Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Random Thoughts, 2008

What have you been doing between holidays?
Did you have a highlight and a 'lowlight' of this past year? My highlight was our family trip to the Pacific Northwest.  My lowlight was of my mother's illness and ultimate death from Lou Gehrig's disease.  

If there was one good thing that came out of my mother's death, it was that I got to spend so much time with my sister.  She was able to relocate here last December, when my mother's illness was beginning to get the best of her.  Jean wanted to be here when my mom passed away.  After my mom's death, she came and went several times---each time returning to work on a remodel of a home on one of our local rivers.  She was able to hang out with the family and do cool "Aunt" stuff with our youngest, James.  She took him to movies, to a BB King concert, zip-lining, and came to every one of his soccer games.  She said, "It's not that I care one bit about soccer, but the kiss I get from him at the end of the game makes it all worth it."  
This week, almost a year later, she has moved on for good.  She is headed for North Carolina to put down roots with some friends in a shared house.  Her first order of business will be to buy a surfboard.  She is an ocean person, and has missed living near one badly.  
Now to some truly random thoughts from this week.

I'm always up for meeting new animals, especially ones I haven't been up close to in years.  As a little girl, I had a second cousin that had a sow with piglets.  I learned two things.  First, Sows will kill you as quick as they can, so stay out of the pen. Second, piglets are so cute that I couldn't hardly stand it.  This batch of piglets found an escape route from the pen, and when they did, we'd snatch them up and snuggle them.  Oh, I also learned they can squeal loud enough to deafen you.  

This week, I went with a friend to feed a 4-H piglet.  His owners were out of town. He was still pretty cute, even though he wasn't tiny anymore.  I guess since pigs aren't limber as they'd like to be, it's a universal fact that they like to be scratched behind their ears.  Speaking of ears, does anyone know what's with all the notching of pigs ears??  This poor guy had one ear that looked like a Christmas tree. 

When I wasn't cleaning, or cooking, or doing laundry, I was redoing James' bedroom.  He had green walls, wallpaper on the bottom half, and a Monster Truck border in the middle.
Let me just say that wallpaper should be banned, unless you know you'll love it forever and never plan on moving.  Taking the stuff down took me two days.  First to pull the vinyl picture off the paper backing, and then to get the paper backing off the wall.  Luckily, I tried warm water on it before breaking out the "wear gloves, don't get it on anything, have all windows and doors open" wallpaper stripper. Just so you know, warm water works great.  I then washed the remaining adhesive off the walls.

Next came the taping and taking down of posters.  I was then able to break out the yellow paint James had chosen.  The Cliff's Notes versions of painting involves 2.5 gallons of paint for a 12 x 12 room, that includes 3 doors and a large window.  It was a thirsty wall and more importantly, I was covering green with yellow.  Three coats!!  Can you say, AAaaarrrgghh?!
Lessons learned--1. Paint all colored walls with a coat of white, before trying to cover it with another color.  2. Use wider tape to tape the ceiling if you no longer have the can of white ceiling paint to touch up mistakes.  There are many yellow spots on his ceiling. 
This is the border James has chosen as a replacement.  There will be no lower wallpaper.  I hope he likes it.  He has to live with it for another 8 years until he goes off to college.  Then I'll rent his room out to a rock star or something.  

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

From us all, except the cat. He's obviously not too thrilled with our attempt at making him festive. I hope your Christmas was filled with blessings and smiles and peace.

Our guests include G'ma and G'pa, and my sister, NJ.
Dinner menu:
Prime Rib
Roasted Potatoes
Glazed Carrots
Cranberry Relish
Green Beans
G'ma's famous Butterhorn Rolls
Apple Crisp (thanks NJ!)
Cherry Pie

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bring the Rain

I am crazy for the movie, Transformers.  There was a very interesting military term used in the movie that I'd never heard before---"Bring the rain."  It meant that men on the ground needed aerial assistance and lots of it.  It should be raining bullets.  

I need to bring the rain on all items that plug in at my house.  This, my friends, is a picture that looks familiar.  It is NOT from four posts ago.  I decided against taking the broken, month old, vacuum cleaner to a repair shop.  It was well under the 90-day purchase window, so I took it back to Sears.  They were glad to accept it and told me the very same vacuum had been returned by others.  I told them that I wanted a new one, but that it needed not to have a serial number that began with "J".  They only had the J series.  I thought for a moment------I need to vacuum.  I decided to take it and plan on bringing it back when it breaks.  Maybe I'd get lucky.

This, is a picture of the brand new vacuum cleaner---FRESH OUT OF THE BOX.  I'm guessing what happened is the die that molded the beater bar was off by an inth of an inch.  They then forced it into a place that was an inth of an inch too small.  Thus, the cracked bar.  

Before I head back to Sears, I'm going to have them transfer one from another store that isn't in the J series.  I really am in love with Dyson.  I know I shouldn't be at this point, but it really has a lot of positives as far as it's ease of cleaning.  Dyson acknowledges the the flaw in the J series, they just aren't willing to pull it off the shelves.  They'll fix it if it breaks.  Can't really say the same for most other manufacturers.  

Oh yea, my microwave is having seizures now.  It will shut itself off, midway through a job.  It will run weird numbers when it's not supposed to be working at all.  The only way to fix it, is to climb up on the counter, open a cabinet door and unplug it.  You then have to replug it and it will work fine.

Speaking of Transformers---do you think all my appliances are really aliens? Bring the Rain!

Just Chillin'

James and Smokie, taking it easy.  Aren't dogs the some of the nicest people you've ever met?  Little boys, too!


My big brother, J. and his wife, K.
My mom and her husband, JL.
My sister, me and my brother.

I have been awful about birthday greetings this year.  I've missed my brother's birthday, and now his lovely wife's birthday too.  I really don't know why.  Since my mom died, I feel a total disconnect with my extended family.  My sister has been the primary worker in keeping up our relationship.  
Here's the birthday breakdown.
My brother, December 7th.
My mom, December 21st.
K's birthday, December 21st.
My dad, December 24th.

My mom and dad are now dead.  I think that's where the disconnect comes in.  You see, the man you see in the picture above, is actually the father of my brother and sister.  Confused?
Mom married JL.  Had two kids (my brother and sister).  They divorce.
Mom marries Harold.  Has me.  They divorce after 23 years together.
Mom marries Dwight. No kids.  They divorce.
Mom and JL reunite, get remarried.
Mom dies.

I'm rambling.  My brother and sister have done nothing to make me feel like an outsider, now that they have their dad back.  In fact, everything is just the same. My brother called me for my birthday and my sister gave me the most amazing piece of art that she made and beautiful necklace.  

I guess I'm letting my first parentless Christmas spill over into my relationships with my brother and sister.  I've long since given up being angry with my mom for her lack of interest in me as a person.  Big, giant waste of energy on my part.  What I'm realizing, is that I'm behaving in much the way she did---disinterest.  

I'll call my brother and his wife, and apologize.  I'll wish them a belated birthday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Once a Week

Add ImageI've chosen Tuesday's picture because he's wearing his bright summer plumage and the grass is green(ish).
I haven't been blogging on a daily basis for some time.  I would like to, but my muse gets sluggish when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter. 
I've also been very busy with kids, their activities and now, Christmas.  My brain gets overloaded with getting this and that done---there is rarely any creativity left over.  

Soon my kids will be home for a couple weeks.  Blessing and a curse.  Blessing because I like them.  I like having them around.  I like having their friends around. Curse, because of the endless dishes and messes made by 3 kids/friends at home.  I try to make them aware of the disasters they create and that I'm not their maid. They don't really get it.  What's more, they don't really see it (the messes).

Please stop by on Tuesdays. You may find that I've blogged more than once during a week.  It might warm up and the sun might come out to thaw my muse.  In the mean time, be assured that I am reading other blogs that I love.  If you don't know who they are, check out my sidebar--"Places I Love to Visit".

Saturday, December 13, 2008

For the Love of Pete!

And his brother Paul, and their next door neighbor, Sally, and her sister's best friend's babysitter, Nancy......

Do you know what this is? Click on it and you'll see it up close and personal.  It is the barely month old, beater bar from my top of the line Dyson vacuum.  It began making a horrible noise the other day when I was using it.  It sounded very much like the beater bar was striking the vacuum housing.  Lee and I took turns turning it over, and turning it off and on.  Nope, wasn't hitting the housing????
Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the beater bar had a piece missing.  It was broken!!!! You've got to be kidding me!!!

After I'd calmed down, I  called their 1-800 number and got an actual human being on the line.  That was a pleasant surprise.  She was even nice enough to put me into their registered owner system.  Doesn't matter that I sent the paper work in for that very thing, the day after my purchase.  "It takes those data entry people months to get that stuff into the system."  Surprise. 

When I told her the vacuum's serial number she said, "Oh, that's from the J group. They've been having trouble with the beater bar breaking."   I guess since I was in no danger from having the thing catch the house on fire or something, they weren't going to tell the general public about the defect.  Surprise.

I asked the woman to send me a new beater bar and we could both get on with our lives.  Not happening.  Seems the version of Dyson that I bought had to be serviced at a vacuum shop 25 miles from here.  Something about calibration and the belt and the beater bar.  The newer version of said vacuum could be fixed at home.  She, while we were on the phone, put me into the system at the vacuum repair place.  She also volunteered that I might get a 'loaner' vac while mine was in the shop.  I have a sneaking suspicion that my vacuum will disappear into the black hole of the time/space continuum, and the creepy loaner will become my vacuum forever.  OR I won't get a loaner and have to continue to use my jury-rigged Hoover Windtunnel.

In all honesty, the Dyson people were very helpful on the phone.  The fact that I got to talk to a human at all, astounds me.  She let the vacuum repair place know that I will be coming, and what part to have on hand to fix it.  I will try, in this season of 'peace on earth, goodwill to men', to be hopeful about the outcome.  While it worked, the vacuum was amazing.  It really does "never lose suction".  I don't have to do anything to it but empty the canister.  No clogged filter.  No overly full bag. 

To be continued.....

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Little Cheese with My Whine

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.  I have a terrible cold that started on Tuesday and won't let go.  I don't remember colds getting the better of me when I was younger.  
I read other blogs, but do not comment.  I don't post on my own blog either.  I've got major brain fog and can barely put sentences together.
I get done what I need to get done, take the appropriate number of Motrin a day and then lay on the couch.  At least I can work on a scarf for Pearl for Christmas. She knows about it, as it lays on the coffee table when I'm not working on it.
I don't know what we'll be having for dinner tonight and I'm certainly not done Christmas shopping.  
I need to get in the shower.  Maybe that'll help me feel better.  I have to take Thom to the doctor today.  He's got a sore throat and the little white patches to go along with it. Yea, strep, just in time for semester finals.  
If you know us and live nearby, stay far, far away.  I know we don't have Ebola or anything, but feeling under the weather for Christmas can be sort of a drag.

On a brighter note, my new neighbor might get a mini donkey OR might be willing to board a mini donkey.  Hmmm.  Wonder if Lee reads this?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Play on Words

Frozen Vegetable

Snow Mobile

Frozen Chicken with Polar Bear Swim

Snow Dog

I bet you can't guess what happened here last night?  Really, guess!  James ate green beans!  
Okay, I know it's hard to guess, so I'll tell you.  It snowed!  We set a record high yesterday with 81*.  A cold front blew in and brought a 50* drop in temperature. It also brought some much needed precipitation. First it rained, then it sleeted, then it snowed.  
I was positive that this is the earliest our area has seen. Wrong.  It snowed 1 to 3 inches in west Austin on November 8th, 1955.  The latest date for snow was March 10, 1932.  On average, Austin receives measurable snow every 2.9 years.   

Saturday, December 6, 2008

This Doesn't Look Like My Chair

We torture our poor cat every Christmas by moving 'his' chair.  Normally, there is a chair in the spot where the Christmas tree resides.  On that chair is the shawl I knitted for Pearl.  He decided that was his too.  He's kneaded so many biscuits in it that he could open a bakery.  Pearl doesn't want it back.

We moved the shawl to another spot in the room. For a few days every year, he looks for the chair and the shawl to be together where they belong.  He has never sought revenge on us, by climbing the Christmas tree.  We were blessed with this stray kitty that pretty much goes with the flow.  Only that sort of cat would survive at our house---stuff is always changing or being moved about.  I've heard of cats that quit eating if you move their food.  Not Lucky.  It's obvious that our kitty hasn't missed a meal. He'll eat off the kitchen floor, if need be.

He spends a few days sleeping under the tree, just to make us feel guilty for moving 'his spot', and then goes and finds his shawl.  He's nothing, if not flexible.  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Field Trip

The really cool thing about being a grown up is that one friend has no fear about introducing you to another friend.  You remember jr. high and high school--three girls can never be friends without there always being fireworks.

Today, my friend DD and I went to lunch with her friend, RR.  I've known RR casually for years.  We live in a small town after all.  After lunch, we went to RR's house.  She has a beautiful ranch that is even more amazing now that Christmas decorations are up.  Since I forgot to ask, I didn't take any pictures of her or DD.  I did, however, take many pictures of her menagerie!  I was in heaven.

This man is Penguin.  He was a stray that was full of worms, fleas and mites when she found him.  She doesn't overfeed him, he has an unknown condition that makes him so 'fluffy'.  He thinks he's a dog.  He comes when he's called and follows you wherever you go.  He's reminds me very much of Garfield in his mannerisms.  He could definitely come home with me.
This is Penguin's much smaller sibling, Spook.  I don't remember his story, but he knows how a cat should behave--aloof and just out of reach. 
This beautiful boy is Sampson.  He has a job and takes it very seriously.  He was adopted because RR and her family came home from a vacation and discovered a woman living in their pool house!  She lives on 10 acres at the very end of a gated neighborhood.  The woman was a couple eggs short of an omelet and was escorted off the property by the police.  They also have a young man in the neighborhood who starts fires.  Sampson was must.  RR went to the local animal shelter to pick out a large, scary dog.  She wanted him, but they said he was set to be put down---he didn't pass the non-aggression tests.  Determined, she called the local German Shepherd rescue, and they were able to obtain him.  He's a great dog, but he definitely keeps an eye on the place.  Coming onto the property without RR giving him the okay, and all bets are off.
This handsome young man is Hank the Cow Dog.  He is a big, goofy, lovebug.  I met him when he was just a pup.  He's still just as yummy as ever.  I got to hear his familiar Basset Hound yodel just once today.  I'd forgotten about it.
Tonka is the tallest man on the ranch at 16.2 hands.  RR has always loved tall horses.  He has a trick that just delighted me, but I wasn't able to get it on film.  She asks him if he wants a treat and he shakes his head, yes.  I swear!  I am normally not attracted to blue eyed horses because they tend to be pig-eyed (bulgy eyes).  His are beautiful.  They're really half black, half blue.
Here's a closer picture of his striking blue eyes.
What's this!  Who belongs to those lovely, long ears?  RR rescued this dashing little donkey, J.J.  I don't remember the whole story, but he was a skinny mess and she talked the man into giving him to her for just $25.  
He and I bonded madly.  He really, really wanted to come home with me.  We discussed it in depth while I scratched all his itchy places.  He told me he would go anywhere with me for an apple treat or two.  I told him I'd discuss it with RR, but I think she kind of likes him.  
He has the very best attribute of all RR's animals---he doesn't bray.  Well, he tries, but it barely comes out as a whisper.  I told her that someone (me, me!!) would pay good money for a donk that didn't bray, but I don't think there's enough money in the world for her to part with him.  He's a pumpkin!  

Thanks to DD and RR (I swear, that's really their initials and J.J. is just J.J.!), for hanging out with me today.  I needed the down time to get ready for the final push to Christmas.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Magic Chickens

Over the summer I babysat a friend's two hens while she vacationed in Utah.  My chickens, despite my best efforts, never made friends with the two hens.  They were ostracized and not allowed to sleep with the group.  The took to sleeping in the "loft" (rake holding up a wall panel-more jury rigging) to avoid nasty pecks from my group.

I was fascinated with the entire affair, as the rake is at least 3.5 ft off the ground and not very big around.  Two questions, were always on my mind--"How'd they get up there?"  Talk about having to stick a landing!  The other question was, "How'd they get down?".  The getting down part was easy.  They flew.  The getting up there part was pretty obvious, as they were young hens and didn't weigh very much--they flew.

Fast forward to this week.  I went out one morning to discover my two Light Brahma hens, Violet and Sophia, in the Loft.  These girls turned 4 in October.  They are no longer light, young things like our visitors this summer.  Brahmas are also considered to be a "Heavy" breed.  Hens can reach 9 lbs!  Just imagine a nice, stout, German, grandma.  I had one, I know.  These girls are German grandmas for sure.  

One question remains--"How'd they get up there?" They can't fly.  I've seen them try.  The place where the other chickens are sleeping is directly below the rake. Unless they can jump straight up in the air, the nest box couldn't have been a factor.  They are simply too heavy to fly and make such a short landing.  I must have magic chickens.  They levitate?

I do know how they get down, and it's not pretty.  They plop down to the top of the nest box and then plop down onto the ground.  Plop is really the best adjective available.  I worry about them hurting themselves and make sure the hay and shavings are nice and fluffy for them to land in.

Does anyone else have magic chickens.  How about magic farm animals or pets?  

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Silent Sunday


Saturday, November 29, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons

Then what?

We got 15 lemons off our Meyer Lemon tree this year. The kids have messed with a few--mostly tea and lemonade. They are ginormous and give nearly 3/4 cup of juice apiece.  I've added the egg to show how large they are.   
There's a bit of a problem though---they don't really taste like lemons.  They are acidic and taste slightly of cough syrup or Pledge.  Meyer Lemons are supposed to be a cross between a grocery store type lemon and a mandarin orange.  The skin is even supposed to be edible, they are so sweet.  
My lemons, and the lemons of my friend, Txjuju, have not gotten the memo.  She is in a bit more trouble than me, though.  She got 123 lemons this year!  Off one tree!
She has several ideas for their uses.  I'm thinking of making lemon curd or marmalade.  I'll let you know.

If you happen to be versed in all things citrus, could you tell me why JuJu and my lemons are failing to live up to their potential?  My dear little tree gets one more year to make sweet lemons. It is taking up a large portion of my garden and could well be replaced with sweet corn or sweet potatoes if it doesn't change its ways. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Free Stuff

One of the really cool things about living in a horsey neighborhood are the presents they leave behind.  I know some folks are irritated by finding such presents in front of their houses, but not me.  I figure if you live somewhere where horses are ridden, you'd better expect such things.  It's not like the humans on horseback can carry around an empty Wally World bag and shovel to pick up after their equine pets.  
This particular gift was left behind by a beautiful black and white draught horse. Her rider would have needed at least two WalMart bags.

I am glad to pick up after the mare.  It goes straight into my compost pile.  I can get whole garbage bags of the stuff when I go visit my friend, DD.  She has two minis that remind me of caterpillars---plant life in, plant life poo out.  It's not much bigger than caterpillar poo either.  Jazz and Thunder are very kind and put it all in one place for me for me.  I just need a square nose shovel and a garbage bag.  My compost gets a boost and it's all for free.  Besides, I get my horse fix while I'm at it. Her minis are love bugs. DD when can I come over again? Oh, I want to see you too--in case you're wondering. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Jury Rigging

Earlier this year I posted on Jury Rigging. I always thought jury rigging's origins came from someone rigging a trial by getting at a juror with death threats or money.  It really has origins in sailing and ships.  
The term jury rigging has morphed into a word meaning (loosely): to fix something with duct tape, baling wire, string, or zip ties.  Zip ties are my personal favorite, but I digress.

Below you will see my newest attempt at thwarting the gluttonous House Sparrows.  You can read all about my previous attempts here.  I must admit, that my previous try at keeping the little flying pigs out of my chicken food, failed.  

I got this fabulous idea over at Sugar Creek Stuff.  Her dad helped her out of the "Beverly Hillbillies Chicken Coop" club  (leaving me behind) by building her an amazing new chicken coop.  It comes complete with a great feeding system---PVC pipe. 
I used a 2 inch size pipe and a couple elbows.  Just in case it didn't work, I did not glue the pieces together.
Because I have trouble with fire ants, I couldn't attach the new feeder to the wall.  The ants very quickly figure out how to walk up the wall and into the feeders.  I had to hang it from the ceiling. Notice the zip ties!
In this picture, you can see how my whole coop is really jury rigged.  It is a dog pen (6 x 10) that I've lined with hardware cloth and built a door frame to keep the larger spaces near the gate from being breached by predators.  My hubby and FIL cut plywood to fit the sides and they were attached with bolts and wingnuts.  They also built a roof.
This version of a chicken feeder worked great, for chickens and sparrows alike.  I just wanted to make the buffet landing site more difficult.  Now they have just 2 inches for approach and landing.  I know they'll still eat, but not 5 or 10 at a time.  I'm hoping since the feeder is much smaller, the chickens will have a better chance of protecting it from the English House Piglets

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Computer is Back

Well, it never really went anywhere, it just took a vacation.  
I am quite used to the way my iMac works, and using a PC to post and reply to other blogs befuddled me a bit.

While I was 'away', I was bestowed with two awards from two blogs I love.  The first is from Christy at Farm Dreams.  Her dreams of owning farm recently came true in a big way.  She moved from Delaware (bbbrrrr!) to Georgia.

The next award came from Sue at White Lily. She lives in New South Wales, Australia.  She and her family grow their own veggies and meat on 88 acres.  It's so interesting to see how much caring for a family and a farm in Oz is the same as here in the US.

Thank you ladies!  Please check them out.  Their blogs are a great read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Can't Wait to Share

In the Box This WeekWhat's GrowingThis is a mishmosh of pictures from the website of the 'thing' I couldn't wait to share. I went to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm today to pick veggies! It's currently known as Johnson's Backyard Garden. It is owned by Brenton and Beth Johnson. They own 20 acres of fertile river (Colorado) bottom land. They have been so successful this year and have such a well oiled machine, that Brenton was able to quit his day job and become a full time farmer!

My friend who often comments here, Txjuju, invited me to come along. She's one of the lucky members of this CSA. They are currently serving over 450 families and have a 500 person waiting list. My chances of winning the lottery are greater than ever being a part of this CSA.
I want badly to post my own pictures, but my personal computer is still on the fritz. The pictures I'd most like to share are of my "pay" as a worker on the farm! While I fear I'll never be able to be a member, I can partake of their bounty by volunteering. Each person who comes out to help gets a free box of goodies. Today I got butternut squash, about a dozen different varieties of peppers--both hot and sweet, 3 kinds of eggplant, kale, bok choy, tatsoi, butterhead lettuce, and watermelon radishes. All for just 4 hours of picking, bagging and boxing!

Thank you so much to JuJu for inviting me! I think I have a new Wednesday activity when they can use me. Thank you also, to the Johnson's for giving me the opportunity to come help out and for sharing the fruits (and veggies) of your labor with me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Party Crashers

We have been struggling with broken appliances at our house this year. The dishwasher, my computer and the vacuum cleaner recently joined the party. They were not invited, but you know how some party crashers are.

The computer will be fixed. Don't know what happened to it, but it will not be allowed to join the permanently broken appliance party (PBAP).

The dishwasher has been trying to get into the party for a year or more. Because we have such hard water (despite our softener), the vinyl coating on the racks has worn away in many places. Rust has replaced it. The hard water also contributed to a calcium/scale buildup near the drain. Instead of draining through the drain, the dishwasher began barfing up the water out the front of the door. We really, really didn't want the dishwasher in the party, so we just sopped up the water with a towel. It was still cleaning dishes! It finally broke into the party by having the bottom rack rust through. It no longer holds dinner size plates on the bottom.

The vacuum cleaner has been kept at bay for several years. It had been built with fairly stout plastic housing, but when I began having to tie the front on (after replacing the bag each time) with a bit of nylon rope, I decided it was time to let it into the party. I had even tried to keep it going by replacing the beater bar and some other parts. It was no use. For the last several months I have used a $30 no-name model from Home Depot. Worked great, but the filter has worn out and it cannot be replaced. We opened the door and let that little work horse right in.

Saturday, Lee and I went to Sears. We really, really, really, didn't want to shop there because their service department is a nightmare. They added insult to injury each time an old appliance joined the PBAP. What we decided, as we drove there, was that it was better to deal with a large corporation than with a small one if something broke. They were also giving 15% off with free delivery/installation and free haul off. None of their competitors could even touch that offer.

We knew with certainty that we wanted a Dyson. I pretty much knew which model. Dyson offers a FIVE YEAR warranty. There is not an appliance on the market that offers that. The suction is endless, the cord is a mile long (almost!), and the filter only needs to be cleaned every 3-6 months. My $30 model needed cleaning every time I emptied the canister.

The dishwasher purchase was a little harder. A lot harder! We went in, certain we would be getting a Bosch. I had spent countless hours researching dishwashers. The only thing folks really had bad to say about them, was they were hard to load. We decided against that brand once we took a close look at them. They are set up all wonky. It's hard to describe. Plus, the quality of the materials would not stand up to our constant use and hard water.

Now what!

We knew we didn't want Kitchen Aid or Whirlpool. That left Kenmore. AAAuuuggghhh! Kenmore is what all our broken appliances are! I was ready to bolt and wash dishes in the pool. Lee, cool headed as always, pointed out what a good dishwasher our current one had been. It has been run once (sometimes twice) a day, for 8 years! The brokenness was really because of our water and not the machine itself. We bought the exact same dishwasher as the one that had joined the PBAP , through no fault of its own.

We'd very much like to shut down the PBAB, permanently. Anyone have any idea how to do that? The police don't much care and it's not bothering the neighbors. (((sigh)))

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Teenager in the Spring


I did not take this picture. My camera is fine, my computer is not. Minor details.

Last night was my church's annual Thanksgiving dinner. We offer it in addition to our weekly Sunday breakfast for the homeless. We have noticed that our breakfast numbers are climbing. We expected it. We also expected that our numbers would be up slightly for the dinner. Slightly doesn't even begin to be the right word.

Our program will be 18 years old this April. It was started by a woman in our church who wanted to make sure the children in our neighborhood who were on the breakfast program at their schools, got to have something hot on the weekends. The program has changed shape over the years. The kids grew up. Now it is primarily low income and homeless men and women who come for breakfast.

I have been at the helm of this program (off and on) for about 12 years. Despite the sadness of our guest's situations, I love doing it. It brings me great joy to be in the service of others. I can see, without a doubt, that I have made a difference in their lives----even if it's only for a few moments while their stomachs are full and they are out of the elements.

I mentioned in my previous post about something new we were going to try---handing out tickets so folks could only get seconds and not a bottomless plate. I really expected a backlash about that from our guests. They surprised me, as they often do, by not saying one bad thing about it. Many were thankful for the chance to even get seconds. It was a darn good thing we did the tickets, because we'd have run out of food if we hadn't. The number of guests simply floored me! Last year, times were tough, and we served about 200 meals. I planned on food for 200 people. We experienced a Loaves and Fishes meal---we served 356 meals! One Hundered Seventy-Eight men, women and children got in line. We did not reach the end of the line for nearly an hour. Everyone got seconds and we did not run out of food. We served from 4-6pm. One gentleman came running in at 5:45, we were still able to give him Turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans and bread. Not the works, but he got seconds!

My congregation made this all possible with financial, time and food donations to this dinner! Some folks even brought their friends to help out. It really makes me proud to know these folks. I only hope that they receive the blessings from the program that I do. Yesterday, I was the lucky one. I got to hand out the tickets, shake hands, give hugs, and visit with those standing in line. My congregation of helpers did all the hard work--serving food and drink, keeping the food coming to the the line, washing dishes, and cleaning up. I tell people that wonder if I get nervous when this dinner comes around every year, that it takes care of itself. It is much like a teenager, as the program will be 18 in the spring. It takes care of itself for the most part. Unfortunately, it will not be graduating and going off to college. The down-trodden have been with us since the beginning of time. With the economy the way it is, people are teetering on the fence between being able to take care of their basic needs, and not. We are following Christ's example by helping those people. What it doesn't say in the Bible, is that we will receive joy by helping those people. Maybe it should---more folks would volunteer.

Think about volunteering this year. It doesn't have to be with the homeless. You don't have to commit to forever---maybe just one time at your child's school, a Habitat for Humanity day, stocking shelves at your local food bank, cleaning up a roadside of trash, the possibilities are endless. I promise that you'll feel better than you have in years. Your spirit will be lifted. Your burdens will feel lighter. You'll smile more. Your heart will be full.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Broadway Dreams

That was the name of the show.  I don't think Pearl has Broadway aspirations, but she did an amazing job.  

The funny thing is, she didn't even want to be in the musical theater class.  She'd signed up for three elective choices--sensible ones that would actually count toward her high school credits before she'd ever get to high school.  She signed up for musical theater because she was positive she'd never have to be in it.  We don't know what happened with the Health class.  The Creative Writing class didn't make.  I offered to help her get her class changed, but she said she'd stick it out. She has friends in the class.

Here we are, 3 months later and she's got two solos in the show.  Her big brother gave her the one and only compliment he's ever given her when he found out--"You should do it, you really can sing."  We were positive aliens had invaded his brain. Last night after the show, he told her she'd done a great job.  Aliens again.

We're so proud of her.  She did so well, and I'm not just saying that because she's mine.  I don't think Broadway is her goal.  I think being a vet for exotic animals is still on her list of things to do.  Either way, she'll do great.  She's an amazing young lady and she can do anything she sets her mind to.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

We Know You're Busy, But...

These poor, pathetic creatures want me to do something, anything.  I've been very busy this week, and have little extra time for dogs.

I've been tying up loose ends regarding our church program to feed the homeless. Every year we host a Thanksgiving dinner for these same men and women.  I do some cooking, but my congregation does the vast majority of it.  We have a typical Thanksgiving menu, and I need to line up volunteers to make 10 turkeys, 8 -(9 x 13) pans of green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing, someone to make mashed potatoes and gravy, someone to bring 40-60 lbs of ice, 200 dinner rolls, and dessert for 200.  I also have to line up servers in two shifts.  I need to make sure we have enough paper goods, ice tea and lemonade mix.   I need to remember to pick up milk and butter for adding to the mashed potatoes.  I reminded everyone that is volunteering of what they are bringing and what shift they might have signed up for.

This year we are throwing a wrench into the well oiled machine, but it has to be done.  Because of the number of people we are expecting, we will have to limit the number of servings they can have.  Most 'soup kitchens' allow one serving per person-period. We have always prided ourselves on a bottomless plate.  This year they will be given two tickets at the door.  That translates into two servings per person.  I'm sure we'll be given some guff, but I'm prepared for that.  I will be the bearer of the bad news.  I can go to bed on Sunday knowing that everyone went away with food in their bellies.  No one will go hungry with two large helpings of everything, even if they protest me.

I have to toot the horn of our little church about this program.  It was started in the spring of 1991.  It has been going every Sunday morning since then.  We've missed two Sundays----once because it fell on Christmas day and the guest thought we should be with our families on that morning; the second time because we got our wires crossed and no one showed up to cook.  The program is funded entirely by folks at church.  We receive no outside funding or food.  

Keep us in your prayers on Sunday.  We'll be busy!
Another thing that is keeping me slightly busy is Pearl's schedule.  I hope to post pictures and story tomorrow.  Cliff's Notes version:  She is in Musical Theater,  their first performance was last night and she has two solos.  It's a compilation of Broadway songs.  She was amazing!  The lighting is awful for picture taking, and last night's pictures were blurry or grainy.  Hopefully we'll have better pictures tonight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hey Y'all!

This mishmosh of pictures were stolen from the internet.  I didn't want to get in a car accident taking pictures of the real thing in my area.

We are, blessedly, getting a turn lane on our highway.  What they do is, make an instant turn lane.  They take what was once a four lane highway, put up cones and signs and carve a turn lane out of the two inner lanes.  They then begin work on widening the outer lanes so we will have two lanes on each side, turn lane in the middle.  

That means, for about a year, we have a temporary turn lane and one lane on each side.  I'm all good with that.  I'm willing to deal with driving in one lane for a year for the future safety of all concerned.  What gets me is the other drivers!  
About a quarter mile back from where it goes down to one lane, there are signs--Left Lane Closed Ahead.  Another sign at 1/8th of a mile.  At that point you can see the traffic cones and the ginormous flashing sign with a big arrow pointing to the right.   This is when my head starts to spin around.  One of two things (often both) always happens.

1. Someone drives all the way up to where the cones and barrels force us into one lane and expect to just be let in.  No turn signal!  No friendly wave! No eye contact!  Just, this is where I get over, make room.

2. Someone speeds up at the last second to get one car length in front of whoever they are behind.  For goodness sakes, is being one car length forward in a single file line going to make any difference?! 

I'm pretty laid back in traffic.  Everybody has their story.  I just lose my mind, though, when folks behave like they are blind and can't see the signs and arrows and lights.  We all travel this road, every day.  We live in a rural area.  Folks go back and forth to town.  They know the lane is closed ahead.  Why are they waiting until, literally, the last second to merge?  Why must I be forced to slam on my brakes so they can get in line? Some days I just want to cause them to crash into the cones and barrels.  It would be their fault.  What's wrong with using a darned blinker to let me know you aren't a complete idiot or so full of yourself that you can't be bothered?

Okay, rant over.  If you are one of those that rushes to the front of the line when the lane ends, cut it out!!  One day you might not end up in front of  nice person like me.  You might end up in the barrels because you've encountered a person just like yourself.