Monday, November 30, 2009

Memory Monday: Daddy's 69th high school reunion

I received (well, Daddy received) a letter from a high school classmate of his last week. It seems she had recently attended their 69th high school reunion. I gather from the odd-year designation that they're meeting more often than the obligatory 5 or 10 year variety of reunion. She included notes about mutual acquaintances and reported that of the 86 members of the 1940 Everett PA graduating class, 31 were still alive.

I remember going to a couple of these reunions. As Daddy usually picked up the "farthest away" prize, we would accompany him to the dinners. The one which left the most vivid impression would have been his 20th. I was in upper elementary, certainly old enough to behave myself and take it all in. It was held at a hotel in a green dining room. Don't remember the meal, but I was so amused by one of the gag prizes. The woman with the most children got an apron with the saying: "I should have danced all night."

The rest of the time would have been spent visiting family and buying my sister and myself more yarn to knit and crochet in the back seat of the un-airconditioned red Studebaker station wagon. That was probably the trip where my aunt and my mother exchanged witticisms and my aunt got the better of Mother by shipping via train the black tom cat she had so admired from afar.

In order to keep him (or so the lore goes), we had to let Daddy name this long-haired ball of fury. Daddy is colorblind. The cat's name: Snowball.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The best thing I've bought for Thanksgiving

For starters, Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for stopping by to see what's going on this day. Or, the day after, whatever. I've enjoyed this blog way too much probably and I wouldn't be doing it without an audience. Or, really, I would be, but it's nice to know people read because they tell me they do.

That said, back to the subject line. The best thing I've bought for Thanksgiving this year (and Christmas) is a box of brining bags from Williams-Sonoma. Granted there are other places which sell them, and they may be every bit as good, but I can really speak for these.

I started brining turkeys with an ABC Good Morning America broadcast in Dec 2001. Emeril was doing his best to convince America this was the way to go. I printed the recipe and never looked back.

But brining is a bit of an exercise in turkey turning and holding your mouth just right while doing it. One does not want to burst the bag while making sure the other side of the bird is immersed. I've used garbage bags and tight knots and been lucky. This year, I succumbed to brining bags and I'm glad I did.

First of all, they're very thick. Very. They have a double zip closure and a little white pin to make sure you get it done. No leaks and the bird was always visible.

There are four in the package, two large, two small. I'll probably have a collection of the small ones before this out, but I'm definitely a brining bag girl now!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Good Will Christmas

If you thought the overabundance of Christmas at retailers like WalMart and Hobby Lobby was enough to stop you at the door, then you haven't been to your local Goodwill store. At least the one I visited yesterday put all other venues to shame.

Starting with the bare trees at the door and proceeding through Christmas porcelain odds and ends, to clear garbage bags stuffed with stuffed animals to knick-knacks still in their boxes--the store was a vision of North Pole rejects. Some had clearly been loved too much; others had been tossed due to neglect. There were strings of lights and boxes and boxes of balls and ornaments. After awhile, my eyes glazed over.

After Thanksgiving--you know, when it's the proper time to have all things Christmas--I think I'll clear my mind and go back. I hear a reindeer calling me--and I'm a sucker for a new to me reindeer... or two every year.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The cat's brain (and yes, they do have one)

I was raised with cats. My mother probably didn't have a day of her life without a cat, preferably a yellow tom. She would, in fact, absolutely love Pyewacket, our light oak ginger boy. He can nestle himself on the stairs and be quite invisible because he is the color of light oak. We now know his trick and try to remember to turn the light on and thereby confound the fact that he wants to trip us and make us slide down, landing on our rears. And one of these days, he may do it. What he hasn't considered in that tiny brain of his is that we'll be sliding down atop him.

But that's not the topic. Besides overworking their brains in order to beg and stay well-fed (the two of them are now watching me because their inner clocks--their very accurate inner clocks--know that it's time for their special mid-day lunch treat), they are masters of geometry.

Ever tried to pull a cat out from under a bed? He is exactly one fingertip length further from you than you can reach. How about that exact spot you want your feet to go on the bed at night? The exact spot--and he's on it already. I simply put my feet under Tuxedo. Stubbornly, he stays put. Pyewacket will move, but slightly. And, of course, watching them take aim at the kitchen counter and do a four-flat-feet vertical jump (and rarely miss) is a delightful thing.

I suppose there's room in their brains for length and width and depth because they don't read. Except... when I'm reading the newspaper. Then, there they are, prone upon it. I scoot the offender and he ooches back, sometimes just his tail, thump-thumping across the bare edge of the top. Just a little kitty annoyance to make sure I haven't forgotten his existence.

Like that would ever happen. I was raised with cats.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It finally feels like winter

It "northered" Sunday night. Sunday afternoon temps were in the 70s and the air was very still, as if the atmosphere was just waiting for the Next Big Thing. None of us were disappointed when it arrived. Rain, like buckets from the sky, then wind, and a temperature plummet. Monday was viciously windy. The temps may have been in the 50s, but the wind chill was far below that. Today the wind was less, the temps a bit higher, but my Texas bones would still call it cold.

The ginkgo lost the rest of its leaves. The roses continue blooming. Ah... autumn in Texas, where it feels like summer one day and winter the next.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Timing is everything

We've long known that the person sitting next to us in the plane may have paid next-to-nothing for his seat while ours cost an amount equal to a small country's debt. Now the same may be said, to a certain extent, of hotel rooms.

Needing one for a Saturday night in Dallas, I checked the opportunities at a hotel of choice. We'd never stayed there, but it was close to our kids' homes and since we would be seeing them as well as Christmas shopping, it was a prime candidate. It was booked. Choice number 2 belonged to my honors program and so I checked it out. There were choices in accommodations, varying from $99 to $141, depending on bed choice. I printed off the listing, checked with the spouse, and found he agreed that, given the nature of the venture--Christmas shopping--cheaper was better. Two hours later, I'm back online.

And the prices are $10 higher! Higher!

Not to be outdone, I called the hotel's reservations desk. Well, as the very nice clerk explained, there'd been a rush on rooms the last two hours, and so the computers automatically adjusted the prices to make them more valuable.

I could certainly understand that, so I booked before there was a $20 differential.

This morning, I checked again. How high could they go? I wondered. Well, not very. They were back down to $99.

I didn't cancel and rebook, although I thought about it. With my luck, there'd have been another "run" on the rooms while I was doing so. All I can say is: that place had better be full!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When an 'Up' toilet seat is okay

I was raised in what was, basically, a female household. From the time I was 9 or so, Mother had so remodeled the house that Daddy had his own private half-bath off the kitchen. Therefore, the toilet seat in the girls' bathroom was always down.

Then I married and produced two sons and spent the next twenty-plus years complaining about the majority of the household not being considerate of the minority of the household in their toilet-seat-manners. 'Up' was the (com)mode of the day. It was get used to it or wear myself out complaining. As the boys grew older, I found there were genuinely lots of other things to complain about, and 'Up' became merely a sore point.

Then, last week, I had an epiphany. There's a definite place for 'Up' and it's in the ladies' room.

Ever go shopping early in morning, just after the store opens? If you've traveled a fair bit to get there (an hour is normal from where I live), the first place you want to go is the ladies' room. It's unsullied at that time of day (24 hour stores perhaps the exception) and the seats are 'Up' to prove that. Putting one down is guarantee that someone has just been through with the cleaning products.

Of course, I suppose, someone could put the seat back up after use, but really, don't you think that's counterintuitive for women? I do. It just wouldn't be natural.

So 'Up' means clean, but alas, probably only in the ladies' room.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Catch'em before they Fall

We have a ginkgo tree, one of three or four in our town. It's 17 years old and was a gift from a friend. As a twig, it was put in the spot where a huge old hackberry had stood. The first trunk, such as it was, died, but the ginkgo sent up another shoot and this is the one that's now a good 25 feet tall. It branches out latterly and is basically nondescript or bare for 11 months of the year. Then, come autumn, it puts on a show-stopper of foliage. It turns brilliant, traffic-stopping yellow and gold.

But alas, we'll wake up one morning and where there had been a tree with slowly falling leaves, there will be a robust twig. All leaves--gone! Therefore, we enjoy it while we can. To that, here are pictures. The last one I took by standing underneath it at night and setting my camera on a tripod. The yard light gave it an eerie glow.

So, until next Fall...

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Garmin and I reach detente

Not to be deterred by a piece of technology, I once again entered the realm of tapping Carmen Garmin's buttons. This time, I started with where I was and kept sliding my finger to show where I knew I should be going. There, coming into map view, was Cooper Lake. Going in closer, there was the State Park. Why, that little rascal! It was there all along. Now, how to make CG bring it up.

I pointed at the intersection and instead of FM 3505, it gave me Hwy 3503. Tapping again found CG waffling in her addressing and naming it FM 3505 and FM 3503. Tsk, tsk. I went back to the Find it screen and typed in the address as Hwy and voila! there it was!

Somehow, with CG, it's all about semantics. Quicker than quick, she lays in the map and wants me to leave immediately. No such luck, girl. I hear the preferred route has a water washout and we'll be detouring no matter what. I suppose, had I been allowed to register and upgrade, she'd have known that?

Not putting money on that one.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Me vs. the Garmin

My children gifted me with a Garmin for my birthday, specifically for our use in California last month. We plugged her in (her name is Carmen Garmin because I like names that rhyme) and, while she didn't always direct us the way the paper map did, she always got us there. Good girl.

But I don't use her around here because I know my way. And I was a bit miffed because to even register her, I had to plug her into my mac and--I really am not surprised--they weren't currently supporting the version (newest, btw) of Safari I have. So, unregistered and non-upgradeable, still she's serving her purpose.

Until today. Today I am quite disgusted with her.

We will soon be venturing for an afternoon to Cooper Lake State Park. It's an hour from here and we know the way. But for grins... why not have CG tell me how she thinks I should go?

I get past the screens for the state and the town and I'm typing in the address as given on the State Park website. I get no further than 'FM' (farm-to-market road) when she immediately gives me two choices of FMs. Neither one is the one I want. There is no getting her off of it. She will NOT let me enter the proper number. I have a take-it-or-leave-it situation.

So I think to outsmart her and go back to the beginning and type in the name of the State Park. The little hour glass spins and spins. And spins. I empty the groceries from the car and put them up and still she is spinning. Finally, the verdict: No Matches.

Perhaps someone should tell the Texas Park system that Cooper Lake doesn't exist. Maybe I will when I check in.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Eerie, Texas

Last night being Halloween and no trick-or-treaters having shown at our door by 6:45, we adjourned to dinner at our favorite Mexican spot. Had there been something showing at the local theater which we wanted to spend our senior-fare on, we'd have done that next, but there wasn't, so we didn't do the second leg of the local Saturday/Friday night trio: dinner, show, Walmart.

We raced on to the third leg. The parking lot was sparse, but we didn't think anything of that as it was Halloween. Then we saw costumed kids coming out with candy and figured Walmart was running an in-house trick or treat festival, which they were. All over the store were games and prizes and what looked like the tail-end of a long evening for the employees.

My husband took off one way and I, another. This routine is usually bound to have each of us searching the store for the other and last night was no different, but that's not the eerie part of the post. This is: Having swung through the fruit and veggie aisle, I turned up the big side aisle for meats and dairy. It's wide. Very wide. And it was very empty.

I've never seen that aisle empty. It was 7:30 in the evening and there was no one there. Really strange. I started looking at the cross aisles and they were empty too. If there were people, they were headed the other way. In fact, I went the entire side of the store and didn't meet anyone. I'd think the place more populated at midnight.

Really strange, eerie feeling. Unwelcome. Weird. Walmart without customers. No, thank you. I eventually found everyone at the check-out lines and I couldn't get there fast enough.

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