Sunday, November 30, 2008

Four hours later.....

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....

This is what it looks like at daylight, it has continued to snow those big fluffy snow flakes and is beginning to cover things. The deck has about an inch and a 1/2 on it it, and the streets and sidewalks are getting slushy. It won't be a problem during the day, but it will freeze over tonight, causing big problems.

Here's hoping everyone who needs to get back home for the Thanksgiving holiday gets there safely and early.

What Did I Hear?

I woke up at 2:55 a.m. this morning. I heard something. Was it the cat racing madly around the house chasing some unseen dust bunny? Naaa, he was still snoozing on the chair next to my bed. Was it the paper man throwing the paper on my driveway? Naaa, he doesn't get up that early. Was it my poor neighbor leaving for her job at the bakery? Could have been, but she was gone by the time I looked outside. But this is what I found when I did look out....

It must have been the snowflakes that I heard!

No my hearing isn't that good. But the weather people called this one correctly. Rain Saturday night turning to snow in the early morning hours of Sunday. So at 2:55 a.m. it had just started to snow big juicy flakes. Now at 4 a.m. this is what it looks like!

Now they said it would not accumulate, but this looks like it is covering things and could accumulate. The good news is, the streets and sidewalks and driveways are just wet, so I won't need that snowblower that I dug out from the shed yesterday. At least I hope I won't need it! In the meantime, I can enjoy the beauty of the first snow of winter.

Remember, Lucy VanPelt in "Charlie Brown Christmas" warns us all, NEVER EAT DECEMBER SNOWFLAKES. These are officially NOVEMBER snowflakes, so I guess they really to be avoided. I suppose she is talking about the impurities found the first snow, bits of summer dust, laced with the last bits of pollen from fall. Since she is so pure, she would not want to sully her body with something that might be tainted.

I never listen and grab a snowflake or two on my tongue every time I'm out in the snow, no matter what the month. The one I just nabbed tasted great!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Monster Truck gone

The monster truck I traded in that I found back in my neighborhood 2 months later was on that used car lot for about a week, then it disappeared! Guess that salesman found some sucker to buy it. Hope my excellent history of the truck helped him to extract money from someone's pocket.

M & M's at the "Fee-a-tre" Again

Well, we went to the "fee-a-tre" again today, this time to see the annual Thanksgiving kiddie show. This is always a professional theatre group that does a short show appealing to the preschool/kindergarten set. There sure was a large number of 1 to 5's in this audience!

The show was an ensemble of 7 children's picture books acted out in lively song and dance. Each one was done by a cast of 6, with quick costume changes and clever special effects.

Luckily, they took only about 45 minutes to tell the 7 stories. The M & M's were good, but I'm not sure how much they liked it. We weren't really close, but did sit on the end of a row, so I know they could see. Even with excellent articulation on the part of the actors and actresses, some of the story got missed. But it was lively and fun, and they clapped politely when every one else clapped.

M & M's mom remembers when she went to the ballet at Christmas, she was 6. She is thinking of taking Girl M to see it this year. As I remember it, the ballet is pretty long, and I'm not sure if a 3 year old is ready for 2-1/2 hours of dance in a huge theatre with expensive seats! Maybe she should wait a year or two.

Boy M was excited when he heard we were going to the fee-a-tre, because he wanted to see "Bolt". No, M, we aren't going to see that, at least not on this trip. I think he might have been a little disappointed that the show wasn't a cartoon, but real live singers and dancers.

How Deer....

My Christmas deer--the doe grazes and the buck rears his mighty antlers via little motors in their bodies

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, I must admit that most of the plastic and inflatable stuff I see on people's lawns just turns me off. Oh sure, there are some displays that you just have to admire because of the 2000 yards of extension cords that must be used to power the display. Some have so many different images, Baby Jesus mixed in with the snowman, with the Grinch, with the North Pole, with Santa hopping out of the chimney, with candy canes, and candles........I could go on and on and on, just like many of the displays do!

My little M & M's call streets with no ostentatious displays "dead streets". They want to go down the streets where the electric meters are whirling off the wall powering the million megawatt displays, but they aren't very interested in something tasteful and just simple. So I'm not sure how my little deer display will measure up with them.

The other night, my little Girl M commented that I should take down my professionally installed lights on the eaves. "Just take them down and put them in the garage," she told me. Now I took exception to that artistic appraisal! That cost me a bunch! But I thought that some more ground level decorations, tastefully done, might add some artistic merit to the whole place, and she might like it better. She is coming over tomorrow to see it, so we'll see if it makes the cut.

Slowly but surely my neighbors have gotten their displays put up. One neighbor on my court and I had the same company install our lights, so we've had them up for a couple of weeks now. One brave neighbor put his up on his big two story house this past week, and several did it this nice warm weekend. One guy hates to go up on ladders, but has two sons who love the adventure of climbing up on the roof, so he supervised when they did the high work. Another guy, father of a 9 month old, was up on the high part yesterday. I hate to see fathers go up on roofs, I've heard more than one disaster story of the results of falls. That's why I pay the professionals to do it, don't want any member of my family up there putting them up or taking them down, it is too risky. But as of today, our street has its share of lights, painted Santas, inflatables, spiral trees.

My neighbor across the street has solved the whole decorating dilema, she has 4 beautiful wreaths that fit on her four outdoor light fixtures. Gets the message across, but with only about 5 minutes of work. She had to come over and give me moral support while I put my deers together and "planted" the trees behind them. Everything had to be anchored with pins and heavy bricks and stones to keep them from blowing over.

Herre's how it looks with the eave lights

The deer show up better in pictures than in person because the deer are lighted by the flash from the camera. In person, they are just lights, you can't make out the deer shapes. I have an idea about rigging up a spotlight, I'll have to investigate that later this week. I think I have some leftover parts from previous lawn lighting jobs, so maybe the deer will get lit by a spotlight. Until then, we'll have to see how Miss M judges my attempts to upgrade my Christmas display.

See, I Told You!

This was the price of gas at my station. First post on this subject, Nov. 20, this post, Nov. 29, went from $1.53 to $1.39 and back to $1.57 again 9 days later.

We knew it was too good to be true.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Too Good to Be true

Well, last Thursday, gas around here was at $1.53. It dropped in 5 days to $1.39--I have the proof in pictures! Yesterday, as I drove to the south part of the city, I actually saw several stations with gas at $1.33! That lasted for about 4 hours, because on my way back home, it had gone up.

As I drove by the station closest to my house, gas was $1.57.

I knew it was too good to be true, that we could actually afford to drive again!

The Big Feast

This is a report on our big Thanksgiving feast.

Uncle R--made the turkey, it was perfection. Just the right size, he said he bought it fresh so he didn't have to deal with the whole defrosting mess. It stayed nicely in its cooking bag, it was juicy, tasty, and had plenty of good white meat. He said he found the guts and pulled them out. I ended up taking it out of the pan and M & M's mom made the gravy (made difficult by the fact that fresh flour was not to be found in the bachelor pad). But Boy M didn't care, he just wanted gravy on everything, including about 3 helpings of mashed potatoes.

MonkeyGirl--well, really Mr. MonkeyGirl! Made delicious mashed potatoes, found that taking them in the crock pot keeps you from having to deal with reheating mashed potatoes, we all know how that doesn't work out! Also made a delicious sweet potato casserole, with marshmallows toasted just right because he watched them as they browned!

SewWhat made broccoli casserole, it was good but slid around in the pan in the transportation. Stuffing, yehhhh, not spectacular, but sopped up the gravy just fine. Rolls, were a little hard from reheating, don't think I'll buy premade ones again. Green Beans, I hate to clean them, so I buy them in a bag cleaned (most of the ends are removed, BUT NOT ALL), you microwave them for 3 minutes in the bag, and they are perfectly done, crisp tender. Girl M loves green beans, she was my best customer on those.

M & M's Mom, made the desserts. WE all went for the pumpkin pie, she felt the pecan pie was overdone, and she tried it, but we were all stuffed from the main course, so no seconds. The M & M's loved having whipped cream squirted in their mouths (after the other guests were served!) Girl M helped her mom make one pie, and some cookies.

We enjoyed our evening together, the M & M's enjoyed Uncle R's train set up (remember he is a train buff! See posts from August on that subject!) The resident cat helped himself to some turkey tidbits and whipped cream, so he was begging around us while we were eating dessert. He is a fine looking grey/tan tabby, and a friendly sort of guy, so the kids enjoyed him. Uncle R wanted to play Michigan Rummy, which was a family favorite of our parents, but we were all pooped from cooking and eating, plus the M & M's were getting impatient on having to sit still and play with the toys that Mom scrounged up from the floor of the car.

It was a good Thanksgiving, though.

"What means it.....?"

When the Boy M says that, you know you are going to become a walking Wikipedia, because he needs an explanation for one of life's mysteries. At least, it is still a mystery to him in his little 4-1/2 year old world. Thank heaven he hasn't asked me to explain anything terribly embarrassing yet.

Last week it was, "What means it to fall in love?" Where did that one come from?

I heard he asked Aunt BonkeyGirl "What means it to go on a date?" Another of life's mysteries as to why he is asking that.

So this week, their Mom gave us the day before Thanksgiving task of creating a Thanksgiving centerpiece with each tail feather of the turkey we were creating stating what we were thankful for.

So as we were creating (not too well, she had to redo it), the inevitable question came, "What means it to be thankful?" Welll, how deep is that question? But he needed to figure it out before he could write on the tail feather.

To be thankful is to be glad you have someone special in your life, and you like having them around you, like your Mommy, the dogs, your sister, Uncles and Aunts, GRANDMAS! Oh, he was satisfied that he understood what being thankful meant.

And I am thankful for grandkids, kids and their spouses, pets, friends--new and old, acquaintances, co-workers, having a nice job, brothers and sisters (and inlaws), my house, and lots of love that surrounds me in every walk of my life. Maybe it was unsaid at the table last night, but it was in my heart.

And now I hope Boy M realizes that his grandma will answer any of his "What means it..?" questions as honestly and clearly as I possibly can. I'm so glad he asked.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The M & M's Take Over

If you saw MonkeyGirl's post of yesterday (, you know she babysits her neice and nephew on Tuesdays. Grandma gets them on Wednesday.

Today, they were dismissed from preschool at noon, and the preschool was closing down for the holiday. So my time babysitting was longer than usual.

Now, I had many things planned for what to do to entertain them for the afternoon. I knew my usual 2-3 nap wasn't going to happen, so I had to skip that idea. Even though they nap at preschool, it just seemed more trouble than it was worth for probably 15 minutes of quiet time. We watched Polar Express movie, so that was our down time.

Their mom had a Thanksgiving project for us to do, which turned out not too fabulous. We were to make a turkey out of two styrofoam balls, wrap them with brown yarn, and put construction paper feathers on the turkey with what we were thankful for. I sort of got mixed up on the directions and didn't exactly complete it correctly. Sorry Mom!

Then we decorated my two little Charlie Brown Christmas Trees. One is a downstairs tree, covered with Santas. I have a Santa collection, some handpainted ones depicting how Santa is viewed in different countries around the world. Others are those lush, velvet or lame dressed Santas, each with his own charming face, which I can't resist when I see them on sale at the end of the season! You can never have enough Santas. The other tree is fuller and taller, and I cover it with birds, bird nests, bird houses, and the like. It reminds me of being in the country, a life I left 2 years ago, and still miss.

Then little Miss M decided she wanted to cook. Actually, for 3-1/2, she can do a decent job on microwave Mac and Cheese. She is careful, doesn't spill the stuff, and is so proud of her accomplishment. So she fixed dinner for us.

We also have a new toy for the kitchen, an apple peeler/corer/slicer. It is just the right sort of challenge for preschoolers, and unfortunately for them, I only had 3 apples for them to peel/core/slice. It made for a lot of fun, and they ate the apples rather than junk food, so that was great.

The M & M's christened my entire bathroom wall by "swimming" in my garden tub, they had been requesting to take a bath in that tub every time they come over. Tonight, we happened to have two sets of jammies, so they could get dressed for bed after the bath. At their house, tile goes 5 feet up the wall and lines the entire bathtub area, even the ceiling. Mine goes up 5 inches, so the wall got a soaking.

Then Miss Expert stated when she left that she didn't like those decorations I have on the outside of my house, and that I should take them down and put them in the garage. These are the professionally installed lights lining my entire eaves on the front of my house that cost a pretty penny to install! Sure, darling grand daughter, I'm going to take your advice on that one. I'll just turn off the lights whenever she comes to visit the next time.

Little experts, they are becoming so competent in so many things. Often they wear me out because they don't get along. But today they were a joy to be with. Whew, I didn't need that nap after all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Five Days Later....

Remember my post of 5 days ago? Well, things have changed a little bit.
Same truck, same gas station, same corner, but the price! Way down!

I've wanted to record the price of gas as it flew skyward toward $4.00 a gallon and over. I have vehicles that use regular gas, so it flirted above $4.00 a couple of times, but mostly was just under that amount.

But the last month or so, things have been plunging downward! I can't even remember when gas was this cheap, it was a pretty long time ago.

It has dropped from $1.53 to $1.39 in 5 days--HALLELUJAH!

Wonder when it will stop falling?

Take that you oil rich countries! We don't need no stinking oil, we'll just stay home!

The bottom line today was.....

Gone, But Not Forgotten....

Pie, what pie? Who could have eaten the pie?

Yum, yum, it was DELICIOUS!

On Saturdays, the local network tv stations do infomercials leading up to football or basketball games, and that is not my cup of tea. So I tune in to the PBS channel and watch fabulous cooks, painters, woodworkers and antique appraisers at work. Last week, the cooks were making apple pie. And like all professional cooks, she used a food processor to make the crust.

It took all of 2 minutes to make the pie crust!

I used to make my own pie crusts, and they turned out pretty good. But for about the last 10 years, the refrigerated dough that you roll out, or even easier, the one frozen in the pan already have been all I've used. I've made so few pies, it didn't really matter to me. I threw away my rolling pin, and have no dough cloth in the house.

But the pie crust demo on TV convinced me that I wanted to try it again. So I looked at ads and decided the local Sears store that will be closing soon might hold some decent priced food processors. Yes, I found one, with a $20 rebate to boot, and I brought it home.

Well, the biggest obstacle to making a pie crust in 2 minutes was my own lack of a sous chef to prepare the cubes of chilled butter, shortening and ice water. The crust couldn't have taken more than 2 minutes of actual mixing! I was in pie crust heaven!

I needed to go to the store to get the other ingredients. I picked up a plastic sheet to roll the dough on. I remembered a small dough roller that the Pampered Chef dealer had convinced me I couldn't live without, it was still in the drawer, probably had rolled out play dough in the past, but never a real crust. I had just found a new cute pie plate for $3 at the pottery store. I was ready to roll.

But wait, you have to peel the apples! Knuckles will be bloodied, disposals jammed up, this would not take 2 minutes. No, I planned ahead. Sears had on their fabulous sale an apple peeler/corer/slicer. What could it hurt, I always wanted to get one of those! And yes, it is a wonder tool, because the apples were peeled, cored and sliced in less than 1 minute each! This was indeed getting too easy!

I like an apple pie with crumb topping. Again, the food processor made swift work of that. The most difficult part was transferring the deliciously thin and flaky pie crust from the plastic roll out sheet. I remember Mother used to use the big rolling pin to gently roll the dough on and transfer it to the pie pan. This roller is small, kind of like a paint roller, so that wouldn't work. The pie crust crumbled as it was being transferred, but I patched up the holes and put in my apples, and applied the topping.

I should have taken a picture of it as it came out of the oven, it smelled so delicious. I had to wait til about 10 p.m. that night to taste it, and it was fabulous! The crust was so flaky and flavorful, and the apples cooked just right.

So single-handedly, I managed to polish my creation off. Barely a crumb left for the dishwasher!

Yes, you delicious apple pie, you are gone but not forgotten. A moment on the lips, and forever on the hips.....that's what they say! More to come from the food processor, I'm sure.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Over The River and Through the Woods.....Part 2

If you ever get to see the theatre version of this play, you will laugh yourself to death. It is like going to Grandma's house revisited! I saw it done by our local theatre group last January, I laughed until I cried. Just like going to Grandma's house from years ago!

Grandma wanted to feed them, fixing them a sandwich, insisting that they eat meat (they were vegetarians--she didn't get that), wanting to fix them a doggie bag to take home. These were all shades of my dear departed mother-in-law, who never let us go home with one little hunger pang, and always with an armload of groceries!

And a cake!

My friend and I went together, we howled at every line...

Go see it if you want a walk down memory lane. And a very funny evening.

Over The River and Through the Woods..... Grandmother's house we'll go
the horse knows the way, to carry the sleigh
o'er bright and drifting snow....


We'll be going to Grandmother's house, now owned by Uncle R, in our Toyotas and Mazdas (sorry, Big 3, unless Mr. MonkeyGirl drives his big ass truck!). And PLEASE MR WEATHER MAN, NO SNOW! If so, we'll stay home eating our own portion of Thanksgiving dinner

Uncle R--Turkey and cranberry sauce
SewWhat--broccoli casserole, green beans, rolls and turkey gravy, stuffing
MonkeyGirl and Mr. MonkeyGirl--white and sweet potatoes, olives and pickles
M & M's Mom--desserts!

Sounds a lot better if it is all combined into one feast!

Now, that's our menu. Let's hope our horses can carry us to Grandmother's house so we can all have a little bit of each other's creations, and have a full Thanksgiving dinner together.

Turkeys on the run

Watch out, Turkey Day is coming!

OK, these turkeys won't be on my dinner table this year. In fact, they were running wild and free and trying to snag a meal from my bird feeder. They were walking past my patio one day with a bunch of buds, this picture was taken from my patio when I lived in the country.

This year, our family Turkey day will have a different venue. You remember TC from August posts, he's my brother. And the brave guy, he volunteered to host the Turkey Day celebration this year. This means, as host, he gets to cook the turkey.

Well, TC/Uncle R is a bachelor, and I'm sure cooking big family meals isn't something he does on a daily basis. But he jumped right in, said he thought he could do it and gave us all the jobs of filling in the table around the centerpiece, his turkey masterpiece! So except for the turkey, the meal will be "on the run" from our houses to his!

Yesterday, he polled the women in the family, issuing personal invitations to his home and soliciting some advice about the turkey. What size, how do I defrost it, when do I defrost it, how shall I cook it? Good questions, and they are all questions that we women all grappled with when we did our first or second turkey. TC has done this before, but he admitted it had been some time since his last turkey roast. So with all that great advice, how can he go wrong?

So, on Turkey Day, I will arrive, along with my daughters and families in tow, with bundles of casserole dishes in my arms, contributing my part to the Thanksgiving repast. And we'll be celebrating in a historical sort of way by reason of where we are gathering. The best thing about the whole day is that we'll all be together, eating a nice meal together, and the turkey and the fixings are secondary to family celebrating as one in the home that once was the family home. TC/Uncle R moved into our mother's home when she passed away, so going there is like going home. The day will certainly bring memories of dad sitting at the one end, and mom at the other. TC/Uncle R will probably sit in dad's spot, and I in mom's chair.

Life goes on.....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm So Proud!

My outstanding EMERGING SCHOLAR and I

This beautiful young woman was a student of mine over the past 3 years. She began taking the developmental level English reading/writing with me, then continued with these courses and exited our program of English as a Second Language with me by finishing with a flourish and receiving A's along the way.

She is from West Africa, Benin, to be exact. Her native language is French, and she learned English and still speaks with a beautiful French accent.

She was honored this week with about 20 other students from my college as an emerging scholar. What makes her an emerging scholar is the fact that she has taken 2 or more developmental classes and has distinguished her self by maintaining a 3.5 or better GPA through her community college career.

She took all 7 of our developmental classes, and I know she earned A's in all the classes I taught. She has a work ethic that helps her to meet the expectations of the teacher, all the while trying to be able to support herself through part time work. She started out clerking in a gas station, then moved on to be a clerk at Walgreens. I know her bosses at Walgreens, and they say she is an outstanding employee.

She has a very heavy class load this semester. She is preparing for nursing or pharmacy as her intended career goal. She will be moving on next semester to the university for the more advanced level classes. She is just in her early 20's, so she has definitely had her head on right to pick the priorities that she needs to be a successful student.

The one thing I have noticed about my ESL students, in general, is that they appreciate the opportunity to get an education. Most have immigrated to this country because their parents wanted it for their children, or the students themselves saw education in the U.S. as something that would prepare them for life. Many come from countries where political unrest makes something such as studying at the university impossible to achieve.

I am teaching a group of very gifted ESL students this semester. I showed my former student's picture to them, and told them about EMERGING SCHOLARS. I told them I wanted each one of them to become an emerging scholar in 2 years. They all have the ability! One very outspoken but charming young man said to me, "What do I have to do to be this?" I said, "Get all A's and B's in all of your classes!" He kind of looked shocked, but he certainly has the capability to do it.

If only he resists the temptation that many U.S. born teens and young adults fall into, the idea that college life is play time. I hope they use their time here and during these years to the best advantage.

ChiCho's Most Excellent Work

Rebuilt pond

ChiCho's work turned out very good, I am very pleased.

My most dependable pond builder gave this small job off to someone else, and I wasn't exactly happy with that idea. You see, Ed had built the pond and it was his design ideas together with mine that put the thing together to begin with. The barrel idea was mine, and Ed figured out how to work it in to the design. I thought the barrel should be on dry land, pouring its contents out onto the pond shell somewhere, but Ed thought it would work better in the water. While it was asthetically pleasing, practically it was an idea that wouldn't actually hold up to the elements.

So, the barrel shifted, started to split, failed to support the liner full of water (what would a 20 gallon tank hold, about 150 pounds of water?). Since it was plumbed into the water filtration system, we couldn't just remove it.

So Ed instructed ChiCho what to do, and then left. I had to go to work, so was fearful of what I would see when I came home. Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

You can tell the new rocks from the old rocks because they are clean. I'm thrilled about how this turned out.

One note of caution that this might not be done. About 2 hours after ChiCho left, I looked out and the water was NOT FLOWING. Something had tripped the GFI and the electricity was off to the pump. Since I'm on my third pump under warranty, I'm hoping that was a momentary issue that won't come back to haunt me. Don't know how many more free pumps they will give me.

Looks good, doesn't it? It will look much better next spring with flowers growing all around it.

What's Going On Here?

What? How Can this be?

We sold our gas guzzlers and bought bikes and stayed at home, and now look what happens. Gas is cheaper than it has been in years! Go figure!

I got rid of the truck because it cost $75 to fill the tank, now I could go far on $25. Exxon Mobil, eat my shorts! How can you make 20 bizillion dollars a quarter selling gas at this price?

And the bottom line is........

I wonder how long this will last.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ChiCho Saves the Day

My Backyard Pond

Since the early 90's, when water features became things that people liked to add to their outdoor living space, I've lived near water. At first, it was a small pond that took my late husband 2 years to dig and complete. It brought me the most delightful pleasure. I would come home from a difficult day at work, and sit by the pond, watching the fish, frogs and flowers. My tension would just melt away.

Then I moved to the country. Our first home was on a big lake, we were located on the back of a small cove. But watching the water and the ducks and geese and fish were again a source of comfort and a place to really let the cares of the day or week melt away.

Lakeside living really wasn't too much the late Mr.'s cup of tea, he liked the woods. So we found a place in the country that had 160 acres of woods, but a beautiful large pond/small lake as its main feature, not even 50 feet from our back door. That lake will forever remain in my memory as my dream place, I loved going down and sitting by the lake, feeding the fish some extra worms I had lying around, or kayaking across its smooth surface.

When we moved back to the city, and bought a new house, the plans were laid immediately for a water feature in the back yard. Materials were purchased and stacked up for the time when Mr. SewWhat felt up to building, which unfortunately never happened. After he passed away, I tried to fathom myself building a pond, and knew that would never happen. So I found a local company that specializes in water features who bid and got my job of making my water feature come to life.

The picture above is the result of that job. It is beautiful and home to some nice size goldfish. But the one aspect of the pond that was doubtful in my mind was the second side waterfall, coming out of a wooden barrel immersed in the water (barely visible under the blue/violet flowers on the right side of the picture.) I was afraid that this wouldn't last. And it didn't.

The barrel slowly started to spread apart and not support the water container, so things sort of shifted to the side more and more each month. Plus, water would leak out occasionally, and this was a worry.

So I called my favorite pond builders, and they came out today to change things around a bit. Poor ChiCho, his hands froze as he began the job, after all it is November 19, and there was ice shards on various parts of the pond. But later on, it warmed up and things got going a little bit better for him.

The results are very satisfactory. I'll post a picture of the new pond tomorrow. But ChiCho also had some ideas for another water drainage problem I've had in my yard since I moved in, that being a leaky egress window to my basement that leaks water in during heavy rains. In speaking to ChiCho, he is a 20+ year veteran of landscaping businesses, and he sounds like he knows his stuff! I'm going to have ChiCho back again for more chats and some problem solving sessions until I get this backyard drainage issue fixed. He might just be the answer to a lot of prayers and questions I've had trying to get this house to not fall in on me as I try to maintain it!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Life of a Sloth

When we hear the word "sloth", it either takes us back to our Catholic school upbringing as the name of one of the 7 deadly sins, or it takes us back to biology 101 to remember a very elusive member of the rainforest community.

You get the idea about the deadly sin, I needn't go on about that. But the anatomy of the animal that lives in the rainforest may not be that familiar to you. It is one of an arboreal animal that moves so slowly through the rainforest canopy that it actually grows moss and mold on its fur. So it is a grey tinged-with-green animal that blends in well with the leaves on the trees, making it very difficult to spot as it moves so slowly around its habitat. Word has it that its digestion cycle is also sloth-like, or is that TMI?

I guess my day today could be couched in either definition. After a wild couple of weeks, when every day was filled with frantic running around or activity, today was the let down day. It was cold and rainy outside, the weatherman kept saying there were snow flakes flying, but I never saw any. The doorbell rang around noon with an order from Amazon, three new books came that needed to be looked at.

I had originally thought this day would be dedicated to sewing something for ME! I even made a trip to the fabric store to pick up a pattern (or 10--$1.99 each, limit 10!). But the enthusiasm waned as I tried to warm up after my trip into the chilly elements.

So the book enticed me, the soft bed embraced me, sleep overtook me (many cat naps next to my feline partner who was sharing the same space). I am on p. 71 of a text book on improving reading comprehension, so I was awake for part of the afternoon at least!

And I don't feel like I've committed a deadly sin, just a restful day gearing up for the crazy life that usually surrounds me! And, boy, did it feel great! Maybe that sloth has the right idea!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Return of the Monster Truck

You might remember that back in August, I wrote "Bye Bye, Monster Truck!" This was after I made my decision to trade in my late husband's huge Dodge Ram pick up for something smaller that guzzled less gas and fit into the garage without hogging all the space.

Now, you might remember the details I laid out. The truck was 11 years old, had some mechanical problems, was costing me more money each year to keep it running. It did have many memories of my sweetie, from its rumbling exhaust system, to the many "artifacts" (used toothpicks, napkins, other "to be unnamed" DNA samples, old gas receipts, you get the picture!) that I found under the seat when I cleaned it out to sell it. I traded it with a feeling of losing a cherished part of my past with him, but also with a frustration for having to put up with the pain of maintaining an old truck that I hardly every drove.

When I traded it in, I thought I was lucky to get what money they gave me. The amount was somewhat under the blue book, more like what a "rough" trade in would bring. The truck had under 100,000 miles, which is somewhat odd for a truck that old, but during the last 4 years we/I owned it, it mostly sat unused. I think it accumulated about 5000 miles in those 4 years.

I'll never forget the used car appraiser at the dealership. He was smiling, saying "A little touch up paint, it'll look good as new!" I scoffed at that idea under my breath, thinking, "No way, buddy" Remember that political saying that was going around about putting lipstick on a pig? Certainly applies here!

You never ever see your old trade in again. I've traded in many vehicles in my day, one was deemed "rough, really rough!" by the used car appraiser. You can only hope someone will learn to love your old junker, and take it into their life for a couple hundred bucks. Or if no one rises to the bait, it will be a rectangle of mangled metal, ready to go to the steel mill to become a girder or a tin can. That was what I thought was going to happen to the monster truck. But yesterday I had a brake-applying, heart racing, drive around the neighborhood to make sure moment, I THOUGHT I SAW MY MONSTER TRUCK ON THE FRONT LINE OF THE LOCAL USED CAR DEALER! Or did I?

This was cause for a closer look-see! I did drive around the block to get back to the dealership's lot. The marks of our old truck had to be there. I would look for that dent in the bumper, put there by me as I had a close encounter with one of the 10 million trees on our property in the country. And that dent in the back quarter panel, put there as my sweetie attempted to back up our trailer into our best friends' driveway to help them as they were preparing to move away (sad day indeed!) And the label on that brand new camper shell window that I paid over $500 for last Christmas, after catching the original window in the garage door and smashing it to a million shards of glass in my driveway (still finding some shards every now and then when I move something that hadn't been moved when we cleaned up the mess.) And those distinctive white and red pin stripes down the side of the truck--would this really be the one?

YES IT WAS! The salesman came out and saw me inspecting the truck, asked me if I wanted to buy it back! Buy it back? They were asking over 3 times the amount I got in trade in! What fool would pay that for this truck? And yes, they did put lipstick on a pig--touch up paint on the dent, sprayed over the rusty tail pipes. The salesman asked me a few questions that he thought would help him sell it, were we the original owners, how come it had so few miles on it? He thought it was not a pig in lipstick, but a glam "Miss Piggy", able to turn a head or two. I've got to admit, it did look nice cleaned up. He commented on the cleanness of the inside. Yes, it only usually carried one wanna-be cowboy for most of it's miles, or Mr. Cowboy with his wanna-be cowgirl by his side. I don't think anyone ever sat in the back seat, you usually couldn't get to the back seat because of the junk piled on it!


I felt compelled to drive by one more time yesterday, just to see it once more in a different perspective. It had gained a place of honor on the front line of the used-car dealership, and it looked as distinguished as its original owner, a proud but aging gent, waiting for a new life with a new family. Brought a tear to me eye, it did. New owner, be good to my Monster Truck, OK? It holds a lot of memories.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Picking up the Pieces

Now that I'm finished costuming one show, I must pick up the pieces in the sewing room. Pins, pattern scraps, threads, pattern pieces that need to be folded and stored, all of that must be done in preparation for THE NEXT SHOW!

I had exactly 2 hours last Saturday morning to speculate on what to do with myself now that this costuming gig for The Unexpected Guest was finished. My friend from the local high school alumni group is doing "The Sound Of Music" in January. Since I helped them last year, they conned me into helping them again this year. So at 10 a.m. last Saturday, she called me and said, "How would you like to come to our practice today to measure the actors and get going on the costumes?" Well, it made perfect sense, I could get going on this project, which I hope to have finished by Christmas.

I am only going to do part of this costuming gig. I will be making 2 sets of clothing for the vonTrapp children, all 7 of them! I'm going to make a nautical outfit for them, and the famous curtain outfits. It was fun planning with them what they wanted and how they were going to stage it.

Funny thing about the leaders of this group. The husband/wife team who are the director/music director have a son going to a university in an adjoining state. This university used to be the training grounds for an order of Sisters. Now it is an open university, but since it is adjoining the large motherhouse, they have close ties with the sisters. So guess where the nun's costumes are coming from? You guessed it! That university! I guess they'll rummage around in the nun's closets to find some old fashioned nun's habits.

Here's another interesting "small world" bit of info. I worked with two wonderful sisters from this order, who happen to be sisters to each other! I've been to visit them several times in their beautiful motherhouse. I was so surprised to find that these people who are directing this show have a tie to that university. In fact, the theatre teacher at that university is an alum of the high school that is putting on the play. IT TRULY IS A SMALL WORLD.

Updates will follow of the progress of the 4 plays I am costuming in January--hope I can keep it all straight in my mind!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Unexpected Guest

Set for "The Unexpected Guest" by Agatha Christie

Michael, the unexpected guest comes upon grieving Laura, who just found her husband shot to death. Michael decides that beautiful Laura needs an advocate, and so cooks up an idea of how the murder can be explained.

Beautiful Laura tricks Michael into continuing to lie to cover up the real murderer.

Grand Dame Mrs. Warwick discusses with Laura and the house servant Benny details of the murder and investigation.

Crazy son Jan Warwick talks to Benny, saying he wants to follow in his step-brother's footsteps, and "shoot things"!

The entire cast of "The Unexpected Guest", taking their bows! The dead man, Richard Warwick resurrects with his gunshot in his head to take a bow! (Extreme left)


SewWhat? has been busy again, thereby explaining why there haven't been any posts for a while. Anyone involved in tech week for a play knows it is a week filled with lots of last minute details, lots of running around, lots of sewing for the costumer, and luckily, ends up with a nice opening night performance and audience.

The costuming for the play was easier than most, because the sewing part of it was smaller than other plays I have done. Of course, I dressed beautiful Laura, with her darling Barbie Doll shape! That was the most fun of all, especially with her second blue plaid dress! Vintange pattern, Butterick, from 1957. Her other dress was also vintage Butterick, from a few years earlier.

I also made Benny's dress, some nightwear for all, and then the rest was found at various thrift stores, or people's closets. Luckily I found a beautiful vintage dressing gown for the "dead man", fit him perfectly also! I guess the whole thing was a series of lucky finds, because they really all looked good.

Monkeygirl loved Laura's blue and white shoes, and put in her own search for a pair just like them. The fabric for Laura's blue dress and Jacket was found after a frantic search at three fabric stores for the right fabric at the right price. No way was I going to spend $200 on one outfit! Luckily, I found this silk for $4 a yard! And I was very pleased with the results.

Now to the confessional. I sew well, but fit people not so well. I made the purple dress for Laura from some fabric left over from last year's show, and it worked out OK, but the shoulders didn't fit her. So, I decided I had enough fabric to remake the entire dress, and I did, and it fit her perfectly. Then, my usual night chore after the performance was to iron the ladies garments. On Saturday night, the iron got too hot, and I burned a spot in the blue jacket! Luckily I had enough fabric to remake that piece of the jacket. What a dummy I am!

I learn from my mistakes, and lucky for me, nothing is irreversible. I've learned some things about fitting, about not sewing things up too fast without try ons, and about sewing slower and more accurately. My results have been better as I go along with the projects. I get less stressed by the jobs, even though the biggest job I did was my first job as a costumer for a very big cast. I think my reputation as a costumer is getting around, because in January, I am doing 4 shows during the same time frame!

I do love this hobby. People want to know how much I make doing it, and it only comes in satisfaction of a job that is appreciated. I've gotten very high compliments from several people whose talents in theatre I really admire, and the fact that they are complimentary of my work is like getting the Academy Award.

Edith Head, move over!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What If You Threw a Party, and Nobody Came?

Happy Halloween to you all! Do you have guilt pangs about the amount of chocolate you snuck out of the candy basket while waiting for the kiddies? Are there pumpkin shards littering your street as the pumpkin smashers and goblins did their dirty work after the decent folks went to bed? Are the kids and grandkids still buzzing around the house wearing off the sugar high? What about all those candy wrappers scattered around the house?

These are the memories I have of Nov. 1. The hype and anticipation of Halloween is over and that is what is left afterward.

I live on a court of new homes. We've been a neighborhood for under 4 years. For the past three years, we've planned a big court party out on someone's driveway for Halloween. We all bring a dish, bring our candy baskets, make sure our favorite adult beverages are iced up, and wait for the trick or treaters. Someone brings a firepit and we can roast marshmallows and make s'mores. All the candy treats are in one place, so it is ONE STOP SHOPPING for the Trick or Treaters.

Last year, we forgot to plan it, and it ended up being very impromptu, planned about 6 p.m. on Halloween night. This year, our host and hostess planned for weeks. He worked on his home to glam up the front exterior with beautiful night lighting! It turned out absolutely fabulous. HE CLEANED THE GARAGE! She is a baker, so her fabulous Halloween cake set the mood for the event. We were all primed.

This year was a little odd, because at 6 p.m. when we gathered it was still light because Daylight Savings Time was still in effect. We all filtered in, and the table of eats groaned louder and louder as various delicacies of party food loaded it down. Chilies, chips and cheeses, wings of every flavor, and various desserts--we had more than 50 people could eat, and there was probably under 20 at the party!

But the place where the table was groaning was the candy table! The adults ate, drank, waited..... and waited...... and waited......

No kids.

If it weren't for a couple of grandkids who came, there would have been no trick or treaters! Where were they all? Did the news of our suburban area's latest crime statistics keep people from coming around? We all conjected and discussed possible reasons why no kids were coming.

So this is what is left of the trick or treat planning that I have to deal with. If I were smart, I'd put it in the trash can, but you can't do that with chocolate! So I'll have to slowly (I hope slowly) add it to my daily diet plan. And I'm sure it will disappear, maybe from the candy basket, but probably not from the hips!