Thursday, May 31, 2007


I'm sorry I haven't been around with more tales and photos. I'm working on it, it's just very slow going. I'm having a rough time getting over an allergy attack or maybe it was a cold, I don't know. I just know that it has knocked me on my butt and even though I'm finally feeling better, everything I do exhausts me.

Al's answer is that I should go to the gym, that will help. Well, it probably would, if I could complete any exertion without coughing up a lung and then sleeping for an hour.

I also have been lax in my reading. Sorry about that, too. It's pretty frustrating when even reading wears you out.

I think part of it is also that "post-trip depression" that I always seem to get. You know how it is, 10 days of nothing but fun and excitement, then back to grocery shopping and bill paying. Although, with how busy this year has been, I'm ready for a little more normal and routine.

Plus, Al is going out of town again for about a week and half, so we've been busy getting things ready for his trip. I'm always a little sad when he leaves, but honestly, I'm also a little relieved to have the house to myself for a few days. Going on vacation is wonderful but I don't get any time to myself, so I'll make up for that this coming week by watching chick movies and reading and eating popcorn for dinner. And, the Scottish Highland Games are next weekend in Kansas City. Even though Al isn't here, I'm thinking about going anyway. I just can't resist sheep dog demonstrations.

So, that's what's going on here. Hopefully I'll have more interesting stuff later.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Buon Giorgno!

Yes, we're finally home! We got home late Wednesday, despite train strikes, air traffic control strikes, and airline strikes. We had a wonderful time, but I'm exhausted. I'll write more after I get some rest and do something about these bags under my eyes.

Here are some pictures to keep ya busy until I get back (Al took all the photos). Ciao!


St. Peter's at Vatican in Rome

Hall in the Vatican Museum

Trevi Fountain

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Morano Glass

Duomo, Florence


View out the Florence hotel window

Light Lunch

San Gimignano


Pisa Tower and Cathedral

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


(map from

'Tis Herself will be closed while she travels the beautiful cities of Rome, Venice and Florence.


I've spent the last few days vacillating between being excited and having anxiety attacks.

We're leaving for Italy on Saturday. We've only been planning this trip for over a year, so you'd think I'd be totally prepped and anxious to go. Oh, I'm anxious alright. Unfortunately, it's not a good kind of anxious.

I know we'll have a good time. I know I'll love Italy and wonder what took me so long to go there. But I'm still going to a country that I know very little about and speak very little of the language. I've been practicing "No copisco l'italiano" (I don't understand Italian). We'll mostly be in the large cities, so most people will probably speak English, but I want to know somethings to say to be polite. Buon giorno, gratzie, prego, due cauppacino per favore. Now if I can just figure out how to say, "Do you take Visa?" in the shoe store.

The main reason I'm on edge is that it seems the more I read and try to figure out what to do and where to go and how to get there, I just get more confused. My brain doesn't seem to be able to differentiate the names of places and everything seems to be a variation of Piazza. Plus, there are 3 other people going on this trip, but I seem to be the only one who knows how to read a travel guide. Granted, I'm the most anal of all of us, but you'd think they'd want to know something about where we're going. I can see it now: we'll meet downstairs at the hotel and all 3 of them will say, "What are we gonna do? Where are we gonna go? How do we get there?" Actually, it may not be that bad since I went through the guidebooks and emailed everyone about what days the museums are closed and suggested when we should do what. At least there will be 4 of us to figure out the public transportation and that's good because I'm really stressed about figuring out the public transportation.

I've already had a friend talk me down and tell me to get a grip. She lived there for 6 months, so she was a big help in making me feel more excited than anxious.

So, I'm just gonna roll with it. I figure that since I haven't seen anything in Italy, that anything I see will be amazing. I'm not taking a list of things that I have to see and do. And you know how hard it is for me to not have a list, but this will be very good for me.

So, arrivederci amici. I'm off to sort through all my little toiletry bottles and to practice pack. I have to make sure I leave room for the shoes and purses that will be coming home with me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

That's Entertainment

I’ve watched many of those real estate shows, and I’ve noticed an annoying similarity, besides the women saying, “’kay,” when asked if she wants to see the next room. They all “like to entertain.” That is the popular catch phrase. Oh, a walk-in closet is good and a two-sink vanity in the master bath is a real plus, but the kitchen has to be big enough because “we like to entertain.” It’s the latest status-seeking necessity for wanna-be sophisticates.

I don’t think handing out paper towels and paper plates with the Domino’s pizza that was just delivered is the latest definition of “entertaining.” I’m not sure why not though. What could be more fun than sitting on the floor with your best buddies, eating pizza, drinking a beer, and watching a movie? But I don’t think that’s what the couples are talking about on these shows.

They want Martha Stewart-style entertaining. Not that Martha doesn’t have her good points, but she has made a career out of stressing the importance of perfectly pressed napkins and how only stock made from chicken bones should be used in your homemade soup. Fresh flower centerpieces, colorfully matched with the napkins with 5-piece place settings and the proper glasses for tea, water, and red or white wine all became the standard. Oh, and don’t forget the cute name place signs for the ultimate in hostess control.

I admit, that I’m guilty of this attitude, too. Or at least, I used to be. There was a time not so long ago that I would spend weeks planning a party, creating lists and timelines and gathering the perfect serving pieces. Those were huge grocery bills in those days because of course I had to make everything fresh and from scratch—no frozen pizza rolls for my parties. I even breaded and fried my own cheese sticks instead of lowering myself to the ease of frozen.

But sweets, that was where I really went all out: a dense chocolate cake covered in genache, home-made pies (using Martha Stewart’s pie dough recipe, of course), and cookies galore. I would spend at least 3 days mixing, baking, roasting and frying food for a party that would last 3 hours. However, as they say, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t get something out of it. And I did get lots of satisfaction from the compliments and the pride of presentation.

I wasn’t the only one. All of us spouses were around the same age and just coming into our “entertaining years.” We would take turns having parties and trying out new recipes and trying to outdo each other. Martha Stewart was our guru and Food Network our TV Bible.

After awhile, the competition aspect worked it’s way into the planning, and that’s when it stopped being fun. Constantly trying to top the last culinary creation became tiring and ultimately that satisfaction began to wane. I began to get irritated at “having” to make things or have a party. So, like someone having to quit being an addict, I quit cold turkey. No more parties, no more baking cookies for my hubby to take in to work, no Christmas goodies being sent in the mail, and no more buying exotic ingredients that I didn’t know what to do with anyway. Thus, the ending of my “entertaining.”

Until recently, that is. With this new assignment and new job, all of a sudden my anti-social, withdrawn husband has become the host-with-the-most. While I’m thinking of selling a lot of my serving pieces at a garage sale, Al is planning parties. Well, actually, he’s not planning, he’s telling me we should have a party, then I do the planning. But he has opinions about how he wants them to happen now. He has food requests and he’s the one making lists. The lists usually consist of alcohol, but hey, it’s a needed list.

There’s one big difference in our parties now, though. Behold the wonders of the oven! Frozen cheese sticks, frozen quiches, frozen stuffed phyllo thingies, all from oven to table with no fuss and little mess. I even committed the ultimate in making my life easier, instead of cooking burgers and brats on the grill, I went to Famous Dave’s and bought BBQ. They make such good BBQ, why struggle through trying to do it myself when all I have to do is buy a couple of pounds of beef and chicken and put them in crockpots. I even had time to make a couple of my usual goodies—spinach balls and some desserts, plus I had time to get cleaned up and sit around having a beer before everyone started arriving.

And here’s the kicker—I still got compliments on how wonderful everything was. I even gave props to the makers of frozen cheese sticks and Famous Dave, but I got credit for it being such a great idea. And the simplest dessert I make garnered the most praise of anything I’ve done—it was just a trifle dish with layers of angel food cake, smashed strawberries, and Cool Whip. Ah, the easy life.

I wonder, would Martha be proud? Would the fact that I put the already prepared food in pretty Longerberger baskets get me extra presentation points to compensate for my lack of from-scratch cooking? Would the happy kids getting fudge bars from the freezer make up for the Cracker Barrel cheese instead of Brie? Would the laughter and free-flowing single malt compensate for the mix-matched paper plates and plastic utensils? I’d say so.

And despite the fact that I bought this house for resale value, it did turn out to be perfect for entertaining.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Goodnight Sweetheart

I’m so cranky the morning after a sleepless night. I’m kind of cranky in the morning anyway, but even more so when I stay up all night with stream of consciousness never letting up. One night Al told me that I was thinking too loud and it was keeping him awake. Poor dear. Not this night though, he was so tired a train going through the room wouldn't have woken him.

Well, I do have a lot going through my mind. My thoughts kind of went like this:

I’ll be glad when this inspection is over so that Al will relax some and then he can take over some of the worrying I’m doing about the trip to Italy in Oh my God less than 2 weeks. I wish I could figure out what to wear for that trip. The weather is going to be pretty nice, I think, but still warm enough for short-sleeved shirts. I know I have to cover my shoulders in some cathedrals and museums and I think that goes for knees, too. So does that mean I can’t wear the short skirt? Probably. Maybe I should just take a long skirt. Should I wear a skirt at the party Saturday night? The last party we threw, one of the women said she didn’t know she should dress up because I looked dressed up. But I wasn’t. Oh well. Maybe I’d be more comfortable in capris anyway. But that sundress fits better now, but then I really would be over dressed. But Al wants this to be a cookout, which means I’ll be outside most of the time with the food. Usually Al would do that but scotch trumps burgers, so he’ll want to be downstairs educating people on the wonders of the single malt. Except for the kids. The kids. Last time we had a party for Al’s office we had over 40 people come. And that was without kids. It’s not that I mind kids coming, it’s just that they get bored so quickly. Since we don’t have kids, there’s nothing for them to do besides watch movies. How many movies can they watch before they’re bored out of their skulls? Will they even get through one? The last time we had kids around they had more fun throwing things down the laundry chute, then screeching and running down the stairs to the laundry room. Oh shit, if they’re going to be up there again, I really should make sure the sex toys are hidden. That would be embarrassing. Probably shock some people, too. Might even change Al’s call sign, even though he really likes “Single Malt.” I guess the kids could hang out in my craftroom. I could get out stamps and markers and paper and scrapbook stuff. I should probably remove those books on witchcraft. No one would actually ask about them and then wonder about my dark side instead of reading the story I’ve been writing about a family of witches. Not that I’ve done any work on it in a long time. *Sigh*

And on and on and on. Usually at times like that I just get up and watch tv or read. But then there are nights like last night that I just toss and turn and listen to the shades twack against the window frame because the fan is aimed at it. Al slept through it, though. I envy that type of sleep. I usually hit that type around 4 to 6 in the morning.

But I have a new theory. It was the full moon. I’m serious! I’m going to start tracking these nights that I can’t sleep, and I bet they correspond with the phases of the moon. Maybe I could blame my mood swings on it, too.

Well, whatever the reason, I’m tired today and have a very long list of things to do, so I should probably get busy. Although, this couch is awfully comfortable. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a couple of minutessssssssszzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bits and Pieces

We have a wonderful thing here in Omaha called the Intergenerational Orchestra of Omaha. It was started in 1985 by the Office on Aging and brings together musicians of different generations. You can be in the orchestra if you are 50 and older or are 25 and younger. Both learning from each other and playing music—what’s better than that? Their conductor is Chuck Penington, who in addition to all the stars and orchestras he’s worked with, is best known around here as the keyboard artist for “Music of Manheim” and conductor for the Manheim Steamroller Christmas tour.

My friend’s 13-year-old daughter plays violin with this group, and we went to see them a couple of weeks ago. It was called “Pops and Pie,” and was their last concert of the season. They were wonderful, and I got a slice of home-made peach pie. They played Henry Mancini music, so everyone was bobbing their heads to the Peter Gun theme and the Baby Elephant Walk.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, and I’m really a little jealous. What a great opportunity for the kids and what fun for the older people. I’m too young and too old at the same time! Of course, I also don’t play an instrument but that’s beside the point. I can still listen.


We went to a log home show this weekend. We’re not interested in a log home, but we would like to build a timber frame some day. A timber frame still has the warmth of the wood from the frame of the house, which can be exposed as much as you’d like, but it’s not as clunky or chunky or rustic as some log homes can be. Timberpeg was one of the companies there who do a type of “turn key” house, but there were many local companies who were custom builders. One in Missouri still uses the antique hand tools he’s been using for years.

Here’s a picture of a Timberpeg home. Of course, this is pretty elaborate, but you get the idea of the exposed frame.

One of the things we like about this design is that it’s really easy to have an open floor plan. Space! I need my space! Plus, we’re ready for a smaller footprint, which means I want a smaller house so I can get rid of a lot of stuff and can keep it clean easier. Also, when we finally build or buy “the” house that will be our last or at least close to our last house, I want one level.

We need to set a goal for those investments and stuff, and this seems like a pretty darn good one.


We watched Casino Royale this week. I knew Daniel Craig was going to be wonderful, at least IMHO. I know people are very territorial about their Bonds, but I’m not a Bond-fanatic, so I can like him all I want.

And after the scene where the bad guy was trying to get information out of a naked Bond sitting in the chair, Al said, “Well, that’s an interesting torture technique.” I think he was a little pale.

But we both liked it.

Well, that’s enough for today.