Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the Year Accounting

I am not generally one who looks back on a year and regrets the things that haven't been done. That just seems to be a waste of time to me. Nor am I one to start my New Year with a whole list of resolutions. Resolutions just seem to be a list that is doomed to failure. If you are a person who makes a list of "resolutions" to guide you through the new year, how many of those have you actually ever accomplished? How long is it before the list is discarded or looked on with regret. I bet not very long.

Now don't get me wrong, I do maintain a list of goals that I want to accomplish but that list changes and morphs and doesn't begin on January 1st of the New Year. Some are long term goals and some are short term but all are manageable. Also, some of those goals may have "sub goals" that are sort of stepping stones. I told you that I like lists of things. Lists just makes me happy.

OK, so I got off track a bit there. I do love to look back at a year and see what I have accomplished, it makes me feel good. Now here we go down memory lane for the year 2008..........
This was the "Year of the Sock" as far as knitting goes. I actually started knitting socks some time in 2007 but had only done one pair so I don't see that as really counting. But this year was different. It is typical of me that when I decide that I am going to learn something and learn it well that I just immerse myself in it until I have it mastered. So, this year I knit:
12 pair of socks for myself,
2 pair as gifts,
3 pair for Socks for Soldiers.
That is a grand total of 17 pairs of socks. Not bad. Next year I have already made the commitment (in my head and to the group) that I will knit 12 pair of socks for SFS. That is sort of an ambitious goal but there are so many soldiers waiting for hand knit socks.
I have finished compiling my list of "Books Read" for this year. I think I mentioned before that I keep a list of the books that I have read. I have to thank one of my mother's friends for that idea. She was a librarian and long ago she mentioned to me that she had a list of every book that she had ever read. Now THAT is ambitious. Me being a person who loves lists was totally intrigued by this. Also, I had just been introduced to Excel and was totally intrigued with the idea of a book list. So, each year I maintain a list of the books that I have read. They are listed by Author, Title, classification, a short synopsis, pub date, date finished, number of pages, where it was obtained (library, bookstore etc.), cost if I paid for it and where I heard about it. Then, on the last day of the year I resort the main list, folding the books read that year into the main body of the list. Then I set up the book list for the next year and do an "accounting" of the last year. So here is my accounting for 2008
Total books read: 97
Total pages read: 34,050
Nonfiction: 59
Fiction: 26
Memoir/Bio: 10
Not bad for one year. Not the most books I have read in a year but this was a busy year for other things so I didn't have as much time to read.
More in the book vein. I use Paperback Book Swap a lot. I discovered this service this year although I had heard about it. I am not going to explain how it all works in this post, just know that it is a great way to get rid of all those paperbacks that you might have lying around and also a great way to get other books that you might like to read. So this year I mailed 109 books to other PBS members and received 57 books back. I haven't read all the books that were sent to me.....yet.
I took almost 1600 pictures during 2008. That is probably not the actual number because that number reflects the pictures that I actually kept, not the number that I snapped. You never know what I might take a picture of.......
I "journaled" 345 of 365 days this year. That is probably the best that I have ever done as far as journaling is concerned. You can go here to read about my journaling....if you want to that is

Well, I think that is enough strolling down memory lane. I will see you in the New Year. Look for some changes to the blog in the days to come. I will be adding a new feature or two (maybe) and there may be a new look (if I get to it).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Personal Injury Lawyers

Let me just say right off the bat that personal injury attorney's are really the lowest form of life that I can think of. Yuck! I just don't know how they stand themselves. M. that wasn't meant for you because you are not a personal injury attorney anymore. I just thought I needed to clarify that point.

I should probably tell you that my daughter had a slight fender bender a couple of weeks ago. It was not her fault, the other fellow was given a ticket. He has insurance which will pay for the repairs to the car, no one was injured. Some slight damage to the side view mirror that I have temporarily fixed with duct tape (my grandpa would be so proud). Incident finished until the car goes in for repair. Or so we thought....

Starting about a week after the accident we began to get letters from local law firms. When I saw the first letter I was like, "well what would a lawyer want with us or our daughter?" You always open a letter from a lawyer with fear and trepidation.

The intent became crystal clear when I read the letter and came across phrases like this, "you will likely have to deal with a variety of unfamiliar things as a result of this accident.....perhaps you are also wondering how you will be compensated for present and future medical expenses and lost wages.....we can help you through this unpleasant and uncertain time...." Oh PUHLEEEEEEZE. I don't think so. I figured that some sleezy lawyer had spent some time looking at the local police reports and that would be the end of it. I was wrong.....

We are currently getting a letter a day from these kinds of shysters. They all start with the same sort of phrase, expressing their sympathies for any injuries that our child might have suffered in her recent accident. Sympathies my big fat patootie. I bet they salivate thinking that there might be injuries. After expressing sympathy they let us know that they are the best law firm in the area at representing injured parties, that they have all the services that we need and that they will do the best job for us. That is always followed by a paragraph telling us in no uncertain terms that we must not talk to any other law firm until we have talked to them first and that under NO circumstances are we to talk to any insurance representative without "knowing our rights". Can I throw up now.

Thank goodness we have an unlisted phone number because I am sure that if we didn't they would be calling as well as sending us letters. Come to think of it, I would LOVE to express what I think about their ambulance chasing ways. So, ambulance chasing lawyers (this doesn't apply to most lawyers) just know that if you do call here looking to talk to my daughter or her parents you are going to get an earful. This kind of work just makes it harder for those who really do need help to be viewed with any legitimacy. You are one of the reasons that the profession of law is looked down on with such virulent hatred by some. Well, you and Nancy Grace on CNN with her endless coverage of the Caylee Anthony case.

Ertha Kitt

Eartha Kitt died this week. You may be going, "Who?" or perhaps, "Who cares?" Well cut that out because I cared. Well, I cared in a sort of wow, something from my childhood way but I still care.

I was a dedicated fan of the TV show "Batman" when I was growing up. I watched as often as I could. Who wouldn't love looking at Batman and Robin in those awesome outfits with the tights. But of course, those of us who were fans watched the show as much for the weekly guests as for the crime fighting duo. we all had our favorites. There was Cesar Romero as "The Joker", Burgess Meredith as "The Penguin", Frank Gorshin/John Astin as "The Riddler" (I prefer Frank Gorshin myself), Vincent Price as "Egghead" and so many more. You can go here to get the full list.

But my personal favorite villainess was Catwoman. Oh I loved Catwoman and I waited eagarly each week to see if she would be on. Obviously this was long before the internet where you can now see the whole schedule for the entire season and who might be guest starring. Then it was the weekly wait on pins and needles for who the villain would be. The first two or three years Catwoman was played by Julie Newmar who I loved. BUT, then there came Eartha Kitt. Oh I loved her Catwoman. She was so slinky and catty and lovely.

I still love to watch the occasional episode of "Batman" on Youtube. Obviously I see it with older eyes. I see the total campiness of the acting, I see the tons of sexual innuendo that I totally missed as a kid. But I also laugh a ton and that is what it is all about in the end.

Here for your enjoyment is a small segment from "Batman" just to give you a flavor of Eartha Kitt. I should also mention that Eartha Kitt recorded one of my favorite Christmas songs, "Santa Baby".

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Glory to God in the Highest

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them , and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2: 9-12

A Merry Christmas to all of you. I am writing this on Christmas morning, the house is quiet and that is best for me to put my thoughts on this "digital paper".

What does Christmas mean to you? Is it the rush and bustle of putting up the decorations, listening to Christmas music, buying the perfect presents, eating those cookies that you don't get to eat any other time of the year. Is it time with family, traditions long held and celebrated. Christmas to me is certainly all those things but it is so much more.

For me there is a basic meaning for Christmas and I bet you can guess what it is (well you will know if you know me). This is the time of year when I celebrate the birth of Jesus who is my Savior. The image of the tiny baby in the manger with Mary and Joseph, the Wisemen and the Shepards (with some sheep thrown in) is what we think about and that is the "reason for the season", the coming of God's perfect and holy son, in the form of a baby.

But please do not leave the story there at the manger. Don't celebrate "the reason for the season" and not finish the story. Yes, we celebrate Christmas because we celebrate the birth of our Savior but that isn't where the story ends. The "rest of the story" is that
Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross! (Philippians 2: 6-8)
Hard to fathom that some one loved you and I that much that he would do this for us. The old saying "a life for a life" is absolutely correct. We couldn't pay the price that would be demanded for our sins, there is no way that we could EVER be perfect enough, keep all the commandments in the Bible, be good enough in our human form to be able to stand before a perfect and righteous God and say that we had "earned" the right to stay with Him in heaven. Yes, God is the god of love but he is also the god of justice and is perfect and cannot abide with sin. There had to be a perfect yet equal sacrifice that was FREELY given and that came in the person of Jesus. That Jesus
was pierced for our transgressions (sins), he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
That is the true meaning of Christmas for me. Yes, it is the babe lying in a manger but it is also the Savior, on the cross, then risen from the dead and sitting at the right hand of the Father and waiting for us.
Jesus lived the life you should have lived. He died the death you should have died, so that you can have what he has. Joe Coffey, Senior Pastor Hudson Community Chapel
May you have a wonderful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.
John McCain

I think John McCain is absolutely correct. I know that I am a happier person when I serve others in some capacity. I spend at least 20 minutes a day serving Socks For Soldiers, knitting for the men and women who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan so that I can be safe here at home. An article appearing in today's Galion Inquirer covers who we are and what we do as well as telling you about our fearless "Sarge".

Stupidity Report

Here is your stupidity report for the day. Do not try this at home.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What College Students Actually Do At School

So you think that your college student is studying and expanding their mind and keeping their nose to the grind stone and out of trouble?!? Well you would be..............WRONG. This is actually what they are doing in their down time. Perhaps they are performing some detailed science experiment? Nahhhhhhhhhhhh. They are just being college students. Enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not THAT Kind of Forensics!

Forensic: an argumentative exercise; the art or study of argumentative discourse (Webster's Dictionary).

Oh, you were under the impression that "forensic" meant all that icky stuff that you see on all the interminable CSI programs, where they show you the insides of terrible wounds with the accompanying squishy, liquidy sound track. Silly you. Not THAT kind of forensics at all. At our house forensics has an entirely different meaning.

Every Saturday there are high school students all over the country who get up early, get to school by 7am (in our case) and get on buses to go to another school for a Forensics tournament. These kids are a dedicated, articulate bunch. Know that by the time they actually start the annual tournament round they have already spent MANY hours selecting, cutting, practicing and perfecting their different pieces.
Those who are "debaters" have spent, and continue to spend all through the tourney season, hours and hours looking through papers and magazines and other sources for information to use. These kids, and the "extemp" kids, come with boxes and boxes of materials that can be used.
What other group of kids do you know who would get up early almost EVERY Saturday from November to February, put on a suit or nice outfit and go out to perform for judges and peers.
My daughter and her Forensics buddies spend Friday night at someone's house (this week it was ours) where they are up until the "wee hours" practicing and critiquing each other's performance pieces. I can hear them down in the basement laughing and working. They are a dedicated, unique bunch of kids and I love them to death.

This week the Forensic's tournament was held at my daughter's school and that meant that I had the privilege of helping out. It is a unique experience to watch all of these high schoolers (there were 350+ of them) from around the area as they did their last minute preparations. The halls are filled with kids but it is what they are doing which strikes the untrained observer as odd behavior. They are all talking silently to the walls or rows of lockers, wildly gesticulating and moving their feet. Or you might see a pair of kids, silently talking in tandem. It is sort of like a silent state mental institution without the straight jackets and the nasty smell. What they are doing is last minute rehearsal of pieces. They do this silently becuase if they all did their pieces out loud then it really would be bedlam.

I could go on and on about what a Forensics piece looks like but I think the best thing to do is just show you. Below you will find two videos (sorry but the performance isn't available in just one shot) of Nathan Rarick and his piece from the 2007 NFL (National FORENSICS League) performance. According to my daughter, who would know, he didn't come in first but should have. Enjoy and be sure to watch both parts.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When to be Frugal

The title of this post might be a tad misleading now that I look at it. I am a firm advocate for being frugal don't get me wrong. I haven't always been frugal, perhaps you could say that I have been a "fair weather frugaler" at times. But I have been back in the tent for a while now.

After saying that rather wordy and long winded opening I have to tell you that there are one or two things that I don't advocate being frugal about. If you are a frugal woman do you have one or two things that you will spend extra money on even if there is something similar but cheaper that is available? The list for me is small and here it is.

1. Coffee - I haven't always been what you would term a coffee snob. I haven't ever been able to drink instant coffee, there are some lines that should never be crossed. But, I have consumed my fair share of generic coffee. However several years ago I saw the light after a gift of coffee from my SIL. You can read about St. Ives Coffee Roasters in this post and that way I don't have to rewrite everything because I am basically lazy. But, the "gist" of this is to say that I will spend more money on my coffee beans (and they are definitely more than the pre-ground or beans from the store) because the flavor is superior and I love my coffee. This also applies to my tea as well (as I sit here drinking my tea that came from Rwanda, snob that I am).

2. Knitting needles - Knitting needles?!? you are saying to yourself. There isn't any difference between the needles that you can get at the local craft store and those you can purchase at your local yarn shop. Oh yes there is!!! I didn't think so either when I first picked up knitting again about 3 years ago. I didn't have a single knitting needle anywhere in my house and so I went and bought some at my local craft place and I struggled along with them (they were circulars) and it was not fun but I didn't know any better. I also had some regular needles and some double pointeds, also from the same source. Seemed fine to me but I was a novice. And then......I bought some needles at my LYS and saw the light. Oh yeah, these were awesome. Knitting was smooth, they felt wonderful in my hands, a joy to work with. The circular needles that I bought had wonderful flexible cords that didn't kink up and feel stiff. There was no going back after that. In fact, a while back I gave my less expensive needles to someone else who was just starting out. So, I will always spend more money to get better knitting needles even though I can spend less at the craft store. Now, I do have to say that there are times when you don't have much choice and you have to spend more money for better needles. I knit a lot of socks and use sz 0 needles. Those cannot be purchased at Walmart or Michaels.

3. Yarn - Oh I love yarn. I love all the possibilities of yarn. I bring it home and look at it and think about what I might make with it. But....I don't buy cheap yarn. I will confess to having some cheaper stuff in my "stash" but there isn't too much of it and it is there for some specific projects. Other than those skeins I buy better quality yarn. That means that I don't buy a ton of it because better quality also comes with a higher price tag (a lot higher at times). So, I think about a project a lot more and I look at all my yarn possabilites before making that purchase because I am going to spend more. However, the end product is always more pleasing to me and the entire knitting process is a joy so it is worth it.

4. Scrapbooking materials - I think this is totally a left over from being a Creative Memories consultant, which I no longer am. I got a taste of the good life in scrapbooking and haven't been able to go back. Of course, I have so much in the way of materials that I really have no business buying anything else. I keep telling myself that and I keep ignoring what I am telling me. Sigh.

Do you have any "non-frugal" items that you purchase? Hmmmmmm, be honest and fess up.

Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Quick Takes (Vol 4)

Is it Friday again? Wow the week just flies by. I have to say that I am loving "7 Quick Takes" Fridays. Thank you to Conversion Diary for the idea. Make sure that you go over and read all the other entries who are participating. Here we go.
Explain something to me please. I was in the UPS store this week and found myself behind several people who were having the UPS staff pack and ship their gifts. Now that wasn't the problem. The issues, at least for me who is an admitted frugal person, was that these people were going to pay $100+ to have these things boxed and shipped when surely they could have spent a great deal less if they had just packed the stuff up themselves. The one woman was shipping several baskets full of things. Really why not send the stuff minus the basket which made the whole shipping box issue that much more difficult and very expensive. I am just asking is all.
I keep waiting for the terrible cold that the hubby and youngest child have had to descend on me. I keep waiting and waiting and waiting but nothing. Could it be that I am going to escape the sneezing and phlegm and coughing and yuckiness. Could I be so lucky? Perhaps it is all the healthy living that I am doing.....minus that McDonald's cheese burger that I had yesterday. Ash and I were hungry OK! And we had been so good for so long.......and it was so good. The perfect combination of salt and fat. Yum.
It is so nice to have all the girls home for Christmas. Lots of laughing going on at the moment and it is so nice to hear. Oh I am just going to get all teary eyed (not). But I am looking forward to a few games of Mah Jongg now that we have 4 to play with. We are dedicated Mah Jongg players in this house. I have to say thank you to my MIL Linda for introducing us to this game a number of years ago. Total addicition. Now if I could just find a group to play with around here.
Oh how I love the internet when it comes to finding new and interesting recipes to try. So much variety. Just printed off a recipe for "Baklava Bites" which looks positively yummy. I have a feeling that they are in the our future dining soon. It is almost too much sometimes, all the recipes I find that I want to try. I have to put myself on a "printing diet" sometimes because I will print off all these great sounding recipes and then not use them. So, now I save them onto the computer and then selectively print them.
I love things that are free, I really love them. But I have had to pass up a free deal today and it makes me sad. However, I just couldn't do it. Oprah has again this year has made available for free (for 48 hours) the songs on her Holiday Hits 2008. Oh that word "free" just makes my fingers want to push buttons and say yes! download that to my computer. But......I didn't do it. You see I am boycotting Oprah, perhaps permanently, and I just couldn't do it. Boycotting Oprah! how can I do that. Well you see, I have never been a great fan of Oprah but she was OK. I don't watch much TV and I never have it on during the day so I tend to miss her show. But, I just am tired of her "preachiness" and culture of victimhood disguised as empowerment. A wordy sentence I know but there it is. So, a while back I decided that I was just done with Oprah. And because I made that little commitment to myself then I couldn't download the CD. Call me picky (and you wouldn't be the first) but I just couldn't do it. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I have most of the songs already (hehehehehe).
My youngest daughter had a car accident yesterday! Now I have to tell you that she is fine and it wasn't her fault thank goodness. The police (or as we lovingly call them "the popo") gave a citation to the other fellow. But I have to say that when your daughter calls and the first words out of her mouth are, "Now, I don't want you to get upset or anything....." you know it isn't going to be a great conversation. She acted in a very calm manner throughout the whole incident and I have to say that we are very proud of her. It is hard to act like an adult in these situations when you ARE an adult. She is only 17 so I suppose some hysteria would have been expected but she was calm and collected. This was one of those things that you hope you don't have to deal with when you have kids but sometimes these things happen. I just hope it doesn't ever happen again.
Tomorrow night we will go to our friends' house for their annual "Happy Birthday Jesus" party. I really love this particular Christmas tradition which we have had the privilege of participating in for the last 12 years or so. There are lots of people, lots of food, a birthday cake for Jesus. We eat, visit and then gather to sing Christmas carols and celebrate the reason why we actually have Christmas. It is just lovely. I am glad it is tomorrow when the weather will be better rather than today when we have a winter storm warning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Found this on one of the blogs I read regularly and thought it might be fun.

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Well, I have to say gift bags for the most part.
  2. Real tree or Artificial? Fake, fake, fake. Someday perhaps I will have a real one
  3. When do you put up the tree? As soon after Thanksgiving as I can manage it
  4. When do you take the tree down? As soon after New Years day as I can manage. That may not happen this year because of party issues.
  5. Do you like eggnog? NO!
  6. Favorite gift received as a child? Books, always books.
  7. Hardest person to buy for? My husband!
  8. Easiest person to buy for? kids...they usually want a gift certificate to some store. How difficult is that
  9. Do you have a nativity scene? Oh definitely.....I have more than one and less than thirty but you will have to guess the number
  10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail.
  11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Oh I think that was a baby doll.......when I was 13 years old.
  12. Favorite Christmas Movie? White Christmas followed closely by Come to the Stable. I have very little love for It's a Wonderful Life.
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually before Thanksgiving but I am running a tad late this year.
  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? WHAT!!! Regifting? Certainly not (cough, cough)
  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Christmas Cookies!
  16. Lights on the tree? White lights.
  17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh, goodness gracious. I love them all. But I have to admit an especial fondness for The Messiah.
  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It depends on the year. This year we are at home.
  19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes, I can.
  20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning.....after breakfast is eaten and the dishes are done. That used to drive the kids crazy but I like the suspense.
  21. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The fact that stores start to put their Christmas decorations up right after Halloween for goodness sakes. Also all the politically correct crap (sorry for the use of that word) that is being forced on us in the name of "fairness". Stepping off soap box now.
  22. Favorite ornament theme or color? I love the ornaments that the girls made over the years and all the ornaments that I have made.
  23. What do you want for Christmas this year? a digital flash for my camera
  24. Angel or star on top tree: an angel made by moi
  25. Favorite meal: Christmas breakfast which is usually Egg Strada, Kringles, fruit and perhaps some slush punch.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Joys of Christmas Concerts

Does your child sing in the choir at school? Well mine does and so yesterday we went to the annual CVCA Christmas Choir Concert........ it wasn't as bad as it sounds trust me. One of the perks if you will of having a child who attends a college preparatory private school (my I sound snooty) is that, well, they expect a lot of their students. They expect a lot academically and they expect a lot in whatever the extracuricular activites are that the kids participate in. It is all a part of the package and you know that going in. That doesn't always guarantee great choir concert performances but it helps.

So last night was the annual Christmas concert (as I have already said in that paragraph up there) and so we trekked down to the school in the blinding snow storm, I mean the gentle snow fall. As the parents of a senior we didn't really need to be there until almost 8p. They don't require you to stay for the performance of the Jr. High groups but we always go for the whole concert. It only seems fair and we always enjoy all the groups. I especially like to see the Jr. High choir. It is always fun to see these kids, so ackwardly inhabiting their bodies, singing loudly and remarkably in tune. I love to watch Jr. High boys sing. I know that they are singing because there is harmony in the music but you can't tell how that is possible because most of them barely have their mouths moving. Of course that isn't the case with all the boys, some are really singing out and that is hillarious to watch as well. So much enthusiasm.

Another great thing is to see what these kids wear. The Jr. High choir is the only one of the four choirs that doesn't wear either a standard uniform or robes. There are all sorts of outfits from neat but casual to dressy. You just never know. And the shoes! Everything from flats to dress shoes to clogs to high heels. The only thing that you won't see in tennis shoes which are never in code. I really love the 7th grade boys who are dressed in suits.

I love looking at all the faces of parents and extended family members as the concert is in progress. Beaming parents and "grands", little kids squirming in their seats, older siblings looking bored and the occasional kid doing homework. I will have to say that there was the occasional dad or teenage sibling who I saw not looking at the concert but doing something with their cell phone or iphone. Hmmmmmmmmmm. And the cameras! I saw everything from high end SLR's (I will admit to bringing mine to more than one concert) to phone cameras all snapping away. It is like being in front of the Mona Lisa when a group of Japanese tourists comes by.

The Sr. High part of the concert was great as well, don't get me wrong and I was there to see my Senior daughter sing but it is the Jr. High portion of the program that was the most fun to watch, perhaps not to listen to but to watch. It was bitter sweet because this will be our last Christmas Choir Concert since our youngest will graduate come June. Ah the memories that we will just have to live on in the years to come because you know I am not going to come back for another one of these.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Thousand Hills

A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It

Kinzer, Stephen
Knitting Sticks: 5

By now most of us, I would think, know about the Rwandan genocide which took place from April 1994 through to July 1994. If you don't know at least a little about it, like who was killing who (Hutu killing Tutsi) then shame on you but that is food for another post. This post needs to deal with this really outstanding book that I just happened to find in the new books stack at the library.

A Thousand Hills is a complex book that deals with interconnected themes. Stephen Kinzer does a great job of describing all of the many separate details that led to the genocide. People didn't just wake up one day and decide to kill all of the Tutsi minority (which is how some have described the genocide). Never in modern history had so many people been killed so quickly. The fact is that it was long planned, that the hatred for Tutsi's was long standing and fed daily by the government. The signs for what was being planned were all there but no one was looking, or at least no one who could have done anything.

The book is a severe (and correct) indictment of the larger international community, the UN, USA, France, Belgium and other countries who could have done something to stop the genocide early on. But instead of helping Rwanda and those who were being slaughtered the international community not only turned their backs on what was going on but actively strove to make sure that no help was provided. It is enought to make you sick.

Of course Mr. Kinzer also gives a stark rendering of what happened on the day that the genocide officially began, April 6, 1994 and what followed in those first 100 days when possibly as many as 1,074,017 people were murdered. That is a hard figure to get your head around isn't it. In smaller terms that means that there were about 10,000 murders EVERY DAY, 400 murders PER HOUR, 6 murders PER MINUTE. Just take some time to think about that. And then add that most of the killing happened not in 100 days but in the first 30 days.

But what makes this book different from the other books that I have read on Rwanda and the genocide is that Mr. Kinzer provides us a look at what has happened in Rwanda in the years after the genocide. The changes and the strides forward and backward that Rwanda has experienced can be laid at the feet of one man, Paul Kagame. Throughout the book Mr. Kinzer has woven the story of Mr. Kagame who is the current President of Rwanda. Paul Kagame is a Tutsi who barely escaped the 1959 genocide and grew up as a refugee in Uganda. My job with this book review isn't to give you a blow by blow description of Paul Kagame's life, you will have to read the book for that. But my job is to tell you that without Paul Kagame, whether for good or for ill, Rwanda would not be at the point that she is now. He is strong, autocratic, does not take well to opposition. But his sole aim in life seems to be bringing Rwanda out of where she was and into a state of reconciliation to what happened in the genocide and to what this little country can be in the larger international community. Wether in the end he can succeed with all he wants to do remains to be seen.

The book is well worth the time that it takes to read it and was a great addition to my "Rwanda bibliography."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Movies

I will let you in on a secret........we love movies around here. What! someone told you that already? Oh, maybe it was me. Hmmmm. Well, in the spirit of the season I thought I would provide you with a list of my favorite holiday movies. They are presented in no particular order and I suppose that they could be watched at any time of the year but I really only indulge in them during the month of December. So, drum roll please......

Come To The Stable: who couldn't love a Loretta Young movie
The Bishop's Wife: ah Carey Grant. I could just watch him all day long
A Christmas Story: go here to see my thoughts on this one
It's A Wonderful Life: not my favorite perhaps because it was on so much in years past
How The Grinch Stole Christmas: the original one not that Jim Carrey monstrosity
White Christmas: my favorite Christmas movie of them all
Christmas in Connecticut
The Man Who Came To Dinner: I love anything that has Monty Wolley in it
Holiday Inn: Bing Crosby AND Fred Astaire. What could be better

I am sure that there are more movies for the holiday season. What ones did I miss?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Humor for the day

OK, I just couldn't resist this. Thank you Dottie for sending it to me.

7 Quick takes (vol 3)

Well, a whole week has rolled by and it is now time for another installment of "7 Quick Takes". Here we go.
Uterine ultrasounds, especially if you are NOT pregnant, are the work of the devil. Evil, Evil, Evil! said in my best "Mermaid Man" voice. (Those of you who are familiar with Sponge Bob will know who I am talking about). Was that too much information for you? Sorry but that is the way it is.
I love movie soundtracks. They make me happy. I am not talking about just any movie sound track. I am talking about the ones from great musicals like The King and I, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Girl, Wicked (OK, OK this one isn't a movie but a Broadway musical but I still love it) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My love for these particular kinds of soundtracks may stem from the fact that this was what I had to listen to when I was growing up. I am sure that my mother got sick of me playing the soundtrack for South Pacific. I knew every song from South Pacific, The Sound of Music and The King and I long before I ever saw the movies.

Now I will say that I do love purely instrumental soundtracks as well. I practically wore out my record of Star Wars when I was in high school. I think my current "soundtrack count" in my itunes is 44 soundtracks. Everything from My Fair Lady to Hairspray (another favorite). Is it too early to put on a soundtrack?
Well, I think I can say that perhaps I might just like Butternut squash, in certain instances that is. I made "Fall Vegetable Soup" last night and it has Butternut squash in it. It was pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I may have to experiment with it some more. There aren't too many foods that I won't eat but I don't think I have had this squash too much. The only thing that I will not eat, positively WILL NOT EAT, is liver. There is no reason to eat that stuff.
I can hardly wait for next week when my older daughters will be home from college for the holidays. The house is VERY lively when everyone is here not that it isn't lively when they aren't here but the noise level is just higher. It gives me a chance to see all of their friends whom I love. I have always been very thankful to the Lord that he gave both of them such unique and special groups of friends, The Posse (older daughter's group) and LAMMA (middle daughter's group). Isn't if funny that they actually gave themselves a group name. I don't recall that my group of friends did that in high school or that it would have even occurred to us to do so. Interesting.
I will confess that I haven't baked any of our traditional Christmas cookies yet this year. I have gone to several cookie exchanges so we have had plenty of sweets to snack on at home and I haven't felt the need to do more baking. However, I am sure that I will be called on next week to make Christmas Cutout cookies, Norwegian Filled cookies (my Norwegian BIL says there is no such cookie but that is it's name so live with it Bjorn), Sugar Cookies, Coconut Candy (yes I know it isn't a cookie but work with me people!) and several other recipes for things that I don't make any other time of the year. We don't really have a ton of hard and fast Christmas traditions but the cookies are one of them. The problem with making all those cookies is that then someone has to eat them.
Why is it that I never seem to have all the laundry done? You would think that it wouldn't be all that difficult to do laundry for just two people but I always seem to have some load of laundry that needs to be washed or dried or folded. My daughters do their own laundry and have since they each reached the 6th grade. That means that I am only doing laundry for two people and I don't even do my husbands good shirts. Those shirts go to the cleaner where they can be starched much more effectively than I can do them. Will I ever get caught up with laundry?
Several years ago we decided that we were done with the gazillion present Christmas extravaganzas that we had been sucked into when the girls were growing up. When it takes you hours on end to open presents that is just ridiculous or at least I think it is for our family (not wanting to offend anyone here). So, we ask the girls for one larger gift idea for each of them. When I say larger idea I don't mean like a car or something but one idea rather than a ton of smaller ones. Usually they want gift cards to one place or another which isn't hard to do. I do fill up their stockings with little things but having one larger gift per person makes Christmas day much less overwhelming. It also makes shopping for said gifts much less of an ordeal. I am still traumatized by the year I had to find one of those absolutely ugly Cabbage Patch dolls for one of the girls. I had a "Scarlett O'Hara moment" after that. You know, when you have finally found the elusive children's toy that everyone else is also looking for but you are so exhausted by the experience that it isn't any fun to give the gift. You raise your fist and say in your best Georgia accent, "As God is my witness I'll never shop like that again!" Not the exact words I know but you get the picture.

Now that you have read through all of these go on over to Conversion Diary and check out all the other "Quick Takes". It seems like we are all enjoying this. At least I am.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Friends are so much fun!!

I have such a great group of friends. I am so blessed to have them in my life I just have to tell you.
So every Christmas I have an ornament exchange for a bunch of my friends. It is such a blast! They all come over on the appointed evening with wrapped ornament in hand and the fun begins. When the day arrived this year my youngest progeny said, "A family room full of women laughing hysterically. How lovely." I thought I detected some sarcasm in her remark, or perhaps just jealousy.

We eat first and we eat a fair amount. I don't want to make it sound like we are gorging ourselves at a bacchanalian feast but there is plenty to eat. I always make too much on the fear that we will actually run out of food (hasn't happened yet) and people also bring stuff. Mary always brings her to die for Gorgonzola cheese ball, the mouth waters just thinking about it.
So, we spend some time eating and drinking, non-alcoholic "Slush punch" and hot apple cider, chatting and laughing. Trust me we DO NOT need to add alcohol to the mix to get us laughing.

And then the real fun begins. Have you ever been to an ornament exchange? They are fairly popular in my neck of the woods but I don't know about elsewhere so I will explain. Skip this part if you already know. In an ornament exchange you bring a wrapped ornament that does not have your name anywhere on the package. Then every one picks a number from the basket. Number 1 picks a package, unwraps the ornament, everyone oooooh and ahhhhhhs about it and we find out who brought it. The person with the number 2 then has a choice. They can pick a wrapped gift and go through the same process, or.........they can steal number 1's ornament and then number 1 has to pick another ornamnet to unwrap. This is the process through all the numbers. There are some rules that go with the stealing, what you didn't know that there is honor among theives? You cannot steal back an ornament that has been stolen from you. You cannot pick or steal the ornament that you brought (if you liked it that much you should have just bought one for yourself). And if an ornament has been stolen twice then it is unavailable for any more stealing. These rules engender a certain amount of strategy and planning on some peoples parts which is probably where most of the hilarity comes in. We always say that you shouldn't get attached to your ornment until the last person has unwrapped or stolen that last package. You never know what will happen. We are all god fearin' women at this event so this is the only time when we feel that we can legitimately steal and we do, oh we do.

There is always someone who is stolen from repeatedly, sort of like the corner deli owner in a bad neighborhood only without the guns. The first year that Heather attended I think she had 4 ornaments stolen from her. I was afraid that she would never come back but she has returned so I guess it was OK. Several years ago I was the repeat "stealee" and I have to say that it was hilarious fun. I am a glutton for punishment.

This year's party was this past Monday and we had a blast. The weather cooperated for the most part which is good. The year that we had a BIG storm on that night was interesting. The snow plow guy ripped me a new one for having people parking on the street. SORRY but it wasn't snowing that hard when they arrived. Sheesh. We had a ton of fun on Monday and I have gotten the house and kitchen put back to rights. Now I have to keep an eye out for the perfect ornament for next year. It is never too early to shop you know. The only pitfall with that is that sometimes I can't remember where I stashed the ornament when the time comes to wrap it. The mind goes first.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


You know Facebook is a funny thing. I resisted setting up a Facebook account for a long time. I didn't want my kids to go, "Ewwwww, my mom has a Facebook account!" and then not want to friend me. But after getting assurances from all of them that it was OK I ventured into this odd virtual world.

In some ways Facebook plays into the deepest fears of those of us who were insecure in high school and beyond (sounded like Buzz Lightyear for a second there). What if people don't like me? What if no one wants to be my friend? You know the drill. I certainly do because I was that person for all of my growing up years. Will I know anyone and how will I find them? Insecurties abound and come to the surface. You become a mass of quivering, insecure jelly. Snap out of it girl. You are 48 years old for pete's sake and have plenty of nerve and will do fine. Take a deep breath and get over it.

On the other hand Facebook also appeals to the social butterfly in us, the narcissist in us. We collect friends as we go along and our Facebook "page" is all about us, how we feel, what we are doing. Me, Me, Me. Be honest those of you who have a Facebook account, when you "friend" someone don't you check to see how many friends they have. I do. I have one "friend" who has 1200 other friends. How is that possible??? Also, you look through all the friends that your friend has to see if there is anyone that you might know. Like a bee going from flower to flower collecting as they go. Yes, I know that I can have Facebook look at my address book and find all the possible friends that might also be on Facebook. However, as much as I like Facebook I don't like it well enough to give it my password and have it root around in my address book. Sorry. I will just search piece meal for those I might know.

I do have a rule or two about "friending". If the person is someone who is my age or an aqcuaintance then I have no problem friending them. But, my daughters had to make the decision to friend me not the other way around. I let them know that it wouldn't hurt my feelings too much (sniff, sniff) if they didn't and that I would understand (I was lying on that one). Thank goodness they all friended me right away. Any friends of my daughters are free to friend me but I will not friend them. It isn't that I don't want to be their friend on Facebook, it was just that to friend my daughter's friends seemed a tad too creepy to me. It has been gratifying to have a number of them friend me. Sort of makes me a "part of the group" if you know what I mean.

On Facebook I have reconnected with people I haven't spoken to in years, friends from my teenage years, people I just never see. It has also become a way to keep in touch with my cousins who I see infrequently. They are a fun group and I miss spending time with them. This way I can see what is going on in all of our lives, that is if they are good at keeping up on Facebook. Some are and some aren't (that would be you Doug). I am a part of various groups with various people, some of whom I don't know in person and will probably never meet. There is over lap in friends on Facebook and friends on Ravelry (sort of Facebook for Knitters. Stop laughing) or Socks for Soldiers or both. So confusing.

However, for all the fun that Facebook is I also think that it is a stark picture of our solitary disconnected, connected world. That sentence may seem like it doesn't make sense but it does. For all of our interconnectedness on Facebook and the internet we have lost something. We communicate over the 'net through email, messages, IM but we never write letters any more. Whatever we write to each other, no matter how profound, is lost in the ethernet forever unless we print out what has been written. I am so sad for all the memories and history that is being lost because we don't put it down on paper. That may be fodder for another post actually so I will leave it there for the moment. We communicate on Facebook but we don't communicate in person. It is a very solitary thing to sit in front of your computer screen and interact with someone. You aren't, on the deepest level, interacting at all. Interaction is all wound up with body language, facial expression and tone of voice. You can't know what those are when you are communicating through a screen. It is safe in one way (I can blog in my underwear for all you know) but you lose as much as you gain. Off the soap box now.

So, I will continue to "Facebook" and look for people that I know or knew. It is one more thing that makes me sit my butt down in my computer chair and spend (waste?) time on the internet. It can become addicting. I think I will go and look for people that I know..............

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Date That Will Live In Infamy

I felt that we needed a history lesson today. So I thought I would remind you that today is the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. we all know that I love history and for some reason the period from 1900 to 1945 happens to be my favorite. Not sure why but it just is.

A visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu is a must if you ever make it to Hawaii. It is interesting and sobering. The motor launch ride out to the Arizona memorial is quiet, as it should be. I don't think that many of us remember that that simple white building that stretches across the remains of the battleship Arizona is, in essence, a grave stone for the 1177 men who died on that ship.

We have visited the memorial several times, the last on in 2005 and it was certainly memorable though not for the reasons that you might be expecting. The day was lovely (what day isn't lovely in Hawaii) and it was our first full day of vacation. So, we wanted to do what everyone does and go to the memorial. So we grabbed our purses etc. and drove the short distance.
We were surprised to be greeted by this sign when we got in line. Drat! So, we trugded back to the car and threw everything in the trunk. I was hurrying because the line was getting longer and longer to get in. Dan made me stop and take my wallet out of my back pack. More time wasted (good thing I listened to him).
The one sign that we didn't pay any attention to was the BIG one that you see when you open the trunk. You can see what's coming can't you. Too bad we didn't. So, we trudged back and got in line, did all the stuff you do at the memorial, had a great time.
Look at how happy we are, having spent the better part of the day soaking up history (OK, SOME of us enjoyed it and others just endured it, sheesh). And we stayed happy, walking and joking until we saw..............
Hey, is that glass on the ground beside the car?!? If you have ever been robbed then you will know that sinking feeling of violation. Sure enough, the window glass was smashed, the trunk had been popped open and everything was gone, except for one small camera bag that was missed in the grabbing. I didn't lose anything except a small back pack (thanks to my husband). Meg's favorite backpack was gone and unfortunately so was her wallet which contained a copy of our credit card. Beth lost the most, her favorite purse, her money and her very expensive TI83 calculator. Only my kids would bring their calculators on vacation. We quickly called the police (and also got the military police thrown in for good measure) and canceled the credit card. Thankfully the charges that had already been rung up on the card were minimal. We survived the incident and learned a valuable lesson. I can't think of what it was right now but I know that it was valuable.

So, now your assignment is to go and read something about Pearl Harbor and the aftermath. It will be interesting I promise you. And remember not to leave valuables in your car trunk.

Some further reading and viewing for you just in case you wanted to learn more. Yes, I have read the books and the films are my favorite.

At Dawn We Slept by Gordon W. Prange
Day of Infamy by Walter Lord
December 7, 1941 by Gordon W. Prange
Tora, Tora, Tora
In Harms Way (my personal favorite, who couldn't love John Wayne)

Friday, December 5, 2008

7 Quick Takes (Vol 2)

Well, here is what is coming off the top of my head today (and perhaps in the last few days). Thanks to Jennifer F. over at Conversion Diary for getting all of us to do this. After you are done here go on over there and take a look at some of the other Quick Takes.

Do we really need studies, that cost tax payer money most likely, to tell us that lots of TV and time on the Web is harmful to children. "Spending a lot of time watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Web makes children more prone to a range of health problems including obesity and smoking, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday." Now THAT is a surprise (there was a lot of sarcasm in my voice when I wrote that). Really folks, if your kids were outside playing in the dirt they wouldn't be sitting in front of the TV eating and not expending energy. I know that when my girls were younger they needed to go out and play when they came home from school. No TV the minute they walked in the door. We learned that the hard way. I had allowed them to watch some TV when they got home but I soon saw a certain pattern of behavior when they did that. They would come in, turn on the TV and plunk down with food. When the TV was then turned off they would have all this unchanneled energy that had been stored up at school and they acted out at home. So, no more TV, go outside and get dirty. They slept better, they got along better, their grades were better and they read a lot more books. OK, off my soap box now.
Don't you just love seeing what people are doing in their cars when they drive. I have to assume that some people think that when they get in the car and the engine turns over then their "invisibility bubble" kicks in too. That is the only explanation I can think of for the large number of people I see picking their noses (TMI?). This week I have also seen women driving and putting on mascara, people doing the driving-eating-talking on the phone combo (I have to assume they were driving with their knee), singing, driving with their dogs on their laps, texting (I will admit to this one) and all manner of other things.
Is anyone else way behind on the Christmas card thing? I have yet to do a thing about it other than find the picture I want to use. We actually had Christmas cards waiting for us when we got back from Thanksgiving!! I will admit that there have been years when they haven't been Christmas cards but Happy New Year cards. Oh well.
I am going to one of my favorite annual Christmas parties today. My friend Dottie has a Cookie and Ornament exchange every year and we have such a good time!! Even though I have to make 12 dozen cookies for this thing I never miss it because we have so much fun. The cookies are all done and put into pretty little tins and sitting on the counter all ready to go. Some of the women who attend (and there are only 12 of us) don't have any personal connection except that we know Dottie. But that doesn't matter when it comes to the amount of fun that we have.
Do you ever feel guilty sitting down to read in the middle of the day. I love to read but I still have to rationalize or "earn" my reading time if I am taking an hour or two during the day. I don't know why that is but it just is. I am just going to have to get over this weird thing because it is cutting into my reading time. Remember, "So many books, so little time".
My poor puppy (who isn't really a puppy) has a cold. He sounds better today after a trip to see Dr. Jeff and a cortisone shot but he is still sick. So it is antibiotics and antihistamines for him for a while. However, Max thinks he has died and gone to doggie heaven when he has to have pills. I just slap some peanut butter on a small piece of bread, stick the pill in the peanut butter and he snarfs it down. Yum!
Do ever watch what other people buy at the grocery store or like Walmart. I am a committed "cart watcher" and I am amazed at some of the stuff that people buy. I sometimes want to lean over and ask what they are going to do with what I would consider useless items. May be it is because I am trying to "dejunk" my life I don't know. I heard one woman tell another that she always over buys at the store because she never knows what her kids might want to eat and sometimes she has to make more that one thing at dinner. Huh!!!! When my kids were little I always reminded them that I didn't have "short order cook" written anywhere on my body and if they didn't like what was being served there was always the next meal to look forward to. Maybe that is why they aren't picky eaters now as adults.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oh NOW I Understand.

There is an old phrase which says "ignorance is bliss". Well, whoever thought that one up had never been to a spa. Now I understand why, when you mention the word "spa" in some people's hearing their eyes light up, the "heavenly" music plays in the background and they sigh and say, "Yessssssssssssssss" in sort of an ecstatic way. Oh now I understand.

If we go back to the last post you will know that I had never been to a spa before December 3, 2008. There is a nice spa just a short drive away from my house. I drive by it almost every day when I am out and about. It is fairly innocuous looking from the outside. Just a series of white, Western Reserve style buildings surrounded by tall trees. Nothing that jumps out at you and screams DECADENCE! But it is all an act, a deception. Because behind that small white door, with the cheery little Christmas wreath there lurks indulgence, nirvana. Lets go in shall we.

My friend and I had appointments for the "Spa Teaser". We were greeted as we walked in the door, lovely "new agey", soothing music playing in the back ground. Ah, I can feel myself relaxing already. Take my coat? Why thank you. We were seated in the waiting room and promptly presented with piping hot cups of tea to help us while away the moments before we are escorted up stairs. Of course there are some forms to fill out. You have to assure them that you don't have any medical conditions which might cause you to drop dead some time during your day. Also I needed to make the decision about what I was going to have for lunch. Wine with lunch!!! Yes!!! AND dessert. Are they mad! What do they think this is a spa or something.

The spa is really a series of rooms, all nice and cosy, sort of rabbit warren like. You never feel like you are lost in a carvernous room that is cold and uninviting. You just traipse from one low ceilinged room to another all sheltered and warm. Quickly you are escorted up, up, up and shown into a small waiting room where you sit and sip some more tea. Then the lovely lady comes and gives you your locker key and shows you where you can change into your attire for the next few hours. Uh oh, first hurdle to get through. Dottie is one of my best friends but it is a test of friendship to strip down to nothing and get into that nice comfy bathrobe. Oh what the heck, just do it. Then it is back out to the lovely waiting area to sip the tea and wait. Soothing music, wonderful conversation. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Our first portion of the spa teaser was the steam room. This is serious pore adjustment I can tell you. This isn't some sauna thing where you throw some water on the hot rocks and enjoy the heat. HECK NO. They lead you down to the bowels of the place, show you where to change (again the naked thing) into a nifty little towel thing, hand you a glass of ice water and a really cold wash cloth and escort you into a small room that is warm and damp but nothing to speak of. Close the door. OK it is definitely steamy in here, sort of the the rain forest in Ghana. I can do this. But then there is a little sound and out of a small spigot near the floor the steam comes pouring out. WOW. I can hardly see Dottie and she is sitting hip to hip with me. Hmmm, is it physically possible to breathe air that is this hot and damp and not come away with parboiled lungs? Now I know what that lobster feels like when you put him in the pot. I have to assume that all the toxins from my bad and riotous living have now been expunged from my pores. I am not sure how long we were in there, it could have been 5 minutes or an hour. I just know that at the end, when the door opens and the voice says, "Are you done?" I didn't have the energy to do anything but languidly ooze out the door, gulping my ice water and mopping my brow with the wash cloth. Back to the changing room, strip AGAIN, shower, back in the robe and back up stairs to another waiting room (how many of them are there?) to wait for the next installment.........the massage.

When a tall woman who hails originally from a former Soviet bloc country calls your name and tells you that she is your masseuse you follow, with fear and trepidation but you follow. You also do what she tells you. She is smiling and seems nice but you never know. Get on the table and under the covers without any clothes on!!! OK. Oh yeah, the blankets are warm and you feel like you are in a comforting happy place. She starts out on your face and neck, smoothing some lovely smelling lotion on. Oh I can do this. Then the real work begins. Yes she is using soothing lotion and she is massaging but she also kneading your muscles like you are some tough bread dough. Dig those steel fingers deep, work all the tension out. After the massaging was done she covered me up with the blankets and did the pounding on the back that you always see in comedy. Who knew that having someone pound vigorously on your back would feel so excellent. Pound away Helga (not her real name), pound away.

When my massage was done I oozed back to the waiting room and waited, in a boneless heap, for Dottie. Time for lunch and I was starved. Who knew that doing nothing so vigorously would make me so hungry. A very interesting experience to eat lunch in a bathrobe and flip flops. I don't even eat in my bathrobe at home let alone in a spa dining room. The lunch itself was yummy, the wine was excellent and the chocolate dessert thing was HUGE and covered with strawberries and whip cream. Oh yeah.

Then it was back upstairs to get dressed and then downstairs again for my last installment which was a manicure. I have never had a manicure before and what a wonderful thing it was (except for me dropping a bottle of red nail polish on their tile floor. SPLAT, oops). More hand massaging, nail filing and buffing, painting bright red. I could get used to this. Of course now I am paranoid about chipping my nails. When that happens I will take the polish off because chips in nail polish make me nuts. So, I am trying to enjoy the nails while they last. Sigh.

Finally, after 4.5 hours, I emerged from the spa a changed woman. I am going to have to start saving to do this again next year. I don't think that I would want to do it more often than that. It was such a glorious experience that I wouldn't want it to become common place. It was something that should be anticipated, like the Christmas cookies that I make only once a year. That shining thing that is on the horizon just once every 12 months. OK, I am getting a bit sappy here so I will stop. All these words are just to say that I had an absolutely lovely time at the spa and that I am going back some day. It is always good to have a goal.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Short on posting today

I am off to the spa today! I can hardly wait but I am also nervous for some reason. You see, I have never been to a spa before, even though there is a fairly nice one a 5 minute drive from my house. It has always seemed such a frivolous use of money to go that I just haven't. Also, I have never taken advantage of spa facilities in any of the nicer hotels that we have stayed at. For some reason I have some sort of "performance anxiety" when it comes to spas. Strange but true.

At any rate, my wonderful friend Dottie had "spa certificates" that someone had given her. She felt that we both had had a hard summer and needed to go to the spa together. I wasn't about to turn that down!

So, off I go. Have you ever been to the spa? Did you enjoy it? Let me know.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Christmas Story

This year is the 25th anniversary of one of the best, the BEST I say, Christmas movies ever made. Is it "White Christmas" you ask? No, it isn't White Christmas although that is one of my all time favorites. Is it "It's A Wonderful Life"? No not that one either. It is "A Christmas Story.

Yes, this is just about my favorite Christmas movie. I will admit it. I will also admit that the first time I saw it, on the first "official" date with my husband (no he wasn't my husband then, pay attention would you), I thought it was one of the stupidest movies that I had ever seen. He just raved about how it had been filmed in Cleveland where he was living and he laughed through the whole thing. I politely twittered and wondered how long this thing would last. I wanted to go bowling.

Well, I put A Christmas Story out of my mind for years. It was just something we had done that first date in December 1983. I didn't ever have to go there again. And then, some time in the 1990's, the movie was shown on TV and that was all she wrote for me. My word, this was genius! It was one of the most hilarious movies that I had ever seen. Genius I tell you. The girls were hooked with the first watching. They had drunk the kool aide and gladly.

Now, you need to know something about our family. We are a movie quotes family. We just sprinkle those little bon mots all over the place. A Christmas Story is one of our favorites for quotes. You never know when one of them is going to pop up in the course of conversation, it doesn't even have to be Christmas.

So again this year, as in many years past, we will watch "A Christmas Story". TBS does us the enormous favor of having their "24 Hours of A Christmas Story" which we indulge in. And of course we also have it on DVD for the other times we might want to watch it. It is just addictive.

So power up the DVD player or wait until Christmas Eve and watch "A Christmas Story". You will never be the same again. Come over to the dark side, we have cookies, and Red Rider BB guns, and leg lamps and all manner of things. Come on, you know you want to.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy 22nd Birthday Ashley!

Today is my oldest daughter Ashley's 22nd birthday. How can that be??? Where did all the time go since she made her debut in this world. Her eyes were open and she was babbling right from the first. We should have known what was coming.
Not so long ago it seems she was this age, which I think was about a year and a half. There she was gleefully picking the heads off my Spring flowers (when we could actually get her to GO in the grass that is).
She has always had that quirky kind of humor that says, "Hey, I think I would look good in that Mr. Potato Head moustache!" Or, "Hey, I think I will have my head shaved, I know that is going to be fun!" (no picture of THAT incident is going to be posted here). She is our resident "movie person" who has an opinion on most every movie. The Lord of the Rings years were interesting to say the least. She is my old movie buddy, Turner Classic Movies is our friend.
Ashley is my Prairie Home Companion buddy who never misses a performance with me when they come to Blossom Music Center. This years performance was a tad wet, can you say thunderstorms, pouring rain, lightning and tornado watches. It was a blast!
Ash is an incredibly talented artist who will soon be the possessor of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cartooning. Who knew you could get a BFA in Cartooning. Be that as it may, she is and has always been a wonderful artist. The above picture was finished just recently and is her sister Meg and Meg's boyfriend Josh as Superheros. I love this picture. You can see some of her other artwork here. I don't know where she got the talent cuz it sure didn't come from her father or I. We can't manage to draw stick figures.

Happy Birthday Ashley. May you have a great day in class and working at the world's best comic book store. Splurge and have something from Jamba Juice and enjoy your DVD's of Ken Burn's Civil War. We are so proud of you, your talent, your sense of humor, your commitment to your craft, your trying to be a great big sister (stop laughing Meg and Beth!) and all the things that make you special (not special ed). Have a great day my Ashley Mashley. I love you. See you soon.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alton Brown in a genius

I love popcorn, lovely buttery popcorn. I HATE microwave popcorn. No matter what brand I have bought it is always too salty, and then my fingers swell up like sausages and I need to drink gallons of water and you get the picture. So, for the last several years, whenever I wanted popcorn I did it the old fashioned way, on the stove top in a pan with oil. It takes a while but the result is good and I have total control over how much butter and salt I put on.

But now, thanks to that genius Alton Brown, I can go back to quickly doing my popcorn in the microwave. I never would have known about this except for the lovely ladies in the Frugal Homemakers forum on Ravelry. So, this is what you do. You will need a brown paper bag (about lunch bag size), regular popcorn kernels and a stapler (yes a stapler). You put the popcorn kernels in the paper bag (a 1/3 cup makes a GOOD sized portion), fold the top down twice and close it with ONE staple. Put the bag in the microwave, hit the popcorn button and then start. That is all there is to it. I did have to do one and a half popcorn cycles, turning the microwave off when the popping slowed way down. Take it out, open the bag (be careful of the steam) and voila! Popcorn. Add melted butter, salt and whatever other seasonings you want and you are in business. No muss, no fuss, no oil. Delicious.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Well worth watching. I am not sure if there is a group that does this at my local airport but I am going to check it out.