Monday, December 6, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough . . .

. . . the tough Feng Shui.  Yes, I'm going to Feng Shui my house, because as a friend said, there's a lot of bad juju going on here.  I've looked into Feng Shui, and decided my preconceived ideas about it were all wrong.  I thought it was a yuppie New Age thing, but it is a centuries old belief in harmony, energy, etc.  And what I like about it is that most of it is basically just good old-fashioned common horse sense--nothing woo-woo about that!

The hardest thing I'm having to deal with right now is keeping the lid down on the toilet and keeping the bathroom door closed.  I hate closed doors.  They depress me. They cut off light coming in through windows.  They box me in.  But according to Feng Shui, the bathroom sucks energy, luck, and money down the drain.  So you shut the door. I'm new to all this, but I can kind of see how the bathroom can have some negative effects on your life.  For one thing, I've read the horrifying studies about all the nasty things that burst out of your toilet every time you flush it.  Things you can't see, but they're there.  They float around and deposit microscopic bits of sewer gas and fecal matter on your towels and toothbrushes (thank God my toilet is around the corner from the medicine chests and sinks!). 

So okay, I'm keeping the toilet lid down and the door closed.  We'll see how it goes the next time I go screaming down the hall, pulling down my jeans as I head for the bathroom, forgetting that the door is closed and the lid down.

Another thing that totally dismayed me is that you aren't supposed to have books in your bedroom.  Bad energy there.  A book on the nightstand is okay, but bookshelves aren't.  Sharp edges on the shelves, the murmur of millions of words filling the night air, the dust they collect (dust mites! Eeeekkk!) . . .   I guess books are too stimulating for the bedroom.  Which puts me in a dilemma, as I have over 5,000 books, and every room but the bathroom has bookshelves.  I consider books beautiful.  They cozy up any room they're in.  They are a fashion statement.  They are friendly and homey.  But not in the bedroom.  So I have to figure out what to do with the hundreds and hundreds of books in my bedroom.

Then I'm going to move my bed, because it's in a bad position.  Luckily, the spare bedroom that I'm converting into my craft room is in the "Creativity" section of my house, according to Feng Shui.  I hope that means I'll soon be making dynamite cards with my rubber stamps and bits of ribbon and lace.  It also turns out that the Financial part of my house is in my bedroom, so I'm reading up on what I can do to bring more money into my life.  The Career part of my house just happens to be where I set up my office.   I find that a lot of the decorating and arranging I've done with my house actually followed Feng Shui principals, and creates calmness and happiness in me because of the aesthetics.

So we'll see how this Feng Shui business goes.  I've been watching Feng Shui tips on YouTube and I have a client who knows a lot about Feng Shui, and she's helping me too.  I'm even going to aim for improving the Health section of my house, to see if I can get rid of this blasted leg problem!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Leg Report

By now I'm sure all 3 of my blog readers are sick of nothing but reports on my bum leg, but hey, it's the most exciting thing in my life right now!  Last week I called the doc to tell him that the two pain shots in the butt and the 3 pain meds he has me on are doing zilch for the pain.  If anything, I'm worse.  Today the doc's office finally returned my call.  They are referring me to an orthopedist and tripling the dose on one of my pain meds.  (I hope it's not the one that gives me a dry mouth!  I have to carry water with me because I get so dry that I choke when trying to talk.)

So that's the latest.  Once they process the referral, I'll call the orthopedist for an appointment.  I'm dreading how much this will cost, as I have no medical insurance.  On the other hand, I really want to get this thing fixed! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

At Last! A Diagnosis!

Saw the doctor yesterday and finally (FINALLY!) have a diagnosis for the cause of my leg and back pain:  herniated disk, sciatica, and a pinched nerve in my hip (meralgia paresthetica).  I have a list of back exercises to do, three prescriptions for (1) pain, (2) inflammation, and (3) spasms, and a couple of shots in the butt for immediate pain relief.  (Though I have to admit that 13 hours later I'm still not feeling much pain relief.)
However, I did get a good pun out of the butt shots.  The nurse had just given me the first shot in the left cheek when I asked her if she wanted me to "turn the other cheek."  It made her laugh.  This was one of the few times I actually thought of a pun right away instead of an hour later. 

Anyway, the doc discussed options with me.  He wanted to order an MRI, but I haven't any medical insurance and can't afford the $4,000 for the MRI, so that is not an option.  He also wanted to refer me to a bone specialist, but again, the new doc will want an MRI. So I'll do my back exercises, continue to lose weight, take my meds, including increased amounts of B-6, B-12, and Folic Acid (all of which I'm already taking).  And in another year I'll be 65 and on Medicare, so if things haven't improved by then, at least I'll have Medicare.

I'm just glad I finally have a diagnosis and a list of things I can do to help me get better.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One More Leg Update

Getting tired of me talking about my leg all the time?  Well, me too.  As I write this, I am in considerable pain.  The leg is really bad today.  So bad that even using crutches is painful.  Both my feet are swollen.  And the right leg aches like a seriously bad toothache, only ten times worse.   The pain pills and aspirin only take the edge off, but don't knock out the pain.  Despite the fact the doc didn't find anything wrong when I had the ultrasound, I'm going to make another appointment.  We simply HAVE to get to the bottom of this!  I can't continue like this.  Standing alleviates the pain as long as I put my weight on the other leg, but after awhile, the good leg starts to ache from the constant strain.  Sitting is downright painful.  Lying down helps, but I can't live my life flat on my back.  Driving is excruciating. 

Today I am hobbling around like a cripple.  I've been doing leg stretching exercises and they only seem to make it worse.  I'm not overdoing the exercises, but yesterday I did some mild hamstring stretches and today I can barely walk.  So I'm going to make yet another appointment with the doc and ask for X-rays.  Maybe that will show something that the ultrasound didn't.  In the meantime, I've become extremely grumpy from the pain.

But there's good news.  I've now lost 13 pounds.  I've lots more to lose, but at least I'm losing!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Leg Update #3

Break out the Band-Aids!  I spoke too soon.  My leg pain is coming back.  It is just the most bizarre thing!  Now the entire leg is involved, from buttock/hip to foot.  Sitting for longer than 5 minutes is painful, and driving a car is excruciating (it's my right leg, so pressing on the brakes or gas pedal makes things worse.)  I now drive with my body twisted so that my weight is on my left hip and butt, to relieve pressure on the bad leg.  I look weird, but hey, it works!  Sort of.

I've lost 12 pounds, and have tons more to lose, but I'm sure that losing weight will help.  Or at least keep things from getting worse.  Now I have to get up and walk around some more.  Sayonara!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leg Update #2

Well, the results are in.  It is not a blood clot.  It is not deep vein thrombosis.  That's what it isn't.  They do NOT know what it is.  Nor, apparently, do they care, especially since the leg is getting better on its own.  I love the medical system.  They called to tell me no blood clots and no thrombosis, and got ready to hang up. 

I went, "Whoa, wait a minute here.  We aren't done.  I've been in intense pain for over two months, been on crutches and painkillers, been incapacitated.  Shouldn't we dig a little deeper to find out WHAT is causing all this pain, so that I can keep it from happening again?  And what exercises or therapy should I be doing?"  The nurse was nonplused.  After all, I was getting better.  The problem was going away on its own.

It was my turn to be nonplused.  Just because I'm getting better doesn't mean we can now ignore the previous months of pain, or the fact that for the past two years I've had more and more bouts of intermittent pain.  I guess these questions will remain unanswered.  Wonderful medical system we have, eh?

So I'm going to lose weight, as I'm sure that's a factor.  I'm being careful about the leg, trying to avoid doing anything that will cause a flare-up.  I sleep with a pillow between my knees (have for years).  I'm taking aspirin when the pain flares up.  I'm not overdoing things--no more long hours on my feet doing spring housecleaning or house painting beyond the pain threshhold. Without a diagnosis, that's all I can do.  Plus, I'm staying away from banana peels.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leg Update

I saw the doc last week regarding my bum leg, and yesterday I went in for ultrasound to "rule out a blood clot."  Of course, they won't tell you the results of the ultrasound.  You have to get that from your own doc.  The ultrasound lady told me that my doc would have the results of the ultrasound in a couple of days, so I'm expecting a phone call by the end of the week.

In the meantime, the doc gave me some pain pills, so I'm off crutches for now, thank goodness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bum Leg

The past 45 days have been interesting.  For some reason, I ended up with a bum right leg.  I suspect part of the reasonn is my persistent meralgia paresthetica (pinched nerve) in my thigh, but that doesn't explain the knee and calf pain. Sitting is painful.  Walking is painful.  Standing is painful.  Driving is excruciating because of the pressure on the back of the thigh from sitting.  Lyng down does help a little.

When you live alone, there's nobody to fetch and carry for you.  Nobody to bring you a glass of water or cook your dinner or drive to the grocery store.  So resting the leg is difficult--thus the borrowed crutches and the standing saddle stool (more on the stool, below).

Never one to rush into things, I thought I'd take a wait and see attitude and let Mother Nature do some healing.  Apparently Mother Nature was on vacation, because she totally ignored me, and the pain got so bad that I'm now on crutches.  I also bought one of those standing saddle stools, and I zoom all around the house in it, which has helped take the weight off my bad leg. These stools are designed with a seat that looks like an English saddle, so that when you sit in them, your legs hang down from the hips, not from the knees.  This takes pressure off the back of the thighs and keeps the hips in a more open position.

I have an appointment with the doc in a few days to get a diagnosis and to see if they can get me back to normal.  In the meantime, just call me "gimp."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's State Fair Time!

On Friday, September 10, my sister Lori and I went to the Puyallup Fair (formerly called the Western Washington Fair).  We went on opening day, a mistake we will not repeat, as it was a mob scene, with throngs of people packed into the 169 acres like sardines.  Eventually the crowds thinned out, however.

The Puyallup Fair is the 8th largest fair in the world, and is over a century old, having begun in 1900.  It runs for 17 days and attendance always tops 1 million.  It's so huge that you can't see it all in one day.  It starts off with an old fashioned cattle drive right down the main street of Puyallup, with the cattle being driven to the fairgrounds by cowboys mounted on cowhorses. The cattle don't always go where they're supposed to.  Last year, one steer did his imitation of a bull in a china closet by taking a detour through a drug store, with the amiable steer going in one door and startled patrons erupting out the other door.

This year, I tried to talk my sister into going on some rides with me, but she declined.  So the only ride I went on was the Giant Slide.  That's me on the far left.  I screamed all the way down.  It was a blast, but climbing the five million steps to the top just about did me in.  The stairs are on the right of the slide, behind the orange barrier.
Everyone is so friendly at the fair. Complete strangers will laugh and joke with you as you wait in line for rides or share inadvertent elbow bumps and toe stomps. I love being totally immersed in the whole experience. It’s a sensory overload of the best kind—crowds of people, food smells, calliope music from the carousel, screams from the fairway rides, cheers from the rodeo grandstand, mooing cows, baaing sheep and goats, crowing roosters, the thunder on the pavement as 6-horse hitches of Clydesdales rumble by, hucksters hawking their wares, the diesel smell from the farm tractors/agricultural equipment demos, the bright and twinkling lights from the brilliantly gaudy fairway . . . Lord, how I love state fairs!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Summer That Wasn't

For the first time in many years I had a large veggie garden this year.  Below is a picture of part of the terraced garden in front of the basement.  I was diligent, starting my seeds indoors and transplanting them early.  They started off promisingly.  In April we were blessed with unseasonably hot weather, and the garden took off.  And then summer came.

At least the calendar said it was summer.  You couldn't tell it by the weather.  We'd have a few hot days, and then the clouds would move in and the skies would turn gray.  So my garden's been growing in fits and starts.  Once, we had almost two weeks of hot weather, but then it turned cold again and everything quit growing.

And so it's been, all summer.  My corn is 5' tall, but has only begun to tassel.  I probably won't get any corn this year.  My tomatoes, on the left side of the picture, are tall and vigorous and loaded with tomatoes--all of them green.  I have 6 large tomato plants, and so far, have harvested less about a dozen ripe tomatoes, most of them cherry tomatoes.  My summer squash is barely producing, and my acorn squash is so late that it hasn't even begun to blossom yet.  My sugar snap peas are a joke.  You can see them lying anemic on the ground in front of the tomatoes My green beans, however, are doing great and I've been eating beans for weeks.  The broccoli is just starting to form heads, and my cabbage and Brussels sprouts are iffy. 

The only thing that grew immediately, and fast, was my radish crop.  I had to pull them up and toss them, as they were all wormy.  I'm never growing radishes again.  My carrots are still infants.  My Walla Walla sweets aren't even adolescents, though the jalapeno pepper plant--the only one I planted because I bought it by mistake at the nursery--is growing like crazy.  When I bought it, I thought it was a green pepper plant.  My other green peppers are sickly.  My cucumbers haven't a single blossom yet.  My parsley, on the other hand, is growing like gangbusters.

All in all, we've had an absolutely lousy growing season for veggie gardens.  I'd bought a canning and freezing book this year, anticipating canning and freezing all my produce.  Guess I'll put the book away.   I certainly won't have anything to preserve this year! 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stopping the Nonsense

Retailers:  can we please just make life easier and stop all these stupid rewards/loyalty programs?  The ones I'm talking about are the stores that won't give you discounts unless you have one of their rewards or loyalty cards.  Everybody does it, from grocery stores to pet stores, from bookstores to hardware stores, from shoe stores to sandwich shops.  Either you get a discount at the register, or you accumulate points and they mail you a rewards check.  On some cards, you accumulate points toward air miles or get a discount on gasoline.   

I hate these things.  They take up room in my purse.  I have 12 of them in a little plastic pouch that I carry in a pocket of my purse, for easy access. (That's a picture of my rewards cards, above)  Most of these cards are free, but you are asked to give your phone number and other personal info when you sign up.  That way, if you're at the register and forgot your rewards card, you can just tell the cashier your phone number, while everyone else in line hears you giving out your unlisted number.

Why not just mark down the retail items for everyone, and do away with the rewards programs? Why must we add yet one more point of inconvenience to our already busy lives?  Well, one reason why is that retailers can track your purchasing habits with these cards.  The cards help them accumulate demographics--where you live, how often you shop, which brand of soda pop you purchase, how much you spend on each trip, and even how old you are.  According to Wikipedia, these rewards programs "are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior — behavior which is potentially of benefit to the firm."

I realize demographics help retailers plan their futures, develop targeted marketing programs, and even issue coupons based on your buying habits.  But they're still a nuisance.  They are an invasion of privacy.  They clutter my life.  They annoy the living daylights out of me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Advanced K9 Behavior

Yesterday, August 14, I graduated from the Advanced K9 Behavior course at the Kitsap Humane Society, where I volunteer as a dog trainer/dog walker and cat cuddler.  This advanced course is geared toward training problem dogs and turning them into model canine citizens. Sort of like charm school for dogs, if you will.  Dogs completing the K9 Charm School will be made available for adoption at a higher adoption fee, since they will be so well trained.  Part of the higher adoption fee will cover the cost of training the new owner, who will be required to take training along with their dog.  It's a win/win for both dog and new owner.

I'm part of a pilot program for this K9 Charm School.  It's exciting to see such wonderful programs going on at the humane society, and to know there are dedicated animal lovers willing to give of their free time to benefit the animals in the shelter.  There were 20 volunteers who graduated from this advanced class, and we will begin training select problem dogs next Saturday.  We're using the buddy system, as most training sessions will include the problem dog and a laid-back, non-combative dog, which will be the "target" dog when retraining dog-aggressive dogs (it's why we need 2 trainers--one to handle the aggressive dog and one to handle the target dog.)

When I signed on as a volunteer, I told myself I was NOT going to get carried away and volunteer for more work than my self-alotted volunteer hours per week, nor get roped into extra stuff.  So much for willpower.  I can see where this new program is going to add greatly to my volunteer hours, as well as my car mileage, so I have to be careful not to take on more than I can handle.  I'm feeling a little pressured to take on more, but will hold firm.  I can't really spend hours and hours on my feet because of significant arthritis in both feet, so that'll be a self-limiting thing.  

I used to show and train dogs about 35 years ago, and training sure has changed a lot since then!  And it's all for the good!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dougie MacLean Visits the Word Wenches

On Monday, July 26, Susan King of the Word Wenches will interview Scottish music legend, Dougie MacLean. MacLean has a large following in the UK, Australia and the US. He performed "The Gael" from Last of the Mohicans and also "Caledonia." (I have the soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans and "The Gael" is one of my favorite pieces.)  Monday's interview will center on MacLean's deep interest in history, so he'll fit right in with the Wenches! Join us on Monday for a little bit about Celtic music and a lot about history!  Here's the link:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

So last night I was painting the house, and decided to knock off for the night, as it was getting dark.  I was quite high up on an extension ladder, painting the second story with a roller on an extension pole.  It felt like I was 40 stories up.  Descending a ladder from that height is an interesting proposition.  For one thing, ladders are built for tall people.  I'm short.  As I descend, I hang onto the ladder in a death grip and lower one leg, groping with the tip of my toe, certain I'll never be able to reach the next rung.  It's that way all the way down to the ground.  The gaps between rungs are not easy to navigate for a short person.

Since I live alone and I know that accidents can happen, I take my phone with me.  It's not a cell phone--just a cordless phone.  I figure if I fall, God forbid, I'll at least be able to call 9-1-1.  But I don't have pockets in my jeans, and besides, if I fell, I'd probably land on the phone and break it, so instead, I put the phone in a baggie and place it on the ground at the base of the ladder.  I figure if I fell, I'd be able to reach the phone and make my call.

So there I am, descending from the heights of an extension ladder, when suddenly my shoe gets caught and I can't move it.  What the . . .?  I look down, and of all things one of my shoelace had managed to impale itself on a tiny wire connected to the giant hook thingies that lock the extension part of the ladder in place.  I can't reach my shoe to unlace it, and the shoelace is thoroughly impaled (the wire went through the lace, like a safety pin).  I can't go up or down.  I can't wriggle the shoe enough to get the lace untrapped.  I can't even get my foot out of the shoe because just that morning, knowing I was going to be going up and down ladders, I laced my shoes nice and tight. 

I'm stuck.  And it's getting dark.  And my phone is on the ground.  And it's starting to rain.  Great.

But determination is my middle name.  Clinging to the ladder like a monkey, I wriggled and wriggled my foot and eventually managed to slip out of the shoe.  I then descended the ladder with one shoe on and one shoe off.  Now that was a painful experience!  A bare foot on a narrow rung just isn't fun.  However, once the shoe was eye level  where I could use my hands, I managed to work the shoe loose and take it down the rest of the way with me. 

I can hardly wait to find out what happens next time I climb up a ladder.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Favorite Cartoon

I'm deep in the throes of house painting, so this will be a very short post just to let everyone know I'm still alive.  One of my favorite cartoons was sent to me by a friend years ago, and I believe (but not sure) that it is from the New Yorker magazine.  Alas, I can't read the signature of the cartoonist, but it may be Mort Gerberg, whose cartoons always make me laugh.  At least it looks somewhat like his signature.  He used to have cartoons in the New Yorker.  I Googled his name, but couldn't determine if it was his cartoon or not.  I hope the copyright gods will give me an "E" for effort.  I do care very much about protecting copyrights.

It makes me giggle every time I see it.  In years gone by, many fancy restaurant waiters began visiting tables with a pepper mill, asking if you wanted freshly ground pepper on your salad and such.  Over the years, the pepper mills these waiters brandished started getting larger and more preposterous.  I almost became afraid of saying, "No, I don't want any pepper," for fear the waiter would club me with his oversized pepper mill.  (Thankfully, I adore pepper and always said, "Yes!" when asked)

Without further ado, here is the cartoon in question.  I hope it gives you a giggle.  And if anyone knows who I should credit, please let me know so that I can give proper attribution.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Volunteering at the Humane Society

Last month I decided to become a volunteer at the Kitsap Humane Society.  I've gone through extensive training, and now I am a Dog Walker and Cat Cuddler.  Yes, those are official titles.  Walking those dogs is not an easy task. The dogs are so eager to get out and stretch their legs and go potty that they drag you everywhere.  My first time Dog Walking I could hardly move the next day.  But I'm getting better at it, especially now that I've learned to alternate the "pullers" with the easy-to-walk dogs (of which there are few).

I'm really impressed by the Kitsap H.S. objectives.  They care deeply for the dogs and cats in their care.  They do all in their power to rehabilitate "bad" dogs and turn them into good canine citizens.  They only euthanize animals that are so ill they cannot be cured, or if the dog is so vicious it cannot be trained. 

Many of their animals have been there for over a year, so these walks in the woods for the dogs and petting and lap time for the cats are the brightest spot in their day.  And we don't just walk the dogs.  We train them.  They invest a lot of time in making the dogs adoptable.  Almost all the training is done by volunteers who have gone through considerable training themselves.  I used to show dogs, so I have a background in dog training already.  But training methods have changed in the 30 years since I showed dogs. Everything is positive reinforcement.  No dogs are punished. It's remarkable how well the dogs respond to positive reinforcement.

Since 85% of the dogs at KHS are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, training is important.  They're one of the few humane societies in our area that accept pit bulls.  Other humane societies send us their pit bulls, and we live in an area with a high pit bull population, so training is doubly important for these dogs.  KPS has a Great Eight program, where dogs that have been there for more than 8 months have their adoption fee cut in half.  They also have asimilar Nine Lives program for their long-term cats.  In addition, these long-time residents get to go home with volunteers for short "vacations" so that they get a break from cage life. 

I'm feeling very good about the work I'm doing with KHS.  It's rewarding.  And everyone rejoices when a dog or cat gets adopted.  Now, if we could just educate the public on the importance of neutering and spaying, there wouldn't be a need for humane societies . . .

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blue Eye/Brown Eye

The other day I bought new eyeshadow.  It said it was for blue eyes, and it had 3 colors:  brown, gray/blue, and silver.  You're supposed to get all fancy and layer them artistically.  I don't.  I slap on one color, use eyeliner and a dash of mascara, and call it good. 

So what color would I use of the three?  Certainly not the silver.  That was for highlighting under the arch of the eyebrow.  Brown?  Perhaps.  To see, I did up one eye in brown.  But what about the gray?  I did up the other eye in the gray eyeshadow, which actually turned kind of a blue/gray once it was on my eyelid.  I couldn't decide which eyeshadow I liked best, so I decided to do some chores around the house and think about it.  And of course I promptly forgot I was wearing two starkly different colors on my eyes.

So naturally I went shopping like that.  Ran errands here and there, and it wasn't until I got home and happened to glance at myself in the bathroom mirror that I realized why people had been giving me odd looks.  I felt like a Siberian Husky with one brown eye and one blue.  I love getting old and senile.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dressmaker's Dummy

I had a blast at my sister's yesterday!  After our Easter dinner, my sister Lori helped me make a dress-maker's dummy for myself.  The materials included 3 rolls of duct tape (2 silver and 1 white), plus an old T-shirt.  The process involved my donning the old T-shirt and then having Lori cover my torso in several layers of duct tape.  That's the piebald finished product above.  You can see the hemline of the T-shirt at the bottom.  You can't tell in the picture, but it's like wearing a body cast.  I could barely move, and I certainly couldn't bend at the waist or raise my arms. Oh, how we laughed as we applied layer upon layer of tape while my brother-in-law just shook his head.  And hot?  My gosh, I got so hot inside my duct tape prison that we had to finish the job outdoors on my sister's cold and breezy back deck.

I found the duct tape idea on the Internet when I was pricing dressmaker's dummies and discovered they were beyond my budget.  I printed out the instructions, and then Lori taped me from my neck down to upper thigh.  It took about 2 hours, and thank goodness I had enough presence of mind to visit the bathroom before we started!  Once finished, Lori used a sturdy pair of scissors to cut the back open along the spine, from neck to butt.  I carefully pulled the form off my body and was thrilled to see that it maintained my plump little dumpling shape.  *g*

I'd been fortunate enough to find the torso of a male mannequin at Goodwill the week before, so I bought it, figuring once I made my duct tape dummy and wriggled out of it, I could place it over the store mannequin torso, tape up the back, and then pad it out with wadded up paper and plastic bags.  It worked perfectly, and I'm amazed at how sturdy my new dressmaker's dummy is!  Now, instead of having to put on a garment dozens of times as I make it, then struggling back out of it without getting stuck by pins, I can use my new dressmaker's dummy!  And all it cost me was the price of a few rolls of duct tape  and a few hours of my time.  Here's the dummy after I stuffed it with tons of plastic bags and a few old towels. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Laws of Decency

This post is about people who say, "I hate rules."  (Often said in a superior, I'm so important I don't have to follow rules tone)  I'm a traditionalist, and I usually follow rules.  I believe most rules have a reason for being, and most often those reasons are based on sound concepts.  There are grammar and punctuation rules.  Traffic rules.  Mathematics rules.  Construction and architecture rules. And many more rules too numerous to mention.  These rules provide sound guidance.  They are there for our safety (construction architecture, traffic, instruction manuals), for clear communication and expression of ideas (grammar, punctuation), for calculation, accounting, inventory (mathematics) and so on.

Yes, many of our greatest advancements have been made because someone chose to ignore the rules and do it their way.  Humanitarian advancements have been made because someone ignored the rules and pushed for change.  Think women's right to vote, or Civil Rights.

But rules have their place, and those who whine about hating rules get no sympathy from me.  And in this case, I'm not talking about arbitrary or just plain stupid rules, and I'm not even talking about the above-mentioned rules.  I'm talking about the most basic social rules that govern our lives and how we interact with others.  In other words, decency.  Like not running a red light.  Like waiting your turn.  Like saying please and thank you.  Like showing up on time.  Like respecting the rights of others.  Like being honest.

I wonder what happened.  I wonder why kids growing up today seem to lack a conscience.  I wonder about their parents, who never taught them the basic principles of social conduct.  I wonder why 8-year-old boys are raping 7-year-old girls.  I wonder why 12-year-old kids gang up on a schoolmate and kill him because he's different.  I wonder why a 15-year-old girl suffocates her newborn and puts it in the dumpster.  I wonder why a group of 14-year-old boys kill an innocent jogger by stomping him to death.

I wonder. 

And I worry.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Life on the Fly

Stopping in at a dead run to say hi.  It's been crazy busy around here.  I had major furnace work done last week, and it wasn't cheap.  The plumbers were also out last week and fixed myriad plumbing problems.  That's my old-fashioned toilet on the left.  They had to rebuild it.  And below that is the other part of my bathroom.  Now the faucets no longer leak, nor the sinks, either.  Gone with the buckets under the sinks!

This week I've been crawling over electricians every time I turn around.  I guess it was worth it.  One of them said, "It's a miracle your house didn't burn down."  Now I can get rid of all the extension cords that my microwave, fridge, washing machine, lamps, etc. were plugged into because half the outlets in the house had quit working. 

I'm still washing dishes in the bathroom sink, which is a major pain, but it'll be a few more weeks before I can afford to have the septic people out to fix one of the septic systems so that my kitchen sink will be useable once again. 

No, that wasn't a typo.  Septic systems, as in two.  The people who built my house eons ago must have had plans to convert it into a two-family dwelling at one time.  Upstairs I have one septic system.  Downstairs, I have another.  It's a daylight basement that I converted to an apartment years ago, but quit renting it out when the septic system for the apartment began acting up.  Little did I know that the upstairs kitchen sink drained into the downstairs septic.  And when that failed, all that dirty dishwater began flooding the apartment downstairs.  I didn't know this, as I seldom go downstairs.  When I discovered the flooding, I was sick.  Brand new carpeting ruined.  Everything musty.  It's heartbreaking.

So Thursday I have a neighbor kid coming over to help me tear out the carpet and begin the process of drying out.  In the meantime, I'm up to my ears in work, and really can't spare the time for such nonsense. 

So to all 2 of my loyal followers, I may not be dropping in as much as I'd like to.  At least for the next month or so, while I deal with a gazillion old house issues.  Ahhhh, the joys of sinking my life's savings into a 100-year-old house!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Harbingers of Spring

The pussywillows have run their cycle and are at the ugly-fuzzy-yellow-pollen-almost-a-leaf stage.   The forsythia is in full yellow riot.  My quince bush is in the tight bud phase, ready to burst forth with myriad pink flowers.  And the lilacs are beginning to leaf out.

The crabgrass in the gravel driveway has begun to grow like the weed it is. The moss on trees and fenceposts has turned a violent green.  Trees are sending up suckers like shooting stars.  And the birds are getting noisier and noisier as the boys practice their rusty mating calls.  And the other day I saw a robin fly by with nest-building material in its mouth.

I am so ready for spring!  These signs of greenery and new life are glad tidings to my winter-weary heart!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Got an Itch?

I've finally discovered a way to wear a bra without suffering from the intense itching that usually occurs within minutes of donning said undergarment:  wear it inside out.  As I have long suspected, it is the thread or the material used to line the inside of the bra that causes the itching.  The itching annoys me so much that I quit wearing bras around the house 5 years ago.  Well, today I had to run errands, so I tried something new and turned the bra inside out.  Voila!  No more intense itching!  The only problem is, this works fine for bulky sweaters, sweatshirts, and blouses with a pattern, but if you wear a smooth, solid colored top, you can see the bra seams.

Why don't manufacturers get a clue? Skin is sensitive.  The smooth part of undergarments should go toward the skin, and the seams should be on the outside.  If the seams are likely to show through outer garments, then cover them!  But for heaven's sake, stop using scratchy thread and itchy lining and scratchy seams!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cat Pictures

A couple of days ago I notice my cat, Christopher the Assassin, sitting on a tree stump in the yard.  I grabbed my camera and ran out to take a few pictures of him.  He has the prettiest green eyes, and they showed to perfection in the photos.  After the photo shoot, he came in and joined me at my desk, where he has a bed.  He likes to keep me company while I'm on the computer.  The first picture shows him just about ready to fall asleep.  The second picture is Christopher sitting on the tree stump. (If you click on the pictures, you'll get a larger image)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Can Spring Be Far Away?

There's pussywillows out there in the woods.  I just know it.  Spring is just around the corner.  And the pussywillows are out.

How do I know it?  Because of all the mewling in the trees.  It's not cats stuck up there.  It's pussywillows.  And that means spring isn't far off, despite what Punxsutawney Phil says.  Six more weeks of winter?  Bah!  Gimme some sunshine!

And pussywillows, which I adore. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Calamity Jane Rides Again

Yesterday was not a good day.  I forgot that my 2009 Washington State business taxes were due today, so I raced around getting all my tax stuff together and completing the tedious paperwork--only to find out that I made so little money last year that the state said I don't even have to file a return! I don't know if I'm relieved or depressed.

Later that day I fixed my hair, as I had a meeting to go to. I grabbed what I thought was a can of hairspray to give my hair a good shellacking, only to discover I'd sprayed WD-40 on my hair instead of hairspray (the cans look similar). I'd used the WD-40 to grease up the shower curtain rod earlier, and it was still on the bathroom counter.

It was too late to wash my hair, so I splashed on some cologne, hoping to disguise the WD-40 smell, and jumped into the car and headed for Tacoma for the Adobe Users' Group meeting. When I got there, the building was dark and nobody was there. What the . . .?

That's when I realized the meeting wasn't until next Monday. I hadn't wanted to get all dressed up and go out on a dark and cold night in the first place, and then to realize I'd done it all for naught. Oh well. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Overnight Soft Herb Rolls

This is one of the best dinner rolls I've ever tasted.  They are a heavy roll, hearty, tasty, and unique.  The recipe is from the November 2008 issue of Sunset Magazine.  The rolls are the brainchild of Chef Bradley Ogden, who created them at the Lark Creek Inn, Larkspur, California, in 1995. You can use fresh herbs or dried, but if using dried, use slightly less, since the flavor will be stronger.  The rolls are much better with fresh herbs, though.

The recipe calls for 15 minutes of kneading, and I followed the recipe religiously the first time I made them, kneading for 15 interminable minutes.  But the second time (tonight), I decided to see what would happen if I only kneaded for 5 minutes.  Also, this time, I refrigerated them.  I'll bake them tomorrow morning, and will let you know the results, but I expect the kneading (or lack thereof) won't make a noticeable difference.  Either way, I'll update  this post with the results after I bake them tomorrow.  (UPDATE:  Surprisingly, the rolls raised a little in the fridge overnight.  After taking them out of the fridge, I let them rise on the kitchen counter for an hour. Then I brushed them with egg and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt and popped them in the oven. They came out just fine.  The shortened kneading time doesn't seem to have made a difference.  I think you could also use a bread machine for the kneading.)

Overnight Soft Herb Rolls

1 pkg active dry yeast (about 1 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp each flat-leaf parsley, fresh dill, chives, & rosemary
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 large egg
1 c milk or half-and-half
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 c all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp lightly beaten egg
About 1 Tbsp coarse salt

1.  In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over 1/4 c. cool (70 degrees) water.  Let stand until dissolved, 5 minutes.  Stir in sugar, table salt, herbs, butter, 1 whole egg, and milk.  Add 3 1/4 c. flour and stir to moisten.

2.  Knead dough on a lightly floured board until elastic and not sticky, 15 minutes.  Add flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Shape into 12 equal balls.  Place in a well-buttered 9x13" pan.

3.  Let dough rise in warm place until doubled, 45-60 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.  Brush rolls with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake until deep golden, 25-30 minutes.

Make ahead:  Prepare through step 2.  Immediately wrap airtight (do not let rise) and chill up to 1 day.  Proceed with step 3.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Who Loves Ya, Baby!

I was playing around with my camera a couple of days ago, taking pictures of myself to fool around with in Photoshop.  It's hard to take a picture of yourself.  I kept getting my eyes and the top of my head, or my chin and chest.  I was being silly and making faces.  These are two of my favorites.  They make me laugh every time I look at them.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmas Newsletter!

I'm working on my Christmas newsletter.  Yes, I know.  Christmas is done, but my newsletter isn't.  You see, I write BIG newsletters.  As in huge.  As in 18 pages.  My annual letter has been 18 pages for years, and for some peculiar reason, people actually read the thing.  Not only that, I get new people every year begging to be on my mailing list.  Go figure. 

But I do try to make it appealing to the eye, and chock full of amusing stories.  That's my life--one big amusing thing after another.  I'm serious about that.  My life is funny, and funny things happen to me.  So I like to share.  But these newsletters take months to produce.  I got a bit behind recently, and never mailed out a 2007 one.  So I decided to combine it with 2008.  I worked on it some more, and soon Christmas 2008 had come and gone.  Sooooo . . .

I'm putting the finishing touches on my gargantuan 2007/08/09 Christmas newsletter.  I hope to have it out by Valentine's Day.  *g*  In the meantime, I have to cut many, many pages, because I'm over my self-imposed 18-page limit by 12 pages.  Yes, it's 30 pages long.  I've managed to cut 5 pages tonight and gotten it down to 25 pages, but I'm still cutting.  So many good stories on the cutting room floor!  But if I go over 18 pages, the postage goes up.  If you're on my mailing list, you will eventually get the Christmas newsletter. 

Maybe by Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mom! The Cat Wants In--Again!

A week or so ago I posted a picture of Asterisk, my Boxer, standing at the slider, with my cat, Christopher the Assassin, on the other side of the slider.  I hung a bell on the handle of the slider, and trained Asterisk to ring the bell when she wanted to go outside.  Asterisk has taken it a step farther, and trained herself to ring the bell when she sees the cat at the door wanting in.  Here's another picture of her, doing just that.  I snapped the picture just after she rang the bell.