Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Idle musings

Usually we see commercials with the mute button on, if we see them at all. Most of our television watching is done after the program has aired because we tape virtually everything and then can skip through the commercials completely. However, I've watched the current Charmin commercials with the bears smiling through their crazy escapades with wimpy toilet paper in complete fascination. Now there's even a website, www.enjoythego.com, dedicated to folks who are (a) without a life at all or (2) scatalogically obsessed.

Seriously? Enjoy.the.go? Yeow. And they even have contests for their faithful followers. Just how do you win a contest about going number 2? How could you even enter a contest of that nature with any seriousness or credibility at all? Is there objective judging? Are pictures involved? It just fascinates me and repulses me at the same time.

Not for the first time, my wonderful husband has reminded me that I'm a tad on the impatient side lately. This was after a driver in a Suburban cut me off completely while switching lanes on the way back from Cleveland. I said no bad words -- and that in and of itself is a huge leap forward. But what I did say was accompanied by much horn honking, yelling at the top of my lungs and arm waving (I'm not Italian but I can certainly wave my arms like one) as I was slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision. The doofus never saw me at all or pretended not to. I guess the passenger in the front seat was comatose because she didn't react either.

I don't know why I'm more impatient lately than usual. I can blame all the usual reasons: my weight is creeping back up, I worry about money, I'm not getting enough exercise because it's bloody @#$ cold outside. The real reason is I don't know. I just am. Certain people strike me as immensely dense, clueless or slow witted. So I react. Guess I have my first resolution for the new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho Ho


Merry Christmas  Happy Holidays to one and all.

Thank you for the present of you!

Monday, December 13, 2010


I grew up in the era when high school boys got their draft numbers upon their 18th birthdays and were expected to go into the service to fight in Vietnam shortly after graduation. That is, if they didn't get college deferments, become conscientious objectors or take off for Canada (we lived in Detroit at that time, right across the river from Canada so it was a viable choice). Of course, that war or whatever you call it now is long over. I have no biases against the Vietnamese people; I just don't have any desire to go there.

Our daughter and son-in-law, Holly and Mike,who were here for Christmas and Thanksgiving a couple weeks ago, are now in Vietnam. At her level with DreamWorks, she's on hiatus after finishing MegaMind and they get an extended vacation after the completion of a movie. She moves on to Madagascar III when she gets back to work in mid-January.

They had wanted to go to Argentina but discovered that the timing wasn't conducive for them to have sufficient time to see the country as they wanted to. They need five or six weeks and with the Christmas holidays in the middle, it just didn't work. So they went to Vietnam on the recommendation of someone Holly works with.

Good for them -- I really do applaud their traveling inquisitiveness. It's just I can't get over the weird feelings of knowing they're in Vietnam a country America fought with for so long and with so much bloodshed. They're also taking a side trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, a temple from the early 12th Century honoring the Hindu god Vishnu.

I'm just going to be on motherly pins and needles until I know they're back in this country. That's all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bring on the comfort

...food. I'm having a crazy week and every night there's something so the days are filled with work stuff, home stuff, exercise stuff and then the evenings are filled one way or another too. So I'm more tired than usual. When I'm tired, that's my trigger for unbridled eating and impulsive snacking. I've been trying hard this week not to indulge but it's tough. I don't have (or didn't) the right foods in the house so that I reached for better snacks. And the open candy dishes offering Hershey's miniatures and special dark kisses were very inviting.

Anyway, yesterday after walking 4.5 miles at the mall with Bridget, I went to the grocery stores. I bought: non fat cheese, rice cheese, a chunk of turkey ham, thin sliced ham, my favorite sourdough multigrain bread, eggs, egg beaters, more ham (better nutrition facts, second store), whole wheat Boboli crust and naan for homemade pizza, pasta sauce and salsa. Pretty much everything geared toward comfort food eating.

I had made vegetarian chili the other night and, to put something meat-like in it, found some old (use by date of 2008) Boca Burgers in the freezer and chunked them into the chili. It tastes good and Johnnie has admitted salivating and thinking about it all day at work, looking forward to having the chili for dinner. For some reason, it's making me gag. I make veggie chili all the time and it's fine. It's something about the Boca Burgers -- maybe it's knowing they're two years beyond their usefulness -- but I can't eat it. When I make chili, I make a complete Dutch oven's worth of it so there were still several servings left last night, which was day three of chili. Ugh.

I figured we'd have pizza last night since I had a ham sandwich at lunchtime to get past my obsession with ham yesterday. Johnnie was very disappointed when I fired up the oven for pizza (usually his #1 favorite food) and really wanted chili. Me? Yeah, not.doing.chili. So we compromised: he had chili and leftover cornbread while I had a ham and cheese sandwich. I tossed on a couple pieces of Romaine lettuce to alleviate my nutritional pangs and get something greenish into my body.

Quite possibly that's our dinner again tonight. Tomorrow night? Pasta - YUM!!!

I'm all about comfort foods when the weather is this lousy. Typically in December, our area collections about four inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground. This year to date (and it's only the 8th), we have more than 24 inches of the crap on the ground. It's coming down every day. Unrelenting. Usually we have periods of this every day a few inches thing in January. So Mother Nature is starting early.

Bring on the comfort foods. I'm gonna need them, apparently for months.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Apples and Water

The last full week before Thanksgiving, Erin and I met at the mall food court one day for lunch. She was jonesing for something from Taco Bell and, while I wasn't especially hungry for much of anything, getting together with her and Lucy was a treat not to be missed.

We went our separate ways to get food: Lucy and me to Burger King to get her macaroni & cheese and apple fries and I got a chicken sandwich. Erin indulged her taste for Taco Bell and we reunited at a table somewhere in the middle. After eating, we were just ambling through the mall and, lo and behold, there was Santa's village all set up and Santa ready to talk with kids.

In the past both Emily and Lucy have screamed bloody murder if we even suggested they go see Santa and (horror of horrors) sit on his lap. So as we're walking closer, we called Lucy's attention to Santa and she waved to him. He waved back. We both tried to stay calm, recalling past experiences.

We said, "Do you want to go see Santa?"

And like a sleepwalker, she walked up to him without any hesitation and sat on his lap. She was still munching on her apple fries so I quickly took them from her hand as he was talking with her. She never took her eyes off him during the whole visit.

Santa asked, "What do you want for Christmas, Lucy?"

Lucy, softly, "Apples."

"What else would you like?" prompted Santa.

"Water," Lucy said decisively.

Hey, it's going to be an easey-peasey Christmas around here, huh?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Weigh in on the Ws, please!

There's been a bit of a dust up (I never get to use those words in my writing!) lately in the Rochester area over the letter W. No, you haven't stumbled into Sesame Street and the letter of the day.

The issue is that Walgreens has decided to sue Wegmans Food Markets for copying the W from their logo and using it. Walgreens contends that the W is too close to the style used in the Walgreens' logo, it's confusing and that customers may mistake Wegmans for Walgreens.

Seriously? To paraphrase those infamous words from the 1988 vice presidential debate between Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Senator Dan Quayle, "Walgreens, you are no Wegmans!"

Look at these logos, particularly at the Ws and see what you think.
The interesting thing is that Wegmans' logo is a version of the logo used in the 1930s and it has been in use in its current form since 2008. So where has Walgreens been to protest about this for the past two years?

In searching about this online, I found an article at www.consumerist.com that compares the logos above (they deserve photo credit for both images) and then point out the similarities of the two images below: the Walgreens logo and that of the Washington Nationals. Perhaps they should readjust their sights and go after the Nationals rather than Wegmans.

My husband, for one, is incensed at the frivolity of this lawsuit.

What do you think: does Walgreens have a W to stand on here? Please weigh in!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Praying at work

Entirely and unabashedly ripped from an email I just received from my sister-in-law. Good chuckles even though I am no longer in a corporate environment - I remember!


Dear Lord,
Please forgive me as I have repeated all these bad words at one time or another; and please forgive the person that sent it to me, for they knew all the words also! And please forgive everyone reading this, for I am sure they will know what the words mean too. Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I saw one today ...

With every holiday season comes a new fad gift. Remember the flapping bass on the plaque that sang? Or even Pet Rocks? Chia Pets (although I have fallen prey to this one -- a Shrek head as a gift for Holly)? Mostly these are great gift ideas for those (lame) folks who can't think of anything personal to buy for someone that they have to buy something for. Sisters-in-law kinda fall into this category.

Last year, Johnnie's two brothers and their wives were with us for Christmas and I lived in silent, quaking fear that I would receive one of these from my fad-following sister-in-law.
 I know it's crazy, but I absolutely positively never, never want a Snuggie. I can find plenty of ways to stay warm just fine, thankyouverymuch, without wearing a blanket with arms. So I held my breath as we worked our way through gifts last Christmas, hoping against hope that I wouldn't have to strap on a sincere smile and summon a heartfelt Thank You for a Snuggie.

Somewhat like boiled wool sweaters or jackets, I don't understand Snuggies. I get well and thoroughly tangled up in just a lap blanket - can you imagine how spectacularly I could trip myself and go prat falling through the house if I was wearing a blanket backwards?  Snuggies just hit a raw nerve with me and seem like a gigantic waste of fabric, sewing and money.

I was lucky last year: instead  of the dreaded Snuggie I thought I might get, I received a head massager, like this one:
Yes, I can almost hear your excitement for me. It was a nice gift and quasi-thoughtful. The best part is that it's small and once the gift giving season is passed, it can be tossed into the garage sale pile or donation bag of without fuss or concern about needing to keep it around until the giver sees the givee wearing/using it at least once.

Getting a Snuggie would be more problematic as it is wearable and I would feel some responsibility to give it a try. The ones from the official MySnuggieStore.com site all appear to be made of fleece. The one I saw this morning at BJs Wholesale Club was made of fake fur or crushed velvet or something. Yet another variation on a nightmare, according to me.

By the way, does the guy in this couple below look:
(a) like Barack Obama
(b) completely emasculated in that thing or what?

 And, dear Lord, they are now selling Snuggies for pets. Maybe a Chihuahua might need something like this in the frozen North, but I'm pretty sure that this Lab would just as soon be sporting his own skin all by itself.
Anyway, if you have a gift giving occasion coming up in which I am involved, please take this as an open letter to save your money or donate to the Salvation Army or something.

I don't want to be rude but truly I.do.not.want.a.Snuggie. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Primitive and reality

I'm not really much of an art buff and neither is Johnnie. I like all the common, you're-supposed-to-know-it stuff but beyond that, I'd be hard pressed to discuss artwork intelligently. However, I like folk art/primitive Americana. It's simple and it just speaks to me in some way.

So a few weeks ago, I had a brainstorm, probably right after having some wine, and broached the idea to Johnie of painting our 4 foot by 4 foot lavatory/powder room as a folk art mural. Since Johnnie had had some wine too, he was amenable to looking into the idea further.

The four walls to be painted were roughly 4 foot by 4 foot and the lower part is tiled in a neutral beige-y/taupe color. I had seen the work of a couple mural artists in the area and contacted them to see how much my brainstorm would cost us and whether we could actually do what we were thinking.

One artist called me back, came over and, although she had never done folk art before, was willing to give it a go. She came back a week later with scaled sketches and we were in business.

Here are Jill's sketches of how the walls would look.

Each wall is a season: summer is directly ahead as you enter the lavatory, spring is on the left, fall is on the right where the toilet and vanity are and the fourth season (rhymes with splinter*) , my very least favorite season, gets the least space because it has the door. Even the ceiling is painted with clouds that reflect the seasons.

We added some homey but relatively anonymous touches (just so future owners won't feel immediately compelled to paint over it to get rid of us:
  • I'm carrying sunflowers (my favorite)
  • Johnnie is holding the tether of a donkey (we used to have two donkeys - Clover & Festus)
  • Erin, Mike, Emily and Lucy are in the splinter-rhyming scene
  • Holly & Mike and Daisy & Juniper (our two dogs) are in the summer scene 
  • There's a school bus in the spring scene (because Johnnie drives a school bus)
Here's how it looks as it was painted.
Summer - Holly & Mike are sitting at the table on the lawn; dogs are barking at the birds

Spring with the school bus in the foreground

Fall - Johnnie and me lower left/center

Fourth season - Emily making angels in the white stuff, Lucy sledding, Mike finishing the **owman (rhymes with yeoman) and Erin decorating the Christmas tree (up by the light)

How cool is this, right? It's one of those things where you find something new and different every time you look at it. It's difficult to take pictures of because there's no room to back up and get far enough away from the walls and the lights caused a lot of glare so they're turned off. The ceiling didn't photograph well at all, unfortunately but there are lovely clouds all over it.

The artist is Jill Doser, www.jilldoser.com. She's local to our area and she's amazingly talented, according to us. We love what she did for our little lavatory! Imagine spending all week in that little 4 x 4 space. She earned every penny! Thank you Jill!

*For the second year in a row, I am refusing to acknowledge the official name of the fourth season (the one that rhymes with splinter) and the white stuff (rhymes with blow) that often covers the ground during that season. It worked pretty well for me last year so I think I'll try for a repeat.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MegaMind Proud

I don't mention our daughter Holly much in this blog because we don't get many chances to see her and our son-in-law Mike, who live in Redwood City, California and so we don't have numerous anecdotes to relate. However, today is a big day for Holly and for us.

Holly works for Dreamworks Animation, which has given the world the Shrek movies, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and the Bee Movie among others. She has risen from production assistant in early stuff in the 90s to significant positions in the animation genre over the past few years.

For the Shrek movies, we (John, Erin, Mike and I) would stay until the last credits rolled so we could applaud her name near the bottom of the list. People in the emptying theater never could figure out why we were all up there clapping and whistling at the credits and so thought we were more than a little weird. After all, we're not exactly next door to Hollywood here in Western New York.

For MegaMind, releasing today, Holly Edwards is Associate Producer, working with Ben Stiller (executive producer), Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt among others.  We are so thrilled for her and so incredibly proud of her success. Look her up on imdb.com; she's the third Holly Edwards listed. She rubs shoulders daily with Hollywood celebrities (and the wannabes too) in her job and yet she's just the same wonderful, down-to-earth Holly we've always known and loved.

According to Wikipedia:
Megamind received generally positive reviews from critics, with the film garnering a 64% "fresh" rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes as well as a 62 out of 100 rating on Metacritic. [5] The Rotten Tomatoes consensus is "It regurgitates plot points from earlier animated efforts, and isn't quite as funny (or fun) as it should be, but a top-shelf voice cast saves Megamind from total defeat." [6] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three out a possible four stars, stating "This set-up is bright and amusing, even if it does feel recycled from bits and pieces of such recent animated landmarks." [7]

Of course every parent can and does boast of their child's incredible achievements; in this case, everyone can go see our daughter Holly's achievements for themselves.

To say we are MegaProud would be an understatement!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pictures from around here

I've accumulated a batch of pictures that we've taken over the past few weeks and thought I'd share some of them.

Lucy at preschool

Lucy's preschool Halloween parade. She's  third from the bottom on the left side.

Emily and Lucy with (l to r) BeeBee, MeeMee and OhOh
Lucy taking a nap - I'm biased but she's beautiful

Lucy bowling at Johnnie's birthday bash

Lucy launches the ball successfully. BTW, she beat all of us in the first game.

Emily lets the ball fly
OK, I'm biased here too, but she's adorable

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ridiculous customer service

We love our Keurig coffee maker and I have taken to making several cups of decaf coffee during the day when I'm working. I've become very partial to strong decaf -- like French roast or Dark Magic Extra Bold. It's strong/full bodied and yet it's still decaf. The problem with that is, that most retail stores only carry a limited selection of decaf Keurig K-cups and tend to stock mostly lighter blends or flavors like (yuck) hazelnut decaf. So I began ordering decaf K-cups over the web. And I discovered discounts that get the per K-cup price lower too -- lower than using Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons.

My brother-in-law Ferd (also a Keurig lover) found a good place online, Coffeeforless.com, and he gave me his telephone rep's secret code for a 10% discount (code=deb).

I realized on Tuesday that I was very low on decaf K-cups and remembered when I was sitting at the computer to go out and order some. I placed my order, ordered enough to get free shipping and got my confirmation email at 11:47 am Tuesday.

The coffee arrived Wednesday before noontime. How amazing is that? I thought I was seeing things when I opened the front door and saw the box. Then I thought, maybe John ordered some for me (unlikely but possible). Seriously. Less than 24 hours from pressing Submit Order to delivery.

Ridiculous, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peacemaking in the powder room

Yes, this is gonna be about toilet paper. While both of us were working at Big Corporation, I didn't really think much about what kind of toilet paper we used at home. We picked up Northern or Charmin or Cottonelle when we went to BJs (there's no Costco here in Western New York) and that did us just fine.

When I stopped working outside the house, at the insistent request of Big Corporation in 2002, we suddenly noticed a spike in our toilet paper usage. Gee, now that I was home all day, it drained our supplies much faster than before when we were both gone 10 or so hours a day. And I began to be fussier about the toilet paper we purchased. We tried economizing and that was unsatisfying to me. We shopped around and tried every brand possible to find one that was satisfactory to the primary user (me) and that John found acceptable as well. I wanted cushy, he wanted ... well, I dunno exactly what he wanted but it wasn't the same as what I liked.

Anyway. Once he retired, his interest in toilet paper rose as well. The TP debates started and the shopping around was coupled with debates along the way evaluating our preferences. I even tried the single ply, mostly recycled paper. While it may be good for the environment, it probably isn't the best option for us given the quantities I require to keep my hand from getting soiled. This past summer on a joint trip to Aldi's, we picked up a package of Panda toilet paper to give it a try. It was inexpensive and looked like a reasonable experiment.

Eureka! We had found the toilet paper for the ages! It is cushy, thick, doesn't leave a lot of paper dust and it generally is a unanimous choice. We liked it so much that we looked for it on the next trip to Aldi's so we could stock up. Apparently, many others also liked it and there was none of the good Panda paper to be had.  When shopping at Aldi's, it's kind of a catch-as-catch-can thing: if you like something, you better stock up because they may never have it again unless it's one of their standard items. We've learned this the hard way with many of their special buy products.

John liked the Panda TP so well that he went online to find the supplier of Panda and called them to find out (a) when Aldi's might have it again and (2) where else we might find it if Aldi's wasn't carrying it. Turns out that WalMart's Great Scott toilet paper is also made by the same company. You can tell you have the right one because it has a rose embossed on the paper itself. When we ran out of Panda, we stifled our gorge (at having to shop and spend money at WalMart*) and went to WallyWorld to get some Great Scott paper. And the bottoms in our house were happy once again.

The TP supplier also told John that Aldi's had another Panda TP special coming in late September so we were on the lookout. The TP didn't hit the shelves at our local Aldi's until early October but we were ready. Over the past couple weeks, we have purchased more than 20 12 packs of toilet paper -- I've forgotten just how many I bought. We could seriously build an awesome fort with the packs of TP in our basement. I haven't yet taken the little girls downstairs to play among the TP but it's tempting and it should be a blast to build a fort. Emily doesn't yet know about using whatever building materials present themselves to build forts and playhouses but we have a playdate to do so coming up in the near future.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Poor Uncle Sam

has lost his head. This isn't a political commentary, just stating a fact. We purchased this (really cheap, made in China) statue several years ago from our favorite Cleveland store, Marc's, and have had Uncle Sam outside throughout the summers for years, proudly waving his flag and declaring our patriotism to anyone passing by.

We looked at him a few weeks ago and discovered that his arm had crumbled. That's it lying on the driveway just in front of his left foot. At that point, I unceremoniously relieved Uncle Sam of his American flag and put him down at the curb for trash pickup. I like Uncle Sam but you can tell even in the picture that his construction is, um, a bit on the shoddy side.It looks like paper mache but maybe just a little more sturdy. Each time we touch it, another piece falls off.

Emily and I were outside the following day decorating the little tree in our mail box post for Halloween. She spotted Uncle Sam lying expressionlessly in the gutter and retrieved him, cradling him as though he was her very most favorite doll baby. She was very upset that Uncle Sam was literally being kicked to the curb. Erin calls her Princess Tenderheart and it is so very very true. So I relented (I'm such a creampuff with these kids) and we took him into the garage to see if Grandpa could fix him.

In showing him to Grandpa, it turns out that Johnnie wanted to keep Uncle Sam too and see if he could fix him. Yeah, we need another project like this, right?

Days or possibly weeks pass......

We were leaving for breakfast one Sunday morning and the granddaughters were in the car. Grandpa retrieved the Sunday paper and flung it from the driveway into the garage. It ricocheted off the recycling bin and scored a direct hit on Uncle Sam. Sam tumbled off the step in one direction and his head went another.

I doubt there's any way to fix Uncle Sam. So far he's just languishing in the garage in three pieces, tucked away next to the recycling bins. I'm hoping that Emily and Grandpa will soon forget about Uncle Sam and I can slip him into the trash without anyone noticing.

You have ably represented your country and displayed our patriotism for many summers, good and faithful servant. Now go rest in the landfill. Your duties are completed. At ease, sir.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The auction

Our neighbors' house that I wrote about here was auctioned off on Tuesday. The auction company arrived early Tuesday morning and started putting all the neighbors' unwanted worldly goods out on the lawn and driveway for later bidding. Luckily the day was relatively sunny and no rain was forecast.

 When John arrived home from work, we walked down and by then, there was a string of cars parked along our street as far as we could see. I was astounded that so many people came out to bid on their household items and the house. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to see all your possessions laid out so matter-of-factly for others to inspect, judge and ultimately purchase. The feeling I had was of personal violation rather than garage sale.
There was a professional auctioneer and he proceeded down the rows of household items as the crowd followed him, raising their cards and bidding. He stopped at 5:15 and began the auction of the home itself.

The wife of the couple came back from their new city for the auction and, predictably, was a bundle of nerves. She had spoken to us earlier and then went into the house during the auction itself. I was glad she wasn't witnessing it firsthand.

The auction started briskly at $50,000 and then quickly climbed to $95,000. It flagged a bit and the bidding narrowed down to three parties (only five parties in total had qualified to bid for the house itself). The bidding proceeded more slowly and eventually stopped at $113,000. This is a house that was appraised for taxes at $162,700. I don't know what they paid for it but I'm sure it was more than $113K. The house was sold in less than 10 minutes tops and they covered the mortgage and home equity loan.

They had lived there 19 years and pfffffffft! -- that fast it was gone. That's what they wanted, to not have the house languish on the market. (The real estate market in our area isn't in the terrible shape as it is in other parts of the country but then again, we don't have the high real estate prices or the sudden drops. We're certainly not insulated from real estate issues but we don't have the roller coaster effect as other areas do.)

However, we feel lucky that the couple who purchased the house are young and have a baby daughter. So it's not a speculator who'll invest a minimal amount and then flip the house or rent it to potentially untenable tenants.

It was weird being there and trying to understand what the wife must be experiencing. I seriously cannot imagine what my emotions would be if all our possessions had been exposed for this type of sale. I can't help but think that it would feel a lot like failure.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Whazzat? No problem.

I'm certainly not a qualified arbiter of grammar and proper language usage. However, there are some phrases in the English language that really get under my skin. Two of the most innocuous and yet offensive, to me at least, are "Whazzat?" and "no problem."

Whazzat? seems to have replaced "Pardon me?" or "Excuse me?" when people don't hear what you've said. It is particularly noticeable (and fairly irritational to me) in people who have a hearing deficit about which they are still in denial, which they haven't yet addressed or for which they wear hearing aids some of the time (why yes, my sweet Johnnie, I am looking at you as a matter of fact).

It goes like this:
You: Would you like to watch TV?
Them: Whazzat?
You, louder and possibly more enunciated: WOULD YOU LIKE TO WATCH TV?

and so it goes.

Grrrrrrrr. If you don't hear the question, the proper response is "Pardon me?" or "Sorry, I didn't hear you, could you repeat the question?" or "Excuse me?"

The other phrase, "No problem" is now a pervasive response when someone thanks you. Like this:

Them: Here's your gizmo back...
You: Oh, thank you.
Them: No problem.

The proper response is "you're welcome." As an article in this month's Reader's Digest said, responding with "No problem" implies that there actually WAS a problem or that they perceived the exchange in some way as a problem. Maybe it's a valid response when there has been a problem, but commonly the correctly response would be "you're welcome."

Minor things, I know. But they grate on me and this casual slurring of manners and polite usage of speech becomes so commonplace that eventually the right responses are forgotten and disappear.

Any phrases or words that bug you like this?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A new season, a new blow up

"You're probably gonna think I'm weird," Johnnie remarked to me last Sunday.
"Yeah?" I responded, curious.
"Yeah, I really want to get a Halloween thing for the front yard."
I had a private little smile and then said, "Works for me. As long as it's not scary."
Erin and Mike aren't big on Halloween to begin with, particularly the more occult aspects of it. Neither are we, actually. So we tend to err on the side of happy things like smiling pumpkins rather than witches, goblins and spooky things.

We both were at our computers so we started looking for the right kind of inflatable for our yard. Two years ago John fell in love with an inflatable turkey that we put up in November for Thanksgiving. Then he found an inflatable Nativity scene that he has been putting up in December for Christmas. Now we're moving out a month earlier for Halloween and he put up the new inflatable (it arrived yesterday afternoon) last night.

Well, yes they're ghosts but they're really happy ghosts and they're frolicking with the Boo letters. So we think they're pretty fun and not of the spooky variety.

Here they are at night with the smiling Great Pumpkin and the pumpkin lights around the front door.

The Great Pumpkin slips upstairs (unbeknownst to either of us) some time early in September and then is forced to wait until October 1st before he's allowed to go outside. Santa Claus has problems with patience as well, often creeping up the stairs in November and then waiting until after Thanksgiving before he's allowed to officially begin the Christmas season.

My contribution to our Halloween decorations is the little tree on the mailbox stand. Emily helped me decorate it last week.
So we have a case of creeping holidays and the inflatables to accompany them at our house. I fully expect that in the coming year we'll find something inflatable to grace the lawn for Easter. Luckily, there don't seem to be a lot of inflatable for summertime holidays. At least I hope not!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cheesecake for lunch

Our daughter Erin has been living a gluten-free life for the past two years since being diagnosed with Celiac disease. There have been many ups and downs, physically and emotionally, over the past two years culminating in three different stays in the hospital during this past April while she had severe symptoms and issues. Seriously, at one point, the girl was yellow - her eyes, her skin - all very strange.

The good part about her issues this past spring was that she found a young doctor who was willing to work closely with her to determine once and for all exactly what her physical problems may be. He wasn't convinced that she had Celiac, liver problems or whatall. They have been trying medications and diet variations since then to quell her symptoms and make her comfortable.

The latest experiment is a wheat challenge where she can eat wheat to her heart's content for two weeks, then have another endoscopy (putting a scope down her throat to check out her stomach and intestines) to see if there's any damage. She's been on wheat for about the past 10 days. With no symptoms. How awesome is THAT?!?

When they came over for dinner last week, I suddenly thought about Cheesecake Factory. Erin loves Cheesecake Factory and cheesecake in general. I've made a couple gluten-free ones for her over the past couple years and while they're not bad, they just aren't the same.

She had wanted to go to Cheesecake Factory for her birthday in September but decided not to since she couldn't have any cheesecake and it would have been too hard for her to be there and not have the forbidden fruit cheesecake.

So we made a date to go to the Cheesecake Factory last Friday. Not to have lunch, mind you, but just cheesecake. Neither of us felt as though we could or wanted to afford a full blown lunch, plus it would take away from room in the tummy that was reserved for cheesecake. We were there with Lucy when the doors opened at 11:30 am. Erin had stopped at Burger King to get Lucy a hamburger and fries since three year old little girls shouldn't eschew lunch even though their (supposedly responsible) adults were going to.

We were giddy with excitement. Erin pored over the menu and eventually chose a Kahlua Cocoa cheesecake and I got apple crisp with ice cream. I like cheesecake well enough but I'm Jonesing these days for apple crisp and while the difference probably wasn't all that large, there must be more calories in cheesecake than apple crisp. Hey, there's fruit, right?

Her first bite and every one thereafter was a private moment. I felt as though Lucy and I should leave so she could have some privacy but we didn't. I scraped the tower of whipped cream off my apple crisp and gave it to Lucy for her dessert. She was delighted. So was I.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Home stewardship

I've been thinking a lot about home stewardship in the past few weeks. It's a concept that Erin put a name to a couple years ago that means taking care of your home as things need to be addressed so that it doesn't fall down around your ears.

This has become more thought-provoking lately. We have some neighbors who have largely ignored their home maintenance for roughly the past 20 years and it has caught up to them. We take care of their two cats when they are away so we know more about this house than we would about most neighbors' homes.

They're not great at home cleanliness but that's easily fixed by having a cleaning service come in and whip the place into shape. The problems are larger than that: they have torn out molding, carpeting and fixtures, torn off wallpaper without ever putting anything back together. So things look like they're falling down and off, which they are. For example, the shower in the master bathroom leaked badly about 15 years ago. They stopped using it and eventually removed the glass door and fixture from the stall. The extensive water stains remain on the family room ceiling below along with dark soot from the fireplace and candle burning. Somehow the walls and ceiling in the family room have separated all around the perimeter and there's about an inch gap of exposed studs everywhere you look.

We looked in the main bathroom which they've used for years and, again apparently, the shower fixture was taken down and then put back up with the worst plaster patching job I've ever seen. I could have done better. And the fiberglass stall is slowly being consumed by mildew and mold. Outside, the roof has a plush covering of green moss and the white vinyl siding is gray with dirt and mildew.

We have studiously avoided going to their house for any meals for many years, claiming that John's allergy to cats would  act up and be too severe to handle. That's true but it's also true that we just plain didn't want to eat in their house.

Anyway, you can sorta get the idea of how bad the place is. The wife had a good job but quit five years ago to "find" herself (seriously, I hate quote marks used like that but it's the only way I can think of to describe this). The husband was laid off from his (very good) job 18 months ago and has been looking ever since. The wife has been going to classes for (I think) medical or legal transcription but still doesn't have a job.With the utter lack of attention to anything inside or outdoors, I really have no idea what they do with all their time as they both have been home for the last 5 years/18 months straight.

The husband got a job last week, outside of Denver Colorado so they are now faced with moving. He reports for work in early October. John and I have speculated over the years about how they'd ever sell the house. Our personal opinion is that we'd have to virtually gut the place and begin all over. If someone could do the work, we figure it would take about $25,000 - $50,000 to bring it up to livable conditions.

This house is probably worth $160,000 - four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, full basement, nice half acre lot, hardwood floors throughout, fireplace. Property values in our area have not fallen (and don't rise) as much as other areas of the country -- we're certainly not in a recession-proof area but it just doesn't experience the extreme highs and lows. A comparably well-kept home in a larger metropolitan area would bring upwards of $200,000 easily.

The couple came down last weekend to ask us to take care of the cats while they flew out to find a new place to live. And they told us that they'll be auctioning the house off rather than listing it with a real estate agent and selling it in a more traditional way. We were floored. The floor bid price will be $75,000. They're hoping that someone will get the bidding up above $100,000 (they owe a $92,000 mortgage  + $21,000 home equity = $113,000).

OMG! Not only are we concerned for them losing their shirts on this but also for what a crappy winning bid will do to the neighborhood. They'll be gone by the time of the auction and asked us to please attend to help bolster the audience. We want to be there just to see how much of a debacle it will be. It makes both of us cringe.

They admitted (with great incredulity and surprise) that they just haven't maintained the house. The wife said, "You're lucky, Cheryl, because John's so capable of doing all this stuff. We're not." In other words, somehow the condition of their home isn't really their fault because they're not capable and (apparently) helpless to identify contractors and write checks to get projects done. At one time several years ago, they asked for the name of someone to power wash their house. After the estimate came back, they decided it was too expensive so it was never done.

My point back to her was that we've done all this stuff to our house and yard over the last 16 years.  And while John is (thank the dear Lord) extremely handy at virtually everything to do with home improvements and maintenance, we have hired the jobs done when he couldn't,  wouldn't do or that I wouldn't let him do -- such as climbing on the roof to clean out gutters or reshingle the house.

In little chunks, taking care of your property is not (doesn't have to be) overwhelming and improves your quality of life at the same time it preserves the eventual resale value. We know we've put more money into our home than we'll ever get out of it but we are enjoying the amenities and things we've installed or added to our home -- they make us comfortable, happy and content to be here.

So now I appreciate our home even more than I have. I've been finding tiny projects -- such as vacuuming up tons of dog hair and dust bunnies under our desks among the thousands of cables and vacuuming dust off the fireplace and lampshades -- that help in infinitesimal ways to improve our home. We have a cleaning woman who comes and does the nitty gritty stuff every two weeks but the big projects and detail stuff is all ours. We're fortunate but we're also proactive. 

We'll miss these people because they're good neighbors and nice friends. But the process of them moving and what will happen with the house is frightening. Not to mention the pity and trepidation we feel for their unsuspecting landlord in their new place out west.

Any horror stories to share?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fingers tired sez Yoda/Bama

When my other paying clients abandon me because they don't have projects for me to do, I have a Web-oriented company for which I do writing. Much cheaper than I should but it's more than minimum wage (you can see how lofty my standards are) and so I do it. And they're steadier, usually, than other clients so I can count on having at least some amount of paying work trickling in.

Not all Web companies have a large cadre of people hard at work in India but this particular one does. We've gone through many different work scenarios but what works best for them (note that this is not necessarily best for me) is for their Indian crew to write the content for the primarily American audience and then have me "Americanize" it. Their theory is that it's less expensive to have the Indians do the writing and then get it fixed by an American. Hey it's fairly steady work and I get to make all the "do you want a Slurpee?" jokes in my head that I want as I listen to a typical Indian male voice speaking their words in my head. Yes, I do hear voices as a matter of fact.

Seriously, I'm not a bigot in any way against any ethnicity or people but after editing and rewriting Indian-written copy for the last three or four years, I can honestly say that most of their workers may know English but they sure don't know American English. I tell my contact person in India the very same thing so I'm not speaking behind their backs. I now understand completely how translation companies in my former corporate life would always insist that translating for French Canada wasn't the same as translating for residents of France.

Some of their phrasing is hilarious and recently I've copied a few of the better ones to keep and share. I'm not sure that the funny will come across but here are some recent samples. My comments are in italics.

*100% genuine guidance and aid whenever required (OK, what is there other than 100% genuine guidance? And I'm not sure which adjective modifies which word there either.)

*Allowing boaters to breathe safely in the water (Really?)

*Seek Professional Assistance For A Good Time In The Sea (For a good time in the sea, call 1-800 Pop-Eye)

*spend time with family and closed ones or friends (OK, this is an innocent typo but I thought it was funny, particularly since Americans would say loved ones, not close ones)

*water related activities like Water Boarding, Waterskiing, ... (I cracked up about this one, terrible as it is. They meant surf boarding, not water boarding, and I sent a comment back to correct this one for the future)

*A recent study did at Stanford University (Like I said, they know English but not all that well)

Last week I committed to an assignment to write 250 articles of 350 words apiece within 25 days. I've been steaming along this week on the writing with words pounding out of my fingers and swirling around my head. While I really love writing, I'm not used to writing promotional advertising copy all that much and find it hard to use the word phenomenal multiple times within a sentence. But at least this was original writing and not correcting massacred English written by young Indians who probably make a couple dollars a day, if they're lucky.

I wrote 10 articles this morning (10 x 350 = 3500 words before noon) and then took a break to go to Target and grocery shopping. When I came back, there's an email telling me to stop immediately on the project. So this beautiful head of steam I have been building up is now completely kaput. But, on the bright side, I have my afternoon and maybe tomorrow back to get ready for company tomorrow evening.

While this is a somewhat steady gig, it is like this a lot. "One step forward, two steps back, nobody gets too far like that," courtesy of Desert Rose Band. Ah well. Find the bright side and keep slogging forward.

Speaking of strange wording, do you have a radio commercial playing currently that talks about a smokeless cigarette? There's a line in the commercial that says, "It’s made by SmokeAway so you know it’s good." Really? What in the blue blazes do I know about SmokeAway and why does just their name assure me that the product is good. This is the frightening power of advertising -- just because they say it's good, you are to assume that it is.

Amazing, huh? Any other crazy ads or incongruous messages/words that you'd like to share? My fingers are tired so I'm gonna stop now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gardening excellence - NOT

I am an enthusiastic gardener but, sadly, my thumbs are mostly brown rather than green. I tried growing Norfolk pines in the house for a couple years and killed them each time. It's a mystery as to whether it's too much water, not enough water, too much light, not enough light. It just gives me a headache. We have a few houseplants but only because they're tenacious and have adapted to my unique blend of neglect and over watering.

Outside, we redid our landscaping a few years ago with the help of someone who knew what they were doing. She gave us a new layout, helped us get started with the planting and it has worked. Except now that the landscaping has been in for a few years, some things have died and we've replaced them. In a few cases, I've been feeling my oats and bought things that I wanted to put into the landscaping even though they weren't part of the original plan. Last year, something declined to return and at the bargain time of the year, I bought a butterfly bush and planted it in that area.

This summer, I watched with delight as the plant I thought was a butterfly bush started sprouting and thriving. I have watered the gardens all summer and vigorously pulled or annihilated any invading weeds with RoundUp (though the rubber mulch we put in last year really did do a great job of discouraging most weeds).

Sadly, however, what sprouted in the place of my butterfly bush was NOT a butterfly bush at all but a beautiful stand of .... goldenrod.


Immediately after this picture was taken, I went out and cut the goldenrod down. It isn't dead but I'll use RoundUp on the base of it. How embarrassing, huh? All that work to get a weed. Sigh. Better luck next year.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On a scale of 1 to 10 ....

... this past weekend was a 12. Seriously, no exaggeration. And it had nothing to do with the presents I got, although I received some awesome things! It was a birthday weekend for me, and a relatively big birthday too. The big 60. When I turned 50, I had months of anxiety and dread before the date actually came. It was bad enough that I  sought professional counseling to help me get through it. So, in comparison, 60 was a piece of cake (although now that I think about it, I never did have any birthday cake. Hmmmmm). I wasn't anxious, I didn't obsess about my age - nuttin - like it really was no big deal, a non-event.

Johnnie asked me several weeks ago what I wanted to do for my birthday. We're having a big celebration of my 60th and John's 60th (he turns 60 in 2011) this coming February by taking all of our kids on a cruise so that's the big celebration. But birthdays are a big deal to me -- I try to celebrate everyone's birthday as specially as I can. While lots of holidays are enjoyable, birthdays are unique and celebrate the individual as a person -- and that means a lot to me. I send cards to lots of people to remember their birthdays and in our close circle of family and friends, I make as big a fuss as I can for each person's birthday.

So when Johnnie asked, the first thing that popped into my mind was to go miniature golfing and ride go-karts. There's a place in our area that has both activities on site along with a video game arcade. We (Johnnie and me) went there on Sunday with Erin, Mike, Emily and Lucy and we had a blast. It was at least 90 degrees in the shade and we were thankful the place had some shade while we played miniature golf. The little girls did reasonably well at miniature golf. After our game, we took refuge inside for a while to rehydrate and cool off.

For go-karting, Lucy rode with Mike and Emily rode with me. Erin and Johnnie had single karts. I've never ridden in or driven a go-kart before in my life. Emily laughed the entire ride as did Lucy. It was a blast. Hotter'n Billy Blazes but just a blast. As a first-timer (Erin was too) I thought the karts went plenty fast. Johnnie and Mike both were disappointed they didn't go faster. Figures!
Then we went inside again and got 200 tokens that we divided up among the six of us to play the games. It wasn't my most favorite part of the day (go karting was everybody's hands down favorite) it was still fun and it was great to get inside and cool off for a while. Everybody left there grinning from ear to ear.Afterwards we came back to our house where the little girls watched Cars and the grown ups napped. We had a picnic supper on the deck, then went out for ice cream. Yum. No diets this weekend! 

On Monday, Johnnie and I took SUNNNNY for a ride and then out to dinner. Another 90+ degree day. It was so hot ("how hot was it?") that we stopped along the way on our ride and put SUNNNNY's convertible top up so we could run the air conditioning more efficiently and cool off. Blessed cool air.

Anyway, it was a perfect birthday and, while I don't remember the details of each of my foregoing 59 birthdays, this one ranked right up there as being just a perfect time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Summertime Pleasures, take #2

Commenting on my earlier Summertime Pleasures post, Courtney reminded me about how wonderful the smell of newly cut grass is. Definitely one of the best scents in the world. I remember being out in California in January or February one year and smelling newly mown grass near an office building and it transported me right back into summertime in the dead of the cold season (here at least, not in California obviously). Newly mowed grass always smells good but right then it smelled better than anything I can describe.

Another pleasure is listening to the night sounds of the crickets, cicadas and tree frogs with the windows open. Just heavenly.

When I'm working at my computer, usually at least one or possibly both windows are open and the ceiling fan is silently sweeping the air around behind me. I love it when a gentle cool-warm breeze, whether from the fan or coming in from the windows, slips along the back of my neck and reminds me that it's summertime, even if I'm in here working. Or surfing or whatever I'm doing at my desk. Awesome feeling.

I haven't seen them much this year but mostly because I haven't looked but watching fireflies at night. They always seem kind of unearthly and mystical to me. It's great to look over the deck railing into the ravine and focus on the darkness of the ravine and then hone in on the fireflies going on about their business completely heedless of our lives taking place right on the edge of their forested world.

Summertime is pure bliss. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Relative found, take #2

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have relatives in lots of places and rarely hear from most of them. Last weekend I received an email from my cousin Mark who (last I knew) lived in Wisconsin. I haven't seen or heard from Mark in roughly 10 years although we send he and his wife a Christmas card and "catch up with what we've done in the last 12 months without boasting and flaunting our accomplishments or airing dirty laundry" Christmas letter each year.

He had found our 2007 Christmas letter and decided to write. Cool! Since we saw him last, he has divorced, remarried and moved to Arizona. (No, I don't know his position on immigration laws and policy.) It was great to have him get in touch and fill me in on a little bit of family news from the Wisconsin connection (his mother is still kickin at 94 and his sister is also getting divorced).

Anyway, I was really tickled to hear from him and have an unsolicited offer to keep in better touch. Yeay! I fired off an email back to him and can't wait to hear more about what's up with him. Another family connection at least somewhat reestablished.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Relatives found

We've lived in this area for 19 years. While Erin and I were transplants from Minnesota before that, my family on both sides is actually from Western New York State, from Buffalo, Rochester, Avon and all the way over to Schnectady. There are relatives scattered here and there from Cheektowaga to Oriskany. You have to love those Indian names, huh?

Anyway, in the 19 years we've lived here, we've visited a grand total of four relatives out of probably 15 or 20. Not a great total. In my/our defense, I never grew up around most of these people and I'm sure none of them could pick me out of a lineup. And vice versa. So getting together with the living ones hasn't really been a priority at any time.

Our friend Bridget and I took a guided hike in an area of our metropolis a couple months ago and the guide mentioned in passing that a large cemetery nearby (where my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side are buried - that I remembered) had an interactive kiosk on which you could find the graves of the people buried there. Ever since, I've wanted to go there and check it out, finding my maternal grandparents.

So Johnnie and I went there yesterday on a little adventure. Obviously I know their names but my grandfather -- Edward Connor -- has a relatively common name, especially in a state where thousands of first and second generation Irish immigrants settled in the mid-1800s. Luckily, my grandmother's name, while still common, had a unique spelling, Kathryn Connor, so it helped narrow down the search.

The kiosk listed several Edward Connors but the death dates didn't work except for a couple of them. We found my grandmother quickly and printed maps that gave us great directions to both of their supposed gravesites and we were on our way. The first Edward Connor had passed at about the right time (according to my more-than-hazy recollection, almost 45 years later) but my grandmother wasn't buried next to him and I was pretty certain she would be.

We then went in search of Kathryn and found both of them snuggled up to the base of a huge tree that couldn't have been there when they were buried. So we had the wrong Edward Connor to begin with but found them both within the space of half an hour. The neat thing is that, while I doubt that any relatives have visited their graves in at least a decade, the flat in-the-ground markers were cleaned off and easily visible so it was not difficult to read the inscription on their graves or any of their cemetery neighbors.

It was big deal for me who has so few relatives of whom I am aware. It also got me to thinking that I haven't any idea where my paternal grandmother (who lived with us in the Detroit area when she died in the late 1960s) and grandfather (who died in about 1952 or so) are buried. Could be in Buffalo. Could be (grandmother only) in Michigan. But it's a cinch that no one has visited their graves in several decades -- wherever they are. And there's no one left to ask who might have a clue.

So that led to a conversation between Johnnie and me about where (and how) we want to be buried. John's parents are in suburban Ohio but he and I have little reason to be buried there. My mother is interred in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and my dad is buried in Dearborn, Michigan. No relatives living anywhere near those places and fairly far-flung from any destination we ever visit. We haven't been to my mother's grave since she died in 2001. We get to my father's grave about one every decade when we are in Michigan to visit Erin's dad and stepmother.

So figuring out where to plop our remains is a bit of a conundrum. I drive past a cemetery nearby to our house where I see people all the time visiting and tending graves to put up markers or flowers. Our little family is so spread out that I/we have no illusions of frequent visits to pay respects or take care of putting flowers or holiday wreaths on our graves. I've always joked that we're kind of a bunch of nomads and that's true. But it would be nice to think that at least someone in our family was in the vicinity and might stop by once in a while. At least until our granddaughters are grown and they (and/or their offspring) lose the memory and continuity with our lives.

One of those things that causes me to go hmmmmm.We're all going to face it some day. How 'bout you -- any thoughts or great solutions to this issue?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Since I have been carrying my cute Vera Bradley purse, I have been inducted into a select society of Women Who Carry Purses Worth Complimenting. In all my purse-carrying years, I have never been complimented on a purse before. That gives you some idea of the boring kinds of purses I usually carry. But I have had women in check out lines, at restaurants, in bathrooms and in church come up and tell me how cute my purse is. It has been a surprise each time. But I like it. Each time I feel compelled, for some reason, to explain that it's my first cutesy purse and I'm not really a cutesy purse kind of person. The ladies all nod politely but I know they don't really care and, truthfully, shouldn't care anyway. All this new-found purse attention will cease when I return to a boring (but new) leather purse in the fall.

I love my little purse but it occurred to me early on that I had to be really careful of where I plopped it (something I've never been concerned about before - what can you do to a brown/black leather purse by putting it on the floor?) so it didn't get dirty. Also, in grabbing it, I've been deliberate in grabbing the handles rather than grasping it by the fabric top so I didn't get any spots on it from whatever might have been on my hands. So far it still looks great and hasn't accumulated any coffee stains or anything - quite a miracle for me!

We went to the closest outlet mall today and on the way back I was lamenting to johnnie that I couldn't find the aroma thingies (a diffuser I guess). And, in talking through it, I thought of a couple more places to look for the box. Guess what? I found it! On top of the buffet cabinet in the dining room, underneath a couple baskets that I stash up there and use for bread or rolls when we have company. Yeay! Now if I could only find those pills...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I wish...

there was a search function for houses and things like there is for the Web. For example, I've misplaced two things in the past few months and I can't find them anywhere. Despite the enormous amount of stuff that we have tucked away in closets, the basement and in the loft above the garage, I pretty much know where to find things when we go looking for them. And I know they'll all turn up eventually, it's always just a question of when.

Over the past week, I've been looking high and low for two things: (a) a little plastic bag that contains four or five prescription pills that help the inflammation in my plantar fasciitis (seriously, it has two iis together, I Googled it) and arthritic thumbs and (b) a box containing a year's worth of those aromatic stick things and little bottles of liquid to put the sticks in. The box is probably about 12 inches by 15 inches by 2 inches deep. I can't find either one.

If there was a house/thing search function, I could sit down, enter: plastic packet with Etodolac pills, press Enter and voila! A picture of their location would appear or a siren would sound or maybe one of the dogs would go and point at its location. Or, I could enter: aromatic stick things (since I can't seem to remember or come up with the proper name) and maybe the closet door or drawer they're secreted behind would glow or pop open or something. Or one of the dogs could go over and sniff and scratch at it while looking at me significantly and wagging.

So far, that's not happening.

Several years ago we were looking for a pair of cross country ski boots that had been lost and gone for quite a while. We eventually found them, packed in with an old ice cream maker. Apparently when we moved from one house to another in Minnesota (we're talking 1987 now), we took two strange basement-dwelling things (ice cream maker and ski boots) and packed them together, completely guaranteeing that we'd never find the one we wanted in the proper season. Who looks for ski boots when it's ice cream making season? And conversely, who looks for the ice cream maker when you're searching for your cross country ski boots in the middle of January? So we tossed them both out.

I know we'll find the pills and the aromatic thingie sooner or later. In the meantime, I've called the podiatrist for another prescription for the pills and I can live without the aromatic thingie but it would be fun to open it up and use some of the scents.

If you hear of a house/thing search function, I'd appreciate knowing about it. Or better still, maybe I can invent it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summertime Pleasures #1

A. This summer I've made a big effort to hang laundry outside to dry rather than using the dryer. Yeah, it's more work but the sensory effects of freshly laundered, and in some cases bleached, clothes then hung outside to drive are swoon-inducing. I love to bury my nose in bleached, line-dried t-shirts or towels and just inhale the freshness. The scratchiness of bath and hand towels and the feel of line-dried sheets when we put them on the bed is heavenly as well. Yum! So the economic benefits of not running the dryer are only second in my mind to the tactile and aromatic advantages that can only be obtained with laundry that's hung out to dry. If they could only bottle that scent accurately, I'd buy a ton of it to get through the winter months. As a side benefit, if I do use the dryer, I keep the lint and put it into the composter along with vegetable and fruit scraps and lawn/leaves. Don't I sound all Mother Earth and everything? Really not doing it for that reason - just enjoy the ultimate benefits.

B. While we escape into air conditioning in the house (we are indeed whimps) whenever the humidity gets too oppressive, leaving the windows open at night, particularly when it's raining is heavenly.   The sounds are fantastic and it's wonderful to wake up to birds singing. A couple weeks ago, we went to bed around midnight and as we were climbing into bed, we heard the most unearthly noise from the ravine that borders our lot on one side and across the back. It continued for quite a while and Johnnie was looking out the window toward the ravine to try to place the sounds. It wasn't a bird, a cat in heat or a dog.

We ultimately decided that it was foxes. We could pinpoint where the sounds were coming from and it sounded as though there were at least three of them in different parts of the ravine and across the street. At one point, Johnnie saw one of them, sort of silverish-gray, streaking along the street itself under the streetlights. Whether they were hunting or trying to get the pack organized in one area, we haven't any idea. The next day, Johnnie found fox sounds on the Web and we confirmed that it must have been foxes calling to each other. Awesome. We regularly see deer, raccoons and wild turkeys but sighting any of the resident foxes is still rather unusual. Since we live in a well populated suburb, we count ourselves lucky to have such a front row seat to wildlife in their (more or less) natural habitat.

C. Walking in comfort for exercise. Bridget and I went walking this morning and saw three pileated woodpeckers -- the Woody Woodpecker kind. We were hoping that it was two males courting a female but they flew off before indulging us with a demonstration of their mating and courting behavior. No snow to worry about, no extra layers to encumber us. Sure we sweat but it's a great feeling to get out and walk in minimum layers and be comfortable.

There could be more so I'll just leave the list open ended. What are your summertime pleasures?

Sunday, August 1, 2010


To say the least, my last post was a bit bleak and despairing. Since then, we've effectively stopped drinking. We had a glass of wine at our anniversary dinner and another at a party last Friday night but other than that, our drinks of choice are water, lemonade, coffee and iced tea. Most of the time I don't have any longing for wine. And the memories of how I felt almost a month ago are still vividly with me. I've stopped beating myself up constantly but my determination to make this work -- the wine drinking and weight loss -- is as strong as ever.

In that time, I've lost 10 pounds and Johnnie has taken off about 15. The first 10 and 15 of about 40 for both of us. Awesome. We've been reading more, going for some bike rides, going to bed late then sleeping in and generally just relaxing. It feels great.

I'm at peace and that feels wonderful.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I can't do this any more

Warning: brutal honesty, self assessment and 
unblinking personal confession ahead. 
Read at your own risk.

I think I became a non-drinker today. Or, at the most, I became an eventual minimal drinker. Here's why.

My dad was an alcoholic who died at 62 due to physical complications from cirrhosis. I've known since I was a teen (in the midst of his alcoholism) that I have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism; therefore, I've always been wary and concerned about it. When I was married to my first husband, I didn't drink hardly at all. He didn't drink at all and I only drank when we were together with one couple. But even then, I'd drink beyond what I should.That's a pattern that I can trace throughout my 20s, 30s, 40s and right up to today.

In the past 15 years, John's and my drinking has ramped up. We discovered wine about 10 years ago and mostly abandoned drinking anything else in favor of wine. We used to drink on weekends, then every night. We seem powerless to stop the escalation. Moderation is not a common word to me, at least not in practice.

Thinking back, I've had many occasions where my overdrinking has been an issue. At our daughter Holly's wedding, I caused a scene. When Erin and Mike were making plans for their wedding, they originally didn't want to have alcohol served and it was due to my scene at Holly's wedding. I promised not to drink at their reception so we could allow our guests to have beer and wine. We had another incident at a Fourth of July party several years ago where Johnnie and I both drank so much that we ended up sleeping fully dressed on the floor of our bedroom next to Daisy, our dog. We still don't remember how we ended up there.

First we'd go through a 750 ml bottle, then it progressed to a bottle and a half, then two. More recently we've been drinking boxed wines (there are some decent ones out there if you get past the Almaden and Franzia junk) and downing about one every couple days.

We did an in-depth budget analysis a couple months ago and, in digging into our monthly expenses, I discovered how much we were spending on wine. It was a bunch. 

I've been getting increasingly concerned about my wine consumption for the past few months primarily because of my weight. Over that same 15 year period, I've put on about 40 pounds. Not earth shattering but still depressing and discouraging for me and to me.  I can keep my weight steady (albeit in a range I dislike) these days but taking weight off is virtually impossible.

I've been castigating myself daily for the last several months about my weight and my inability to stick with a healthy eating plan. And for continuing to overconsume wine every night.  To the point of self hate and considering asking my doctor to increase my anti-depressant because I was feeling as thought it wasn't working any more.

Two weeks ago, I read an article on SparkPeople.com that articulated clearly for me the connection between alcohol and weight loss -- or I should say, the lack of weight loss. I'll add the article to the bottom of this post if you're interested in reading it. I woke up two weeks ago Sunday and decided that I wasn't going to drink anything alcoholic until I took off the weight.

I have had not much difficulty staying away from wine for the past two weeks. Of course, both John and I have been sick with strep and para-influenza (the adult version of croup) -- thanks to our granddaughter Lucy -- for the bulk of that time so I've felt like crap. A couple times wine sounded good but we didn't have any open and I settled for cookies instead. Still not a great choice but better for me in the long run.

This past week I went to see a nutritionist/weight loss counselor I've worked with successfully in the past. Part of my weight loss desperation theory is that I need the accountability and one-on-one counseling to focus on my weight loss. It's not cheap but it appears to be what I need to do. While I haven't taken off a lot of weight yet, I have had success in dropping about six pounds in the last two weeks. My resolve to eat properly is not sabotaged when I don't drink in the evenings.

So last night, we went to see The Moody Blues with Mike and Jane, longtime friends we see three or four times a year. They are both heavy drinkers but always appear to handle it reasonably well. John's and my first date was at a Moody Blues concert at this same outdoor venue 19 years ago so being there is always a sentimental occasion for us.  John surprised me when we were getting ready to go to the concert by suggesting we take a small thermos of white wine with us to drink in the parking lot as we were tailgating before the concert. So we took the wine and drank two glasses in quick succession before going into the show.

And it happened again. Once we were inside, I suggested getting more wine to drink during the concert and we did. Then Jane (of the couple we were with) couldn't finish her bottle of wine (the vendor puts the contents of the bottle into a large plastic cup) so Johnnie and I had yet another glass to help her finish. We're real shooters like that.

After the concert I drove home and thank God, I was cognizant enough and together enough to (a) not have an accident and (b) drive reasonably and moderately. However, if we had been stopped by the police or encountered a sobriety checkpoint, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have failed the test in spades. We both fully support the "don't drink and drink" philosophy and have almost completely stopped drinking when we're out so we don't put ourselves or anyone else in jeopardy. I sincerely thank God that we weren't stopped last night.

After we got home, rather than going to bed like sane people, we opened the thermos of wine from the concert and finished it. Dopes. I don't remember going upstairs and getting ready for bed. And that's not the first time I've had blank outs (I can't call them black outs because I didn't pass out - I just do not remember anything at all but I remained conscious). 

Today I feel awful. I woke up with a killer headache. So did Johnnie. Truthfully, I think I was still buzzed for at least half of the day. Around 5:30 this evening, I went upstairs and vomited. Little to get rid of but at least my stomach feels better. We were supposed to have our great friends Ken and Bridget over tonight for dinner but I called them half an hour before their arrival and asked to reschedule. To my credit, I told Bridget honestly why. She knows Mike and Jane so she could understand why I I was tempted to overimbibe, although they really don't deserve to be the scapegoats for my own lack of control. Kindly, she suggested that maybe I had a bug. No bug. Too much alcohol but thanks for your kind excuse, Bridgie.

I don't believe I need to go to rehab or join an AA meeting. I've done Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) to understand the process and deal with the aftermath of my dad's drinking. I understand the steps. So I'm counting this public confession as addressing steps 1-8 and 10-12. I am omitting step 9 because I don't believe I have harmed anyone besides Johnnie (to whom I haven't already apologized) and we had a very open and honest discussion about all this an hour ago.

So. Here I am, filled with remorse, self-loathing and embarrassment. Again. Until and if I can get myself under control, I am not drinking. I can't do this any more.

I feel better already.

Here's the article from SparkPeople.com.

Alcohol and Weight Loss
Can You Have Both?
-- By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer
Alcohol and weight loss are enemies, but an occasional drink can have a place in a healthy lifestyle. In fact, many experts note the health benefits of consuming a single drink per day, including a reduced risk for high blood pressure. If, however, you are exceeding one drink daily, you might be sabotaging your weight loss plans.

Alcohol is metabolized differently than other foods and beverages. Under normal conditions,
your body gets its energy from the calories in carbohydrates, fats and proteins that need to be slowly digested in the stomach—but not when alcohol is present. When alcohol is consumed, it gets special privileges and needs no digestion. The alcohol molecules diffuse through the stomach wall as soon as they arrive and can reach the brain and liver in minutes. This reaction is slightly slowed when there is also food in your system, but as soon as the mixed contents enter the small intestine, the alcohol grabs first place and is absorbed quickly. The alcohol then arrives at the liver for processing. The liver places all of its attention on the alcohol. Therefore, the carbohydrates (glucose) and dietary fats are just changed into body fat, waiting to be carried away for permanent fat storage in the body.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes water loss and dehydration. Along with this water loss you lose important minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. These minerals are vital to the maintenance of fluid balance, chemical reactions, and muscle contraction and relaxation.

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and offers NO nutritional value. It only adds empty
calories to your diet. Why not spend your calorie budget on something healthier?

Alcohol affects your body in other negative ways. Drinking might help induce sleep, but the
sleep you get isn't very deep. Ultimately, as a result, you get less rest. Alcohol can also increase the amount of acid that your stomach produces, causing your stomach lining to become inflamed. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to serious health problems, including stomach ulcers, liver disease, and heart troubles.

Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which is detrimental to your diet plans. Alcohol actually
stimulates your appetite. While you might be full from a comparable amount of calories from food, several drinks might not fill you up. On top of that, research shows that if you drink before or during a meal, both your inhibitions and willpower are reduced. In this state, you are more likely to overeat—especially greasy or fried foods—which can add to your waistline. To avoid this, wait to order that drink until you're done with your meal.

Many foods that accompany drinking (peanuts, pretzels, chips) are salty, which can make you
thirsty, encouraging you to drink even more. To avoid overdrinking, sip on a glass of water in
between each alcoholic beverage.

Skipping a meal to save your calories for drinks later is a bad idea. Many drinkers know they'll be having some alcohol later, whether going to a bar, party, or just kicking back at home. Knowing that drinking entails extra calories, it may be tempting to "bank" some calories by skipping a meal or two. This is a bad move. If you come to the bar hungry, you are even more likely to munch on the snacks, and drinking on an empty stomach enhances the negative effects of alcohol. If you're planning on drinking later, eat a healthy meal first. You'll feel fuller, which will stop you from overdrinking. If you are worried about a looming night out with friends, include an extra 30 minutes of exercise to balance your calories—instead of skipping a meal.

What are more important, calories or carbs? You might think that drinking liquor is more diet friendly because it has no carbohydrates, while both wine and beer do contain carbs. But dieters need to watch calories, and liquor only has a few calories less than beer or wine. Plus, it is often mixed with other drinks, adding even more empty calories. Hard liquor contains around 100 calories per shot, so adding a mixer increases calories even more. If you are going to mix liquor with anything, opt for a diet or club soda, instead of fruit juice or regular soda. Sweeter drinks, whether liquor or wine, tend to have more sugar, and therefore more calories. In that respect, dry wines usually have fewer calories than sweet wines.

The list below breaks down the number of calories in typical alcoholic drinks. Compare some
of your favorites to make a good choice next time you decide to indulge in a serving of alcohol.

Drink Serving Size Calories

Red wine 5 oz. 100
White wine 5 oz. 100
Champagne 5 oz. 130
Light beer 12 oz. 105
Regular beer 12 oz. 140
Dark beer 12 oz. 170
Cosmopolitan 3 oz. 165
Martini 3 oz. 205
Long Island iced tea 8 oz. 400
Gin & Tonic 8 oz. 175
Rum & Soda 8 oz. 180
Margarita 8 oz. 200
Whiskey Sour 4 oz. 200