the type of person who doesn't like a fuss being made over her. The idea of a party (gasp) in her honor (double gasp) just wasn't to her liking. She had mentioned to me over a year ago, that she would just prefer the whole birthday pass without notice. Sharyn, however, is sort of a force to be reckoned with.

I couldn't help. First of all, work was consuming days and weeks. We remain intensely busy and my having to make decisions, find things, send out invitations or other things just wasn't something I was going to be able to do in a timely fashion. Second, but most importantly, I had a wedding to attend. This wedding was going to occur 2 weeks before the weekend set for Mom's birthday party. The best I could do was assist when I got to Iowa and do some light tasks from Illinois. That was fine. My sister took over.

She picked the food and helped mom find places that would make it. She sent out the invitations and was the point of contact for RSVP's. She coordinated with mom's husband, Dale's, family for what they offered to bring. She arrived a week before everything was to happen and made sure we had all the supplies.

Sharyn, my brother's fiancee, Mary, and I made cheesecakes.

I made a lightly lemon-flavored cheesecake with blueberry topping.

There was a plain and a plain with cherry topped cheesecake. Mary made chocolate and mocha and caramel cheesecake bars. If there's one thing we do well, it's dessert.

We had sloppy joes (or Maid Rites, depending upon which part of Iowa you're from) and beans. Farther down the table were veggies, fruit salad and chips.

We rented the basement of a local dentist's office. It was the perfect size for our gathering. Decorations were simple.

Sharyn found everything at the dollar store.

One of Dale's daughters-in-law, Amy, made bouquets for the tables.


With five tables, we had 10 bouquets so I brought a couple back with me.

The sunlight on the daffodils just made them sparkle. I took the daffodils to work but kept the daisies at home.

Daisies are such hardy flowers. These lasted for 3 weeks with regular changes of water.

One of the cool things was this slide show of mom done on mom's mac. Sharyn scanned in a wide variety of photos and added them to the packaged music in the program. I printed some photos from Carole and Larry's wedding and we found a few photos of the cousins to add to the table.  (Carole and Larry were starting their honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean so weren't able to come.) There was a bag for cards. Mom had requested no gifts, a request some of us ignored. There was also a letter from an aunt who lives in California. It didn't take us long to set up and we were ready for relatives.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Mothers Day 2015

It's a rainy Mothers Day today. I wanted to mow the lawn. The rain we had at the beginning of the week and then the warm, sunny days have caused the grass to explode. While the mower is probably quite capable of plowing through wet grass, the residue on the underside of the mower won't be good for it. It's supposed to be cool and dry by the middle of the week. If I can get one part mowed when I get home, that's a start.

But the day is not a wash, by any means. There are many things to do on a rainy day. Plus, Carole and Larry gifted me with some lovely items for this holiday.

They took a honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean. Of course they had to get chocolates.

Here are a pair of earrings. I don't have anything to wear with them, but, as I'm cleaning out my closets, that will change. (I have removed half of my work shirts because they don't fit or I don't like them. I have space again and a feeling of lightness and satisfaction. It will take awhile to do this, but the results are so worth it. The give away stack is growing again. When I'm done, I'll only have clothing I want to wear.)

There was also a lovely photo of one of the beaches they visited.

On Thursday, I came home to a box on the front porch.

I know this box. I recognize the shape and size.

Flowers and chocolates. I really like the chocolates from Pro Flowers. And the vase this year is so distinctive. I love deep, intense color.

Ah, I have tulips and iris.

I trimmed the ends, put them in water in the vase and set the whole thing in the living room window. On Friday, both flowers had opened.

What a lovely display to come home to and to gaze at while sitting in the recliner. Happy Mothers Day.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea