Looking Pleased

I mentioned a little while back that I was working again. Well, I’m really working now. By that I mean that I was offered a position with a researcher as a “self-employed agent” which is a way to circumvent the restriction of only working 900 hours in a fiscal year. I will be paid by an outside (the university) corporation. This means that I will be able to work as many hours as I want doing the work I really enjoy! I have always liked working with this particular lab because they have a plan and a schedule and don’t dink around. They also are good people who follow the rules. So to recap: I retired. There was wringing of hands. I was offered a position with one investigator which I accepted. I was approached by another investigator to do a few limited studies which I agreed to. Then the former boss asked me to come back to work for him – I declined. The researcher that has been a thorn in everyone’s side, thinks the rules don’t apply to his lab, and who had so many violations that his work was suspended contacted me to work for him. As you can imagine, I let him know that I was unavailable. Then the opportunity presented itself to work for the outside corporation which I will be starting the first part of December. This corporation has several employees that were thrilled that I was coming on board – so thrilled that when I stopped in to clarify some details for a study they hugged me!

I’m feeling the love. Everyone wants me to come back. I’m being fought over like the prettiest girl at the church picnic. Because of that I’ve penned the following little poem:

Mousey went a dancing in a pretty frock
Snake tried to woo her by throwing rocks
Snake was insistent that she dance with him
Mousey turned him down right there and then
She waltzed with the frog and polkaed with the toad
She boogied with the raven as the music flowed
The rabbit and the hedgehog waited for their turn
While the sneaky snake did a long slow burn
When the party ended and the music died
The gents lined up to offer a safe homeward ride
Mousey’s calendar is full with no time to share
Snake is out of luck for there is no time to spare

Looking at my Collection

I admit to having had many collections over the years. My first foray into collecting was with my father. He was a coin and stamp collector having started his collections in High School. He decided that I and my two sisters would collect stamps. I selected stamps with an animal theme. I suspect it was just a ploy to get my mother to allow more stamps in the house. He taught us how to mount them and how to tell the difference between a cancelled stamp and a new one. He taught us how to steam the stamp off the envelope. When I went away to college, he took over my stamp collection. However by that time I had started my very own collection of banks. I had china banks, piggy banks, glass and metal banks. I collected them for years. I eventually stopped after my sons were born. I pared the numbers down and kept only a hand full of my cast iron banks. At one point I started a collection of wicker baskets shaped like animals. When they overflowed the top of the entertainment center and I had them scattered all over the family room, I decided I had enough. I sold many of them and now only have 3 left that are stored in the basement… However I’ve had one collection that I started in earnest when I graduated from college.

You see I had always been fascinated by a couple of serving dishes that my mother had. They were wedding gifts. She rarely used them but I loved the way they looked. She had a hammered aluminum bread tray and a covered casserole along with a set of candlestick holders. They had a tulip embossed on the lid or the tray. I couldn’t think of anything prettier. She sold the candlestick holders at a garage sale when I was maybe 12. I’m still looking for ones like them. I bought all my pieces at garage sales for cheap. The most I’d spent (until last year) was $3. Even so I think I have nearly 500 pieces. Now the fun thing is that I use them all the time. My everyday butter dish is hammered aluminum. All my spoon rests, canister set, and napkin holders and even the dish where I keep my medication is hammered aluminum. I use the trays and bowls whenever I can – to serve meals, for picnics and potlucks, for celebrations (like Thanksgiving). I even use them to decorate my kitchen. Because they aren’t just sitting around with no purpose Sparky doesn’t mind that I’ve got so many. Of course I do have a few favorites – I love the Chrysanthemum pattern and the Tulip pattern too. I have a few pieces with Raspberries. I even have one that has oak leaves and acorns on it that belonged to my grandmother. I know this because she wrote her name in pencil on the back (probably to make sure she got it back after a church function) and no amount of scrubbing will remove the pencil! Anyway I don’t have any daughters to pass it down to but son#2 once showed a young lady my collection and said, “One day this will all be mine.” I’m not sure if he was trying to impress her or what but it made me smile thinking that he wanted my collection!

Looking Painterly

Saintvi and I have been trying to do a Wine and Canvas painting since before June last year. We were scheduled to paint irises in the style of Van Gogh but due to illness I went alone. We tried to schedule another time but between my whirlwind travel and retirement schedule and her hectic travel and work schedule it didn’t happen as planned. First it was going to be a rustic scene last fall but the class was cancelled. Then we figured we’d wait until the weather cooperated. One thing led to another and we signed up for a painting that was going to be last month – Birch Tree Forest. It too was cancelled. We were a tiny bit bummed. After some discussion we decided to try one more time this last Saturday since they were doing the Birch Tree Forest again. With fingers crossed that the weather would cooperate and there were enough people signed up so they wouldn’t cancel again, we waited for the day. It was cold but no rain or snow. There were no tragic emails indicating we would have to reschedule yet again. So I present to you my version of the Birch Tree Forest:

First we painted the whole canvas yellow. My arm got a work out! That was followed by putting a orange sherbet halo on the upper 2/3. This was difficult but not impossible. Which was followed by some fancy adding of white and blending the color to create the “glow” in the center. I ended up adding a little more pink to the sky to give it a little contrast. I didn’t take a photo of that step because we were working very fast!

This first shot shows the glow in the sky quite well. I was very happy with the result. We had to turn it upside down and put in the grass along the horizon line. It took me much longer to do the grass than I had expected. With the painting still upside down, we put in the tree trunks. There was a great gnashing of teeth during that part. I think the trees were one of the easier parts. At this point I thought my trees looked purple and I wasn’t very happy with them. The next step was to turn the canvas right side up to put in the vegetation in the foreground. GAH! This was absolutely the hardest part for me. The instructor went so fast and I couldn’t see what she was doing. I was winging it. At that point I was having a bit of a panic as I could see what saintvi was doing and what the woman on the other side of me was up to and neither one was close to what I was doing. Luckily we had a break to let the canvas dry a bit before putting on the leaves and the final touches to the foreground. The second photo shows the leaves and the changes I made to the forest floor. I was able to add more grass and some flowers and a little bit of shading to give it more depth. We also finished the tree trunks. At first I wasn’t too pleased with the tree trunks. After seeing some of the other efforts I really think I nailed them! The rest of the class went ahead and painted a turkey in the bottom corner but saintvi and I decided that the turkey looked lame and so we omitted it. Instead we spent a little mote time on the vegetation – adding some additional color.

Above is the official painting from the website. The one the instructor did had a less interesting turkey and a much darker foreground…

Here we are looking pleased with ourselves. I’m not sure if you can see clearly but saintvi’s painting has a lovely butterfly, some cheerful lavender mums and a little grouping of red mushrooms. The bonus is that they are now doing a “punch card” that after 10 punches you get a free session. Saintvi thinks we should do a painting per month with the goal of finishing our card before the end of 2020. I’m not so sure I have room for that many paintings!!

Looking at the Vacation

It was a wonderful vacation. We experienced sun and sand and family. Thrown in on the end was a 2 day visit to Universal Studios specifically to see Harry Potter World (Hogwarts and Hogsmeade).
My sister and brother in law were gracious hosts and we loved our visit! The hot tub was delightful even if the weather was a little on the chilly side. It did warm up to near 70 degrees so it was definitely warmer than Indiana. We crammed in a bunch of activities – we went to some thrift stores, the guys played frisbee golf, visited the farmer’s market, had sushi, I cooked a steak dinner (with help from my sister), did a few geocaches, we walked on the beach, watched the sun set, enjoyed the hot tub, watched a little TV, and talked! There are a few of you who might think I talk a lot. Well, I can’t hold a candle to my little sister!! The last night there we talked until 3:00 AM… I was so tired the next day.



After a longish ride back to Orlando, we were able to relax and prepare for the visit to Universal Studios. Having been to “the happiest place on earth” I was hoping for a similar experience. They have 2 parks and each one has a portion of the Harry Potter universe. I suspect this is to ensure fans shell out the money for both parks. I was a little dismayed that all rides exited through the gift shops. It was a little blatant. To be more specific, Paradise Island is geared to little kids. The rides were less terrifying (in general) and the waits shorter except for the new ride “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure” which first thing in the morning was already a 2.5 hour wait time standing in line. By the end of the day it was a 3 hour wait and they weren’t allowing any more people after 3:00 PM! We had a 5 min wait on most of the other rides! Best one was The Minion Ride. Followed by the Fast and Furious ride as the funniest. We didn’t do any of the rides that involved water. The Harry Potter attractions involved spots where (provided you shelled out $55 to purchase the wand) you could stand and waving your wand in a specific pattern activate the “magic”. The result was the sight of dollar signs floating through the air and little wizards and witches having mini meltdowns as they failed to “flick and swish” effectively.

So my overall evaluation of Universal Studios was a resounding “meh”. Yes I had fun but it was not as well done as Disney. The Jurassic Park area was completely underwhelming. Only half the science-oriented stations worked and the overall feeling was of being talked down to… On the other hand the best and cheapest concession was the smoked turkey leg. It was big enough for 2 and without the $3 chips only $13! (yes the food is very over priced) We took a backpack with some foods – bananas and pears and oranges and a couple bagels and pastries from the hotel breakfast. I can’t imagine feeding a family in the park!!
Now on the other hand we got to do some quality people watching. The park was rife with newlyweds. Most of the couples were from the UK or South America. How do you know? you ask. Well, the big badges that many wore that said “We’re Celebrating…” with a write in area. Most said “our honeymoon” while there were a few that said “our wedding”. There were others that had t-shirts that said “Hubby” and “Wifey” or Good Wife/Bad Wife with the word witch crossed out. As for their countries of origin, the accents were unmistakable. Most of the people visiting the Harry Potter attractions were from across the pond (UK) – and they were quite happy to let you know where they called home. The Brits mostly reminded us of a Tracey Ullman type – down to earth working class and plain good people on the vacation of their lives. The couples from South America (some from Brasil and Venezuela and a few from Peru and then the others who were undetermined) seemed to be slumming it. They were on the whole, pushy and loud and not at all friendly. Perhaps it is a cultural thing. Those women were the only people wearing high heels and what I’d consider clothes to go clubbing in (maybe they were so unfriendly because their feet hurt)!

Looking a Little Frozen

An impetus to impertinence
As the leaves fall to ground
And the clocks fall back
After summer sun blaze sputters
And the color drains from trees
All that remains are the remains
A culmination of shifting winds
As cold coalesces to snow and ice
Assailing even the memory of warmth

We have returned from our vacation to Florida. It was warmer than Indiana. It wasn’t actually “run naked on the beach” warm but the sun was bright and the sky was blue. And then we returned to the perennial grey of November. And it is cold. Every winter seems a little colder than the year before. I’ve checked the weather records and it is cold every year. Some years there is an arctic blast that drops the temperature for a week or two and then we are back to the usual cold. Other years it stays an even frosty temperature but it lingers longer. It appears that my tolerance for spicy food is linked to my ability to get and stay warm. That is, the less able I am to eat “spice” the colder I feel in winter. Sparky observed in September as we went for our after dinner walk that if I was cold then I’d not survive the real cold when winter came knocking. I have pooh-poohed the idea of relocating to warmer climates. And every winter I think that maybe I’ll have to change my mind. The problem is and remains the distance from my sons and the size of the spiders and other bugs in the south. I. Just. Can’t! If I never see another cockroach the size of a pocket knife it will be too soon!

Looking at Studio Fees

For the last year all the potters at the studio have been required to measure the pieces they’ve made and placed into a glaze firing. Supposedly this was to determine the use per person and to collect data to support a new fee schedule that would require “production potters” to pay their fair share. The results were in. It showed exactly what we all knew – there are a handful of people who produce an extraordinary amount of work. And “surprise!” it has peaks that occur within a month of the major art shows in the area. After the little presentation complete with graphs and tables the studio management announced that the measurements would continue for another year BUT in response to the data they were increasing the class fees by $20 but giving us a bag of clay for “free”. I still have about 60 pounds of clay on my shelf. I don’t need any more clay. It begs the question, if they have identified the production potters why are they increasing the class fees across the board? Why not just charge the production potters the extra cost for hogging the kiln? If history repeats this is what will happen (mark my words as I’m going to come back to this post in a year or 2 and see if I was right): The fees will increase but we get 25# of “free” clay. The cost of the clay is either $16 for dark grog stoneware, $18 for white stoneware, and a whopping $20 for porcelain clay. After a year (3 semesters), the free clay will be taken away but the fees will stay the same. Then in another year they will bump the fees up another $10 or more making the class almost too expensive for the average person to afford.

Amid all the fuss I managed to get a couple more pieces back. First is the coccidia orb. Coccidia are a single celled parasite that lives in the intestinal wall. They cause bleeding and diarrhea that can be life threatening in very young or debilitated animals… This piece is glazed with Gold Shino with Blue accents.
The second one is one that you either love or hate – it is composed of a multitude of faces painted with varying concentrations of red iron oxide stain. I had purchased this mold for faces that was designed for making candy! No kidding. If you think it is weird as part of a clay sculpture just imagine eating little chocolate candies with faces!

We are in Orlando and heading to Universal Studios for the day. Harry Potter World is on the agenda. The weather is a balmy 70 degrees with sunny skies. I put on sunscreen just in case….

Looking at the Crock Pot

I was talking to Sparky about using the crockpot more often and quizzing him on meals he would like to have next week. I make a weekly menu to assist in using foods efficiently and making grocery shopping less random. Lord have mercy! I think my computer and phone are spying on me. Soon after the conversation ended a bunch of crockpot videos appeared in my Facebook feed along with ads for a multitude of instant pot/crock pot combination appliances! That in itself is disconcerting. But what pushed me over the edge were the recipes for the crockpot. How lazy can you get to make crockpot sloppy Joes. It takes only 10 minutes to brown the hamburger and add the seasonings to make a decent sloppy Joe. Why would I need to spend 20 minutes loading everything into a crockpot to cook for 8 hours (not to mention the clean up time)!?!? Another one was crockpot macaroni and cheese. Really. It boggles the mind. And then the latest issue of one of the many random magazines that just appear in my mailbox featured – you guessed it, crockpot recipes! The recipes were interesting but not ones I’ll probably ever make. There was “Big Vegetable Stew” which was made with whole plum tomatoes, cannellini beans, Italian green beans, lots of onion and spices usually found in spaghetti sauce. I didn’t get the “Big” vegetables part. The “Beef and Carrot Tagine” sounded good but Sparky would never eat it because in addition to the carrots and beef in a tomato-based broth there are raisins. Then there was the “Brothy Sichuan Chicken” which looked like a fancy Ramen noodle dish. Why would you need to make that in a crockpot? (shakes head in disbelief)

In response to this I’ve penned this haiku:
We long for slow food
A fast food revolution
Makes slow cookers fast

Looking Forgetful

There aren’t many things that strike fear into the hearts of most folks over the age of 50. The single most frightening thought is that Alzheimer’s or dementia could render us incapable of conducting our affairs, rob us of our memories, and make us completely dependent on others for our every need – including feeding us like a baby. I know too many who have been affected with the memory loss or being the caregivers/family. My mother in law had an “episode” a couple of weeks ago. At first she felt amused and treated it as a joke as she related it to the family. The more she has mulled it over the more uncomfortable and anxious she has become. The way she told it, she woke up in the morning and went to get out of bed. As her feet touched the floor she realized she was wearing her shoes. Not only her shoes but she was fully dressed! She knew she had put her nightgown on when she got into bed – and my father in law confirmed that they went to bed at the same time and everything was normal. She has absolutely no recollection of getting dressed. She is hyper concerned that she might be sleep walking or worse. She has ordered her husband to hide the car keys so that she doesn’t get up in her sleep and drive away!

She holds the coffee mug in both hands
Staring into the empty interior
By force of will to remember
The heat and bitter taste
What once was but now is gone

Looking for the Good Stuff

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to recognize that there are luxuries in life that are actually worth the money. When I was single I made the conscious decision to always buy real butter. The difference in taste is extreme (sorry “I can’t believe its not butter” you don’t taste like butter). In addition it doesn’t have any chemicals and is only a few pennies more. Totally worth it. I’ve never regretted that decision. It took a lot longer to give up the tiny, thin, cheap and nearly absorbent bath towels. For years I begrudgingly bought towels that were seconds. I felt that it was just a towel that you would use and eventually (when it was too thin and too ratty looking) become either a gym towel for the boys or a towel to use on the dog. I eventually came around to the bath sheet camp. They were big. Big enough that you could dry off, wrap your hair, and still have some absorbency left. And they were soft. Oh the softness! I realized that I had been denying myself and others a simple pleasure. I now have bath sheets. Granted they have come down in price but they do wear like iron. I still have all the original ones I bought. They reside in the laundry room for rolling sweaters to blot out residual moisture before air drying… But the biggest switch has been the hardest. I used to buy generic toilet paper. I mean it is used to wipe and then flush it away! It is like flushing money down the toilet, right? Well, when the boys were young I swear they would go through a roll a day. Now that they are gone Sparky has demanded a better quality. I was not convinced. Sure I despise hotels and public restrooms where the toilet paper is so thin that it disintegrates in your hand but that doesn’t mean I want to use TP that costs $20 a roll either! So I acquiesced to the purchase of some Great Northern for Sparky to use in the hall bathroom. It was very thick – like you only need 2 squares thick! I noticed that it was lasting longer. The next trip to the grocery netted me some deluxe Charmin toilet paper. It really isn’t paper but more like wiping with felt! I settled on Cottonelle brand. It is thick and is usually on sale. In true Midwest frugality I purchase whatever is on sale and when I have a coupon. Thus I have a growing stockpile of TP in my basement. When the apocalypse comes I WILL HAVE TOILET PAPER!! And it will be the good stuff!

Today is the first day of vacation! Hip Hip Hooray!

Looking at the Nomination

I was nominated for an award!! Cupcakecache nominated me for the Special Blogger Award. I’m flattered. I sincerely thank Cupcake for feeling I’m worthy of this recognition. She is a world traveled writer and instructor with a wealth of experience in both the academic and business world so when she says I make the grade, I have to believe her! If you haven’t checked out her blog I urge you to make the effort!

So the award requires just a slight effort and revealing a little bit about the blogger. Without further ado The Rules:
Award Rules:
1. Thanks the blogger who nominated you (as above )
2. Answer the questions you are asked (if you’re comfortable doing so!)
3. Create 10 questions for the bloggers you’ve nominated.
4. Nominate at least 3 bloggers for the Special Blogger Award.
5. Comment on your nominees most recent blog post to let them know they’ve been nominated.
6. Have fun!

The 10 questions posed and their answers:
1. If you were a cat with another life, where would you be sitting right now?
I’m not sure but it would definitely be somewhere warm. My cats used to sit on the heat vents (very cozy). I think I’d find away to curl up under the bed comforter…
2. What is your favorite song in times of challenge?
Tubthumping by Chumbawamba
3. In one sentence, tell us about a time you enjoyed being proven wrong.
I’m so rarely wrong that I can’t remember anytime being wrong let alone happy about it!
4. What is your favorite mode of transportation?
5. What is your comfort food?
I did a whole post on this topic. In a word POTATOES!
6. Which is your favorite social media app to use?
WordPress. It replaces my first love – Xanga.
7. If you could name yourself, what name would you chose and why?
I would call myself Muris. Wait! I do call myself that! The reason is that I am the mouse. And sometimes I roar.
8. What news did you hear recently that surprised you?
Surprise is kind of a strong word but death is always unexpected. My 2nd cousin and the wife of my former Pastor have both passed recently.
9. How often do you walk in your neighborhood?
Sparky and I walked every other night and sometimes more often to get our steps in. Now with the time change it is so dark so early (not to mention the cold and wind) that we are walking less often. Maybe twice a week. That may decrease even more once we get snow. We don’t have sidewalks in many parts of the neighborhood so it can be treacherous.
10. Are there any writers who influence the writing of your blog?
There were a couple that are no longer blogging. One used to put up poetry challenges (MoonCatBlue) and it really stretched my writing muscles. The others encouraged my efforts and gave constructive criticism (and pushed me to explore short stories).

My Nominations (with zero pressure attached!):
Saintvi – saintvi.wordpress.com Because she hasn’t written anything in 4 long months and she really does have things to say and this is as good of an excuse to post as anything!

Foxy Writer Chick – foxywriterchick.com Susan is flat out funny. And she does book reviews (hasn’t steered me wrong yet) and does writing prompts too! Her blogs are terrific. I would love for everyone to check out her posts and I’d really like to know a little more about how she got to be so entertaining!

Denise Gainey – denisegainey.wordpress.com Denise is a musician, author and a wonderful blogger. She lives in a stately old home with her husband and pets. She travels and performs and takes beautiful photographs. You should all go visit her blog and meet her.

These are the questions I want to ask my nominees (because I’m curious):
1. What advice would you give to your 15 year old self if you could go back in time?
2. If you could change one thing about your body, what would you change?
3. What is your favorite candy and why?
4. If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you trade with?
5. What innovation to your computer would you like to have?
6. If you could step into a book, which book would you visit?
7. Love or money?
8. What is your super power?
9. How many US states and how many foreign countries have you visited?
10. How long have you been blogging and where?

These questions aren’t too difficult to answer so I hope all the nominees will play along.