Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Finding myself in an unexpected place

I guess we've all Googled ourselves, typed in our name and hit search, only to find that we are not as unique as we think we are. But I tried something different.

In researching an article for a regional magazine, I found myself on Bookfinder and the temptation was too great. I "bookfindered" me.

Now Bookfinder is a wonderful site for finding used books. We use it all the time at the library to determine if one of the old volumes we're about to toss on the dollar table is actually worth enough to call "rare." By default of being an author, I have this job and I've become fairly competent at judging a book by its cover, subject, and age and knowing if it's a $20 find or not. So I didn't really expect to find myself for sale used.

But there I was. Or, at least, there was ONE YEAR PAST PERFECT. For sale in North Carolina of all places and--get this!--signed!

SIGNED! For whom did I sign a book and then they sold to a used book store? And said store wanted more for it than going to my publisherwhere it is, three years after being published, still available, a major bonus of small press publishing.

Anyway, there it is. I'll look on it as free promo and marketing.

Who knew?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What stories would you tell?

Approximately 15 years ago, I asked my Dad to make an audio tape about his growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania and then to continue it with his stories as the master sergeant to an airplane repair crew that followed Patton through Europe. He landed on D-Day plus 5, endured the Battle of the Bulge by covering their Jeeps and trucks with tarp and waiting out the days snow-covered under a roadway as the Germans passed overhead. Only as an adult did I learn he had gone into the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen. He mentioned it once. There were no guns in our house and with the exception of seeing his temper once, he was--and still is--the mildest mannered red-haired man I've ever met.

I wanted those stories on tape. I wanted to preserve them beyond my memory. He was reluctant, citing that he didn't own an audio cassette recorder. I offered to solve that problem for him. He rolled his eyes and did me one better when that fall, he sat down in front of a video camera and told me stories for my Christmas present. That's how the tag on the side of the cassette reads: "Things I remember about my childhood--a gift to my daughter Kay with love from Dad". I told him he need spend no money on me that Christmas and so he spent something far more precious, his time.

That's all he talked about, his childhood. Eighteen years of stories told over three hours. Three. I was astonished. From his first memory of his mother bending over the kettle at the fireplace because there wasn't a cook stove to the dog diving into the creek to save his brother from drowning to the debacle of stealing a pie from his grandmother and having his grandfather stalk the guilty party--he told stories for 3 hours. He ran out of patience just as he was entering the Army Air Corps. He never sat down to do another tape.

Now, he has Alzheimer's and it is woefully too late.

As I'm transferring these stories to DVD, I pause and wonder: If I were to do the same thing, could I fill three hours with stories from my childhood? I don't think so, but gives me pause to think about it and reflect.

Could you?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Deja Vu

We were at a large sporting event once and I was idly people-watching. With the exception of team supporter shirts, I didn't see a single shirt or jacket twice. Thousands of people and no one was wearing the same thing. Maybe that's why it surprised me to pop onto someone else's blog and find that they are using the same template as this one.

If you have a Blogger blog, you know how the sign-up process works. At some point, you scroll through the templates and pick "yours." I see the green boxes and think Sisker's Lair. It was quite a surprise to find that other people have had the same notion and put their own name on it!

So, out of curiosity, I've been running a survey of blogs. I used Romancing the Blog as a starting point, visiting every blog mentioned there. Granted, the populace are all interested in romance, whether they be in the industry, authors, or readers. I found that while I felt my blog template was "all over the place", there are others more common, JH Thomas and Romance Magicians to name two.

There are variations on the color of my greener than green template: Slingwords is but one example.

There was one intriguing idea floating around, the Thursday Thirteens list. I may have to try it.

But as for those with my template, I'll list who I found so you can visit and do a double-take.

The Rejecter
author CS Harris
Allie's Musings
English author Anna Lucia
author Cindy holby
Harlequin American Romance authors
author Paula Graves
American Housewife and eBook Author
I just finished reading...
newspaper editor

That's a dozen. So, if you add me, that would make my Thursday Thirteen. On Wednesday.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bertolli wins again

This is sounding like a broken record but yesterday after church I heated up the last Bertolli entree in the freezer. Roasted Chicken and Linguine is a winner.

I was a bit surprised, truth to tell. Strips of chicken in tomato basil sauce did not seem sufficiently intriguing for me to want to buy it again.

Not the first time I was wrong. We cleaned that skillet of every drop of sauce, which seems to be the Bertolli forte.

Having exhausted my first 4 picks from Wal-Mart's frozen food aisle, I'll replenish with the rest of them today. I think there are four left, all of them chicken.

Why am I complaining?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

So what do you do when the lights just pulse?

Here in North Texas we're in the middle of a very cold week. We've had sleet and ice and a tad of snow. The thermometer is just now above 32 for the first time since Sunday. This doesn't happen every year; last year we squeaked by with a particularly mild winter. We didn't even run the heat for 3 weeks in January. Alas, that is not the case in 2007.

Being particularly cold out this morning and with sleet falling, I wasn't planning any major expeditions. But when I went to turn on the lights in the pantry and they pulsed, I knew my morning had not changed for the better.

The lights were fine in the kitchen. I tried the lights in my husband's office and they pulsed. Perhaps we'd thrown a breaker. No, breaker box looked fine. The light in the upstairs hall came on, but everything downstairs, exept the kitchen, was out of power.

My study was fine upstairs and my computer's power cord showed electricity. Being of a suspicious nature, I immediately put it on battery power. The TV I have hooked up to the vhs-dvd was merrily being recorded.

My husband chose this propitious moment to call and we quickly sorted this out to being like a problem we'd had before where something had burned out on the power pole. I put in a call to the "energy delivery" service.

Our hot water not being affected, I bathed and dressed in two sweaters, jeans, and two pair of socks. The cats were snuggled together on our bed and as the temperature in the room dropped into the 50s, they stayed under the blanket I put over them.

I figured the best move was to keep moving. Otherwise, I was going to be very cold in short order. I swept the downstairs, decided not to be foolhardy and mop (as if!), gathered the trash for tomorrow, changed the cats' litter box, pulled an ice chest to the refrigerator with the caveat that I would move perishables to the outside (where it was 29 degrees) by noon, put all the Christmas porch candelaria in a box, and ascertained from the electrician that I had made the right call. His diagnosis: one leg of our power was down which was why we had some electricity, but none of the big ticket items: heat, dryer, refrigerator, cooktop.

The mail comes and I read the Wall Street Journal. I formulate a plan to rig the modem and the airport through the kitchen electricity and get online. I pay bills. I take the book I'm reading downstairs.

I stop just short of dusting.

And then I hear noise in the backyard. Voices coming to my rescue! They check the meter, go up the pole in a bucket and twenty minutes later, three and a half hours after I notice we have a problem, I'm back up and in business.


And to think I was slightly envious of my friends who chose--months ago--to go on a cruise this week. They knew when to get out of Dodge, even if they didn't know they were doing it. I mean, when we leave town mid-winter, there's usually a warm spell. This comes under the heading: no justice.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My new toy

Every girl needs new toys and, while I treated myself to one last week, it's not so much a fun thing as a fun, practical thing.

Over the years we have utilized three video cameras to record our family's comings and goings. Vacations, Christmases, birthdays, basketball games, Eagle Scout Courts of Honor... we are a veritable time machine. But, as the advertisements are quick to tell us, video tape will erode and so the smart consumer transfers the tape to DVD.

There are two ways to do this. The first, having it commercially done, is $30 a tape. You must hand over your supposedly irreplacable video to a clerk at a camera store or trust it to the mail and hope to get it back in a month. I tried this with a tape I thought we could afford to lose and was not impressed with the results. The argument can be made that it was bad to start with, which is what the snippy note in the box said.

I counted our tapes (over 30) and chose Door Number 2, the purchase of a machine to convert VHS to DVD. Cost of such has dramatically dropped in the 18 months I've been contemplating this, from over $400 to under $300. Last week, I bought. And I've been trapped in a time warp ever since.

I decided to start with a Christmas tape from 1986. The sons were 9 and 7. Romping across my in-law's living room was all the chaos we have come to expect from a Sisk Christmas. With the exception that we were all younger and skinnier, it could have been a month ago. The kids were handing out the presents, the adults were clowning around as their pictures were taken, and everyone was watching out for the toddler cousin. And there, sitting on the couch, was my mother, dead almost 10 years now, and behind her at the table, my husband's grandmother, gone since 1989. Notable also was who wasn't there, the children yet unborn. It took 15 minutes to transfer and I showed it to my in-laws Saturday night as we celebrated my father-in-law's 80th.

This morning, I put in Christmas 1985. We were more adventurous that year: I set the recorder up in the corner of the room and let it run. I'm three hours into it now. There was greeting, eating, opening, playing 42, the slow progression of a Christmas Eve. I doubt I'll ever sit and watch it, but it is comforting to know it exists, saved now for posterity on DVD.

Until the next thing comes along.

Twenty years ago I transferred my dad's 8mm movies to VHS. These involved Little Kay and her sister running to the Christmas tree with all sorts of glee and greed in their eyes. There were birthday parties, vacations, school productions... I think I see an inherited pattern here. Twenty years ago, that was a time warp too.

And you can bet it's going on DVD.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Are you a colander or a sifter?

Yesterday a friend of mine, a ten years younger friend I need to add, complained that her mind was becoming a colander, information just slipping through it as if there were holes.

Oh, my. If she's losiing information (dates, times, schedules, what-am-I-doing-in-the-kitchen?), what state is my mind in?

I've been concerned about this for years, as small details (I was supposed to be where when? Bringing what?) have slipped through the steel trap which used to be my mind. So I've determined to do better, to not be as distracted, to pay closer attention, to absolutely cheat and write everything down. Grocery lists, what to do on the computer, links to visit, a veritable list of to-dos for every day.

But I don't what to be a colander. Heck, my colander has BIG holes. No, I'd prefer to be a sifter, letting the little inconsequential stuff just 'sift' out of there, saving the big items.

Like, what my next blog might be.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

So you think you know how to peel an orange

So did I.

Then I had an eye-opening experience--in a grocery store, no less--that showed me I only knew half the story.

I'm at Market Street in McKinney yesterday ogling the five for a buck grapefruit. Okay, so they were little grapefruit, but I was smelling them too, lifting and hefting and smelling before I selected my five. Up walks a friendly young man, mid-twenties, produce apron in tact, and wants to know if I want to sample one.

I decline, because if it smells like a grapefruit, then it'll taste like one in my book, but he is insistent. Come to find out, there's a new gizmo in the produce department for dealing with citrus, and he wants to try it for himself.

Okay, I agree, let's split a grapefruit.

He skitters across the floor and comes back with a slender plastic tool I've had in my repertoire for years, with a hook at one end for splitting the skin four ways (or more or less) and a delicately curved handle. Why a curved handle? Well, I had always thought it was to fit better in my hand.

Silly me.

I watch him split the grapefruit skin, all the while explaining that he'd been awestruck the day before as he'd watched this performance by someone else. He'd been looking for an excuse to try it and I was oh-so convenient. I quirked a brow and he grinned and said the original demonstrator had told him he needed to get out more. We laughed. Then he took the tool, turned it around, and I realized perhaps I need to get out more too.

He placed the curved handle between the skin and the fruit and worked it to the other end, niftily turned it again and completed another circuit. There, without skin and pith under his fingernails, was the makings of a skinned grapefruit.

I was awestruck. Here I'd had this perfectly servicable and much-used tool in my kitchen drawer for what seemed like forever and I had never turned it around!

Now I know how to peel an orange. Or grapefruit, as the case may be.

Guess we're never too old to learn.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Suburban state of mind

I'm driving my Trailblazer and loving it, but there's a problem. I still think I'm in a Suburban. I'm not allowing myself the freedom of driving and parking that this smaller vehicle allows.

I'm looking for double wide parking places. As if I can't turn this baby on a dime! A DIME! It's incredible. I've always loved sharp turns, precise, no whipping into someone else's space. But I'm not focusing on smaller yet.

Passing. New baby will get up to speed in a hurry, not think about it and then go. Sheesh!

It's been cold the last several mornings. I forgot I had seat heaters until I was looking in the manual for something else. Sometimes we just deserve our cold tush.

I've never had a gearshift in the floor, automatic that it is. Slapping at the steering wheel is non-productive.

I took the Suburban for oil change and inspection, then almost fell out of it because its four-wheel-drive self is so much higher off the ground and I am getting used to a lower car. One point in my favor.

On the other hand, I didn't get close enough to the bank deposit vacuum tube this morning and had to stretch out the window instead of almost hitting the thing with my side mirror like I usually do.

Speaking of which, I still don't have the mirrors adjusted correctly.

I've gone a vehicle diet and I'm not used to my new clothes.

Friday, January 05, 2007

It's tulip time

Planting bulbs, most notably tulip, narcissus, and hyacinth, has been the extent of my winter gardening for 25 years. I see little point in laboring under cold conditions to pull the dead annuals or trim back the lantana or roses. Those chores I leave for a warm day in February or March. Bulbs cannot wait that long.

Indeed, in planting this morning, in pushing my neighbor's dead sweet gum leaves aside, I found eager little green points that herald spring bulbs. We had a warm-ish December and since I'm not a particularly deep planter, last year's survivors are up and at 'em. This is not a new scenario, but is nearly always one which bears no fruit, ie, flowers. Like the backyard narcissus who was out of its mind to come up in December, they too will be struck by freezing temps and will be played out before they even get started. Hence, the need to plant anew each year.

I gave up on catalog bulbs and fancy ones from garden houses years ago. Boxed sets from Wal-Mart and Sam's do just as well for me at a fraction of the cost. So it was that I set out with 160 mixed Darwin hybrid tulips at 8 this morning.

While I can never remember exactly where I planted the year before (note to self: take a photo), I have a history of digging in the same holes and finding the previous crop. I'm as true to it as a squirrel and his hidey-holes. Indeed, I felt eyes on the back of my head during my digging, the squirrels that are tired of my sunflower seed offerings no doubt looking for another way to plague me. Determined not to fall into the same trap, I purposely laid out a serpentine path for my front yard bulbs, forty per side. I didn't find one bulb from last year (this is a good news/bad news thing) and I have high hopes for success.

The backyard proved to be a virtual tabula rasa, even with the debacle of the narcissus. Last June we had completed the flower bed landscaping so I knew I wouldn't find any former bulbs. I did find plenty of grubworms (late, lamented). Instead of a path of tulips, I clustered the 80 I planted in sets of four.

Now I just have to sit back and wait for blooms. Or squirrels... armadillos... a deep freeze. I wonder why I torture myself and then there are the years where the color is glorious, it lasts a month, and I know why I do it over and over.

Catching up with Central214

Little did I know when I blogged about our wonderful dining experience at Central214 before Christmas that it would make the Dallas Morning News' Best Restaurants of 2006 list.

I feel so au courant.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More on Bertolli

Okay, so it wasn't a Wednesday night, but the Bertolli entree under consideration, Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli, was meatless, and I knew that wouldn't fly on its own. So I grilled chicken drumsticks (can you say dinner and lunch and lunch and lunch?) and cooked up the Bertolli.

With one caveat, it was as delicious as the others I've reviewed. Exception: garlic. LOTS of garlic. I like garlic, but when there are multiple garlic slices stuck to every ravioli, well... too much garlic. Maybe I bought the bag that was last off the assembly line and they just scooped out all the garlic and into it. Probably not, but I'll give them the benefit of that doubt.

Would I buy it again? Yes, but still not for an entree. And the leftovers (not much as the spouse went back for seconds, that in and of itself is a recommendation) were also good reheated.

I ate them with drumsticks.