Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Miss These People

What people?
The characters in these two books.
Over the Christmas break, I actually let myself sit down and read. For some reason, when my schedule is running on normal (kids in school, hubby at work), I don't read much.
Guilty pleasure.
Stupid, I know.

Anyway, two of my favorite books on the planet are written by authors that wrote one amazing book and then passed away.
I've read and reread both these books a half dozen times.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was so well done, that I would find myself wondering what the characters were doing when I wasn't reading. When I finished the book, I was sad. I would never know anything more about any of these people again.
The author, Ms. Shaffer passed away before the book was even finished. Luckily for me, she had worked so closely with her niece, Annie Burrows, on the book, that she was able to finish it.
It was a seamless transition that I wouldn't have been able to identify had I not known about it ahead of time.
I won't give a synopsis of the book (see link in title). It's considered historical fiction set in World War II, on Guernsey Island .
It is well worth your time to read. Trust me.

I read Cold Sassy Tree the first time when my friend, DD's daughter, was reading it for a school assignment. I don't know what compelled me to do it---I think it was because I couldn't seem to latch onto any good reading material. I figured a high school literature teacher might have a clue. Of course, the same set of teachers also assign books like Dante's Inferno. I think my daughter Pearl, and her classmates wish they could burn that book.
The irony is not lost on me.
It's funny, from Cold Sassy forward, I began reading the books my own kids were assigned for school. Lots of great literature (old and new) is being assigned. Plus, it helps me discuss the books with them, should they stumble on plot. Couldn't help Pearl on Inferno, though. :(
I digress.

Cold Sassy Tree is "Mark Twainian" in it's depiction in of the deep south and character development. Much like Potato Peel Pie society, I fell in love with the characters and wondered what happened to them when the book was over.
I was itching for a sequel.
Mrs. Burns wrote Cold Sassy while on bed rest and seeking treatment for cancer and congestive heart failure.
She had a short remission and began working on Leaving Cold Sassy.
She was able to finish five full chapters and left copious notes. Her cancer returned and she wasn't able to finish the book before she passed away.
Leaving Cold Sassy was published posthumously, with her notes intact, story lines and a lengthy biography written by her editor and friend, Katrina Kenison.

Two amazing authors. Their ability to dance with words was amazing. It saddens me greatly when I put each of these books down, to know that I'll never read another book written by them.
When the author dies, the characters die along with them.
I'll miss them all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Movie Review-True Grit

The name that is missing from this movie poster is Hailee Steinfields.
Her name should be above the other three.
She absolutely carried the show. She is up for the Screen Actors Guild 'Best Supporting Actress'. Not really sure what the criteria is for Best Actress vs. Supporting Actress, but without this little girl, there wouldn't have been a movie.
She was 12 when they began filming, by the way. She is so spot on with her lines and her character development. Full of spit and vinegar and won't take no for an answer. She stands upright and takes on every man that gets in her way. Most often, the men walk away wondering what just happened.

The Coen brothers have had some out-of-the-ballpark movies and they've had a flop or two. This one is right up there with O' Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men and Fargo. In fact, it's really combination of all three movies. There are laughs and there is blood. Thankfully, there is no gratuitous violence. Every shot fired is necessary for the movement of the plot.

I went into the movie prepared not to like Jeff Bridges. In all the trailers, his slurred speech was a turn off. I thought he could have played Cogburn without the gravely voice. He surprised me by pulling it off.

My first thought about Matt Damon was, "No way. He's too pretty". In fact, that's just the character he plays. The Coen's obviously chose him for a reason and you come to love him.

James Brolin is the antagonist in the story, but only appears on film the last 1/3 of the movie. He does a fine job. Nothing to write home about.

I'd give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. The ending, left me wanting more. I wanted more closure.
You can't have everything.
It was definitely worth the money.
I'm hoping young Hailee will get a nod from Oscar this year. I'm sure we'll see more of her in the future. She carries this movie, single handedly. The others are just supporters.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Giving Someone A "Story"

Hay Bales
Hay Bales
by Will Klemm

Before I get on with my blog post, let me say that round bales in a field bring an enormous calm to my soul. I don't know why.
Maybe in a former life, I was a farmer's wife.
Once the hay was baled, it meant a successful growing season??
I fell in love with this painting back when Will Klemm was an up and coming artist.
He hails from Austin and I saw this work in a gallery years and years ago.

It still speaks to me.

But why do I use a picture of hay today?
Today, I got a bale of hay at Tractor Supply.
They don't usually carry hay.
I don't usually buy hay.
I buy one bale a year to help my hens stay warm during our cold snaps.

I wasn't prepared to buy hay.
I didn't have a tarp in the back of my car to protect everything from stray pieces of hay.
I figured I'd gently place the bale down in the back cargo area and vacuum out the pieces later.

I should have followed my instinct when I got in line to pay.
My cashier was a bit abrupt.
There was some back and forth between he and the manager about some woman that wanted empty feed sacks. I could tell that he had other things on his mind.
The thought befuddled him.
"Why would we have empty feed sacks?"

Anyway, back to the hay.
He insisted on putting the hay in my car himself.
I knew it was to get out of the store.
I told him I could get it.
"Nope, I'll do it."
He didn't offer to carry my 40# of seed corn, though.
I opened the back of my car and he tossed the bale in.
Not only did it thump in, it hit the back of the back seats and poofed hay all over the inside of my car.
Clear up to the dash!

Did I freak out like most folks would have?

Why not?

Because I gave him a 'story'.
His story went something like this......
"Christmas is just around the corner. I'm 55+ years old, working at a Tractor Supply. I can barely pay my bills, let alone buy presents for my grandkids. My boss is riding me about some woman who thinks I have the power to come up with empty feed sacks so she can make purses or bags or some darned thing...."

This story and the hundreds more I come up with each year, enable me to get along with my fellow human beings.
I chose not to fly off the handle at folks that cut me off in traffic, butt in front of me in a checkout line, ignore me when I say 'excuse me' to get by in the grocery store, park so close to me in the parking lot that I can't get in my car, and on and on.

But don't those folks know they're being rude? Don't they need a dressing down?
I just choose to believe that most folks are good.
Most folks aren't on this planet to make my life difficult or tick me off.
If I let all the little irritations in my daily life get to me, I'd be covered with a rash by days end.

I remember when my mom was dying.
I'm quite sure I was short and snippy and paid no attention to how I treated strangers.
I was in my own little world.
I had a story.

The next time you want to chase someone down in their car because they cut you off, try to imagine that they are in a hurry because their wife is in labor or their husband got laid off this morning.
It'll be good for both of you.
If that doesn't work, think of round bales in a field.
Maybe that'll help.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hobbes Needs New Shoes

Someone has outgrown his shoes, or rather, his shoebox.
He stubbornly stuffs himself in his box, no matter how uncomfortable.
Too bad there isn't a belt attached that he can loosen in order breathe more easily.
Luckily for him, Christmas is just around the corner.
I would suspect that Santa will be bringing boxes of all shapes and sizes.
Hopefully, there'll be one that fits him just perfectly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Knit Wit

Is it considered knitting if
you use
a knitting loom?
Darice 1171-58 Set of 4 Round Plastic Knitting Looms
It was so easy, it felt like I must be cheating.
Certainly not knitting.
How could I be knitting if I didn't have my knitting needles.

This little carnival of a hat is headed to Wisconsin where they have real winters.
We have pretend winters here in Texas. Today it's 69* and sunny.
Today in Wisconsin, it's getting all the way up to 13* with winds out of the NW at 10.
That's real winter.
The little Ladybug that this hat is headed to, needs to stay warm.
Might as well have fun clothes to do it in.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Tennis Shoes Really Do Make You Jump Higher

Forty inches higher by my measure.
That's how high his knee is in the second picture. Thankfully, the advent calendar is there for a point of reference.
For all that air, I don't know if he made the basket or not.
I'm just glad he's home from college.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pretty in Pink

...and purple, and orange, and blue.
I count myself lucky to be a "morning person".
Missing spectacular sunrises like this one would be a shame.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Five Hundred, 500, 50x10

In the greater scheme of things, 500 posts is really no big deal.
Honestly, there are people marking much bigger things than blog posts.
Here are some that pop into my mind.
Can you think of some more?

500 days cancer free
500 days to write a good book
500 calories not eaten
500 miles ridden on a bike
$500 dollars raised for charity
$500 dollars bonus in your paycheck
$500 dollars for a round-trip ticket to Australia
500 days of 3 meals a day
500 days in your new home
500 days married
500 minutes until your soldier comes home
500 seconds since your first child was born
500 pennies when you're five years old
500 quarters when you're homeless
500 volunteers

Add to my list.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Office Assistant Gets a Promotion

Hobbes, has been my office assistant for several months now.
He is very helpful and is a quick learner.
In my last report, he was finally able to visit the factory

One thing he noticed right away was the theft that was taking place in the factory's cafeteria.
He took it upon himself to manage our net losses in the cafeteria anytime he was there.
Unfortunately, he was having trouble figuring out a way to make it happen in a productive way.

Yesterday, he was finally able to make some headway. He caught one of the thieves, red-handed.
Well, red-winged if you want to get technical.
He came to my office window carrying an English House Sparrow by the wing. In his effort to explain to me what he had done, the culprit got away. English House Sparrows are known criminals. The are considered an invasive species for many reasons. The main reason for Hobbes to take them on, is their blatant stealing of pounds and pounds of chicken food from the factory cafeteria---all in broad daylight.

Because Hobbes has displayed such initiative in this project, he will be given a promotion from my office assistant, to VP in Charge of Security. (day shift only)
He will maintain all his current benefits, get a raise and his own chair.
I believe it is a win/win situation for all of us here at the Egg factory.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Perfect Cat Litter!

I know everyone has been on the edge of their seat wondering if I'd ever find the perfect kitty litter that would do two things:
1. Cover up odors.
2. Be unscented.

What I found in my earlier post was that most companies use a scent to cover up the odor. What it really did was make the house smell like flowers and kitty poo, instead of just kitty poo.

I hit the computer to see what others were saying about litter and also took y'all's advice.

Yes, "y'all's" is a word. It means all of you. It can often be found being used another way--
"All y'all"
What it means is "All of you all".
It seems redundant to say "All of you all" doesn't it?
It isn't. Trust me.
I can use it in a sentence.
By the way, "Y'all" is spelled just like you see it.
It's a contraction of 'You' and 'All". The apostrophe goes just after the 'Y' because there is no 'A' in 'You'.
I will often see it spelled 'Ya'll'.
For the record, no one else in my family can be found using 'Y'all, Fixin' to, or All Y'all'.
We'll address 'Fixin' to' during another class.
This message was brought to you by a transplanted mid-westerner living in the great state of Texas.
We now return to our regularly scheduled infomercial.

Are you still here?
Good, because I have the best news to hit cat owners since........
.....dry cat food (canned food, eewww).

Drum roll please

My house no longer smells like kitty litter or kitty poo.
It smells like my house.

I found a combination of two litters works best.
One is expensive, and the other is mighty cheap.

Moltan Company 25lb Clay Cat Litter 3425
Plain old clay cat litter. No extra anything. Including scents.
25 lbs for $6!

World's Best World#39s Best Cat Litter Clumping Formula 7 lb

Made from corn. Clumps wonderfully. Has no scent, whatsoever!
17 lbs. for $18.50 at Tractor Supply

I combine them about 2-1.
Two parts clay to 1 part WBCL.

I clean the litter box every day.
I do notice an odor if the cat has just been in the box, but it fades very quickly.

And so, my quest has ended.
I've shared my discovery with the cyber-world.
My work here is done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

AMC Pacer Vs Mercedes S550

They both do the job, but goodness, you never know luxury until you're sitting in it!

And all this time, I thought a chair was a chair.
I guess that is no more true than to say that a car is a car.

Thanks Lee, for my early Christmas present.
My whole body thanks you immensely!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Because I Couldn't Resist

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More Bits and Pieces

First, let me say that not one of these pictures is mine.
I'll to the 'why' on that in a minute.

This weekend is busy for me---in a very good way.

No, I'm not traveling to Michigan.
Our niece, Livvy, is traveling to see us for Thanksgiving.
We haven't seen her in who knows how long. I think G'pa knows how long.
I digress.
She is getting here on Sunday evening and staying until Thanksgiving day.
"She's leaving on Thanksgiving day?", you ask.
Yes. She's not a seasoned flyer, and we figured leaving on a day that wasn't quite so hectic would be beneficial for her. We'll be celebrating our Thanksgiving on Wednesday instead.
More on this subject next week.

Who knows what this is?
Looks like some sort of fancy CD player to me---or at least the inside of one.
I'm wrong.
It's a hard drive.
The Apple people tell me that not only does my computer need a new video card, it needs a new hard drive as well.
((Deep Sigh)).
At this typing, I don't know what we're going to do. We may just go get it with it's new video card and see how it does without a new HD.
This is why none of these pictures are mine. My pictures are all on my Apple.
((Deep Sigh))

If you don't know who these three kids are, then you should.
We've watched them grow from mere 11 year olds to now fighting for the safety of the entire world. Harry Potter and his buddies have captured the hearts and minds of a generation of children (and their parents).
Honestly, I'm sad that it's almost over.
The movies, for the most part, have been very well done and follow the books quite well.
I will hopefully be seeing this movie in the next week or so.
Pearl is attending a Harry Potter Party (say that 3 times, fast!) today. All the food is based on food in the books. Then they'll all attend the movie together. I wish I could go!

Lastly, it is the weekend of our annual Thanksgiving dinner for the men and women who attend our breakfast program at church. Homeless or not, we serve anyone who attends.
This year will be far different than the 18 previous ones.
Our church is undergoing some renovations and it is unsafe for the attendees to come into the building.
We will be serving a "to-go" dinner of Ham, Sweet Potatoes, Stuffing, Green Beans, Pumpkin Pie and a bottle of juice.
Unfortunately, our breakfast program will have to be on hiatus until construction is finished in late April.

And so, I better get in the game for my upcoming weekend and get off the computer.
I hope you all have a great weekend.
What will you be doing?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

iMac Attack

I cried when Lee bought me an iMac.
Well, I didn't really cry until I turned it on and tried to use it.
It is nothing like a PC, except that it magically brings in and sends out information.
Lee will tell you it's not magic, but he's a computer magician.
Computer magicians never share trade secrets except with other magicians.

At the time, there were no 'how-to' books available to go along with the purchase of a Mac.
Apple offered all sorts of classes and private sessions in order to teach you how to use the product.
I just wanted to use the darn thing, I didn't want to have to go to school to learn how to use it.
I muddled through and taught myself how to do the things I wanted to do with it.
I'm quite certain that I'm only using about 10% of the capabilities of my Mac.
My kids know how to use the other 90% and they are always teaching me new things.

A year ago last September, my Mac freaked out.
It needed a new something or other. A major something or other.
Since it was still under warranty, Apple picked up the tab.

In late October of this year, the monitor screen started having fits. Pixels of green and gray would show up in the middle of the screen.
Then it would take over the whole screen.
If we turned it off and on a few times, we could get it to run right again.....
for a few days.
Early last week, it wigged out for good.
Lee, who doesn't really like the Mac because he can't work his magic on it, was talking about replacing it with a PC.

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth of teeth on my part, he relented and said I could take it in to have it looked at.
Yesterday, I left my beloved Mac at the Apple store.
They gave me an early diagnosis of, "Sounds like you need a new video card."
They'll call me if they find anything worse.

Until then, I'm on the ancient PC.
It works just fine and I'm remembering how to use it.
I still want my Mac back.

Apple, are you done yet? I miss my machine.
Call me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Ate My Chicken?

There is no picture here, because all my pictures are on my other computer.
My other computer is having a breakdown of some sort.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Today it doesn't.
It didn't yesterday either.
It may be ready for the bench or retirement or at least a visit with a "Genius" at the Apple store.
Yes, they call their techs, "Genius".

What does all this have to do with the title?
Nothing at all, except I can't post a photo of a lovely Buff Orpington chicken that is no longer a part of my flock.
She is a part of some animal's digestive system.

I came home from a weekend away and went to check in with the chickens.
Since they were out free ranging, I wasn't alarmed that one of them seemed to be missing.
I went to the coop to see if she might be on the nest.

A pile of feathers between me and the chicken coop caught my eye.
Just feathers.
Another pile, a ways off.
Then another pile in the tall pasture grass.
Finally, a very large pile of feathers.
Not one single, solitary bit of chicken.

Just feathers.
Oh, and the darned critter left me a 'calling card' right there among the last batch of feathers, where the eating had gone on.

My question:
What predator am I up against?

Here's a list of suspects.
Keep in mind that this happened in the late evening or possibly overnight.

Coyote--although they usually tote their dinner off from the catch sight. They also eat feathers.
Opossum---I've never known of them to eat an entire chicken.
Raccoon---My prime suspect.
Skunk--Not sure if they, with their small jaws, eat an entire chicken.
Grey Fox--possible, but they are much smaller than a Red fox. They only reach 7-12 lbs.
Great Horned Owl--They do de-feather their bird prey, but there wasn't a tree in sight and they prefer not to eat on the ground.
Feral Cat--we have a small feral cat that has been in the neighborhood for at least a year. He only weighs about 8 lbs.

Now for "too much information".
The scat that the animal left behind was about the size of a medium dog and was full of berry seeds, and a small amount of animal fur. The fur could have been from grooming itself, or from a small mammal.

So, I'm asking all you chicken folks out there--what do you think it was that ate my chicken?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitty Litter Lotto

Two things you need to know before reading this story.
1. I'm very sensitive to scents/smells.
2. I've never owned an indoor-only cat.
When Hobbes joined our family, we knew it might be a year before he was able to venture outside without a chaperone. We are even debating whether to ever let him out without a human by his side.
Why? Because a coyote was finally wily enough last February to catch our beloved cat of 10 years. Just opening the story to provide a link made my stomach ball up and my heart lurch.

So why the discussion? Cats the world over are indoor-only cats. Hobbes will be just fine as an indoor only cat----except for one thing. The litter box! The litter box is making me crazy.
With Lucky, we never had a litter box. He went outside to do his business. We had a box in the house that he only used when we were out of town or during torrential downpours.

Here's where I'm at.
Obviously, we don't want the house to smell like cat potty. We've all seen commercials about it and we all know at least one person who has an apartment/house that smells like cats. These people must not be using the right kitty litter, right???

On the flip side, to combat the odors that come from kitties, the litter people have added all multitude of perfumes to cover up said odors. If you look back up to the top, you'll see that this is a problem for me in bullet #1.

I don't want any scent or odor of any kind? Is that possible? If you'll look at #2, you'll notice I've never done this before.

Are these my only options?
A. Have the house smell like kitty potty?
B. Have my house smell like litter perfume?
C. Have my house smell like both A. and B. ?

Here are the litters I've tried. If you have something different that you are using and have a house that smells like......a house. PLEASE share your litter choice with me!

I'm guessing this really means, "More perfume"?

Who is breathing easier, the cat or me? It's 99% dust free but it's also non-clumping. Problem.

These folks add baking soda to their mix. They also add "Fresh Scent".
Same stuff, only it's "Unscented". No it's not--the liars! Unscented stuff is never really unscented, it just doesn't have any added perfumes.

Immediate odor control. Immediate mix of kitty potty and litter perfume. Ewwww.

Destroys odors instantly as opposed to immediately. Still with the "Fresh Scent"

"Instant action". Poor kitty, it must be like when humans use those automatic flush potties at the airport that flush before you're done. Scary.

Feline Pine OriginalYesterday's News Original Formula Bag
These are both good ideas, but they are pellets instead of litter. These have no odor control really. No clumping, either. That means the litter box is a mess. Very difficult to clean every day.

This is just about where I am. I'm about to go dig up some dirt and put it in the litter box. It has very little odor and can be dumped when the box needs cleaning.
Litter makers, are you listening? How about bagging up some dirt and putting a sweet kitten on the outside of the package. You could call it "Dirt Cheap".