Sunday, September 30, 2012

September's Five Fabulous Finds

I am a sucker for pens and pencils.  I like to have certain writing implements for certain writing tasks.  This means that I usually have a selection of such with me - gel pens for journaling (black or blue), purple pens for grading (red is too harsh), highlighters  (yellow and green), Tricondaroga pencils (that necessitate their own sharpeners because they are triangular) . . .you get the picture.  Then there are the paper clips, sticky notes, thumb drives, and all the other small stuff that floats around in my backpack unless it is properly contained.  So, I began a search for the perfect pencil case.  After browsing various websites, I finally settled on this one.  

It has two pouches and a pocket with smaller pockets inside!  At present, it is the most perfect that I have found.

DYAC stands for “Damn You Auto Correct”
The other night I had the following text message exchange with Erin.

I should have ended it with LMAO, but I didn’t.  What I did do was discover that the Internet is full of hilarious screen shots of text messages that have gone to the dark side thanks to auto correct.  After reading some of those, Erin’s message seemed tame by comparison.  I spent more time than I am willing to admit LMAO.

I have often thought it would be funny to keep a list of things with which auto correct has tried to help me.  A week or so ago I was trying to send a student an email about a composition that had an ostinato bass line.  Auto correct wanted it to be “obstinate” bass line, which may also have been accurate, but not the word I was looking.  

(FYI   As I write this, ostinato is underlined in red.)

I love cookies.  The problem is that I don’t eat them very; when I do, I hate to decide which kind I want.  Should I have one that is just OK so I won’t eat as many?  Or, should I eat a really good one so that the caloric sin is worth the guilt that accompanies it?  Still there is difficulty.  Chocolate chip?  Snickerdoodles? Peanut butter?  Oatmeal?

I promised I would bake cookies to take to the knit shop the other day.  I thumbed through a cookbook that I had not looked at for some time and came across the perfect recipe, one that I used to make fairly frequently.  It is from the cookbook, Seasons of Santa Fe.  The cookies are Linda’s Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies.  What makes them outrageous?”  They contain chocolate chips, peanut butter and oatmeal.  What could be better?  And they are healthy too because they contain whole wheat flour:-)

Sorry, I have no picture; they didn’t last long enough.  The best I can do is the recipe.


1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream together the white and brown sugars, butter, peanut butter, vanilla and milk. Add the eggs and mix well. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, oats, baking soda and chocolate chips. Slowly add to the egg mixture combining well. Chill the dough covered overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake on the center rack for 12 minutes.

Eat and don’t feel guilty!!

There are lots of other tasty recipes in this cookbook, but it was worth the price just for these cookies!

Power Washer
You may remember a few posts ago where I chronicled the clogged kitchen sink, the holes in the kitchen floor, the corroded cast iron pipe, and the mounds of dirt in the middle of the kitchen floor.  If not, you can read about it here.

During that time, the house was filthy because of all the jack hammering and digging.  Trying to stay on top of the dust and dirt with the broom and vacuum cleaner was a futile effort.  So what did we do?  We power washed the patio.  I know, this probably sounds futile too, especially since we have the dog who mistakes concrete for grass.  That aside, power washing the patio brought immediate gratification.  We watched as the force of the water pounded away years of dirt.  It was amazing.  So, let me introduce you to my new best friend.

This is Paul’s power washer.  Hopefully Santa will bring us one of our own!

Sometimes you just need to play.  And, there is about no better way to do that than by blowing bubbles.  At the beginning of the school year, the teachers at Weber’s school drew names for a back to school secret pal.  They were supposed to give each other something that would start the year off on a happy note.  We got diet coke (per request) and bubbles for his secret pal.  When the secret pals were revealed, his pal stopped and told him what great fun she was having with her bubbles.

We usual have a bottle of bubbles at the house.  Every now and then we remember to play with them.

Several years ago, I wrote a more serious post about bubbles.  However, I recommend just having fun with them!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Outdoor Dining

Anyone who knows us knows that Weber and I are both suckers for God's furry creatures.  We have a particular fondness for strays.  We are the ones who share our home with a cat who was plucked off a busy street on a 106 degree day in Dallas and a dog who was scooped up from behind a shopping center on a 17 degree February day.  Needless to say, we don't like to see any animal hot, cold or hungry.  

The other night we noticed a scruffy gray cat in the front yard.  He/she seemed to be looking for a bed and breakfast spot.  We put a small container of food out for him/her.  A few minutes later we peeked out the front window to see the cat enjoying a nice meal.  The next morning, when we went out to get the paper, the bowl was completely empty.

When Paul (our contractor) got here that day he panicked thinking the bowl on the porch was because Frankie had gotten out and we were trying to lure her home.  When we confessed to feeding a stray, he was not surprised, being one who does the same thing.

The next night, there was an orange cat in the yard.  Word of free food travels fast in our neighborhood!  We think the orange cat may belong to our neighbor but we're not sure.  Again we filled the food bowl and placed it on the front porch.  And again, the bowl, which was actually a Rubbermaid food storage container, was completely empty the next morning.

How many times have we both been told that you should never feed strays or you will be feeding them forever.  Somehow that seemed OK.  So, we bought a real cat food bowl, one with two separate sides, and continued to fill it with food in water.  It went untouched for a few days.  Figures.

Then, a couple nights ago Weber wandered over to the front door before we headed to bed.  He said that we had a visitor at the food bowl and asked if I wanted to come see.  I asked if it was the gray cat or the orange one.  His response, "Neither."  

This is who was there . . .

 . . .a youngish looking raccoon!

 I didn't think we had raccoons in the middle of suburbia.  Obviously I was wrong.  We watched for ten minutes or so as the raccoon ate and drank and washed its paws and ate and drank some more.  Frankie sat in the window and watched along with us.  Somehow the dogs, mighty protectors that they are,  were oblivious.

We know that it is not a good thing to feed wild animals.  It's not good for them to become dependent on humans for their food.  Now we were in a quandary.  Was the raccoon just a fluke?  Or, was it going to come back for more? What about the cats?

We decided to wait a couple of night before filling the bowl again.  Last night we gave in.  The bowl had not been out long when Weber checked to see if we had any diners.  Yes, yes we did, but it was not the raccoon or either of the familiar cats.

It was . . .
a possum.  Isn't it cute!

I have seen possums in the back yard running along the fence so it doesn't surprise me that one meandered around to the front for a little nosh.  If our next door neighbor finds out that we are feeding the local possum population, we will at the top of her s*#t list.  She is always calling animal control to come set traps to catch and remove the possums from her yard.  Frankly, that is a lost cause.  Unless of course, we keep feeding them and they relocate to our yard.

So now we are faced with the question . . .to feed or not to feed?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Last week we got new mailboxes at school.  Our departmental secretary was responsible for placing our names on all the new boxes.   Typing and sticking all of those name tags must have given her an opportunity to think about names, something that i suspect we all do every now and then.

To me, names are a rather strange phenomenon.  From the time most little girls realize that they can one day have a baby, they have a list of potential baby names filed away somewhere in their heads.  Expectant parents spend nine months trying to agree on the name that their offspring will be known by for an entire lifetime.  This is quite a responsibility.  For most of us, our given names preceded our arrival in this world - we were named before anyone knew what we looked like, what we acted like, or before we had a known personality.  So, do we eventually grow into our names?  Did our parents have some premonition about who we should be?  Do our names and our personas really have any relationship to one another?

We have all probably known someone whom we have thought did not "match" their given name.  She doesn't look like a Tiffany or he looks more like a Bruce than Butch.  I wonder why that is.

Back to the secretary and our new mailboxes. . .

I walked into the office to pick up my mail when I heard the secretary say, "Your name doesn't fit you.  You should have a more exotic name."

No one has ever told me that my name doesn't fit me.  My name, Kris, well really Kristin, means "Christ-like.". Truthfully, I've never really thought about whether or not my name befits me, but when I heard her say this to me, I was startled.  Really?  My name doesn't fit me?  Am I not worthy of bearing a name that means Christ-like?  Maybe not.

The only response I could muster was, "I'm not sure that you thinking my name doesn't fit me is a good thing or a bad thing."

I was assured that it was a good thing.  With that I wandered upstairs to teach my class, not giving this conversation much more thought.

Apparently this was not true for our secretary.  I again passed through the office at the end of the day.  She said, "I figured it out.  Your name should be Camille!"

Camille?  Do I look or seem like a Camille?  What does the name Camille mean?  Thank goodness for my iPad and Google.  Within seconds I knew that Camille means "at the altar.". Hmmm . . .

I could live with a name with that meaning.  I often feel like I spend my life "at the altar."  But Camille sounds so feminine.  I don't perceive myself as being overly feminine.  To me, Camille sounds like a person shrouded in mystery.  Maybe that is part of what makes it sound like an exotic name.  I also don't see myself as being exotic, no matter how you define it.  I wonder what our secretary sees in me.

Over the weekend I was at a seminar where the following was part of a group prayer:

"Show me the hidden things.  Take me down to the spring of my life and tell me my nature and my name."

Okay, this is a little weird.  What is going on here?  Why all this emphasis on names, on my name?  I began thinking about the fact that monastics are given a new name when they leave their worldly life and give themselves to God.  This new name is given based on their true nature.  So what name would I be given if I became a nun?  Probably not Camille.  But Sister Camille does have a nice ring to it.

If the secretary's remarks and then encountering this prayer on Saturday were not enough, the Gospel reading on Sunday morning was from Chapter 8 of Matthew where Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

There must be some message in all of these nudges to consider who I am.  Is the person that I think that I am the person that others see in me?  Does my name define me or do I define my name?

Maybe my given name, Kris, "Christ-like", is exactly right because like Jesus I find myself wondering, "Who do you say that I am?"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Unnatural Sights

There are days and there are weeks when you have to stop and ask yourself what has gone awry in your world.  This has been one of those weeks.  First of all our "Big Mac" computer sent a love note last week that said, 'S.M.A.R.T failure imminent."  To my way of thinking, failure never seems smart, but what the hell do I know?  As it urned out, the hard drive was having issues and did ultimately fail.  Why couldn't it have sent a message that said something like, "I'm not feeling well.  Perhaps I need to seek professional help."  We didn't really need the drama of "imminent failure."  As a result, the computer had a weekend stay at the Apple Store.  It's back and we seem to be happier with one another now.

As it turns out, this was not the worst that we encountered this weekend.

Following are several unnatural sights.  Relax! None of them requires that they be accompanied by either an "X" rating or  the warning, "parental discretion is advised."  Nonetheless they are still very unnatural and disturbing images.

This is a jackhammer.

In and of itself, a jackhammer is not an unnatural sight; however, it is an unnatural sight in one's kitchen. I'm all for kitchen gadgets, but I'm thinking that if one needs a jackhammer, perhaps they have no business being in the kitchen!  So, why is it here?

To do this . . .

 . . .create another unnatural sight - a hole in the kitchen floor.  Yes, that is the foundation and beyond.  See the rebar?

And how about this?

It's a seemingly innocent posthole digger amidst some black earth . . .in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I'm here to tell you this is not natural.

No one should have to see such harshness!

I admit that I am not always on top of the housekeeping, but when it really does take a shovel to clean the kitchen floor something is very wrong!

This may be the most unnatural image of them all . . .

Fifty years ago this was a brand new cast iron pipe that served as the drainpipe for the kitchen sink.  As you can see, it is no longer a pipe; it has about an inch wide section missing.  This is the result of corrosion caused by all the crud that goes down a kitchen sink over the span of fifty years.  It is kind of scary to think that the stuff that goes down the kitchen sink is the remnants of stuff that was on our plates and thus went down our "pipes."  Does it do the same thing to our insides?

This, and and another piece that is its twin, were extracted through the above holes.  This entire length of pipe will soon be replaced with PVC pipe.  PVC pipe has an estimated lifespan of fifty years as well.  Assuming that that is true, we should not ever have to deal with this issue again.  While all of this is going on, we have no water in the kitchen.  This means no real cooking because we can't wash the pots and pans.  Plates and cups we can do in the bathroom, but these sinks aren't big enough for pots.  Thus, we have had way too many pre-packaged microwave meals in the past few days because the only clean-up they require is tossing the plastic trays in the trashcan.  It hurts me to say that, and even more-so to do it.  I just keep telling myself that this too shall pass.

"What are you pointing at?  I didn't do it!  If I had, I'd be in big trouble.  And you get paid for digging those holes in the floor.  Equal pay for equal work is definitely not being enforced around here!

What's this???

 Oh yeah, this is a post of unnatural sights.  Now I understand.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

This is September 6th which means that last Friday was August 31st, the last day of the month, the day that I have been posting my monthly Five Fabulous Finds. I know that I missed that August deadline; i knew it then. I tried to ignore this pesky little fact. For almost a week I was successful at this. Then reality struck back. I received a text message from my baby girl saying, "You missed your August Five Fabulous Finds." I was busted!

I guess such accountability being demanded of me by my child is payback for all those times where I required it of her. "You didn't clean up your room." "You forgot to put your dishes in the dishwasher." " Your soccer uniform is not clean because it has been on your bathroom floor since last week's game." I have lived long enough to know that what goes around comes around. I have also lived long enough to know that it is always best to see things in a positive light. In that vain, I am choosing to see my child holding me accountable as evidence to my success as a parent. Accountability and responsibility are important for all of us and in everything that we do in life. I am proud that she realizes that. Frankly, too few people these days seem to value these things either for themselves or in others.

Having said all that, I do feel badly about having not fulfilled my commitment to my monthly five fabulous finds. The sad truth is that when August 31st came, I realized that I did not have five things to share, not because I had not encountered five fabulous things during the month, but because I had not been aware enough to notice them. I must have been more preoccupied and unfocused during the month of August than I thought. I cant change that now; All I can do about it at this point is vow that I will do things differently during the month of September. I will keep my eyes, my mind and my heart open to the world around me. I will notice, appreciate and write about the wonderful things I encounter in this month that puts summer to rest and ushers in the fall.

So, on September 30th, I will post September's Five Fabulous Finds.

And by the way, Erin, is your bathroom clean and your laundry off the floor?