Monday, January 31, 2011

Of all the things I've ever lost ....

.... I miss my mind the most.

That's one of my favorite bumper sticker/kitchen magnet sayings.

I recently visited with my similarly aged sister-in-law, and together we commiserated on the loss of the mental acuity that we once enjoyed. I used to be smart, but most days I feel stupid. I can no longer multi-task with any ease. I don't learn from reading words as readily as I once did. And I've become intimidated by what, at the outset, seem to be complex tasks.

And, of course, I can't find anything, even if it's out in the open. And forget finding it if I put it away in a "safe place." I once lost a stash of some $900.00 in cash!  It finally turned up months later in a container that, to this day, I've no idea why I used for saving money.

Today an old friend of mine -- we've known each other since just about birth, which may be why I can still remember her so vividly .... where was I ...?  

Oh yes, an old friend of mine sent this video via email.

I am happy to share the laugh with those of you who understand.

Whomever you may be (I forget).

- Catherine

Friday, January 28, 2011

Raising Charley

For your reading pleasure, today's blog post is in free verse form. I've no idea why. That's just how it started and kept on going.

Charley gets up at three (a.m.) to pee
He's quite big now, but the puppy-sized bladder 
still won't hold it for long
Then, if we're lucky, he will settle back down 
for a three-hour nap with Tim
If we're not lucky
then the day has begun.

Charley's day begins in a frenzy
All teeth and barks and romping around
Two cups of dog food are scarfed down 
as though he is starving
In and out and in and out the back door
He cannot make up his little mind
where to play.

Ever concerned for my rugs
I let him in and out 
and in and out the back door
Because Charley is not completely trained

Three months old, Charley is enormous and larger than life 
When breakfast is served, he jumps and turns in circles of delight
Someday soon he's going to clunk his head on the table
I just know it
Charley loves a good gladiator romp
with Hank
Hank does not.

As he grows
Charley's body is always out of proportion
His legs are still short
Which makes him cute
And his little back legs now move independently
Instead of the puppy scamper
That I loved so much.

When darkness falls, Charley needs comfort.
Mama's feet
Daddy's lap
Anywhere that he can snuggle before bedtime
and kennel are announced.
And the day is over.

Charley-on-a-Harley is what I've taken to calling him. It fits.

- Catherine

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday

1. Will you watch the Super Bowl? If so who will you root for? If you are outside the USA what is the 'big deal sporting event' in your own country?  I will definitely be watching the Super Bowl, however there is a real dilemma about who to root for. I like both teams, with perhaps a small preference for Green Bay. But Number 7 is a diehard Steelers fan and may not allow me in the family room unless I promise to cheer on the "right" side of the battle.  Sigh.

2. Is ignorance bliss?  YES! As I have aged, I've discovered that very often, ignorance about the goings on immediately around me really is bliss. That said, I read voraciously and communicate frequently with the world, so in that regard, my heartfelt sentiment is NO, ignorance is not bliss. 

3. Which of the seven dwarfs are you? (and just in case your Disney is a little bit rusty, here they are-Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy)  Grumpy and Sneezy (just couldn't keep it to one, could I?).

4. When you are riding in the car with another couple how do you organize the seating? (Men up front? Women up front? Couples sit together?) And thanks to Lori at Mountain Woman at Heart for the question! Everyone go say hi to Lori. Hi, Lori!  It depends on who is in the car. With couples our age, it's usually seating by couples. With my parents-in-law, it's seating by gender.

5. What is beauty? An inner or innate quality that is completely compelling.

6. If someone asks you to bring an appetizer or a dessert to a party in their home, which would you choose? Parmesan/artichoke dip (heated).

7. What is your crowd pleasing go-to appetizer? Parmesan/artichoke dip (heated). As much as I love to cook, appetizers are not my favorite thing to prepare, for some reason. This dip is easy.

8. Insert your own random thought here. Randomly speaking, I've decided that I would love to own a small apartment in Washington DC so that I could visit this lovely city anytime I wanted to.
Thank you, Joyce! Another set of good ones!
- Catherine

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The e-reader review

Early in January I purchased an e-reader. I was completely surprised at myself because I LOVE real books -- the way they look, the way they feel, as well as the content.  But I had a good reason for wanting an e-reader: I travel a LOT, and I can't carry heavy bags to and through the airports. Three or four books in  the luggage, plus one or two in the carry-on, add a significant amount of weight to the total luggage situation.

So I did the kind of research I usually do when purchasing technology. I thoroughly looked into reviews of the various brands (Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, etc.).  I Google searched and I read every review I could find.

But I also had to pay attention to the bottom line.My target was $100.00 or less.

Some considerations: I didn't want to be tied into just one format and provider, as is the case with the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook. I truly hate being a slave to one corporation unless there is a really compelling reason to do so. (That's the main reason that I don't own any Apple products.) E-books are plentiful and cheap on the internet -- many, many of them free. I wanted there to be some competition for my money when it came to buying e-books.

After doing some online research and then looking at a few demos, I purchased an Aluratek Libre Pro. I must confess that I almost succumbed to the Kobo at the time of purchase. But at $40.00 more, I was reluctant.  What if I hated it and wouldn't even use it for traveling? My target was to purchase a well-reviewed e-reader for $100.00 or less.

The Aluratek Libre Pro filled the bill at $99.00.

With the Libre Pro (not to be confused with the larger Libre Color), I can download an EPUB or .pdf format of book. EPUB is the most popular format available now -- from Borders, from Adobe, from, etc., etc., etc. That meant there would be lots of competition for my book-buying dollars, which is the way it should be.  In addition to the free ebooks I've found, I have been able to purchase books for as little as $1.79. And not one purchase has cost me more than $12.00 (even for new releases!).

My stated target of $100.00 was due to my uncertainty that I would actually like an e-reader at all. Yes, it's perfect for traveling. But would I like it for real life, sitting-on-my-couch reading? Surprisingly, I do! In fact, I love this thing! It took me a while to figure out how to handle the downloads through my computer, but I'm getting the hang of that quite nicely.

I love the convenience of this unit so much that I wondered if I'd made a mistake by not investing in the Kobo -- which has the slick "E-Ink" technology that the Libre lacks. E-Ink looks very much like a paper page and so is very easy on the eyes. In addition, the Kobo has a textured back, making it easier to hold in your hand.

I had a few hours on my hands so I went to Borders where they have the Kobo, the Libre, the Sony, and the Cruz available for hands-on demo. The whole thing had become especially tantalizing because the Kobo, which sports Wi-Fi that the Libre doesn't have, had gone on sale for $99.00.

Oh, heck, I thought -- had I jumped too soon in purchasing the Libre Pro?

After 20 minutes of putting each model through their paces as thoroughly as the demo allowed, I am very satisfied with my Libre Pro. No, it isn't as slim or as "sexy" looking or as light as the Kobo. No it doesn't have E-Ink technology. But it has all the basic e-reading functions that anyone could ask for. The screen is very readable, even in sunlight. And what the Libre Pro especially has is an extremely fast and smooth transition from page to page. The Kobo and the Sony both have this rather slow "fade out, fade in" transition that bothered my middle-aged eyes a LOT. The Libre Pro flows along with a very clean transition from page to page -- absolutely no eye strain. In my book (ha!), that is worth a great deal to the quality of the reading experience.

Thus did I, the quintessential bookworm with the floor-to-ceiling library, fall in love with an e-reader.

Oh, Aluratek Libre Pro, will you marry me?

- Catherine

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In which I am iPuzzled

Would someone please tell me why you love your iPad or why you would like to have one?  

I just don't get it.

I have a Blackberry, which is as close to my email as I wish to get when I'm not at my desk. In addition the Blackberry has a very nice little GPS function that can get me where I want to go on the road if necessary.  All while being held in the palm of my hand.

I have a laptop for when I need to sit down and do some real work that includes answering email and accessing my files (which real work always does).

I have an e-reader. And when I'm reading I don't want any other distractions available to me at the touch of a finger. 

I have an MP3 player that allows me to download all the music I want for one yearly subscription price. I don't listen to music while working or reading because it's too distracting. My MP3 player fits in the palm of my hand, just like my Blackberry (which also plays music, but that's another blog post).

So, folks, why one of those honkin' huge iPads? iNquiring minds want to know.

- Catherine

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday

It's time for the Wednesday Hodgepodge, hosted by Joyce. Thanks, Joyce, for dreaming up these questions every week!

 1. Do you like your name? Were you named after someone? If you have children how did you settle on their names?  I like both of my names -- Catherine Elizabeth (which, by the way, is the given name of Kate Middleton, who is about to marry Prince William. How's that for trivia?). I was named Catherine after my mother's favorite cousin, and Elizabeth after her favorite aunt. Mom thought about making it Elizabeth Catherine but decided that she couldn't live with any of the usual nicknames for Elizabeth.   I'm just glad she didn't name me after her great-great aunt Hephzibah.  As for my daughter -- her name is the only one that her father and I could agree on.

2. How do you define success?  That's a tough one for me tonight. I guess the only real success is knowing that you are doing right, no matter what the situation.

3. Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy?  Neither. But if I had to watch one, it would be Jeopardy.

4. If you could own any single object that you don't have now, what would that object be? A Bosch mixer. I do like my Kitchen Aid, but I covet (!) my sister-in-law's Bosch.

5. What is something that inspires you? Besides the Bible, I take it? I'm inspired by my husband's battle with chronic illness and pain, and how he keeps on going and doesn't give in.

6. Meatloaf-yea or nay? If its a yay how do you make yours? A good meatloaf is truly wonderful and a bad meatloaf is The Worst. Alas, I do not make a good meatloaf, so it's a dish that is never seen in our house.

7. Which is more admirable- the ability to organize and be methodical or the ability to adapt and make do? My middle-aged, menopausal brain isn't as good at organization as it used to be.  So it's definitely better to be able to adapt and make do. Because half the time I can't remember why we're adapting anyway. Sigh.

8. Insert your own random thought here. There is nothing quite so sweet as a puppy who has just awakened from a nap. He stretches, he yawns, his ears are floppy and he's just as cute as can be. For one brief moment. And then he wakes up completely and his ... shall we say ... exuberance ... returns.

Thanks for reading! If you wish to play along, answer the questions on your blog and the link up over at Joyce's (use the graphic above to get to her blog).

- Catherine

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Day that is not Off

We don't get today as a holiday in our establishment -- because my employers give everyone the entire week between Christmas and New Year's every year.

So I will be working just as soon as this most exciting and extremely random blog post is published.

It looks like we will have some sun today -- a miracle in this winter of gloomy, gloomy weather. The temperatures climbed above freezing a few days ago, and the mud is once again plentiful. The back yard squelches underfoot.

The Christmas tree needs to come down. Company is coming for dinner tonight, so it's pretty certain that the Christmas tree will, indeed, come down today. I'd like to help but I have to work. And my husband has mad packing and storage skills and doesn't welcome my interference when it comes to deciding how best to put away all the decorations.  I will leave him to it.

I need a recipe for beef brisket, so if anyone has a good recipe, please send it to me. I've never cooked brisket before and I hear it's marvelous when done well!  As always, I'm game to try something new.

That's the randomness and excitement for today.

You're welcome.

- Catherine

Friday, January 14, 2011

Going Home

It's Friday and I have been away from home for the last 10 days.


My husband is out of leftovers (as he took pains to inform me yesterday).

I'm out of clean clothes.

Time to go home.

Last week I was in New Orleans for meetings. This week was spent in O'Fallon, MO, learning how to use a new software package. Generally I don't enthuse over software, but this package will run the back office of our operation and will finally bring together all of our processes (admission of participants and conference coordination) into one piece of software.  I know you're thrilled. What you need to know is that it promises to make our operation much, much more efficient, and I really am thrilled about that!

Training completed (at least for now), we are on our way home today.

Clean clothes and fresh meals comin' up!

- Catherine 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's easy about The Big Easy?

I've discovered a few things in my five or six trips to New Orleans.

It's EASY to get ripped off if you're not paying attention.  Take the taxi driver from the airport. Please. All New Orleans airport taxi cabs are required to take credit cards. Just before we arrived at my hotel Wednesday night, my driver, a little too casually, informed me that he'd forgotten to tell me his credit card machine was down and so he could only take cash.  Uh huh.  My mama didn't raise a fool.  He'd rather have the cash than play the 3% on the credit card transaction.  As it turned out I was planning to pay cash anyway, so I didn't make a fuss.  Had I only had a credit card, however, we'd have had some words about that one. And I'd have won.

It's EASY to get inadequate directions to your destination. I don't know if they deliberately mislead tourists or what, but every time I ask a doorman or concierge or whomever, I never get quite ALL of the information that I need in order to successfully get where I'm going. So yesterday, following the directions I'd been given, I got on the wrong streetcar and had to be transferred to another line (the driver was very nice about it -- which was very refreshing).

It's EASY to overeat.  I've had some amazing meals here -- I don't think there is any bad food in the French Quarter restaurants. Every time I sit down to one of those scrumptious meals I swear I'm not going to eat too much. Every time I fail. Last night it was drum fish at Muriel's. To die for. I'm starting to waddle.

It's EASY to arrive at a meeting looking pretty disheveled. The weather turned nasty this morning and the winds today have been clocked at 45 m.p.h. coming off the river. The gusts roared up the streets of the French Quarter, so every time I crossed a side street as I traversed four blocks up Canal Street, my hair got blown to pieces. Fun.

I've stated New Orleans isn't my favorite city. It still isn't.

Next year we'll be having this same conference in Boston. I guess they are hoping that global warming will kick in and Boston won't be covered in its customary snow. I really like Boston. In the spring and the fall. Not in early January.

- Catherine

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Big Easy

I'm in New Orleans for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in my life -- for a conference, as always.   This is not my favorite city, but it is quite fascinating. (And I don't have a camera with me -- so no snaps this time around.)

The hotel that I chose is a few blocks farther than usual from the main conference action, but no matter where I stay, nothing changes the required pilgrimage to Crescent City Books on Chartres Street. I went there on my very first day at the earliest opportunity. As always, I had to pare down my numerous book selections to a combination that would cost $20 or less. 

Three luscious, out-of-print books later, I was a very happy camper.

As I always am when I leave Crescent City Books.

It's simply got the best selection of used books I've ever encountered in the nation.

And long may it live.

(I dare not go back before I leave New Orleans again because my willpower would be significantly weakened by a second visit.)

Today is a peerless day of blue skies, warm sunshine, and 66 degree weather. With a gentle breeze to top it all off. Very different from the 25 degrees and gloomy stuff that I left behind in Pocatello.

I had lunch at the famous Acme Oyster House (fried oysters for me - I'm not a huge fan of raw seafood). it was interesting to watch the oyster shuckers at work behind the oyster bar. I wish I could have understood their conversation, but it was a bit noisy in the restaurant and it's hard to follow the New Orleans accent if you're not used to it. After lunch I had a lovely ramble in the French Quarter, this time walking in areas more residential than commercial -- a welcome respite from the constant noise and activity of the area between Bourbon Street and the river. The houses were colorful and interesting, the streets quiet. The air was soft and lovely and I drank in every bit of Vitamin D that I could as I walked along.

And now, mightily refreshed, it's on to the next conference session.

Y'all have a great weekend now!

- Catherine

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday

I'm traveling all day today, but I still wanted to participate in the Wednesday Hodgepodge of questions hosted by Joyce. Thank goodness we can schedule the publishing of blog posts!

1. What three words would you use to describe 2010? New, amazing, settled.

2. If fear were not an issue what is something you'd like to try?  I can’t think of anything for this one. I’m really not interested in trying anything that I’m afraid to do.

3. What do you add to your coffee or tea?  Coffee: cream.  Tea: nothing extra (my British grandfather would roll in his grave if he knew).

4. What historical sporting event would you like to witness?  The first (American) football game.

5. What is one piece of advice you would like to give your sixteen year old self?  The pain doesn’t last forever, so do NOT make life choices based on it.

6. Are you a planner or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?  Depends. Sometimes I need it all to be planned out. Sometimes, within a given set of parameters, I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Notice that it’s still within a set of parameters, though – I have to have boundaries at some point.

7. What is one thing you are looking forward to in 2011? My 35th high school reunion. It’s to be held the first week of August and I am truly hoping that nothing gets in my way!

8. Insert your own random thought here.  I purchased an e-reader the other day because it suddenly occurred to me that this would be much better for traveling than schlepping around the stack of books that goes with me everywhere.  I really didn’t expect to LIKE it, but I do!  It’s not a substitute for real books but rather a different way to read.  The newness of it has resulted in me purchasing a few books that I wouldn’t normally have wanted in paper, which is great!

- Catherine

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to normal

My Christmas tree and decorations are still up, but life returned to normal today.

Oh my, re-entry is so hard after a week of frivolity. (I love that word, don't you?!)

We had a grand party on New Year's Eve -- part housewarming, part wedding anniversary (our 10th!), part birthday (my father-in-law's) and part New Year's.  There was a ton of yummy food, some margaritas, some wine, and a really huge bottle of champagne. There were games, there was conversation, there was a LOT of laughter. There were a lot of people in our house, and, for once, no one had to sit on the stairs in order to be part of the conversation (as they did in the old house).

I loved it!

At 1:00 a.m. on New Year's morning, Tim and I put the remaining food in the refrigerator and resolved to tackle the dishes after we'd had some sleep.

Because we have a puppy (and a teenage son who was going snowboarding), we were back in the kitchen at 7:00 a.m.  Oh well.

But that was okay because naps would come later!  I spent most of New Year's Day in my pjs, eating junk food, watching football, and dozing under my pink, fleecy blanket.

I did spend a little time in my craft room while Tim was out, designing a new thank you card for future use. Earlier in the week, while organizing the room, I'd found some leather-look paper among my stock. The ideas began to churn, and this was the first result.  An interesting departure from other cards I've made, and a definite keeper, this one.

I did not make any formal resolutions for the New Year. But I do see where there are one or two sketchy areas in my life that need some work.

So I'll be working on them -- with God's help.

Which is the only way to tackle any kind of resolution.

Happy New Year!

- Catherine