Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What a nice guy

We frequently go to a restaurant that's about 75 yards from our house--but not because the food is so great. It's fine, don't get me wrong. And it's reasonably priced but that's not the reason we go either. We go because of Kevin. He's the main server there. We've seen a few other servers who've come and gone but mostly it's Kevin. We met him one of our first nights out after we moved into this place and unlike 98% of the rest of the servers in Boston, he was friendly and funny and nice. So we go back because of him. In fact this summer, he was gone from work for over two months with a fairly serious eye infection and we didn't go while he was gone. As I said, the food's OK. Kevin is why we go.

Sunday night as I got out of the taxi after getting back to Boston, I saw Kevin and he said he had something for me. A friend of his knew he sewed and gave him a bunch of sewing patterns. Kevin brought them to me! Isn't that cool?

Here's what I'm keeping and I'll return the rest to him later this week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kindle v Kindle

Fire is on the left, 3G on the right
I got my Christmas present from Kent early—in fact I got it before we left for Virginia. That’s because I have zero patience and once he informed me that he would be getting me the new Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I’d made the financial objections only to be overruled, I asked if we could get it Right! Now! So I got my present early. Yes, I know I'm spoiled.

My mother called this morning asking some questions about the difference between the Kindle 3G, which I also own (hey I am Gadget Queen) and this one. We had a good conversation and I told her I’d also post pictures of them both here on my blog plus give a quick assessment on how they compare.

The screen on the Fire is amazing. We watched lots of short videos on You Tube last week and they looked great on the screen. Streaming like that does drain the battery, and I haven’t yet looked at ways to store videos or movies on the device although it can do that.

The touch keypad is fine but I wouldn’t want to type lengthy posts on it. That’s mostly because I prefer keyboards and I'm really fast with them. I’m less speedy with a touchscreen keyboard.

See how well the 3G handles
the light from the flash?
Reading on the Fire is different from reading on my 3G Kindle. First, it’s backlit. Second, instead of buttons on either side of the screen, you tap the right side of the page to advance in your book and the left side to go back. The search function works as well as the 3G search function. I will take my 3G Kindle when we go places where I’ll be reading outside—the e-ink does so well in direct sunlight and doesn’t strain my eyes.

If I get a job where I travel the way I did with the last job, I’d take the Fire. When I travel, I’m generally not creating content while in the air and if I need to do that, I’d use a work laptop.

With my hand as a reference for size.
The Fire is perfect for consuming content which makes sense since that’s what it’s designed to do. If you expect a powerhouse processor, first reexamine why you are considering a Fire—start by asking yourself what problem you are trying to solve.

If you want to create content, get a different device. This isn’t the device for you.

If all you want to do is read, get a plain jane Kindle, which handles that task beautifully.

If you want to keep up on your personal email, check Facebook or Twitter, read your favorite blogs and maybe play games like Angry Birds, then give the Fire a good look.

If you’re an Apple fan, I can’t help you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My children made me cry

And in this post, I am counting all four of them as my kids (no disrespect intended to the mothers of Jen and Sophie).

We exchanged gifts with Ben, Jen and the kids and Jordan and Sophie on Saturday. The puppets were a huge hit with both children, which really made me happy. I have some great memories of playing puppets first with my little sisters and then later with Jordan and Ben. Seeing Alison and Eliot love the puppets like that brought all those good feelings back.

But I have to say I think that I got the most amazing gift of all. My kids completely surprised me and more than that, they got me something that just overwhelmed my heart. To understand why, I need to give you some back story.

I’ve written here before that as divorces go, mine was pretty civilized. Yes, a marriage ended and yes, dreams we’d both held of beating the odds and living happily ever after also ended, but for the most part, neither of us got nasty or vindictive. One of the few sticking points for me—and let me hasten to say that this wasn’t Rick being nasty or vindictive, I think he was just sort of oblivious—was that I got pretty much no photographs of our 16 years together. That also meant I had almost no pictures of my children as they grew up.

I’ve always felt this loss keenly. The boys loved it when I’d sit down with them and go through all the photo albums and tell them stories about what they were doing in each picture. Our albums weren’t scrapbooks, just the old-fashioned, probably ruin your pictures kind of albums but they held the pictures and we looked through them frequently.

Even this summer, when Rick was in Boston and took us both out to dinner, I mentioned that I had no pictures. He was shocked and promised to get me digital copies. I didn’t hold my breath.

Maybe you can see where this is going. Last year or the year before, Ben and Jen put together a picture book, bound and everything, that contained pictures of us with them and their children. That was a fantastic gift, so Saturday when I felt the texture of the book, I knew what it was.

But I was wrong. They’d gotten their childhood pictures, scanned them all, and had them printed into a book for me. They also burned the pictures onto a disk. It was a complete group effort by all four of them—I cracked up at the account of how Sophie just walked in to Rick’s house and took the pictures (yeah!).

I’m getting teary again just thinking about how much this book means to me. I haven’t looked at the disk yet. I am saving those pictures when maybe I’m having a sad or lonely day, or feel not so great about myself. I know for a fact those pictures will give me a wonderful boost.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have something in my eye.

Ben is on the left, Jordan is on the right. Cute lil stinkers, huh.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New traditions

I've loved seeing what my sons want to continue for their holiday traditions--for the most part, they've taken everything I did and incorporated them into their own family celebrations. That makes me feel really good.

This is our fifth Thanksgiving with Ben and Jen and the second year Jordan and Sophie have been able to join us. So we have a couple of new traditions:
  • Our Great Pizza Cook-off. This started as a competition between Kent and Ben and now we've decided it's really just a way for us all to have great pizza. This will be our third cook-off.
  • Catan Championships. Jordan, Ben and Kent played last year and are playing again this year. I think this will be a new tradition for them.
  • Faux Christmas. Ben and Jen graciously put up their tree the Friday after Thanksgiving so we can help and then we open presents. Alison is old enough to know that this isn't the real Christmas celebration and still young enough to enjoy opening all the gifts.
  • Pea Tasty. OK it's not really called that, it's called tea pastry but Ben couldn't say that when he was a little kid. We always had the pea tasty for Christmas breakfast and that's a tradition Ben has continued.
  • Bake time with Alison. Last year Sophie and Alison made cookies together and this year they are going to make cup cakes. I think Sophie is a saint.
Did you know your adult children develop strong opinions of their own? And that you can really learn from them? Well they do and I most definitely have learned from both sons. This week, Ben told me I shouldn't use the tag "stupid things you're rather not know." He said it's demeaning about what I write and also slightly dismissive toward the people who read this blog. I've thought about it, and I'm going to stop using that tag. It will be hard but I'm going to give it a whirl.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm in Virginia with Kent, both sons and their families for the holiday and I'm really glad to be here. It's a very cool thing to have adult children as interesting as mine are. I take no credit--as my brother is fond of saying when complimented or dinged about his own children, "it's not my fault."

I hope you are with those you love and who love you right back. I wish for no drama, much tasty food and a relaxing, restorative time.

More later!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unrelated rantlets

Rantlets are tiny little rants hardly worthy of the word rant. So here we go:

I’m tired of the meme first world problems. Yes, I know others elsewhere have it a lot worse than I do. I get it. But these are my problems and hey, guess what—I live in a first world country complete with first world problems.

I’m also tired of applying for jobs with companies that use antiquated web sites. I'm talking about web sites that can't accept documents in Word 2010 and won’t run in Chrome. Hey, a job application is also a chance for me to evaluate you, company who has the job posting. So don’t use Web 1.0 technology and do update your site so I can upload my resume into the dark abyss of your company never to be seen or heard from again.

Also this week I ran across a company with a career section of their web site that was in such bad shape regarding security certificates that both Chrome and Internet Explorer had absolute fits about me going there. And yes, this was one of the companies whose site flat wouldn't work in Chrome. Please for the love of God join us in the 21st century and make your web site compatible with the major browsers.

That leads me directly to the dark abyss of no answer or response to a job application. Seriously, it’s not all that difficult to set up a script to let all the non-winners know you filled the job. If tiny companies in Iowa can get that script up and running, so can you, big giant companies in major cities. It's the polite thing to do.

Finally let’s talk about the TSA. Ah the joys of either getting virtually strip-searched or else patted down before I can fly. I guess I slept through the  biology class that covered the parts of the human body, because for the life of me I never heard of a body part called resistance. The TSA sure has and they love to karate chop me there every time I fly.

Monday, November 21, 2011


We went to our friend Fiona’s third annual Friendsgiving Saturday evening. She provides the turkey, plates, utensils etc. and we all bring everything else. I usually bring my cranberry-port sauce, the one my friend Shima calls the boozy cranberry sauce. This year I found a recipe for honey roasted almonds so we made a batch of those before we headed over. Oh my goodness those were tasty. They are also all gone.

The nice thing about Friendsgiving is it provides the perfect kick off to the holiday crush and ensures we see all our friends while we are still sane. I love it and I’m so glad she does this every year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back to cats

I thought I'd already posted a video of their feeding frenzy but maybe not. So here's a video of the nightly food ritual, complete with their pathetic cries.

Chloe is the worst offender. She starts sounding off a good two hours before feeding time with her monotone meow, which is fairly annoying. Wally doesn't stir until the can has been opened. Then he'll saunter into the kitchen and wander around. He rarely meows while we get the food ready and when he does, it's cute. He's got a little meow for having such a big personality. Eddie's meow is both loud and expressive, which is exactly how he is.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The freak

I’m sure you’ve heard of the whole Penn State/Paterno/ Sandusky mess. I think the two most chilling stories I read were about (1) Penn State students rioting over Paterno being let go and (2) the story about the grad assistant who saw something, reported something but not until the next day and then . . . nothing?

I think I’m the freak here.

I have reported people for things done against those who have no recourse, not something I think happened or something I suspected happened but events I saw. Here are my bona fides:

  • I reported a woman whose children slept in urine-soaked playpens who were also fed mold-infested food.
  • I confronted an “abusive” man berating a woman at Murphy Hall at KU. That ended up being some freaky theatrical experiment and when I figured that out, I hauled ass into their little debrief and confronted them about the dangers posed by pretending to be abused when in fact they were not.
  • Last week I stopped a tiny, no more than three year old girl from being hauled down a super long escalator by her slightly older big brother. I think her mother was pissed but too bad. I’ll take pissed mom over injured kid any day, thanks anyway.

So I don’t understand why on earth Paterno didn’t do more. For that matter, WTF, grad assistant who saw the inappropriate shower. What were you thinking? Were you afraid your career would be damaged? How about the life of the boy in that shower, did you think about that?

At this point, I'm OK with being the freak.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Freeze frame

Wally likes the camera. In fact, he’ll be doing something funny or silly or cute and he’ll keep doing it until I get the camera and either take a picture or video.

Case in point is today’s video. He lolled around on my desk with very appropriate music in the background exactly as though he were some kind of star at a photo or video shoot. I could have taken a much longer video as far as he was concerned.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strange cats

We use Amazon a lot here in Boston. It's far more convenient than getting in our car or taking the T and then fighting Boston traffic to get someplace only to find that what we want (a specific coffee maker, for example) isn't in stock. So we use Amazon which means we have boxes.

Cats love boxes. Well I should say our cats love boxes. Yesterday I stacked four or five together in a big cardboard nest, and the cats had a blast taking that stack apart all day long. When they deconstructed the stack entirely, I'd put it back together and the fun would start again. Much to my surprise, Eddie didn't eat any of those boxes. I'm sure he will, it's only a matter of time because at heart, he's part beaver.

We also don't have cat beds. We don't need them because the cats would rather sleep in boxes. We usually have two boxes out, one on the recliner and one on the couch. Chloe sometimes sleeps in a box but usually she prefers her cushions with her smashed flat bear. Wally and Eddie cycle between the two boxes, although really Wally claims everything, as you can see here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Strange dreams

The last month or so I’ve had a lot of very strange dreams. Some are just odd, and some are flat out nightmares. Last night’s dream was bizarre.

I was wearing bright red elasticated waist pants plus a short, red jacket-esque kind of thing. Think bolero length and you’ll get the picture. Now you should know that I don’t wear elasticated waist pants ever, and I never ever wear red because I look like I’m dying in it. I'm not kidding. When I've worn red, friends and co-workers have asked me if I'm getting sick, that's how awful I look in it. I don't even own anything red. But in my dream last night, I wore elasticated waist pants (yuck) that were red (double yuck), plus the red jacket (barf).

In the dream, I'd be walking by a mirror or a window or something reflective and I'd catch a glimpse of my big as a barn butt in these God-awful red pants. The bolero length jacket only emphasized the awfulness. It was mesmerizing and more than a little disconcerting. I have no idea what I was actually doing in the dream, all I know is I kept seeing my big ol butt larger than life and twice as ugly.

No idea what it means, but man it was weird.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tick tock says the clock

How can I be so busy when I’m unemployed? And my deadlines aren’t even self-imposed. I’m almost glad Kent is out of town this week because otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to finish everything.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Odds and ends from Idaho

My parents’ dog is pretty darn cute and also super sweet. Like our cat, Chloe, she doesn’t photograph well so you’ll just have to take my word for how cute she is. She’s also a lot smaller than I thought she’d be. When they got her, she weighed a scrawny 25 pounds and now tops the scales at 29 pounds. That’s pretty small for a Brittany.

I lust after my mother’s sewing room. It would be a fairly small bedroom but it’s perfect for her desk, sewing machine cabinet, and ironing board. Plus she can store her fabric in the closet. Best of all, if she wanted to shut the door—say to keep nosy, curious animals out of there—she could.

We drove to Boise yesterday and stopped by an amazing fabric store which was almost overwhelming. The fabrics at Caledonia are to Joann's fabrics as clothing from Macy’s is to Walmart clothing. I bought an amazing wool/mohair sweater knit in purple plus another, more summery fabric for a dress.

Then we went to the holy grail—the Bernina store. That store was overwhelming in a different way. I love my sewing machine and to be in a store with all the latest and greatest (and very expensive) Berninas just took my breath away. Seriously, one machine cost as much as my Honda Fit. I bought three new presser feet and dropped more money there than I did at the fabric store. Crazy.

It’s been a fantastic visit so far and I’m so glad I came out here.

Edited to add that the post makes it sound like I'm having fun because we are doing things. Actually I'm having fun because I'm hanging out with them, but that doesn't make for a very scintillating blog post.

Monday, November 7, 2011


  1. Kent says he likes these kinds of posts.
  2. Good thing. I write them when I have bits and pieces to say but nothing substantial enough to merit a whole post.
  3. I solved the problem of how to finish the lining in my wool skirt so I can keep the kick pleat.
  4. I did this while I was asleep last night.
  5. Kent says I’m weird because my brain never stops. I thought everyone was this way.
  6. Apparently I’m wrong.
  7. I fly to Idaho tonight to visit my folks. I haven’t been there in eight years.
  8. I’ve seen my parents every year—just not in Idaho.
  9. The high desert climate is tough on my nose and sinuses.
  10. Yes, I know. Supposedly I would adapt to the dryness.
  11. No thanks. I’ll take humidity.
  12. Except in the summer when it’s really hot. Yuck.

*(Yet another random list)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sewing and stuff

Or Stuff if you prefer to capitalize it.

One of the sewing forums I’ve been reading holds sewing contests throughout the year. One is called a SWAP (sewing with a purpose) and that always intrigued me because I like the idea of having a plan for my sewing. I want everything to go with everything, mostly, and I don’t want to have clothing orphans that just sit there never getting worn.

But I’ve realized these SWAPS are done a few times each year, maybe even each season. I don’t remember. Each one includes seven to 11 items of clothing. Now you can do the math as well as I can—if you sew seven pieces each season, you’ve got 28 new items of clothing every year. I don’t have room for 28 new pieces of clothing in my closet. What’s more, even if I did have that room, I don’t want that many items. That much clothing makes my brain hurt.

Here’s another ongoing projects—a jacket a month. Wow, 12 jackets each year?? My last job required professional business dress, not business casual, so I wore suits or suit-equivalent clothing every day. I owned just four jackets and that was plenty. I don’t need or want 12 of them.

I’ve realized this forum isn’t a good match for me. Those women are amazing sewists/seamstresses/sewers/whatever and are very generous with fitting/cutting advice. They really know their stuff. But I don’t fit in. From my perspective, they just never stop sewing clothing for themselves. Then they complain that their closets are full and they have massive stashes of fabric.

So that’s why I capitalized stuff. I think that kind of sewing becomes another way to accumulate things that end up cluttering my life and my brain. No thanks.

I have one final item to sew for my own, retooled wardrobe: a wool skirt that has a bit of stretch in it. Then I'm done sewing for myself until something wears out or somehow gets ruined. The rest of my sewing will be for others or for gifts or for the house.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Imaginary friends

Did you have any when you were a child? I didn’t, not really, although I did like to sit at my bedroom window on the second floor and look across the driveway to the abandoned house next door. I populated each window with girls I could play with. This was when I was five or six years old.

Today, I have a lot of virtual friends which some might consider to be the same thing as imaginary. I disagree; two of my best friends are people I met online gaming. I’ve known John and Angie since 2000. Kent and I stayed at John’s house and got to meet his wife the first night of our honeymoon (John and Brenda lived in Calgary then and we honeymooned at Lake Louise). About a month later, we went to Angie’s wedding. They’ve been friends with me through eleven years of good and bad times and are no less important to me than people I met in more conventional ways. Edited to add that those were the first times we'd met John and Angie face to face.

Tomorrow I’m having lunch with another virtual friend, one I met through Facebook. We figured out that she works very near where I live in Boston and she’s originally from the Kansas City area. I'm looking forward to meeting her face to face as well.

What about you? Do you also have virtual friendships that are as important to you as your face to face friendships?