Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good-bye 2011

It feels like I just started writing 2011 yesterday and tomorrow I must remember to write 2012. I remember thinking writing 2000 was going for feel odd and that was what...just last month? Can we put old batteries in the calendar and slow things down a bit?

Gone are our days of big parties on New Year's Eve but that is not a sad thing, that is a choice. All is good, very good in fact. We'll have a little private party early this evening with our grandson. When you're as goofy in love with a little guy as we are, what could be better?

It has been a very hard year for many good people. This cartoon might seem odd, but it expresses what I hope for 2012. I hope we can change from frightening to fun, from bullies to buddies, and the all encompassing hope, from hatred to love.

Can you imagine if everyone followed the Golden Rule? 

Blessings to all and wishes for peace and happiness. Thank you for being friends and readers. I'll see you in 2000 ... 2011...2012. Yeah, that's it! 2012!!!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

And on the 29th day...

I'd like to say that on the 29th day, I rested. But that might not happen until the 30th. Of April.

Christmas was wonderful. Busy, blessed, tiring, all those things at once. Our tree didn't just drop needles before the 25th, it was ejecting them like a porcupine in defense mode. We stripped the tree of decorations on Tuesday and got it out for pickup yesterday morning.
We have a piece of furniture that we call a room divider because it was my mom's and that is what she always called it. Every year we wrap white lights around the shelves and place decorations on it that can be viewed from both sides. Two days before Christmas, half of the lights burned out.

When we took them down yesterday, hubby began unwinding the string as he usually does, then said to heck with it and got his wire cutters out can cut the dead string off. This is big news! Huge! Hubby didn't even flinch when he threw out the entire string although we knew half of the bulbs were still working. Notice I didn't say they were still "good"?  Photobucket

Normally January is a quiet month and I get a bug to reorganize things in a big way. Successful de-cluttering in past years would mean less work this year, but I doubt even that will happen. We have an unusually busy January and February ahead and I am trying to streamline housekeeping chores by sending my snowmen collection on vacation.

Before Colton became so mobile (and tall!) I had snowmen out among the Christmas decor and they remained out until February so that the house wouldn't look so bare. I had to downsize what came out on display this season for safety's sake....both Colton's and for the sake of breakable items. I might just be a wee bit superstitious too. I didn't put snowmen out and we haven't had a snowfall that required shoveling yet. Think I'm on to something?
One bit of organizing that I am doing concerns the computer. I deleted a lot of photos and saved graphics this morning, will be saving what is left on an external drive and then taking more off of my hard drive. This brings me to a question for all of you, especially those of you who like to use many photos and graphics in your posts.
Do you mainly upload images from your hard drive for your posts or do you have them stored elsewhere, such as Photobucket? I mention Photobucket because I use them for animated images and pictures that I want to share on a forum that doesn't allow direct uploads from hard drives.
I am almost at capacity for free storage through Picasa albums with Blogger. The down side to using photo hosting sites such as Photobucket is that sizes have to be changed there rather than a simple click and adjust through Blogger. Another downside is that if you clear out a Photobucket album, forgetting you used one of the images on your blog, you leave this message in its place:
Darn. I hate when that happens.

If you are a graphic-aholic or photo junkie, what are you doing to stay within your free range in your Picasa album?

I'd go take some photos of what I'm working on, but I'm already at 95.66%. Maybe I should just email everyone instead!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nail product review and a typical day of household repairs

First, the repairs. Our home is on a concrete slab and our dryer vents through the second story. Periodically my husband uses the shop vac to clean the dryer after removing the back, and then reverses the shop vac and blow air up through the dryer hose to encourage any clinging lint to free itself.
Normally we would not tackle this just before Christmas. My washer and dryer are at the back end of my kitchen. The washer has to be moved in order to get the dryer pulled forward so that he can access the tubing. A few loads took much longer than usual to dry the other day and I was concerned we had a blockage. The good news is that we don't. If it wasn't a fluke, there might be a sensor going bad that is causing the heat to shut down too soon. Time will tell.

To pull the washer forward, the hoses have to be disconnected from the laundry tub. One of the pipes is now leaking at the handle. It is a very slow leak, but will have to be addressed soon. Now just isn't the time to rip everything apart unless it becomes an emergency. Why is it that one problem or task always seems to lead to four or five more?

Now for my disappointing product review. My sister-in-law gets manicures with gel polish and is very pleased with the results. I've been considering trying this but it won't happen until at least next week, or more likely, after the first of the year. Same sister-in-law told me about a product called Gel Perfect by Nutra Nail, available at Rite Aide. It is supposed to be like the salon applied lacquer but does not require a UV light treatment.

The polish was $11.99, the remover $5.99. I did use coupons, but it was still much more than I normally spend on polish. The procedure called for you to shake the bottle of color (all bottles are small), then unscrew the caps on the three bottles in the kit.
(Three middle bottles are the kit. End bottles are for size comparison)

First you brush Activator on 5 nails. Next you immediately apply thin coats of color to those 5 nails. Now you need to clean that brush with the cleaner in bottle #3. They stress that you MUST. DO. THIS. after every 5 nails!

Now you repeat the steps on your other hand. After cleaning the brush, repeat everything AGAIN on your first hand for a second coat of color. You definitely need at least two coats of color, maybe 3 or more, depending on the color.

It did dry quickly and was shiny.

That is it for the good part. The bad part is that one nail chipped in less than 24 hours. No housework or crafting was done in that period to have caused the damage. Within 48 hours, I had a second chip that got larger in a hurry. Now that I've looked at reviews online, I see I not alone in my disappointment.
(image found on internet, not my nails)

I took the Gel Perfect polish and remover back to Rite Aide and got a full reimbursement. I came home and used acetone (the company's suggestion if not using their removal pads) to soak cotton balls which were placed on each finger and wrapped in foil for two minutes. I had to go through this process twice on each hand to get 95% of the lacquer off. I will have to work on them again tonight, but I have other things that need attention this afternoon.
I guess I will be visiting the salon soon and trying a professionally applied gel polish and see how that goes. Anyone have experience with them?

What we go through for beauty, eh? And for clean dryer vents too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flurry of activity

The best part of this week's flurry of activity is that there haven't been any flurries falling yet.

Yeah, yeah....I know...some people think Christmas should always be white. I think the pavement should always be clear and dry, and temperatures above 50 are more to my way of thinking. Seventy degrees would be even better but I am realistic. (Did you just hear my husband snort over that proclamation?)

My wayward Christmas orders arrived on Monday, I finished knitting a gift that I shouldn't show here yet, and today I went to lunch with my two once a month dinner buddies. Our initials are C, L and T but we put them in another order to call ourselves TLC as it is true that we do Tenderly, Lovingly Care for each other. I am the C of the trio. L was the last to retire which enables us to know go to lunch instead of dinner if we choose.

In Decembers past we have gone to the Nutcracker or seen the Rockettes perform in addition to dinner and a small gift exchange. We've seen plays performed, a spoof on traditional Christmas stories and tales, and when "Menopause, the Musical" first came to this area, we saw that for our holiday celebration and laughed until our sides hurt.  L was out of town until recently so our date took place later than usual and we couldn't find a performance that worked into our schedules but the important part is always being together, not what we are eating, watching or doing. Except for whichever one of is driving. She is supposed to watch and know what she is doing.

Today we drove to a town that is about an hour away. We went to the Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen, a place that is favored by Kid Rock and on his recommendation, was visited by Guy Fieri from the Food Network. He featured it on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

The building was an old church and the pews are now dining benches. The following 3 pictures are not mine, I found them online. The place was packed today and apparently has been since the original airing of Fieri's show.

 The restaurant is famous for their mac and cheese. I should have taken a photo of it. The top of individual serving dish was a beautiful and tasty crusty brown. A half order, especially after an appetizer that we shared, was more than L or I could eat for lunch. T ordered the full order (huge!) so that she could take some home for dinner for herself and her daughter. You could get the mac and cheese plain, with cubed ham added or with lobster.

The appetizer we shared was called a Cracker Crust Pizza. Here is what a slice of it looked like. The blackboard lists the ingredients. If anyone thinks they have mastered a cracker crust pizza like this, I am willing to come over and sample it.

Yours truly, grinning away between her long time friends L and T. 
Next on my to-do list is narrowing down the dessert possibilities for Christmas day. I have 5 desserts and chocolate chip cookies and that is way too much for the number of people who will be at Christmas dinner. I think I will make it easy on myself and eliminate the fussiest dessert and keep the keep the cookies (which are always part of hubby's Christmas gift) down to a single batch that will stay here. Don't quote me on this though. I've gone nuts and overloaded on baking before.

Best wishes completing your to-do lists on these last few days before the holiday!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The kind of snow that I like...

Go to Google and enter "let it snow". I really like the "defrost" button feature. If Mother Nature provided that, I'd like winter a whole lot better!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Postal delivery problems

Every year I seem to order more Christmas gifts online. Seldom do I order with a week or less to spare and actually expect to get the items in time. I am having a terrible time this year and it is because of the post office.I am not bashing postal workers. I know the service is in financial trouble and I'm guessing they haven't hired temporary workers to help with the holiday crush. Something needs to change though, but what is the answer?

Tracking my other orders from Lands' End, Signals and another source (don't want to mention in case the gift receiver reads this as the name would be a give away) all show that the items have been delivered to the post office, but not to me. I would say that I am pissed but that doesn't sound nice so I will just say I am really displeased. I had to reschedule a date with a friend because I don't have her gift yet. I am going to have to try to come up with something else in case it doesn't arrive today or Monday. 

According to tracking info online, the post office has had my Signals order since 12/11; the Lands' End order has been there since 12/13; and the mystery store order was placed on 12/3 with delivery in 5-7 days.
I ordered from L.L.Bean online on Thursday 12/8; got notice that it shipped on 12/9 and received it on Tuesday 12/13 from UPS.
I ordered shoes, not a Christmas gift, from Zappos on Thursday 12/15 at 3:13 PM and got them the next day before 2:00 PM through UPS. Wow,right?
Another problem for me is stamps. Do you receive an order form at home for stamps? I have ordered that way in the past and usually get the stamps within 2 days, paying by check. If you order online, there is a $1 fee involved. When I mailed a package earlier this month it required two trips to the post office because their computer was down the first time. I tried buying holiday stamps but they were out of them. I'm not complaining about this. Computers are lovely when they're working and evil when they aren't. The stamps were expected within a day or two and I certainly could have bought a different design but I wanted those particular stamps. Not sure if I could specify them on the order form, I ordered them online.
After a week without stamps, I tried checking my order online. I couldn't. It doesn't recognize either my email or my password, the same address and password I've been using for ten years with them! I went back to the post office and bought stamps. The online order arrived the next day. Good thing they are Forever stamps as I will likely be using these at least through next November.
How do we improve this situation? People are cutting out sending cards because postage rates are too prohibitive. Decreased mailings hurts the post office so the rates go up again, and still they're in debt. I would personally deliver cards and gifts but you really don't want to hear me get started on gas prices, do you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Not so quiet day in the park with Benton

Chances are, if you've ever had a dog, you can identify with this man's frustration as he tries to get his dog, Benton, to stop his pursuit and return. This took place in Richmond Park, London.

And look here at the marketing that has already happened!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What do you see?

I was searching for brain teasers and found optical illusions. I hadn't thought of them as brain teasers, but some do test your ability to think (view) things differently.

This one is an old classic that everyone has probably seen. Do you see a vase or two faces in profile? I easily see both and one doesn't dominate the other for me, maybe because I've seen this so often.
Do you see a grim faced man wearing a helmet or a man bent over mooning you? I saw the helmet first, but the full moon was pretty obvious to me too.
Is this a young girl or an old woman? I had a bit of trouble here. I'll give a clue later on.
Saxophone player or graphic of a woman's face with high contrast?
What do you see here? An elderly couple facing each other? Do you see their younger selves in their faces?
Portrait of a man or a landscape? Both, I'd say.
This was called High Society. Does his suit remain a suit or does his torso become a donkey's head?
Another donkey or a seal (otter?) sliding downward? Clue will follow if you aren't seeing them both.
A woman's profile facing to the left with her hand outstretched or a self portrait of Salvador Dali facing the right?
The image of a lovely lady or simply flowers and a butterfly?
I would like to shout this word because I was successful in seeing both images in each picture
Having trouble reading that? It helps if you squint. I can't shout that word though because the last image stumps me. there are supposed to be 7 faces here and I can only find 5 of them.
Let me know if you spot them all. Or if you need something to calm your stomach and eyeballs after staring at that last photo.

If you had trouble seeing the young girl, think of the image as being done from her side with her looking away from the artist/photographer. A small protrusion defines her nose, the larger one is her jawline. The line above the collar of her dress might be a necklace. Her ear is detailed near her long, flowing hair.

To see the old woman in the same image, what was the young girl's ear is the old woman's eye. The young jaw is the older woman's nose and the necklace is her thin mouth. The hair becomes wrinkles near the eye and I'd like to think those are laugh lines near the mouth.

I think the donkey/otter is an easy one but a friend did not see the otter until I pointed it out. The details of the donkey's snout becomes the otter's head. The donkey eyes are the fins and the donkey ears are the tail of the sea animal.

Still stuck on that word? It is Eureka. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Days of Christmas lament

Do you appreciate any and all gifts that you receive? It is the proper thing to do, right? Here is a mid-week gift from me to you. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

You know it 'Tis the Season....

You know it 'tis the season when you can't remember sleeping last night.

I had a cookie exchange to attend today. I planned to bake Snickerdoodles last night. I wasn't procrastinating. My reasons were that they would be fresher baked less than 24 hours before distribution and they weren't likely to all disappear with milk or coffee during this time frame.

The result was horrible. I wouldn't have given the cookies to anyone. I think my baking soda was too old. Before getting to the baked disaster, I almost had a personal disaster while getting the first sheet into the oven. Two would-be cookies rolled off the sheet unbeknown to me and I stepped on them. As I slid at least 18 inches before jolting myself upright, I had a million thoughts in those few seconds including:
What am I slipping on???

Don't drop the cookie dough!

Please don't leave me without 48 'good' cookies!

I hope I don't mess up these pants which I planned to wear again before laundering.

and finally

I hope I don't break a bone!

Nothing broke. When I stopped in an upright position, I dropped 5 more cookie dough blobs into the bottom of the oven. I turned the heat off, removed the racks and pulled the liner out to get to the blobs. I ripped the oven liner in the process.

After taking the second sheet of baked cookies out of the oven, I tasted one from the first sheet. Ptooey!  I got up early this morning to start peanut butter cookies. Forget the Snickerdoodles. For one thing, I used up the last of the cinnamon last night.
Uh oh...I didn't have enough shortening. Or peanut butter. And a fresh box of baking soda would probably be a good idea. Bless my husband's heart, he took pity on his frustrated wife and went to the store for 4 items. He came home with 20, but that is another story.

Plain ole peanut butter cookies got made. They don't look Christmasy next to cut out cookies or many other varieties, but they tasted at least 200% better than last night's cookies.
I'm old enough to know that there are times you should say "Thanks for thinking of me, but I can't attend/participate in xxx event this time". Good friends should understand and those who don't....well, they don't pay your medical bills when you slide across the kitchen floor on raw cookie dough and break your tookus (the Latin term would be Hind-Endicus) on the oven door.

The cookie exchange has ended and now that I am back home, a half bottle of wine has mysteriously disappeared.   Photobucket

'Tis the season....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Good news for women who think as I do!

This woman is 51. She is Gillian McKeith, advocating an holistic approach to nutrition and health, promoting exercise and a vegetarian diet high in organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets, colonic irrigations and supplements.
This woman is 51. She is Nigella Lawson, a cook on TV who eats meat, butter and desserts.

May I say....I REST MY CASE!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Shopping!

I've mentioned this site before, but in this season of frantic shopping, it bears repeating.

If you are shopping online, before you finalize your order, go Retail Me Not and check for promo codes for discounts or free shipping. Most retailers will only allow one promo per order but if they are automatically offering free shipping, you might be able to use a discount found at this site. I'm sure there are other sites similar to this but this has become my go-to source and I've had great luck.

I understand that shipping has become expensive and it isn't the fault of retailers but I am old enough to remember when shipping costs were based on the size and weight of items. A small item with a large price tag can cost more to ship than a huge, inexpensive item. I guess what the stores lose on shipping the latter is made up by overcharging on the former.

Recently I ordered 8 items from Kohl's using discount offer and free shipping. All of the items were toys but must not have dispatched from the same warehouse. So far, I have received 7 of the 8 items and they've arrived in 5 boxes. One carton was large enough for a microwave and the content was one Mr Potato Head play set. There was more packing than toy.

I'm not the "greenest" person in the world but I do notice things like this and feel bad. It probably would have been better to shop the brick and mortar stores but honestly, I couldn't pass up the savings while enjoying the simplicity of shopping from home. Some of the drivers and shoppers are NUTS out there!!

Good luck with your shopping, cleaning, baking and whatever else December demands of you. Just be careful if your computer crashes before you are done gift shopping or you run out of sugar for your baking. Don't let this happen to you:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

I thought this was thoroughly enjoyable. I understand that some people think anything but a traditional telling of Christian stories is disrespectful. If you are of that opinion, all I can say that is no offense is intended. To the best of my knowledge, these are the lyrics used. A few words were hard for me to understand and there isn't sanctioned post online that I could find to pair with this clip. Someone named Anna (no last name given) cited these words as the lyrics:

Is this the real birth? Is it Nativity?
Caught in a census, in the town of His ancestry.
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see…
He’s just a poor boy, foretold by prophecy.
Because the wise men come, wise men go,
Angels high, shepherds low.
This is how God’s love shows,
It’s a wondrous story to me, to me.

Mary just got the word,
The angel did appear, but he told her not to fear.
Mary, now it’s just begun.
Your Son is gonna wash our sins away.

Mary, ooooh…. this is how God’s love’s shown.
The God who reigns on high, has sent his Son through you to die for all.

I see a little silhouette of a sheep,
Shepherds watch, shepherds watch over their flocks at nighttime.
Angels shine like lightning,
Very, very frightening – me!

Glory to God! Peace on earth!
Glory to God! Peace on earth!
Unto you is born this day,
The only way!

I’m just a shepherd, nobody loves me.
He’s just a shepherd, from a poor family.
Angels said, go to the stable to see.
Wise men come, wise men go, will Herod let him live?

King Herod, no! He will not let him live – better go!
King Herod, he will not let him live – better go!
King Herod, he will not let him live!

Better go – will not let him live; better go – will not let him live
Better go, go, go, go!
Mary, Joseph, Mary, Joseph, Mary, Joseph better go!
To Egypt now, gotta save your Son who came for me, for me, for me!

So you think that it’s just a tale of days gone by?
But this Child who was born went to Calvary to die.
Oh, Jesus, it’s the story of Jesus-
Wash our sins out, wash our sins right out of here.
Jesus, Jesus.

It’s a wondrous story, anyone can see.
Let’s give God the glory, it’s a wondrous story, to me.

This is how God’s love shone.

And hopefully a non traditional nativity won't offend you. I do have a serious, traditional one, but this one comes out every year and makes me smile.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The RIGHT kind of snowmen

I like hot air balloon images but have no desire to go up in one.
I like watermelon prints but am not particularly fond of watermelon itself.
I think snowmen and snowflakes are cute, but would prefer NOT to have the real stuff falling near me.

Welcome to my world of contradictions.

I belong to a small internet group of long time friends. Each year we draw names for a Christmas swap. The tree snowmen are what I made for my swap partner. She has two granddaughters and I thought this could be a snowwoman and her grandchildren.
The pattern is called SnoBuddy Family, available for purchase through Knitting at Knoon or as a kit at Mary Maxim's but it is currently on back order there.

The pattern gives directions for three sizes plus two additional hats for men and boys (see below). I added the pink trim and made the little one a pink scarf so that this family would be color coordinated. I left off the noses because I wasn't happy with how they looked. They seemed more like beaks than carrot noses.
Directions called for dried beans in the bottoms of the snow buddies to help them stand up. I wanted these to be easily washable so I made one without beans for myself. She is ok, but tends to list a bit. I think she drinks spiked eggnog, but I haven't caught her in the act yet. Anyway, what to do to weigh these bottoms down? I would have volunteered a butt fat transplant but I really like my swap partner and didn't want to gross her out. I used drapery weights instead.
The cute box and tin are from Joann's. The tin was filled with assorted Hershey Kisses before being packed into the box with the snow buddies. I'm happy to say that this gift was well received.

Last year I got a red shower curtain with white dots as a Christmas gift. I love it in my white bathroom. I had just added these 7 mirrors to that room. White plastic rings were attached to the hangers on the back of the mirrors with blue ribbon to match last winter's shower curtain.
When I put the red curtain up, I switched the ribbon color to red and added a small ribbon tie to the ring to bring in a little more color to that wall without getting out paint and causing hubby to get nervous. Photobucket

While at Joann's for the snowman box and tin, I bought red grosgrain ribbon with white dots in two widths. Using double-sided removable tape, I made the mirrors look a bit like hanging ornaments.
I like the extra color in there so the ribbons might stay in place past Christmas. If not in this manner, perhaps in some other configuration. I've had to re-adhere one ribbon once within the first 24 hours, but they've now been in place over a week. The shower doesn't get used in this bathroom though, so I can't say that humidity wouldn't affect the scrapbooking (double sided) tape under other conditions.

We did have some snow fall here in SE Michigan last night, but fortunately the pavement is still warm enough that it melted on contact. If this could be the case all winter long, I wouldn't mind snow. Unfortunately though, the temps are dropping throughout the week and I will be forced to admit Michigan is not in a tropical climate, put on another sweater, and watch the weather to time my errands for when I am least likely to need boots or a spell to cast on other drivers to keep them away from me on slippery pavement.