Sunday, December 29, 2013

Auld Lang Syne

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas it seems natural to sit back and contemplate the remains of the year. I linger with a cuppa tea in my rocker, simply staring at the lit Christmas tree remembering holidays past, then finally digressing into memories accrued in 2013. It seems a necessary sweep of the waning year to consider events or decisions made and glean a bit of wisdom from them for guidance in the new year. Not a "should'a-could'a-would'a" pining but a hmm... what did I learn and what shall I do, perhaps, differently. I have long thought life events happen for a reason that can neither be rushed or even foreseen in their long term effects. Not to say I just sail along for the ride, but instead, "finger stirring the pot," I try to intelligently plot choices making positive life course directions or at least what I consider forward motion. All very subjective this annual philosophizing, but somehow appropriate in the cold, dark days of winter.

I have been waffling, actually fearful of taking the next educational step in my plans for my future. You know all the reasons to delay big changes too I bet, like...it's too expensive, a big time and energy commitment, how will I fit it into my schedule, or the totally unanswerable, is this the right move? I have again re-read my April 15, 2013 post, On Fear, and have concluded I just need to step off another cliff and be done with it. Even having stepped off a couple of metaphorical cliffs previously, the first step is always a shock that I am never thrilled to repeat. I'm pumping myself up with the Holstee Manifesto which is pinned to the curtain in front of my computer. For those of you uninitiated, visit here for a read and scroll down for a terrific video, http://shop.holstee.com/pages/manifesto . It may sound childish, selfish or hipster, but as you get older this manifesto is a good reminder to kick yourself in the pants & get the lead out, time is slipping by a little faster and...What do you want to accomplish with your life? I would hate to have geriatric regrets from a missed opportunity.

So New Year's eve, while I am freezing outside, clutching a glass of champagne and watching my son light fireworks to bring in 2014, I'll toast a new year with growing bravery for new challenges. Happy New Year to all! Remember when you sing Auld Lang Syne, written by Scotsman, Robert Burns in1788 it's about remembering the past kindly while sharing that drink, and even though we've worked and wearied this year gone, the song ends with, "And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
                                               And give me a hand o’ thine !
                                               And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
                                                for auld lang syne"  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne ).


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

*Happy Christmas*

Things are winding down here, I engineer the holiday to be free of headaches; no last minute shopping and no massive cooking efforts. I spent Christmas eve doing a little light cleaning and making dinner reservations at our local Thai Kitchen. Since I normally work for a major shipping firm (post knee surgery I missed this year's holiday rush), the Christmas holiday is hectic enough at work. I don't need hectic at home, so I have crafted a mellow holiday routine.

Our neighborhood has a Christmas eve tradition of lining all the streets with candles set in either jars, white paper bags or gallon milk jugs. It looks lovely at street level and must be absolutely gorgeous viewed from above. We got ours out & lit, edging the yard, then drove around looking at the rest of the neighbors' luminaires. Later, we placed our gifts for each other in colored baskets beneath the tree. Val is busily completing the last two knitted items she is gifting in less than twelve hours.

Ah, Christmas morning... No longer the crack of dawn early rush of little ones, I was awakened by Emma Beagle around 9am. The snow has melted and although we had temps into the single digits it is above freezing this morning. Simply a grey foggy morning, even the atmosphere outdoors seems very quiet. It's a contemplative time to have my cup of tea.

Once everyone had crawled out from under their duvets, we enjoyed a leisurely morning, brunching on Val's homemade waffles. Emma & Wendy each got a Christmas-y decorated dog cookie which they politely took then greedily crunched up, happy dogs. We ooh-ed & aah-ed over each others' gifts. Everyone had made at least one gift for each other. Jim had taken a jewelry class at the community college and crafted the most charming items for the three women he lives with. Val finished her knitted items by 4am, some beer cosies and a lovely cable purse for me! I hope to photo and include the instructions in a post soon. Books, music, yarn and art supplies were happily given & received. I've got the pot roast simmering in my cast iron dutch oven, so we will share a hearty meal later.

Blessings to all for a wonderful Christmas with family & friends!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Done!

Projects are being completed, just in the nick of time. This baby project came up suddenly, when I realized I might not catch up with the lucky woman until after she delivered in February. Anyway, I sat down and found a couple of easy patterns. The booties are from the book, One Skein: 30 quick projects by Leigh Radford. I added a green stripe on the booties so they would co-ordinate better with the hat. The little fruit beanie is on Pinterest (of course) and it knit up beautifully. Here's the link to the free pattern: http://acechick.typepad.com/knitchicks_patterns/2006/01/strawberry_bean.html  
I used Crystal Palace Yarn Merino 5, in what I call raspberry crush, but is labeled color #1013. This yarn is very springy, 100% superwash merino and it comes in 110yd balls. I got both the hat & booties out of one ball. The lime yarn is Simplicity by Hikoo, 107m ball with fiber content 55% superwash merino, 28% acrylic, 17% nylon. This yarn is lovely and soft, it almost feels like a plush cotton. I plan to knit up a few pairs of booties just using this yarn in total or better yet... a pair of cozy big people socks! Hmmm... later after Christmas.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Full Cold Moon

Our December full moon is shrouded in fog this evening, yet the moon glow gives a soft blue white radiance to the snow. A pair of Great Horned Owls have started their evening mating calls, hoo hoo hoo-hooing from the pine trees across the street, to as close as my magnolia in the front yard. I find the owl's call very soothing and often go outside to try and get a glimpse of them. Here in Missouri they are year round residents. Fortunately, there is a huge cemetery across the street with abutting state & city owned green space, allowing for at least 20 acres of forest and field open habitat. Take a peek at this website for terrific info on our local owls http://jane-domain.com/great_horned_owl.htm
Tah-dah

I have been a bit slow to get the Christmas tree decorated. I have not succumbed to the ease of an artificial tree yet, preferring a fresh fir with its spicy scent. Our tree is about six feet tall and very full; so far I have only draped a tree skirt around the base and placed the star on top. So many holiday projects are demanding attention, it doesn't seem to matter how well planned you think you are, crunch time is always the last week before Christmas!

Well, nothing like blogger's guilt to get one motivated! The tree is now decorated. I will be heading back to work December 30th, so I am re-inspired to make the most of my remaining time off. One thing I have learned from this accidental episode is that life truly is what you make it and to accomplish your goals it is important to stay focused on the long range outcome, not the daily plodding.

I plan to continue exploring this life, exercise 150 minutes a week and regularly create with words, yarn and gardens. Yikes, this resembles a New Year's resolution list!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rushing to the end of the Year


A fierce December is truly upon us now; there has been a sprinkling of snow and bitterly cold temperatures hovering around 18F/-7C. Black ice on the roads was quite dangerous for a day, but has currently cleared in my area. Tonight we are forecast to have our temperatures drop to 4F/-15C, but no further snowfall until Friday.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, brought unusually mild weather with (60F/15C) temperatures and lovely sunshine. Yard inspiration struck and we did a mow and mulch of the the lawn & raked leaves onto the front gardens for a protective winter blanket. The rogue Queen Elizabeth rose, which had separated from its trellis last windstorm, was tied and anchored without serious injury given its huge thorns (nicknamed the "waving wands of death"). The final less risky job was hanging the outdoor ornaments across the front porch, beneath a single strand of LED Christmas lights. Given the current weather conditions, I am certainly glad we got these chores done then!

Venturing into my own front yard was the extent of my jaunt into the world though, as I completely avoided the shopping madness associated with Black Friday sales. I puttered around the house happily working on lots of little chores; like knitting those soon to be gifted Christmas items, dicing the last of Thanksgiving turkey into bits for soup, addressing holiday cards and organizing closets. 

My homefront efficiency has increased significantly, since I am still off work, recovering from knee surgery. I seem to come up with a new to-do list daily. Thrice weekly physical therapy is most helpful and a therapeutic leg massage has made a world of difference in knee stiffness, but my mobility is still impaired. I think it will be prudent to take the whole amount of recovery time allotted.

Truly there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to complete all the items lingering on my lists, exercise and tidy up. I marvel at how many activities I had let slide when I was working. I think I will be very busy when I return to work and start university classes in January. Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Fiesta

Happy post Thanksgiving to all! The traditions of our American Thanksgiving make this holiday my favorite of the year. I enjoy the family togetherness and love to cook the annual feast. My children are now taking over a significant portion of the cooking, so we all share in the kitchen duties. My son is a turkey cooking genius and sets on the table, a turkey so moist & juicy it is literally falling off the bones. My youngest is the green bean casserole chef, this year adding fresh mushrooms and water chestnuts to her ever evolving dish. I  love to cook pie, cranberry chutney and mash up the potatoes, so basically our menu is created by a divide and conquer approach.

This holiday, my middle daughter was committed to attending her boyfriend's family holiday meal midday and then planned to partake in our Thanksgiving meal in the evening. She was concerned about having to eat similar menus twice with the obvious overstuffed consequences. I am somewhat of a traditionalist but I decided the easiest approach to the double meal dilemma would be to add burrito wraps and homemade pinto beans to our menu. That allowed Val and her boyfriend to enjoy turkey burritos without having to eat a repeat Thanksgiving meal again. We even blended up some Margaritas to sip, fueling a somewhat international flair to our festive celebration.

More important than the food though, is the character of your heart at Thanksgiving. I would hope folks express thankfulness for their bounty more than once a year. I'm not referencing a religious experience here at all, just an acknowledgment that simply awakening, safe and whole to another day is praiseworthy. Regardless, given human social constructs, a day to live is an amazing gift and so full of potential.

Sometimes I think we Americans do not realize how safe we are, how rich we are, nor how free we are; just look around the world... Frequently, I mention first world problems, referencing the difficulties we as a wealthy culture frequently despair; stuff like "nothing to wear," (really? the closet is empty?), or any number of possession lacking laments. More serious though, "I lost my job, I can't make the bills," yet our country has a safety net of unemployment & food stamps. Even if you are homeless, there are shelters and soup kitchens if you choose to use them.

Now look at Syria, where citizens are being targeted by not only their government but random militias, deprived of  food, water and safe housing, then finally, forced to seek shelter in a foreign land with just the clothes on their backs. Are our issues so severe? There are no Black Friday shopping bonanzas for them.

I am not wealthy by U.S. standards, but I have more than I need to survive, as well as the capability to provide a wonderful family feast (granted, I bought the turkey last December, on sale). We also have the luxury of eating together safely and enjoying the leftovers. Truly, I am rich and for this I am very, very thankful.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Papers, please

Well, here's something to think about... I was purchasing a bottle of Chardonnay at the local Walmart and since I am in my fifth decade the cashier didn't card me, but carded my accompanying daughter! She was not purchasing the wine and although she is 21 years old, she did not have her ID with her. The cashier then took the bottle of Chardonnay and refused to sell it to me! Stating this whole transaction was on camera & there was nothing I could do about it. What is going on here? What just happened to my rights?


Fishy saga

Today has been bitterly cold with a wind chill of 18F/-8C. There is no snow or ice but that may change tomorrow. My recent knee injury and subsequent surgery has definitely thrown a wrench into any hope of completing most of the end of season yard chores. So, leaves have littered the lawn, frost blackened, skeletal tomato plants list in their wire cages and the trellised roses that broke free of their frame during last week's wind storm (tornadoes for Illinois) are swishing & swaying between the windows at the front of the house.

 Our two fish were hunkered down in the now very chilly, outdoor pond; fortunately unfrozen because we had thrown a couple of area rugs over the top. Sharky Boy, a substantial 8" goldfish, started living in our pond as a fifteen cent 1-1/2" feeder fish about seven years ago. He had three fishy companions but on day one, an apparently suicidal companion fish jammed his head under a rock and drowned. Down to only three fish, we learned their first winter, our 44 gallon pond freezes, with solid ice to a depth of six to eight inches and the unfortunate goldfish who became encased in ice did not survive. Consequently, we overwinter the outdoor fish in an indoor aquarium.

 The remaining two fish seemed to be the perfect number for eating algae and mosquito larvae, as well as aesthetically, simply pretty to watch. Sharky Boy and Pearl hung together for a couple more years until a sneaky raccoon preyed on Pearl's inquisitive nature and snagged her from the pond. Sharky Boy was now solo and wisely, reluctant to come to the surface.We installed chicken wire over the pond  and decided to add a "companion" fish, so we invested five dollars in a small koi, dubbed Dart.

 Dart joined the pond as a three inch, extremely fast fish. It took almost draining the pond completely last year to net him. This year he was wily, but slower and on inspection he has grown to approximately six inches! The resident fish saga has remained uneventful this season. The raccoons, unable to snatch a fish through the chicken wire, still occasionally visit. They sit atop the fencing bending it into the pond and dabble their thieving paws in the water, but both fish hideout in a submerged PVC pipe we added for extra protection.

 It certainly would have been much more sensible to be netting and transferring fish a couple weeks ago when it was warmer, but motivation was lacking and I was out of commission. Fortunately, our six years of practice made for a relatively smooth fishy transfer, aside from Sharky Boy jumping out of the net into a pile of leaves, so now both fish are swimming circles in their 20 gallon smaller pond.

This basically is the end to my season in the yard. If I can handle a rake before it snows, I will try to corral some leaves for mulching, otherwise Mother Nature rules. Next Spring I'll deal with the untended remains of this year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nothing like a warm cookie...

Weather today was cold and rainy, then foggy, just hinting at winter. This is the perfect day to bake. The oven adds a bit of heat to the house and the comforting scent of baked goods is well, comforting. Most folks do the bulk of their baking for the holidays, but I have never been able to manage to find the time, so I bake before the holiday season.

I have a few tried & true cookie recipes that are family favorites and today's weather called for a warm, spicy cookie. Sister Marian's Ginger Cookies were a perfect complement paired with either milk or hot tea. The recipe follows:

1-3/4 cubes butter, melted
1-1/2 C. brown sugar, packed
2/3 C. dark molasses
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs
Mix & blend all the ingredients in order. Use a large bowl.

Then add the following dry ingredients:
2-1/2 C. white, unbleached flour
1-1/2 C. whole wheat flour
4-1/2 tsp. baking SODA
Mix in completely. The dough will be very stiff.
Cover with wax paper and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Once chilled spoon out dough and roll between your palms into walnut-sized balls. Roll balls in a bowl of white sugar then place on ungreased cookie sheet 2" apart. Bake in preheated 350' oven for 8-9 minutes. Once baked let stand 1-2 minutes before removing cookies from baking sheet to cooling rack. Recipe makes between 80-100 depending on how big you think a walnut-size ball is...






Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Working out

Healthcare and health insurance have been trending issues in my daily life this past month. Nothing like a little personal involvement to peak one's interest... knee injury, arthroscopy & now rehab. Physical therapy started this week and wow! Just saying, these focused exercises are letting me know that my hip and quadriceps (thigh) strengths have diminished, and surprisingly so. Although, I suspect there has been an insidious decline prior to my injury, even with the significant weight lifting I do on the job. Aging seems to sneak up on you and unless you are participating regularly in a total body workout, I think these subtle body & strength changes undermine your overall condition.

I am going to have to make a daily habit of therapeutic floor mat exercises to ensure I will have healthy & active senior years. Optimistic enthusiasm will not sustain the body. Let me quote a paragraph from my Paris travel journal, compiled in June 2012, because I think then, was my first realization of the negative effects of an American lifestyle. Yep, I mean the lack of simple regular walking.


Walking in the Tuileries
"At this point I am compelled to have a mini rant; as the world knows you are going to do a lot of walking in Paris, it’s a big city like New York or San Francisco but no one ever mentions the fact that you will be climbing enough stairs on a daily basis to essentially say you ascended the peak of Mt.Killamanjaro after a week here! There are stairs up and down the metro, in museums, most restaurants and department stores, every hotel, not to mention every single famous tourist site has a minimum of thirty steps and more likely one hundred or more. Now I can walk with the best, but had I known this I would have prepared with 45 minutes of daily Stairmaster, not even kidding. Val is pooping out before me and her thighs are thirty-five years younger! We have decided this is the reason French women can eat whatever they want and maintain model thin thighs and figures. We lazy Americans invented escalators and handicap ramps..."

As you can tell from the desperation in my rant, I was feeling the pain of untoned legs and I am active, by American standards. What an eye-opener! Purposeful brisk walking must be incorporated into daily activities. Part of the reason most Americans cannot do this is that they live in suburbia; not self-contained arrondissments, where convenient shops are located and efficient mass transit reduces the need for a car.

So today, bearing these debilitating facts in mind, I took a brisk half hour walk after my challenging physical therapy session. I practiced rehab therapist, Todd's recommendations and powered on inhaling some deep breaths of the cool air by the river. I didn't weeny out because it was sprinkling either. I was pooped when I got home but after icing my knee & drinking some water, I felt vibrant, even a bit younger.







Friday, November 15, 2013

Obamacare woes

I feel compelled to comment on the current raging controversy about healthcare insurance. The Affordable Care Act, put forth by President Obama with good intentions to help uninsured and under-insured Americans has fundamentally stalled in roll out, given website failures & terrible PR. Insurance companies are promptly canceling some private policy holders coverage and even with the congressional "fix" voted in today, no one knows how this will play out. I fact, I believe all Americans are going to be wondering what health insurance coverage they will be left with come January 1st, 2014.

The company I work for has been quite public in their anticipation of dropping spousal coverage for full time employees and more than anxious to trim the healthcare coverage for all employees, current, as well as retirees. This billion dollar company has dropped healthcare coverage for part time employees onto the Teamster's union, thus eliminating a large cost to their bottom line. Annual changes to our health care coverage routinely occur, but at this point, the healthcare part of the union contract has not met with an approval vote nationwide, leaving lots of employees still wondering what regional healthcare coverage will be available to them next year.

I am starting to suspect the average American has a clearer grasp of how the health insurance industry works than the American government does. Our wealthy politicians most likely have never had to concern themselves with their policy coverage, nor have they spent hours on the phone fighting for justified benefits,   petitioning for coverage within their community or begging for an approval for a physician ordered specialist treatment. Most Americans realize that health insurance is vital to getting good healthcare, but also understand the punitive situation created by insurance professionals second guessing or rating medical necessity by arbitrary financial and medical parameters. These insurance determinations always take place without actually seeing the patient and are assumptions made by healthcare insurance "experts."

 I know about these situations because I have had to fight for some healthcare rights my family and I were entitled to. I know about the hoops health insurance companies use the delay resources or payments from my twenty years of experience as a nurse and having to interface with insurance representatives for hospitals, as well as patients. There are tricks to know for every insured person:  are you in or out of network?, are you using your preferred provider?, or if your vision and dental coverage are covered by a different healthcare insurer through your employee plan. Oh, and if you are married and fortunately covered under two healthcare policies; be sure to know which one is primary and have the ability to co-ordinate benefits between both insurances, because they do not talk or retrieve information from each other.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine does. This is an incredibly complex situation. The cost to the already beleaguered American public is also going to be an element which has not been adequately explained. I wonder now how England, Scandinavia or even Canada implemented their public health care systems without such hullabaloo...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pun-ny

Yep, I am still raising cane! Everyday the knee improves. Weather got really cold last night around 18F (-7C), so the cat decided to camp out indoors and we covered the goldfish pond with carpet. I snuggled under the duvet with some milky, hot Russian tea and read, since my joints were a bit achy. I'm still taking some recuperative naps while planning some significant or perhaps memorable projects during my time off from work.

In my post-op drugged loopiness, I dropped a glass jar in my bathroom sink. Eyes closed, I anticipated a smash of glass but nope, only a thunk... In a moment of cosmic physics, my sink broke instead! Wow, simply wow! Admittedly, there was already a hairline crack in the porcelain from a prior episode of clumsiness, but how I could tap the ultimate breaking point with a flimsier item can only be regarded as extraordinary. My sinkhole, as handyman Todd calls it, is impressive. All you can do is laugh...

Nothing focuses your attention on inadequate bathroom facilities like illness or disability. Since this is the one & only house I will ever own, whenever something breaks I try to upgrade with my senior years in mind. I added grab bars to my full bath when the original 50 year old soap dish fell off the wall, requiring a re-tiling of the tub enclosure. So now, since I have a sink to replace, handyman Todd suggested adding grab bars and move a wall out about a foot to accommodate a normal sized sink/vanity in this currently tiny 4'x6' WC.

 Hmmm... Big sounding project. It's a given that I am not particularly graceful nor gravity resistant, so I'm thinking a bit of bathroom demolition now might be a prudent hedge against possible future inconvenience. I really won't miss the chipped & broken 1960's pink wall tile anyway.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Short jaunt around the yard

Three days after knee arthroscopy, I am able to gingerly navigate a bit of the front yard with the wooden cane my children gifted me with post-op. I wanted to see the last of Fall before the predicted rain & snow start tomorrow. Most of the work to "button up" the garden for winter didn't get done given my gimpy knee, so I'm sure Spring will herald a ton of tidying chores. Of course, by then I will be healed, strong, rested and ready to go...

The Viburnum (viburnum dilatatum 'Michael Dodge') bush by the driveway, has set loads of white waxy berries and the leaves are simply lovely shades of  russet red, gold and green.This variety grows as a small tree, branching from a main trunk and is currently at it's full 5'x6' size.  It bloomed early this year and the slow to appear honeybees missed the peak flowering stage, but I guess enough blooms got pollinated to set fruit now. This plant is one of my favorites, supporting both the bees in May and the birds snacking on the winter berries. This viburnum has never needed regular pruning, only an occasional removal of a sucker type central branch. It has certainly added a lovely element to the privacy hedgerow between my driveway and my neighbor's front yard.

The mass plantings of Solomon's seal (Polygonatum) beneath my Star Magnolia are fading to a pale parchment color and their elegantly arched stems are starting to collapse. I find this plant to be a lovely, deep shade, space filler and it increases it's garden presence annually by underground runners. It's also low maintenance, only needing a single application of fish emulsion in the Spring and a blanket of leaves in the Fall. Since this patch of Soloman's seal grows next to the fish pond wall near my front door, it is one of my first indicators of the season change. Do consider purchasing a single pot of Solomon's Seal at your local nursery next Spring, it looks excellent paired with green & white Hostas; carrying the green and white theme to a greater height over average sized Hostas. The dainty white bell shaped flowers have a charming green heart design on them and overall you couldn't ask for a more maintenance-free planting.

My last offering is about the Osage-orange (maclura pomifera). This is a local tree that drops these huge, hard, lime green fruits in the Fall. I found this one at a nearby park while walking the dogs. These sticky fruits are reputed to repel ants and I am also hoping voles, so I have placed a few around the yard in the last few weeks. At worst, they make a winter food source for local squirrels. I have found pockets of Osage-orange trees at the edges of fields, along the river walk and at local parks; obviously easier to spot in the Fall when there are about thirty of these 6" diameter fruits at the base of the tree. I've never heard of anyone being struck on the head, but when such dense and heavy fruits plummet to the ground, there is an audible "thunk." To learn more about this fascinating tree check out this Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osage-orange

Well, I need to put my knee up and do some more knitting. At the very least, I will have some completed projects to photograph for the next post. I also want to express my gratitude this Veteran's Day, to all servicemen and women for your courage and sacrifice.Thank you!








Thursday, November 7, 2013

Trials & smiles

I will be getting my knee "scoped" tomorrow. This ridiculous accident, a momentary trip over the dog's bed, has caused unexpected expense, time off from work and the derailing of the end of season garden clean-up. Yet, the positive aspects of my injury, yes, there are always positives to every negative, have been occupying my mind of late. I think a list is in order here:

1.) I've had the time to consider my employment future, and am making concrete plans to go forward with some positive life changes reflecting my new interests in teaching, ESL, voice acting, and writing.

2.) I must keep up with my regular walks and consider taking another yoga class. Strength and balance are issues that change with age and I need to continue toning.

3.) Continue experimenting with new recipes, this has been fun, adding spice to our dinners at home.

Ready, set...
4.) Plan for some daily quality reading or knitting time, not relegating my interests to last place.

Life is about choices and unfortunately, I had shifted into living on autopilot regarding my work and household routines. Vitality and enthusiasm are the hallmarks of a life actively chosen. Life slips by with the adoption of a "meh" attitude, simply going through the motions without consideration of where you are going. From now on, I am determined to bound out the door with the enthusiasm of my dogs,
because I realize it is simply a more terrific life when you can greet it joyously.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Buckstahuddha" for a Mug

I just returned from a quick business trip to Albany, NY. It was one of those Friday to Sunday jaunts which leaves only Saturday afternoon for any sightseeing. I decided to drive scenic Rt.7 East to Bennington, Vermont, in hope of "leaf peeping" some fall foliage color and to purchase a Bennington Pottery Trigger Mug.

Whenever I travel for an overnight I bring my own tea bags, because yes, I am fairly picky about tea and I get a bit cranky if I don't have a stout brew in the AM. The hotel had a 24 hour urn of hot water for tea, but it wasn't quite hot enough to get the full tea flavor, more of a tepid dunk really. And while I am thrilled the styrofoam hot cup is a thing of the past, the new paper cups add a distinct paper flavor to plain black tea. I know "whaa," definitely a first world problem, and certainly unimportant in the big scheme of things but after two days of unsatisfactory cuppas I was obsessed. I know I could have picked up something mug-like at a thrift store, grocery or Pier 1, but why spend money on just any old cup when I could take a sightseeing drive (known as a buckstahuddha, in my family) and purchase a souvenir mug from my past.

A long, long time ago... I lived in Maine for about seven years. I am a native New Englander, but in the late 1970's, I moved to the backwoods of Maine for my first job out of nursing school. My rural life was simple, mostly because I was lacking in funds and challenging, mostly because of the extreme Maine weather.  Generally, upper New England back then was fairly unpopulated aside from coastal fishing villages, hunting & logging camps, hippie communes, potato farms and winter ski resorts. Truly, L.L.Bean was the biggest tourist stop outside of the Kittery Trading Post. This time frame was also decades before Martha Stewart discovered "downeast", making the state of Maine a trendy residence. Anyway, gasoline was cheap back then, around 70 cents a gallon, so I drove all over Maine and Vermont exploring. I found the Bennington Pottery and purchased two teal blue Trigger Mugs. I loved those mugs, but thirty years later they had either long ago broken or had been lost. Hence, my road trip to Bennington this weekend to replace them. I was thrilled to find Trigger mugs are still in production, although about four times the 1970's price; the cost was definitely worth it for the quality & nostalgia factor. If you would like to view or purchase some Bennington Pottery, here is a link: http://www.benningtonpotters.com/product/200/mugs

So now, I am back home in Missouri sipping some excellent brew from my delightful new mug. Sometimes, I think it is beneficial to revisit some of the places and possessions of your past; kind of a positive, homey, grounding thing.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Seasonal interests

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!" Yes, I'm humming the Mr.Roger's theme song... Fall weather is full of surprises. Today is what I call "warmy-cool," sunny warmth but with a bit of chill in the air. Perfect temperature for sitting on the front porch with a cuppa. I've been slowly & carefully assessing the remainders of the gardening season, since I am still wearing a knee splint. We harvested the last of the Nantes carrots and they will go into a vegetarian au gratin casserole tonight.

The Black Swallowtail caterpillars have crept off to cocoon-up for overwinter. A bit more internet research reassured us the hungry, carrot-green-chomping caterpillars would indeed survive the cold. American Black Swallowtails do not migrate, but produce two to three broods to populate their range, so my doom prediction is happily avoided.


Halloween is coming and we have put the fearsome wreath on the door. This is an easy/quick wreath project. I used a white vine wreath base which I painted with black enamel spray paint. While the paint on the wreath frame dried, I also sprayed some silk magnolia leaves with the black enamel for a spooky shine. The feather covered raven, paper spider and mini plastic skeletons were found at the dollar store and attached with twist ties and hot glue. I added a little blood red paint to the skeletons and the raven's beak for a bit of gore. The lowest skeleton is hanging from a noose and I attached some shiny chain from my toolbox for interest. A very satisfying project that has hung on my door for Halloween the last two years.

I will be trying a new (Pinterest) idea this year; placing glow sticks in empty toilet paper rolls with scarily shaped eyes cut out, to hang in the shrubs. It should look spooky for the little trick-or-treaters, along with my old torn sheet ghost and electrified pumpkins glowing on the front porch. So, Thursday we'll be filling the treat cauldron and popping a scary movie disc in the computer to get in the mood. Happy Boo! to you all and have a safe Halloween.




Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall nostalgia

I am done ranting about the US political situation. I have resorted to wandering about the yard with a cup of tea and appreciating the change of season. Weather has gotten chilly (4-14C/40-58F) and we have had a few days of cold drizzle. The Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are still eating the carrot tops, but I fear they are doomed unless they fly away as butterflies this weekend. There is a frost warning for tomorrow night and my carrot tops are almost totally consumed.

The garden is in decline, but beautifully so. My transplanted yellow rose is still producing fragrant blooms. The marigolds have reached their max height and are starting a massive seed drop. The purple asters are in full bloom and are winking amidst the browning Black-eye Susans. I am still slowly getting some ripe tomatoes but the newest green ones probably won't redden. My sage is quite a prolific herb and I will be gathering more to dry and as well as to season some gnocchi on the menu this week. I am also hoping to harvest some of the Thai Basil seed which has just started to dry on the stalks. Many of the digging plans for the garden are currently on hold though, as I have tweaked a ligament in my knee and am hobbling about with a splint.

Val and I have been excited to open up the cedar chests and pull out a few woolens for the chill; just a couple of sweaters, some cozy neck wear, as well as hats for the family. Julia is thrilled to start wearing her ruby wool beanie on her early morning trek to the bus stop.

I am somewhat "cedar chest addicted" and at this point, I own two. One was handmade, by a woodworker friend in California and the other is a 1960's era Lane Cedar Chest I found at an estate sale. I grew up appreciating the beauty of Lane chests, as each girl in my senior class in high school received a 12" complimentary, Lane locking cedar box about the time we ordered our class rings. My Mother had a Lane Cedar Chest, as well as most of my friends' mothers. It was a traditional accoutrement for young ladies to possess back in the 1950's. Unfortunately, by the time I was getting out of school the tradition was waning. I was saddened to learn that the Lane Company went out of business in 2001. So, I keep my eyes open at estate sales, since Val and I are prolific knitters and need moth-free storage for our yarn and knitted goods.
 
 I admit I also love the smell of cedar permeated woolens. The scent of cedar, much like the spruce or fir smell of a Christmas tree, conveys a nostalgic sense of comfort and security. In many ways, our sense of smell is a powerful element in our appreciation of the changing seasons. Adding the woolen blankets to every bed, in the next few weeks, will give everyone a perfumed cover for warm sleeping. We look forward to that night almost as much as the first fire in the fireplace or the first steaming mug of hot chocolate. Here's to a brisk and brilliant Fall!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Economic stagnation

I guess I'm not surprised our elected officials will be debating until the final moments before default... I wonder if it is simply all theatrics to prove to their power base how dedicated to the party cause they are. All this petty childishness from our professional lawmakers while the American public remains unemployed & underemployed in a struggling economy.

Take a walk or drive through any suburban neighborhood, count how many cars are parked outside these houses, then think; do they have that many teenage drivers? are they having a party mid-week? or own too many cars for their garage? No, no, no. These vehicles belong to the family members and/or friends who have moved in to save some money. Folks are couchsurfing or doubling up their incomes, just to make it. People work all sorts of crazy hours and multiple jobs to get by; there could be any number of residents in that nice suburban home.

My son moved back home after seven years on his own, he works an evening shift. I work a night shift. My daughter goes to college and works two jobs that involve weekends and variable evening hours. Dinner involves crockpot meals, with everyone serving up their own portion. This is how citizens make a bad economy work for them; they pool their resources and live creatively.

NPR states there is a "psychic disconnect between Wall Street and Washington." Must be something like Wall Streeters and companies are making money, while Washington is trying to limit imaginary money from being spent. The citizen on the street doesn't have any extra money to spend and for some, losing entitlements/public assistance would mean a death sentence.

Wake up politicians! These problems were not created by the general public they were created by YOU, our elected representatives throughout years, maybe even decades of mismanagement, corruption and greed. And still you cannot stop debating the "water under the bridge" elements of Obamacare or entitlements. Not helpful... Do your jobs & vote! Do something! We are swirling the drain out here in John Q. Publicland. At least there was a small glimmer of hope if we default, an NPR guest stated "the treasury has a money cushion" that can cover our a**es for a few days.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What next?!

What should I do to prepare if my government defaults? That is a big question! It would seem the American public is on this roller coaster ride whether we want to be or not... I am fairly certain most of the citizenry is not very pleased to be enduring this sort of treatment from our elected officials. Furloughed federal workers are already in the midst of struggling to keep their lives afloat without a paycheck, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/government-shutdown-generates-stories-of-misery-around-the-country/2013/10/14/668ef00a-34f6-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story_1.html  but what about the rest of us? This initial Washington crisis has spiraled out to have a worldwide impact both diplomatically and fiscally, but aside from furloughed workers, us regular working folks are in the dark as to the potential long-term consequences headed our way. I suppose mostly we hope this will all be resolved and simply disappear, but a crucial line of trust has been broken between the average citizen and the officials we elected to serve us. Who will be there to guide us through if October 17 arrives and the US defaults? Would anyone even know what to do?

Already several US companies are being hit by the blow back of the shutdown, direct contractors like Humana and Boeing have stated concerns regarding completion of work already underway http://www.4-traders.com/WELLS-FARGO--CO-14861/news/Factbox-Companies-affected-by-the-US-government-shutdown-17361885/ . What will the blow back be on someone average like me? Will my home loan interest rate go up? What effect on gas prices or taxes? If my elected representative didn't protect me before the shutdown, will they care about me in default? I kinda doubt it. I guess it is a bit late to be wondering what defensive tack I should implement but heck, I didn't jump off this cliff... I was pushed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Suburban preserve


Family was outside inspecting the longish grass and the first fallen maple leaves when we noticed some caterpillars on the carrot tops; beautiful little black & white striped fellows with orange dots on the black stripes. You know it fills me with joy to think I have helped create and maintain a productive environment for nature. I guess from now on I will be buying carrot seeds annually. Anyway, after an online search we discovered the caterpillars were immature Black Swallowtail Butterflies somewhere midpoint in their metamorphosis. Now I hope the weather stays temperate enough for them to live to be butterflies...

Adult Black Swallowtail
We have warmed up again to about 23C/75F, but I think it is only a temporary since nighttime temperatures drop as low as 12C/55F. Windows are wide open here and the attic fan runs in the evening, so refreshing. My electric bill had been expensive even with all the conservation methods I have implemented. I anticipate next month's bill with be much more reasonable.

The weather is still dry since all the predicted rain never showered. I will need to water the gardens if we remain rainless. The tomatoes have slowed down their ripening but there are still plenty of fruit hanging on each plant. Our few pepper plants have probably finished their productive cycle as they are yellowing.

Backyard Reykjavik
 I have been scattering some zinnia seeds as they dry out. This week I plan to transplant some of the iris bulbs to make room for some low maintenance Knockout rose bushes. As I age and tend to travel, I need to consider limiting the amount of yard maintenance that needs to be done regularly, especially weeding and weed whacking. Colorful bushes are an excellent distraction to passerby eyes, so perhaps the not so fine edges will be overlooked. As you all know, I do not subscribe to perfection gardening, I am just trying to eliminate my lawn and support the honeybees. Next year I plan to install "honeybee pollination & protection preserve" signs strategically around the front yard.

If I had my way I'd install a short privacy fence and let the lawn grow like Icelanders do. Longer grass really doesn't look bad especially when you intersperse flowers. Truly I would rather spend mower gas money on my car. I doubt the yard inspectors in my town will go for it though.

Creative juices

I have been noticing a surge in my creative juices of late, although possibly the cooler weather has invigorated my overall outlook. Of course, it didn't hurt to take a short vacation either...

 Life on the job front has settled down since the difficult manager was fired while I was away in Florida. No, I am not cutting loose with any revelatory whoops, because anyone losing a job in this economy is dealt a challenge, but this situation surely reminds me that karma abounds. It is a quite a relief to be on the job at a significantly less stressful workplace.

So creativity abounds and I have been finding some new projects. I unraveled a triangular style scarf whose faulty geometry did not allow for long enough tails to tie comfortably around the neck. After washing the "noodle-ly" yarn and re-balling it, I have found a better scarf pattern, to give this self striping wool, a much more flattering display. The narrower perspective of the Chevron Pattern scarf showcases the KNITCOL, 100% merino, #047, allowing the variety of stripes to really pop with what I consider, yellow tinted party colors. It's not quite done yet, nor blocked, but photographed against a winter coat, it does look smashing! This will surely be a fun and versatile scarf to wear for Fall. The pattern is easy:

Cast on 32 stitches.
Row 1 (wrong side): Purl across.
Row 2 (right side): k2, yo, k5, sk2p, k5, yo, k2, yo, k5, sk2p, k5, yo, k2.
Repeat rows 1 & 2 until scarf reaches desired length, ending on Row 1.
Bind off. Weave in ends and block if desired.

Abbreviations: k = knit
                      sk2p = slip one stitch, knit two stitches together then, pass the
                                  slipped stitch over the two knitted together stitches.
                      yo = yarn over
                     
The KNITCOL yarn is a light worsted weight. I have used a size US 9 needle. There is certainly room for flexibility in the pattern for many yarn types and needle sizes. Have fun!




Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall arrives

Lovely late season harvest

The hot summer temps and high humidity have finally gone and  it's just lovely outside! Fall is my favorite season, the skies are bright blue, the sunshine warm and the air is cool. The plants still blooming, crank out one last productive shot before winter amidst the Fall blooming asters & chrysanthemums.The Fall garden harvest is slower, but each fruit or vegetable is a bit more precious.

 My first ever carrots are simply gorgeous & tasty. I purchased Nantes carrot seed online from SeedSavers at http://www.seedsavers.org/ and it did well, despite my inept planting. The last of the sweet Carmen red peppers are brilliant amidst their yellowing foliage and taste delicious in my new favorite recipe, Orzo with roasted vegetables. My abundance of zinnias and marigolds (my go to garden gap fillers) are at their peak of cheery Fall color and a valuable nectar source for the Buckeye butterfly.

The yellow rose I transplanted this spring is finally blooming profusely! Unfortunately, I am unable to give an accurate name to this terrific plant, because the tag said it should be a "coral pink Camelot rose"... and that's not what I have, although the "very fragrant" part of the description is definitely true. So my lovely, anonymous yellow rose has successfully acclimated to it's new garden home, surrounded by Thai Basil and a Husky cherry tomato. I think it has a columnar growth habit, so after an early prune next year, I am planning to add some central support.

A few of the "forgotten" radishes have morphed into Halloween veg with grotesque bulbous lumps and distortions. I'll probably pull the last of them for a spooky table centerpiece closer to Halloween. All in all, everything I planted in the new raised beds grew and produced. In the next couple of weekends, I'm planning to empty the beds of soil to extend the free-form gardens. I'll  lay down a few layers of burlap beneath the frames to prevent the pesky Bermuda grass growing up through a foot of dirt from my most imperfect lawn base. Then, I'll refill the raised bed frames with new composted soil for next Spring's planting. Every year I have a new challenge and thus a new learning experience...

I enjoyed an al fresco breakfast this morning on the back patio. No, I did not bake the croissants! I did grow the organic apples you see and they are delicious. They're a cross between the two trees in the yard, one of which was supposed to be a crab apple but now produces these tart and juicy beauties.  An apple crisp is in my plan for dinner tonight along with the first soup pot of the season. I can hardly wait!

There are a bunch of Fall garden projects I should get done before winter. Hopefully, I'll get the bulk of them completed and documented here. Life is unpredictable though, so we'll see. Peacefully yours.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Incremental waves

Capillary waves by Roger McLassuss
Picture a single stone dropping into a glass smooth lake and the expanding concentric ripples which flow away from the center point. This mental picture usually has us envisioning a relaxing image of gently flowing ripples gradually fading into the distance. But, what if the stone were the size of a cement truck, our vision would be one of horror as tsunami-size waves powered out from the core of impact.

Now, let's use this stone as a metaphor for our personal actions and the concentric ripples, the consequences of these actions... Whether our initial action, the pebble drop, was socially acceptable or not is irrelevant, since the wave effect will disperse energy across the water irrevocably. The stone's velocity will also cause unseen waves beneath the surface of the lake to flow incrementally outward.

Consider then, the impact of raindrops on a lake generating the very same ripples, which spread out from the center droplet intersecting with the ripples from other raindrops. With no two droplets identical, no two ring patterns are the same and with millions of raindrops falling, the lake is choppy with intersecting waves.

Sometimes the actions we put out into the world come back to haunt us. Our every action has a consequence either positive or detrimental. These rippling consequences interact with those of everyone else on the lake of life. Think what a pummeling rainstorm creates... a potentially massive and destructive wave surge. I think Washington had better prepare for a flood.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Baking therapy

Since turmoil is raging across the airways regarding the government shutdown and I am already disgusted with the current political quagmire, I have retreated to the kitchen. I baked three loaves of Banana Nut Bread, two for snacking (since the first loaf disappears in a flash) and one for freezing. I am truly not a gourmet cook, even though I am somewhat of a foodie when I travel or eat out. I like solid comfort recipes that turn out reliably even with the tinkering I seem to do with every baking. My go to cookbook is an ancient, stained and falling apart copy of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.This is a basic cookbook, giving concise recipes, using simple ingredients and it also adds several recipe variations for those instances when a grocery store run is impractical. I have created many a Nut Bread over the years and this recipe is old reliable:

2-1/2 C all purpose flour (I substitute whole wheat flour for at least the 1/2C)
1/2 C white sugar
1/3 C pkd brown sugar
3-1/2 tsp baking Powder
1 tsp salt
3 TBsp canola oil
2/3 C milk (depending on how dry the mix, add up to 1/2 C)
1 large egg
1-1/4 C mashed, over-ripe bananas (approx. 3)
1 C chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350'
Grease or spray bottom of 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.
Mix all ingredients well and pour into loaf pan. This recipe makes 1 loaf.
Bake 55 to 65 minutes until testing stick comes out clean.
Cool about 10 minutes in loaf pan before turning out to cool on a rack.
Cool completely before slicing. Wrap and refrigerate for up to a week.

So the family has been enjoying these yummy loaves plain, spread with butter, toasted and topped with cream cheese or peanut butter. As I sip my cup of tea with my slice of banana nut bread I consider my somewhat Freudian choice of baked good. The government is bananas and the rest of us are driven nuts. Guess I'm up for another cuppa and slice...



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Government shutdown day 2...

I'd say the American people are pawns in this shameful display of Congressional grandstanding. I don't like taking the punishment for politicians who apparently don't know how to do their jobs. I don't feel that my vote mattered, nor do I think that our wealthy representatives care two hoots about their constituents.

Take for example Sen. Ted Cruz's twenty-one hour filibuster... let's see, his wisdom ranged from Dr. Suess's Green Eggs & Ham to Star Wars impersonations, not even original material, nor on topic. If you want to scrutinize his oratory even more, his choice of these topics mean he is speaking from at most, a second grade educational level. Way to go Mr. Ivy League graduate! I'm sure your alma maters, Harvard & Princeton are so proud of you... I don't care what party you represent, you wasted twenty-one valuable hours of possible productive negotiations with your narcissistic drivel. And not to let the news media off the hook either, it seems their main focus was Sen. Cruz's amazing bowel and bladder control... Has our government simply deteriorated to the level of a survival reality show?!

So now federal workers are furloughed, Obamacare is moving ahead anyway and the general public is left holding the bag again! National parks, museums and zoos are closed, sorry kiddos no educational opportunities here. Some Headstart daycare centers have closed, so do little ones stay home alone while parents work? Gotta wonder, I think it's a big screw you, directed at the poor and working classes, their kids too. Those furloughed, "nonessential" workers will surely remember how tough or impossible it was to make their house, car or utility payments without a regular paycheck. Oh, and just for the record, I don't believe any senators or congressmen lose a penny of their pay during the government shutdown they allowed to happen!!! and Obamacare moved forward anyway, just as law required.

 Any politicians looking for votes from these folks, better think again. Oh, I know you politicians depend on us, the American public, having a short memory but you know, if my only vacation of the year is wrecked or my kids are put in jeopardy I'm going to remember it was my elected representative that made it happen. If I lose my house or car or maybe have my power shut off, I'll remember that too because average Americans cannot save two to three months income for these random government shutdowns.

On the upside, finally citizens without health insurance will be able to have the healthcare they need. Any insurance is better than no insurance, not just for the patient but for the hospital and all of us who foot the uninsured patients' medical bills. The cost of care and lost work time incurred by folks who have been denied insurance is paid by each and every one of us; think about it, burdensome overtime, taxes or even the possibility of getting sick from the unvaccinated or untreated individual. Obamacare isn't ideal but it's a start.  

Interesting to note the stock market and big business are thriving without any deleterious effects from the government shutdown. Gasoline prices have dropped here to $2.97 per gallon. Could we somehow be better off without our representatives yanking us around?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Vacation & Sipping Wine

I am back from a brief vacation. I spent a few days with my Aunts in Florida. My immediate family is quite small since my parents have passed on; including my three kids, the family numbers only nine members. Of course if you throw in the pets we sound a bit more impressive at nearly twenty. So, we try to keep in touch.

I have been exhausted from all the hostile shenanigans at work and really just wanted a good sleep. Of course, sufficient quantities of food & drink I hadn't had to prepare myself were also vacation requirements. I find it so refreshing to get out of your usual element and travel. Florida is only a two and a half hour flight, but the sense of freedom from simply being away from home is what I find truly exhilarating. Weather is irrelevant, unless extreme and for the most part I am amused by simple sightseeing as well as the foodie experience.

I had a terrific time learning about white wines this trip. I admit I am partial to Merlots, but different environments are meant to stretch your palate. I sampled several sparkling Spanish Cavas which were bright, dry delights. Another Spanish white I enjoyed was a 2010 Sabrego, it had a faintly fresh green apple sense but overall was a  lovely, solid complement to the lump crab cakes I was savoring. I also sipped a couple of Pinot Grigios that were not too heavily flavored with oak paired with some lovely sauteed shrimp. Overall, my brief immersion in white wines was quite enjoyable and I came away with a greater appreciation of their diversity.

Rainwater pouring out downspout
 My most outrageous wine sampling was the Dutch ChocoVin with Merlot for dessert one night. I had never even remotely considered drinking a chocolate wine, but when in Rome... Well, the first half glass is very sweet & chocolatey, but you know, once the 13%  alcohol hits, it doesn't taste bad at all! Best to limit yourself to one glass though, because it could be a dangerous drink with a dollop of whipped cream.

So vacation was great! During the moments I wasn't eating or drinking I was restfully (knitting in hand) staring out the window contemplating the relaxation effect of rain on the nearby lake. The weather in Florida was odd, it rained constantly for at least three days. An impressive seven inch accumulation of water and some flooding. I find it amazing with serious drought conditions in the Midwest, there seems to be an abundance of this rainy resource falling everywhere else...




Saturday, September 21, 2013

Vacation

I am heading out of town for a well needed rest. I plan to be back next weekend with some new photos. Emma beagle is already stressing over the sight of my suitcase... She and Wendy will be in good hands with the kids for a few days, while I play tourist. Bon Voyage!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Boil order

This has been such an odd weekend... More time for contemplation than I probably needed, actually change that to wanted. Sometimes I think society has spiraled off without me and I am left puzzled wondering when I dropped out. Anyway, the ground is still under my feet and reassuringly solid, so I keep plodding along living out my day. I was enjoying a bit of knitting companionship at the yarn shop when I heard there was a "boil order" for all tap water. If I had had my cell phone turned on I would have received the city voice mail notification and hour earlier, but then you know I am not particularly keen on being constantly connected.

 My local community is getting to experience a generalized lifestyle "inconvenience." A major water-main has broken between Saint Louis & Saint Charles and since the Missouri River runs between our cities, possible contamination is a concern. You might remember the distinct visual ick factor when we had flooding this past April and let me say the smell, along with the black gunk left behind were truly disgusting. I think drinking river water would definitely imperil your health.

The emergency order requires a 3 minute boil for drinking water, no dish washing (unless you want to do them twice) as well as restrictions on lawn watering and indiscriminate usage. The extremely hot and dry month of August has plunged the Midwest into serious drought conditions. The drought is why Saint Charles needed water from Saint Louis in the first place, our wells are low.

Quarry Pond at Elephant Rocks State Park, MO. Deep water/dry land.
Isn't it amazing how we can take such a valuable resource for granted? Or be irritated because of the inconvenience of boiling water. It is obvious many of my fellow Saint Charlesians don't even have bottled water at their homes since the grocery shelves have been completely emptied.Yet in many places around the world, water doesn't flow freely from a tap, it must be found, transported and purified before it can be consumed. At a hauling weight of about eight pounds per gallon, I am thrilled my tap still supplies water, the city engineers could have just as easily shut it off.

It is clear that unpredictable weather and resource limitations may be a significant factor to impact our lifestyles in the future. The tragic flooding in Colorado this weekend, the horrific effects of Hurricane Sandy last year on the East Coast and now, the potential Dust Bowl conditions recurring in the Midwest certainly give us examples of weather/environmental disasters, along with their effects on populations. In some situations our lack of preparation for disaster may be more devastating than the event itself.

We have some emergency supplies in case of a tornado put aside in the basement, but what if water or electricity was out for a week?  I am not a survivalist, just commonsense prepared for the short-term but this minor situation has really made me think about the impact a long-term utilities shut down would create.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Technical difficulties

Hello again! I have been offline for about a week because my computer's software crashed. Initially, I thought we could do some home repair but nope, my five year old laptop needed professional help. So Tony, at my local computer shop bailed me out and about 26 hours later, I have a completely wiped machine with a new operating system.

Five whole days without the internet... You know that gives you time to think. I don't have TV, so the internet is my news and entertainment, but I hung in there reading two library books and listening to NPR. No, I did not start to get jittery missing Pinterest, I finished that crochet shawl for my daughter. The things that worried me most were bills and did my paycheck post correctly. You see I do all my regular bills electronically and use direct deposit. All is well now, but it is amazing how little paper documentation is moving within modern society. I can honestly say the temporary loss of my laptop was an eye opening experience.
Wendy & Emma HATE it when I am on the box!

So now that I am gratefully back on the interwebs, I have learned several lessons from this technical difficulty:  back up your files more than once a year on your handy external hard drive, limit your bookmarks to the few you actually look at frequently, dump your temporary files regularly to limit sneaky viruses and do the updates. I think I've got it.... now.