Friday, January 31, 2014

January Review

Looking back on January from the end it seems like it's been mostly cold and snowy here.  Five extreme cold days with no school, and lots of shovelling snow.  On the other hand, I started out the month in Florida, so I might just have a very short memory.

It's fun to spend a few moments to look back at what people have said in the comments section, in emails, on the phone or in person.  One thing I have realized is that different people read this blog in different ways.  Some read every day, and others binge read.  That is, a whole bunch of posts at one time to catch up.  Makes me no never mind how you read, just so you do!

tRa spotted my reflection in the glass as I took a photo of the cat and puzzle.  Excellent eagle eyes!  I didn't realize it was there, as I am usually quite careful about showing pictures of myself in the blog.

Kelly reminds me that just because I can't post doesn't mean I can't write. I can always double post when it gets fixed.  Good point to remember if the website goes down again.

Over twenty people liked the news of my puzzle championship.  I posted here and mentioned it on facebook.  It's easier to like things on facebook than on my blog.  

One of my cousins appreciated the strategy of the big calendar with big red Xs.  She thought it might be obsessive to run out and get one, but I think it's efficient.  Of course, I just printed a small one off because I'm too lazy to hang anything on the wall.

And finally, thank you Jim for posting another awesome youtube video of the master Pete Seeger.  I could watch him over and over again.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chemical Reaction

Science has never been something that I am good at.  I barely made it through Biology and Physics in high school, and I chose Marine Biology and Marine Geology in college for a reason.  (I actually managed to dissect a clam.)

My honey can't quite get his head around the fact that I managed to get out of higher education without any knowledge of chemistry.  That's probably because he is pure scientist.  He is also a little nuts.  You see, lately it's been a little cold here in the upper Midwest, but he continues to ride his bicycle to work every day.  Even when it was 25 below zero.

I bought him some hand warmers because I thought they might help him stay warm in cold weather.  And he loved them, but was dismayed because they are designed to be used only once, good for ten hours of toastiness.

Then he realized that the warmth generated was from a simple chemical reaction.  The hand warmers need oxygen to generate heat.  If you deprive them of oxygen, say by putting them in a jar, as soon as the presence of a reactant is removed, the reaction will stop.

And if one jar is good, aren't two jars better?  Yes, they seem to be, as the same pair of hand warmers has been warming his hands on his bike rides since last Thursday.  Not every ride, as tonight's temperature of 20° doesn't require hand warmers.

My honey is tickled by the following answer to an FAQ on the product's website.

Are the warmers reusable/rechargable?
No.  Our warmers are designed for one time use.

Sorry to contradict the company, but it's looking like they'll be good for intermittent one hour periods over more than a week.

Better living through chemistry!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We'll miss you, Pete!

Pete Seeger always loved to get the audience to participate.  He supposedly said, "There is no such thing as a wrong note, just as long as you're singing along."

We'll see you in our dreams, Pete . . . 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014 Puzzle Champeens!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of competing in a jigsaw puzzle contest.  Sponsored by Wells Fargo, teams of four race each other to put together a 500 piece puzzle as fast as they can.  We were a team of three in the family division, our fourth laid low by illness.

It all started way too early for our high school competitor, who was quite tired from a sleepover.  But we got there in time to get a smaller table under the skylights, which was what we wanted.  The girls went off to a local Starbucks to bring back hot chocolate (our team name) and sweets for breakfast.

At 9am, the go signal was given and we started working.  The youngest on the horses, the high schooler on the frame, and I took care of sorting and organizing the pieces.  Then I worked on the all white sky.  Ninety minutes later the first team was done.  Luckily for us, it was an all-adult team, so we continued on.  The second and third place adult teams soon followed.

We each had different ways of working the puzzle and we changed sections frequently, but we were humming along in harmony.  We knew we were doing well because the volunteers kept coming by our table to look at our progress.  At 11am we were told that they were extending the contest by an additional half hour, as no family teams had finished.

And, in fact, no family team did finish.  However, our team had the fewest pieces (20) left to be put in when time was called at 11:30.  So Team Hot Chocolate! was declared the winner of the family division!  The girls were extremely excited and our news was immediately tweeted.  While we were waiting for the prizes to be awarded, we put in the last twenty pieces so we could take a photo of our finished puzzle.

The awards were four winter carnival scarves, one for each team member, plus $50 in gift cards for movie theaters and $50 in gift cards to a group of restaurants.  Plus the awesome reward of just being the fastest family puzzlers in town.  Sweet!

An interesting final note:  You might notice in the photo that there is an extra puzzle piece on the table. That is a double of one of the edge pieces, so our puzzle actually had 501 pieces in the bag.  Wells Fargo needs to have their puzzles made of a better quality next year, 'cause Hot Chocolate! is planning on a repeat!

Monday, January 27, 2014

30-day fitness challenges

Back in December when I wrote about trying to get fit, a reader asked if I had seen the 30 day fitness challenges website.  I hadn't, so I checked it out.  There are a lot of different challenges and as far as I can tell, they are all brutal!  Most of them I couldn't do to save my life, but I thought that I should try and find one that I could at least attempt.

After looking at the squat, abs, burpee, plank, butt, splits, and crunch challenges, I rejected them all as too difficult and likely to cause injury to my soft body.  I was intrigued by the Beach Body Challenge, but I had never heard of so many of the exercises, I figured it was unattainable.  There are more challenges, but most of them seemed even worse.  

I finally settled on the easy push-up challenge.  It starts at 3 push-ups on Day One, and by Day Thirty you can do 20 push-ups!  Unfortunately, by Day Three my arms were killing me, and even after a day of rest, I was unable to complete Day Five.  Apparently, I can't do very many push-ups day after day after day.

Obviously, I needed an easier exercise in order to build up my arms.  I decided to do wall push-ups. But the easy push-up challenge was definitely too easy, if all I was doing was wall push-ups.  So I started the regular push-up challenge.  That starts at 15 push-ups on Day One and climbs to 40 by the last day of the challenge.  Plus, there are fewer rest days, which seemed reasonable for wall push-ups.

What's cool is that if you look closely, the poster shows the woman doing one-arm push-ups.  Maybe on Day Thirty I could do some one-armed wall push-ups!

Currently, I'm on Day 18, which means that I will do 29 wall push-ups this morning.  And my arms will be sore by the end of the repetitions.  I'm already looking beyond the end of this challenge though.  Will I be strong enough to return to the easy push-up challenge?  How far might I make it before failure this time?  Should I double down on the wall push-ups, one set in the morning and one in the evening?  Should I move on to some other challenge, most likely adapting it to make it easy enough for me to actually accomplish it?

I don't know yet, but I have twelve more days of wall push-ups to figure it out. What's fascinating to me, is that I'm in shape enough to tread water for an hour or two all the while playing strenuous water polo, but I'm still in really bad shape on land.

Working on changing that . . .

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Pride goeth before destruction.
Proverbs 16:18

The day after I bragged about writing 211 posts without missing a day, I had an hour of panic.  The server that I use for this blog was not working.  At first I thought I was doing something wrong, but no, the site was definitely not functioning correctly.  

Great timing, my sarcastic brain reasoned.  I kept checking every few minutes, but after it still wasn't behaving itself, I decided to limit my obsession to trying to connect every fifteen minutes.  I had plenty of other writing and reading to do anyway.

Luckily, whatever bug was hanging things up got taken care of by some really smart, invisible bug fixers, and I could write and post my blog as usual. Whew!  

The situation reminded of a mistake I made a couple of weeks ago.  I scheduled the post for the wrong time, and my post didn't come up at 6am as it usually does.  An alert reader called me to make sure everything was OK. I quickly fixed my error and I'm not sure anyone else even noticed.

Those two incidents got me thinking.  As proud as I am of my streak and as much as I will do my best to continue it until I go back to teaching full-time, failure is an option.  The server could be down, the power could go out, or heaven forfend, I could make some bigger mistake, and there would be no post.

And that would be allright.  I'd be sad and probably mad, but I would survive. (I'm sure all my readers would manage to endure.)  I would start counting at Day One again.  Because failure is just the chance to have a new beginning. And don't we all love a new beginning?

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I love libraries.  Anytime I move somewhere new, the first thing I do is send a postcard to myself so that I have quick proof of residency.  As soon as the postcard arrives, it's time to take it to the local library and get me a card.

Here's a small sampling of my collection of library cards.  There are cards from Scotland, California, various institutions of higher learning, even one from the nation's library, the Library of Congress.  I'm pretty proud of that one.

I'm lucky to live in an area where there are three different library systems (one city and two county) I can bike or bus to.  Plus, there are three more county systems within easy driving distance.  Each system has different items and different strengths.

There are many services that the libraries provide beyond lending books and movies.  There are book clubs, concerts, author visits, and even study rooms.  I'm thinking about using their study rooms as an additional office when I can't go to my coworking space.

Currently, I have way too many books and movies checked out. There is no possible way I could read and watch them all within the borrowing time frame.  But that's the joy of the public library, I can return any items unread and unwatched.  It all costs the same amount.

I try to do all my library errands on the same day, but it doesn't always work out.  So I end up at various libraries more than once a week.  However often it happens, going to the library makes me happy.

A while ago, I wanted to have a bar like Cheers where everyone knows my name, but I don't drink enough.  Then I realized, the library is my bar. A lot of the librarians know my name and I know them.

Libraries are way better than a bar.  Lot less beer, though.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I love apple

Three years ago my honey and I bought our current macintosh computer.  At the time, I purchased something called one-to-one, a year long personal computer training package.  But I never activated it.  I meant to, but I kept putting it off for one reason or another.

Finally, yesterday I went into my local apple retail store with its genius bar at the rear, and asked if I could activate my one-to-one package, three years later.  "No problem," said one of the four helpful geniuses that I spoke to.

I filled out a few forms on an instore computer, and I was all set.  Now I have three different ways to learn more about my computer and its many, many capabilities.  Personal training (actually one-to-one), group training, or open training (a sort of study hall option with a genius for support).  Topics include icloud, iphoto, and even ispaghetti.

I hate to admit it, but I like the fact that all those blue-shirted geniuses are so agreeable.  Maybe they're faking, I don't know, but if they are, they're good fakers.  And I am going to take advantage of their (possibly fake) happiness for an entire year.  I can't wait!

Next week I am going to take some sort of class, although I haven't decided exactly which one yet.  I'm sure that I am only using 5% of the possibilities at my fingertips.  Imagine what I'll be able to do with this blog when I understand 10% of what this machine can do!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Alice's Cats

My mother-in-law had cats from an early age.  My honey has a long list of cats that were around the house growing up.  Gidget, Sissy, Bandit, Stripe, Tiger, Samson, Faith, and Lily are the names he could come up with at short notice.

Faith and Lily were the two that lived at Alice's house when I knew her.  She really loved those cats and went to great lengths to care for them.  They were related somehow (one was the mother and the other a daughter), but unfortunately they didn't get along at all.  So Alice had an elaborate scheme to keep them apart.

Lily lived most of her day on the bottom floor of the house, a finished basement.  But she got to go upstairs any time that Faith went outside. There was a small sign on the door handle of the nook where Faith went in and out. One side read 'Faith is in' and the other 'Faith is out'.  That way Alice always could check whether Lily could have the run of the house or not.

She very much enjoyed the cats and all the mischief that they can get into. When Alice went to live in an assisted living center, she gave her last cat, Faith, to her daughter to care for.  But I know Alice missed having a cat around.  Shortly before she passed away, Alice's granddaughter brought one of her cats with her to see her grandma.  It meowed and purred and generally frolicked around.  I hope Alice was comforted.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Today is my 211th post.  In a row.  Unbelievable!

If you had asked me way back in June how many times I could write a short essay about my life, I have no idea what I would have said.  I reached 50 pretty easily.  Somehow I made it to 101 in October.  But now that I have reached 211 consecutive posts, I admit that I am a bit flabbergasted at myself.  Apparently, it's all about habits.

For my writing class last fall, I read an internet article about Jerry Seinfeld's productivity secret.  He says that the way to get better at writing jokes is to write every day. But how to motivate yourself to write every day?

Jerry puts up a large one year calendar on the wall and every day that he writes, he marks off with a giant red X.  After you make more than a couple of continuous red Xs, you have a chain.  And then it somehow becomes the most important thing in the world to not break the chain.

Although I don't have an actual wall calendar with markings, I suppose I have a metaphorical one.  For the last 211 nights, I have done my best to not break the chain.  There have been late nights when I didn't want to write, didn't know what I was going to write about, and times when I felt very unenthusiastic about this dang blog, but I have always written something.

Only 184 days left to go . . .

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Guitar Class — Take One

A couple of weeks ago I went to a local place that has music lessons for all kinds of instruments.  Although I would like to learn to play the piano, I don't have one.  So I decided to stick with guitar, because I have one of those.  In fact, I have a really nice one of those, given to me by my honey on a birthday many years ago.  Even the instructor said, "Nice guitar."

I've taken guitar lessons more than once in my life, but I haven't managed to keep it up.  I know some chords and taught myself to play London Bridges for my first graders a few years ago, but inevitably at some point, the guitar goes back in its case and doesn't come out again for a long time.

But not this year.  This is my chance.  Unfortunately, that first lesson didn't go that well.  The instructor was very nice, but we didn't really connect on a musical level.  He had never heard of most of the folkies I listen to, and although I recognized the rocker names he dropped, I didn't know any of their music.

He asked me my goals and at the time, I couldn't come up with anything except, "learn to play the guitar", which seemed less specific than he was looking for.  He taught me a little guitar theory, which I immediately forgot and he wrote a G Major Scale, Landslide (a Stevie Nicks? song I don't know) and and E Minor Blues progression on a music sheet for me.  Regrettably, I don't really remember how to play those anymore either.

I feel sad that the lesson didn't inspire me to play my guitar, but I am not giving up.  I did learn something from the half hour, which is that my goal is to learn to play a song.  Any song other than London Bridges, that is.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Best Movie Theater Ever

We rarely go out to see movies at theaters anymore.  In fact of the more than 200 films that were released last year, we saw exactly — two.  And one of those was on our big screen television.

But last night we went out to my favorite movie theater in town.  What's so great about it?  Well, it's got it everything you might want in a cinema experience.  To start, there's only one screen, which nowadays is both cool and rare.  But wait, there's more!

History?  Check.  It opened in 1948 and much of it remains unchanged to this day.  I'm especially fond of the poodle wallpaper in the women's lounge.

Comfort?  Yep.  They installed new rocker seats in 2007.  Cozy and snug and the arm rests have a space for your soda!

Good popcorn?  Mmmm.  Very good.  Very, very good.

Low prices?  Guaranteed.  Only $3 for a movie, with $2 bargain matinees and Tuesdays.  The concessions are also economical, our standard combo is a medium popcorn and medium root beer (both large to me) for $5.

It plays second run movies, often about to come out on DVD, but we don't mind.  Last night we watched Captain Phillips, an excellent film that is nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.  And we ate popcorn and leaned back in our rocker chairs.

Life is sweet.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Brave the Young

My niece left yesterday morning for a semester abroad in France.  We talked a few times in the past week, and our conversations got me thinking.

How brave young people are.  They constantly have to do things that they have never done before.  That sort of continual fearlessness required to just live your daily life when everything is always new can be forgotten by us more mature folks.  We are so used to speaking up for ourselves, asking for help, or figuring out how to use public transportation in a foreign land.  Things can sometimes be difficult, but life no longer requires massive amounts of courage.

I am also very jealous.  Her trip makes me remember my own young days when I enjoyed travelling for months and living abroad for long periods of time.  I didn't have very many possessions, and I didn't care too much about the ones I had.  Now I'm all stable and grown-up, and my house is full of stuff.  Taking off into the wild, blue yonder for good isn't currently an option for me.

So, I need to take some of that bravery that I once had as a youth, apply it to my writing, and get it ready to send it off for its first rejections.

And after that, I'll go hang out with my niece in Europe!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Office Jobs — Continued

A recent post discussed the somewhat troubling fact that it is very difficult for me to work on my novel at home.  I listed all the things I could remember doing at home instead of revising my novel.  But when I'm at the office I pursue a variety of tasks.

It's time to add one more activity to that list.  The instructor of the online class I took last fall recommended a number of books to read.  Unfortunately, during the class I read exactly zero of her recommendations.   

Now I am trying to remedy that sad situation.  So, I am reading her first suggestion, A Writer's Time:  Making the Time to Write by Kenneth Atchity. Although I am only a quarter of the way through the book, I am enjoying it immensely and learning a lot.

In the introduction, Mr. Atchity cites the ancient Greeks who divided their lives into periods of seven years and then made plans for that time.  My periods are six years long. They consist of five years teaching and one year of leave, but I feel very classical nonetheless.

Mr. Atchity has many more interesting ideas, such as, one should "write with a purpose."  He mentions someone whose purpose is to make what they write "entertaining enough to compete with beer."

I decided that my purpose in writing is to make what I write so compelling that people will stay up past their bedtime to read more.

Finally, it's important for me to remember that "Discipline, not the Muse, results in productivity."  In other words, I need to figure out a way to work on the novel every day, not just at the office.  I'll get to work on that right away.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Perfect Snowman

I have no idea how many words the Inuit people have for snow.  I imagine it's a lot, because even I am starting to have an idea about how many nuances there can be for the single word snow.

A recent snowfall was mostly light and airy with not too much moisture.  In other words, it was not good for snowballs or snowpeople, but easy to shovel.

We did have a wet, heavy snow a couple of weeks ago and soon after it, I saw the best snowman I have ever seen.  I had to wonder whether it was fake or maybe made from a mold.  Nope, upon close scrutiny, it was just naturally gorgeous.

I haven't made too many snowmen over the almost twenty years I have lived in snow country, mostly because I am no good at it.  It is extremely difficult it is to get a perfect circle even once, much less three times.  And getting the balls in the right proportion from big to small?  Impossible.

This is an example of a snowman that I might make.  It's an excellent effort for the four year old who actually built it, but it has its imperfections.

It's small,  about three feet tall, misshapen, only has one arm, and no face.

Meanwhile, three blocks away, the perfect snowman was somehow created.

Tall, perfectly proportioned, and beautifully atttired, every time I drove by it, I was amazed.  Those are actual pieces of coal (ok, charcoal) for buttons and eyes, carrots for a nose, and a lovely scarf.  The only item missing from Frosty are a hat and pipe.  I think they were probably originally there, but some windstorm blew them off.

Quality craftsmanship in the north.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Home ≠ Working on Novel

My membership at the coworking office is for three days a week.  That leaves two days a week for me at home.  Every one of those days, I promise myself I'm going to work on my novel, but most days I don't do it.

Yesterday was one of those days.  What did I do instead?  In no particular order, I:

Read the newspaper
Cut out some book reviews and recipes from the newspaper
Took some photos for a future blog post
Started reading the book for my February book club
Walked to the drugstore to buy some stuff
Watched some of the Golden Globes that I had taped from Sunday
Surfed the internet
Loaded and turned on the dishwasher
Ate breakfast, a morning snack, lunch and an afternoon snack
Shredded some old financial papers
Sorted and opened some old mail
Went to the gym and walked on the treadmill
Registered for a writing class
And other things I can't remember at the moment

I did manage to do some writing in my journal, but not much, and it was after dinner.  This doesn't bode well for me figuring out how to continue to write once I go back to work in the fall . . . 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Florida Springs

There are lots of ways to sort the many, many natural springs in Florida.  For example, springs where manatees congregate and those where they don't. Or large, well-known springs and smaller, county springs.  I divide them into the two categories that make the most sense to me:  those you can swim in and those where no swimming is allowed.

During my last trip to Florida, my family went to one of each.  The state park we were at had recently taken over Florida's oldest tourist attraction, Silver Springs.  No swimming allowed, although glass-bottom boats were invented there in the 1870s.

Over fifty springs form the headwaters of the Silver River.  That's one of the many facts we learned on our one-hour, glass-bottom boat tour. Another interesting fact was that the theme park used to feed the fish at one particular spring. When the state park took over, they stopped feeding the fish.  It only took the fish three days to figure out no more food and stop appearing whenever the boats showed up.  Smarty-pants!

We saw a number of fish, birds, and a rather large turtle, as well as two sunken boats.  Both of them were quite old, one indigenous and one Spanish.  It was a fun day.

The second spring we visited, DeLeon Springs, was much smaller, but you could swim there, which makes it better, at least in my opinion.  Also, the spring water is always 72°, which is balmy compared to the ocean I swam in a day earlier.

It's quite the amazing place.  You can learn to scuba dive there, see the nose of a manatee (we did!), and even cook your own pancakes.  That's right, at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant, griddles are built in the middle of the tables and pitchers of pancake batter are served for patrons to make their own pancakes.  Extras available for the hotcakes include chocolate chips, bananas, blueberries and even peanut butter.  Our family ate there to celebrate the successful half-marathon run of my middle niece. Congratulations!

A sweet ending to my Florida travelogues.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reviving Little Critters

The insects, reptiles, and other residents of Florida are not used to the cold. Sometimes they need to be helped to take flight, crawl off, or play golf.

Here are a few stories about aiding a few of our smaller friends.  My memory is pretty fuzzy on the details because I was mostly a bystander, but this is what I remember.

It was a cool morning and we were cleaning up our state park rental cabin, getting ready to leave.  The previous day had been very rainy and the night had been even colder.

A lizard was the first animal rescued.  Too cold to run off when approached, I think it was on the sidewalk leading up to our cabin.  The younger generation named it Lizard Bob, picked it up and decided to move it from the shade to some direct sunlight.  The logical theory being that the poor cold-blooded animal needed to warm up so that he was not so sluggish.  But where to place him safely?  The safest, warmest place found nearby was the metal top of a garbage can.  One critter restored!

Next up was the dragonfly.  As far as I know, it did not receive a name.  I'm not sure where they found it, but when I saw it, it was warming its wings slowly in the sunlight, perched on some hands.

I'm sure I'm anthropomorphizing, but it seemed like the poor dragonfly couldn't decide whether to play dead for safety or continue to stretch itself in the pleasant sun on the balmy palm.  When it did take flight, it surprised us all, and at least one shriek was heard.  Two creatures released!

Finally came Lizard Joe.  It was several hours later at a local spring, but it must still have been cold, because Joe also didn't move when picked up.

After a few minutes studying Joe at a close range, he was placed in the sun on a chair.  The third living being warmed and revitalized!

Just another frigid morning in Florida.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Ocean Swimming

Most of us living in the upper midwest think of Florida as being always hot and sunny, even in the winter.  But that polar vortex thingamajiggy got everything all mixed up.

When I was there last week, there were several cold, windy days.  However, I never let any of that stop me from swimming in the ocean.  My brother is trying to swim in the ocean 100 days each year, so he was willing to go with me.  I guess any days you can go in January are bonus, even if they're cold.

We got to the beach and the wind was quite strong.  There weren't very many people out, but anyone who was, seemed to be bundled up.  Unless they were young.  It didn't matter to us.  We stripped down to our bathing suits and ran into the water.  (My brother told me it helped on cold days to just keep moving.)

The water was so cold that it took my breath away literally.  I only managed to dive under twice before I turned around and began to walk out slowly. Amazingly enough, my brother continued on and swam for another five or ten minutes before getting out.

Even more amazing, the water was so cold that the air suddenly didn't feel so frigid.  I've never done one of the Polar Dips in a frozen lake, but maybe I should try it.  After all, I'm trying to widen my horizons.  It might not be so bad.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Silly Things You Do

Young people sometimes suggest kooky ideas and even us supposedly mature people can make rash decisions.   When I was hanging out with the four youngest women in my family, at least two of them wanted to dye their hair.

Purple was the chosen color and I thought, why not?  I've always really wanted to dye my hair blue, but purple was at least close.  The dye package reported that the color would be gone after 8-10 washes anyway.

So, the two youngsters dyed their hair first, and then my mother dyed one of her white locks purple, and since there was enough purple dye left over, it was my turn.  It turns out it's quite a procedure.

First, you have to put vaseline along your hairline so that your scalp doesn't turn purple too.  Then you sit in a chair, wearing a t-shirt you don't care about while someone combs the dye into your hair.  That part is very soothing.  I almost fell asleep.

Next, though is the saran wrap.  That feels a little disturbing, but it's only for about a half hour, so it's manageable.  Also, during the saran wrap period you may heat your hair gently (through the saran wrap) to try to get the color to set better.

Finally, you stick your head over the sink and wash out the extra dye.  Make sure to have towels or rags that can get purple on them to dry your hair.

And voilĂ , your hair is purple!  Well, maybe only a little bit purple, and maybe only noticeable in direct, bright light.  The whole process took less than an hour and it was quite fun.

But the kicker?  Not a single person noticed that I had dyed my hair purple. And it wasn't very visible even to those involved.  Several theories were put forth.  My mane was too dark, or my locks weren't as porous as they could be to accept the dye, or maybe I forgot to recite the magic spell correctly. Who knows?

In the end, it turned out my impulsive decision didn't have much impact at all.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

After Dinner Treats

Many of the family were staying in this charming cabin in a Florida state park.

To someone in the habit of carrying everything on their back while sleeping on the ground, it was definitely glamping. Two bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower, a lovely open living room and dining area, as well as a full size fridge, stove, and dishwasher in the kitchen.

And the porch?  What an expanse!  Rocking chairs, ceiling fans, a picnic table . . . all behind a well-built screen.  Maybe there are mosquitoes with the heat in the summertime.

In any case, since we were having a luxury experience, a few forgotten items were needed.  My brother and I went out for wine, paper towels, pretzels, and "oh, we don't have any dessert" one of my nieces called as we walked out the door.  "Bring some back!"

A mini-mart attached to a gas station was the closest store and it had pretzels, paper towels and even wine.  But it had nothing resembling dessert except Grandma's cookies and bags of mini-donuts.  We didn't think either choice would be appreciated.

My sharp eyes spotted a Dairy Queen next door.  I thought an ice cream cake would do the trick for our hungry hordes.  We decided that since we were getting a cake, we might as well get something written on it, but we didn't know what.  Finally, I suggested, "Dessert."  After all, that's what the request was for.

We both giggled at the idea and told the man behind the counter what we wanted.  He passed our request on to the cake decorator who took our cake to the back.  I thought about a reminder about how to spell dessert but decided not to.  (Found out later that my brother had the same thought, but hadn't followed through either.)

So, here's what the cake looked like:

And once it was done, there was nothing to be done.  We carefully avoided each other's eyes as we paid and took the cake out to the car, where we broke into hysterical laughter.

Well, I guess some deserts are truly sweet!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Back Pain

I suffer from intermittent, acute, muscle spasms in my back.  There's lot of advice out there on the proper treatment.

Take ibuprofen.  

 Put ice on the affected area 15 minutes of every hour for the first 48 hours.  

Alternate lying down with careful walking.  

Try to avoid sitting and standing for long periods of time.

Drink plenty of water.

Yesterday's twinges in my middle back weren't actually too bad.  I didn't scream or lie down on the floor unable to move.  In between following all those instructions on what to do, I was able to drive my car (turning was not fun), go grocery shopping (ok) and make dinner (much easier, I think the medicine had kicked in).  

I wasn't, however, able to do the dishes, go running, or spend much time on the computer.  Therefore, today's blog post is pretty short.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.  See you then!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

This blog brought to you by . . .


Most days I write this blog at home or at my office, both of which provide me internet service.  Occasionally, I create some of it at one of my local libraries or at a coffee shop with free wifi.  But every once in a while, I get desperate.

The day I flew down to Florida I knew that I would have little time or opportunity to publish a post.  Since I didn't write it ahead of time, my original plan was to finish my daily writing at the airport before flying out. Unfortunately, the free airport wifi was not working.  And we were going to drive straight from Orlando to a Florida state park to spend the night in a cabin with my family.  I had severe doubts (later justified) that the state park would have what I needed.

I'm too cheap to pay for the wifi on the airplane, so I hoped to find one of those cafes where I could trade my buying a coffee for using their magic electronics.  However, it turned out that internet-enabled coffee shops are few and far between in rural central Florida.

So, I found myself with no other choices but McDonald's.  We had some burgers off the dollar menu, I enjoyed a small order of fries and I used their wifi to write and publish for my daily readers.  Not a bad trade.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frigid yet ingenious

It was once again bitterly cold across a wide swath of the nation yesterday, but many in the upper midwest find inventive ways to entertain themselves. Here is one man's idea that amuses me greatly.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Negatively Cold

I didn't write about the extreme cold yesterday, mostly because I didn't really experience it very much.  A few days after we returned from our North Shore adventure, we jetted off to Florida to visit family and only returned late yesterday evening.

Open field habitat in a Florida state park
And although it turned cold yesterday in Florida too, their hard freeze is nothing compared to how frigid it was when we returned home.  It seemed even worse than it actually was because we didn't take any cold weather gear on the trip south.

On the jetway from the plane you could see your breath.  There was a line for the taxis and everyone tried to stay away from the open door while waiting because the outside was just too darn cold.

When we got home, the heating pipes hadn't frozen, but the cold water at the kitchen sink wasn't running.  Some time spent heating the pipe with a hair dryer (the only thing we ever use it for) got the water flowing again.

Luckily for us, we won't have missed all the cold weather, because the below freezing temperatures are hanging around today too, just for us!

Today should be a good day to hang around the house and get stuff done here.  I'll probably drive my honey to work so that he doesn't get frostbite riding his bike, visit the library, and then spend much of the day camped out in the warmest spot in the house, right next to the radiator.

Stay warm and stay safe!  Expect tales of my warm southern experiences for the next few days . . .

Monday, January 6, 2014


I finally matched the donations some of you made to my nanowrimo fundraising site, as I promised.  This year, the organization has raised over one million dollars for writing programs for young people and adults.  With all of your help I personally raised $820.  Thank you so much!

Fundraising was hard to do.  I had to ask my friends and colleagues for financial support.  Granted, it was for a cause dear to my heart.  However, since my cause was a cultural one, I felt a little guilty.  There are so many other worthy causes, and somehow it seems to me that many other causes are, in fact, worthier.  Homelessness, the suffering in the Philippines, hungry children . . . the list goes on and on.  Helping people (even young people) to write their own novels?  Sure seems like a first world cause to me.

And it turns out, I'm not too far off the mark.  A recent article by Robert Reich (an ex-Secretary of Labor) claims that $33 billion of last year's $39 billion of total charitable deductions (as listed on our tax returns) went to the richest 20% of all American institutions.  The kind of wealthy recipients Reich mentions are operas, museums, symphonies, as well as elite schools and universities.

Now, I know that many of those organizations support the non-wealthy, just as nanowrimo does.  It still seems like not enough.  So what is enough?

I'm not sure but, I pledge to take some time this month to decide what causes that help the poor I want to give money to.  I promise to read more of Robert Reich's writing, and watch his movie Inequity for All.  I'd like to find out what works to reduce poverty.  I also need to figure out how much money I would like to earmark.  It will be at least as much as I donated to nanowrimo last year.

If anyone out there has any ideas for me, let me know.

NOTE:  I do not mean to diminish anyone's contribution, including my own.  I am happy and proud that people I know donated their hard-earned money to nanowrimo when I asked them to.  These are just some thoughts I had after reading Reich's article.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Lake Superior is quite beautiful in all seasons.  It is the largest of the Great Lakes, although its name in English comes from the French for upper lake, as it is located above the other lakes.  It can be quite placid or very stormy, with large waves.

Unfortunately, around most of its shores, it is too cold to swim in, even in summer.  It is great to look at, though, at any time.  In the winter, the spray from the waves freezes into ice at the shore.  When it gets really cold, the shallow waters of the lake near the shore also freeze.

In the early mornings, the sunrise over Lake Superior is breathtaking.

We enjoyed spending some calm vacation days on the North Shore.  I know we'll go back, but I sure wish I could swim in the lake.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Puzzle Dust

There's something to love about a new puzzle.  There's the ritual of setting up a special table with comfortable chairs.  Opening up the box and then the bag inside.  Trying to get the pieces out of the bag while leaving the fragrant puzzle dust inside.  Sorting pieces and looking at the shapes and colors with a critical eye.

A new puzzle is a new start, an introduction to hours of happy concentration. My favorite kind of puzzles are copies of famous art.

Although I don't celebrate Christmas, I do still get gifts.  This year, my Mom bought a 1000 piece puzzle of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night. Score!

Although the art is challenging (lots of blue) and the pieces are oddly shaped, I hope it won't take too long.

What's more is that I have learned that not only humans love puzzles . . .

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow, Trees, Sky

Here are a few of the photographs I took on our trip to the frigid north . . .  more to follow?

Fallen trees make a nice horizontal table for the snow.

The close-up lens on my camera has stopped working,
but I think you can get an idea about how much snow 
one of these evergreens can hold on to.

Some sort of animal made deep tracks in the snow.  
Deer?  Rabbit?  All I know is that those aren't bear tracks!

The sun came out and splashed my shadow on top of a snowy river.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Toilet trouble - hotel style

A few days after the solstice holiday, my honey and I went further north to a resort on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  (We wanted to be even colder!)

The visit started out well, but took a turn for the worse on the very first morning.  What happened?

The toilet overflowed.  Reception was called, the maintenance guys came out, and after a number of hours of banging around, this was the result:

Yes, they had to move the toilet from its spot to try to snake the sewer line. Although first, they had to use a wet/dry vaccuum to clean up the toilet and the bathroom floor.  The problem?  Ice.

They brought up some chunks of ice to start, but eventually decided to try to use a steamer to melt the ice in the line.  Amazingly enough, we hung around this entire time, listening to them make noise and smelling the pungent sewer odors.  (We were waiting for it to get warm enough to go skiing.)

The head maintenance guy decided to move us at about the same time as the plumbers were trying to decide if they had cleared the sewer line. Even though they decided they had been successful, we moved rooms anyway. This was probably a good idea, especially after we learned that this had been an ongoing problem with this unit.

Our new unit was not quite as nice, didn't have the same quality of furniture, and was in the middle of a row instead of at the end, but the toilet worked very well.

Interestingly enough, management never acknowledged the incident in any way.  I kept expecting a gift certificate or a coupon to the restaurant or at the very least, a "We're sorry that the toilet didn't work and we inconvenienced you."  But no, nothing.  Maybe it was because we were in one of their cheaper rooms, I don't know.

Whatever the reason, I guess we'll be checking out other resorts on the North Shore in the future.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Day!

"We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet . . ."
Robert Burns 

January First.  The beginning of the new year.  A new start.  A brand new day.

But couldn't every new day be a new start?  And couldn't we take and give a cup of kindness every day?

According to Shakespeare, sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care, so when we wake each morning we have a fresh chance to look at our lives.

I know in actuality that this is difficult to do, because we need to get up and shower and feed the cat or make coffee or complete whatever daybreak routines we have.  Who has time to reflect on what they want the day to bring, or think about what kind of person they would like to be?  But it seems like a good idea to be able to start over again more than just once a year.

To resolve to be nicer, eat less, drink more, and shovel out our sidewalks as soon as the snow falls instead of leaving it there because it's too cold and it makes us whiney just thinking about going outside.  And if we fail to be our best selves on any given day, we can give a cup of kindness to ourselves, drink it and start over when next the sun rises.  At least, that's what I'm going to try to do for the next  365 days.

Thanks for reading my philosophizing.  It sounded better in my head than it looks on the page.  Of course, that is often the case.

But now, I'm off to drink some kindness in a cup, so I want to wish everyone a . . .