Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Award

Sweet Irene has given me the lovely and awesome Bloggers of the World award. Way cool stuff. Thanks, Irene!

I'm passing it on without looking to see who has it. When I look, I can't pass things on because people already have them.

Marcia because you keep family stories and traditions and the world needs family stories and traditions.
Laurie because you have people from all over the world visit your blog and you visit blogs from all over the world and if you get any more awards they will fill their own universe.
RC because everyone in the world should visit your blog.
Aims because your blog is out of this world.
Crystal Jigsaw because your blog is in a very different part of the world than mine is.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gallivanting Girl

Kayleigh is back from D.C. She had a great time and wants to go back sometime. Here is her summary:

"The security guards are huge Black men. The people who work in food courts are Asian. The people in charge are white. In all, I think Washington, D.C., is a really racist city."

She was surprised by the ever-present security guards and metal detectors. She got pretty sick of the metal detectors.

She loved the International Spy Museum and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Their trip to Gettysburg was canceled because there was a quarter-inch of snow, and apparently THAT MUCH SNOW is dangerous. She "conveniently forgot" her swimming suit, as did one of her friends.

The popular snots on the bus objected to my daughter and her friends, known as rejects, being on the trip. The rejects ruined the trip for them. I'm glad. Kayleigh says she is not bothered by what they say to her. She said, "I'm going to be their boss someday."

One of her roommates puked at the mall. Kayleigh didn't like being at a mall. Why go all the way to D.C. just to go to a mall?

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they got to see a wreath-laying ceremony. "Some leader from some country was there, and he laid a wreath. I don't know what country. It started with 'A,' I think." Wow, that girl knows her geography. Can you find "A" on a map? Is that where we send food and medical aid or drop bombs? Hmm.... WHATEVER! Welcome to America, which begins and ends with A.

She had one and a half showers while she was there. And she had the nerve to say one of her roommates smelled bad.

They saw "Shear Madness" at the Kennedy Center. Kayleigh said it was great but that the language was probably beyond PG-13. She was not objecting.

She bought us gifts. Kelsey was so tickled she kissed her. Kayleigh is not a kissy/huggy type, but she smiled, which was nice.

She loved the National Archives. The Capitol was awesome, and they were a test group to visit the Newseum, which she said was cool.

She ate a lot of Haagen-Dazs. Our Haagen-Dazs closed before she was born. What does Haagen-Dazs mean? Anything at all?

So that is the nation's capital as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old, Midwestern girl geek.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ditty Day

This poem was printed in our little newspaper. Author unknown. To set the scene, Kelsey is ice skating in the driveway.

Why I Love Wisconsin

It's winter in Wisconsin
And the gentle breezes blow
70 miles per hour
at 52 below.
Oh, how I love Wisconsin
When the snow's up to your butt
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose is frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful
I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Wisconsin
Cuz I'm frozen to the ground.

Because today was so warm, we decided to go look for eagles on the river. On the way, we stopped at my mom's to sprinkle some salt on her ice so we could chip it off more easily tomorrow. The ice has gotten so thick you can actually see the different layers and bubbles in it.

It was nice to spend some cazh time with my mom. I was hoping she'd be able to come with us, but it was just too icy. I didn't want her to fall, and she didn't want to, either.

We grabbed my sister's keys while we were there so we could get her mail and check on her cats. She's been out of town for a while. The cats were very happy to see us. We cleaned their very stinky boxes and refilled their food. My sister laid out lots of food, put out two cat boxes, and let the bathroom sink drip. The cat litter is that clumping stuff. Concrete. Not clumps. One of her cats, Carmel, likes to hug you. He wraps his paws around your neck and rubs his drool all over your face. I think we could have pet him all afternoon and he wouldn't have objected.

Instead, we decided to see if the road to Baxter's Hollow was closed. Baxter's Hollow is a nature preserve down the road from my sister's. It was, in fact, closed. We got our car stuck there once in winter. There was a little sign that said "Road closed in winter." Guess they meant it. Now they actually block the road with snow piled about 10 feet high.

As we turned around, we saw five turkeys along the roadside. It was cool to watch them. They were big and hungry and waddly. There was confusion as to whether they were pheasants or turkeys, and Kelsey said, "I'm not a pheasant plucker."

Do we all know this little ditty?

The Pheasant Plucking Song

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's son
I'm only plucking pheasants 'til the pheasant plucker comes.

Me husband is a keeper, he's a very busy man
I try to understand him and I help him all I can,
But sometimes in an evening I feel a trifle dim
All alone, I'm plucking pheasants, when I'd rather pluck with him.

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's mate
I'm only plucking pheasants 'cause the pheasant plucker's late!

I'm not good at plucking pheasants, at pheasant plucking I get stuck
Though some pheasants find it pleasant I'd rather pluck a duck.
Oh, plucking geese is gorgeous, I can pluck a goose with ease
But pheasant plucking's torture because they haven't any grease.

I'm not a pheasant plucker, he has gone out on the tiles
He only plucked one pheasant and I'm sitting here with piles!

You have to pluck them fresh, if it’s fresh they’re not unpleasant,
I knew a man in Dunstable who could pluck a frozen pheasant.
They say the village constable had pheasant plucking sessions
With the vicar on a Sunday ‘tween the first and second lessons.

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's mum
I'm only plucking pheasants 'til the pheasant pluckers come.

My good friend Godfrey is most adept, he's really got the knack
He likes to have a pheasant plucked before he hits the sack.
I like to give a helping hand, I gather up the feathers,
It's really all our pheasant plucking keeps us pair together.

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's friend
I'm only plucking pheasants as a means unto an end!

My husband's in the forest always banging with his gun
If he could hear me half the time I'm sure that he would run,
For there's fluff in all my crannies, there's feathers up my nose
And I'm itching in the kitchen from my head down to my toes.

I'm not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's wife
And when we pluck together it's a pheasant plucking life!

That kid's going to make some man very happy someday.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Eye has it

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern.

A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock.

A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything.

No wonder you and London will get along so well.

This is a little test I snatched from Sweet Irene. Her city is Paris. Somehow, I got London. I have been to London. I think I would like it better now than when I was there as a rather young newlywed. Honestly, we couldn't wait to get OUT of London. Ugh. There's nothing quite like arriving in a big, snarling city on 90 minutes' sleep a day after you've just gotten married. We were so fried and so American we couldn't even understand the bus driver's accent. We'd done OK up to then, but when he actually said, "That's lovely, I'm sure," I kind of checked out for a minute.

So we retrieved our rental car and headed into the city center. Why in the name of arse (See? I have to use the language of my city.) did our travel agent tell us to get a car in London? Dunno. We told her we wanted to spend a couple of days there, then move on. Why not just tell us to use public transport like sane people do in large cities? She must have been getting a good commission.

Anyway, London driving on little sleep on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road is not good. Do you know where they put the street signs? This kills me. Honest to Queen Elizabeth. They put many of the street signs on the buildings ... around the corner so that you have to drive past them, then crane your neck around to see what street it was, at which point you say, "Yup, that was the one." AND they change the names of the streets seemingly every block, so you think you're on one street, but suddenly you're on a different one, even though you've only moved ahead one block. Any reason for that? Do they need to honor so many members of the royal family with 100 feet of asphalt? No clue.

So in your suburban American fatigue, you have to navigate random streets, the names of which are displayed AFTER you need to see them, all the while trying not to run anyone over in these crosswalks named after animals or plough into anyone in a bustling city center (rather, centre) with streets roughly as wide as a 27-inch television. And shifting and signaling with your left hand.

You finally find your destination, only you have to drive several miles to find a parking space for the nominal fee of your left tit.

You check into your hotel, so exhausted you just want someone to carry you to bed, and again, you can't understand a word anyone is saying because they're speaking English they learned in a different country, just like you, and the accents are so utterly foreign you just can't make them out. These kind people explaining to you that you can't actually park where you've left your car are the same ones who try to tell you your room is simply up the stairs and around the corner and breakfast consists of burned (burnt) toast and marmalade, don't miss it. These people speak several dozen languages as is evidenced by the number of flag pins on their lapels. It's frightening, really, because they look like decked out war veterans, and while you're thinking you should salute them, you're also feeling like an utter hick because you just speak Wisconsin and a little bit of Spanish, like, you know, taco.

Finally, up the stairs to what is possibly the dirtiest hotel room you've ever set foot in. Do they wash the sheets? Are they aware of the rainbow mold in the shower? You're paying how much? Curse the travel agent and hope to get out of London ASAP. Maybe just a nap first. Aaahhhh....

And then you're awake again and hungry and the desk clerk, who has suddenly morphed into an Englishwoman you can understand (mostly), tells you you'd better hurry if you want to get some food, most of the shops close at 5, but there's one that's open until 5:30. It's now 5:20. If people work all day, how do they get their shopping done when the stores close so early? And then there's half-days. WTF? We call that Saturday in America, and it only applies to banks. Anyway –

These little grocers accept credit cards and you bag your own stuff. More little lessons. Now, of course, most grocery stores around here accept credit cards, but in the olden days, when people had money, that's what grocery stores accepted – money. It was sort of thrilling to buy groceries with a credit card. It felt so scandalous. You could eat that stuff, then not pay your bill, and the credit card companies couldn't repossess it! Ha! What a scam! Let's do it!

Another awesome thing about London: business cards for ladies of the night posted in phone booths. Sarah! 18-year-old blonde likes to give spankings! Then there's Lucy, Asian dominatrix. I really wanted to call one of them, but I couldn't figure out how to use a phone.

Really, though, there's a lot to see in London that we never saw, of course, and I'd love to go back. Especially now that I'm older and I don't just hate big cities for no reason other than they're big cities.

I had spent time in Mexico in a big city prior to visiting London and confronted several cultural misconceptions. And I wasn't driving. Well, just that once, even though I didn't have a license and I couldn't really drive a stick, but they asked if I wanted to drive, and I could hardly say no, could I? But I was there a lot longer and had a host family to show me around a little. And the time zone switch was only an hour.

Sleep. It's good. It's time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The hands that hold me

This is a picture taken a year ago today. Kelsey and Grandpa. We were in the twin cities for a convention. While I went to conferences, Eric and the kids hung out with Eric's dad, John. I asked for pictures of their hands together.

John is looking to leave the cities and find an assisted living home near one of his kids. He's enjoyed big city life, but needs to be nearer his family.

Yet another blizzard here. It started with rain, switched to sleet, now it's snow. It's really quite eewy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A little whine and chocolate

Nothing much happening.

I pissed off my editor at my little paper. I don't like pissing people off. He has every right. I wasn't very communicative. For some reason, I thought I'd be able to handle two jobs, school and family life. It's not working out so well.

You may have noticed I didn't post my Fat Tuesday numbers. I just didn't have a chance. The weight was lower, the body fat higher. So, I'm losing weight, but not fat. If my muscles get any smaller I won't even be able to wield my mighty pen. Not that it's been very mighty lately. Anyway, I expect the weight to climb next week. I've been eating a lot.

And today's Valentine's Day, which means for breakfast I had four chocolates in addition to real food. This year I managed to give Eric the card I bought for him. I've had one kicking around for several years. I always intend to give it to him, and I always forget. But this year, unable to find the card that's been migrating from one drawer to another, I bought another. And he's already opened it. It's those small accomplishments that mean so much.

Kayleigh leaves for Washington, D.C. next week. I'm excited for her. I've never been there. They won't let her visit her cousin, though. Too bad. She has to get on her bus at 1:45 a.m. That is just evil.

The big paper asked me if I wanted to work election night next Tuesday, but that's the night Kayleigh has to get ready for her trip. I want to be there to help, even though she'll probably be so nervous she'll be mean to me.

Happy VD, everyone.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A few pics

We had some snow recently. The photos aren't great, but I wasn't about to go out in that stuff to get decent ones. The kids eventually went out to play in it, though. Well, Kelsey played. Kayleigh whined and stood still.

Here is my front yard.

Here is my back yard.

Here is my garage.

This is the snow overhanging my garage.

Eric knocked that down yesterday because we didn't want it to freeze into a big icicle and destroy our buildings.

And here is Basil baby eating a carrot.
Isn't he so cute? He's so little and sweet. He licks you all over.

This is Raven being a punk. He's huge and heavy and a bit of a snit. He will flop down beside you in bed, though, and allow you to pet him. For a while.

I'm swooning

Look at me! I've been kissed! Twice!

My lips are getting so full and pink and luscious. Guess I'll cancel that Botox appointment. I wouldn't want to look like a fish, you know. Or kiss like one.

Thanks to Laurie and Sweet Irene for the big, sloppy kisses. They were big and sloppy, weren't they? None of this platonic, cheek-pecking, I hope. Because if you're going to kiss me, you better mean it.

Mmm, I'm humming "Can you feel the love tonight...."

Later today I'll start kissing others. And passing off that excellent E award from RC. Thanks, everyone!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

E is for Excellent

Many thanks to the Rotten Correspondent for this shiny new award to put in my sidebar. Isn't it fabulous? RC is a faithful reader, even when I go on too long or whine too much. Better call Ronald McDonald, cuz I'm lovin' it. Thanks, hon.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One mistake at a time

I was supposed to do a story today about a low-cost, traveling spay and neuter clinic, but it was canceled because of the snow we've had. Disappointing.

Frustrating, too, because they never called to tell me. Good thing I called them just as I was about to leave to go there. It's an hour drive, but given the state of the Interstate, it would have been a lot longer.

Speaking of the Interstate, instead of spaying and neutering, I was supposed to talk to people who had gotten stuck overnight on the highway. It was quite a nightmare out there. Apparently a UPS truck with a second trailer turned sideways and blocked all lanes of northbound traffic. Apparently that's more than anyone knows how to deal with because traffic was dead for about a day. I'm not clear on the facts, actually, so don't quote me.

Anyway, the editors were excited because a professor they often use as a source said he'd been stuck. They gave me his number and I called him.

Now, I know people learn better from mistakes than successes. I wish I weren't learning so much right now.

Mistake #1: I assumed that this guy knew why I was calling him. We were getting calls all afternoon from people who'd been stuck overnight. He had told us he was stuck, he's a frequent source, so I thought that's why he'd called.

Mistake #2: I didn't tell him straight off that I was going to be asking him about being stuck. I just started talking to him about it. He seemed happy enough to be talking, but when I asked yet another question, he sounded a little miffed. "What is this about?" he asked. "I frequently talk to your paper about (my expertise). I'll talk about (my expertise). But what is this?"

I told him I called to talk about his experiences being stuck and what it was like, what he saw, etc.

He was not pleased. He said he talks about his expertise, I should have said if I was going to ask about anything else, he thought I was making chit-chat before we started the interview about his expertise, and he did not want to discuss his problems in getting home. He reiterated that I never said I wanted to talk about anything other than his expertise, and he didn't like it. He said he was going to end it right there.


I apologized a couple of times during his rant, then we hung up.

I told the editors about it, and they were quite surprised. A while later, one of them said he found out what happened. A reporter had received an email from him, wherein he said he'd been stuck. But the email was about his expertise; he merely noted in the email he was a stranded traveler.

I feel like a total knob for not having said why I was calling. I hope he's not so pissed that he won't talk to us anymore. It seems like an extreme reaction, but some professors can be rather haughty (mistake #3 was forgetting that – I've had such great professors recently), and I'd hate to ruin a source for the paper.

Other newspaper news

On Tuesday I did a story about organ donation. A guy met the family of the man whose pancreas he received. I didn't do the fabulous, gut-wrenching story I wanted to, and I had a typo, which is so frustrating. But the health reporter told me he liked it, so I was glad. I was also a bit flustered because one of the TV stations was there, too. Geez. I'd never been to anything before where other media was there.

I'm still struggling with getting information and sitting down and turning it into a story in a couple of hours. I can't seem to incorporate facts relevant to a large audience into a personal story. I can do them separately, as I did in this article. I don't ask enough questions. I tend to stop short of asking the hard or very personal questions because it doesn't seem like any of my business, even though it's because it is my business that I'm there in the first place.

After I got to the newsroom, the photographer talked a little about it, and the editor asked questions, and my mouth just hung open. I talked to my professor about it the next day, and he asked loads of questions that were fantastic, and I didn't know many of the answers. He said I would by the time I finished his class. I am not so sure. And it makes me feel sort of incompetent as a reporter that I can't do it now. I know I'm learning, but people I interview don't know that, and neither do the readers.

People tell me I'm talented – professors, former teachers, family, friends. Great. I agree I'm a good writer. But I'm not a very skilled reporter. Not yet. But I'm trying. And learning – one mistake at a time.

(For a final mistake, just to make Heidi hurl, I'm eating a little – large – snack that Kelsey made and wants to share: cinnamon graham crackers spread thickly with marshmallow cream and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips. You have to eat when a child makes food. They are so crestfallen when you say no thank you. For the record, it's Heidi's fault that we have marshmallow cream in this house. She and her fluffernutters. My life has never been the same. Looking forward to next Tuesday....)

One last thing: The Times they are a changin'.

The Capital Times, Madison's afternoon paper, will be changing to a free weekly at the end of April.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mardi Gras for Fat Tuesday

Par-tay! Oh, wait. That was Sunday. Super Eric's Birthday Bowl Sunday. Can we say Fat Sunday? How about whipped cream walnut cake with fudge tracks ice cream? How about chips and cheese sauce? That cake is really too good.

Here's the recipe:

2 C cake flour, sift, remeasure 2 C

Resift twice with
2 3/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 1/3 C sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

Stir in
3/4 C ground walnuts
1 C chopped walnuts

Whip until stiff
1 C cold whipping cream
Add gradually, stirring until smooth
1/2 C water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Whip until stiff but not dry
3 egg whites
Combine the cream and the egg whites. Fold dry ingredients into the cream mixture about a third at a time. Bake in greased 9-inch pans at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Cool slightly, remove from pans carefully. Cool completely.

Combine 1 C whipping cream, maple syrup to taste (about 1/2 C), and a dribble of vanilla. Whip until stiff.

Frost bottom layer heavily. Place a layer of chopped walnuts between the layers. Frost the rest of the cake heavily. Yes, heavily. Thick, thick cream.

And my Tuesday report: 157.2 pounds, 35.3 percent body fat.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Another find

I was looking at stuff on my computer tonight instead of doing my homework. Sorry, Eric. Anyway, I found this. The girl has got some zest.

Kelsey's bathtub wisdom
Dec. 10, 2006

There's more to life than just life!
blue-footed boobies butterflies kangaroos koalas apples birds cats dogs movies popcorn

When it rains, a rat dies

Welp, Sammy bought it yesterday. We are now ratless. I felt bad for her. She had such a strong will to live. When we got her, she was so tiny, Eric and I worried she wouldn't live through the night. But she did. She ended up being the longest-lived rat we've ever had.

She's the one who chewed out her stitches, staples and glue after having a tumor removed. We had to put an E-collar on her and hand feed her to keep her alive. She looked awful and was starting to get pretty desperate. That was over a year ago, when our personal lives were at their lowest. Nursing a vile-looking rat just about put me over the edge.

Anyway, last fall she developed another tumor, but by then, she was old. I didn't want to go through another E-collar or risk having her die shortly after the surgery anyway because she was so old. So we just let it grow. Mistake. She just wouldn't die. So we ended up doing a bit of nursing anyway as she got more and more disgusting.

After Lilly died, I figured Sammy wouldn't hold on much longer. She was in terrible shape and her companion was gone. Yesterday morning I found her flopped on her belly, twitching. Eew. I talked to her a bit. She didn't seem to react to my voice.

Eric and I went out to lunch – I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for Noodles – and she was still alive when we got home. I had to leave, and Eric did not want to be the one to deal with the dying rat. It's too upsetting for him. I called him after my class, and she was still hanging on. I suggested he take her by the fire and hold her and comfort her. He said he didn't want to hold another rat while it died. He said it was too awful. I agreed it was awful, but it was also a privilege to be the one to give her some comfort in her final moments. I thought it would be pretty sad to die cold and alone.

He took her down to the fire, but she just kept on living. The kids got home from school, and Kayleigh took her. She was Kayleigh's rat. Kayleigh held her and petted her head and talked to her, and Sammy died in her lap.

Eric wrapped her in a towel and called me at work. They wanted to wait until we were all together to bury her. So, she's still wrapped in a towel because Kelsey went to a friend's for the night.

Kayleigh says she smells kind of bad. The rat, I mean.

I hope the ground isn't frozen.