Sunday, May 31, 2009

An extra-medium--that's me!

While I prefer to shop at Chico's, where I know the merchandise and how, with the exception of slacks and jeans*, everything will fit, I occasionally fall under the spell of the mail order catalog. I leaf through them, mark what looks interesting with a fold down to the corner, and try to hide it from my finding it again. But they're persistent, these mail order people, and another one will usually follow on its heels. Sometimes, I succumb.

The results are mixed; I hate sending things back, but I will. However, I have found one rule of thumb: If a Medium size isn't a 10-12, pass it by. This is what a friend calls extra-medium. (I wish I could remember which XM friend said that.)

I can't wear an 8-10. Too small. 12-14: probably too large. As to the single sizes--8, 10, 12, for example--I have to have a real good feel for the item, like, it doesn't have a waistline and the shape could be mainly described as drape.

Shoes are a different matter. I'm a 7. I was a 7 when I was 12, my feet didn't grow after I was pregnant, and I'm still a 7. Good ol' feet. Of course, they're a little XM on the wide side...

*From personal experience, no two pair, identical in cut and manufacturer will ever fit the same. Or, maybe, it's just me.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Mosquitoes and me

While we have a real Mosquito Magnet and it does a grand job, I am also my own personal mosquito magnet. I attract them like flies to honey. So when I saw coupons for a new product which doesn't involve spraying noxious insecticide all over one's body, I grabbed my scissors and began clipping.

The Off Clip-On does just that--it clips on. Or sits at your feet under the patio table, its little 2-AA battery fan running and whirling some new repellent through the air. The spouse was skeptical, and I must admit to being fooled one too many times by the latest in skeeter repulsion schemes, but I can say that so far, this little jewel has worked. I clipped it to my shorts this morning while I dickered with the weeds over where they were going to live, the flower beds or the garbage sack, and I wasn't called upon even once to give my life's blood.

The chemical is supposed to last about 14 hours, or what they predict is two weeks. There's a little green indicator to tell you when it's time to drop in more. I've already bought refills, courtesy of a sale and a coupon. I'm more concerned about how long the batteries will last, but I'll keep track of that too.

Still, to be itch-free... wonderful!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Kitchen Linens Book

My younger son usually drops me an email about four days before an event (Mother's Day, Christmas, birthday) requesting what I want for said big day. Ten days before this Mother's Day I beat him to the punch by sending a list of three things I wanted, all easily purchased from Amazon. I received all of them about five days later.

One was an amazing book by EllynAnne Geisel called The Kitchen Linens Book. I had read about it somewhere, probably The Dallas Morning News. I collect kitchen linens which appeal to me: tablecloths from the 50s and 60s, bib aprons, dish towels with cute kittens. My specialty is Texas brag tablecloths, of which I have nearly 24 different designs/colors. Just when I think I have them all, another pops up on eBay.

I just finished reading The Kitchen Linens Book. It was a quick history of the linens, a compendium of the types of fabrics they were made from, how to care for them, and what to do with them when there are too many spots and stains for regular use. But the best part was the stories from friends (I suppose) of the author, telling special memories they had of kitchen linens and family. I wiped tears with a few of them. Page 125... it'll get you.

I couldn't stand to let this wonderful testimony to everyday and special living go immediately on my shelf, so I no sooner closed the covers, than I loaned it to a girlfriend who also loves linens. I can hardly wait for her call!

Thank you, EllynAnne.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

By their heels you will know them

At the bridal shower Sunday afternoon we were all doing what women do at bridal showers: sitting in a circle and talking. The bride was opening her gifts, her sister-in-law was recording gift and giver, and the rest of us were taking time out of our conversations with old/new friends to properly administer oohs and ahhs. In a word: typical.

Then, because, well, I don't know why, I looked at the floor, then up at everyone's shoes. With all legs crossed, perhaps it was the rhythm of the swinging ankles which caught my attention, but I started noticing the shoes, particularly the heels. We were a divided group: stilettos, high wedges, platform wedges on one side of the circle and flats, or nearly so, on the other.* Then I looked up. Sure enough, the bride and her entourage were swinging heels the rest of us used to wear without thinking about it, and the flat-foots were, well, older by a generation.

It's not like I was surprised or anything, but reality did finally hit home.

*Notable exception: MOO-1, or before I became enamored of Mother of the Occasion, the Mother of the Bride, who wore a wedge sandal.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

A surfeit of sugar

Most times, there's no dessert in this kitchen. We're not counting calories or being snobbish, I've just stopped making for two people what four would eat and two will end up throwing away when it gets old. Not even ice cream in the freezer. But the opportunity to have guests for dinner always clicks on my 'what shall we have for dessert?' button. This Saturday I made a sweet cherry pie. Someone else in the house wanted it topped with ice cream (I'm a pie purist, I'd have done without), but we also had ice cream.

More than half the pie gone at the end of the evening and everyone else having had ice cream, we now had a bit of dessert around. Then I helped host a bridal shower and all hell broke loose in the sugars department at our house.

Instead of a large cake, we had "cake balls," little three-bite size rounds filled with rich cake and topped with a thick icing. You had to bite them; trying to eat it with knife and fork would have been like chasing that cherry tomato around the salad plate. These were so good. There were four left over and the hostess who'd provided them, made me take them home to the spouse.

Then, as a gift to the hostesses, the bride presented us with boxes of gourmet chocolates. There are 16 in the box, each a square with a picture on top. I'm looking at these as 16 days of apres-lunch goodness. It remains to be seen whether or not I shall share.

But, suffice it to say, where we had no dessert 48 hours ago, we now have a stockpile: pie (almost gone), 3/4 of a half-gallon of ice cream, two cake balls, and a full box of chocolates.

I shall have to pace myself.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The use, abuse, and neglect of the Green Bag

Back in the fall when I fell under the spell of the Debbie Meyer Green Bags, I was naive enough to think it foolish that the package of 20 wouldn't last me, well, forever. They could be used up to 10 times each (who was going to count?) and there were 20 of them. I liked them so well, I made sure they, along with the bread, cheese, and cold cuts bags, were given as Christmas gifts.

Six months into the green bag affair, I now know why I'll have to eventually break down and buy more. It is a sad tale, but true. I have abused the bags.

While lettuce and mushrooms keep beautifully in them, there is a time limit on these perishables. It is not forever. Lettuce will get soggy and you don't want to see what mushrooms do when they're left to their own devices at the back of the crisper drawer.

But those faux pas pale in comparison to what happens to onions and red potatoes. Left in the decorative basket with the garlic and green-bagged bananas (in my own defense I must say I haven't lost a banana to overripeness in 6 months, but then we eat them everyday), the onions will get a blue powdery mildew and the potatoes will sprout after, oh, a couple weeks or so.

That's when everything goes to the compost pile and the bags go to the trash and I add 'green bags' to the shopping list.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Tidying up

I set a goal for myself last week of blogging once a day--and I met it! Now, how long can I keep it up?

So today to celebrate, I'll tidy up a few loose ends.

The post yesterday on sewing and broomstick skirts: In typical fashion, I thought hours later that I should have added to the post that I rarely construct a garment for myself any more. I have done a few for the granddaughter. The price of the pattern, the scarcity of readily-available good clothing material*, the time involved... 90% of the time it's more cost-effective to wait for a sale. I did try to make a broomstick skirt once of very sheer material. But I had too many layers and the end result had me looking like a poofed-out ballerina in a too-long tutu.

Dancing with the Stars: I was rooting for Melissa, then once she came in third, I figured it was Gilles, so I was as surprised as everyone else that it was Shawn. Not that she was undeserving, she certainly was not. I'm proud of her. The youngest and a champion again. And there's yet another reason I don't go to the racetrack.

*I'm ever thankful that our WalMart still carries fabric. However, the majority of it is most suitable for craft items or home decor.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

On a broomstick roll

I have a love of clothes and my overly full closet(s) give testimony to it. I'll blame my mother here (don't we all?). When I was a child, she employed a seamstress who kept us in homemade clothes. Granny Bea was a wonder. Mother also shopped at grocery stores which gave S&H Green Stamps. There was a higher-priced clothing store in town which would take them for part of a purchase price. Our better, Sunday clothes, if you will, came from there.

Then I learned to sew. My sister and I stayed hours in the fabric departments. We could spend a summer month making up our wardrobes for the next school year. In fact, my sister made part of my trousseau.

I took summer home economics classes which consisted of volunteer work and sewing projects. Having stuffed my closet to its limits, I pieced a quilt in a very simple pattern one year. Mother had it quilted and at the moment, it's on my bed. I keep meaning to turn it over and note which piece of fabric came from which garment before I forget. But then it's not going to matter to anyone else but me anyhow.

All of which is the background to why I'm loathe to discard clothing. Just because it's out of style, doesn't mean it won't be back "in", and that's the explanation for why I've kept my broomstick skirts.

I love flow and movement in fabric, particularly in a hemline. Broomstick skirts, for the uninitiated, are horizontal layers of coordinating fabric, each gathered to the other. They are so named because, after washing, they are to be tied around a broomstick so that the wrinkles can set in. (The easy solution to this is to know that not everything has to be washed each time you wear it. The other easy solution are high-temperature rubber bands available in the cooking department. I'd have loved to have linked to them, but I can't find them online. Anyway, band it together, wash, dry.) The skirts were quite popular 10+ years ago. In velveteen or flannel, they were a winter staple, while in lighter fabrics, they worked with sandals all summer. They just fit into the niche which is my weakness for skirts.

And, of course, they went "out".

Guess what's back "in"? Guess who has succumbed to a new black one from Chico's? I'm not naming names, but it's a year-round winner. And it's with its older compatriots in my closet.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Caladium rebirth

I might have lamented the fact that 13 inches of rain in 3 weeks had promptly drown my 140+ caladiums bulbs, but I didn't give up hope that a few of them would have survived. So I was smugly surprised to find just that. At the dry end of the row--dry being a relative term around here--a white and green leaf is unfolding. In the middle, there are a few 'noses' sticking up. At the end of the row that most closely resembled a lake, there are even fewer and those that are have been denuded of soil.

That's what a hoe is for and I covered them up!

I may not have all of them, but at least it wasn't a total wash!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Starbucks, traveler's checks, and me

Not that I would give a traveler's check at Starbucks, but some people obviously do, because there's a new policy in effect come Monday.

I stopped for my regular Tuesday afternoon tall cup of coffee and quickly noticed the sign over the cash register. Come the 25th, no more personal checks or traveler's checks. The former I understand. The latter? I had to ask. After all, traveler's checks, as I convinced many a clerk over our travels last summer, are as good as cash.

Not in the eyes of Starbucks. They are now being counterfeited. Well, now, isn't that a set-back for the traveling public. I guess the world really is coming to cards, credit, debit and otherwise. So I paid with my black $25-a-year, 10%-off-all-purchases Starbucks card (I think it's paid for itself by now and I'm on gravy), and left.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The lure of the half-price plant

I didn't mean to.

The large nursery 30 miles from here is having its annual half-price hanging basket and plant sale. I happened to be in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop in for a quick look. Nothing particular in mind, just a look-see.

Well, okay, a look-see with a purpose. The rain devastated my caladiums and drown a couple of hanging baskets, so maybe a little freshening up wouldn't hurt.

The parking lot was full so I edged to the end of the driveway. I was fine--I had made it to the back of the property--until I picked up the first hanging basket and found a cart to put it on. Then, it was like, why not? Why not buy another one? Caladiums in pots for a different section of the garden? A few more dianthus? I've always wanted a peony.

Then my downfall, the hibiscus. Not the hardy, come-back next year kind, oh, no. This was the exotic colors, the bright light, moisture-loving hibiscus. In orange.

Stop-your-breath orange. Which looked so much better next to the yellow. But they needed a counterpoint... hot pink.

Someone has to 1) plant what she has now and 2) not be tempted when she drives by again tomorrow.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009


Somewhere along the way of our marriage, Sunday morning breakfasts became important. No cereal, no toast, everyone at the table at the same time. Sunday School didn't start until 9:30, so, if I got up early enough, we had plenty of time.

We fell into the habit of having yogurt pancakes. I found the recipe for this ultra-light concoction on the side of a Lucerne milk carton over 30 years ago. It will spoil you for any other pancakes. You will never order them out again. Never. Ordinary pancakes, even buttermilk pancakes, will seem heavy and clumpy and yes, the recipe will follow.

But there's a secret ingredient in yogurt pancakes: plain yogurt. Someone (not mentioning names while I'm looking in the mirror) forgot to buy more. So, was the menu to be eggs and sausage and hash browns as it had been the day before, or something different? Something like waffles?

I use to own a square waffle iron whose plates would flip and it would open up and do double-duty as griddle. Teflon-coated that it was, they always stuck. They took forever to bake. Waffles became a thing of the past.

Then I had to shut down my father's house when he could no longer live by himself. There, tucked away on a shelf, was an appliance I had fond memories of: my mother's waffle iron. It wasn't particularly old, as it was Teflon, but, according to Wikipedia, Teflon coating was used commercially from the 1960s on. Since I remember it from high school, it was probably an early member of the group. It had one purpose only: waffles and was made for Montgomery Wards. I brought it home.

Immediately, there were differences between it and modern countertop appliances. The cord: not only is one prong not larger than the other, it is long. Very long. So long it can drape over several other small appliances until it gets to the outlet. Now you're doing good if your cord is 18 inches long. Whatever has to practically be wedded to the plug. There isn't an on/off switch: plug it in, it warms up and the faceted light glows red. Once it's hot enough, as determined by the lighter-darker scale you've spun, the light goes out. Pour 1/2 cup of batter. You'll regret doing more. Really regret. Like from experience, regret. The light comes back on. When it goes out, 4-5 minutes later, said waffle is done.

I don't make waffles often, as they take time, and I can't rattle the formula off the top of my head. But faced with that or a repeat of the day before, we had waffles. They were delicious and then I baked up the rest of the batter this afternoon so we can toast them during the week. Yeah! Special breakfast carry-over!

But here's the pancake recipe. The original is twice this amount. Your serving numbers will vary depending on the size of your "stack."

Yogurt Pancakes (serves 3 people)

1 c flour
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder


Add: 2 T oil
1 c milk
1 egg

Stir well and then add:
1/2 c plain yogurt

Bake on preheated griddle.

Bon appetit!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Mules for Sister Sara

Channel surfing while cooking breakfast is a Saturday-only pasttime. During the week, there's the Dallas news and on Sundays, CBS's Sunday Morning. But on Saturdays the news is spotty depending on when the griddle is heating up and I head for the movie channels.

AMC is all about Westerns on Saturday and I can usually click right through. But this morning, it was a favorite, one I can't help but watch every time, Two Mules for Sister Sara.

Released in 1970, I think this was the first movie I ever saw twice at a theater. I went with my family first, then back on a Sunday afternoon with a girlfriend. It's such a classic: classic Western, classic woman in distress (yeah, right), classic romance.

But the real fun part is with the second viewing. Finding out that Sister Sara, played mischievously by Shirley MacLaine, is really a prostitute and that Hogan, Clint Eastwood's character, has been hoodwinked for 90% of the movie is a surprise for the first viewing. The second time around, you can watch for the signs, like in The Sixth Sense. Knowing what is going to happen allows you to admire the storyteller's craft. Just as Clint was taken in, you were taken in. He gets his "revenge" and you are vicariously along for the ride.

And breakfast? Clean it up during the (too) long commercials and have that third cup of coffee while they ride off into the sunset, burro, scarlet dress, and all.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Clearing the mind

At last, a sunny morning with a light breeze and no rain in sight--until tomorrow. Our 11 inch "wind"fall (since we're always behind in the annual amount), has dampened more than one activity over the past two weeks. As a whole, I'd say North Texas is saturated and grouchy. We could get out of both of them if we'd have a week of sun and I hear it's scheduled to arrive by Monday.

Doesn't help the weekend... grumble, grumble, grumble.

But I took advantage of the weather to pull on my garden gloves and begin the never-ending process of dispatching weeds from the flower beds, as well as yanking out misguided oak and pecan tree-lets who think they can plop down anywhere and I'll tolerate it. I spent time tidying up the daffodil leaves and clipping back the overly zealous mint.

I needed the fresh air and the sun because, quite frankly, it's been a dramatic/traumatic week of TV. As the Season draws to a close, all the shows I watch dangle cliffhangers.

For the drama, Monday, Ty was eliminated from Dancing with the Stars. This is the one show which will have an ending. Whether I like the results or not, there won't be any more wondering past next Tuesday. Who'll win? Don't know. Who am I pulling for? Melissa.

As to the traumatic, two hours of Lost still puzzled over how to be in two eras at the same time. Exhausting and a bit hard to keep up with when you're also quilting. But the biggie was Grey's Anatomy.

I suppose I'd heard George O'Malley wouldn't be back on board for next year, but since I don't rely on Internet boards for that info, I'd paid little attention to it. So when he signed up with the Army, I thought, good ending of his storyline. If they need him back, back he can come. Then... the second hour. I figured out our bus accident hero was George only seconds before Meredith did. Oh, crumbs!

It was a good thing I'd put my quilting down already.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You're never ready

Dancing with the Stars is drawing to a close. I had little interest in this season's contestants when it started as I was unfamiliar with most of them. However, as we all know, familiarity breeds fan-dom.

I was surprised when Lil' Kim was eliminated and knew in my heart of hearts that it was Ty's time to go last night. I think the contest is really between Gilles and Melissa, and Shawn is doing very well to be in the final three.

But I really hated to see Ty go because he has given the Sisk household a new catch phrase. When asked if he was ready for one of his early dances he said, to paraphrase, you're never ready, it just becomes your turn.

Oh, my. Just think of all the things you're never really ready for: marriage, babies, adulthood, death. It just becomes your turn and in you go!

Thanks, Ty.


Friday, May 08, 2009

The MOO Dress

Six years ago at the North Texas e-News I lamented finding the perfect MOG (Mother of the Groom) dress. Three years later I repeated the search. But today, I walk into a bridal salon and find the perfect moniker for it: Mother of the Occasion.

The MOO dress.

Now why didn't I think of that?

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Caladium calamity

Sniffles and wails follow.

There's a section of our side yard which runs beside the wooden fence, under the neighbor's very large trees, and gets, for all practical purposes, no sunshine. Oh, the sun will touch it very early in the morning, but other than that, it's shade personified. It collects water when it rains, but since we've had semi-drought conditions off and on for several years, it always soaks back in and is almost a non-factor.

Note the word: almost.

Two (three?) years ago, I planted about three dozen caladiums close to the beginning of the row. I used mixed white and green and red and they were lovely. The next year I planted more. Lovelier. Then last year I calculated that in order to turn the entire fence row into a caladium showplace, I would need twelve dozen.

Caladium bulbs are not the cheapest item in the gardening market, but a large nursery sent me a coupon for five dollars off every 25 spent. 20% discount. Sky was the limit. Expiration date: 12/31/09. What better time to use this than for an unseemly amount of caladium bulbs?

There were the jumbos priced at over a dollar each and then there were the number ones at 89 cents. Wasn't a whole lot of difference in size so I opted for the cheaper. It's what I had bought in the past (heck, I'd bought discounted bulbs from WalMart in the past and they'd done well) and the show was great, so why not again?

Two weeks ago, I spent a couple hours digging a trench and laying them in. I covered it with mulch, pleased that my estimated number was just right. (Better to be lucky than good.) I even dragged the hose over and gave everyone a little drink.

Then it started raining. In a week, we've had over seven inches of rain. Want to guess what my caladiums are doing?

Yes, well--insert sniffles and wails here--they're rotting, that's what they're doing. There's not a little nose out yet. I'd need Dutch clogs to navigate part of the trench area. I am not pleased.

And I'm also not replacing them. There are old hanging basket hooks along the fence. Maybe I'll gird my loins and hang something there.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

"So, what was Reagan really like?"

There I was in my favorite Apple store, perched on a stool, and eyeing my 'Creative' who was going to guide me through the potentially perilous process of setting my iPhone to automatically sync with dotme and my computer through some pie-in-the-sky cloud feature. (Note to Apple: Consumers shouldn't try this at home which may be why it took 10 days to get the appointment.) But that's neither here nor there for the purposes of this blog post.

My guide had just queried about my expertise on Apple products (longer than he was old but I didn't say that) and I'd given him the year: 1985. (I would let him do the math.) He had smiled and said I'd be able to teach him (yeah, right. I get my computer the way I want it and I'm loathe to change.) when the young Apple employee on the other side of the table came up with the question at the top of the blog.

"So, what was Reagan really like?"

Talk about a question coming out of the blue. As the Reagan years encompassed the majority of the '80s, I'd have to say the young man looked to have been born during his tenure. Mere curiosity about the regime he'd been born under?

I smiled and laughed. "He was a gentleman," I said. "And interest rates were good."

That satisfied him. But what else could I have said? I was busy with toddlers and then starting Cub Scouts, PTA, and volunteering in the community. The '80s were swift, but not, I fear, as swift as the last decade. Next January ends the first 10 years of the 2000s. I can tick off what I've done, where I've been, but in hindsight, the years have vaporized.

What will I tell my grandchildren when they ask of their birth president, "So, what was Bush like?"

"He was a gentleman," I'll say, "and he had a lovely wife and then there was 9/11 and things didn't go so well for any of us."

I'll work on it.

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