Friday, October 31, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

Edit: I originally posted this on 9/12/08 but I feel that it needs to come back to the top of the blog, just to remind all of us what is at stake in this election.

I don't think I need to add any comment. Just make sure that you watch the entire thing.

Quote of the Day

A government that is big enough to give you everything that you want is a government that is big enough to take everything that you have.

a caller to Mornings in America

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Your Educational Info for the Day

Because I KNOW that you have been wondering. Here is a very informative blog on how to butcher your own chickens. It has been written by Herrick Kimball, inventor of the world famous Whizbang Chicken Plucker.

This came from Amy's Humble Musings blog where they have actually been butchering their first chickens. More power to her.

I love their coffee

I don't usually do a post promoting a particular brand of anything. My tastes are rather pedestrian for the most part (yes I do shop at Walmart) but when it comes to coffee I am a snob. I will admit it and I am not looking to get help for the problem because there is no problem. I digress.

About 3 years ago or so my sis-in-law Laura gave us a Christmas gift from a coffee company called St. Ives Coffee Roasters. Up until that time I had been buying my coffee at the grocery store, whatever was on sale actually, in bean form but still whatever was on sale. Well, this coffee opened my eyes, made me see the coffee light so to speak. I made that first pot and it was good, really good. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe there was something to this using good coffee beans to get a good cup of coffee. So, I made the leap and actually ordered some coffee from St. Ives, which is located in Gainesville, GA. The order was promptly filled and arrived in good order. I was hooked.

Advance to the present day. We recently took a trip to GA where we are hoping to move one of these days. Our day of arrival we had planned to drive from Atlanta up through Gainesville to Baldwin where we were staying at the best B&B ever (more on that later). Dan looked at me and said, "Hey isn't that coffee place that you order from in Gainesville?" Well yes it is as a matter of fact. So Dan got on the internet using his lovely iPhone and looked up the website for the phone number. On the website it said that they gave tours so we called to enquire (not knowing how big the company was). The person who answered the phone put us through to Ed Thilenius who happens to be the VP and also the chief coffee roaster. Ed said that we should absolutely stop and he would give us a tour. Cool!

So, with the help of our trusty GPS, we wended our way northeastward to Gainesville and located the St. Ives Coffee Roasters building. It is very small and very non descript I will say that. The building is located in an industrial area just over a railroad tracks and there must be a chicken processing plant somewhere near by because we followed at least on truck full of poultry going off to become chicken piccata or something. We pulled into the parking lot and as I got out I could smell coffee. How lovely.

What a wonderful experience visiting St. Ives Coffee Roasters was!!! Ed Thilenius was so gracious in giving us almost an hour of his time to these two interlopers and sharing his coffee knowledge and humor with us, especially since he had 300 pounds of Colombian coffee beans to roast. Ed is a young man who actually started with the company as one of their drivers and has worked his way up the ladder to become VP and chief coffee roaster. He is passionate when talking about coffee and roasting. It was a great time. St. Ives also donates coffee to our soldiers in Afghanistan and that is something that is near and dear to my heart.

So, this is what I want you to do. If you love coffee and appreciate your morning "cup 'o joe" then I want you to go over to St. Ives Coffee Roasters and check out the website. Order some coffee. When they get your order they roast the beans for you. Your coffee isn't taken from a bin that has been roasted weeks ago, they do it in very small batches so that it is as fresh as it can be when it comes to you. Then remember to NEVER, I repeat NEVER put it in the refrigerator or freezer. Just put it in an airtight container and keep it in the cupboard so that it isn't exposed to light and then enjoy.

I am going to place my next order today. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some matters of housekeeping

Hi all. Don't fear, there are posts coming but life is intruding. I should have something up by the end of the week on a trip I took recently as well as some political stuff (you know I can't resist).

As a matter of housekeeping. This is my blog site and I have ultimate power (said in the voice of Yoda). I allow people to comment on my blog posts, I really really enjoy it actually.......except when you write something that is off the wall and or offensive. If you do that then I will exercise my ability to hit the trashcan button and delete your comment. I don't like to do that and so far that has only happened once. But, I just want to remind you that I can do it. I don't mind constructive criticism but don't use my blog to publicize your off the wall rantings and website. Sorry, not going to happen.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest I am going to go and get ready for dinner, which will be at the local steak place where I will have a lovely piece of beef.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One of my nightmares

OK guys, this would happen to be one of my more basic nightmares. A spider that is big enough to eat something the size of a BIRD!!!!! This is was FOX News said about the picture

The image, which is being cirulated via e-mail worldwide, is real, according to wildlife experts, The Cairns Post reported.

The photo, believed to have been taken earlier this week, shows the spider clenching its legs around a lifeless bird trapped in a web at a property near Atherton, west of Cairns.

Joel Shakespeare, the head spider keeper at NSW's Australian Reptile Park, said the spider was a golden orb weaver.

"Normally they prey on large insects, it's unusual to see one eating a bird," he said. Shakepeare said he had seen golden orb weaver spiders as big as a human hand but the northern species in tropical areas were known to grow larger.

Shakespeare said the bird, a chestnut-breasted mannikin which appears frozen in an angel-like pose in the pictures, is likely to have flown into the web and got caught.

"It wouldn't eat the whole bird," he said.

"It wouldn't eat the whole bird". Well now I feel A LOT better about it (NOT).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What does this say about my thinking process. I read this heading for a NYTimes obit - "Ed Turney, A Chip Maker Founder, is dead at 79" and think, "Oh potato chips" when in reality the company made computer micro chips. Too much thinking about food perhaps.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Zachary Clarence

I have prepared this particular blog post in advance, knowing that the day that I will post it (10/20) will not be a day on which I could write it.

I have had to put my sweet Mr. Crabby Pants, aka Zachary Clarence, down. Even as I write that sentence he is still here with me, sitting at the back of my computer chair and trying to convince me that it is actually his chair and that I am intruding.

Zachary has been with us for almost 16 years. It is sort of like a marriage. You know that you had a life before he came but you really don't remember it. I had never intended to have a cat (let alone two cats). We had small children and that was enough chaos thank you very much. But one day my friend Brenda called. She had a huge favor to ask of me (uh oh). She had gotten a kitten from the local animal shelter to be a companion to the cat that she already had. It wasn't working out (and that was an understatement). The new kitten was sweet and loving (unlike the other evil kitty) but she felt that she had to find a good home for him because she had a commitment to the other older cat. Would we take Zachary, please, please, pretty please? Well what was I supposed to say to that. OK I said (VERY RELUCTANTLY), we will take him.

He has been the most wonderful cat through all these years. We almost lost him in 1997, Labor Day weekend to be exact, when he had a large (and rather expensive) medical crisis. The vet said we had bought him a couple more years but cats that had this problem didn't last too long. He sure proved them wrong. Zach has been like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going and going. He has brought joy, laughter, warm feet, cat hair on furniture, hairballs and so many other things into our lives. He has been my companion through many years, a move, illness. I will miss his insistence on being fed FIRST before I even make my coffee, his smell (think slightly musty and rather furry old man), his ability to know the minute I wake up in the morning, his incredibly loud purr that can intrude upon my sleep as he is staring at me waiting to be petted, his rather annoying love for eating pieces of yarn (with the resulting "poop on a rope" phenomenon) and so many other things.

But now the time has come to do what is hard to do, to make the responsible choice and have him put down. Animals have a "shelf life" though we do not like to think about that. He will not deal well with another move, he is beginning to have other health issues and his teeth are bad. So, today we will take Zach and our other cat Otis to the vet. We will say goodbye, we will come home and we will grieve.

Good bye my sweet Mr. Crabby Pants.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Devil Bones
Reichs, Kathy

Knitting Sticks: 3 1/2

I don't remember when I first encountered the Temperance Brennan series of books. I am not really that much of a contemporary murder/mystery fan but somewhere along the line I encountered Kathy Reichs and her books and I was hooked.

Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist which means that she deals with bones and what they can tell us. She works both in Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal. This happens to be the 11th book in the series and before I tell you what I thought about the book I have to say that the series is best read in sequence. You can read the books as "stand alones" but some of the finer points will be lost.

Tempe Brennan finds herself working with her old friend Erskine "Skinny" Slidel on a case that may involve voodoo, santeria, murder and dirty politics. As usual she finds herself in danger as she solves the case. The underlying themes are a continuation of earlier books - her relationship with her soon to be ex-husband Pete; her daughter; her relationship with Andrew Ryan. I must say that I am rooting for Ryan but we must wait to see.

All in all I enjoyed the book but it wasn't a tremendously intellectual read. I will say that her books have a fair amount of forensics jargon which can get tedious. Ms. Reichs is acutally a Forensic Anthropologist in Charlotee, NC so she knows what she is talking about. Also, just a pet peeve here, I always judge a good mystery by my "Agatha Christie" standard. You do not pull the murderer out of a hat at the end of the novel, you set the whole thing up and introduce all the characters in the beginning. I don't want to give anything away if you want to read the book but I didn't think that Ms. Reichs did this.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Knitting Memories

Knitting Memories
Nargi, Lela

Knitting Sticks: 4

I love books about knitting. I especially love books about why people knit, how they came to be knitters and what knitting means to them. That is what this book is about.

It isn't a very long book and doesn't take a great deal to read but it was lovely.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sometimes Things Have to Change

Change is an inevitable part of life. Important things in life often have a shelf-life, a certain period of time when they are relevant and useful to you, when you love being a part of them and appreciate what they bring to your life. But then time passes and sometimes you have to say good-bye to something that has been important to your life. Sometimes these things just die a natural death. That time has come for my Book Club and I am sad to see it go.

I have always been a reader but not necessarily a reader of Classics. I have gone through different phases in reading. There was the Sci Fi phase in college (I still love Ray Bradbury), there was the romance phase in high school (OK, OK I occasionally read one now and then, so sue me) and then there were all the years when the girls were growing up and it was a good day when I got to read anything at all beside "Sammy's Special Day" or "The Hungry Thing".

At Kelly's cookie exchange in December 2000 I sat next to my friend Anita at dinner. We were chatting about various things, nothing amazing, when we got to the topic of books. Anita is another reader and we both admitted that we really were woefully deficient in reading "classics". We sort of looked at each other and said, "Hey why don't we start a Classics Book Club!" You could call it our "Andy Hardy moment", you know the moment when they turn to each other and say, "Hey, we can put on that Broadway Show in OUR barn. It won't be any problem!" Yeah right.

So, we had made the decision to start this thing and we thought February would be the perfect time to start because in January you are still recovering from all the Christmas stuff. We thought that once a month would be a good spacing for reading the books. We decided where we would meet, at a common location so that no one had to worry that it was their turn to host book club (too much social pressure). We took the time to define what was a "classic" for us. We were not interested in reading the current NYTimes best seller or Oprah's latest pick, it needed to be something with more "staying power" than that. We even decided what we should start with, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was OK not to finish a book if you just couldn't stand it. If by the middle of the book you were still wanting to throw it against the wall then put it down and leave it. Life is too short to be made to finish a book that you really hate. We were not, and are not, literary scholars but we all felt that this would be something to expand our minds and give us something to think about and discuss beyond our kids. We were right.

Over time we evolved a system of picking books that seemed to work for us. The first year we would read the assigned book, come together to discuss it and at that time pick the book for the next month. That quickly became cumbersome. We would all look at each other and go, "Well, what should we read next." And we just didn't know half the time. So in December of that first year we made the decision that we would pick the whole reading list for the next year in one fell swoop. We all came to the December meeting armed with a list of suggestions. Then we discussed them and made our final picks. A much better way to do things I have to say. That way we knew what was coming and if you wanted to get all your books at once you could do that.

We never really had a "leader" who guided the discussion, we were all the leaders. Some of us would come with background information or questions to direct the discussion but we were all participants.

Through the years we have read a total of 69 books from various genres, of various lengths and with varying degrees of lovability. I think we would all say that there have been some books that everyone loved except for one person or we all hated a book but for different reasons or we all loved a book. There has never been a dull moment that is for sure. Members of the book club have come and gone for various reasons but we have had fun with whoever was there.

But now the time has come to say goodbye. Some of us have family commitments that make it difficult to make the meetings, some of us have gone back to work, some of us have gone back to school. It is painful to say good bye but it is the right thing to do and I think that all of us heaved a sigh of relief in one way and cried a little too.

Here is the list of all the books that we have read over the years. Look them over, you might find something to inspire you.

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
Gullivers Travels by Jonatha Swift
Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis
Middlemarch by George Elliot
Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Time Machine by H.G.Wells
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A Room With a View by E.M.Forster
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Surprised by Joy by C.S.Lewis
The Baronet's Song by George MacDonald
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Nun's Story by Kathryn Hulme
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llwellyn
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurard
Call of the Wild by Jack London
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Plain Tales From the Hills by Rudyard Kipling
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
Code of the Woosters by P.G.Wodehouse
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Bette Smith
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
I Claudius by Robert Graves
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
1001 Nights the Richard Burton translation
Sister of My Heart by Chitra Divakaruni
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
A Death at Christmas by Agatha Christie
The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macalay
Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meg runs the Chicago Marathon

Sunday morning dawned clear and cool. We had been watching the weather for several weeks, hoping for temps that were neither too hot or too cold. It looked like it was going to be a good day, if perhaps a tad warm by afternoon. We were out the hotel door about 8:15a to try and find a spot to see Meg run by. Our first two tries were duds. We watched them run by at the corner of Wacker and Columbus but I think Meg had already passed by. It was hard to tell because the street is divided there and she might have gone by on the other side. Then we went over to mile 3 on LaSalle but missed her there as well. We were stuck on one side of the street and couldn't really see the other side all that well. We finally decided to dash across the street to the area in the middle where we could watch both groups of runners. We didn't see Meg but I got to see my mother nearly take out a runner. Yikes! When there are 30,000+ runners it is a big job to spot one person as they run by.
So, since we seemed to be running behind her we decided to find a spot further along the marathon route. That way we would be sure to see her. We had five pairs of eyes looking, how hard could it be (snort). We ended up at mile marker 12 on W. Adams. Even though we were fairly far along the route we still missed the front runners but were able to watch the more hard core runners go by as well as probably the front 50% of the runners. The first group we saw were really pounding the pavement. Very impressive. There was no way for them to catch the front runners (who run at about a 4 minute mile pace) but they were really moving.
After the hard core runners passed we began to have a fairly steady stream of people, the big group. That is when you have to really start watching for your particular person. There are large groups of people and if you aren't on your game then your person will be by you before you know it. Thankfully we were right by one of the marathon clocks. We knew what Meg's half marathon time was and about what her per mile time was so we could guess when she might come by.
We had the joy of seeing Elvis run by. He certainly looks good for his age.
Finally at about 2:10 into the race here came Meg. She was looking good and moving well. We yelled and held up our signs and she was by in a flash. So, then we had a small amount of time to kill so we stopped by the hotel, wandered past the "Bean" and went down towards the bottom of the marathon route. LOADS of people all going the same place and looking for the perfect spot to see their person go by. We ended up finding a spot at Mile marker 26 on Roosevelt Rd. just before the turn back onto Columbus. We had to wait for someone to move away from the guard rail and open up a space for us on the street. But patience pays and fairly soon we had claimed perfect spots to be able to see Meg as she was in the home stretch. Her boyfriend, Josh, was stationed at mile 25 and would txt me when she went by. So we waited, and waited, and waited. It was an excellent place to watch people. We were close to the end of the race and many people running by were at the end of their strength. I saw numerous occasions where one person was helping another to finish. That was awesome. There were people running singly and people running in groups. The finish was in sight and we yelled on encouragement.
Finally, here she came, looking good for having run 26 miles. She was smiling, she was moving, she was waving. This was good. Her official Chicago Marathon time ended up being 4:34:44. She was 13,657th place out of 31,000 who finished. I think that is pretty darn good.
We are so proud of Meg and her commitment to running this race, which she did on Team World Vision, an organization we are involved with. Her dedication to training and her commitment to her goal were inspiring.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Perfect Summer

The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm
Nicolson, Juliet

Knitting Sticks: 5

" The season from May to September 1911 was one of the high sunlit meadows of English history. It was a time when England - rich, happy, self-indulgent and at least slightly decadent - felt most contentedly itself. And yet the exuberance and self-congratulatory spirit of those few months was in many ways illusory."

So begins Ms. Nicholson's most excellent book on that perfect or seemingly perfect summer. England was England and all was right with the world. The coronation of George V and Queen Mary, the usual summer pursuits of the rich and royal, the halcyon days of a perfect English summer with many more to anticipate. But it wasn't always the perfect summer. The temperatures were unusually hot those four months reaching at one point an astonishing 100F. If you were rich on even moderately successful you could leave the city and retreat to some place cooler, living a languid life. But if you toiled on the docks or in the factories, living in squalid conditions in tenement slums you did not have that choice.

This perfect summer saw the beginning of changes. The working class were no longer willing to work for poverty wages in inhumane conditions. This summer saw multiple strikes in transportation and industry. The divide between "upstairs and downstairs" in the great houses of the aristocracy was breaking down. Women and men were less likely to go into "service" and once there were less likely to stay.

And over all was looming the threat of an increasingly militaristic Germany with it's Kaiser Wilhelm the grandson of the late Queen Victoria.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I have to admit that the time period just preceding WWI and the war itself has not been one where I have done a great deal of reading. I am trying to remedy that. This book is well worth searching out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Your Fashion Humor for the Day

A model wears a creation by French fashion designer Pierre Cardin during the presentation of his entire Spring-Summer 2009 and Autumn-Winter 2009 collections at his villa in Theoule sur Mer, southern France, Monday, Oct. 6, 2008. (AP Photo)

Well, what can we say about the new Fall fashions. I know that I am going to run right out and order one of these! I have always wanted to dress like a blue quilted space shuttle. Doesn't that model look like she is SOOOO comfortable and happy to be wearing this new creation.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are you registered to vote?

I have embeded this particular video, not because I care in the slightest about any of the Hollywood "stars" involved but because the core message is one I am passionate about. I would think that all of the actors involved will vote the exact opposite from myself come November 4th but what they are telling you, that you need to register to vote, is something that we can say we have in common.


It is easy to register, you can go to the library and fill out the paperwork. One page, that is all that it takes. You don't have to go into the city to some office. It isn't difficult to do. If you are 18 or older you can and should be registered. There is no excuse in my mind not to do it. No excuse.

But, registering to vote is only the first step. You must then exercise this right to vote. You need to know the issues in the country, state, city. It doesn't take as much time as you might think and it is important. Your local paper is often a great place to find different summaries of the issues and the people who are running for different offices. Just take the time to look. If you need a website, then one of the best places I know is Project Vote Smart. They lay everything out in a non-partisan way.

Then, once you are registered and you have taken some time to educate yourself about the people running and the issues then you need to go and vote. Don't give me any excuses about how you don't have the time, the line is too long, the weather was bad, you just forgot. None of those is valid. You need to get off your kiester and vote. If you know that you aren't going to be in town on the day you are to vote, or if you know that you can't get to your poling place then get an absentee ballot. That is how I voted in my first election, by absentee.

If you aren't registered then you still have time to do it. Today is Oct 2. In most states the deadline to register to vote is October 4th so you have time TODAY to go out and do that. DO IT.

If you don't vote and then decide that you are going to complain about how things turned out or what is happening in the country then don't come complaining to me. When people complain to me about their elected officials or the issues the first thing that I ask is, "Did you vote in the last election?" If the answer is no then I don't want to talk to you about it. You have no right to complain about something that you couldn't be bothered to participate in.

Remember this, that in so many places on this planet people DON'T have this privilege. They long to be able to say yes or no to the men and women running their country or town or village. You have that right. Don't squander it.

Remember also that when you vote you honor the men and women who have fought and died for your right to do so. You also honor those men and women who currently serve, both here and on the frontlines, who fight so that you are safe at home.

Just a small disclaimer. There is some "bleeped" language in the video, just so that you know. Also, know that I personally vote in a Conservative way and I would venture to guess none of these people do but again the basic message is one that I strongly believe in.