Sunday, February 08, 2009

Settling In !

Our house was completed (mostly) in June of 2007.

Within the past month I have noticed two doors in this house that are sticking at the top of the frame when I try to open and close them. Really sticking so that I have to tug quite hard to get them open or closed. One is an inside door and one and outside door on opposite sides of the house. I have checked door hardware and it appears that settling has caused this instead of loose hinges. In one case the hairline crack runs from the corner trim through the sheet rock right up to the ceiling. (All photos can be clicked to enlarge.)

I have also noticed that many of the window trims have started to separate at the top corners and baseboard corners. I am guessing over time this can happen to a house as it ages, but I do not remember seeing so many trim corner cracks in the first house we built.

So, I did a walk around inspection and find also that the window frames in a very few instances are pulling from the sheetrock and therefore the paint is chipping.

I also found a nasty case where the ceiling tape is pulling loose as can be seen in the photo above.

While much of this can be repaired with spackling or caulk and paint, is this much settling normal as a house settles? Is this because of green wood? Should we be more concerned? On days when there are big changes in temperature this house will let out an amazing creak or two in the evening as the air cools down. There are no foundation or cement floor cracks, thank goodness.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Isn't It Romantic?

When you have been married as long as I have, and I have been married a lot longer than I ever thought people could tolerate each other, it is hard to buy an original romantic something for that certain someone. Since we were heading up to the city to babysit last week, I had planned a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant in the city for the following night and then taking in Casablanca on the big screen at a theater. My idea of real romance...probably not my husband's...but as much as I love him, he is no where close to being a romantic, so I took the lead on setting this up.

Anyway, as is well-known, he got the flu big time last week and all had to be cancelled including the theater with the resulting loss of the pre-paid
theater tickets.

So, not to be stymied, I had a fall-back idea. I had ordered something for him that I knew he was going to love. It was very expensive and I didn't
realize how heavy it was until it arrived, and over three days, continued to arrive in various boxes! Thus, hubby had to find out ahead of time about the gift to help me lift and put the thing together.

I am sure any nosy neighbors across the river were wondering what kind of sex toy this enormous frame with chains, etc. represented since we put everything together in the bay window of the master bedroom. The directions said that it could be put together in about an hour. Well, that is assuming your husband reads directions and lays out all the parts ahead of time. He started pushing in plastic parts and it wasn't until we reached an impasse that I pointed out that the plastic parts were supposed to go elsewhere. (No you cannot comment on our sex life here.) This was about an hour into the project and we sighed in exhaustion and gave up until the next day. This morning hubby was determined to pull out the plastic end pieces and with some drilling and pulling and sweat he succeeded. We once again started the project. In about an hour the project was finished and looked pretty good.

Boy are the lights bright on this baby! Now we will worry about whether the neighbors think we are growing medicinal plants in the bedroom. We also will have to watch the timer as that might indeed have an impact on our sex life.

This unit has three long shelves that he gets to fill with spring seedlings and he is so excited he even said I could have some of the space. Cool huh?

Post Script: No I do not have shades or drapes for the bedroom. We are saving up for that, although with this recession that may be a long time coming. If anyone wants to watch two old farts walking around naked in their bedroom, here' s to em!

Post Post Script: I think this little project with its hundreds of pieces should count for good elder brain exercise. I haven't done something like this in a while.

PPPS: Yes we once had a homemade seeding unit (quite ugly), but we no longer have the patience to try to build something like that again. We are the kind of people that keep the gardening catalogs going.

Friday, February 06, 2009

City Mouse versus Country Mouse

Bob Brady at PureLandMountain featured this article about the human brain in a recent post. Since my blogfriend at One Woman's Journey has been dealing with this issue---as have many of us retirees--- I found the article most fascinating. (After you read it, you can talk among yourselves.)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Thursday Thoughts #22 You Have to Keep Your Sense of Humor--

1. A recent quote by Thomas L. Friedman in an Op-Ed column of the New York Times regarding the recent work of Congress in approaching the financial crisis... "I’ve always believed that America’s government was a unique political system — one designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots. I was wrong. No system can be smart enough to survive this level of incompetence and recklessness by the people charged to run it."

2. Hubby came home from his dental appointment and said they wanted to watch him more closely with follow-up appointments because of his deep pockets. Are you sure they were talking about the condition of your gums? I asked.

3. I got an email from the online retail marketing company called Overstock in which they said that they now are offering a real estate section of their Internet catalog. My husband said "Of course, it fits. Real estate is certainly an overstocked item these days."

4. Late last night as my hubby and I fell into bed after a particularly full day of house work and errand running I said " Is it Tuesday ALL READY! What happened to Monday?" My husband looked up at the ceiling and pulled the covers snug under his chin and then said, "Monday came and went pretty fast. Oh my God, we ARE actually going to die."

5. I don't know if you have seen the "Twilight Zone" television ads from the Corn Refiners Association where they claim in their new campaign that sugar, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup are, "nutritionally ... all the same." This isn't funny, but I had to add it to my Thursday thoughts because it makes me smirk.

6. I learned that we laugh because "When people laugh a lot, those endorphins get running around up there in the brain and interject into the hypothalamus and all that stuff, and the humor just comes out, and that is beneficial," says Kurt Kilpatrick. Sounds good to me.

7. How to tell a joke..."Only tell a joke to people who have expressed interest in hearing a joke. If people laugh at the joke, leave the room immediately. That way you look cool." — Tina Fey, creator and star of NBC's 30 Rock

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Sixth Photo Meme

Kenju has a meme going on her blog. She encouraged her readers to follow it. Since I am brain dead this morning but felt like posting something I have decided to go to the sixth folder of my photos on my PC and post the sixth photo. Lovely ladies in Korea visiting a garden. They looked so elegant I had to take their photo. They look like students with a teacher.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Lifestory #25 --- WE WILL ROCK YOU

I am listening to the Superbowl theme music as I sit at the computer and write this entry. I am not a football fan and I have no intention of watching this game tonight, but it does remind me of a life story that is related.

Those of us who have lived overseas and been regarded as expatriates for any length of time are familiar with losing touch with our culture fairly easily as we get wrapped up in the culture of the country in which we are living. In one instance, I remember answering a phone call at 2:00 A.M. Indonesia time one January when I lived in Indonesia sans TV and listening to some excited guy talk in detail about some Super Bowl game that had just ended while I wiped the sleepy dirt from my eyes and then gained enough sense to ask him why he had originally called. It was about some embassy thing that had nothing to do with the Super Bowl!

But this story is about another time and place. It was January 1971 and we were living and working in Palau, Micronesia before we had children. We were on a month's leave and had just returned to the United States for some R & R after two years of being away. One of our stops was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where my husband's parents lived. Hubby's parents were typical of many American parents of that time a la Madmen. Elderly, back slapping, cocktail drinking and proud of their son's accomplishments. It was a bit intense for me as I grew up on a quiet farm in Colorado. But I took deep breaths and did my best to be a good daughter-in-law.

During the time there was much reminiscing and my father-in law mentioned an old friend of his that really wanted to see my husband. He explained that the guy had done very well in business and actually owned several race tracks and a Jai Alai stadium in the area. He insisted that we take an afternoon and stop by the friend's office. My husband didn't remember this man very well, but to appease his father he agreed.

We drove somewhere outside of Fort Lauderdale to a rather simple but large, white, cinder block building in an area of town that looked much like the type of places disreputable people hang out in those Miami Vice episodes. When we told the secretary we had an appointment with her boss she showed us into his office. The first thing I saw was stuff and more stuff. Piles of papers, boxes, the entire room was filled with stuff and crap and not at all what one expects in visiting a millionaire's office. The working desk was piled high with even more stuff. The man, whom we will call Mr. X to avoid any lawsuit from remaining relatives, sat behind this desk and would have been easy to miss if we had been standing further away. He was short but weighed at least 300 pounds and his age was hard to determine from my inexperience as a 25-year-old.

I don't remember much of the meeting as it was mostly about hubby's youth and the good old days. The meeting lasted maybe 20 minutes, and as we got up to leave, Mr. X reached into a drawer and handed hubby a small envelope. It was a gift, he said, hoping we would enjoy our stay in Florida. Hubby took the envelope and shook his hand and we returned to the car.

As we sat in hubby's parents car which we had borrowed, we opened the envelope and inside were two tickets on the 50-yard line to the 1971 Super Bowl in Miami. This was Super Bowl #5 for those of you who know your football history. Neither my husband or I were the best recipients for this gift as during that time we were not big football fans although hubby has become a bigger fan over the years. We went to the game, enjoyed the game, but all I really remember is crying when they played the National Anthem as I had not heard it in a long time.

I think this is what they call looking a gift horse in the mouth even though we did not question his generosity. Today, of course, we would know better.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Hubby woke up in the middle of the night with the worst intestinal pain ever. At first we thought it was the curried shrimp I had made for dinner (the best I have ever eaten--secret to be revealed in another blog) but since I felt fine hours later we eliminated food poisoning. This morning the agony continues along with the expected results (pushing fluids in and out) and a 100 degree fever. It is the flu, probably caught on the plane flight back from Hawaii. So instead of being worried about food poisoning for myself I am now worried about getting a nasty case of the 'epizootic.' I cancelled the promised babysitting, and I immediately made some fudge from a mix I had on the shelf, added some pecans and tiny marshmallows and when it finished setting I slowly ate two pieces. If I am going to get sick, I want to make sure that these calories are not wasted! (And, yes, we both got our flu shots--clearly immunized against the wrong strain.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Who moved the ladder?

(Click on photo for larger view)

If you read my other blog, as I am sure many people cannot resist doing in their free time, you will notice I lately have become a bit of a bird fanatic watching the changing bird species as they visit the feeders just ahead of each weather change. They also seem to be starting their spring color changes. I (they) have been going through a substantial amount of sunflower seed and although there are about 20 birds coming and going at any one time, I was still amazed at how much was being eaten each day.

Then, while looking out the window one cold morning, I saw one of our neighborhood squirrels on the feeder. He was wrapped around the green metal container with his fuzzy face completely buried inside one of the seed openings. The greedy rodent was there for a long time sucking down seeds until I finally threw a grapefruit rind in his general direction from the deck. (Yeah, don't ask.) Anyway, this particular feeder has been with us for more than a decade and proven pretty much squirrel proof, so I was curious about how this little piggy was making it up there.

Waiting patiently I saw him return to the area. He scampered over the sunflower seed shells scattered in the snow and jumped to a nearby very small oak tree (5 feet in height) between our two feeders. He would scramble part way up the tree and then fly expertly as if he was a weightless kite to the side of the feeder where his clawed grip (what a yoga move!) allowed him to stick like tar to the feeder and begin his gluttony once again.

I will be honest by saying that I feel everything has its place in nature but I do consider squirrels to be rats with fuzzy tails and am less empathetic to their pursuit of happiness in nature's grand scheme.

The very next day we went out and cut down that little oak tree and that left the squirrels to forage for the seeds that fall to the ground. A short time later I was watching through the dining nook window and saw one of the squirrels scurrying back and forth over the seeds on the ground. He then scampered to the left to the exact place where the tiny oak tree had once reached for the sun and looked up to the sky clearly looking for the missing tree trunk. He returned back beneath the feeder and then back again to where the tree had once been maybe more carefully measuring his pace this second time. He stood on his back legs and looked up for that familiar tree trunk. It was most interesting and funny to watch. I could just imagine him counting one hop, two hops, three hops in his head and then wondering as he stared into space how he could miss an entire tree. Hubby says that they memorize the forest and thus are able to fly from place to place so quickly.

Later I saw him on top of a distant tree stump eating what looked like the berries of the greenbriar vine. Certainly getting better antioxidants than he would with sunflower seeds and maybe reducing the spread of this thorny weed. This expert yoga master was captured in the photo above sitting on a dead tree stump and possibly surveying the feeders below and perhaps planning his next strategic move.

The game is on!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Thoughts #21 --- Wardrobe

While I am not a style maven and many people who know me will agree, I do think the praise over Michelle Obama's inaugural wardrobe is a bit hyped. I tend to like sophistication and simplicity or drama and elegance for wardrobe selection on important occasions. Jackie Kennedy represented the first and Nancy Reagen the second. I think the tremendous support for Obama is giving Michelle a bit of a pass with their praise in her wardrobe. I am not awed by what she wore. (But none of this is important in the grand scheme of things anyway.)

I haven't ridden a horse since I was 11 and yet I seem to be enthral
led by cowboy boots. They are practical and comfortable...but expensive. I got these beauties for Christmas and have worn them twice. In second photo Xman must have one of my wardrobe genes as he stole these from his grandfather who also has not ridden a horse for decades.

I wish I would have had this outfit below, when my little ones were the age where Mom was still the primary source of sustenance. It is called a h**ter hider and only other mothers know what is going on here. This is my sweet daughter in Williamsburg a year ago.

We have little, if any, snow in our area this year. The weather woman said a few mornings ago that she was going to start a snow-watch. She wanted the children who watch the show to put their pajamas on inside-out and backwards and do a little dance before they get into bed each night! I guess that "wardrobe" is an elective subject in getting a meteorology degree. (Since I started this post we have had an icy snow storm plummet the area. Who knew that weather women and their junior fan club had that kind of weather-power?)

My 'cruise' wardrobe planning is going slowly. What does a white...really white...elderly woman wear on a 4-day cruise? I frequently wish I had Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility . I do not want to hide how I look, but how cool would that be for taking photos of everyone?

Another of my holiday gifts was lounge wear. I got tired of hanging out in faded sweats and yesterday wore a holiday gift --- a lovely soft pink velvet outfit...pants, shell, and hooded jacket around the house. I was doing laundry, cooking, and most importantly keeping a warm fire going in the evening. By bedtime as I changed into nightwear, I realized that I would have been better off wearing the faded and stained sweats. Housework is not for sissies.

In my twenties I wore 5-inch heels, in my thirties I graduated to 4-inch heels, my forties 3-inch and my fifties 2-inch heels. Today I wear comfortable bedroom slippers in the cool weather and go barefoot in warm weather and it seems that one's feet stretch when not routinely confined in shells of leather. I have learned that my feet do ache when wearing some shoes in my closet when I head into the city. Lately I don't get my bra on until midday...from what I have learned about shoes.,this does not bode well for the future. (Not that I need a bra !)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Habitual Carelessness

Retirement has been a wonderful gift for which I am daily thankful. I have good health and reasonable economic security, neither of which I take lightly, as I know like everything else in life, both of these will change over time. My life today has been the result of planning, learning, hard work, but mostly luck. I am lucky to be born in this great country. I was lucky to be able to go to college and pursue a career. I am lucky to have two beautiful and healthy grandchildren and two wonderful children. I am lucky to be married to a patient but energetic man. I was lucky enough to never win the lottery or some contest which would be a true burden in this simple life I now have.

Thus, I do carry some guilt with me as I do not think I have 'earned' this.

I carry some more guilt because I have not yet ventured out to share this time in a structured way with others who are not so lucky in this new community where I live. I am guilty because I do not feel lonely for being able to go for days at a time without meeting or talking to anyone, especially when my husband is on travel. I could so easily be a hermit.

I think this temporary withdrawal is because I was so bitter about the mediocrity and falseness of my last 5 years of employment. I was paid very well by the American taxpayer and not allowed to accomplish anything. I worked with people who created budgets that were never implemented and listed goals and milestones that could not be met without a fixed budget which we never got. It was a Dilbert world without the humor. (Our illustrious leader was a political appointee...need I say more?) Thus, I retired early taking a cut in retirement income. As a Type A, the alternative would have been slitting my wrists.

Perhaps, this procrastination now is because I feel as if I still have wounds to lick and a mind to heal.

But I have also learned that all those times I used to tell myself, "Once I get some free time..." have arrived. "Once I have more free time" I will exercise every day...not happening. I will sew those curtains after the New Year...fabric is still sitting in a plastic bag. I will paint the front room built-in so that it matches the trim...guess I will wait until spring so I can open the windows. I will repaint the trim in the kitchen so that it matches the cabinets...ditto. I will start with babysteps and drop by the local library and see if they need a volunteer or have a list of volunteer programs...soon I hope. I will garden more...that one is easy to do.

It is scary how easy it is to procrastinate especially when there are no immediately seen consequences for your bad habits.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Thoughts #20 --- Being Thilly

The recent time spent with my grandchildren helps me keep my perspective as I age.
  • When the first grandchild was born, my daughter asked what I wanted to be called...grannie? grandma? I said nonna which is an Italian way of saying grandma. Xman's version as he learned to talk converted this to Neeeena. My new granddaughter struggles with pronouncing nonna---now neeena--- and calls me nana. I feel like a fruit.
  • My daughter's in-laws wanted to be called Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop and my daughter now says her children do not have grandparents.
  • Sha, my granddaughter, was fighting a cold and some intestinal issues during the visit. When her mother said one afternoon, "Oh no, there she blows!" this meant one of two things, neither of which I will detail.
  • Sha spent many minutes each day with her nose pressed to the window to watch the birds at the feeder. That window now looks like some abstract art as it is covered in snot.
  • My daughter and I could only exchange short sentences due to toddler interruptions and got very good in talking in code as we tried to have adult conversations throughout the long weekend.
  • I continue to find little things as I clean the empty sippy cup, a little ball, a lego piece and I have to take a deep breath so that I don't tear up.
  • The place at the foot of my bed where Xman's portable bed goes when he visits seems very bare after he leaves. I am just getting used to sleeping without the night light.
  • While putting on Xman's shoes for his departure I said that winter was very cold outside but I was sad we have not had any real snow yet. He took my face in his two little hands, brought his face close to mine, and looked me in the eye and said "You have to be patient, Neena. It will snow."

  • Chocolate cake works every time!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Gene Pool

When this little gal was born all her elders played that familiar guessing game of who she took after. Many of us agreed that she looked very much like her paternal grandfather who is a handsome, sometimes funny, and usually simple and conservative man. But I am of the opinion that looks don't count for everything and children frequently become a blend of their elders good and bad characteristics. Therefore, I sometimes look for something of myself in her eager personality and activities.

My daughter took the photos below while I was playing a game with my grandson. As you can see, the gardener in me seems to have inspired the gardener in her. I am hoping this is a sign of the future where we can plant and cut flowers, grow and taste the freshest of vegetables, and perhaps, create little garden rooms of imagination and fantasy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Big Event

The past few days have been an exciting lead up to one of the most important days in the history of our nation. The BBC is setting aside 5 HOURS for this event, so I do not think it is hyperbole to say it is a very significant time in our history. This is one of the most anticipated inaugurations in our nation's history and also one of the most protected. I will not detail the 3,000 restrictions that are being placed on attendees including carrying nothing larger than a lunch bag to some of the areas. My lovely daughter and her two children are fleeing the area and joining me at the house late Sunday night through Tuesday evening...or perhaps staying until Wednesday morning. She is not going in to work on Monday or Tuesday. Why is this, one might ask?
  • The highway and bridge she takes to get into work will be closed as will every other bridge in the immediate area.
  • The garage beneath her office where she regularly parks, which is about a mile from the Capital, will be closed to the public.
  • Everyone will be forced to take Metro or a bus or walk. (The Metro is a VERY crowded trip on the 4th of July when there are fewer people coming to the city.)
  • The events begin Sunday and go through Tuesday.
  • There will be hundreds of celebrities.
  • They are predicting 4 to 5 million people will attend. It will be miserably cold, so I am predicting about 2 million people.
  • Someone said there will be 5,000 port-a-potties and an 'expert' analysis said that is not near the amount needed. (That should be fun in cold weather.)
  • Every hotel is full and some folks are renting their apartments for $1, son, whose apartment is walking distance from a nearby metro station, considered this but then got cold feet as the day grew closer.
  • There will be great concerts...some free and some requiring tickets.
  • There will be a parade...a very cold parade unless you are marching in it.
  • There will be 10 inaugural balls (and no place to sit at these balls if one wears high heels.)
  • Therefore, even those attending will have to brace themselves for a challenging event. My daughter is afraid she won't make it to work...much less make it home to pick up the kids from day care on those days.
And thus, I will not have the courage to go myself, even though I think it is a big deal. I will raise a glass of bubbly to the big screen TV and wish him a decent first 100 days but not expect more than is realistic in these difficult times. (For a little more inspiration...go here.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Life Stories #23--The Mark, the Patsy, the Dupe

Years ago, when I was living in Indonesia, I spent much time discovering many wonderful temples and architectural wonders in this exotic country. One of my very favorite places to visit was the famous Buddhist temple of Borobudur, "a mountain of a thousand statues." When it had been excavated and the jungle cleared by the British governor, Sir Thomas Standford Raffles, the temple was open to theft and destruction over the ensuring years and that can be seen when touring the temple.

After newly arriving in Jogajakarta, and once the rainy season had slowed and the muddy roads had dried, my family and I went to visit this famous temple for the first time. This temple is one of the most visited Buddhist temples by tourists from all over the world, and can be quite crowded most days. There is a narrow initial entry, and as we approached the steps, the ventura effect of the narrower entry with the wave of many tourists caused us to be pushed closer and closer together until we were shoulder to shoulder with many others. There was a young man in front of me assisting a frail elderly woman make her way slowly up the steps. The crowd flowed around me on either side and as I was pushed forward into the couple tried very hard not to knock them to the ground. The elderly woman was barely able to make it up each step and it was impossible for me to get around the pair and so I accepted my fate of inching upwards. People kept pushing me from behind and it took all my energy to just maintain my balance.

Finally we reached the plateau above, and the crowd dispersed and I could breathe again. I pull the canvas bag from off my shoulder where its weight had caused some strain and that was when I notice a clean razor cut in the side small pocket where my wallet of Rupiahs and my International driver's license had been stored. I knew immediately when and how it had happened and did not bother looking for the team of thieves.

Several years later I was vacationing with my husband and children in Spain. We had arrived a few days before in Madrid and were getting an early morning start for a drive to the ancient city of Toledo. Hubby was having some health problem, which I cannot recall, and so we parked the car at the side of a lovely tree-lined street and he walked across to a corner pharmacy. I waited in the rental car with the two little ones in the back seat. The early morning light was lovely and golden as it filtered through the trees. A young and very attractive man stepped out of the nearby alley ahead of the car and leaned against a brick wall and smoked a cigarette enjoying the morning. A middle aged couple, just beyond him up the sidewalk, were sauntering arm and arm towards us lost in each others company. In less than three seconds as they passed the man he had removed the purse from her shoulder. She let out a small scream and tried to hang on, but was too slow in reaction. The man disappeared down the alley with her purse. The couple ran after him, but he evaporated into some well planned escape route. By the time hubby returned to the car with his curative, I had decided to be far more alert the rest of the day.

Again, several more years have passed, and one spring afternoon I had left my work for a meeting in downtown Washington D.C. It was April, the Cherry Blossom Festival was in full swing, the weather was wonderful, and I left my meeting early deciding to play hooky the last hour of the day and walk under the Cherry Blossoms at the end of the Mall. As I crossed the Mall a woman of about 35 approached me. She asked if I knew where the Metro station was. I was slightly suspicious but pointed the way. Then she asked if I knew how much it would cost to go from point A to point B. I told her that they had posted the rates at the station and again started to walk away.

She immediately began to follow me and launched into a long and detailed story of how she had passed out from some illness the night before at a restaurant, had been rushed to the emergency room of a city hospital, had called her sitter that night to watch over her daughter, and had just been released this morning. Her Priest had sat up with her all night and both were relieved when her illness proved to be minor. Her priest had just dropped her off to take a metro home and she realized that she had absolutely no money in her purse. Did I have any dollars to loan her? She had to get home and release her sitter.

I stopped in my tracks and studied this very intelligent face. It was a very compelling story and I cannot replicate the skill with which it was told in this writing. But, even though I knew this was a scam, there was something making it hard for me not to believe her. I took a breath and then looking her in the eye, I told her she should go into acting. She said something to me in response that I cannot write here. But the little Catholic woman had learned some pretty saucy language outside of her church. She stomped away already looking for her next victim. Had she broken into tears, perhaps I would have given some money.

And then just a few years ago I had blogged about this little incident.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Messin' Around

These photos are somewhat degraded as I resized for the blog, but I am having so much fun today with Paint Shop Pro. I have used this software for years, but never really got into some of the nicer features. As I wrote, I have downsized the photos above for blogger. For instance, my son's girlfriend is gone from the photo above. Any photographic detective could see it on the full resolution image, but not your average viewer. (I am not removing her from the photos by the way...just experimenting.) And then the poor photo of the red-bellied woodpecker which I shot through the dining room window (no way I am going outside) has been greatly enhanced. It is not a great shot, but you should have seen the before!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Thoughts # 18 -- Things I Have Learned from Mother Nature

Mother Nature never throws anything away. She always recycles. But, we live in a culture where it is considered good for our society to get rid of the old stuff and make room for the new stuff. This includes housing and so a healthy economy means we build more houses and sell more houses. We buy more stuff and get rid of old stuff. This is good for the economy. When I continue thinking along this path it all looks more and more like a giant pyramid scheme to me.

The old adage about bending like the willow so that you don't break leaves out all the gray nuances in life such as when you bend, and maybe aren't watching, sometimes someone will come along and chop off your head or make you feel as if they have while you are trying to adjust to some major change in your life! (another post)

Some days I don't feel as industrious or energetic as I think I should at this elder age and then I see this:

and realize I have not a clue about industriousness and probably wasn't very high energy when I was younger either, and then I try not to be so hard on myself.

When we first bought this vacant peninsula of land a lovely swan greeted us at the dock as we ate our recently purchased Dunkin Doughnuts' breakfast. I forbade my husband to feed the swan as I didn't want swan poop all over the dock in the future. Today, years later, two lovely swans were cruising near the dock and I handed hubby a slice of stale bread and told him to go down to the dock and feed them. They swam eagerly forward, picked at the stale bread, turned up their noses and swam away. Even in nature fresh ingredients are important.

Having a good group of friends to hang out with and party all night is one honest way to make it through a long cold winter. Boy were they noisy last night!

Below is another less demanding way to pass the gray winter days but I think just as psychologically restorative. (As anal as I have been criticized for being I did not screw the containers together alphabetically!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Invitation

I got this in the mail the other day. It does not mean I am important because anyone who contributed to Obama's campaign probably got one of these. I have gotten invites years ago from Bill and Hillary, but they looked more like invites to a 'party' whereas (note the use of the archaic here) this one looks like an official document, is letter size, card weight and is even embossed.

The odd thing (other than the fact that I am not going) is that this also came along with an ad for a half dozen items I could purchase to remember the important event. Mugs, coins, whatevah. That sort of took away the dignity of the whole thing for me. Having worked with archivists who preserve realia for a living I am not much of a memorabilia collector. Just something more to dust or store.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Nothing like following up a post about losing weight with a post about food. But I actually used a Good Housekeeping recipe (instead of putting it in a notebook for oblivion) the other day for Peruvian Fish Soup. My husband had traveled years ago in Equador and said he had eaten a Peruvian fish stew that was very good and so I had to try this when I found it. It turned out so delish that I am going to share. And, yes, it is relatively healthy and low-calorie.

1TBsp. veg oil
1 med onion chopped
1 Serrano or jalapeno chile (we used two but made sure to remove the seeds)
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bottles clam juice (I only had one, but it didn't seem to hurt the flavor)
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 lb. red potatoes in 1 inch chunks
2 limes
1 1/2 lbs cod fillet (I had a pound of frozen bass from last summer's catch)
1/2 pound med scallops (bought these on the day --kind of expensive!)
1/2 pound clean squid (I opted out of this ingredient after spending the $$ on scallops)
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro chopped.

This soup was divine and just a little hotter then next day after all the spices mingled. If you want the directions to prepare this ( it take 20 minutes to prepare and about another 30 to cook), let me know in the comments below and I will email you!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pretentious Vanity

It is pretentious for me to hit my sixties and say that I do not care how I look. I have drawers full of cosmetics and face creams and hair goo. If I didn't care how I looked, I would throw all of these out and go plain Jane. I do go plain on most days. Putting on only moisturizer and hair conditioner to keep me from flaking away. Some folks were born into that gene pool of aging gracefully and look just as good without makeup as they do with it. Sissy Spacek comes to mind. She looks 16 and has looked like a teenager her whole life.

I don't care how I look (just stop by for a visit) when I am lounging around the house, when I am cleaning the house, when I am stacking wood, blogging in the early morning or when I am digging a garden bed. I really do not care, because the evidence of my actions excuses my messy looks.

I care just a little how I look when I have gotten through rolling on the floor with a toddler, cooking a rather industrious meal for guests, or changing planes at the airport. I do want a brush through my hair and some lipstick help before I settle into that next plane for hours.

But, I am nervously vain about appearances when I am going on vacation to areas where the climate insures that one does not wear many clothes. All the make-up and hair spray will not make me look healthy in a swimsuit.

Last year we agreed to a Disney Cruise with my daughter and her in-laws this coming April. Yes, a cruise where the majority of passengers are below 3 feet in height. Yes, we agreed to being confined on the ocean on a boat with tiny cabins and hundreds of busy activities run by scary high energy employees in costumes...not my idea of a vacation, especially when you shell out such sums of money for this. But I was determined in my elder years to be more generous in avoiding regrets by failing to do things in life that seemed regrettable and thanked them for remembering us and purchased the tickets.

My appearance concern starts escalating because I will be with a 60-something grandma that has a lovely figure and two nicely built thirty-something females, one of whom used to be a professional cheerleader. You know the type, artificial breasts, straight blond hair and the sweetest little face. I have been trying (without success and empathizing each day with Oprah) to lose about 10 more pounds so that I don't look like a walking light bulb. Yes, a low watt bulb, a dim bulb but a bulb none-the-less. I am a healthy grandma. I am not asking for a 50 pound re-make here, just a little reshaping.

Can I lift 12 pound free weights for 20 reps ? Yes. Can I run a 3 minute mile? Yes. Can I do 80% of that nasty yoga tape before collapsing in a sodden lump on the mat? Yes. Can I do 5 minutes of very intense ab work? Yes. Can I lose more weight around my mid-section? Apparently not.

Last week I avoided the 3 ten-minute miles on the elliptical every other day (YES, dear readers, 3 TEN MINUTE MILES(!)) in favor of an old 'Firm' tape that used to push me to the limit with both weights and aerobics. The d**n thing runs for a full 55 minutes and I was determined to make it through the entire excruciating ordeal at this re-start of a new direction in my weight loss program.

I made it. My form was somewhat sloppy, but I made it to the end of the tape. I was sweating and breathing heavy...but I made it.

The very next day I could barely make it out of bed. That afternoon it felt as if knives had been plunged into my thighs, buttocks and calves. The day following that I took that forest hike I had written about on my other blog and I honestly thought I would DIE from the pain of just walking. The vision of being carried out on a stretcher by two forest rangers did not seem unrealistic. Two more days and some yoga later and I still consider it a torture to go up the stairs to blog in the morning. I still take Aleve when I fall into bed at night. I still have not lost the 10 pounds! Yes I have gained a pound...sure, you can tell me it is muscle, but it didn't land anywhere useful that I can see.

Vanity is a most poisonous sin but it does not eat you from the inside least not so it shows.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Being in the Moment

Honoring my ongoing promise to myself to be more 'in the moment', I fixed a dinner of rosemary lamb chops, garlic and curry roast potatoes, and a healthy baby spinach salad with orange-wedges (from my favorite clementines), thin red onion slices and almonds. The meal was beautiful to look at and in honor of being in the moment I did not rush away to take a picture for the blog. (The picture above was taken on another day with silly glasses that do not match.) I took my time to inhale each captivating smell as I sat down for dinner, and while we do not say grace, I was thankful in my heart and soul and to the powers that be for this meal. I slowly chewed each bite of food and let the flavors linger before swallowing. My husband and I respected the value and precious quality of this meal and the quiet time we had to linger over it.

My husband had made a fresh pitcher of cold green tea and in keeping with the spirit of the moment I brought the glass to my nose to inhale as if it were a fine wine before taking my first sip. The green tea had been enhanced with a sliver of the little kaffir lime that had clung to the tree for months before falling to the floor when I turned the tree in the sun that morning. When I inhaled, the aroma was like a verdant spark. It was lime but not lime. It was like a sweet floral perfume but not heavy or out of place. It was better than even drinking the lovely green tea itself. This gift from the 4 foot citrus plant in a green plastic pot tucked in the corner window was one of the best gifts I got over the holiday season.

I will try to be in the moment more often.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


"Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, And was the safeguard of the West."
Author: William Wordsworth

The husband has found a new good friend and like puppy dogs they have taken this mild winter day off to do what is shown above. They have driven down south with a boat in tow and will spend the night in a hotel. Thus I have two precious ha
lf days to myself.

In the last few hours I have just finished reading:

and was feeling a little cold and wet like the characters in this mystery that trudged through Venice in search of the murderer during the high water season.

I put on the above music, which was a holiday gift, as I prepared a light and warming lunch and when finished eating I continued my immersion in all things Italian.

As I sat on the couch, I tucked my stockinged feet under me and opened Michael Krondl's "The Taste of Conquest" which is about the "rise and fall of three great cities of spice" and once again found myself back in Venice but at a much earlier time when European involvement in the spice trade flourished. And, of course, the first city he visits is Venice. It appears that Venice began with salt and surprise there and since they cont
rolled the trade sold salt to Italy at an 80% profit.

I visited Venice a number of years ago and it is a city that is overwhelming in its beauty and somewhat frightening in it decadence. It is my understanding that because the city is sinking its population is dwindling. All things change and nothing stays the same.

Well, excuse me, must get back to my reading.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Re-arranging the Furniture

The danger of changing ones blog is like the danger of changing the furniture placement in your house. If your family has been away for a while they can stub their toes as they come inside and then may look around and wonder if they entered the wrong house. Blogs styles become familiar and comfortable to readers but I was getting bored with the Tuscan architecture. Let's see if I can stay happy with this.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thursday Thoughts #17 for the New Year

Looking back is not something I enjoy doing as the road back is longer than it used to be and the scenery starts to blur as I squint to that far horizon.
  1. 2008 was a big year for me as I retired in so many ways...not just from the daily grind. I began to let go.
  2. 2008 was the year I got better at being a grandma. Instead of staring at how fast they were growing I started to participate in the event.
  3. In 2008 I lost 10 more and no less...but there is yet 2009.
  4. In 2008 I evolved into a much better cook with the time to be creative and invented new dishes with all the herbs from my garden and ideas I gleaned and modified from my many cookbooks. I learned that you can teach an old dog (cook) new tricks.
  5. In 2008, speaking of gourmet cooking, I made S'mores with the grandson and I haven't made S'mores in decades!
  6. I have pretty much taken 2008 as a laid back vacation doing only what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I am so thankful for such luxury.
  7. In 2008 I lost 100's of thousands of dollars (I have lived pretty frugally most of my life) in the stock market and I don't care because I realize I don't need much in this new life I am living.
  8. I do need $1.99 persimmons and I splurged and bought 4 of these beauties yesterday.
  9. In 2008 I did not beat myself up for wanting alone time anymore and accept the fact that this is one of the ways I charge my batteries and restore my soul.
  10. In 2008 I also accepted the fact that just looking at a flower or interesting plant this year can restore my soul for the rest of the day.
  11. In 2008 I also learned how high energy my husband is and I am trying to meet his needs as we walk together into these days ahead.
  12. 2008 was the year my youngest turned 30. That was harder on me in many ways then when I turned 60!
  13. My resolution this year will be to get back on a schedule and try to give more of this precious time I have to others.
I made it to 13 and that must bode well for the New Year, doncha think?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dinner

The restaurant she had selected was a high-end seafood chain located in the Galleria near the more expensive stores. She had hoped that the empty parking spaces outside were a clue that the restaurant would be quiet inside, but the holiday season had packed both the bar at the front and the tables in the various rooms with festive customers.

She and her husband were led to a room near the far back and that helped reduce the din. Trying to look a little fashionable, she had carefully dressed in a loose fitting black turtle neck sweater and a faux suede skirt cut on the bias that allowed her new tan and dark brown cowboy boots to show. The weather had turned unusually warm which meant the brown tights she had decided to wear instead of a slip were making her a little uncomfortable. Her husband, who spent much of the last few weeks in jeans and sweatshirts, had found it more difficult to dress wanting to wear the new mock turtleneck sweater he had gotten as a gift and finding most of his slacks too dressy for the casual knit. He finally decided on a faded pair of Dockers. They looked like a typical middle class retired couple pushing unsuccessfully for an upper middle class look.

Their waiter arrived almost immediately upon being seated. His head was covered by a thick heavy thatch of dark hair shooting every which way and his face was covered by a dark beard making him look very much like a terrorist rather than a waiter, but his smile was easy as he filled the water glasses. She ordered a holiday cocktail to help her relax and her husband ordered the usual soda water.

They both checked their phones for messages and then made idle conversation hiding the slight tension as they waited for the third party to arrive. She had called him twice during the afternoon and didn't get an answer. Finally she pressed upon her husband to call him once again just before they parked the car, and that was when their son returned the call to say he was finishing the final load of laundry and would be running a little late.

They were in the middle of the 'calamari trio' appetizer when their son showed up dressed casually and with his favorite torn jeans. (Did every pair he owned have torn pockets?) He order a soda and she had mixed feelings about his avoidance of a bottle of beer. It was good because he had to drive out later to his apartment and meet up with friends for the rest of his birthday celebration, but she wondered if this meant he would keep his guard up during the entire meal.

Small talk about the crowds and the holidays and the sales drifted into talk about the Christmas day memories with the little toddlers. She and her husband ordered the special with the recommended glass of wine. By the time they were well into their entrees the conversation had drifted comfortably into politics and religion. The subjects that all were in agreement on and safe in discussing during the rest of the meal.

As the final espresso was ordered her son began a story about a friend of his and the friend's girlfriend at a recent night out. Her son had been scolded by the girlfriend because he had brought another friend of his with two twenty-something sisters who were in town for the holiday. The girlfriend seemed to think he was trying to fix her boyfriend up with one of the sisters and angrily reprimanded him, and the whole event sounded like the Bachelorette or one of those other inane junior high level reality shows of this thirty-something generation where the women are so insecure that only 20k of plastic surgery will calm them down.

At the end of the story, her son smiled and said he felt sorry for his friend and then said he was glad he wasn't dating anyone right now.

They paid the bill and then walked to their cars and exchanged some gifts and Christmas cookies she had made. She hugged and kissed him goodbye and drank in the smell of him under the aftershave, perhaps clinging a little too long as she knew it would probably be months before she could get their paths to cross again. He opened the door to his car and gave them that familiar sideways smile and little wave before he ducked inside.

Well, she thought to herself, that went as well as can be expected.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Notes on "Busy"

Val was so kind to comment on the post below. In answer, my days were filled with a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. which have the best display of miniature trains interspersed with houses, figures, etc. all made from plant life. It is a magical land and captured both the granddaughter and grandson and it was free.

I also went to the grandson's pre-school holiday program. This included quite a number of songs that they had memorized and a jingle bell ringing as they sang Jingle Bells. As you can probably imagine, the little boys got quite carried away with the bells wringing as they had been standing still for most of the program.

Holiday at the daughter's house was wonderful with Xman understanding the gift part of Christmas for the first time. He was so excited and thrilled to be passing out gifts to everyone. My son came early the night before and I was overjoyed to spend time with him and see that he seemed to be weathering the recent breakup with some balance. I hope to see him tomorrow for dinner.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Been just a little busy and except for the first photo you can see I have been away from the house. The arrow in the first photo is to illustrate the numerous places that busy hands go while you are measuring flour. You may need to click on the photo to understand.

I am now catching up on blog reading.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Life Story #22- The Rest of the Story

As some readers may recall, we left our newly married royal couple in a small cabin in the woods as the night was falling in the tropical forest with what seemed like a not so happy ending. Fortunately, with the resilience of the young they awoke to a much brighter day and after a breakfast of eggs and fried breadfruit and sliced papaya, they packed their chariot to begin the second day of the 'rest of their honeymoon.'

A wedding couple does not have to stay in a 4 star hotel for a beautiful honeymoon on the Big Island, because most of the real tropical beauty is away from the hotel's boring swimming pools and crowded beaches. (Besides if you are graduate students, you barely have two nickels much less $200 for a night in a hotel.)

Hawaii is called the 'orchid isle' and it lives up to this name with orchids growing wild everywhere, even along the roadside, causing the Princess on their second day to ask the Prince to stop the chariot every few minutes so that she could bury her face in their sweet smelling blossoms. A drive down the 'chain of craters' road where they eventually had to come to a complete stop because of the cold lava that merged like frozen molasses across the road, amazed them both.

Hours later, the newly-weds danced under the giant tree ferns, picked ginger blossoms for the dashboard of their chariot, visited historic Cook's Monument at Kealakakua Bay, let their fingers trace centuries-old petroglyphs in the volcanic stones nearby, explored dark lava tubes and soon forgot about the prior day's disaster.

But when they stopped for a family-style lunch at Volcano House, they were reminded of the prior day's debacle as they sat at a large, rustic, round table with the other tourists for a family style meal. The initial noise of the restaurant was that of normal conversations among happy tourists, but at their table the conversation among the fellow diners dwindled immediately into uncomfortable silence as people politely passed food and surreptitiously directed side glances toward the Prince with his oddly deformed lip. This deformity also meant his enunciation was muddled and the Princess had to speak for him when he needed food passed. Suddenly the Princess realized what it must be like to be a person with a deformity in a society where everyone else is "normal." This was an eyeopener and gave the Princess a new appreciation for the "commoner".

The Princess explained that they were on their honeymoon and had had an early mis-adventure with a honey-bee. The atmosphere at the table immediately thawed and idle conversation began once again with everyone wishing them a happy future.

The following days were somewhat of a blur visiting Pahoehoe Point, Kamuela, Kohala Road, and Saddle Road, until on the next to the last day the couple reached the end point of a paved road at Pololu Valley. This point is the start of goat trails to five deep and beautiful valleys on this side of the island. The royal couple had brought their rustic backpacks and proceeded to descend into the northern most valley, Pololu, by following a trail down a 420-foot cliff face that zigged and zagged sharply toward the bottom. (Reminder, this team was not very worldly).

When they reached the valley the cool ocean breeze across the crescent beach was very welcoming. They paused for the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch (not exactly gourmet) and then climbed up the next very steep ridge and descended into the next valley. The climbing and descending were so totally exhausting that after crossing a number of streams, the small shelter of Australian pine trees at the base of the valley near the ocean was immediately chosen as the evenings camp spot. The royal team set up a primitive campsite which consisted of two sleeping bags, a plastic drop cloth and some cooking utensils---such luxury.

During the day as they had crossed each river in both valleys, the Princess noticed that the streams were filled with dead or dying, floating, dangerously red centipedes and the evening music that accompanied that night's dinner was the sound of a nearby violently crashing surf against the rocks blending with the sounds of squealing wild pigs up in the valley. The Princess had visions of either drowning in the encroaching surf waters, being attacked by a wild boar, or being bitten by one of the four-inch long centipedes that had washed down the valley and that could seek shelter in her sleeping bag.

The plastic drop cloth that was to be used as protection from the impending rain, became a sail that captured the choking campfire smoke when the wind changed direction from blowing onshore to blowing offshore---as any naturalist would have known. Not much honeymoon lovemaking or much sleep for that matter took place! (Looking back on this beginning it is a wonder that we ever had any children.)

The Royal Couple survived this final night of celebration of their marriage and looking like mud-covered warriors and being given second and third glances by the mainland tourists in the parking area, they returned to their chariot to begin the life of a more normal couple. But that is several other life stories and adventures for a later book.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Window to Past, Present and Future

Looking back at a time when I was a little girl, I can remember the colorful and interesting Christmas cards that my parents would get from across the United States and occasionally across the world. I would look at the photos, read the personal notes and wonder who these people were that had known my parents so well before I was born. What was this life that they had shared with people in another era? They were just old boring parents as I knew them.

This past weekend I was at my daughter's house when she was opening her mail which consisted of at least a dozen holiday greeting cards that were, for the most part, photos of grinning or mugging little children. Who were these dozens of little people? What part were they playing in the lives of my daughter and son-in-law? The cards were a little window into a current social world that was unfamiliar to me.

Last week I got an email from my son's girlfriend letting us know that we would not be seeing her over the holidays as she and my son had recently broken up. It was a mature separation that appears to have left them both in a lot of pain. This was sad news for me as my son is not a social butterfly and being alone over the holidays is not how I wanted to picture him. What we have is a failure to communicate when it comes to this parent son relationship and this gal was my little tiny window into his life of un-returned phone calls and rare email responses. Now that this window has been closed, our worlds are once again drifting apart. I am so sad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rewarded with Rushing

Hubby and I are heading into the city not to see the lights or go to a fancy holiday party...but to babysit, of course. This activity seems to be the most popular on our social calendar over the winter holidays. We have also been asked to pick a 'few' days during the two weeks that school is closed over the holidays to spend time with (take care of) the grandchildren.

I know the cost of babysitters and know that we would be saving them a fortune, and I love being with my grandchildren, and do not resent this in any way. We are asked and not 'expected'. But I can see how some grandparents would consider this an imposition if they found children exhausting or their own lives more interesting.

I, on the other hand, know how fast life rushes by and how fast these children will want to spend time with friends their own age rather than old people, so do not regret one second. And my holidays do not require much rushing around now that I no longer work.

Having said that, rushing to make and decorate Christmas cookies is not as good an idea. But my problem is that I say "When life gives you lemons, you can try still life art." My reach frequently exceeds my grasp. I also say that cookies that look handmade are far more delicious to eat. (I admit that adding the sprinkles was a bit too much!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Today is December 13. We are only 12 days from Christmas. While we have had one or two feathery dusts of snow, this is what my backyard looks like this morning. The temperature is currently 36F and there is a very slight breeze. Someone needs to tell the new lawn that we put in this fall that winter is now here. The lime green is quite incongruous.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"oh" My Darling Clementines - Part II

There are clementines out there from Morocco as well I found out today. I bought the box and the surface of the rind is not as smooth as those from Spain. They are as sweet and as easy to peel but even though the box says seedless, I got an average of 5 seeds from each Clementine!! Buyer beware. Spanish clementines are expensive but worth the price. Also make sure that someone has not removed a citrus or two from under the netting!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Looking Into the Future

I see the future in this little one's face. Her personality shines through. With this one glance I become putty in her hands.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Darling Clementines

Every year at this time I pick up a container of clementines from the market. I make sure they are the ones from Spain as I was disappointed one year from a box of 'so-called' clementines from California. Once I get them home I put them in a hand woven basket where they are seen each time we walk by. Since they are seedless and sweet both hubby and I eat them like popcorn!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blue Christmas

I am sitting here in the early evening after a cold winter wind has rattled the windows all day long. Even the wrapping of presents could not shake the gray loneliness from my shoulders. I was in a pensive and cold mood. I had read Tammy's post where she indicated that her holidays did not necessarily leave her with nice cozy memories. Divorces and children scattered to other geographies left her more pensive than celebratory at this time of year. I put on my old Christmas CD's, and of course, the first to be played was an Andy Williams CD. Talk about nostalgia!

After reading Tammy's post I remembered those Christmases after the children had grown and were living too far away to come home for any holiday. Our house was so quiet and empty. I just could not wait for the weeks to pass and get on with preparation for springtime!

Now once again I am blest with family that is close and even new little ones to bring back the old memories. But Tammy's post reminded me that not everyone is feeling so warm and friendly this time of year.

I will keep this thought close and remember to smile more when I go out, say nice things to strangers that I may encounter and to keep my wallet close to the top of my purse for those charities that need help. I will also remind myself to gulp every day as if it was golden honey, because the times will come when each day is not this way.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday Thoughts # 16 ---Categories

  • Under the category of way too much time on one's hands I was in a Michael's craft store looking for gift boxes for some clothing I had purchased when I overheard another customer ask a saleswoman if the kits for homemade Christmas cards had arrived(!).

  • Under the category of way too much stuff and not enough time I had told my kids I didn't want anything for Christmas and when they protested, I said, "Alright, give me a gift certificate of your time." "That's hard.' was the response.

  • Under the category of being married too long hubby indicated he only wanted to get me something I really wanted and not needed. So, I found the coolest pair of cowboy boots in the Coldwater Creek catalog and he immediately went into the next room and called an ordered them.

  • Under the category of missing fashion opportunities what I really need is something that is comfy to wear, something I can clean house and cook in, but something that is stylish enough that I can still answer the door without looking like a couch potato. How does Diane Keaton do it?

  • Under the category of Rome is burning falls the headline about the poor soul who was trampled to death by a bunch of brain dead consumers---may their holidays be filled with no electricity. (Isn't this holiday supposed to be about the birth of the 'Prince of Peace'?)

  • Under the category of dichotomies we saw once again a black domestic cat cruising our woods this morning and had found evidence of a dead bird on the dock the day before. Hubby actually briefly wondered if we should shoot the cat. (Sorry cat lovers...but these guys can be very destructive.)

  • Under the category of mission accomplished all of my holiday shopping is done except for one person and a birthday gift.

  • Under the category of what did you expect? our winter maintenance heating visit revealed that the reason we were feeling a little cold was because the valve to the heater was not working and we were depending on the heating pump alone...cost to fix (as it is under only 1 year warranty): $500.

  • Under the category of reality bites is the news hubby is once again going to Hawaii in Jan or Feb for this project start-up and in order to save money he will be staying with distant friends (very conservative in both their eating habits and their activities) on the side of a hill in the suburbs. While invited, I would not be near a beach or shops or beautiful probably will not go as I envision fixing PB and J for lunch and wandering around in their back yard for a week!

  • Under the category of enlightened or unenlightened it wasn't until I saw Obama's acceptance speech that I realized the first lady was black and both her children were black. In all honesty I did not see this in my mind's eye until then!

  • Under the category of getting too old, I had a loosening of something (particles) in my inner ear that gave me nausea and vertigo for about a week up and through Thanksgiving until all was reabsorbed. The first 'attack' was when I got off the elliptical and I, at first, thought I was having a stroke.

  • And finally, under the category of pleasantly surprised it took less than 10 minutes to both change our health care status and change my auto deposit of my retirement check to a different bank with only two phone calls.