Friday, December 31, 2010

Motivation

Cliff and I have really been needing some motivation to get us on the right track.  I've been planning, as I've said here, to get back to the heart-healthy cooking; seems like we've gotten so far off-track, and it isn't easy to get back on.  Eating, after all, is one of my favorite recreations, followed closely by cooking fried foods and baking pies and cookies.  
Motivation has perhaps come in a way I could have done without.  
Cliff's older brother, Phil, had a heart attack this morning; his daughter-in-law posted it on Facebook or I wouldn't have known yet.  He'd had open-heart surgery about ten years ago.  This morning the doctors found that one artery was 97% blocked.  They put in two stints at the bottom of his heart and he's doing OK, although they believe there is some damage.  I'm sure they'd appreciate prayers and positive thoughts on his behalf.   
I'm thankful Phil is doing well.  
Cliff is going to lose the extra weight, and so am I.  


That's Phil last summer, enjoying some of his many grandchildren.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A couple of things

Margaret asked what sorghum is.  I just assumed everybody knew about it, since there was always sorghum in our kitchen when I was growing up.  


This is a sorghum mill; I believe a horse was hitched up to that pole and would walk around in a circle.  


Here, people are cooking down the juices to the proper thickness.  It looks greenish and rather nasty when they start cooking it down.  When my parents were growing up, they helped with sorghum-making at home.  I've seen it made at the Old Thresher's Reunion.  My mother called it sorghum molasses, although from what I've read online, it isn't true molasses.  Sorghum is nothing like that "grandma's mollasses" that you use for cooking, either.   
Sorghum is the color of maple syrup, but much thicker.  Some might consider it a little strong-tasting, but if you mix it half and half with butter it's the best thing ever to dip a cold biscuit in.  I'd better get off this topic; there are still two biscuits in the kitchen, and I'm liable to eat them both.    
On another note, I followed Meesha's advice and called the insurance company about that surprise $650 doctor bill.  Turns out it counts toward the deductible some way or other.  So yes, it is ours to pay.

Biscuits and split pea soup

Yesterday I stopped by Patsy's blog and caught her telling about making biscuits.  That planted a seed in my mind, and all day long I thought of very little else.  
Finally yesterday evening I could hold myself back no longer; after all, Saturday is the day we're going to try and cut back on such foods.  If I'm going to have biscuits, it has to be before then.  
I used a large drinking glass to cut them out, so I ended up with six very large biscuits; I ate two of them with sorghum and butter; they were perfect.  
This morning when Cliff got up, I said, "How would you like a leftover biscuit?"  
"Biscuit?" he asked.  "What are we doing with biscuits?"  
I told him to blame it on an Arkansas lady.  
He enjoyed his biscuit, although he said it would have been even better with an egg and a piece of cheese and a sausage patty.  
Some people are never satisfied.
While we're on the subject of food, would you eat something that looks like this?
  

No, it isn't a cow patty.  
It's split pea soup, and Cliff and I consider it a gourmet treat.  It is, however, the ugliest dish I know how to make.  It isn't this thick-looking once it's reheated, but it still looks pretty unappetizing.
But it's so GOOD!

New Year's Eve

We won't be doing anything special tomorrow night; Cliff actually has to work tomorrow, although they're having his shift go in early so those who party will get home in time to do so.  Cliff has his paid day off on Monday, which seems strange to me, since it's two days after New Year's day.  
I used to celebrate with my children.  I'd tear up newspapers for days so we'd have plenty of confetti.  We'd watch local TV as midnight approached, and on the stroke of midnight we'd bang on pots and pans and throw home-made confetti like crazy.  
You could still find stray pieces of confetti laying in corners and in the heat vents in July.  That's when we finally had heat vents; in the pictures below, all we had was an old propane stove in the living room (with a fan that didn't work) and a wood stove in the basement.  
We had some friends, the Dudleys, who spent many New Year's Eves with us; Boyde and I would strum our guitars and sing all the country songs that were popular at the time, songs like "Okie From Muskogee" and "Folsom Prison Blues".  For some reason, little Johnny cried every time his dad sang "A Boy Named Sue".
  That's Johnny Dudley with the soda, and my son, who was always running around in a very cold house in his underwear.  I believe that guitar on the floor was a Christmas gift to my daughter.  How about that wallpaper, eh?  


Nope, I see her guitar was different.  I'd say this is a later year than when that other picture was taken, anyhow.  Nice rug, eh?  Looks like the ornaments on the Christmas tree are rather sparse.      
Anyhow, Jon got me reminiscing about past New Year's Eves; mine always involved the kids and, for years, the Dudleys.  


This is Boyde and Donna as they look now, taken four or five years ago.  They spend winters in Florida.   Boyde had a scare with throat cancer some time back, but he came through it just fine.  


I hope every one of my readers has a wonderful New Year.  Be safe!

Dog chasing shadows

We don't have to buy lots of toys for Iris because her favorite toy is her shadow.  And my shadow, and Cliff's.  While I've been trying to break her of the habit of chasing dogs on the TV (I found out plasma televisions can't take a lot of abuse), this shadow-play seems harmless enough.  If it's too cloudy a day for shadows, I get the flashlight and let her chase a beam of light; she likes that even better.   That's the History channel you'll hear in the background.  We watch it a lot.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Weeds in the fencerow

The neighbors' horses have a habit of leaning over the barbed-wire fence and eating on our side of the fence.  This is the nature of horses; they all do it, whether well-fed or starving.  Barbed wire doesn't deter them in the least.  They'll push the fence down as far as possible and stretch out their neck as far as they can reach, eating all the grass they can get.  If a barb happens to rip their skin open, they don't even let on that they feel pain.  
Last summer, to keep our fence from being totally torn down, we put an electric wire along it in a place where the horses would get a shock whether they reached over or through the three strands of barbed wire.  All it took was one shock apiece and they stopped.  
Late in summer the weeds overtook the electric fence, shorting it out.  Cliff figured the horses wouldn't know the difference, and they didn't, at first.  Eventually, though, they tried it again and found out it wasn't going to hurt them.  
I told Cliff yesterday that we'd better get the electric fence working again.  


The trouble is, those dead weeds will all have to be taken out or they'll short out the fence, just like last summer.  After Cliff went to work, I went out and started taking care of the weeds.  It's tiring work, let me tell you.  


On the neighbor's side of the fence no grass grows, only weeds.  I do believe they feed their horses though; in fact, from the looks of them, they overfeed them.


This is one of them, last time he got out and ended up in our yard.  Again.  


Here's what the pasture on our side of the fence looks like.  Plenty of grass. 


You can see how far the horses have reached over and cropped the grass on our side.  I'd say about three feet.  
The aggravating thing about this is that the neighbors take no responsibility.  They won't help with the fence.  If we had to put new fence up, we'd have all the labor and expense.  Let's face it, they won't even fix their fence well enough to keep their horses at home; they're sure not worried about this fence.    
And you have to wonder why they keep the horses; they never ride them.  
Oh well, such is life in Dogpatch.  
I got about a tenth of the weeds pulled and stomped down today; I'll do more tomorrow.

a ramble

I suppose I'll take down the tree today.  In the past I couldn't wait to get the Christmas tree out of my way, and would always do the dreaded job on December 26.  In this house, there's an ideal place for the tree, so it isn't in the way at all.  I've enjoyed looking at my bubble lights every day.  My only complaint with this year's tree is that it never did have the fragrance a real Christmas tree ought to have; I guess I'll get a different variety next year.   
Our weather so far has been quite normal for winter in Missouri.  Last year the temperatures plunged and stayed below normal most of the winter.  This year, a cold front comes through and then leaves before it wears out its welcome, as any well-mannered cold front ought to do.  We've been getting a break before another sets in.  This kind of weather pattern makes winter much more bearable for me.   If the weather-guessers are right, Thursday will be warm enough for a motorcycle ride, with a high of sixty.  Unfortunately, strong winds are forecast for that day as well; that would take the joy out of the ride.  


Here's something to brighten up a winter day.  Actually, my mailbox was stuffed full of seed catalogs yesterday, but I tossed all of them but this, my favorite.  
I feel a peculiar scratchiness in my throat that might portend a cold.  I've gargled with warm salt water, and gone on a search in the master bath for the zinc nasal spray.  I crept in with a flashlight to do my search because that bathroom is about six feet away from where Cliff is sleeping.  I had no luck, however.  I'm not sure that stuff really works to ward off a cold anyhow, but it doesn't hurt to try... or does it?  I just did a search on the Internet and found out some zinc products may cause loss of your sense of smell.  
Cliff and I never consider a cold as "being sick", but rather, an aggravation.  We get a kick out of people who call every little case of the sniffles the flu, and every headache a migraine.  Some day we might be paid back for our high-and-mighty, holier-than-thou attitudes, do you think?   
We've taken glucosamine for years for our arthritis and truly believed it helped, if only a little.  Recently I read about a study that proved it does nothing, so we've agreed to stop taking it when our present supply runs out.  
Another supplement we both take is fish oil capsules.  Even Cliff's cardiologist approves that one.  Unless I find one that doesn't make me sick, though, I'm going to discontinue it for myself.  I wonder if anyone else has a problem with it.  
Speaking of the cardiologist, we got a bill from him for $650 that the insurance wouldn't pay.  Nice surprise, eh?  It isn't such a problem now, but once Cliff retires, doctors will be getting their payments about ten bucks at a time.  I'm just glad we can pay it at the present time.  I need to get in the habit of asking the people in the doctor's office, "How much will we owe after the insurance has paid?"  I don't like this kind of surprise.
Then I think about certain surprises other people have gotten lately, and I realize $650 is no big deal at all.  I'll pay it with a smile.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Easy cheese ball

My mother-in-law first introduced the Kraft cheese ball into our family years ago when she was selling Tupperware; it's my favorite out of all the many cheese balls I've tasted.  I won't be making another one until Christmas next year because, like so many of my favorite home-made treats, it's notoriously loaded with sodium, cholesterol, and calories.


1 5-ounce jar of Kraft Roka Bleu cheese spread.
1 5-ounce jar of Kraft Old English cheese spread
1 5-ounce jar of Kraft pimento cheese spread  
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/4 finely grated onions.  


Mix it all up and chill a couple of hours or longer; I divide it into two parts because it's easier to handle that way. Form it into as much of a ball (or 2 balls) as possible, and roll in chopped pecans.  It isn't easy to handle, since it isn't a real firm mixture, but it's worth the effort.


My mother-in-law would put a whole chopped onion in her cheese ball; it was delicious, but you could taste onion for days after eating it, brush your teeth and gargle as you might.  I later found the recipe online and saw that it wasn't supposed to have so much onion.  This year I used a little dried minced onion instead of fresh, thinking that would be less perishable.  I also added some garlic powder and a little cayenne pepper.  It turned out fine.  
I can no longer find the Kraft roka blue cheese spread, so I replace it with a second jar of Old English.     

Crazy dog

Normal

Stargazer and her family are going through a learning experience at present.  Events at her place have been stressful, and she and her daughters have come to the conclusion that if you can't get things back to the way they've always been, it's time to realize there's a new "normal".  
I've often heard people say "Normal is just a setting on the dryer."  
Because all of us live our lives so differently, normal has a different meaning for each person.  My sister spends winters in Texas; that's normal for her.  It wouldn't be normal for me at all, at this point.  I'd get homesick.  It's normal for my sister not to have a shedding animal in her house; she's never had the desire for a pet.  Obviously, I'm the opposite.  
With New Year's approaching, I'm thinking I need to change some bad habits and find myself a new normal.  
Most of the evil (delicious) holiday foods have been consumed.  New Year's Eve carries no temptation in this house to overindulge in food or drink; we won't be celebrating.  I'm sure I'll be in bed by ten o'clock.  
So, New Year's day is a good time to change.  I know you're probably yawning, thinking, "Oh sure, more New Year's resolutions that won't last a week."
We've all seen it hundreds of times; and indeed, it could happen again.  Since I live my life so openly on this blog, you'll know whether I succeed or fail.


I do like beginnings, always have.  My SAD starts waning with the new year, even though the worst of winter is still to come.  Cliff and I have found our greatest success at getting in shape with diet-and-exercise programs started on New Year's Day, although not in recent years, I'm sorry to say.  Normal around here has become "life is short, we may as well enjoy it."   
That's why our doctor yelled at us and let us know life is going to be even shorter if we don't straighten up.  
When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to live to be a hundred.  I'm wiser now.  I realize very few people who live that long are happy in their old age.  Most have dementia; many are blind and deaf.  Some have lost limbs to diabetes.  It's really quality of life I desire, not length of years.  It's been a good run already, and if I checked out today, life would owe me nothing.  
Quality of life will be greater if we get control of our appetites around here.  
Wish us luck.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hoarfrost


hoarfrost |ˈhôrˌfrôst; -ˌfräst|
noun
a grayish-white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc.  

We had a pretty landscape to look at when we went for our walk this morning.  

Even the neighbor's weed patch next door was pretty.  Never mind the smudge in the middle of the picture; there's a spot inside my camera lens somewhere.  I tried to fix it and made it worse.  Just pretend like it's a cloud.  

So pretty.  

Everybody told me I'd have to buy a coat for Iris come wintertime because she's so short-haired.  Shoot, she runs so fast and hard she's panting when it's zero.  

Interesting pattern of frost on the gate.  


My icy barefoot tracks from where I got out of the hot tub last night with temperatures in the teens.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sisters

My daughter's girls are thirteen and fifteen years old.  Now I know they love one another, but at those ages, you know how kids are.  It can be a love/hate relationship, and neither is likely to admit to loving the other one.  
So when I saw Natalie had posted this on Facebook, I was amazed.  "Natalie loves her sister Monica Lea soooo much."  
I indicated that I fainted at reading that message.  
Turns out Natalie forgot to log out of her account, so Monica posted as Natalie, using her name.  

I thought that was a great trick!  




Brown Sugar candy

Several of my readers expressed interest in the brown sugar candy.  I scanned the recipe card that my mom filled out for me, so you're seeing her handwriting (much neater than mine); notice the calorie count in the upper right-hand corner?  That's the calories for the total batch; Evidently I was trying to keep from consuming too much at some time or other, and thought that adding the calorie content would motivate me to eat less candy.  I'm sure it didn't work then any better than it does now; in fact, I don't even see that number any more when I get the card out.
I will warn you, most people do not like brown sugar candy:  they say it tastes too much like pure brown sugar; but it has always been my favorite home-made candy.   Click on the recipe to make it larger.

Christmas day

We went to the daughter's yesterday and hung out.  


We watched some movies together.  


That's Granddaughter Amber and Cliff's sister, Rena.  Amber's minipin has a slight weight problem, but who am I to talk?  


Cliff and the son-in-law went into the next room and admired Kevin's gun collection.  


Oldest grandson Arick inspects Kevin's latest acquisition.  


No eyes were shot out.  Yes, that movie was playing in the background part of the time.  


Arick and his girl friend had other Christmas celebrations to attend, so they weren't there long.  


As the day went on, others showed up.  Granddaughter Natalie, on the left, is now taller than I am.  


Of course, the star of the show is always Kami.  Does anybody else find it strange that my daughter is a grandma?  How old does that make me?  Kamie's mom always has her dressed so cute.


Kameron's parents just sat back and let everybody spoil her.  


Granddaughter Monica took a turn holding her.  Somebody told Kami to give them the "stink-eye"; that's why she has that expression on her face.    


She received gifts; the stroller seemed to be a favorite.  
So, we had a great day.  We ate too much, fully knowing the junk food goes out the window in less than a week.  I really dread getting on the scales next Saturday.   
Oh well.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I had the laziest day imaginable yesterday.  I broke down and made brown sugar fudge because it just isn't Christmas without it.  One bite of brown sugar fudge and I'm a kid again.  I also made cheese ball to take to my daughter's today, and made corn bread and beans for dinner.  That's the extent of my labors!  
I settled into my easy chair in the afternoon and watched an excellent tear-jerker of a movie, Life as a House.  I won't be soon forgetting that one.  
I haven't been able to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Christmas Story" on our DVD player because in our haste to send Dish Network their equipment, we evidently pulled the cord out of our DVD player and sent that to them, too.  I looked at our nearest Walmart, and I didn't find the cord I need.  However, "It's a Wonderful Life" was broadcast on TV, so I DVR'd it and Cliff and I watched it that way, zapping about two hours of commercials in the process.  
Cliff and I talked about how we wished we could go back, just for a few minutes, to an age where we believed in Santa.  
Granddaughter Amber spent the night and got up this morning wanting home-made cinnamon rolls; at first I brushed her off, telling her it would take four hours to make them.  
Then I got to thinking what a scrooge I was and started the dough.  After all, if I have a granddaughter in her twenties who comes to spend the night every once in awhile, she ought to be worth a little effort on my part.  I'm trying to hurry things along; I put the bowl with the dough inside a larger bowl containing warm water.  In the old days when gas ranges had pilot lights, the warmth of  the gas oven was just right for rushing the rising process.   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For my "old" friends

The lost fruitcake is FOUND!

When we went shopping yesterday, Cliff bought some cheese and crackers to take to work for "goody day".  Tony, the guy he rides to work with, is taking summer sausage from the local butchery.  
When we got home yesterday I started heating up dinner, putting groceries away at the same time.  I grabbed the Walmart bag with Cliff's cheese in it and put it in the refrigerator.  Now, I had looked in there for the fruitcake in, but I didn't check in the bag with the cheeses.  
That's where it was.  I must say, for a cheap little fruitcake, it's pretty tasty.

Received in email


You know . . . time has a way of moving quickly
and catching you unaware of the passing years.

It seems just yesterday that I was young,
just married and embarking on my new life with my mate.
And yet in a way, it seems like eons ago,
and I wonder where all the years went.
I know that I lived them all...
And I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams...
But, here it is..the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise...
How did I get here so fast?
Where did the years go and where did my youth go?
I remember well...
seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people
were years away from me and that winter was so far off
that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like... 
But, here it is...
my friends are retired and getting gray...
they move slower and I see an older person now.
Some are in better and some worse shape than me...
but, I see the great change... 
Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant...
but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks
that we used to see and never thought we'd be.
Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! 
And taking a nap is not a treat anymore ... it's mandatory! 
Cause if I don't on my own free will .. I just fall asleep where I sit! 
And so . . . 
now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared
for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability
to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!!
But, at least I know, that though the winter has come, and I'm not sure how long it will last...this I know, that when it's over...its over....
Yes , I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done ,,,,,things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. 
It's all in a lifetime....
So, if you're not in your winter yet...
let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think.
So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! 
Don't put things off too long!!
Life goes by quickly.  So, do what you can today,
as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! 
You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life . .. . so,
live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember  . . . 
and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things
that you have done for them in all the years past!!

Life is a gift to you.
The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.
Make it a fantastic one.

LIVE IT WELL!!
ENJOY TODAY!
DO SOMETHING FUN!
BE HAPPY!
BE THANKFUL!

The case of the missing fruitcake

I'm one of those strange people who loves fruitcake.  In the past, one of my traditions was to get my mother's fruitcake recipe out just before Thanksgiving and make it.  That recipe made a huge fruitcake that practically filled up an angel-food cake pan.  I'd eat a piece every day right through Christmas and have it finished off by New Year's eve.  
Because I'm a glutton like that, I haven't made fruitcake for years.  Yesterday we were at Walmart; Cliff had his cart with oil and man-stuff in it, and I had my cart with groceries.  We were headed toward the checkout when I saw a display of little fruitcakes.  They were fairly cheap; I could tell by looking they wouldn't be the best fruitcake I ever had, but there's no such thing as bad fruitcake in my book.  
I paused, looking at those little fruitcakes, and told Cliff I was tempted to buy one.  He said, "I'll buy you a fruitcake," and put one in his cart.  
After we got home, I put most of the groceries away while I fixed dinner.  Once Cliff left for work, I remembered the fruitcake and started looking for it.
It was nowhere to be found.  I called his cell.
"I saw it on the back of the kitchen table," he said.  
It wasn't there.  I looked in the trunk, all over the garage, in the refrigerator and freezer.  
No fruitcake.  
Cliff thinks Iris ate it; she has been known to counter-surf.  However, if she did, she ate paper and all.  
You can't make this stuff up, and it gets worse the older we get.
I guess I'll blame the dog.  


By the way, my Farmville snowman got his hat while I slept last night, and he's now dancing his heart out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why I love John Prine

I know he's not a great singer, but I love the lyrics he writes.  All of his songs either make me laugh, or make me cry.  This one hits the nail on the head and makes me smile every time I hear it.  Come on, you know we'd all be better off if we blew up our TV and threw away the paper.  And who doesn't love home-grown peaches?  
This entry is partly for my hard-of-hearing husband, who can never make out the words when he listens to John Prine singing.  Let's face it, the words here are the important thing!


SPANISH PIPE DREAM


She was a level-headed dancer on the road to alcohol
And I was just a soldier on my way to Montreal
Well, she pressed her chest against me
About the time the juke box broke
Yeah, she gave me a peck on the back of the neck
And these are the words she spoke

Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an' find Jesus on your own

Well, I sat there at the table and I acted real naive
For I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve
Well, she danced around the bar room
And she did the hoochy-coo
Yeah, she sang her song all night long
Tellin' me what to do

Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an' find Jesus on your own

Well, I was young and hungry
And about to leave that place
When just as I was leavin'
Well she looked me in the face

I said, "You must know the answer"
She said, "No but I'll give it a try"
And to this very day we've been livin' our way
Here is the reason why

We blew up our TV, threw away our paper
Went to the country, built us a home
Had a lot of children, fed 'em on peaches
They all found Jesus on their own





Memories and stuff

This is the main street of North Kansas City; judging by the cars, this picture must have been taken around 1950; however, it looked about the same in 1960.
That Woolworth store on the right was where I held down my first job, after school during the Christmas season.  On the left is Katz Drug, which is where I got most all my 45-RPM records of Elvis and Pat Boone and Conway Twitty.  On the left side of the street further back is a store that was called "Three Sisters".
Henry Hornet, the North Kansas City High School mascot, put this picture on Facebook.  Wow, what memories.
Now some silliness.  I almost hate to share this because I know how stupid it sounds, an old lady playing silly farming games.  So if it seems too crazy to you, just stop reading and send the men in the white coats after me.
On Farmville, you send gifts to your farming friends and they send gifts to you:  cows, chickens, building materials for barns (nails, boards, etc.).  At Christmas time there are special gifts and games we play.
So, there's this snowman.  You can't just by the snowman; oh no, your friends have to send you piles of snow until there are enough, then you have your basic snowman.  Then you have to beg friends for buttons and a carrot nose and a scarf.  I got all that done, and the only thing left was to get the magic hat, which makes the snowman dance.
Farmville told me I had to get the hat from one of two people.  Nobody else could send it.  The two people, though, don't play Farmville any more.  But I saw someone else's snowman dancing, and I really wanted mine to dance!  So I went to my friend's wall and begged her for a favor.
She told me she sent me the hat; wouldn't you know Farmville decided to be ornery?  It won't load, so I can't see whether my snowman got his hat or not.
I took a video earlier of somebody else's snowman dancing.  Looks like this is the only one I'm going to see for awhile.





I think I need to get a life; can I hear an "amen"?

On the other hand

I, personally, am fine.  My health seems good, and it's going to get better when I lose some weight.  Outside of some achey joints, I have no complaints.  My husband recently passed some very stringent heart tests and received a clean bill of health.  
My children and grandchildren are well-fed and healthy.


My great-granddaughter is smart and sassy and huggable, and as you can see, beautiful.  Today she is two years old.  
I have sufficient funds to pay our bills, buy groceries, and stay on the Internet.  That last one is a biggie, as I'm sure you can imagine.  


 Cliff and I have a warm house and a comfortable bed in which to sleep; so does Iris, our dog.


Relatives come to visit and bring their pets; we have a dog-friendly house, now that Iris has figured out it isn't necessary to kill every dog who enters here.  (That's some lap-dog Cliff's sister has, isn't it?)  
I'm looking forward to spring flowers and summer tomatoes and motorcycle rides and Cliff's retirement.  
I always get the winter doldrums; it's nothing new, and it wouldn't matter if the whole world was perfect, I'd likely still get this way in the winter and around Christmas.  It isn't anything as serious as clinical depression.  
I never forget to count my blessings, believe me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas blues

Since I reached adulthood (many years ago), I've had a tendency to be a little depressed around Christmas; I've never been able to put my finger on a cause.  I know part of it is S.A.D., but somehow there's a special low I get as Christmas draws nigh.  There was a time I could bake my way out of it, but Cliff and I have no will power; if I bake cookies, we'll eat them.  So I mope around feeling sorry for myself, missing out on fruitcake and brown sugar candy and cranberry bread.  
A close relative lost his job.  That doesn't help my mood. 
Today an old friend of ours, Bud Smith, was buried; that puts added clouds in my sky.  He was the type of guy that, if you called him to come and help, he was right there.  You could count on it.  In recent months Alzheimer's got hold of him and he wasn't the same person we used to know, according to his daughter.  
We got word this afternoon that one of Cliff's cousins has, at most, a few days to live.
I suppose I'm just being reminded of my own mortality.  
Then there's cancer.  For three years I've followed the blogs of two young mothers who were diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer around the same time.  This is a cancer that you're never rid of.  No doctor will ever say you're cured.  Both these ladies have had a recent recurrence and are going through chemo, again.  Their fondest hopes are that they make it long enough to see their children grow up.  How is it I get to live to be sixty-six, and these ladies probably won't?    
I've recently discovered another blogger who just found out her husband has lung cancer.  


I had, today, a light bulb moment:  I've always tried to think of something to say to these people and leave a comment on their blogs.  Today it hit me that, since I don't know these folks personally, I'd do well to read what they have to say, whisper a prayer for them, and move on.  It's probably best if I leave the commenting to people who know them in real life, and that's what I intend to do from now on.  
But it just weighs on a person, knowing what kind of Christmas these folks are having.  
With that said, I wish all my readers a peaceful, healthy and happy Christmas.  

Back to normal

For over a year, Cliff has been working ten-hour days, four days a week.  He would leave for work at 2:30 P.M. and get back home at 3 A.M.  I woke him up each morning at 10 (his request).  He moves slowly in the morning, so by the time he was ready for us to go for our walk, it was usually after 11.  We'd get back before noon and it was time for me to tend to dinner, which was at 1 P.M.  Often I'd prepare something before Cliff got up in the morning and just reheat it.  
As you can see, he didn't have much time for anything else on the four days he worked.  The three-day weekends were nice, though.  
We were only in bed together for an hour or two each night, since I'm always wide awake by 5.  I'd be too hungry to wait till Cliff got up, so we ate breakfast at different times.  
Every three months, the employees where he works have the chance to switch to eight-hour days, five days a week.  He and Tony, the guy he rides with, decided to do it this time.  
I like this so much better!  
We can eat breakfast together; we take our walk, and I still have plenty of time to prepare a meal.  Cliff says eight hours absolutely flies past, after working ten hours for so long.  
Of course, at this stage it's all temporary, since he plans to retire in June anyhow.  He says that ever since he decided to retire, it's really hard to go to work.  He's anxious for June.  
For that matter, so am I.  
Now, on to the weather.  A few days ago the forecast for Christmas Eve was highs in the fifties and sunshine.  "We'll go on a quick motorcycle ride," I told Cliff.  
I should have known better than to trust a long-range forecast.  Now they're talking about sleet and snow and wintry mixes and I don't know what-all.
  
Ever since Cliff's doctor yelled at us about his weight, he's been doing better.  He lost eight pounds, briefly put it back on over Thanksgiving, then lost it again.  Starting New Year's, we're both going to get serious.  I mean, really serious.  I won't be putting that little ticker thing on the sidebar telling what I've lost, because that doesn't seem to help the cause at all, and it makes me feel even worse if I fail, knowing everybody is watching.  
We've done it before, although I'll admit the older we get, the harder it is to lose weight.  But I certainly don't want to face the wrath of that doctor again!  
I won't be harping on the weight thing on this blog; nothing is more boring than hearing about calories and carbs and so forth.  Wish us luck!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Omelets

I'm right in the middle of watching Julie and Julia; it's a movie I didn't expect to enjoy, but it's pretty good.
I can't believe people make such complicated dishes, though.  It reminds me of Meesha's latest post explaining how to make gefilte fish.  No way am I going to go to all that trouble for any recipe; it makes me tired just to read it.  As much as I love his borscht, I'm not doing the fish.  
There's one thing I would love to learn to cook, though: an omelet.  
When Cliff and I go out to eat breakfast, I always order an omelet, a fully loaded one with mushrooms and bits of ham and lots of cheese and onions and peppers... the works.  I order that because I can't make an omelet myself.
I've watched Youtube videos and I've consulted Professor Google; I've sneaked around the kitchen when there's nobody here to see my failures, trying to make an omelet.  They always end up as scrambled eggs.   
And now I'm watching some lady waltz through Julia Childs' cookbook as though there's nothing to it.  
I give up.

How about a chuckle?

I'm sure some of you have received this in email, but here it is for those who haven't.


IT CAN BE HARD KEEPING A STRAIGHT FACE AS A COURT REPORTER  

 These are from a book called Disorder in the Court, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published.


  ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
  WITNESS:     He said , 'Where am I, Cathy?'
  ATTORNEY:  And why did that upset you?
  WITNESS:     My name is Susan!
  ____________________________________________
 
  ATTORNEY:  What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
  WITNESS:     Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
  ____________________________________________
 
  ATTORNEY:  Are you sexually active?
  WITNESS:     No , I just lie there.
  ____________________________________________
 
  ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
  WITNESS:     Yes.
  ATTORNEY:  And in what ways does it affect your memory?
  WITNESS:     I forget.
  ATTORNEY:  You forget?  Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
  ___________________________________________
 
  ATTORNEY:  Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
  WITNESS:     We both do.
  ATTORNEY:  Voodoo?
  WITNESS:     We do.
  ATTORNEY:  You do?
  WITNESS:     Yes , voodoo.
  ____________________________________________
 
  ATTORNEY:  Now doctor , isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep , he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
  WITNESS:  Did you actually pass the bar exam?
  ____________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  The youngest son , the 20-year-old , how old is he?
  WITNESS:      He's 20, much like your IQ.
  ___________________________________________
 
 
  ATTORNEY:  Were you present when your picture was taken?
  WITNESS:     Are you sh*tting me?
  _________________________________________
   
  ATTORNEY:  So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
  WITNESS:     Yes.
  ATTORNEY:  And what were you doing at that time?
  WITNESS:     Getting laid
  ____________________________________________
   
  ATTORNEY:  She had three children , right?
  WITNESS:     Yes.
  ATTORNEY:  How many were boys?
  WITNESS:
    None
  ATTORNEY:   Were there any girls?
  WITNESS:      Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?
  ____________________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  How was your first marriage terminated?
  WITNESS:     By death..
  ATTORNEY:  And by whose death was it terminated?
  WITNESS:     Take a guess.
  ____________________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  Can you describe the individual?
  WITNESS:     He was about medium height and had a beard
  ATTORNEY:  Was this a male or a female?
  WITNESS:     Unless the Circus was in town I'm going with male.
  _____________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
  WITNESS:  No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
  ______________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
  WITNESS:     All of them.. The live ones put up too much of a fight.
  _________________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  ALL your responses MUST be oral , OK? What school did you go to?
  WITNESS:     Oral..
  _________________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
  WITNESS:     The autopsy started around
 8:30 PM
  ATTORNEY:  And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
  WITNESS:     If not, he was by the time I finished.
  ____________________________________________

  ATTORNEY:  Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
  WITNESS:     Are you qualified to ask that question?
  ______________________________________

  And last:
  ATTORNEY:  Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
  WITNESS:     No.
  ATTORNEY:  Did you check for blood pressure?
  WITNESS:     No.
  ATTORNEY:  Did you check for breathing?
  WITNESS:     No..
  ATTORNEY:  So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
  WITNESS:     No.
  ATTORNEY:  How can you be so sure, Doctor?
  WITNESS:     Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
  ATTORNEY:  I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
  WITNESS:     Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.
 


The trend has come to Kansas City

A while back I shared a video after someone mailed me the link; a group of people spontaneously started singing the Hallelujah Chorus in a food court at a mall someplace.  Nobody is going to top that one, the way it starts with a single singer and others gradually join in.  
When people gather like this, mostly strangers, it's called a flash mob.  I'll probably never get to witness it first-hand, since I rarely go to the city, but I love the concept.
This weekend it happened in Kansas City (Thanks to a Kansas City blogger for giving me a heads-up).  You'll find an article about it in the Kansas City Star HERE.  




Sunday, December 19, 2010

What is Cliff doing with all these tractors?

Milly, a city gal, read the previous entry and asked, "Are these antiques?  Special tractors?  And once they are fixed or restored what does he do with them?  
Milly, Cliff just happens to love tractors. 

At one time we had about a dozen of them of various kinds and colors; of the ones in this picture, only two remain.  Some people collect stamps or coins; Cliff collects tractors.  Every one is special to him.  
We do need a tractor for our forty acres, but the newest one in our possession, a John Deere (the green one in the picture), can do the job just fine.  The other tractors hanging around here make up Cliff's very expensive hobby.  
They're more like what you'd call "classic" tractors rather than antiques, manufactured in the sixties and seventies.  
The oldest tractor he has is one he restored with the oldest grandson years ago; it was built in the fifties.  That's it above, before restoration; it hadn't run in several years.  I couldn't find a good picture of it as it looks now, but it's the bright red, shiny one in that first picture.  That grandson is now in his mid-twenties.  Cliff keeps this one for sentimental reasons, and says it will go to Arick eventually.    
The reason he sold off most of his collection a few years ago was that he realized it was silly having all these unused tractors sitting here looking pretty; it isn't good for them to just sit idly by, unused.  
I'm sure you've heard of people restoring antique and classic cars; this is the same, only it's tractors.  
There is no money to be made in fixing up these tractors, and plenty to be spent.  Cliff lost money on most of the tractors he sold; but he had fun working on them, and how does one put a price on fun?  He doesn't golf; he doesn't spend money in bars.  
The huge tractor he's working on in the shop is an 1855 Oliver, far to big to use on forty acres.  But he always wanted to own one, so there it is.  
The little Oliver is actually about the right size for our place, but as I said, we have a John Deere that does everything we need done.  
What does he do with them?  
When he's finished with the small Oliver, he will probably plow the occasional garden with it, and use it to pull trailers around the place; he might take it to a few tractor shows within driving distance, perhaps the ones at Adrian and Booneville.     
The big one?  Once it's completely "broke in" from its engine tuneup, he'll drive it up and down the road and around the pasture once in awhile, I guess.  And walk around it often, admiring its beauty.  
In trying to explain his passion, I've come to the realization that he has a disease!  Tractoritis!  
Do you know of any twelve-step programs for tractor aficionados?  

In Cliff's shop

He has two Oliver tractor projects going at once.  


If you hate going to the dentist...

My friend Meesha did this entry a couple of years ago about what dentistry was like when he was growing up in Russia.  I guarantee you that if you read this little piece, you will start thanking your lucky stars for whatever dentist you patronize.  You will also be glad you live in the good old U.S.A. 
Click HERE.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dear friends and family

Cliff and I had the usual yearly discussion and decided we will not be sending Christmas cards or giving Christmas gifts this year.  We're getting ready for retirement, and now is as good a time as any to get realistic.  We've agreed it's just too hard to figure out what to give grandchildren once they get past four years old, unless you give them money; and in order for the money to do them any good, it would need to be a substantial amount.    
We're not trying to be Scrooges or Grinches here, we're just doing what seems sensible to us.  
We might, in the future, do a name-drawing gift exchange if the family wants to do it; that would be affordable for all, even with a $50 or so limit.  
As for the Christmas cards, I do love getting them, especially the ones with letters and notes enclosed.  However, with the price of stamps, it turns into a fairly expensive proposition. 
When we had this discussion, Cliff said, "So you're not getting anything for me and I'm not getting anything for you, right?"  
"Of course not," I answered.  "I already got my gift:  the Nook."  
For those who watched the last episode of Mike and Molly, Cliff is exactly like Mike when it comes to gifting.  He wants to get something great, but never knows what to get; any hints go right over his head.  I'm fine with us getting ourselves what we want.  We don't do gifts on birthdays or Valentine's Day either, although I use those occasions as an excuse to eat out.  So, we're not the last of the great romantics.  
I guess in this way we're a perfect match.  It's worked out for forty-four years, so far.
I did send something to City Union Mission; their donations are down, due to the economy.  That's the one-and-only Christmas gift Cliff and I are giving this year, and I hope to continue that, even if it's a lesser amount after he retires; every little bit helps.  Cliff always slips something into the Salvation Army kettles.  
You can check out many charities with Charity Navigator, although many religious organizations aren't listed there, due to the fact that they are exempt under the Internal Revenue Code from filing Form 990.  I don't like this, but that's how it is; I believe every charity should be accountable.  Salvation Army is not listed on Charity Navigator; City Union Mission is.  That's how I made my choice on which one to gift.    
Merry Christmas to all; may you make memories that will last throughout your lives.  I certainly enjoy my Christmas memories.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Christmas story, Facebook style

You probably need to understand Facebook to appreciate this video.  I love it!


Oops

Although I have the money set aside to pay our taxes this year, I had intended to pay the taxes using a credit card, then pay the bill as soon as it showed up next month, just for the credit card rewards.  Seemed like a good plan to me.
Then I read the Credit Card Charge Form that came with my tax bill:  "I understand that the total amount charged on my credit card will include an additional 3.9% Convenience Fee as allowed by Missouri Statute 130.055.  This convenience Fee is not retained by the Collector or the County."  
I'm pretty sure the $50 this would add onto my two tax bills is more than I would have netted in rewards.  I'll skip the credit card and pay cash.  But they're not getting it until the last week of the year!