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?