Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday to-do list

1. Get out the cordless sweeper.  Check.

2. Clean up the dirt. Check.

3. Clean up the dirt again. Check.

4. Clean up the dirt yet again.  Check.

At that point I gave up.

My husband works on the Habitat for Humanity house every Saturday. Every Saturday he comes home with his work shoes caked with mud and he leaves them by the door.  And he doesn't put them on again until he is ready to leave the house the next Saturday.

But not this Saturday.


THIS Saturday, after putting on his now dry-and-caked-with-clods-of-dirt shoes, he walked around the house gathering things that he still needed to load into the truck. And he left those clods of dirt everywhere he walked -- EVERYWHERE.  I followed him around for several minutes with the cordless sweeper, trying to get the worst of it as he searched for his things.

He thought I was a lunatic.

But I didn't want the clumps of dirt to get ground into the floors or the carpeting.

In the end, I had to give up and wait until he'd kissed me goodbye and driven away in his pickup (taking #7 with him today, so I've got the house to myself -- bonus!  But I digress...).

I went over the whole main floor and the stairs A-GAIN, and finally got it all.

And now, on to the laundry, the spaghetti sauce, and a little grocery shopping.  Because that's the rest of my to-do list.

Happy Saturday!

- Catherine

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday's Fave Five

As always, the Friday Fave Five is hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell -- thanks, Susanne!

Here are my five favorite things about this week:

1. Mother Nature responded to my fist shaking and gave us a beautiful evening yesterday and a beautiful morning today. Rain and snow are in the forcast for tomorrow. Just shoot me.  And we are very thankful for this morning's sun and will enjoy it while we have it.

2. Had coffee and a fun conversation last night with a friend. Along the way, we discovered a shared love of family history, which is truly wonderful to me -- too often I feel as though I'm an oddball among my friends because I find family history so very interesting.  It's really nice to find a "kindred spirit."

3. Finished two card making projects this week and sent them off in the mail.

4. Looking forward to a great evening with the girls tonight -- it's our church's annual February Fling, a night of games and fun finger food for the women. Can't wait!

5. Lovin' my new car. Well, it's new to us -- we only buy used cars, actually. I got a very nice trade-in amount on my old vehicle and am now happily driving my Ford Explorer. I feel more comfortable on the Interstate because it's larger than my old vehicle, and, with the much lower mileage of the Explorer (compared to my old RX300), I'm more at ease on the long drives to and from Salt Lake each week.

Have a great weekend!

- Catherine

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Open Letter to the Woman in the Clouds

Dear Mother Nature,

I am so over this winter-long snit of yours.

Perpetual gray skies and the occasional sulky snow shower do not make for happiness and harmony among humans.

Everyone in this valley is so sunlight- and vitamin D-deprived that we are going to have to double our anti-depressants.

And the hopes for a decent water level this coming summer are blighted once again, thank you very much.

There's still time to get your act together.

Snow or get off the pot, woman! 

Love always,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gone fishin'

Well, not exactly. 

Actually, I'm preparing for -- and going to -- meetings.

For work. 

Until Monday.

Blog posts will be a bit thin on the ground until I return to my regularly scheduled life.

Thank you.

- Catherine

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What I'm reading right now

I've discovered a mystery series that I cannot put down: the Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd (a pseudonym for a mother and son writing team).  The mysteries are amazing as they unravel, layer upon layer.  The setting is peerless: post World War I England, where the better part of an entire generation of young men is gone, having been killed in the War, and the nation is changed forever. Ian Rutledge is one of the survivors -- the walking wounded, whose psychological injuries from four years in the trenches nearly drive him mad as he tries to cope with the return to his career as an Inspector for Scotland Yard.

If you're a fan of the time period and English mysteries, you could not go wrong.  The neat thing is that after you've read the first book (Testament of Wills), you could read the other books as stand-alone.  Yes, there is some small amount of continuity from volume to volume, but it isn't strictly necessary to the story at hand.

Interested? Find more details at the Charles Todd website.

Happy reading!

- Catherine

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No bilge water allowed.

When it comes to my morning cup of hot tea, I am picky.  VERRRRRY picky. Unlike coffee, tea has a delicate flavor that is easily overpowered by any chemicals in the water with which you make the tea.

Funnily enough, I don't like a chemical taste in my cup.

I'm persnickety.

Tea must be made with filtered water from our home tap or, if I am away from home, bottled water. I never order tea in a restaurant because I know they are making it with their cruddy tap water. I drink coffee in a restaurant because you can't taste the chemicals through the coffee (at least, I can't).

I'm picky about the kind of tea, too.  I greatly prefer English tea to American supermarket brands, but that gets pricey, let me tell you.  A few years ago, a friend put me on to P&G Tips tea from England -- which I can buy at the British import store in Salt Lake City. It's a bit pricier than our supermarket brands but not as pricey as the small boxes of English Breakfast Tea from the "boutique" tea brands. I really like P&G Tips. A lot. I carry a small baggie of it in my luggage so that I'm never out of it when I'm traveling.

Two weeks ago I found that my large economy size box of P&G Tips (160 bags, folks!) was down to its last ten or so bags. That's five days' supply. And that was a problem because I wasn't going to be in Salt Lake any time soon. I headed to the local grocery to buy a small box of the boutique tea to tide me over.  While there I noticed a newcomer to the ranks of supermarket tea: Tetley British Blend.

I dithered.  The price was right, that's for sure, but what if I hated it? My morning cup of tea is part of how I start my day. 

If it's bilge water, the day goes downhill from there.

So I purchased both boxes.  The boutique-y tea and the Tetley British Blend. Figured if I hated it, I'd keep it to serve my guests.  I'm nice that way.

To my utter surprise, the Tetley British Blend tastes just about exactly like my beloved P&G Tips!  I'm impressed. REALLY impressed!

And happy, too, let me tell you, because my wallet is retaining more of the green stuff inside if I buy Tetley British Blend in the supermarket than if I buy P&G Tips at the import store.

It will be one good morning after another for the foreseeable future.

- Catherine

PS -- disclaimer: I have no financial interest in any tea manufacturing company. Or in any company, for that matter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday's Fave Five

Thanks once again to Susanne at Living to Tell for hosting this weekly attitude adjuster. If you'd like to play along, you can link up at Susanne's blog entry for today.

These are my five favorite things about the week that is now ending.

Drum roll, please......

1.  31 days until I get a hug from #4 (who has been in South Korea for the last 2 1/2 years).

2. #4 has been accepted to graduate school at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City -- a mere 2 1/2 hours away from where we live!  (True, I don't yet know if she will decide to accept their offer, but it's nice to think that she might!)

3. A fun Super Bowl Sunday with #7 and his friends, and having the opportunity to meet his friends' parents and get to know them. They are good folk and we hope to see them again soon.

4. I received a blog award from Angie!

5. Finally solved the Restless Leg Syndrome problem that has been completely plaguing me for the last 3 weeks! And it's all thanks to the nice lady in the video. Turns out the particular workout that I've chosen from her series is perfect to do before bedtime.  It works the muscles of the back, the core and the legs, thus quieting the Restless Leg problem for the night. Yay!  And thanks, Teresa Tapp!  (Once again, let me emphasize that I have no financial interest in the T-Tapp company.)

That's the Friday Fave Five. What about you?

- Catherine

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Flexible Flyer

It was a long driveway, and my grandfather obligingly lifted the plow about an inch higher so that we'd have packed snow for sledding. We were two kids, brother and sister, out for the most fun we could have on a snowy day -- whipping down the driveway on our old Flexible Flyer. This remains one of my fondest memories from childhood: those snowy rides down the driveway, around the curve and into the parking area by our house.

I searched the web this morning and actually found a website entirely devoted to old sleds, most notably the Flexible Flyers. According to this website, ours was probably from the Class C series of the 1930s. It had belonged to my Uncle Norman when he was a teenager, and it had made its sturdy way down to us kids in the 1960s, still a formidable and fast sled.

In fact, it looked very much like this one:


When we were very young, my mother had to go out and push us (poor woman!). As we grew older, we mastered the art of running with the sled and then "belly-flopping" onto it for the rest of the ride.  It was an art to know exactly when to stop running and hit the sled for the maximum ride. And we mastered it, believe me.

When I was about 8, my father purchased a new Flexible Flyer for me to use, so that we'd have two sleds and wouldn't quarrel so often.  The one Dad bought me was a little bit smaller than our old one and it was NEVER as fast as the 1930s model, not by a long shot.  Eventually my brother was forced to go back to taking turns with me so that I could have some of the good sled rides, too. He wasn't too happy. I think I may have to remind him of that when I next talk to him. (The little sister in me never quite goes away, you know...)

I haven't seen a Flexible Flyer in years, I think. Nowadays the kids whoosh down hills with entirely different styles of sleds - no metal runners. If the snow surface on the hill is icy enough, they can get the same kind of ride that we kids did with our FF on our packed down driveway. And without runners, it's probably a safer sport. I remember my mother being very strict about us staying out of the way if we weren't the person on the sled.

But I wouldn't trade my Flexible Flyer snow day memories for anything, believe me.

- Catherine

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Random Dozen -- the Valentine version

Greetings! It's time for the Random Dozen, hosted by Lid at 2nd Cup of Coffee.  If you want to play along, you are welcome to link your answers with Lid's blog post!

1. Are you pleasant when you're ill, or are you a grumpy, fussy patient? I am quietly pathetic with my husband; if any of the kids are around, then I’m as cheerful as it’s possible for me to be at the moment (I’m still trying to set a good example for them). Oh, wait. Who am I kidding here? I'm grumpy (not fussy but definitely grumpy).

2. When you find out that school is canceled (due to inclement weather) what is your gut reaction? I always liked snow days, I think. (I'm pretty sure my daughter will chime in here with a comment.)

3. What is one domestic skill you wish you could improve? Dusting. I hate doing it and I’m lousy at getting every surface.

4. Do you decorate your home for Valentine's Day? Never. I am not a "frilly decorations" kind of gal.

5. What song is on your mind today? “Your Name” as sung by Phillips, Craig and Dean

6. Do you prefer contemporary movies or classic? Both – depends on my mood.

7. How well do you "compartmentalize" your feelings? For example, how well can you put aside a really trying moment to deal with the immediate situation which is not related to the trying moment, e.g., putting aside a tiff with your spouse in order to finish wallpapering a room. I am absolutely, positively terrible at compartmentalizing my feelings.

8. What is the first thing that attracted you to your spouse? (Or if you're single, to your best friend.) He was so down to earth and it seemed as though I’d known him all my life.

9. When was the last time your heart raced? The last time I had too much caffeine. (sooo romantic!)

10. What are your memories of Valentine's Day at school? Getting a penny Valentine from a boy on whom I had a major crush in the 4th grade.

11. If you were going to receive candy for Valentine's Day, which would you prefer? Chocolate – is there any other kind???

12. Red or pink? Depends on my mood and what it’s for. I have a red purse that I love, although I don't wear a lot of red clothing. I like to wear the color pink but I would not decorate my home with it.

And that's the Random Dozen this week!

- Catherine

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sunshine all around.

My first blog award -- how cool is that! I found out through a comment left on a recent blog post and was pleasantly surprised to find that Angie over at Angie's Ad Lib has awarded me a Sunshine Award. Thanks, Angie -- how fun! And thanks for the shoutout about my blog in your post!

To quote Angie: The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blog world.

Below are the rules for accepting this award:

* Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
* Pass the award on to 12 fellow bloggers.
* Link the nominees within your post.
* Let the nominees know they have received the award by commenting on their blog.
* Share the love and link to the person whom you received this award from.

All righty then! These are 12 of the blogs that make me smile and make me think and give me a sense of community. As you will see, a strong thread of everyday life runs through my choices -- because I really do look at most blogs as a way of connecting with people in a world where I no longer have time to do so in person.

Consider yourselves recipients of the Sunshine Award, my blogging friends!

1. My cousin, Karen, over at Bensrib. While we are certainly different in many ways, we do share a similar sense of humor, she and I. After about 30 years apart, it's been great fun getting to know her again and finding the many ways that we great-great-great-granddaughters of Mouga Schouch (long story - read my post!) are alike.

2. Joyce over at From this side of the pond. Joyce is someone I'd like to sit down and have coffee with on a regular basis. She's intelligent, witty, and her posts very often make me think. I have also enjoyed the glimpses into her family life -- her relationship with her daughters reminds me of mine with my own.

3. Carrie at Reading to Know. I read a lot, and while Carrie and I have differing tastes, I appreciate reading her reviews. I participated in her Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge last month, which was great fun!

4. The Lumberjack's Wife. She has a way with words -- I often laugh out loud at her posts.

5. Carpool Queen -- I've laughed and been touched by turns through her posts about everyday life.

6. Lid at 2nd Cup of Coffee. I love doing the weekly meme known as The Random Dozen, which is like having coffee with your online friends once a week. And Lid's take on everyday life is pretty funny, too!

7. Susanne at Living to Tell. Susanne hosts the weekly Friday Fave Five, wherein we list five of our favorite things about the week that is just ending. This is another linkup meme, where you can visit around with your blogging friends -- the virtual coffee klatch. What I like most about this one, though, is the way that it fosters an attitude of gratitude -- something that is increasingly rare in this cynical and desperate world that we live in. And... Susanne takes some awesome photographs!

8. Christy at Where I Am is one of my heroes: funny, honest, perceptive, and a great friend!

9. Ruth at Live in it then! Five Cents please. is an old friend whom I've never met in person but with whom I've had an online relationship fo over 10 years now. Her posts range from hilariously funny to fairly scathing (when she's feeling somewhat curmudgeonly) -- and I enjoy each and every one of them for their bold honesty!

10. Susan at Learning for Lifetime has challenged me on more than one occasion with some of her posts. She really thinks through her spiritual life. She is also the mother of a few boys -- a situation that I came to myself, later in life after raising a girl. Posts like this one just crack me up.

11. Southlakesmom at I Didn't Know That! takes some great photographs and makes her everyday life sound very interesting.

12. Last but by no means least is Angie herself at Angie's Ad Lib. Thanks for the award, Angie!

Okay, award recipients -- your turn to spread the Sunshine around!

- Catherine

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday's Fave Five

'Twas the Friday before Super Bowl,
Snacks to be made,
Commercials to be laughed at,
And homage to be paid.

I like the Colts AND the Saints (although I didn't like the way the Saints went after Favre in the championship, I have to say). Basically, I'm just looking forward to a good football game.

Okay, on to the Friday Fave Five, hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell. If you'd like to play along, you can link your own post to Susanne's.

1. A fun and delicious dinner with my stepson (Don, who is #2) and his family last Saturday night. The pork chops were truly amazing -- tender, juicy, and with a scrumptious gravy that has to be tasted to be believed. After I've made them myself a couple of times, I'll post the recipe here (because, as we all know, recipes change a little bit according to the person who is doing the cooking). I think we laughed together all evening, and it was a very refreshing break for us.

2. The promise of a business trip that will take me to San Antonio in early March, and a reunion there with an old childhood friend. My hubby is going with me -- we bought his ticket this week -- so this will be a really fun time!

3. Laughter. I have had some very dark moments since my mother passed in November -- the cumulative effect of being orphaned, plus some unrelenting family stress that falls squarely on my husband and undermines his health. I cherish the moments when he and I laugh out loud together at something.

4. My niece, Mandee, for her unwavering support, good humor, and common sense. I love that gal!

5. Tax refund! Yeah!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

- Catherine

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A wee bit of snow and workout

With all due respect to my family and friends who are bracing for another major snowstorm in the Northeast.....

It snowed here last night. Just enough to be annoying and dangerous. It was so little, really, that I was able to sweep it off the front steps with a broom, but when I went out with the dog for our morning walk, I discovered treacherous sidewalks and streets. I waited patiently to cross at one corner and the driver courteously stopped for me -- AFTER he fishtailed from one side to the other in his effort to slow down from 25 m.p.h. to a full stop. A wee bit scary to watch him, but he eventually gave me a thumbs up to cross the street in front of him along with a cheerful smile!

I swept the sidewalk that leads to our front steps, and then, following city code, I cleared the sidewalk that fronts our house. I definitely increased my heart rate in the 20 minutes that it took me to perform the deed, which means that, coupled with my brisk walk, I've worked out for the day.

Hallelujah! I don't have to deal with the nice lady in the video until tomorrow.

Stay warm and dry, family and friends!

- Catherine

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Random Dozen -- the Lost version

Hosted by Lid at 2nd Cup of Coffee – link up with her post there if you want to play along.

This week’s Random Dozen preview of the questions was prefaced by a story of how Lid would be attending a huge social evening around the premier of the final season of the TV Show “Lost.”

Lid is a big, big fan of Lost, so I have tried to answer this week’s questions in that spirit.

1. Do you use the labels various charities send you as “free gifts?” Nope. Whenever I’ve tried to save them for use, they end up LOST in a drawer somewhere.

2. What is your favorite time of day (or night) for skywatching? I love to pick out the constellations in the night sky, although I’d never try to navigate by them if I were LOST.

3. What is the most adventurous you've ever been with trying a new food? (Keep it G-rated please) The first time I tried deep fried calamari, I thought that was pretty adventurous. Haven’t LOST my taste for it, either – it’s my favorite appetizer.

4. Have you ever heard a rock sing? (Trust me, there's a reason for this one!) Have you LOST your mind? I’ve never heard a rock sing.

5. If you could learn a language you don't presently speak, what would it be? French. I think American culture has LOST the art of speaking well, while the French have steadfastly tried to keep their language pure (and it’s beautiful to listen to and to speak).

6. Al Capone's tombstone read, “My Jesus, Mercy.” If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say? I once was LOST but now am found.

7. If you were a famous musician who was known by one name, like “Cher,” “Sting,” or “Jewel,” what would it be? It doesn’t have to be your first name, but it can be, if you’d like. Ummmm… LOST (okay that answer was really lame).

8. Have you ever been inordinately “into” a television show? I am currently into Ghost Whisperer – have no idea why since it doesn’t jive with my spiritual views, but it’s a fun hour of total escapism that is not LOST on me.

9. When you sneeze, do you go big, or do you do that weird “heenh!” sound that makes people think you’re going to blow your brains out? Any other variation we should know about? I sneeze huge, loud, expansive -- as though my voice could be LOST with the next sneeze.

10. Do you still read an actual newspaper that you hold in your hands, or do you get your news elsewhere? Our morning newspaper isn’t much, but I’d be completely LOST without it. I like to hold the paper in my hands and read selectively.

11. Are you a good speller? I once LOST a school-wide spelling bee by just one word. I am a naturally good speller.

12. At what time each day do you start thinking about Lost lunch? When I’ve LOST that full feeling from breakfast.

And that's the meme for this week!

- Catherine

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On the wind

A few years ago my husband and I toured the Spanish mission sites around San Antonio, Texas. One of these lovely old missions is still home to a group of Catholic monks, and it was there that I discovered the beauty of tuned wind chimes.

I have hated wind chimes all of my life I think. I hate the wooden kind that tonelessly clink against each other. And I hate the cheap metal kind that tonelessly clink against each other. You get the picture. It's the non-musical aspect of them that I really hated. Somehow, I'd missed the fact that there are wind chimes in this world that are musically tuned to a pentatonic scale.

Who knew?

As Tim toured some of the outbuildings on the mission site, I sat on a bench, enjoying the warm Spring sunshine. Gradually I became aware of the music coming from the monks' residence. Looking more closely from across the open grassy area, I realized they had many, many sets of wind chimes hanging all over the front of the house. And all the chimes were tuned. Not a toneless clink among them. It was such a pleasure to listen to as the breeze moved across the sunny green!

My husband has always liked wind chimes and he wasn't happy when I took down those that were on our deck several years ago. But I just couldn't stand the sound.

After we returned home from San Antonio, I went on an internet search and found quite a few places where I could purchase tuned chimes. But I wanted to hear them for myself before purchasing. A trip to San Diego the following year found me in a shop that exclusively sells wind chimes, and there I purchased two sets of tuned chimes -- one small, with high and sweet tones, and one larger, with medium, mellow tones.

Both sound simply beautiful, especially together.

They hang all year round on our deck, and every time -- EVERY time -- I hear them, I am momentarily transported back to that sunny Spring afternoon and the warm breezes of the San Antonio mission.

- Catherine

Monday, February 1, 2010

In memory of...

My Dad died three years ago today, after a sudden and unexpected illness. I was glad to be there, and it was only by the grace of God that I was. I live in Idaho. Dad lived in New Jersey. I happened to be in Washington DC for a conference when he was taken ill, so I changed my return flight and hopped a train for NJ.

I knew when I walked into his hospital room that he was close to the end of his life here on earth. He looked just like his father had right before passing; his eyes were wild and his movements very restless. Dad was in tremendous pain from what the doctors would later -- indeed, too late -- find was a perforated ulcer. He died five days after I arrived. Happily he was still a little bit lucid when I got there, and he knew I had come. And that was the last day he wasn't heavily sedated.

I didn't know my dad very well, actually. When I was born, he didn't know what to do with a daughter. My mother said he refused to hold me because I was so tiny that he was afraid. He never really got the hang of having a girl, I think.

My father had his share of shortcomings, but one thing I recognize now and appreciate very much is that he was a gentleman. He opened doors for the women in his life. He had a temper, but his everyday speech (except for the occasional "damn" or "hell") was moderate. He never made sexual allusions about anything. He never told dirty jokes. There are few men who are made in that same mold these days.

He liked to fix things and could often be found at his worktable in the cellar or the garage. He also liked to create things -- usually solutions to problems. He made countless electric lamps out of old oil lamps - and he didn't use a kit to do it. And I really wish I still had the lap desks that he made for my brother and me when we were kids. We lived in a very small house and we wanted to be able to do our homework somewhere other than the kitchen table -- but there was no room for a desk in either of our bedrooms. So Dad went downstairs to his workbench and created wooden lap desks that were beautifully stained and varnished. I had mine for many, many years, but it finally disappeared in one of my moves, sadly.

I miss Dad even more now than I did at the time he passed. There are many questions I wish I could ask him. I look forward to seeing him again someday.

Still remembering you, Dad.

- Catherine