Sunday, December 30

Fa la la la, what?

  • What is the point of putting waterless hand santizing gel in a bathroom with hot and cold running water and all the hand soap you could ask for?

  • Actual quote from actual e-mail to my boss recieved from another assistant re her boss: "X gave me his list of gifts for the clients; please let me know if you would like for me to take care of ordering them for him." WTF? What does she think she's supposed to do with it?

  • I don't eat shellfish so maybe I'm just missing something here. But I saw a sign on a salad bar recently that said "fake crabmeat." If it's not crab, then what is it? And if it's something else why don't they just say so? Although I'll give them points for flat out honesty.

  • I got this great gift from my bosses this year; an iHome clock radio with tons of bells and whistles. I'm still getting it all figured out, and had a few adventures, but I love it. One thing, though. It's got the possibility for 12 radio station presets if you include a.m. Twelve radio stations? Does anyone really have twelve radio stations that they like enough to have preset on their bedside clock radio? I don't think I can name twelve different music genres, even throwing in talk radio, to use them all. Now I can see it for car radios because you can easily drive in and out of station range so lots of presets is handy. But my clock radio, being attached as it is to the power cord, pretty much stays next to the bed. And my house, unlike Dorothy's, also stays where it's put. So ... twelve?

  • I was a good girl this year and Santa paid attention. Two favorite gifts received: (1) down-filled pillow top mattress cover. I could roll myself up in this and sleep on the floor if necessary, it's just that comfortable. (2) "Thrones, Dominations" by Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh, complete and unabridged in CD audiobook. I love love love Lord Peter Wimsey and my excitement at discovering that Ms. Walsh had not only brought him back via story notes left by Ms. Sayers, but she had done such an excellent job of it that, really, I can't tell where Sayers ends and Walsh picks up. I own the hardcopy and it's been reread several times. The audiobook has been much harder to get ahold of. Pretty much a special order from My sister must have been feeling guilty for something when I mentioned how much I wanted it. Did I mention that it's read by the incomparable Ian Carmichael? It doesn't get much better. I am, as I type this, ripping the CDs so that I can listen to the story at my leisure on my iPod.
  • Sunday, December 23

    Oh look! Company!

    Hope you didn't have any trouble finding the place.

    Are ya'll hungry? Thirsty? You have to try this great recipe I found for hot buttered rum. This will warm you right up.
    Oh yes, this one's for you. Gosh I hope you don't already have one.

    And there's some more over this this other pile ... if you wouldn't mind passing them around? Thanks.

    Tuesday, December 18

    Itchy Fingers

    I've been keeping my crochet hook busy. My latest finished project has taken me several months, and is my most ambitious project by far. I've never made a garment before, other than the odd baby sweater. And they don't count because babies don't really care if a sleeve isn't perfect or a seam is a bit off. But I had run out of people to make afghans for and my fingers were itching to start something new so I poked around on-line at various websites devoted to yarns and patterns. Most of the best patterns are for knitters, and someday I'll have to brush up on my needlework and try a few. It's been a lot of years and I never did feel as comfortable with knitting needles as I do a crochet hook. That was then and this is now, as the saying goes, and maybe I'll feel differently now.

    I did find this one pattern for a bolero which looked simple enough. Ha. The stitches themselves were simple, just a lot of double crochets. My problem was two-fold: first, with a garment you must pay attention to gauge (stitches/rows per inch) and you must get it right otherwise the pieces won't match up when it comes time to stitch them together. Second, I used a different kind of yarn for the very first time and until I adjusted it was very tricky to work with.

    I know, this isn't what you think of when you hear the word "yarn." It's really more of a ribbon, and more specifically what they call a "ladder" or "trellis" ribbon. It's a bit like stitching together cobwebs, but is also amazingly strong and has a beautiful drape. I really shouldn't have done my first major project with this, but how could I pass up those colors? And I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Well worth all the tearing out and restitching.

    My next project should be much simpler, but I'm still pretty excited about it. I have new furniture in solid colors and it needs some jazzing up with pillows. So I found this pattern:

    I liked the way the stripes reverse, and I liked that the pattern calls for different textures of yarn. To me texture is even more important than color in the things I crochet because they are meant to be felt, whether it's an afghan or anything else. It's all about how it feels. In this case it's all done in Homespun (a nubby yarn) and chenille. I'm planning to use a combo of the chenille in a few different jewel tones and some faux suede yarn with just a little Homespun for accent. It should result in a nice, soft pillow. We'll see.

    Friday, December 14


    word·smith –noun
    1. an expert in the use of words.
    2. a person, as a journalist or novelist, whose vocation is writing.
    [Origin: 1895–1900]

    Actually I think the above definition might be too simple. In my opinion a wordsmith is a craftsman in the same way that a potter or cabinetmaker is. Much of the craft might be learned, but they have an innate talent that puts them several levels above the mere dabbler. Anyone can use words; but putting them together in such a way that the product inspires, amuses or intriques others is an artform.

    I was thinking about this last night as I lay in bed unable to sleep. Usually if I can't sleep it is because I can't turn my mind off and a sometimes effective aid is to plug in my iPod and listen to an audiobook. If I can become lost in a story my mind will be sufficiently distracted to let go. It has to be something engaging, though, a story that pulls me into the author's make believe world. In this case it was Terry Pratchett's Going Postal that I turned to. I'm telling you, the man is an artist with words. I've read the hardcopy twice and am on my third listen and it never gets stale. He weaves elements together, puns and wordplays, cultural phenomena and current events, in such a way as to keep the reader in a constant state of anticipation. You just know there's something wonderful waiting around the turn of the page.

    Take this line from Going Postal. In the story our reluctant hero needs help and turns to Miss Dearheart, his romantic interest and the only person who sees him for what he really is. She's a no-nonsense dame and exactly what Moist (yeah, that's the hero's name) needs. Her advice?

    Get yourself a little bit closer to heaven. And then get down on your knees and pray. You know how to pray, don't you? You just put your hands together -- and hope.

    Maybe it's just because I'm an old movie buff - that is, a fan of old movies, not an old fan of movies - but that line just tickles me every time I read it, or hear the narrator read it. Even without backstory and character description, you get an instant picture of Miss Dearheart. You know she's standing there arching an eyebrow and looking the hero straight in the eye as she delivers that line. You know it because the line is iconic. Lauren Bacall said it to Bogey in the 1944 movie To Have and Have Not. Actually what she said was, "You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and...blow." So Pratchett didn't invent the line, but he used it deftly, tailoring it to his character while preserving the flavor. It's just that bit different and yet that much more amusing for its famliarity.

    I have favorite Pratchett books, and this is one of them. But every one that I have read has included a few gems in the way of word pictures and great dialogue. The man's a genius.

    Wednesday, December 5

    The Commute That Wasn't

    We've got elephants. White elephants to be exact. Frankly, these elephants are pretty small potatoes, if you don't mind me mixing my metaphors. The roads are wet and there's some accumulation on grass and so forth, but otherwise the weather is not all that noteworthy. Except that this is our first snowfall of the season and the mildness of it lured a lot of people into a false sense of security driving safety wise. When I left my community this morning I could see that the road to get on the main route I take to the subway station was ridiculously backed up so I went with my alternate route. It is normally much longer as it includes going through a main commercial area, lots of stop lights, etc. But it is an option.

    Well this morning my second choice wasn't moving any better. I was slugging along, slow but at least moving, when suddenly my radio died and my windshield wiper went into slow motion. A quick look at the dash indicated a battery problem. Everything came right back on again, but dare I trust it? I don't think so. I start to moan and then I realize that the traffic snafu might have been a blessing in disguise because this route will take me right past the dealership. So I make my way there eventually and I'm actually in and out, complete with loaner car, in about 10 minutes. Just to get back into traffic again. I eventually make my way to some side streets which will eventually wind around to the vicinity of the subway station, so at least I'm moving but it goes a little out of the way first so quite a bit more time passes before I get to the station. And find NO PARKING PLACES!

    This is bad. We have 2 parking garages and 3 lots. Normally plenty of parking even if latecomers might have to hike a ways. I check two of the lots, driving past a garage marked "full" and can find no place to park! So I pulled into an illegal space to think about this. Okay, I could work my way around to the other remaining parking lot, but that's on the other side of the station and would add easily 20 minutes (there's no direct way to get there). And no guarantee of a space there either. I could go back to the dealership and get a ride back to the subway, but that's 20 minutes to get there if I'm lucky, a wait for someone to drive me and then we go through the whole traffic thing again, so I don't see that option taking less than 45 minutes. And then I still have a 40 minute subway ride.

    At this point it's after 10:30 and just trying to get to work is going to cost me a half day leave. I didn't have to ponder problem too long. If I'm going to lose 1/2 day's leave, I might as well take a full day and relax at home. So that's where I am. At home, waiting for the dealership to call and say my car is ready. Oh yeah, there is a battery problem and the guy confirmed that there was a good chance my car wouldn't have started tonight, or tomorrow morning, or sometime soon, potentially stranding me somewhere without transp. So God really does work in mysterious ways.

    Now you'll have to excuse me, because my cat is waiting for a cuddle.

    Sunday, December 2

    In Them Thar Hills

    Every so often the subject of my parents' home town in Pennsylvania comes up. People ask me what it's near, because naturally they are trying to get their bearings and place it. It is at this point that it gets complicated because, you see, it isn't near anything. It's not even on the way to someplace. It's up IN the mountains ... not along side, or at the base of, or with a mountain in the distance. God spread some of the Alleghenies apart and plopped the town down right there. Well it's old enough that it could have been done that way. It is a wide spot between mountains, with only 2-lane mountain roads to access it.

    Exhibit 1 ... a 2-lane mountain road. The mountain has actually been carved away some in this spot, otherwise it would likely be a 1-line mountain road. And that would be fine until some fool came around the curve in said mountain road going the wrong way.

    And to your right ... we'll call this Exhibit 2, alongside a 2-lane mountain road. Please forgive me the power lines. Would that I had the PhotoShop skills to get rid of them. It's a picture, isn't it? This is a small slice of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River which eons and millenia ago forged its way between the mountains and likely helped create the wide spot that became the town.

    These two, above, were taken from my aunt's house. Now, this is not the town proper. This is what in more urban areas would be referred to as the 'burbs. See the stone bridge in the left hand picture? It crosses one of many cricks (we don't call them creeks in these parts, that's flatlander talk) that trickle down from the mountains. Up in the hills these little communities are referred to as "runs." This one is known as Brewery Run, and my mother assures me that way back in history there was in fact a brewery somewhere up the road. Back in those same eons and millenia that created the river these various cricks were likely much deeper and wider. Deep and wide enough to carve out enough flat land for a few houses and a road.

    My father grew up in a neighboring community, in fact just up the main road, one creek over from this one, called Drury's Run. I have no idea who Drury was. Dad's community was slightly larger (read wider) and boasted a small general store when I was a kid. It was complete with a front porch and glass fronted counter for storing penny candy. Considering how many kids pressed their hands and noses up against that glass, it amazes me that they were able to keep it clean. It's gone now. Some years back, when I was still a kid, Hurricane Agnes hit these mountains pretty hard, flooding the river and the creekbeds. Some of the houses were high enough or far enough back from the flow to survive. The store - and the owners lived above it - was I think too close to the mountain and, already really old and run down, suffered too much damage to remain livable. But I've still got the memory of creaky old floor boards and lighting just not quite bright enough. And penny candy.

    I took all these pictures on a recent weekend trip when mom and I went up to "visit" family. And it feels, oddly, much like a visit. My uncle, my mom's older brother (that's both of them to your left) kept referring to the lanes between as roads and alleys. As in, "Now so and so is just up this road. Go past here and make a left at this alley."

    Now the whole idea of visiting cemeteries can sound a bit morbid, I admit. But you have to admit that if you have to have a final resting place, you can't beat these views.

    Wednesday, November 28

    Comfort Reads

    I've felt a bit out of it just lately. It started about a month ago when I had this really nasty cold. I got over it, mostly, pretty quickly; but what followed was a bad cough and some sinus issues which left me feeling tired. Coughing is exhausting, plus it's hard to get a good night's sleep. And the sinus thing had me feeling dizzy which wasn't pleasant. I got my butt over to the doctor and got some prescription grade decongestant which helped a lot. No infection or anything so that was good news. I'm on the mend finally, but for a while I had trouble concentrating. This meant I was falling behind on my reading "GASP!"

    When this happens, if you are a reader, the only thing to do is to turn to your comfort reads. Whether they are old favorites or new books by dependable authors, they are books that you turn to time and again because they give you exactly what you need. You know the plot will hold your attention. The fact that you have probably read it before just means that you know what to look forward to: that scene that had you laughing out loud, the character that lived in your head long after you closed the cover on the book, that moment when the hero triumphs and you just want to shout "Yes!" because you've lived through it with him/her and now you feel vicariously triumphant.

    Not everyone understands the allure of a re-read. To some, once they've read that story it's done. They already know what's going to happen and so they have no interest in returning to the story. That's a good point and I can understand where they are coming from. But for me, a re-read is a comfort read. There are times when I don't want to try something new; I don't want to use my brain that much. I want something that I know will satisfy me, a bowl of favorite soup on a bad weather day. I want characters that I'll enjoy spending time with because they feel like old friends. My collection of comfort reads includes several authors and various genres, because what I want will depend on my mood. Like that bowl of soup, I might want something cozy and comfortable. Or maybe I'll be in the mood for spicy.

    Of course there is a danger inherent in this practice. It's very easy to become complacent in your reading, to stick with what's safe rather than risk disappointment. That would a shame because you never know when a great new book may cross your path. So I indulge for a while, feeding my face with humor and mystery and closing myself away with characters that I know will be there for me. But not for long. Because the only thing better than an old comfortable read is discovering a new comfortable read. And you can't have too many good books, or good friends.

    Sunday, November 18

    You Asked For It

    Okay, not all of you, but some of you did. Ask for photos of my new furniture, that is. And if you aren't one of them, well don't look if it bothers you.

    Here is one of the new rocker/reliner chairs. No, they didn't charge us extra for the cat. I'm just thankful that she likes laying on the towel which should keep the cat hair on the furniture to a minimum. Please ignore the junk laying around. Oh, what am I talking about? That's not junk, that's BOOKS! The ones on the table to the left are from my J.P. Hailey collection. Sadly he only wrote about 5 under that pen name; you may or may not know him as Parnell Hall who writes one of my favorite mystery series. No, not the Puzzle Lady books. He writes others and IMO they are better. The Hailey's are hard to find and out of print for a long time but if you run across one in the library or your local used book store (under mysteries) grab it. The blue bag on the floor is the stash I scored at RWA NJ last month. Mom and I are still working our way through it. The green bag which you can just barely see contains library books. Since they have due dates, we are naturally working our way through them first. Which explains why we aren't done with the NJ books yet.

    This one is the reclining loveseat. Now, I have to mention that the colors in this picture are not true. It's actually a deep wine color but not nearly as dark as it look in the photo. It was night time when I took the pictures, that's why. I relied on the flash which did okay, but the loveseat and the floors both look darker than they really are. The floors are actually a sort of medium tone in slightly varying shades and not red. Yes that's the same cat on the chair. No, I didn't crochet the afghan you see over the back of the loveseat. Mom did that one. No, you can't have it, it's mine. She made it just for me. Because she likes me best, that's why. We just got the last piece of furniture yesterday so there will be some shifting of furniture and wall decorations, i.e. the mirror, to center things better. Eventually.

    So, the new dining table. See through the door all that dark? Told you it was night time. We got this table to replace the longer retangular one, even though there was nothing wrong with the old one, really, because it's slightly smaller and oval and works much better in the very small dining room. The plants are my mom's babies. If you are nice I might include a photo of the flowering Christmas cactus in the right hand corner one of these days. It's huge and has gorgeous peach-colored flowers just now. Ignore that junk in the lower right corner. It's a recently bought stash of yarn with which I plan to crochet pillows as soon as I finish the other project I'm currently working on. More on that later.

    Tuesday, November 13

    The Conquering Heroine

    thank you, Theresa!

    You've waited and you've wondered.

    Would she? Could she? WILL she?

    The waiting is over. (cue Rocky Theme Song "Gonna Fly Now")

    Behold ...






    And the crowd goes wild!

    Sunday, November 11

    In Flanders Fields

    In Flanders Fields
    Written by John McCrae

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.
    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Some of the bloodiest battles of World War I took place in the areas of northern France and southwest Belgium known as Flanders and Picardy. The British front line was determined to keep the Germans from traversing Flanders and the Ypres river valley to reach the port of Calais. Troops from both sides were holed up in the Ypres salient, an outward projection of the battle line. Defending British troops were vulnerable on three sides; therefore this was a bloody and dangerous place for a soldier to be. The destruction from the battles in this area reached beyond the battlefield to the towns and roads of the area, and led to the demolition of buildings, roads, and all plant life, leaving only mud.

    John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. One of the most asked questions is: why poppies? The answer is simple: poppies are the only flower when everything else in the neighbourhood is dead. Poppy seeds can lie on the ground for years and years until there are no more competing flowers or shrubs in the vicinity, or until the ground becomes uprooted.

    There was enough rooted up soil on the battlefield of the Western Front; in fact the whole front consisted of churned up soil. So in May 1915, when McCrae wrote his poem, around him poppies blossomed like no one had ever seen before. In Flanders Fields is also the name of an American War Cemetery in Flanders. This burial place, near the village of Waregem, has taken its name from McCrae's (Canadian) poem. The bronze foot of the flag-staff is decorated with daisies and poppies.

    November 11, observed in the United States in honor of veterans of the armed services and in commemoration of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. In 1954 it was renamed from Armistice Day and given the added significance of honoring veterans.

    Take some time this year to honor all the soldiers who have died on the ground, in the air, and at sea and show your patriotism to those who have fought or are still fighting for our freedom today.

    Some Gave All

    Friday, November 9

    I Whistled And I Gave My All ...

    Bonus points for the person who can tell me (a) what song that line is from, and (b) who sang it. Here's a hint, it's someone you have heard of. Yes, you have, trust me.

    I like to learn new things. Anything really. Except bad news, you can keep that. But I enjoy learning something I didn't know before. I like that aha moment when I find myself thinking "well, wadaya know." Sadly a lot of people seem to think that learning is best left to those still in school. Then there are those people who can only be bothered to learn something useful. No, really. Statement overheard a few years ago on the grounds of a winery that offered a tour ... "I'm never going to need to know that." Huh? That isn't the point. I firmly believe that every new thing we learn adds something to the person we are as a whole. Like travel, education is broadening. And those of us who enjoy learning anything new, even some small, trivial, entirely useless thing, are never bored. There's an aha moment waiting around every corner.

    Which brings me to the subject of something I've really wanted to learn for a long time. Pretty much my whole life, in fact. And there don't seem to be classes available in my area. This is disturbing because I just know that were the subject offered, and were it made known that such a class was available, I think the turnout would be really amazing. So if you know of anyone who'd be willing to teach me ... huh? Oh. Uh. Hehe. Well ...

    I want to learn how to whistle through my teeth or, barring that, between my fingers.

    They didn't cover this at Viers Mill Elementary School. At least not while I was there. And I really want to be able to do this. I really really do. It's like my lifelong ambition (okay, as ambitions go this would make me pretty lazy, I admit). I've tried to teach myself but it comes out as something less than the desired ear-piercing tone. It's more of a pffffflllllttt. This is so not useful for summoning a cab. Also which, people standing nearby object to flying spit.

    Sunday, November 4

    All I Have To Do Is Dream ...

    I got home from running errands today, which included yarn shopping but that's another story. Got home and it was a lovely Sunday afternoon so of course I decided to take a nap. I woke up from my nap and immediately came to the computer to tell you about it, because I had a dream, folks, and it was a lulu.

    First of all, I'm not entirely sure that I'm awake even now because I woke up at least twice in my dream so I could conceivably still be there. Except in the other two occasions when I woke up it was to come downstairs to my grandparents' house. The house that hasn't existed for over 20 years. Yeah. However as I write this I am in my own house so possibly I'm really awake this time.

    And in this dream some friends of mine where there. I have no idea why but it's all good because I have great friends and if they want to hang out in my dreams, that's fine with me. One of my friends, oh, we'll just call her friend D, was writing her blog and commenting that when one receives a bag of books from a friend, one should take care to confirm that said books are as advertised. I have no idea what that was about. Really. I asked D, in the dream, what was wrong with the books I had given her but I never got a straight answer. And speaking of books, there was one book (we're still in the dream) which I first mistook for a Nora Roberts but which was really Gena Showalter. At least that's what it said. I have no idea if the back cover photo was really Ms. Showalter. Sadly I don't recall the title of the book. But apparently it reminded me of one of NR's.

    And then the dream shifted and we're outside somewhere, possibly up in my parents' home town which would fit the apparent theme, and we're out in a field or something and I'm trying to explain about the reason my grandparents' house isn't there anymore (which must have come as a surprise to the friends in the dream since they were just there, but they didn't mention it). It had to do with the town being located alongside a river and between two mountains and my grandparents house being on low ground and so had a tendency to flood.

    FYI, this part is true and the reason my grandparents house isn't there anymore. Waaaay back in the 1970s when Hurricane Agnes struck the east coast my grandparents' house got flooded up to the first floor ceiling. They dried everything out afterwards and it was livable, but the governmental powers that be decided that it would be cheaper to give them a new house on higher ground than to keep paying for flood damage on the old one. So the last years of my grandparents' lives were spent in a nice, new, single story home which my grandmother just loved. Mind you it didn't have near the charm and character of the old house which is probably why I didn't feature it in my dreams. My grandparents passed away many years ago, but in my dream they were still with us ... somewhere in the house. In a neat twist, one of my much younger cousins is now raising her family in it. No, I didn't dream that part, that's true.

    But back to the dream. While we're standing there out in a field somewhere "D" (you know who you are) was complaining to the other friend, whom we'll call "R" (you know who you are, too), that she looked and looked for what I wanted (huh?) but couldn't find anything called kneelers. I did not then nor do I now have any idea what she was talking about.

    So I spent a little time with good friends in pretty part of the country in a place which held a lot of happy memories for me. And my one wish for you is that as you nod off into slumberland tonight, that your dreams will be just as nice.

    Friday, November 2

    Thursday, November 1

    First Crush

    Sparks will fly, but this catch of the day could be the dish of a lifetime!

    First Date a la Maggie
    Take one lovelorn diner owner (me)
    A generous helping of nosy local gossips
    A dollop of envy at married sister's perfect life
    A splash of divine intervention (my matchmaking priest)
    Combine ingredients and add one strong-but-silent lobsterman with a hidden heart of gold.

    Over at Dee and Dee Dish they love to read just like I do, and they do book reviews as well. In this particular instance, they have a review of CATCH OF THE DAY by Kristan Higgins and give it rave reviews. Go check it out.

    According to their review, the character in this book has a big-time crush. I think most of us had a crush when we were young, didn't we? A pop star or someone's older brother, maybe? I had my share. One that comes to mind is my 7th grade science teacher. Yes I had my share of pop star crushes, but I guess this one was my first on a "real" person. To be fair, I think all of his female students had a crush on him. He was young with dark, curly hair and the nicest smile. And we were all doomed because we were sure that he was having a romance with another science teacher. Since she was really nice and lots of fun we didn't mind too awfully much. I guess that counts as a fairly harmless obsession, huh? I never found out if their relationship was real or a product of our over-active, hormone-driven imaginations. I'd like to think that we got it right and that they went on to live happily ever after.

    Monday, October 29

    On Family, Furniture and Herb

    Our old furniture was looking pretty funky. The cat has never been declawed - is any further explanation necessary? Also we use our living room to, well, live in. This means that beverages have been consumed there, and sometimes spilled. Rumps have been cozied into corners nearest the best reading lamp and said corners are now permanently rump-imprinted. Our chairs and love seat were napped in, cried in, laughed in, snuggled in, lounged in, stood on and generally abused for 11 years. And it showed.

    Mom and I had mentioned the future shopping trip to relatives and friends. Friends were very encouraging. Relatives were critical. Friend asked "What color are you looking for?" "What store are you going to?" Relatives said "You have such a small room, don't get such big furniture!" "You don't need all recliners in that little room." "And get rid of that big tv stand while you're at it, it's much too big for that room." Sigh. Family. Gotta love 'em. It's like a rule or something.

    So Mom and I went out to a well known store and found a great salesman named Herb. Yes, there are still Herbs out there in the world and they look exactly like you expect them to. I'm pretty sure they're all salesmen too. We explained to Herb what we were looking for, that we had just a small room, that my mom's back is a mess so comfort and easy access for her are priority.

    For Mom at least one piece had to be reclining. In X-rays, Mom's lower back looks like a suspension bridge and it's only through the skill of a fabulous neurosurgeon that she can walk at all. The most comfortable position for her is semi-reclining so that no one spot on her spine receives all her weight. So comfort was our main priority, as explained to Herb. And I must say, when you next go furniture shopping, or shopping for anything, ask for Herb. I am convinced that the Herb's of this world make the best salesmen. He was great, steering us away from the more formal, for-looks-only, stuff and mentioning which brands, in his opinion, had the better reclining mechanisms. Then after pointing us in the right direction, Herb left us to ourselves for a few minutes. This is the hallmark of a good salesman: knowing when to back off, to give the customer a little time. Nobody likes to feel rushed, and if you are rushed you may come to regret the purchase.

    We fell in love with this one chair, a rocker/recliner, and a reclining loveseat. Yes, all reclining and all overstuffed as well. They had smaller pieces, but once you sat on this stuff you just didn't look any further. Or at least we didn't. And we loved the colors too. Deep wine for the loveseat and pebble gray for the chairs. So that's what we got and on the way home we giggled at each other because we knew we were going to get harrassed by the relatives. It needs to be said, though, that it's not BIG furniture. Its simply that our living room is so very small. And sure enough when Mom was telling my aunt about the stuff we bought, my aunt questioned the size. My aunt even asked, get this, if my feet touched the floor. When my mother related the conversation to me I just stared at her and asked if this was the same aunt or some other long lost relative who had never met me, because my feet NEVER touch the floor unless I'm standing on it. I'm seriously short and I have no idea what my aunt was thinking.

    The big day arrived this weekend, and so did our furniture. Well one piece is back ordered but we should have it next week so that's okay. The delivery guys were very timely and organized and had everything set up and in place quite promptly. Mom and I sat on our new furniture, petting it (it's microfiber, but feels just like suede), and giggling to each other because it really is too big ...


    It's so pretty and so comfortable regardless of what position you choose. Mom says it feels wonderful to her, and it's easy for her to get in and out of too. We're happy.

    So thank you Herb and my friends are welcome to come over and check it out any time. As to those relatives .... ppffflltttt! Don't sit on it if it bothers you so much.

    Wednesday, October 24

    Simplify, Simplify

    Those are the words I am chanting under my breath these days. I'm trying to simplify my life, to relax a bit more. To take the time to do things that give me pleasure without stressing over how to fit it in. My problem is that I have a very organized soul trapped inside a very lazy body. My soul demands that things be done right and that life operate efficiently. My body thinks it should wait until later. Then later gets here and my soul stresses because it doesn't have the time to do the job properly. At which point my body points out that I might as well skip it then which causes my soul to have a hissy fit. And so the battle rages with first one side and then the other winning minor battles but neither emerging completely victorious. Clearly a little d├ętente is needed here. Time to head for Geneva and begin negotiations.

    Last month in her blog, Argh Ink, NYT Bestselling author Jennifer Crusie took her fans through 12 days of office cleaning/organizing. No, I'm not going to do that here. But in some of the comments there was mention of a website called Fly Lady which sounded interesting enough that I decided to check it out. According to Fly Lady, we become overwhelmed by day to day tasks because we set the bar too high. This results in what she refers to as CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Sound familiar? Fly Lady's answer to the problem is to break up all the things that need doing into smaller, more manageable chunks. Don't try to clean the whole house at once, just concentrate on the desk. Or even just the desk drawer. And limit it to 15 minutes at a time. You do this until you've eliminated the worst of your clutter and disorganization and then you create and stick with a daily routine of small tasks to maintain order. And apparently Fly Lady has encountered perfectionist souls before because she also suggests that it's better to do something half way than not at all.

    I think she has a point. I'm not going to sign up for the program, even though you can follow along for free, because I am not much of a joiner. But I've been browsing the site and I can see a lot of stuff that I can start incorporating into my own life. For instance, instead of putting off dusting until I have time to move objects and wield a can of Lemon Pledge with enthusiasm, I could focus on keeping the majority of the dust off the easy to reach surfaces. Instead of devoting a day I don't have to reorganizing my paperwork, I could work on just one stack at a time. And so on to include my closet in which I am sure the lost treasure of the Aztecs is hidden somewhere. And setting a time limit is a good idea too, because once you start blazing trails it's really easy to wander down side paths and end up lost. The beauty of this system, in theory, is that by nibbling away at the edges of all those chores they will eventually become smaller and more easily managed. Then the idea of breaking out the Pledge won't seem so daunting.

    I decided to put this to the test this past weekend. A friend (hi Dee!) and her DH came by Thurs. evening to take away some old furniture in order to make room for our new stuff. With all that empty floor space it seemed like a good time to tackle a little fall cleaning. So I got out the dust mop and Swifter Wet Jet. But rather than mobilizing like a crazed Russian general, I broke the job down into sections. Dining room, living room, hallway. I worked one section and then took a break for a cup of coffee. I worked another section and then spent a few minutes on the deck brushing my cat. And so it went. Okay, my remaining furniture is still pretty dusty, but my floor now looks really good. AND I still had time to go to the library that day and to work on my latest crochet project that evening. So this may be working.

    On Sunday I decided to implement my new simplicity system a little further. While at the grocery store I stocked up on those wipes you can get for counter top surfaces and those little disposable duster things. My theory is that I can keep the counters in bathroom and kitchen looking nicer if it's a simple matter of swiping over the surface with an already treated cloth. And likewise if all I have to do is flash the duster thingy over and around tabletops and shelves the dust shouldn't build up so badly.

    Of course this is all theory so far, and will require my sticking to some kind of schedule in any case. We'll see. Stay tuned.

    Tuesday, October 23

    What's In A Book?

    Below is an excerpt; well two excerpts, but from the same page, from Bradbury's Farenheit 451. The last time I read it was probably when I was a teenager. A long time ago anyway. Certainly before I could really appreciate it. This book is one of many that have been challenged in schools and communities. Challenged, but not technically banned because we don't do that in this country. But what is it about this book that makes people worry? I think this one page explains it best.


    “And the second?”
    “Oh, but we’ve plenty of off-hours.”
    “Off-hours, yes. But time to think?”


    “It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, 'What nonsense!’”
    “Only the ‘family’ is ‘people.’”
    “I beg pardon?”
    “My wife says books aren’t ‘real.’”
    “Thank God for that. You can shut them, say, ‘Hold on a moment.’ You play God to it. But who has ever torn himself from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in a TV parlor? It grows you any shape it wishes! It is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth. Books can be beaten down with reason."


    Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, pg. 84, MM Paperback

    This is the real reason that some people object to books. Books are ideas and ideas are dangerous.

    Wednesday, October 17

    Gloria Steinhem Would Spit On Me

    Last weekend, among the dozen other things I accomplished (yes, I did get the air trap cleaned out and it works much better, thank you) I bought a bunch of plants and some mulch. I bought mostly pansies because I like to put them in during the fall and know that they will probably provide me with small splashes of color through the winter. Come spring they will really take off and I'll get a great deal of pleasure from them. I also got some mums to go in the big planters because mums just go with fall and they'll look good there in their various colors. With luck I can make them last.

    Then it came time to buy the mulch. I've put this off because of one major obstacle. They'll put it in the car for me at the garden center, but they won't come home and transfer it to the back yard for me. Have you ever hefted a bag of mulch? First of all, a bag is nearly as long as I am tall. Second, they are heavy at roughly 40 pounds. But if that was all, I probably could still manage it. My problem is the way the mulch is always packaged: in nearly flat bags only a few inches thick. This makes for a very awkward weight unless you can throw the bag over your shoulder, and I can't. My shoulder is barely wide enough to hold up my bra strap. The only access to my back yard is through the house and down one story. I gave serious consideration to tossing it over the deck railing but I'm pretty sure that would have created a big mess when it hit the ground. Whump! There'd be mulch all over the yard and little left for where I really need it. What do do?

    Well there was only one thing to do. I swallowed my pride and put on my very best "I'm just a helpless person of the female persuasion" expression. I know, I know - I am woman, hear me roar and all that jazz. Listen, God might have created us all to be treated equally, but we don't all have equal upper body strength and this would be true even if I were taller, say of average height.

    I found a guy at the garden center who looked easily mani- uh - understanding, and I pointed out that the companies that package the mulch (and, FYI, top soil as well) are unfairly inclined to assume that a man will always be around to handle the bags. Which doesn't make much sense to me. In most households, men might do the mowing and raking, but the women usually attend the flowerbeds. It's a cliche, I know; but it's also true. Also, these days more and more women own their own homes and so are handling more and more of the chores usually relegated to the male in the house. It doesn't matter so much for the most part because, for the most part, a woman is just as likely to be capable of dealing with the chores as a man is. We may not have the muscle strength, but with a little ingenuity there is little that we can't accomplish.

    For instance, take my recycling bin. I have an open plastic bin less than two feet high which is more than adequate. But it doesn't take the addition of too many glass bottles and jars before the bin becomes really heavy. And again, I'm small so it's also an awkward weight, although not as bad as the mulch bags. The bin sits on my back deck and only needs brought through the house and put down on the front walk. Easy when it's light. Not so much when it's half full. This is where a little ingenuity can accomplish a lot.

    Last winter I got new flooring put in on the first floor. It's the laminate stuff and it's beautiful and lives up to every bit of the advertising. I would definitely and without hesitation recommend it to anyone. Upon getting the floors put in we had ceramic casters fitted to the bottoms of most of the furniture - the heaver stuff at least. These things are easy to find in hardware stores, Walmart, and so forth. They're great. They come in various sizes and shapes and are self adhesive. They make moving even the heaviest piece of furniture a very simple job and it just so happened that we had some spares left over. So a few weeks ago I got smart and put a few on the bottom of the recycling bin. Let me tell you, I can slide that baby through the house now like nobody's business. And since they aren't obtrusive, like wheels would be, I don't worry much about them getting broken off when I drag it down the few steps out front. It works brilliantly, if I do say so myself. Next I'm drilling holes at one end and attaching rope handles. Then it will be perfect.

    But I have digressed. Back to the mulch situation. As I explained to the guy at the garden center, I can get the mulch through the house, just not the way it is packaged. It's simply not very portable for the weight. I looked as pitiful as I possibly could during my explanation and then launched into what I thought would be a fairly easy solution, with his help. Since the problem was the way the weight was distributed, the solution was to break it up into more manageable packages. My concern was that this would violate some kind of store regulation. However, I guess I pulled off the 'poor pitiful Pearl' act pretty well because he agreed that if I went ahead and purchased a bag, he would collect some plastic grocery-style shopping bags and distribute the mulch amongst them. And it worked. He had to break it into six separate bags, but I'm able to carry up to four of them at a time so it's really just a matter of two trips, and won't involve a nasty wood chip explosion in the back yard.

    Yes I resorted to playing the helpless damsel which is a role I usually sneer at. But honestly, Gloria, we're not really created equal to men. They have all the brawn and sometimes we have to bat our eyelashes to get things accomplished. However, the distribution of assets is not entirely unfair because we got the brains. All I did was employ some of those brains to a satisfactory conclusion.

    Thursday, October 11

    On First Impression Worth a Second Look

    A few things have happened recently that have me wondering about the value of first impressions. I am not by any means saying they have no value. If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's just conceivable that it might be an ugly swan. On the otherhand, it just might be a duck. There are people who rail against the unfairness of judging on first impression. Phooey. If you don't know someone or something, then first impressions are all you have to go by. And they should not be ignored entirely even if you find yourself unable to justify the impressions. While I'd never be intentionally rude, I'd rather trust my instincts and impressions than ignore them and pay a price.

    That said, I want to tell you about something I witnessed at my home subway stop the other evening. Picture some guy, a big guy, in oversized, baggy trousers nearly falling off his hips, bandana wrapped around his head, dark sunglasses, head jerking to a rythym only he can hear. This guy just screamed 'urban cool.' He looked like a real bad ass who spent his grandmother's social security checks. Fifteen years ago he would have been carrying a boombox on his shoulder (think about that the next time you see someone hooked up to an iPod). Got the picture?

    So there we stand waiting for the elevator to come. Normally I take the escalator but it was mobbed and I'd rather wait than feel claustrophobic in the crowd. So this guy is standing there too, right next to the elevator doors. A few other people walk up. The elevator comes and the doors open. This guy grabs the edge of the open door right away ... and then stands back to let in someone pulling a suitcase on wheels. He also lets me and everyone else get on before he does. So. Clearly not the bad ass of my first impression.

    That came to mind yesterday as I was rereading Agnes and The Hitman. At the start of the book Agnes idealizes Brenda. Brenda is who she wanted to grow up to be, to the extent that she bought Two Rivers, Brenda's house. She even argues with Lisa Livia who, really, ought to know her mother better than Anges. And when Brenda does something even Agnes can't ignore, Agnes makes excuses for her until finally she sees Brenda for what she really is. Brenda, of course, went off the deep end at the end of the story; but what she was at the core really wasn't any different. What Agnes had really envied all those years was the mask that Brenda wore. Brenda knew how to say and do the right things to ... wait for it ... create an impression. And thinking about it, I've known a few Brendas, and you probably have too. Okay, maybe they didn't sabotage a wedding dress and try to kill you; but I'm betting you know someone who turned out to not be as great as you thought they were. And looking back, you can usually see all the signs you ignored early on. Just like Agnes did. So a first impression can conceal the bad as well as the good.

    I was actually thinking about impressions before this, though. I have had the privilege of meeting several CBs now, and it's been amazing just how well we all click in person. A CB meet is just like hanging out at the Bar&Grill, except you probably laugh even longer and harder. I think many of us have marvelled at this. But is it so surprising really? We got to know each other long before we ever met, dispensing with that whole awkward first impressions thing.

    And you know, I'd rather have the duck than the swan anyway. I've heard those big, fancy birds can be pretty viscious.

    Wednesday, October 3

    Happy Harriet Homeowner Rides Again

    The thing with owning a home is that there always seems to be some little thing that needs doing/fixing/updating/tweaking ... you get the point. Just lately there are two items at the top of my list. When we run the dishwasher, water flows out of what I now know is the air trap. FYI, that's the metal thing on the corner of the sink. Water is not supposed to come out of there, but I think it will be easy enough to fix. From the Internet searches I've done (don't you just love the Web?) it looks like the hose just needs cleaning out. I think I have a snake (of the plumbing variety) thingie which they apparently call an auger. See I thought an auger was something you used to drill holes. Anyway, I think there's an auger snake (snake auger?) among the stuff under the stairs and I should be able to insert the snake through the top of the trap after removing the metal covering. If that doesn't work it might involve disconnecting the hose. I'm crossing my fingers but I might be able to handle this myself. In the meantime, we just line the edge of the sink with sponges to collect whatever overflow misses the sink.

    The other item is a dripping bathroom faucet. I knew enough, thanks to listening to my Dad, to be fairly sure it was a worn washer or something of that nature. But I don't know much about the inner workings of a faucet so I checked my favorite homeowner's helper website, DIY, to find out what I didn't know. And one of the things I didn't know is that there are many different types of faucets but they fall into two basic categories: those with washers and those without washers. The kind with washers are also known as compression faucets. That's what I have.

    The innards of compression faucets come in different shapes and sizes but have two things in common: the aforementioned washers and the "stem" on which they are fitted. Ideally you just replace the washers when they get worn; and being just little circles or discs of rubber, they wear out easily. But that is also a fairly easy fix compared to some of the other faucet designs so I guess it's a trade off.

    The first thing every plumbing instruction tells you is to turn the water off. That seems pretty obvious, but you know there are all kinds of people out there and I'm sure many people don't think of it. After clearing a lot of junk out of the way I turned off the cold water, no problem. The hot water, however, was a problem. I could not get that knob to turn no matter what. Part of the problem might be that it is an awkward reach. The cold water knob was straight in, but the hot water is behind a pipe and it's a tricky angle to work from. After ripping up my hand trying I decided to save that one for later and just tackle the cold water. With luck, that was where the problem would be.

    So with the cold water turned off under the sink I disassemble the decorative knob and use my wrench to remove the packing nut and take a look. According to the instructions I should be able, with a little twisting, to pull out the plasic stem that sits down inside. I tried. Bob knows I tried. I could get it to turn a bit, but no amount of twisting and tugging would get it out. There wasn't that much of the stem to hold onto anyway; two fingers was all I could use and I couldn't get a tight grip that way. So I found a pair of needle nose pliers and used those. I was able to get a better grip but it still took a lot of twisting and tugging to pull the stem out. Lo and behold it was damaged, more than just a worn washer. There was a crack in the stem and one of the two parts just fell out and wouldn't stay back in securely. This might or might not have been the source of the drip; but even if it wasn't, that stem clearly needed replacing.

    I took the damaged pieces with me to the hardware store so I could compare and make sure I was getting the same thing. That's the other thing that all the instructions tell you: take the washer or other part to the store with you. You might think you'll know which one it is but, trust me, you'll get confused when confronted with the sheer variety of parts available.

    I didn't used to like hardware stores much. They are huge buildings with rows and rows of towering shelves that intimidate me. I am getting better about it, though. I went right to the plumbing section and found that portion of the aisle devoted to little bitty replacement parts. Wow, what a selection. Fortunately I had brought the damaged stem with me and could compare. Also, fortunately, they had one. And just one. See, I had thought that as long as I was doing this I would replace both. But I got the one they did have and trotted (well, okay, actually I drove) back home. The new stem slid into the appropriate place with satisfying ease. Unfortunately there is still a slight drip.

    I did check on the hot water tap after shutting off the water at the main water shut off valve. Thank you, GP and Louis, for assuring me that this would work. The hot tap came apart with much more ease than the cold, and I'm not sure whether or not that is a good thing. This stem was not damaged that I could tell. The washers looked okay, but since it was just a little drip, it might involve just a little wear. In any event I'm not giving up until I get the stem replaced in the hot water as well as the cold. And if that doesn't work I'll call for a plumber. I know my limitations; I may someday be up to the task of replacing the whole faucet contraption but not just yet. Also, by that time we might have decided to replace the sinks anyway because the bathroom sinks all have nasty cracks in them and will need replacing at some point.

    This is much longer than I had intended, but before going I did want to let you know that I did tackle snaking (auging?) out the air trap in the kitchen. It didn't entirely fix the problem but I do think it's much better now than it was. My plan is to keep cleaning in out periodically and hopefully it will continue to improve. For now, while we still place the sponges around the edge of the sink, there doesn't seem to be as much water for them to absorb. So that's good, right?

    Friday, September 7

    Apropo of many things

    I am seriously sleep deprived. I'm saying that right up front so you'll understand if this blog sorta bounces off the walls. Why am I sleep deprived? Several reasons, not the least of which is my trip to Dayton. Dayton, OH. Who knew it was such a fun place? Or at least it is when the Cherrybombs are in town. Come to think of it, we weren't actually in Dayton but rather in Beavercreek, OH, a suburb of Dayton. Beavercreek ... it's Ohio so they have towns named after the local fauna. There's probably a Possumcreek too. I do know this much about Ohio, they've borrowed a lot of town/city names from other cities. Shows a distinct lack of creativity on their party. Which I would worry about except Jennifer Crusie lives there so maybe they are plenty creative in Ohio, they just didn't bother making the effort for place names. Seriously, I was looking at an Ohio map on the drive back and they've got, just to name a few, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, Ottawa and I believe Richmond. That could be confusing, don't you think?

    The people in Beavercreek were really great. The CherryBombs descended like ... I can't think of an appropriate simile. But we never encountered one glare or frown. Bemusement, amusement and astonishment, yes; but no negative reactions, so we're talking about a pretty laid back population. I liked it that they just went with our flow. I could be happy there I think. Also they have good shopping. That's important.

    However, during the drive back, somewhere around Columbus I think it was, we had the radio on and there was a report of a murder. Not that Ohio can't have murderers, too. Equal opportunity for all, I say. It's okay, though, because they got the guy who did it. They found him not far from an abandoned car which contained several knives and an arm. Ohio. Nice place, but don't pick up hitch hikers.

    What else? Oh, it took me two hours to get home last night. An undefined 'incident' at one of the stations on my subway line. And I was trying to get home early too. See it was my mom's birthday. That morning I had scattered around the house 3 packages and 2 birthday cards. Not hidden, mind you, just placed strategically so that she would encounter them during her daily routine. One gift by the stairs, one next to her chair and one on the bathroom sink. One card was inside the microwave and one next to the milk in the fridge. Apparently she was in and out of both her chair and the bathroom a few times before she noticed the gift bags. And this morning I discovered that the card was still next to the milk in the fridge. The milk she would have used in her coffee yesterday. Coffee I know she had at least two cups of. I wonder if she found it this morning?

    Anyway, as I said, it was Mom's birthday and I was taking her out to dinner. My best friend went with us and we had a really nice evening. We laughed a lot and drank wine and ate really good food. I had the chicken Marsala. Oh my Bob was that good. It made me feel like Min in Bet Me.

    And on the subject of books, one of mom's gifts was a bag of books, two of which I got signed while in Dayton - excuse me, Beavercreek. One was Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs, and one was Hard Row by Margaret Maron. Both are favorite authors of mine, but because it was her birthday I'm letting Mom read them first. Aren't I nice? The other two, however, the ones I got signed, were Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, and Lost Girls by Robert Doherty who is actually Bob Mayer. These two I did read because I was going to the signing and I wanted to sound intelligent about the books.

    And Mom invited the Aunts over for dinner tomorrow night. We're having what Mom and I call Jasper's Pasta because that's the restaurant where we used to get it. They closed though. A crying shame because it was a good restaurant, and popular. Now it's a sports bar. Anyway the dish includes hot capellini tossed with roasted garlic, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, basil, sun-dried tomatoes and grated parmesan cheese. Served with marinara and pesto sauces. Fabulous.

    I don't think I'll be doing any more shoe posts this year. Well, never say never; but I do think I've probably shot my shoe budget all to heck for the year. But I do love my shoes. Sigh. I also have a fabulous new purse which I picked up in Da..., uh, Beavercreek. I told you they had great shopping.

    And my friend, the one who joined us for dinner last night, might come over tonight to return/borrow some books.

    So I've got great shoes, a fab new purse, a stack of books by fav authors waiting to be read, good memories, a tummy full of yummy food, and time spent with great people.

    Life is good.

    Friday, August 24

    I Blame Genetics

    I just bought two pairs of shoes on-line. Are these cute, or what? And they had them in black as well, which is why I had to get two pairs, really I did. Actually they had them in two other colors, but not in my size. Which is probably just as well. In my defense, however, they were only $20 each, and for $20 I think I really did have to get at least two pair, don't you? And most of my cuter shoes are sandals which will have to be retired for the season once cold weather gets here, so really getting them now is very foresighted of me. Why yes, I am rationalizing, why do you ask?

    I'm not a shop-a-holic, I swear. I don't even shop that often, really. I do, however, enjoy nice stuff just like anyone else, and sometimes I get on these jags, usually brought on by the sight of that one perfect thing that happens to be on sale. If it were just that one thing, then there would be no problem. Shopping, though, is like eating potato chips; one just leads to one more.

    A large part of my problem is genetic. No, I don't mean a genetic predisposition to shop. Rather, I am both short and, well, proportionately not in sync with today's fashions. Short runs in the family, although I am somewhat at the extreme end. What this means is that I can't just run out and pick something up when the need arises. Clothing is a source of frustration for me because my body type doesn't go well with whatever the current latest trend is. So if I find something that really works, I buy it. Especially if it is on sale. And if it comes in more than one color, I get two, like with the shoes. This is also why I do a fair amount of my shopping on line. Most stores, having limited space for inventory, naturally try to stock the more popular sizes to accommodate the greatest number of customers. They are not stocking their racks with me in mind. I have discovered, though, that this does not mean that the same item my size doesn't exist, it's just back in the warehouse somewhere.

    A lot of people blanch at the idea of shopping on line. If you think about it, though, it's not all that different than shopping via catalogue. In times past people did a great deal of their shopping for the season through catalogues. Today they are usually skimpy affairs put out by specialized boutique stores - shoes, electronics, and so forth. They arrive in the mail with the rest of the junk and while you might flip through and admire the wares, the catalogues usually end up in the recycle bin in fairly short order. In our grandparents' time, though, the arrival of the seasonal catalogue from Sears or J.C. Penny was a big deal. In size it could be compared to the white pages for your average city. And it contained everything. You could shop for clothes for the family, household goods, sewing needs, farm equipment ... you could spend days browsing the book and you kept it handy through the whole season. By the time new one arrived, last season's book was looking pretty tattered. They were still sent out pretty regularly when I was kid. So you see, getting my clothes through mail order isn't such a startling idea after all. Heck, my grandparents did it. The main thing with Internet shopping is to know your brands, which labels/stores you can trust for fit and quality, just as my grandmother might have had a preference for clothing from the Penny's catalogue, while preferring household goods from sears, I too have preferences. So the genetics theory still holds water.

    So when my credit card statement arrives next month, I'll know who to blame. My grandparents. It's not my fault, it's genetics.

    Monday, August 20

    You May Save a Life

    A friend of mine moved into a new house last year. This year she discovered something growing fairly rapidly in her backyard. I told her that if it was growing that well in this drought, chances are pretty good that it is a weed. Last week she told me it was sprouting berries. I told her "It's a weed. Don't eat it, get rid of it." Today she told me they looked awfully tasty and would I please look at the pictures she took and tell her for sure if it's a weed. I told her that if they were okay to eat the birds and the squirrels would have had them gone by now because it's probably a weed. I should tell you that she is not native to the U.S. and so these questions arise periodically. Anyway, she sent me some photos and I sent her back an email saying that I'm even more sure that IT'S A WEED, and ALMOST CERTAINLY POISONOUS. In fact it looks familiar. I was thinking sumac, but it's been so long I don't remember for sure what it looks like.

    So if you folks would please take a look and identify this for me, I would appreciate it. See, the thing is now almost taller than she is and she's a tall woman. I figure if she's let it grow this long I'm going to have my hands full convincing her. Of course if it's really that tall, she's going to have her hands full getting rid of it.

    Thursday, August 16

    Lost Girls by Robert Doherty aka Bob Mayer

    I'll say straight out that I haven't read this particular book yet. That's me being honest. However, I have read BODYGUARD OF LIES by Doherty and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was very much pulled into the story to the extent that when I learned he was writing a sequel, LOST GIRLS, I knew I was going to get that one too. It hasn't hit the shelves yet (August 21) or I would have it now. I do, however, have it on order with Amazon.

    I did so based on expectations that it would be at least as good as BOL. In the meantime, two people whose opinions on literary matters I really respect have since got their hands on early copies of LOST GIRLS and have reviewed it on their own blogs. To be frank, I'm stunned by their glowing reviews. I knew they would probably like the book, but they are both pretty tough critics so I really didn't expect too much hype. Well they do hype it. Which has me pretty excited and really really happy that I've already placed my order. Check out what they have to say about Robert Doherty's (aka Bob Mayer) latest book LOST GIRLS,

    and if you are as intrigued as I am, follow the bouncing ball to and order your own copy.

    Tuesday, July 31

    Happy Harriet Homeowner - Part Two

    I've been keeping busy with various projects lately. I'm not normally someone who needs to keep busy; in truth I love lazy days with a good book and there's not much that I don't think can be put off while I read. I'm still doing some reading, and in fact I've promised myself a week or two down time to catch up with my TBR pile. But I've had stuff that had to get done, or maybe I just felt like I needed to be doing. Things like installing a new shower head. The old one was ancient and getting a bit grungy. New one is really sleak. I'm pleased.

    I also put up a new thingie over the back of the basement door to hang the ironing board on. Used to keep it in the basement washroom, but it was way to easy to let it pile up and tell myself I'll catch up on it later. Plus this way it's convenient and easy for mom to use as well. Along with that, I hung another thingie (are these technical terms too much?) to hold our brooms and dustmops just inside the basement door. I even used a level and everything.

    It hasn't been all dirty chores though. Or I guess I should say that a few things other than chores did involve actual dirt:

    Finally got around to sticking a few more things in the ground. It was a little late in the season and we haven't had much rain but they're doing okay, I think.

    And this is my CherryBomb plant that Dee and RSS delivered. Isn't it gorgeous? The tag doesn't actually call it that; according to the tag, it's a hibiscus. But I know the truth. And along with it I received a lovely dinner out that included margaritas and much laughter. I've got really good people in my life.

    But you know how it goes with gardens. Sometimes a few things turn up that you don't remember planting.

    And some things start turning up as a side effect of planting.

    And along the way I finished two afghans that I had deadlines for. One for a wedding that was only a little bit late (the gift, not the wedding. As far as I know that went off as scheduled). And one for a really new neighbor. But I showed you those already in a previous post. I'm well pleased with both of them. I made the mistake of browsing through some other patterns, though, and now my fingers are just itching to hold a crochet hook again. But I've promised myself I would get to that TBR pile, so I'm going to hold off just a little bit longer. Harry and the gang have waited for me long enough.

    Thursday, July 12

    I don't knit

    I crochet. It's different, sort of. Okay, same basic idea ... long piece of string and lots of fancy knots. But knitting uses two long pointy needles. You work your stitches onto one of the needles until you have a long row of them hanging there. As you work your second row, you pass the stitches from that first needle onto the second needle, and back to the first needle for the 3rd row, and so on. Crochet is like the orphaned stepchild of sewing: there's a ton of info on knitting, but very little on crochet. But I think that's starting to change, largely thanks to the Internet.

    Crochet (silent "t" folks, French style pronunciation) uses only a hook, and only one of them. You add on to your work by using the hook to grab the yarn, thread, or whatever and pull a loop of yarn - or series of loops - into the next stitch. But as a general rule, you only have one stitch at a time on your hook.

    The exception to this rule is the afghan stitch, also called the Tunisian stitch. It's a cross between knitting and crocheting. Here is an example:

    Notice that each row looks woven. With this stitch, each row is actually worked twice: once forward and once backward. The "posts" you see in the above picture are the row of loops formed on the hook as you work forward. The yarn that appears to be threaded under them was then pulled through, a little at a time, during the second, backward, pass. Confused yet? It's easier than it sounds and leaves you with the nifty grid pattern you see. Here's what the finished product looked like:

    I just love this blend of colors. It was a wedding gift for friends of mine. Since it was a gift for two people, neither of whom is the fussy type, I wanted something colorful yet gender neutral. I think the woven look of the stitches also keeps it from looking too feminine. I don't think a guy would shy away from using it, do you? As you can see, the stitches are very close and tight, not lacy at all. So it's also a very warm afghan. Of course they live in Florida, and it's July, so they probably won't get much use out of it for a few months.

    My next project is a baby afghan for the neighbors who are expecting their new little one in a matter of days. Yikes! I guess I'd better get cracking on this.

    This is being worked in 3 very basic stitches: single crochet, double crochet, and chains. Do you see they way the colors seem to fade into each other? I'm working each row with two strands of yarn at the same time. It's a baby, or sport, weight yarn so the strands are finer, more slim, than in a typical afghan. With a heavier weight of yarn it's a little more tricky to keep two strands on your hook at the same time. As I go from one color to the next, I do two rows inbetween using one strand of each color. This way there is no clear line between one color and the next and they just sort of blend together, rainbow fashion. I hope Baby will approve.

    Saturday, June 30

    Book Review: The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes

    If you've come to my blog before, then you know: I LOVE books. I love to read, period, and have been known to make do with cereal boxes and soup cans if nothing else is available. But my first love is books. Fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, thrillers, comedy and romance. I'll read them all. I visit the library every 3 weeks like clockwork and take books home by the bag. I don't get them just from libraries, I also buy books. But at the pace I read them, I have to limit my purchases to a handful of favorite authors or I'd never make the mortgage payment every month.

    Enter Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart; three fabulous authors each of whose books I snatch up as soon as they come out. These ladies are GOOD. However, to my mind their writing voices are distinct so when I heard they were teaming up to co-author a novel I was a little curious, and yes wary, of how well it would work. I mean, I read a lot but I also have high expectations. The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes lives up to every one of them. I have to stress here that this book is a single novel, not an anthology. This is not three seperate stories, but rather a single story woven together by three best selling authors. And the results are seamless.

    Here's the scoop: Three sisters - Dee, Lizzie and Mare - are witches. Dee is a shape shifter, Lizzie can transform objects, and Mare is telekenetic. However the girls have been on the run from their deliciously evil Aunt Xan since they were very young and have never learned quite how to handle their individual powers.

    Now Aunt Xan has found them, and she has found the perfect way to lure the women out into the open, with or without the assistance of her hapless minions: True Love. She has located three perfect men for her neices, and all they have to do in return is ... well you'll have to read the book to find out.

    Crusie, Dreyer and Stuart have given readers a book that mixes magic and mayhem, supernatural and sexy, humor and havoc. Its a fun ride the whole way around. And you'll never look at cobblestones in quite the same way again.

    Wednesday, June 27

    The Worst of Times, The Best of Times

    My dad passed away on Father's Day. That should freak me out, but oddly enough it doesn't. Next year might be another matter but I'll deal with that then. There have been some very bad spots and I'm sure they will continue to crop up, catching me unawares. I want to say that we lost him too soon, but even if it had come 20 years from now instead, it would still have been too soon. Sometimes the sense of loss is just overwhelming. But I know that all of this is to be expected: it's part of the process I have to go through as I learn to let go. Underneath of all that, though, is an odd sense of peace. He wasn't in pain or distress and didn't leave behind loose ends, things undone, or words unsaid. I know with absolute certainty that he loved his family beyond measure. That he thoroughly enjoyed being a father and husband. He has left us, but without doubt or recriminations and with many wonderful memories. There are much worse ways to go.

    My sister flew up from GA right away. Miraculously we actually got along for an entire week. In fact, as a family we were in unusual harmony when it came to the decisions that had to be made. I think Dad would have approved of the way we handled things, always keeping him in mind, how he felt about things and what would capture his spirit best.

    Many years ago, Dad had this brown shirt that he wore all the time, every single weekend. It wasn't a very attractive shirt to begin with and didn't improve with age. We kept buying him new shirts, hoping he would take the hint but still that damned shirt would come out. It made my sister especially nuts and she used to give him a hard time about it. He just laughed and told her that he was going to leave it for her in his will. That was years ago and eventually we stopped seeing the shirt. This past week, my sister had asked my mom for something of Dad's that she could have. As Mom rummaged for his watch a memory hit me from out of the blue. "Well," I said, "I'm sure if we look through his drawers we'll be able to find that brown shirt. Dad always wanted you to have it." They both knew instantly what I was referring to and we all laughed. It was a shared memory and a good moment. I think that somewhere Dad was having a good laugh too.

    My dad's family has an odd propensity for nicknames. My Aunt Pooks passed away some years ago, but my Aunt Sis is still with us. My grandmother was known to all her friends and neighbors as Birdie her whole life. My cousin Butch got his real name from his father, but I have no idea what Rocket's real name is. I do know how he got the nickname, though. My dad was driving Aunt Sis to the hospital as she was going into labor and they barely made it there in time. Dad said that the baby came out like a rocket, and the name stuck. Last week I had a phone call. "Hi, its Darlene." Darlene? I don't know anyone named Darlene. But there was something in the voice that struck a chord. Then she said, "Podie" and I knew immediately. Later when I saw her in person I told her not to use her real name if she called again because it just confused me. Hmmm, shades of the Bar&Grill in that.

    We had a graveside service and it was just about perfect. The weather cooperated, the view was fabulous - mountains as far as the eye could see - and everyone turned out. Even an aunt and uncle of my Dad's. I'm not sure how old the aunt is but I know the uncle is about the same age as my dad. As I explained to my nephew later, my grandmother was the oldest of 21 kids! I have a newspaper clipping somewhere that dates back to WWII and gives details about the family, discussing the different ways they all contributed to the war effort. I have to dig that out and send it to him. By the time Gram's baby brother came along she was already working on a family of her own.

    We all gathered again later at another aunt's house. Food and drink were plentiful and we shared some memories and some laughs. My youngest nephew and a cousin's boy went fishing and got good and wet as is only fitting for growing boys. Later on an uncle by marriage took the two of them for a long drive over and around the mountain where they got to see a few elk and even a black bear. My nephew was thrilled and I'm sure he will carry that memory with him for a long time.

    My mother doesn't drink much, but she does enjoy her cider ... hard cider that is. Well there was beer aplenty at the house, but no cider. My BIL, bless his heart, is a born and bred flatlander, as they say up in those parts. An urban yuppie if there ever was one. But he bravely set out towards the local redneck bar in search of cider for Mom. I can just imagine the look he must have got from the locals when he asked for it. No, they didn't have any; but they did have Mike's Hard Lemonade which he brought back for Mom.

    As the afternoon wore on, two decks of cards were brought out and we gathered around two tables - one in the kitchen and one on the covered deck - for a marathon session of 500 bid. My mother hadn't played since I was a kid, but she and my aunt skunked my cousins no less than four consecutive games. We laughed about the pairing off: girls against boys, aunts against nephews, sisters against brothers. Then we started switching off, the winners of each table playing against each other and new teams forming at the other table. My older nephew eventually got pulled into the game and, never having played before, still pulled off two fairly tricky hands. He and another cousin eventually brought Mom and my aunt down to earth before the evening ended.

    It was a very difficult week, but the memories aren't all bad. I think Dad would approve.