Saturday, April 29, 2006

This Dog!

No more DentaStix for the DailyDog. I gave her one when I left the house, but she saved it until I got home. Instead of eating it in the house, she decided she wanted it al fresco. While it was raining, no less. That was bad enough; then it got worse.

She stayed out there quite a while. This isn’t so unusual, but I got tired of waiting at the door with a towel. So, I peeked my head outside, and there was my little drowned rat of a dog starring at me. She looked funny—not funny ha ha, funny weird. I called her in, but she didn’t move, just sat there, breathing through her mouth. This, also, isn’t unusual since she has congested heart failure and sometimes pants when she can’t get enough breath. But it just didn’t seem right. By the time I got my shoes on, she was coming inside. She rolled around on one towel while I rubbed her with another, but she was swatting at her mouth in a spastic way. What the hell? She did it again, and it was the frantic way she did it that scared me. I opened her mouth and saw that a chunk of the DentaStix had gotten lodged lengthwise across her upper jaw. Poor puppy! She relented and let me get it out for her (ew), then, of course, ate it (ew). Just scared the shit out of me.

So, now that I’m her savior, she’s a little clingy. She took her medicine (buried in peanut butter) and I brushed out all the wet tangles and dried her off as much as I could. She’s now asleep next to me on the couch. Poor puppy. She wore herself out.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Still Won't Watch The View

I'm a Rosie O'Donnell supporter, I admit that proudly. I know a lot of people think she lost it for a while, but I think that once she decided to stop trying to be what everyone thought she should be, her honesty scared a lot of people. She's a bit rabid in her politics, but so are a lot of people (Ann Coulter), who don't get nearly the personal attacks that Rosie does. But she's done so much for children--of all couples. And I still think she is basically a nice person. Not something I could say for a lot of other rabid politically influential mouthpieces (Ann Coulter).

But I still won't watch The View. She's taking over for Vieira, who is going to the Today Show. The View gets on my nerves. I've watched it a handful of times, but I don't even want to sit around a table with my best friends every day and pick apart what's going on the world--why would I want to watch it on tv. Especially with a bunch of women I don't particularly like. And the interviews are even worse. When Ralph Fiennes was on, Joy Behar asked him something like if he could go back in time would he kill Hitler or some weird thing like that. I guess since he was in Shindler's List he should have some keen insight or something.

And have they always gone on and on about Vieira's great news and journalism background? I know she has that background, but I didn't until she got the Today gig. Was she really supposed to be the "news" rock when Barbara Walter's couldn't be there? Or are they just trying to pump up her credentials for a news show like Today? Even though, most of the morning shows any more are nothing more than a vehicle to advertise other shows coming up on that network, usually their news programs.

Anyway, back to the original idea. Rosie seems like an odd choice. She'll bring in some ratings, maybe. She does have experience with talk shows, but it was her show. She's a pretty strong personality. I imagine they'll keep those cameramen busy jumping from one person to the other, as they all try to get a word in edgewise. But Rosie doesn't have that news and journalism background that they seem to think (now anyway) was what they needed and why they got Vieira.

Guess we'll see what happens. Well, you can, and let me know!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Day After

Boy, New Belgium makes a good seasonal beer. All their beers are good, but Skinny Dip is excellent. It was like a blend of a hefeweissen and an IPA. Not too hoppy, but more hops than malt. But if you gulp it down, and you haven't been drinking much alcohol for say, oh 3 weeks, it goes right to your head. Then you say things like, "Chronicles of Narnia had great side effects." Oops.

I kept friends entertained all night at my favorite Irish Pub with statements like that. Plus, teasing me about being f-f-f-fourty gave everyone an opportunity to laugh. They tease because they love, or because I can take it, or both. Although buddy James outdid himself while they were singing Happy Birthday when he shouted out "She's 40!" instead of "Dear Kelley." That guy's a laugh riot, he is.

We ate our fish and chips, drank our beer, then had an ice cream cake with my favorite frozen custard--vanilla with swirls of caramel and pretzels. Sounds a little odd, but believe me, that sweet and salt combination is heaven! But that cake must have weighed 10 pounds, and I got a real upper body workout slicing the damn thing. They finally fired me from that duty and one of those strong manly men took over, after getting a glas of hot water to stick the knife in. Ice cream cakes slice much easier with a warm knife.

Just another little observation I made last night. Have you ever noticed that people who give you upbeat advice such as "age is just a state of mind" and "you are only as old as you feel" are younger than you? The only really depressing moment of an otherwise-enjoyable evenening was the moment that I realized I was the oldest person at the table. Up until that point, we all seemed around the same age; eventhough they were actaully a year or two younger. Well, shit.

And after last night, "old as I feel" is a scary thought. Think I'll get another cup of coffee and try to wake up some more.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Birthday Tips for Boyfriends and Husbands

My Hubby is the sweetest, most wonderful guy. And I know how lucky I am, even though I don't always say it. He's done the sweetest thing for my birthday, and I thought I'd share it because it's made this a special day for me.

Every hour or so he has me pick a number between 1 and 11. He consults a list, then says something like "you win a prize!" And he gives me a wrapped present with the number on it! Isn't this fun? He's so clever.

And the big gift? I said number 5, he consulted his list, and told me to check my email (first time today). So, I went to get my laptop and it's gone! There's a new PowerBook G4 in it's place!!! OK, I'm bragging, but I can't help it. No, I didn't need a new computer, but he decided I needed a faster one with a bigger hard drive for me to do my writing. The birthday card was Snoopy writing on his doghouse, and it said "A Birthday Wish for the Great Author." Supportive and generous all in one swoop.

And the day's not over yet. But I couldn't wait to write something about how when he's good, he's very, very good.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Book Review--Refuse to Choose

Refuse to Choose by self-help guru Barbara Sher can be a very useful book for many people. She fills a lot of white space in her book with emails by people who are grateful to her and are now living a happy and productive life because they have accepted that they are scanners and have figured out how to live that way.

Considering that Sher wrote several books explaining what a scanner is, I’m not sure I can do an adequate job here, but I’ll give it a try. As she says, “Unlike people who are satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to pursue many areas . . .” Scanners have so many interests, they often don’t finish a project or become frozen because they have so many things they want to do that they do nothing, rather than decide. This is a pretty general description. It’s not as simple as just liking a lot of different things; it can be debilitating and confusing to always want to do something new, to get obsessed with something, just to get bored with it as soon as you get an understanding of it, or to feel that if you find that one thing you are supposed to be doing, then you’ll be happy. So, what’s a scanner to do?

According to Sher, the first step is to accept that you are a scanner, and that’s ok. Not everyone has that one calling or career, and that’s ok. Not everyone will understand what they perceive as your “flightiness,” and that’s ok, too. Sher spends over half the book with testimonials and supportive passages about how it is ok to be a scanner.

There are some exercises and suggestions of ways to take control of your scanner tendencies. A “Daybook” is a journal where you write out all your ideas, an outlet for all those “wants” in you. Another idea, a really good one, is to buy a bunch of ½-inch binders, and every time you have a new obsession, start a binder. It’s a place to put all your notes, your magazine clippings, printouts from your research, whatever you find on the subject. Have a passion for traveling to India? Now you have somewhere to put it all so that it’s always on hand. It’s a productive outlet that lends some credence to what other might see as a passing fancy.

The last part of the book takes specific kinds of scanners and gives ideas and suggestions for jobs. The focus is on being who you are and not trying to do something you don’t want to do. The best example is the woman who loved Africa and had given up her life there because she wanted to be near her ailing parents. So, as much as it broke her heart, she gave up Africa because her family was more important. It never occurred to her that she could still go back for short periods of time. She said she could never take that much time off from her job, which she hated by the way. So, Sher said, why not do temporary work? This was a light bulb moment for the woman who began to see a way she could have both important things in her life. She got a job teaching and spends her summers in Africa. It seems a simple solution, but scanners sometimes don’t see the simple solution because they think it has to be all or nothing.

Sher’s book has been helpful to many people. Her seminars and workshops have enlightened many scanners and helped them find their way. But now for the personal note. There’s one aspect that she doesn’t address, that personally, I need help with. What if you’re a weenie? The one characteristic that these scanners have that I don’t: they are a helluva lot braver than I am. They are willing to take whatever job just to learn. They are willing to network and talk to would-be employers just to find out what they would really need to do that job. At the end of the day, the scanner has to act, and unfortunately, you can’t read a book to teach you how to do that. And I don’t really think I’m a scanner. Oh, I have lots of interests, and I flit from one obsession to the next, and I do wish that I could find that one thing that I’m great at so that I could just focus on that one thing, but I really think I’m more of a “shadow artist” as described in The Artist’s Way. I enjoy different forms of arts, but work around it, rather than in it. For example, I would love to write, but I’ve always been an editor because I don’t think I’m much of a writer. I become a member of museums, even though I’d really love to be working in one. But, that’s another book review.

Refuse to Choose can be helpful to many, I’m sure. And I have my “Daybook” to write out my ideas about that bookstore and kitchen store and yarn shop and alpaca farm that I want to have one day. And I have a box of ½-inch binders just waiting to be filled with all those interests that I have—I just have to find all those clippings that I put away somewhere.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I'm a Little Late, but

But I just saw Chronicles of Narnia. Oh, how I wish I had seen this movie in the theater. It was amazing on my TV; I can only imagine how majestic it must have been on the big screen.

Based on C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, this movie is a breathtaking adaptation of the world Lewis created. Special effects, make up, and set design has come so far that it’s easy to get completely swept away in this movie. From the beginning when they’ve recreated the pain of children being sent into the country to keep them safe from the horrors of war to the snow and cold of the White Witch’s world, it’s completely believable.

The performances are really quite impressive. All the kids are good, but Georgie Henley as Lucy is outstanding. She’s wise beyond her years and has a maturity you don’t often see in movies, even by actresses much older than she. Her scenes with James McAvoy, who plays Tumnus the Fawn are subtle and sweet. Then there is Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, who is just chilling, no pun intended. Director Andrew Adamson really did an amazing job balancing these performances with such amazing effects, so that neither one is overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the other.

I think one of the reasons I, in the end, didn’t see this movie in the theater was because every time I heard something about it, there was always a focus on it’s Christian values and overtones. I felt that I was being told that I have to see all that, or I wouldn’t appropriately appreciate it. But CS Lewis said he didn’t write the books as an analogy of Christianity (at least I think he said that). Yes, you could make that argument, and the sacrifice is a classic Christian analogy. Maybe I’m just not a good enough Christian, but I didn’t see anything else besides that. Not that I was looking because I was too lost in this gorgeous movie.

So, if you haven’t seen it, see it. It’s great film-making.

It's Just a Dummy

I went in for highlights and a trim a couple of days ago. I was surprised to find most of the hair dressers standing in one area with mannequin heads bolted to the arms of chairs. They were having a "cutting class" with the representative of one of the products they carry, I think it was Aquage. Anyway, it was fascinating watching them and listening to them.

"Start at the oscipital lobe and follow a line down at a 45 degree angle." I would need a protractor to know what the hell a 45 degree angle looked like, But they all used their thinning razor and created these very fashionable short haircuts. I would have loved to have that style, but these heads all had straight, long hair, which I do not.

While my hairdresser, Katie, was folding thin layers of painted hair into aluminum foil, I talked about how it was so much more technical that I thought and about what difficulties she faces, the number one being the client who comes in with a celebrity photo and she wants that hair, when really she wants to be that celebrity. About this time, one of the hairdressers unbolted her head and started shaking it like she was trying to get the mercury down in a thermometer.

"Don't you wish you could do that to your clients sometimes," I said. Another hairdresser hung the head upside down while she wet it down with a spray bottle. I laughed at the irony that they were learning a technique for cutting hair but doing something they would never be able to do to a real client.

Sure was a cute cut, though. Not an everyday cut, mind you, but what's the fun in having the same style every day?

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Curly-Coated Baby?

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their baby Suri? I don't know about ancient Hebrew, but I do know that Suri is a type of alplaca. A beautifully soft, long-haired alpaca. Arent' they cute?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

With a Cluck-Cluck Here

If you look in the dictionary under the word “naive” you will see my picture. It’s amazing how I could get to be this old and still make such silly conclusions. Case in point: I bought the latest edition of Hobby Farms magazine. I get this every now and then for the articles about sheep and wool production. Being a knitter and wannabe spinner, I have this thing for sheep. I know next-to-nothing about having sheep, but I love to read about people who do.

In this particular issue, the cover article is about raising rare-breed chickens, with pictures of these gorgeous roosters and hens. My first thought was, I bet Martha Stewart has these kinds of chickens. If I remember right, she had a segment on her show about her chickens and the beautiful eggs they give her, thus inspiring her paint colors. And I thought about how good fresh farm eggs would be with the big ham we had at Easter. So, I looked forward to reading the article. So, here’s the first paragraph (written by Sue Weaver):

Remember Sunday supper at Grandma’s house? Remember lounging by the TV watching the “Ed Sullivan Show” with Dad and Grandpa while the luscious fragrance of farm-raised chicken drifted into the living room and made you all but drool? Remember sinking your teeth into that first crispy-coated drumstick, closing your eyes and savoring its sumptuous, juicy flavor? Mm-mmm, now that was a chicken!

Oh. Raise the chickens to eat. Oh yeah, I guess you would, huh? I hadn’t considered that you preserve chickens by raising them to eat them. It just took me a minute to shake the romantic idea of an idyllic farm with beautiful chickens laying lovely eggs. Then I kept thinking about the phrase, “chicken with its head cut off,” and how true it was—a chicken will run around after you cut its head off. Ew. Is there a way I could take the chickens somewhere so that someone else could do that part, so that all I have to do is bring home the luscious part in white butcher paper?

I read further in the article and realized, “I’m hungry, and I want fried chicken!” But I don’t want the chicken out of that Tyson bag. I want the sumptuous, juicy flavor of the chicken described in this article. Chicken has become some bland dish you have to season well to taste. I remembered that last Thanksgiving in Ohio, we bought a fresh turkey at a local organic, free-range turkey farm, and that was the best turkey I ever had. I had no idea turkey could actually taste good without having to smother it in mashed potatoes, gravy, and dressing.

I still feel silly that I didn’t think about raising chickens as food first. I just don’t think like a farmer, I guess. I wonder if Martha eats her chickens? I know she’s got a good recipe for fried chicken.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Pastoral Ponderings

As I get closer to my birthday and turning f-f-f-f-forty, I find myself being very contemplative. I guess that’s normal. Before I turned 30, I make a list of some things I wanted to do before that birthday and did most of them. I haven’t done that this time. Making a list is too restrictive somehow—way too much pressure at this time in my life. If I’m going to turn f-f-f-f-forty, I want it to be as stress-free as possible.

But there is one disconcerting thing that has developed in the last couple of years. I daydream about living out in the country, in a little farmhouse on about 5 to 10 acres. This is opposite what anyone who knows me would imagine me wanting. I used to say that if you couldn’t get a pizza delivered, you lived too far out. But now, that’s seeming very attractive to me.

This feeling is also disconcerting because I, in the past, have been rather cruel in my assertion of middle-aged men wanting to be the “gentleman farmer,” especially my dad. For a while, Dad had a some pigs, some cattle, and a few horses. I, in my teenage arrogance, thought it so completely stupid. He was a lawyer—he didn’t have time to have a farm. And considering that my idea of a life was living in an apartment in New York City, it all seemed very silly to me.

My how maturity does humble one so. When we were living in Ohio, I fell in love with the beautiful scenery and simple craft of knitting a skein of recently spun yarn into a garment. I drove around, admiring farmhouses and tracks of sprawling land, imagining how wonderful it would be to live out where there were no neighbor so close you could look in their windows from you own house. We went to a party at co-worker’s farm. The restored farmhouse, the barn with chickens and goats, and the acres of pastures with horses was all at it should be and I felt completely at home. Among all the kids running around and people getting their grilled meats and fresh veggies from the big buffet table under the tent, I looked up at the sky and said, “I’m sorry Dad. I understand now.” And for the first time in the 8 years since he passed away, I missed my Dad and wished I could talk to him.

So, there’s some kind of weird circle of life thing going on. The one person I felt like I never connected with is the one person I feel would completely understand me now. That feeling, plus turning f-f-f-f-forty is about all the emotion. I can handle right now.

To celebrate my admitting this weird new desire of mine, I bought Hobby Farm magazine. There are articles about breeding rare-breed chickens and getting great wool from your flock. Cool! And the tea kettle just went off, so time for tea and a little daydreaming.

Chicago Part IV: Dining at Frontera Grill

Rick Bayless is the author of my favorite cookbooks, the host of “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” on PBS, and the owner/chef of Frontera Grill. Not only are his cookbooks full of delicious recipes that combine authentic and contemporary Mexican cooking, they are the best written cookbooks I have. His step-by-step construction anticipates my questions and clearly explains how to make these delicious meals. Every recipe I’ve tried has turned out fantastic, and I can’t say that about many of my cookbooks. So, when we started planning this quick trip to Chicago, the first thing Hubby said he wanted to do was go to Frontera Grill.

There’s actually 2 restaurants in one here. There’s Frontera Grill, the upstairs, casual place, with a tile floors, wild artwork, and Toplobappo, the more elegant restaurant with white tablecloths, subdued lighting, and a little more expensive food. Both are amazing, but we ate upstairs. This was a Friday night, and we got there about 10 ‘til 6, and we had a 40 minute wait.

We waited in the bar, but only I drank. Hubby wasn’t real keen on alcohol still. I had a blood orange margarita that was the smoothest, tastiest margarita I’ve ever had. No Icee out of a machine here—shaken with ice and poured into a cool glass. I would have had another, but since it cost as much as my meal, I decided one would be enough. While we were enjoying our drinks (Al had a house-roasted coffee that he drank black because it was so good), the couple next to us decided to stay and eat in the bar. They gave us their buzzer as it went off, so we got a table 30 minutes early.

There were spicy peanuts and sunflower seeds at the tables, a nice change from stale chips and watery salsa. I had tuna with a spicy mango salsa with an amazing rice with saffron. Al had tacos with grilled chicken and beans with a spice we couldn't figure out, but it was good. Every meal comes with corn tortillas made on site. They were almost soft tacos they were so, well, hum, soft. For dessert, we had a mixed berry galette with a homemade vanilla raspberry ice cream. It was the best dessert we’ve ever had. We talked all night about how we should order another one.

We can't wait to go again. For more info, go to the website Bayless and Frontera Grill.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Chicago, Part III: The Field Museum

The Field Museum is THE science museum in Chicago. Here is where you can see Sue, the largest T-Rex and other dinosaurs, plus a wall from a pyramid burial room, gems and jade, and an amazing exhibit on Pacific Nations. I knew nothing about all the islands in the pacific, so this was really fascinating. Unfortunately, I was so tired by the time we got to that exhibit, that I couldn’t do all the reading and exploring I wanted to do.

We were there on a Friday, while school was in session, and it was packed. There were kids everywhere! I guess it was Spring Break for some, that and the kids obviously on field trips. It gets a little frustrating because kids tend to squeeze in front of you so that you can’t see the exhibit, and their parents encourage their little darlings to do so. Kind of frustrating since those same kids were playing with their GameBoys in the last exhibit. Just so you can get an idea of what the museum looks like and how many people were there, here’s a photo taken from upstairs, above Sue.

Sue is the most amazing thing to see, and you can’t miss her because she is on the main floor. She’s the largest, complete T-Rex. Is there any doubt why Jurassic Park is one of my favorite books and movies? Here are some pics.

The museum is a classic building, with marble stairs, floors, and pillars. It’s entrance and main hall are bright, but the exhibits are lit to protect the artifacts. For someone with balance problems or lightheadedness, this can be a bit of a problem. Just take it slowly, your eyes and balance will adjust. There are some exhibits (mostly the gems) that are recreations of other famous articles, and I have to admit that my first reaction is “Why?” and “Big deal.” Being a reproduction doesn’t make it any less amazing, I guess. And better to see it as a reproduction that not as all, I guess. But it still seemed a little weird.

The dinosaurs were are part of a new “Evolving Planet” exhibit. I don’t have a problem with evolution, so I thought it was great. What I had a problem with is that you have to get a special ticket and time to see it. No more wondering around the dinosaurs whenever you want to. Our time was 3:15, so around 3:00, we got in line and waited for our turn in. But it was worth it. There are other special, temporary exhibits that require an additional entrance fee and ticket. When you get your tickets online, be sure to get tickets for everything you want to see.

There’s a Corner Bakery in the museum, but there are vending machines and McDonalds downstairs. But at the Corner Bakery, you’re still on the main level and there is better people watching there. It’s amazing how many people let their kids run around like wild in a place like this. Yes, it’s a bit over-stimulating, but Geez!

If I lived in Chicago, I would go to the museum and take an exhibit at a time to really appreciate all that they’ve done here. Since I don’t, it was a real whirlwind! But it was still a great experience.

Next up, dining at Frontera Grill.

Chicago, Part II: Riding the Bus and Travel Tips

The next day, after Hubby had recovered enough from the night before, we headed to the Field Museum. We got instructions from the concierge desk on how to take the bus, then headed to the corner. We were a little anxious because we haven’t ridden the bus before, always living in car-friendly cities. But we had good instructions, and since this bus is usually full of tourists, considering where it goes, the driver was pretty friendly. Also, they announce each stop, so really, you can’t get lost. And it’s always interesting being on public transportation. We knew we must have been on the right bus because most of the people around us were talking about getting off at the museum, or the aquarium, or the planetarium, and other things in that area.

Travel tip for ya if you ride the bus in Chicago. The busses are really long—2 busses connected with baffles like an accordion, which help them make turns. So, if you are standing in the center of the bus, look down and make sure you aren’t straddling the track because one foot will go one way while the other stays in place when you go around a corner. It also helps if you have someone to hold onto around those corners. It’s like a whole other ride!

Going down there, the bus wasn’t too crowded. Coming back, that was a different story—packed! Also, that brings me to another travel tip for ya. When you get directions on how to get somewhere, it doesn’t hurt to get directions on how to get back. We realized on the way back that we didn’t really know what direction that bus was going, and we just assumed it a loop. We were familiar enough with the area by this point and got off and a great stop, but next time I’m asking about both ways.

And yet one more tip! If you are only going to one museum, such as The Field Museum, pay the extra few bucks and order your tickets online for the day you’re going. Then, when all those people are winding their way up to the ticket booth, you’ll just walk right up to the Will Call window. Plus, they gave us complimentary tickets for the Evolving Planet exhibit. I’m glad they did because I hadn’t requested those tickets, and they’ve made all the dinosaurs part of that exhibit, so we would have missed them. Now, if you are going to go to more than one museum, get a Chicago CityPass. You can get these online at; they are good for 9 days, and you don’t have to wait in line to get in. You can also get them at the museums. So worth it.

Coming up, The Field Museum.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Chicago, Part I. The Hotel

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from my short trip to Chicago, so I thought I should actually write a little about what else we did besides drink whisky. And being a rambler, I’m going to do this parts.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency downtown. Wow! We’ve never spent that much on a hotel, and never will again (well, at least until next year’s WhiskyFest), but it was all part of Hubby’s Christmas present. If you are going to an event with over 200 whiskies to taste, it’s best to stay in the hotel where it is being held.

The hotel was very slick, had a great concierge desk, and had three restaurants on site, but it was loud, busy, and really aimed at business people. I wonder if they ever have a weekend when there isn’t a convention going on? The room was modern and sophisticated, so it wasn’t quite my style. But it was pretty and quiet. And it had a king size bed, which is always cool since I don’t have one of those of my own. Here’s a couple of pics of the room.

Before the whisky tasting, we grabbed a couple of bricks of pizza from the restaurant downstairs. Yes, bricks. Take a look! What would you call them?

I’ve already written about WhiskyFest, so I won’t bore you with more details. Suffice it to say, it was great. I’m not sure how much Hubby remembers, but he wants to go again next year.

Coming up next, riding the bus and seeing Sue.

So True

In the article "Report Raises New Questions on Bush, WMDs" on Yahoo News, my favorite quote is

"The intelligence community makes the assessment," he said. "The White House is not the intelligence-gathering agency."

Truer words have not been spoken about this administration.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Walk Around the Pond

Since I feel like I’m beginning to plateau with my workout regime, Hubby suggested that today we should go for a walk on a local trail instead of going to the gym. Don’t go to the gym? Yeah, baby, I’m with ya! A nice walk outside in the sun and fresh air. A day off from walking to nowhere on the treadmill.

We’re lucky that we have several of these trails available. They’re paved and have little lay-bys with a park bench in case you need a break from all the healthy exercise. If walking, jogging, skating, or biking isn’t your thing, there’s also fishing in the crappie-stocked lake. Actually, it’s more of a big pond on this one. Dogs are welcome, as long as they are on a leash, and there are picnic areas, too.

What they don’t have are maps at the entrances to show you what the trail looks like and where it goes. I hate that. They have a big sign telling you what you can’t do (no hunting, alcohol, swimming, yadda yadda yadda), but no where do they say how long the trail is or where it goes. So, it’s a leap of faith—stay on the side walk, and keep the pond on your right, or left, depending on which way you head out.

It’s always wonderful starting out. There’s a breeze blowing, the sun is behind partly cloudy skies, and there aren’t many people this day, so no dodging the bikers. I get lost in my thoughts and the rhythm of the walk. This euphoria lasts for quite a while, then it begins to feel like exercise and I’m not enjoying myself as much.

Spring hasn’t sprung on this trail, so there’s only dead grass and bare-limbed trees to look at. I notice a bridge leading to the other side of the pond, and hopefully the downhill part of the loop. But just as I think the trail will head over there, it veers to the left, the opposite direction, for what seemed like miles! OK, it’s probably more like feet, but it’s still in the opposite direction. But since there wasn’t a map available, who knew how long this loop was and when the trail would veer back to that bridge.

By now, the partly cloudy skies had cleared up to become mostly sunny and that nice breeze was all but gone. I asked Hubby what time it was, and he said it had only been 20 minutes. Only? I would be climbing off the elliptical machine by now! And we still have to walk back! But, we may have gone more than halfway, so maybe we should just keep going. But maybe not. Who the hell knows!?! So, we kept going.

Turned out to be the right decision. Once we finally found and crossed the bridge, it was no time before we were back at the parking lot—an hour total. Hubby was all happy and pumped up. It was a great walk, a great pace, and great change from the gym. I’m happy he was happy. My shins hurt, my head hurt, and my left thigh was so tight, I was limping. OK, maybe I exaggerate, a little. But I was tired. Really tired.

But at least now we know where that trail goes. Maybe I should draw a map.

Monday, April 10, 2006


In knitting-lingo, that's Local Yarn Shop.

I love my yarn shop. It's fun, it's beautiful, and it's inviting. The people who own it are nice and helpful, and the people who shop there are the same. And now they're online! So, I thought I'd share it with anyone who stops by the blog. So, here's the link:

String of Purls

Sunday, April 09, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Hubby's nephew has a retired racing horse. That alone is just head-shaking weird. He wanted a motorcyle, but the family said no, you can have an old horse instead. Huh? You know, you have to keep a horse alive, right?

Anyway. The horse. When he puts the bidle in the horse's mouth, it faints! Makes it a little hard to ride, ya think? I've heard of horses holding their breath when you sinch up the saddle, then exhaling when you get settled so that you slide off, but actually fainting? They think it's some kind of performance anxiety from its time as a race horse. Uh huh. If they start giving that horse prozac, I just might have to laugh in their faces. But I better not. They prescribe prozac for dogs and cats, and horses are a lot smarter. Who knows?

Maybe they should call the Pet Pyschic!

Doggie's Happy Dance

Dogs know how to enjoy and revel in their doggieness. Daily was aleep on the tile floor, then I heard her moving around. She was rolling around, scratching her back on the floor, her collar was jingling, and she was grunting and moaning happily. And every now and then, she'd flop her nose or tail against the floor. So I heard, "Rarrrrr, jingle, Roarrrr, thump, snort, rarrrrrr, snort, jingle clink clink thump" Then one big sneeze and jingle combination, a big shake, and she pranced over to me. Her hair was standing up on the top of head, she was panting and wagging her tail. She was very pleased with her roll around the floor, which we call her "happy dance." She trotted off for a drink of water, then outside to repeat the dance in the newly green grass and sunshine.

Oh, the life of a dog.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Kind of Town

Chicago is. OK, that’s hokey. And I’m not sure it’s exactly truthful. Can I know after 2 days in a city that I want or could live there? I felt that in Edinburgh. I knew immediately that I could move there at moment’s notice.

Chicago had some of that feeling. It’s a little disconcerting because I had pretty much decided that since the chances were slim that I would be able to move to Edinburgh, or Scotland in general, I wanted to be in the country. I chucked it up to being older and more mature and less patient when it came to being around people. A nice little farmhouse on 5 or so acres with some alpacas so I could spin the wool and sell it for outrageous amounts of money on the Internet as “artisan.” Pastoral, bucolic, idyllic, romantic, and more attainable than Scotland. And I like the idea of being out alone in the open air, with no buildings, no noise, no screaming kids in the aisles at Wal-Mart. Oh, who am I kidding? There will always be a Wal-Mart and there will always be a screaming kid in one of the aisles.

But being in Chicago relit a flame I thought I had blown out. The dream of living in a city, in an apartment where I can jump on the train or a bus to get where I need to go. Stopping at a market on the way home from work with the ingredients for that night’s dinner, rather than shopping for weeks at a time because I have a trunk and a garage that leads right into my house (then throwing away all that produce because I never actually cook it). Going to some of the best museums any time I want, seeing plays from the best playwrights of our time, attending lectures, eating food prepared by top chefs, and of course, watching a baseball or football fame with some of the most fanatical and loyal fans ever. Idyllic, romantic, exciting.

There are some realistic drawbacks. Noise being the main one for me—horns and traffic noise are like nails down a blackboard. But city dwellers seem to have this covered. They just walk everywhere with earbuds in their ears, listening to their iPods. I wouldn’t need to move to the country to distance myself from people, I’ll just turn on my iPod like everyone else. And crime. I didn’t feel unsafe at all, but then again, I’m pretty naive about that. And cost. We saw ads for apartments starting at $200,000! I don’t think I can spin enough alpaca to afford that, especially since I don’t know how to spin yet. Then there is the very real problem of Hubby not wanting to live in a city. He liked Chicago, but he doesn’t want to live there, and living with him does take precedence.

Then there is the other reality that I’m a country girl at heart. I’ve fought it all of my life because I thought you were supposed to want the sophisticated city life. I thought everyone believed the stereotypes of the barefoot and stupid country bumpkin. And in reality, many do. It took moving away to realize that people are going think what they want, you have to be true to yourself. God, would it shock people if I really did end up on a farm.

So, what to do what to do. Luckily I don’t have to decide anytime soon. And honestly, I’m not ruling Scotland out. Options. I got options.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A New Project

As if I really needed another project, I joined a quilt club with a friend at the local quilt shop. It's a block-of-the-month club, so I'll be learning a lot. We'll make 2 blocks each month, then by this time next year, I hope, I'll have this quilt:

I'm excited about this new project! Blocks, applique and quilting, oh my! I've been wanting to really challenge myself, and this is definitely a challenge! I've never made a full-size quilt before. Hopefully, this time next year, I won't be able to say that any more.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

You Didn't Ask, But . . .

Well, FHM and the Cynical Bastard made their list of sexiest women, so I thought I'd try a list for sexiest men. My list. I'm not expecting many to agree, and I'm a little behind the times since I don't watch much TV unless it's BBC America, Food Network and HGTV, but here it is, in no particular order.

Movie Star Hunk--Denzel Washington

Brooding Intensity Hunk--Christopher Meloni

Next Sex Symbol Hunk--Clive Owen

Adventurous Hunk--Ewan McGregor

TV Hunk--Julian McMahon

British Hunks--Colin Firth and Jason Isaacs

Politically Savvy and Rock Star Hunk--Bono

Country Boy Hunk--Troy Gentry

Intelligent and Funny Hunk--Steve Martin

If I was 20 Years Younger Hunk--Jake Gyllenhaal

WhiskyFest--It's a Beautiful Thing

When someone tells me they don’t like scotch, I tell them they are drinking the wrong scotch. They’ve probably had a blended scotch, a nasty concoction of several whiskies stirred up into a pretty bottle. But a single malt scotch is a beautiful thing. It’s a caramel-colored, complex, slightly smoky liquid that warms you from the tip of your nose to the tip of your toes.

Of course, different areas of Scotland produces different scotches. The Lowlands produce a soft, malty whisky (that’s whisky without an “e” please). Glenkinchie is an example. The Highlands, being the largest area, produce mostly a drier whisky, sometimes with a hint of peat. Glenmorangie and Oban are popular Highland whiskies. Speyside produces a softer, elegant whisky, and is the home of The Glenlivet and Glenfarclas. And, leaving what I consider the best for last, is Islay, a 25-mile long island that is the home to such wonderfully peaty-scotch distilleries as Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg.

One of the best places to find out what you like, if you don’t have a great bar like the Dundee Dell like we do here in Omaha, is to go to WhiskyFest in Chicago. Sponsored by Malt Advocate magazine, this kid-in-a-candy-store event is a celebration of all things whisky—Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and Blended. Malt Advocate also has a WhiskyFest in New York and London, but this one is more attainable to me, personally, so this is the one we went to. And although the real target audience is distributors and buyers, they were just as friendly and helpful to us consumers.

The doors into the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Chicago opened at 6:30, and we flooded in, eyes bulging and not knowing where to start. Ever been to a Home Show? That’s what this was like, only instead of row after row of tables and booths of landscaping and tiling options, it was all whisky. And, thank God, there were two huge buffets on each side of the room with pasta, roast beef, and muchies. Malt Advocate was nice enough to give everyone a spiral notebook for notetaking with a map of the tables, but it sat unused in my goodie bag. That takes way too much planning. And way too much sober organizational skills, although I saw some people using them.

So, we started on the right. We decided we’d start with some things we hadn’t tried before. We went to Connemara Irish Whiskey (this time, you may use the “e.”). They had 4 different whiskeys to try! Holy Cow, one table and I’m done! Actually, I wasn’t, but that would have been the smart thing to do because nothing tasted as good as this first taste. Oh, it tasted really good, but that first sip, mmmmmmmmm.

Then the trolling began. With tasting glass in hand, (Malt Advocate also supplied lovely engraved glasses), we worked our way around the room. Even though we didn’t have to drive anywhere, I took it easy. Alcohol and my medication don’t get along too well, and I don’t fancy a liver transplant. Besides, this was Hubby’s Christmas present, and as the night went on, it became obvious my role would be as support: support walking, support getting back to the room, support worshipping the ol’ porcelain altar, and so on.

What all did we, or he, try? Penderyn, Bunnahabhain (the rare example of a good blended Scotch from Islay), Old Potrero, Anchor Brewing (a little break from whisky), Santa Teresa Rum, Unibroue Beer, Goose Island Brewing, The Glenrothes, Tullamore Dew, Suntory Yamazaki (Japanese is a growing Scotch producer. It’s a little sweeter than Scotland’s), Wild Scotsman, Compas Box (Oranerie was amazing! And I don’t like sweet drinks.), Dewar’s (actually gave samples of the $200 bottle and gave out cigars), Buffalo Trace, Glenfarclas, Woodford Reserve (still my favorite bourbon), Balvenie, and Maker’s Mark. And those are just the booths we actually visited, and each booth had about 4 different bottles to try. We decided not to go to Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Glenfiddich, and others that we know well and have at home.

Other little treats were Jim Murray, autographing copies of his Whiskey Bible, and Ian Gray, a self-titled “Whisky Artist.” He had prints of his watercolors of distilleries on Islay and some new ones of Woodford Reserve in Kentucky. He signed them and talked about living in a camper van and painting. We bought 2, one depicting Ardbeg Distillery and one depicting Bowmore barrels. They are a wonderful souvenir of the evening.

By 9:30, we were pretty much done. Hubby was really done. Less than an hour earlier, he had been boasting about how Scotch isn’t the same as drinking other alcohol—he was fine, he just couldn’t feel his tongue. Then we sat down for a few minutes to chat with some people, and that did it, he wasn’t able to walk any more. I went to the room to get cash to pay for the prints, and he said that someone asked him if he was OK. He said yes, but I decided no and steered him back to the room, holding on to his elbow, ever so gently maneuvering him down the hall and up the escalators, except for the times I actually had to hold him around the waist to bring him back in the right direction. Imagine an old man, arms bent at the elbows, closed fists, shuffling along, moving his arms back and forth with every step, that was Hubby.

I won’t go into the rest of the evening, you can use your imagination. He eventually slept. He woke up, took some Motrin, took a shower and announced it would be a long time before he drank again. He did make it to the Field Museum and Frontera Grill, but he was hurtin’. What a good sport.

So, will we go next year? Well, yeah! Now we know what to expect. Now we can plan our route and what we want to taste. Now we can plan to attend a seminar or two. Now we’ve got a year to recover. We’ll be ready!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sitting Next to You in the Plane

The plane to Chicago was one the smallest I've been in. One and two seats with a tiny little aile seaprating them. Remember the scene in Airport where the flight attendant hit everyone in the back of the head with the guitar as she walked down the aisle? Anyone with a shoulder bag was doing the same thing here.

Hubby was across from me, and I sat with a friendly, petite lady named Lesley. She was reading Don't Kiss Them Goodbye by Allison DuBois, of Medium fame. I told her I had read that book because I like stuff like that, but it was a little creepy at times. Not creepy in a "don't go into the mad scientist's house on Halloween" sort of creepy, but come on, she talks to dead people. That's kind of creepy.

But Lesley doesn't find it creepy--she finds it comforting. She'd like to be able to tak to her mom again, and it's comforting to her that there's something after death. Now, if I was a good Baptist I would have used this opportunity to witness to her about salvation through faith in Christ and the comfort she can find there in being reunited with loved ones. But I'm not Baptist, I'm Methodist, and we just don't do that kind of thing. Besides, I still have some questions about all that, myself.

Nor did I remind her that most of the spirits DuBois talks to are still here because there is some unfinished business here or they died by some kind of violence. So, personally, I think it's more comforting that maybe they've moved on to something better and there's no need to come back.

But I just don't know. There are some people I'd like to talk to again. And I started to think maybe Lesley had a point. Maybe that book is more comforting than creepy. Then she said she really liked Jonathan Edwards and wondered if his show was still on. Well, I can't think of John Edwards without thinking of the South Park episode about him. I decided she was a nutter and went back to the comfort and concrete reality of my Backpacker magazine.

Airport Attire

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people I see at the airport wearing inappropriate shoes. I understand it--Shoes are the hardest part of traveling for me. I'm vain, and I want those great looking shoes, not just good-walking shoes. But in the airport, survival wins over vanity.

Now, I love to fly. and I feel perfectly safe flying, but realistically, planes crash (OK, maybe that should have been "fatalistically"). But really realistically, planes have engine trouble and have to stop at the end of the runway, while you wait for a bus to take you to the airport. And planes run late, forcing you to have 15 minutes to get to the opposite end of the airport for your connecting flight. For these reasons, and more, flip-flops, slides, clogs, stilletos, and 3-inch spike heels are not good choices.

If I have to slide down an emergency exit to a hard, cold ground and run away from the flames of death, I need shoes that will take me away, not one that still look good after they brush away the ashes.

And when I'm running down the concourse to my next plane, I want to worry about holding down my breasts, not curling my toes to keep my shoes on or balancing to keep my ankles from turning.

So people! Put the sandals, flip-flops and Jimmy Choo's in your suitcase and show off your best pair of tennies! Or at least something low heeled that completely encloses your foot. Don't make me run over you.

I Hate Being on Medication

Damn it all to hell! I've been spitting nails for almost 2 weeks now. It's like being permanently PMSing! Most people get depressed and suicidal on this medication, but noooooooo, I become Diva Bitch.

OK, yes, Avonex will slow down the progression of MS and yes, the side effects will wear off to nothing, but damn. At this rate I'm going to have to live at a hotel because no one can stand to be around me--even me!

Welbutrin? Prozac? Lexapro? I just may have to add another pill to my daily regime.

Just thought I'd get that out of the way.