Friday, December 31, 2010

new year stuff

Happy New Year to all!

Yes, Jill, I can post my weekly meal plan! Sometimes all you need is an idea. I like having the links to the recipes, too, as I have been known to forget where I put one. I like your ideas for the tortilla soup.

I made a big pot of chili today. I used dried beans and even though they soaked overnight, they aren't softening up. Do beans get old? Regis will do some internet research to solve the mystery. I'd hate to have to throw out all that chili. It's edible but not enjoyable at this point.

Research reveals much controversy about beans. Some theorize that beans get old, some that a cooking method is preferable over another, and some that your altitude makes a difference. So, who knows. We'll keep cooking that chili and see what happens.

One of our friends gave us a bag of Chex mix for Christmas. We each had a tiny bowl of it last night, then I gave it to Peter and told him to hide it in the basement. It's like crack (or probably what I think I know about crack, not having any experience first hand) and I can't have it around.

Our weather situation is still precarious. The radar shows rain just reaching Mankato now so our dinner plans are consequently precarious as well. We don't care. We have alternate plans in case we're foiled by the weather.

Note: It started to spit some little icy pellets that rolled right off the garage roof. Regis said it looks like it will pass quickly and nothing is behind it.

This is the second day in a row that I have been in my nightgown until past noon. Is this a sign of something? Mental deterioration? General malaise? Monday I go back to work and pajamas are generally frowned upon there so this will end.

I just went back and read posts from the end of December and into January for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Pretty much each year ends the same. I spend a couple days right before New Year's Eve in my pajamas, taking naps, and trying to clean up the Christmas mess. I don't make any resolutions but I think about things I might want to do differently in the new year. Not a bad was to transition.

Well, I'm going to take a candle lit bath and think about putting on some sparkle for the day. Yesterday, I wore my sparkley leggings and rhinestone earrings to the coop to buy bread and milk. What the hell. It's December, it's cold and dark, and there are things we could be sad about but over all, it's a rotten world with great peaches.

Happy 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

found this in the do not delete file

I wrote this some time ago and forgot about it. I found it stashed in the do not delete file. It must have been a mental exercise (Oh, yes! Prompted by my internet friend, Karen!)

What I believe…

  1. I believe in the basic goodness of most people.
  2. I believe I was born and I will die. How I spend the days in between is what matters.
  3. I believe in doing something fun every day. That can mean finding fun in the ordinary things I do.
  4. I believe in not doing things I don’t want to do. There are some unpleasant things in life that are necessary to do. I don’t mean those. But I try to avoid things that are done only out of a sense of obligation.
  5. I believe in spending my precious time with people I like and who like me back.
  6. I believe in eating the best food I can afford, the best wine I can afford, and I believe in wearing clothes that sparkle.
  7. I believe I was the best mother I knew how to be to my children but I believe I will always feel sad about things done and not done.
  8. I believe that stories are important.  My stories, everyone’s stories.  And I believe it’s all part of the story.
  9. I believe in the power of words. My experiences aren’t as rich if I can’t share them through words.
  10. I believe in connections between people. If I take the time to visit with people and listen to their stories, we make connections that help us get through and enjoy life.

come to find out

Some things don't sound funny until you write them down, then you think what the hell. That can't be what the expression is, but it is. Come to find out...

Apparently, insurance companies do pay for damage from ice dams. We bought that damn roof rake and spent two hours in roof rake hell for nothing. The next thing will be that all the snow will melt into our basement windows and cause a flood. Yes, we love the four seasons of Minnesota.

We ate the last of the Christmas ham this morning for breakfast. I've had a craving for spicy, Mexican food so we've had quesadillas twice this week and we're making fajitas for dinner tonight. My intent in January is to eat out less and cook at home more.

I'm thinking about the new year. I keep going to a website for the Med City Marathon in Rochester. I'm not really interested in doing it or anything related to it like the half marathon. That training schedule felt oppressive and with my well-developed right brain that avoids pain and unpleasantness, I won't make that mistake again. I like the 5k races but I don't think I want to drive that far to do that. We'll see.

I did decide to start running again in January. The Penguin issued a challenge to move intentionally for 30 minutes a day for 100 days and I can do that.

Regis just replayed the message from the Mankato Clinic that said he should cease and insist trying to send them a text message. You have to see a previous post for that story. That was funny enough but what the message actually said was that he should cease and EXIST.  Cease and exist? WTF. You can't make this stuff up.

I'm trying to make a menu and a grocery list for the first week in January but the ads are still full of holiday food like crackers and chips. I need ideas....should be digging through the old binder. Here we go:

Better get up and do something.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

raking snow off the roof

Raking snow off the roof is way too passive sounding. Raking snow makes you think of those leisurely swipes you take at piles of dry, light maple leaves in the fall. Raking snow off your roof is nothing like that. Raking snow is more like standing in snow up to your hinder, holding a twenty-foot pole as you attempt to drag 20 inches of crusty, heavy snow off a surface 14 feet in the air. There is nothing "rake-like" about this. This is heavy artillery. This is a job for tough guys.

Some ad Regis read said to let gravity do the work. Maybe so if you have 4 inches of fluffy stuff. Gravity wanted nothing to do with this snow.

Not only that, but our damn snow blower is down. So, whatever came off the roof in the massive avalanches had to be shoveled off the sidewalk. It's a miracle we both didn't end up face down in a drift.

On a more positive note, now that we know we can do it, we may have found new careers. I hear guys are getting 200 bucks an hour to clear snow off a roof. That pays better than teaching or tech support.

Note: That looks like our garage and our snow rake and our snow. This is a google picture, though. Neither of us has this Donny Osmund hair.


My mention of a roof rake brought 'em out of the woodwork. We've had so many requests to borrow that dang thing we might start charging rent. (Holding up the joke sign.) I am going to make people sign a contract that says they will not climb onto the roof or climb a ladder while using the roof rake. I don't want to be responsible for the results of that!

Two funny weather-related things this morning. One from The Onion.

And one from the New York Times. (Added note: This article is hilarious. Apparently, sports writers who don't take this all too seriously (and who poke fun of the athletes...) write some very funny crap about sports. I might start reading more just because it's funny. See the reference in this article to LeBron James.)
From an article in the New York Times: "It is a rare moment when a snowstorm-prompted game postponement turns into a referendum on the nation’s level of “wussiness,” but such is the occasion when someone slips a radio microphone near the mouth of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. He unleashed his own unique kind of storm on the N.F.L. for moving his beloved Eagles’ game to Tuesday instead of playing it Sunday in a blizzard. Whether you agree with Rendell’s contention that we’ve become a “nation of wusses,” you do have to admire his rhetorical touches. “If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game?” he railed. “People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”
Doing calculus on the way down? Is this a smack at schools here? If not, what does calculus have to do with canceling a football game or being a wuss? What am I missing? (Regis says he can tell a few good stories about Pennsylvania politicians but I won't repeat them here. You know the reasons.)

I have mounted the NASCAR flag on my car. So far no taunts, no offers of a Bud Light, no sudden appearance of a mullet hair cut on either of us. Good thing. It's a safety feature, friends, not an endorsement of a sport!

I'm reading Anthony Bourdain's new book called Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. I like it a lot but it's irreverent (to say the least) so don't buy it
for your Lutheran aunts who like to make cookies. It isn't that kind of cooking book. He swears a lot, talks about his checkered past, and is very critical of the food network. None of that bothers me and I enjoy his writing style.

I've spent some time looking at blogs the last few days. Many of them have themes like healthy cooking, zen habits, weight loss, gardening. I have no theme and have no plans to get a theme. Writing here is just my mental exercise and a way to reflect on the things we do and think. That's it. Spellbound by our own imperfect lives.

Happy mid-week. If you have places to go, you better go there today. The weather looks bleak the next few days with freezing rain, ice pellets, snow. Hunker down and be safe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

errands and eating out

We started the day with breakfast at Whiskey River for Joanne's birthday. Regis took out picture and we watched the wild turkeys come out of the woods on a little path. Someone said it's like the have a highway up to the feeders.

You can't see them in the picture because I was undercover, but I had on the shiniest pair of purple leggings you have ever seen. I wore a long coat in and didn't march around for fear of giving some old gentleman a heart attack. The theme of this Christmas season has been: More sparkle in 2011. I thought it was an appropriate outfit to celebrate Joanne's birthday.

Regis and I headed to Mankato at 11:00. I had a date with the consignment shop lady to look at some of my outgrown clothes. I've given many away to the thrift store, some very favorite pieces away to friends, but this is what was left. I was glad to get it out of my house. What doesn't sell by March, they will donate.

We made a spin up to Kohl's and TJ Maxx. I was sort of dazed by the crowds and the stuff so mostly just wandered around. Regis is a patient shopper and will drop me at the door, wait in the car until he sees me emerge, then swoop in to pick me up. I saw lots (and I mean lots) of faux fur very cheap. I used remarkable restraint and didn't buy one thing. How much faux fur does a girl need?

We stopped at Pappageorge to confirm a reservation for New Year's Eve and each had a salad. We've gotten to be regulars so they know us and come to visit when we stop in. NYE is weather permitting, of course. The prediction is for rain turning to icy rain turning to snow over the next few days. Lovely.

Regis bought a roof rake today. This is a 20-foot implement to remove snow from your roof. I thought we should just take our chances but I was informed today that a guy's household insurance won't cover things that are benign neglect. Meaning that we should take the snow off the roof. In Minnesota? Really? Maybe they should build our roofs at a steeper pitch so the snow just rolls off so it doesn't collect there.

We also had to find a spark plug for our snow blower which has gotten a hell of a workout this winter. It took a stop at the hardware store and an auto parts store. I didn't go into the auto parts store. I don't know why, I just didn't. It must be like the avoidance Regis has for Victoria's Secret. Now that's funny.

I did go into an auto parts store once. The guy who cleaned my car out after I left all four of the windows open the night we got two inches of rain said normally he only took appointments but this qualified as an emergency so he would get me right in. He did an amazing job on the car and it never smelled wet or moldy. But...he gave me royal hell for not having floor mats. This would be funnier if you could see the building he used. It was like a damn bat cave. Filthy and wet and the coffee pot looked like it hadn't been cleaned in thirty years. And he's giving me crap for not using floor mats?

I was intimidated, though, and drove right down to the auto parts store to get some floor mats. I explained the guy's tirade and they nodded knowingly. Maybe they were in cahoots.

I was looking for an image with the terms "royal hell" and found this. Not at all what I wanted but funny just the same.

On further investigation, this is some dude's blog. He uses the sh*t word a lot but always spells it with an asterisk. Good thing he doesn't live in Milwaukee. That would be a big ass fine.

I signed up for a TRX class tomorrow. This is the torture device described in a previous post. What was i thinking? I did look at the list of participants...signed my name...crossed my name out...wrote it in a different class...crossed that out...went back to the original class. I'm not sure I can explain the logic.

So, here is my retribution for making fun of the end-of-the-year news summaries. This is from the Herald:
Teresa Saum, Tammi Skinner, Peggy Carlson and others with the St. Peter Eats group will find a way to transform the river to a beautiful aqua blue salt water ecosystem and then harvest lobster and crab for the healthy recipes they will suggest all year in 2011.
I think this is meant to be funny. Like the website that describes Mankato as:
the underwater city, the pyramid and maybe do some whale watching. But when they arrived at their motel, they found no one knew about these and dozens of other attractions that the Web site at claims Mankato offers.
Tomorrow, we go forward. We have fun. We go see True Grit. Regis gets trained by AARP to help old people do their taxes. I exercise. We meet for coffee. Jan cleans our house. It will be a good day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

my least favorite news week of the year

I loathe the news and avoid it most of the time. I read (look at) the Tribune every day and I check out the Free Press online to make sure nobody I know has died or that some really big thing hasn't gone down about which I should know, avoiding ending a sentence with a preposition. Enough gets in that I don't appear to be a complete dolt, although maybe I do and nobody has told me.

Most of what I see there, I can do just fine without knowing. This morning's headlines: tour bus crash in Egypt, pawn shop robbery, octomom eviction, and snowstorms in the East. I read less and less of it all the time and I'm mentally healthier for it. Unless the bad guy is coming down my street, I don't want to read it.

So, this week, apparently with a shortage of other dismal news, the papers have to publish, or re-publish, their best news stories of the year. Oh, good. Let's just splash that crap all over the front page one more time. No, at the end of the decade, there it will be for a third time. Am I the only one puzzled by this?

Regis and I have a week planned. Some fun, some productivity. He is going to hit the job search sites hard every day. He declined the interview at the major cell phone company because it was a customer service job in a huge call center. Been there and suffered that. I said he didn't go to school for 18 months to go back to that kind of hell.

I am going to pick up a lot of the Christmas flotsam and jetsam. I will leave the tree up because I love the lights into January. Last year, it stayed up until past St. Patrick's Day, just with different lights and decorations. check out the blog posts for those seasons to see the proof.

I have a couple of computer projects, too. I want to scan some of my grandma's old photographs from her youth. Regis and I looked at them last night and while I can't identify most of the people, the settings and the times are fascinating. We'll see how far I get with that.

The weather looks problematic for much travel. Rain and freezing rain starting Wednesday. That could foil our quiet New Year's Eve plans. We have reservations at our favorite restaurant in Mankato with some friends but we won't leave town if the roads are icy. Who needs that stimulation?

One of the interesting thing about all of this social media is this: I can't always remember how things get into my head or how they get disseminated. This device of torture, for example. It's called a TRX exercise system and I've been using it in my workouts with Rachel. I remember writing about it somewhere but was it here...or on Facebook? (Not twitter because I can't find a use for that...)

Regis was talking about LeBron James the other day. Wait, wait...I know something about this. He's a basketball player who transferred from one team to another and angered the home folks. This is not the type of knowledge I would typically possess. How did it get in there? I thought at first, it was one blog (sweet juniper) but then remembered it was another blog (refuse to regain). Neither of them were very likely sources of this tidbit, but there you have it. It's life on the information superhighway.

I love how google finds illustrations for almost any crazy thought I have. Amazing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

the festivities

A good time was had by all. Kids started arriving about 2:00. Little ones were napless which made for a long afternoon for some. They loved their toys and seemed to enjoy cruising the food table. Vickie joined us later in the day for a glass of wine and some cheer. We were all tired by the end of it.

Regis and I did the bare minimum of clean up after everyone left which means there is a mess this morning. We're going to have a cup of coffee in front of the fireplace before we tackle it.

As always, way too much food. I don't know how a guy plans something like this with a better idea of how much will actually be eaten. We could have had ten more people here and still had food left.

We have a quiet day planned. We're going to clean up the house this morning, take a nap this afternoon, then join up with Reg and Amber and Vickie for some Christmas evening fun.

Thanks to all, friends and family, who have been a part of our lives in the last year and helped us celebrate the season yesterday.

Friday, December 24, 2010

christmas eve morning

My first thought when I woke up this morning: I can't do this! There are too many things undone. But then I got a hold of myself and now I'm fine.

Ella spent the night. I picked her up on my way home from school. We hadn't planned dinner and she wanted to go to Patrick's so down we trudged for a Cha Cha basket and a flatbread pizza. Young Regis and his friend, Don, met us there.

I made meatballs when we got home. Regis browned them while I made the balls. I have an aversion to those frozen rubber things that look like faux meat. These are made from beef from the farm and ground pork. They will have a cream sauce made with real cream.

We put a little blow-up bed beside our bed for Ella but after a few minutes of "trying that out", she wanted to get in beside me. She is still sleeping soundly.

I woke up at 5 and looked around to see what I could do that didn't make a lot of noise. I chopped apples for apple sauce. The little kids love that warm chunky and cinnamony apple sauce.

Regis is going to help me bring in the big table from the garage. Things will be crowded in here but our guest list decreased by four just yesterday so it will be fine. I love lots of people to come and we'll miss the folks who won't be here.

I wish I had a day to cook before the festivities but not this year.

Somebody has to make one more trip to the stores. I want to make a Jack Daniels glaze for the ham and so I have to have Jack Daniels bourbon. Also need small buns for the ham. I can't believe how many trips to the grocery store this entails. I'm an organized cook and there are still lots of last minute things.

Here I go. A few more quiet chores before Ella wakes up. She brought two velvet dresses in case we want to be fancy and I'm sure we will.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

a merry and a happy

Not sure how much time I'll get to blog tomorrow so I'll wish everyone a merry Christmas right now. Ella is coming over after school and there is lots of cooking and preparing to be done. We'll set up the big table with lots of pretty holiday dishes and wine glasses and chocolates and cookies. Ella will sleep on her little blow-up bed at the foot of our big bed. Tomorrow is Christmas! Enjoy the day with friends and family! More words and pictures as things transpire!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

winter solstice


The official start of winter was last night at 5:38. We recognized it by making a boatload of peanut butter cookies with Reese's cups in the middle and a batch of Swedish butter cookies. That's about all the baking I'll do. Here's to winter.

I realized the other day that I have enjoyed the holidays a lot more since I learned that it's a process and not a day. I used to get so rattled by all the preparation that I was exhausted by the time Christmas really arrived. Now I try to do the things I enjoy and just let the days roll by with no sense of urgency. I'm much happier that way. What gets done, gets done.

Ella is coming to spend the night Thursday. She has a little blow-up bed that we'll put in the bedroom with us. We're going to make meatballs and a cheesecake and some other treats for Friday. She likes to cook and is a pretty good helper. Regis taught her to play tic-tac-toe so I'm sure they'll get a few games of that in during the evening.

I'm looking for a flag that I can attach to my car so people can see me coming behind the snow banks. When I come to an intersection, I can only hope that any cars coming are taller than the snow piles. It's treacherous out there. When I had the idea, I actually thought for a moment that I had invented something but then I remembered all those sports flags that I see on cars. I suppose that's the only design a guy can find.

Regis is ordering me a car window flag. The least offensive design he found is this one. Ah, well. I guess they don't make car window flags for poets or folk singers. A Bob Dylan car window flag? An Emily Dickinson car window flag? This one should be very visible and that's all I care about, really.

Monday, December 20, 2010

monday rolls around again with lots of dairy products

Seriously. Where do the weekends go? It seems like we just get started and wham the weekend is over. It's a tease. Or a time warp.

We had another fun family dinner last night. Tiffany and Elliot came about 4:00. We had spaghetti and meatballs with focaccia bread. Elliot ate like a champ and hardly made a mess. He was occupied most of the evening by a big piece of paper we laid over his little picnic table and some crayons. He can say "color". He also likes the magnets on the refrigerator and spends a lot of time taking them off and putting them back on. He was not so interested in wearing the Santa hat as his patience was about up with our shenanigans.

I've had a cold for five days that makes my eyes run like a faucet. I have wiped them so much that I have red rings around them and I look like a raccoon. The Mary Kay night cream I keep smeared around them doesn't help the look much either. And you thought it was the wine, I bet.

Ella and Alex are coming over after school today. We're going for a drive to see the Christmas lights and then having dinner at Patrick's. We're going to teach Alex how to say Cha Cha basket which is Ella's favorite dinner in the world. It contains chicken strips, tator tots, and a pink lemonade. All four major food groups.

I just poured my second cup of coffee and it's 3:40 am. I added the last of a carton of heavy cream that I bought for something else but we have used in our coffee since that whatever was done. We love cream or half & half in our coffee but generally don't buy it to have at home. If we're out and about for coffee, we use cream (not that powdered stuff which is an abomination) but at home we drink our coffee black....except for between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then it's no holds barred on the dairy products.

We go through a lot of butter over the holidays. I buy Hope butter for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hope butter, as I have written here before, is truly nectar of the Gods. When the guy in the store first offered me a sample of it, I, and several other women samplers, went weak in the knees. It's expensive and delicious and really makes even good bread just a vehicle for getting it to your mouth.

I am a hedonist when it comes to dairy products; no faux dairy enters my door. Real butter, real cream, real sour cream. Full fat. I whip heavy cream from a carton in a bowl. That fake stuff that comes frozen in a plastic container should be against the law and probably is in some states like Wisconsin. Why eat something that tastes that bad?

I was just thinking about the opposite of hedonism (don't most people who are awake at this hour?). Here it is: asceticism. Here's what it means:

  • the doctrine that through renunciation of worldly pleasures it is possible to achieve a high spiritual or intellectual state
  • austerity: the trait of great self-denial (especially refraining from worldly pleasures)
  • rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint

Yeah, most of the time, this is not our doctrine. Rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint. Ha! I hope neither of our doctors read this blog. After the holidays, it's back to black coffee.

In case you're not from around here, it's 18 degrees this morning which feels like a heat wave. We have a 100% chance of snow and I don't mind but people who have been shoveling constantly for two weeks are starting to get a little edgy. The Winter Solstice is at 5:38 pm and I think we'll raise a glass to the start of winter.

I had to go back and edit this post. I was using Ha and a lot of ! marks. What do you think that means?

I'm going to work out with Rachel at 5 so you see I am not a complete hedonist. Happy Monday. No ! mark. Just a period.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

snow snow and more snow

another Regis dream

Regis and I were in a spaceship being chased through the Galaxy by slow mutants. We landed in a prison where the guards wore basket-woven zoot suits and pointy-billed fedoras. I love the detail in his dreams.

My dreams are more like this:

An amorphous blob of bad guy stuff chasing me. Rarely any detail.

I think I have a boot addiction. I bought another pair of boots in the middle of the night. I wonder if there is a self-help group for this. I have slowed way down on the purchase of clothes but I can't seem to say no to boots. Good thing I know where to find a good deal thanks to Mom.

I have a busy day planned: exercise, shopping for Christmas gifts, make English toffee. That should about take the day.

Hey, the moon in the middle of the night was absolutely gorgeous. The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave a luster of midday to objects below. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh filled with beer. Regis made up that last part. Ha!

weird stuff

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
- Mark Twain in Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1898
That explains a lot, now doesn't it?

The other day, a card came in the mail from the PO. It said this: Notice to mailer of address correction. I puzzled over it for days. What did it mean? It was telling me that the address of the Herald was not Box whatever but 311 S. Minnesota Avenue. And I owed 50 cents postage due. What the hell. The Herald has been, as Regis pointed out, in the same building for 150 years. Governor Johnson worked in that building. Should I tape two quarters to the card and drop it back in the mailbox?

Out on Highway 22, there is a monster billboard that just proclaims, in large black letters: JESUS. A friend of mine told me that his five year old son thought that Jesus was a convenience store. Well, the rest of the billboards are for things like gas stations and restaurants and...stores.

I woke up at 3 a.m. again. I'm sitting here with a piece of peanut butter toast, trying to make my plan for the day. Should I exercise at 7:00? Should I go downtown and do a little last-minute shopping? Should I bake something?

I think I have to go back to bed for a while.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

writing has been my salvation

Writing must be my salvation this winter. I can sit for hours over a piece of writing. Write, edit, write, think, write, edit. I’m sure it shows…such high quality verbiage.

I wake up in the middle of the night and want to go out to my computer to write. Last night when I woke, I knew that was a bad idea so I took a half a trazadone (a medication used to treat insomnia, depression, and schizophrenia) instead and went back to sleep. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from insomnia and not schizophrenia.

I think part of my waking problem has been Regis’s absence with his cold and his finals. He’s been distant and preoccupied. I understand completely but I miss him and feel lonely and miserable without him. I hope after his finals today and with his improving health, we can connect again.

We’re trying to make a decision about refinancing our house. We’re both awful at financial things so we feel completely out of our league. This requires planning ahead and knowledge about financial affairs of which we have none, not being readers of the Wall Street Journal. We have managed, for the most part, to be debt-free, a state of affairs for which we are humbly grateful to Howard, but we’re grasshoppers, not ants.

Our plan to have kids for dinner prior to Christmas has been going well. Peter came last night and we had a wonderful time. He would probably say, understating, that it was fine, but not wonderful. One of the joys of getting older is that you need far less to consider things wonderful. Not falling down on your way into work is wonderful. A good meal is wonderful. Having warm feet is wonderful. It doesn’t take much.

I left a gift on the table for Jan this morning. She comes twice a month to clean for us because I’m a random and awful cleaner and she does a much better job. She actually moves things when she cleans the kitchen floor. I didn’t know, or acted like I didn’t know, that was supposed to happen in the cleaning process. I used the Swiffer thing on the parts I could reach from the middle of the room. (I’m not as bad a housekeeper as Iris, though, and that consoles me.)

I bought Jan a book called You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness. She raises Boston Terriers and loves dogs. She was a good friend to Kramer in the last couple years, always bringing him a treat. He loved her back, always very excited to see her. One of the last times she saw him, she cried when he had trouble with his legs on the linoleum. Bless her heart.


I’ve been talking to my Cousin Deb about our love of all things shiny and sparkly. She wondered if it is about getting attention. Rhinestones and flash. I’m not sure about that since I’m not sure the attention is always all that good…what I get from my rhinestones. More like a strange curiosity. What is this woman doing sporting all that cheap jewelry? I wonder if it isn’t more about the dark. Sparkly things light up the dark.

We’re under another winter storm warning. This time it’s for 5-8 inches of snow with blowing snow and poor visibility. I don’t see any mention of sub-zero temperatures which will be a blessing. Well, one of those good news/bad news kind of things.

No school today. I had Regis go out and measure the snow on the bird feeder which I cleaned off yesterday when I came home. Looks like about 8 inches as of an hour ago.

another family dinner

Bob and Emily, Alex and Ella came to our house for dinner last night. We made a big old beef roast in the crock pot and I roasted potatoes and carrots in the oven. I haven't been doing any baking so we had store bought treats for dessert. Peter came last night for beef stew with dumplings. We made a Guinness cake for his school project and got so busy we forgot about the Santa hat picture. Tiffany and Elliot will come on Sunday for spaghetti and meatballs. It's been fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

weary of feeling cold and tired: cease and insist

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. which is not generally good for a guy's mental health. I made it through the day in fine shape, did what I needed to do, bought some groceries after work, made dinner and a Guinness cake for Peter, but now feel fragile. Fragile and near to tears. I need to go to bed, but at (damn, another edit) an hour that won't mean I wake up in the middle of the night again.

Regis had a dream the other night that people were being sent around to their destinations like Linux code. I don't even know what that means but he described it like they were being shoved into brass tubes and shuttled into space. When I was young, I would visit my grandma in Marshall. To wile away time while she was at work, I would go to the hardware store where they had a monkey in a cage (imagine) but the thing that interested me almost more than that was the wire that went from the till to the office on the second floor. When they needed change at the till, they put a twenty in the brass tube and sent it via wire, zinging up to the second floor. Meanwhile, the monkey flung his poop around the first floor. See, there was a connection.

Regis had a weird cell phone problem today. He got a call from the clinic switchboard in Mankato. He apparently was sending persistent text messages to their switchboard and they requested that he cease and insist. What the hell. He checked the Verizon account and sure enough, in the last week he had sent and received more than 4,000 texts to that number. No wonder they wanted him to cease and insist.

Edit: I probably didn't make clear that we know "cease and insist" is not what she should have said. Desist. Regis should have said, "I insist that your customer service agents are literate."

Well, as you can imagine, this required many hours on the cell phone with customer service. Some agents even suggested that he may have sent those 4,000 texts. They don't seem to get that we are 58 years old and to send that many texts would require way more finger dexterity than we have. Holy hell. The cyber world is a strange place.

I have encouraged Regis to write his dream into a science fiction story. He dreams about people he knew in kindergarten that he would never be able to recall in his waking hours.

Damn. Life is hard sometimes.

waking early on a cold winter morning

I woke up at 2:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I have a few cold symptoms so I'm worried that I did not, as I hoped, dodge the bullet of the illness Regis has been suffering from for four days. I'm going to spend the day activating my endorphins.

I checked weather underground this morning and the temperature is -6, forecast to be 9 degrees today. And they add: Much warmer than yesterday! It's a damn heat wave, I tell ya!

Vickie had a little party after school yesterday which would have been great fun except that we were all so nervous about getting into her house over the icy walks and so nervous about getting home on the treacherous roads that it might as well have been a drive-by party. Pull into the driveway, have a glass of wine in the car, and go home. The weather has not been conducive to Christmas parties.

Does anybody else feel like their skin is ready to flake off? Between the hand sanitizer, frequent hand washing, and the sub-zero temperatures, I'm not sure which is harder on a guy's skin.

Regis and I watched the HD version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer last night. I'm not sure HD is a good thing for an old movie with such horrible animation. The characters look like something you made in 5th grade with a scrap of fabric and some stuffing and the Burl Ives snowman has these awful beady eyes. Kind of creepy. It was better in black and white.

Activating endorphins. Activating endorphins. Activating endorphins.

Monday, December 13, 2010

snowstorm small blessings and a few smackdowns

My friend, Paul, was in Dallas for a professional meeting on Friday when I talked to him. I'm flying home tomorrow, he said. Hmmm, I doubt it, I said. Got a Facebook message yesterday that he was stranded in Dallas due to our snowstorm and wouldn't be home for 48 hours. Ugh. Even a pleasant hotel gets old after that many days. Not good.

I think the people who do snow removal as a business are having a bumper year. And the folks who sell snow mobiles, snow shoes, parkas, and ice scrapers. Good for them!

Not so much the people in the restaurant business who rely on Christmas events like Christmas in Christ Chapel and The Nutcracker to bring in crowds. Not so good for them.

Young Regis finally heeded his father's advice and bought a snowblower. He's been shoveling the driveway at their new home but Dad figured this was going to be a back-breaking storm so Reg and Amber headed out Friday to buy a snow blower. They came home with a nice one so good for them.

School is two hours late this morning which means, even though I got up at 4 a.m. to exercise at 5, I get to spend a little more time sitting in front of the fireplace this morning. I'll be drinking plenty of coffee, having a piece of walnut bread with peanut butter, and planning the layers of clothing to wear to school. I could do something constructive like the dishes or the laundry, but then again, maybe not. Anybody who has ever gone to school or worked in one, knows that a two hour late start is a small blessing. Good for me.

Yesterday when I dropped Tiffany off after the Nutcracker, I saw her car was piled with snow. She said it had very little gas in it so they wouldn't be able to warm it up for long. I said she should send Eric out with a shovel and she said, and I quote, "We don't have a shovel." I stared slack-jawed. How could this child, raised in Minnesota, not have a snow shovel? Then I remembered when I was her age and my grandma made me stop at the hardware store on my way back to college to buy a snow shovel. Arrghghghg!!!!!

I've been listening to the Moth stories in the morning when I exercise. Some are better than others but most are wonderful. Today, I listened to one by Joyce Maynard. She wanted to raise her children so they only experienced the wonderful side of life and never any pain but what she concluded was that her job was to raise them so they were strong enough to handle pain. It's impossible to avoid. I don't know if it was her words or her voice, but it was powerful. And so much better than the news.

We have a busy week planned so I better get about it. Regis is finishing his last semester of school this week. Peter is coming for dinner and to make a Guinness cake on Tuesday. Bob and Emily are coming for dinner Wednesday. I want to take Ella out to see the Christmas lights some night when it isn't 20 below zero.

On to the week, my friends! Stay warm!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

cleaning up after the storm

It's a beautiful day out there today! Regis and Young Regis are out cleaning up the driveway and sidewalks and I'm sitting in here snug and warm. Looks like we'll be able to make it to the Nutcracker so I'm happy about that.

jingle bell jam

The weather was frightful so we held the jingle bell jam on the treadmill in the basement instead of driving to New Ulm. I wore the Grinch Santa hat, several strands of jingle bells, and a string of battery operated lights and walked four miles (the official distance) in 59 minutes.

faux fur and blizzard pictures and bread baking

 Here I am in my new faux beaver coat. I'm in the backyard during the blizzard. This is what I do during blizzards: nothing of much consequence. Some people might look at it as a chance to clean the basement but I look at it as a day with no obligations. It's like someone plucked it off the calendar and said here you go do whatever you feel like doing.

Here's the bookshelf behind the love seat in our dining room. It's really not the room where we dine because I moved that into the living room. The dining table is at one end of the room and the television, which we don't watch very often, is at the other end. It was part of my design to use the parts of the house for things we do frequently instead of having rooms we never used.  It made sense in my head when I first thought of it, and for the most part, it serves us well. Anyway, aren't the bookshelves of other people interesting?

This is our Christmas tree. Regis used the star filter to get that effect. Isn't it beautiful? It isn't real but we like it. The last time we had a real tree, the leaky tree stand left a hundred dollar spot on the rug. This is better.  Regis would like it if we had tinsel and shiny garland but I don't think you can even buy that stuff anymore. We were laughing the other day about that spray snow we used to put on the windows. I bet that was a mess to clean up, Mom!

I made a loaf of bread yesterday to have with the bean and ham soup I made from the Easter ham bone. The soup was delicious and so was the bread. The recipe is from this cookbook:

Heck, I found the recipe so here it is!
Chunks of roasted walnut mixed with white and whole-wheat flours, a poolish, water, salt and yeast; such simple ingredients. Such stunning results. A round free-form loaf, deep mahogany in color, with slashes around the edges and a rich chewy taste--it's heaven with butter and one of our favorites. We use organic flours and pure spring water for best results.
For Poolish:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon bread machine yeast
1/2 cup bread flour
1/4 cup organic whole-wheat flour
For Dough:
2 cups walnut pieces
1-1/8 cups water
1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast
1-3/4 cups bread flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup medium rye flour or meal
1 teaspoon salt
cornmeal for dusting the top
FOR POOLISH: In the bread machine on the dough setting by combining the water with the yeast and flours. Let the poolish sit in the machine from 2 to 10 hours before completing the bread.
FOR DOUGH: While the poolish is standing, toast the walnuts in the oven or a toaster oven. Arrange the walnut pieces on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degrees F oven until lightly toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir a time or two and taste to see when they begin to taste toasted. Don't burn them. Transfer the nuts to a cool plate and refrigerate until baking time.
When you're ready to make the bread, add the nuts, water, yeast, flours, and salt to the bread machine pan with the poolish and process on the dough setting again.
Once the cycle is completed, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough and form into a tight ball. Cover with the bread machine pan and let it rest for 30 minutes. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand into an 8x10-inch rectangle. Form into a round loaf.
Place the loaf on a peel generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap or a clean towel and set it aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk. Preheat the oven with a baking stone in place on the middle rack to 400°F for 30 minutes. Just before baking, slash 4 straight lines around the edges of the loaf, forming a box design. Give the peel a trial shake before opening the oven.
Bake on the stone in the preheated oven until the crust is a deep mahogany color and the bread is done through, about 40 minutes. Spritz the oven 6 or 7 times with plain water during the first ten minutes of baking. Cool on a rack. Store in a paper bag.

This is me fussing with the Christmas tree. I have on red and white striped tights and a pair of red felt reindeer antlers. Oh, and lots of Christmas jewelry and rhinestones. This is just to march around my house baking bread and making soup. Someone asked me once if I don't ever just wear sweat pants. The answer, I guess, would be no.

Ella helped decorate our tree this year. She loves to unwrap the ornaments and find a place to hang them. We brought out the kitchen stool and she climbed up and down to get ornaments in the right places.

We're hoping we can get to the Nutcracker this afternoon. It doesn't look like a snow plow has been down our street yet so that makes it dicey. Even if the main roads are open, you have to get to them. We have a floater ticket, purchased for Betty who changed her mind, transferred to Joanne who can't make it because of weather, and now we'll see.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

plan for the day

  1. Already made a blue cheese and bacon omelet.
  2. Did the dishes from last night's pizza dinner.
  3. Spent an hour internet shopping for Ella, Alex, and Elliot.
  4. Watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this afternoon.
  5. Do the Jingle Bell Jam 4-mile run on the treadmill in the basement.
  6. Watch the snow fly.
  7. Feed the birds and squirrels.
  8. Take a picture of my new faux beaver coat.
  9. Make bean soup.
  10. Write our Christmas letter.
  11. Take pictures of the snowstorm.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

went to bed early for an attitude adjustment

At 6:30 last night, I announced that I was going to bed to read. Regis knew better. I cranked up the electric mattress pad, put on my warm pajamas, and crawled into bed with a magazine. I think I made it twenty minutes. I was afraid I would wake up at 10 and wonder what day it was but I slept right through until 4:00. A good night's sleep is so nice...and so rare anymore.

It's warmer today and that will help, too.

I wanted to welcome Jill and Larry back to solid ground. They've been on a cruise to the Panama Canal for two weeks, or on the Big Boat as Miles calls it. She's been posting pictures and stories on her blog and I love it. I'm not much of a traveler but I enjoy very much hearing about the travels of other folks.

I got a Christmas card from a high school friend who talks about a two week trip to Antarctica. Now that's a big trip, too. Penguins, polar bears, seals, lots of snow and cold. Except for the wildlife...a lot like here.

I have a traveling day at work again today. I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I can sit at my desk in one place all day with my little blinking snowman and Christmas tree on my desk. Yesterday I turned off the overhead light and sat in the dark for a while with only the desk lamp on. And Miles Davis. It was calming.

Here we go into the day.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

arrghghgh the weather

I made the mistake of reading the weather forecast tonight. So much better than hearing the alarmist weather people go on and on about it but alarming just the same. In the next few days, they are predicting freezing drizzle, snow up to four inches, high winds, and plummeting temperatures which means very cold wind chills. Oh, for God's sake. Who needs this? I am all for the change of seasons but really... Siberia? I can't stand it.

Mom says I should stop paying attention to weather forecasters. She is probably right.

On top of that we have been monitoring files at work which is a lot like giving birth and having a root canal at the same time. You're so glad when it's over but you never want to repeat it. Bad ass stuff.

I have all the lights on tonight and I have a glass of wine. It's not helping. Now what?

Regis is in the midst of finals for his two classes, one of which is networking. He says it's like giving birth and having a root canal at the same time. We're in trouble now.

I have been making it to the Pulse to exercise. I have to get up before 4 a.m. and drink coffee and warm up the car before I have the courage to go outside. Once I'm there. I'm pretty much fine but I'll tell you this. I have a different body temperature than some of those people. I go in long pants, boots, a thermal shirt, and a fleece jacket. And that's what I work out in except that I change my boots to shoes. Some of those women oh my God wear shorts and tank tops and blow a fan on themselves. I have gloves in my pockets in case I need them. Do I need to eat more lefse? Do they need to eat less lard? What gives?

And another problem. These are people who apparently like a different kind of news than I like. I thought the regular cable news about recent robberies and murders was bad. How about E with news of some young actress whose name I don't remember having a face lift or going to rehab? How about ESPN with news of some basketball player doing something illegal and having to forfeit his multi-million dollar home? I'd rather watch cartoons. I do everything I can to block it out. Ugh. Who needs that shit in their head?

I went to Gordman's last night with my friend Vickie. We went in search of bling. Rhinestones. She bought some beautiful jewelry there and offered to take me shopping. I bought earrings, a necklace, a couple bracelets, and an ostentatious ring. Less than fifty bucks. I love it. It sparkles. A guy said to me today that his grandma loved rhinestones and he knew they could be expensive. I said not this, pal. I like a good deal. Anybody with rhinestones they don't want...send 'em my way. I'll wear them gladly.

We're having chili and parmesan chicken strips for dinner. Smells delicious. Come on over, Gayle!

Stay warm, friends! Leave a trail of breadcrumbs when you take the trash out.

Monday, December 06, 2010

this is my favorite time to write

I came home very late from school, when it was almost dark, and I'm tired. We made dinner and I cleaned up that mess and the apples in the dehydrator. Now, I sit in front of the fireplace with a glass of pinot grigio. I have nothing to say but it's my favorite time to write.

When I taught writing classes, I always said that the days you least feel like writing are the most important ones to write. Things percolate around in your brain and eventually (most days) something travels through your brain, down your arm, and out the end of your fingers. You don't know what you're thinking until you write it.

My work has been stressful this year. I feel grossly incompetent in almost every area and I don't know why but it's painful. I think it's because I travel so much and I'm an inch deep and a mile wide. That's a bad analogy but what I mean is that I know a tiny bit about a lot of things but I don't know anything very well. I'm not anywhere long enough to know the whole scoop. It's wearying. Words swirl around my head like black birds in the fall. I can't identify acronyms anymore. Curriculum studies? PLCs? Selling the orange peel? Am I mixing metaphors? I've come a long way from teaching writing and I'm quite sure I'm not happy about it. I guess that's life and it sucks.

I think I finally have enough lights up to chase the zombies away. I have lights everywhere. I filled a glass cookie jar with lights and ran the cord out between the jar and the lid. I filled a giant Coke bottle up with lights and plopped the flowers in on top of them. I have lights everywhere as I think you should in the winter.

We had nine hours of daylight today which is barely enough time to get to work and home in the light. It's only going to get worse, folks, so hang on to your flashlights and your wine bottles.

We're having each of our kids over for a night's dinner before Christmas. The holidays get so rushed and we hardly have time to visit when they're all here at the same time. I am not promising anything fancy and maybe some of them will get a pizza delivery but it will be nice. One of them wanted to know what the deal was with the separate dinners. I told Regis he should have said we're giving them all big checks and we don't want them comparing amounts on Christmas Eve. Holding up the joke sign. Hahahahaha!!!!

My skin already feels like I've done an ultra marathon across Death Valley. I'm reading a book about a guy who did that and he's insane. Certifiable. Nothing courageous about it. Just plain nuts.

Regis made a trip to the grocery store with a long list today. We hadn't bought groceries since before Thanksgiving and our refrigerator showed it. No eggs. No bread. No milk. Good to have a well-stocked larder again. He also went to Aldi's which we kind of like when we don't see a guy with the world's worst mullet eating cold wieners out of the trunk of his car. We love their coffee and their dark European chocolate and their dried fruit. We can make a meal out of wine, dried fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate. That's all the food groups, right?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

for Karen

Back row, left to right: Peter, Glen (family friend), Regis Jr., Robert
Next row, left to right: Me holding Elliot, Tiffany, Amber holding Ella, Betty (family friend) and Tom is over her right shoulder, Regis on the loveseat
Front row: Emily holding Alex

weekend half gone

We've had a nice weekend, so far. I went to exercise yesterday, picked up Ella on my way home, we decorated the Christmas tree, went to Patrick's for lunch and watched the fish house parade. Our float concept would have been a hit so we're already planning for next year.

This last car was our favorite. The license plates are from South Dakota. Not sure if they meant to be in the parade or not but they were such good sports. They all wore Santa hats and the windows were rolled down so we could hear the Christmas music. Beyond this, there was not a lot of imagination or humor in the fish house parade.

Regis and I went out for a quiet dinner last night and ran into some old friends. We had a good time at Pappageorge with Ann and Brad, then stopped at Patrick's on our way home. The band, the New Primitives, is one of my favorites so pretty soon it was dancing time. Two young women who were not born in this country, Teresa and Christina (twins) were fairly inebriated and they decided I was their spiritual mother or something. The band was fun but we got out of there before the crowds came and I was kidnapped by the drunk girls.

They had an ugly sweater contest at the bar last night. There were lots of ugly Christmas sweaters but you were afraid to mention it in case it was just a sweater somebody wore.

The temperature is zero. Zero. What the hell. It's going to be a cold week, Miles, so keep your long johns handy.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

more things to be thankful for

  1. Birds. Here I am in a pair of red velvet reindeer antlers with jingle bells on, feeding the birds. We had two pair of cardinals at the feeders yesterday. They were so beautiful against the white snow in the dusk. It takes your breath away. Regis took the picture through the window and the white lights are the reflection of our Christmas tree lights. 
  2. Fun today. Ella is coming over to decorate our tree then we're going to the fish house parade and maybe downtown to see Santa.
  3. Boots. I have been on a boot kick for the last year. When I was ahem, fatter, I always wanted to wearboots but my calves were too big. Now that I can fit my strong legs into boots, they're all I want to wear. I like a good deal, though, so I shop the clearance area of and this is my latest purchase. They're Carlos Santana snakeskin/leather boots. They were 180 bucks originally (yeah, I don't know where...) but I got them for 38 bucks. Wow. Great deal. They are not good on ice, though. Wherever Carlos lives, they apparently do not have winter. I wore these out last weekend and had to stand motionless on an icy sidewalk while Regis ran to get additional footwear.
  4. My mom pointed out in a comment on the previous thankful post that I should be thankful for her and I am. She's a woman with a kind heart and good sense of fun and adventure. I hope I can be as much fun as my mom is when I'm 80. Speaking of 80, she said she got something from her car insurance company that said her car was only driven by an 80 year old woman and she thought, "Who in the hell is the 80 year old woman driving my car?" That's a hoot. Of course, Mom didn't say hell because she doesn't cuss as much as I do. Hardly anybody does.
  5. Coffee. Not really but I had this great cartoon.

This thing is starting to mess with my formatting so I have to stop with the list. I don't like bad formatting...or spelling mistakes in public places.

Regis and I went to Patrick's last night for a glass of wine. They had posters up advertising a band called the New Primitives. Primitives was spelled like this: Primatives. Holy crap. I thought they would be stunned to know this so I took a couple of them down to show Brian who is in charge of things like that. He shrugged. I told Joey who was waiting on us. He shrugged. So, I guess in the world of Patrick's, it doesn't matter.

Onward and upward. Ella is coming over this morning to help decorate the tree. We will venture out to see the fish house parade and Santa later. It should be a wonderful weekend. Hope you enjoy it, too.