Friday, October 29, 2010

It was a Rockin' Halloween Eve Eve

Melissa and I were two children tonight making our jack-o-lantern. We started out with gossip and Diet Dr. Pepper, followed by gabbing and pizza with salad, and then it was time for pumpkin carving. Here's the before:

We decided we'd have a Keep it Simple jack-o-lantern and first cut off the top, and Melissa pulled most of the guts out. It was so stringy and tough to get out but she was not to be denied and cleaned it all out. Then we sketched eyes, tried to make them even. I did the nose, and then she did the mouth while I got a candle and matches.

And then all hell broke loose and the party went into full swing. We had our party favors which was supposed to be glow in the dark hand sanitizer which turned out to be just the label that glowed in the dark... and our Halloween cookies... and our apple cider. Here's the party all laid out:

The cookies were fun -- here's a close up:

We toasted old friends with our apple cider, ate our cookies, and that probably took 10 minutes and like all good parties, this one had to come to an end... and we so admired our jack-o-lantern -- we grew affection for him -- that we wanted to photograph him lit with the lights off, which looked pretty cool in real life. The problem is that with a flash, it got lit up; without a flash, the exposure became at least 4 seconds and I tried my best to hold the camera without moving. Here are the flash/no flash results:

So Happy Halloween to all the ghouls and ghosties!

Tu Esta Mi Corazon

Walking down my block yesterday -- and here's how it looks in the fall --

and a bag of recycling caught my eye -- it was a big homemade greeting card and it looked sad in with garbage because I know people had put effort into creating this for someone. I stopped to read some of the inscriptions -- tu esta mi corazon -- you are my heart -- and I told myself again what I say when I throw away a card -- that I appreciate the sentiment and the sentiment doesn't change because you no longer have the card. It's still hard to do.

Pre-Party Prep

Along the lines of cheap thrills, I just had one. My friend Melissa is spending the night with me on her way home to Texas after being in a business meeting all week. She had been at a trade show the week before that so I know she'll be pooped.

I thought we would just stay in, and I bought a pumpkin for us to make a jack-o-lantern. That started the party -- then I bought some Halloween glow in the dark hand sanitizer (hey, who knew that existed?)for party favors. I thought we'd order from this great little pizza place where you can get wonderful individual pizzas. Yesterday I bought some cookies in the shape of pumpkins and ghosts and some apple cider (you must have apple cider for a Halloween party!).

So I just now put sheets on the sofa bed -- these great fluffy thick flannel sheets with a wonderful quilt -- I felt like crawling in -- Is there anything more inviting than a bed, even a sofa bed, with clean sheets? I laid out towels for her in the bathroom she'll use.

So the cheap thrill is how much pleasure there is doing little things to prepare for a guest, or a party, even if it is a party of two!

Will send before and after pictures of our jack o lantern! And the cookies! Maybe the pizza!

I did draw a line at costumes. Maybe next year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mary's Out and About

At lunch today, Mary took a stroll and came up with this. She writes:

This eagle is at the edge of the soccer field for Gonzaga College High School. I walked through the campus - I thought it was one big building but it's at least four -- looks more like a small college. It's warm and sunny today - supposed to be cool for the weekend. That's great for the rally and the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.

Mary is referring to the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally on Saturday. She is going and will send photos. As far as I know, she is not running in the Marine Corps Marathon, but she is doing a charity walk on Saturday -- think it's 5K.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's Your Stradivarius?

I saw a violinist on television who has just bought a Stradivarius, once owned by Napoleon, for $3.5 million. I tried to imagine what that would be like taking care of it, traveling with it, etc. When asked about that, she talked about the pleasure of the instrument far outweighing any concern.

For some reason, my mind was drifting today and... well, let me start over... My mind was drifting today, and for some reason, I thought of an old boss who owned some sort of rare Mercedes. I don't know enough to say the model, but it was the one with gull-wing doors. It was his pride and joy and he kept it under wraps, in his garage, and only drove it (really) during the month of May (not too hot, not too cold).

I happened to be at his house one May and he showed me the car and asked me if I wanted to take it out for a spin. My answer was no. I said to him that the fact that he trusted me to drive this car meant more to me than taking it for a drive. I would not have enjoyed myself thinking some cinder could fly up and accidentally make a ding in it while under my control. Or worse.

So I was thinking "... and now he's dead" and wondered about the car. Probably sold somewhere at auction, and I thought he should have driven it more while he was alive. It's the ultimate "can't take it with you" -- not even a rare Mercedes with gull-wing doors.

As we get older, I think we get better at not "saving" stuff -- the good soap, the good blouse, the good wine, whatever. I can't say I have anything in my life on par with this violin or the car, but if I did, I hope I would use it.

As a sidenote, I always cringe while watching Antiques Roadshow
when the person has some rare historical artifact and they chirp, "Well, it is going right back in the box in the closet" and I think what a shame that is -- I want them to donate whatever it is, or loan whatever it is to a museum so other people can appreciate it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Cheap Thrills

1. There is nothing more wonderful than a many-times-washed, button missing, loose fitting flannel nightgown. I had changed out my summer for winter clothes and put on my first flannel nightgown of the season and forgot how an item of clothing can just make you feel safe and secure.

2. When I'm in a hotel and am changing the alarm clock, I love when I get to awaken later than the last guy. Often, I'm setting the clock for 8 am, and moving it from 5 am or earlier. I'm always grateful I can sleep longer.

3. I was decluttering today -- two catch all drawers in a sideboard -- and it always take a shorter amount of time than I think... oh, let's say 30 minutes in reality vs "all afternoon" estimate in my head. So the cheap thrill is admiring my decluttered drawers, medicine cabinet, closet or whatever. My own work makes me beam.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Word I Learned Today: Adularescence

I have to say it's fairly unusual for me to hear a word I'm not familiar with, but just now, flipping around the channels, I stopped at home shopping to look at these earrings, and the woman used the term "adularescence" -- never heard of it, but I thought it was something about light similar to phosphorescence or iridescence.

Looked it up -- these were moonstone earrings -- and the word means:

having or emitting a milky or bluish iridescence

Today's Puzzle

This is the puzzle I did today -- the "cut" is 48-piece classic. I typically do the 100-piece classic. If you want to do the puzzle, just click on the arrow and it will take you to -- you can change the cut yourself.

When you get there, the pieces will be all mixed up. When you've joined the right piece, you'll feel a little click and you won't be able to separate the pieces. That's how you know you got the right one.

Note it also times you, and I get very competitive about this. The more I do, the more often I can beat the average of other players.

Click to Mix and Solve

Me, the Social Scientist

Thursday is my day out for lunch, and I always go to the same neighborhood pub. Today there was a group of 20 somethings in there and I wasn't really paying attention to them until one man came over to me with a stack of dollar bills that he was waving and said that whoever guesses closest to the number of bills that he would pay their lunch. So I looked at them -- my thought process was when I cleaned out my wallet and purse, where I had lots of singles stuffed in various places and ended up with a bunch of them, that it was always fewer than I thought... so I looked at the stack and guessed 73.

Unbeknownst to me, the other woman had guessed 75 so she started yelling asking if "Price is Right" rules apply -- meaning closest without going over. Meanwhile, the third woman in this came out of the restroom and it turns out, she guessed 74. So three women guessed 73, 74 and 75.

The men all guessed in the 90s, including the bartender who told me that I had guessed too low since every day he counts a stack of singles so he knows his business.

When the bills were counted, the final number was 74. Would anyone believe me if I said that was the first number that popped into my mind but I changed it to 73?

I thought it was so interesting that three females, independently guessed so closely and so accurately.

If I were a social scientist, I would wonder if men over guess quantities? Or was this just a one-off fluke?

The P.S. to this story is that they wanted me to come over with them and do tequilla shots. They were just nice kids (Oh God, I'm old to say something like that!) and I was thinking that is something I NEVER do... waste the day away doing tequilla shots and there's just a tiny bit of me that wishes I had some of that desire in me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Snorkeling at Sharks Cove

I don't know if I'd be game to snorkel at a place called Sharks Cove, but my friends Lachlan and James did just that -- and here's the proof. They are in Hawaii.

Lachlan wrote: Thought ya'll'd enjoy some snorkeling action-shots of Sharks Cove up on the North Shore of the island. Later that afternoon, we went surf fishing in an equally beautiful state park area where we caught a few fish... my first Pacific Ocean catch n' release was a, get this spelling not to mention the pronunciation: Humuhumunukunukuaoua'a. Cute fish, horrible name for it which means in Hawaiian, "triggerfish with a snout like a pig"....

Here's the fish in question:

In case you ever go on Jeopardy and the category is Hawaiian trivia, here's an interesting factoid from Wikipedia:

Humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa means "triggerfish with a pig-like short snout." It is not, as often claimed, the longest fish name in Hawaiian; that distinction belongs to lauwiliwilinukunukuʻoiʻoi ("long-snouted fish shaped like a wiliwili leaf"), the butterflyfish Forcipiger longirostris. For the purposes of religious sacrifices, every land animal in the Hawaiian islands had an equivalent in the sea. The Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a was seen as equal to a pig.

For the past few weeks, my drug of choice -- whoops, I mean my game of choice has been doing online jigsaw puzzles. If you enjoy them, check out (puzzles are free to do) so everything starts looking like a jigsaw puzzle to me, including these two photos.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time Travel via DVD

One of my birthday gifts is a DVD of the four Ed Sullivan Shows in which the Beatles appeared. I've watched the first show, and what fascinates me is that the commercials are left in. One of the commercials was for shoe polish, and I was wondering if people even polish their shoes anymore... I guess they do, but shoe polish has fallen in status, I think. Another one was for Pillsbury rolls that you hit the tube against the counter. At the end it said "available in the dairy case" and they show this supermarket dairy case that's about 15 feet long, not the two-block long dairy case in stores now.

Ed kept referring to the Beatles as "youngsters" and they were young and sweet. In the first song, the show put the names of the Beatles, first names only, while the camera was on each. When it was on John, instead of just JOHN, it said, "Sorry girls he's married" -- you just sort of shake your head.

It does make me feel ancient that I have very clear memories of what a tradition it was to watch this show on Sunday nights. My friend David who gave this DVD to me played it for his young sons. One of them asked, not as a smart aleck, but slightly confused about Top Gigio, "Did you find this funny back then?"

And, of course, thinking black and white tv was normal seems bizarre. Anyway, it's a fun DVD to watch. Now I guess I'll go shine my shoes!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Comparing Ourselves to Others

On Wednesday, my monthly helper, Marilyn, came over. She comes once a month for three hours to do various tasks and errands. When I know she's coming, I save the sheets for her to fold because I hate to fold sheets, even though I sort of enjoy folding clothes.

I have yet to master folding a fitted sheet, even when I really try. So Marilyn and I were chatting and I was watching her fold the fitted sheet and said what a fantastic job she does on it and I don't know how she does it so neatly.

She replied that whenever she is folding a fitted sheet that she thinks of Martha Stewart and how Martha does it so much better than she does.

Phooey. We need to stop comparing ourselves. I will officially go on record as saying I cannot fold a fitted sheet. But I can do other things exceptionally well.

And still more...

So then on Sunday, Mary and Michelle had a party for me and a bunch of friends came over. No one can say that I did not celebrate this birthday. I embraced the experience, including wearing the tiara Mary and Michelle made for me. Monday morning I got up when Mary got up for work and drove home -- that was Columbus Day and I was a bit concerned about traffic, but it was an easy drive. So thanks to all my friends for making this birthday such a lovely experience.


One of my favorite activities when I go to DC is to go to the Birchmere which is a live music venue. I like it because I don't often hear live music in an informal atmosphere, and I like the Birchmere in particular because it is basically a stress-less experience. You get the tickets in advance; you arrive prior or near to 6 pm when the doors open and you eat dinner (mostly pub food) first and the show starts at 7:30 so there's none of that frantic checking your watch 46 times (Ok, that's what I do) to make sure you're not going to be late for the show. When you arrive, you get a number and they call the numbers in order and you can pick out where you want to sit.

Here's Michelle and I waiting for our number to be called. Of course, we have our own routine of the table we want which is also ideal for any of us to easily get out to go to the restroom without having to crawl over people. Definitely another plus of the place.

This is the dining room -- Mary took this on her cellphone and she got just the right atmosphere with the unattached arm with the pitcher of beer. It's here where we saw Herman's Hermits, some Beatles tribute band, Sapphire, Livingston Taylor -- not quite the D list, maybe the C list. But it's a relatively cheap evening, fun and relaxed.
That night we saw a group that Michelle knew called the Sub-Dudes. Hard to describe their music -- kind of a Southern, country, rock and considering I didn't know any of their songs I really enjoyed it.

Saturday Lunch

For my birthday lunch, we took a drive to La Plata, Maryland (pronounced La Play-tah) to an old-fashioned crab place called Captain Billy's. It's about an hour from Mary's house. Here's the view from the outside:

And here's the view from the inside. People can actually pull up in their boats to the restaurant's dock which would be fun.

Mary and Michelle shared a dozen crabs -- I do love crabs, but I don't like working that hard for a meal. It is a messy deal, too. You can see that the table is covered with brown paper and they give you melted butter, a plastic bin for the crab shells and a round mallet to crack the shells. As for me, I splurged on my birthday and ordered lobster tail stuffed with crab meat and it was wonderful.

This is the before and after of the dozen crabs.



Friday, October 8, 2010

Bon Apetit, y'all

As part of my pre-birthday celebration, my Texan friend Michelle made me Texas-style chicken fried steak. Here is my plate with chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and a home-made dinner roll.

Way back in 1967, in a dorm in American University, I was in one room with two roommates, Michelle and one roommate was next door, and Mary was in the next room with two roommates. Mary and I were freshmen and Michelle was the sophisticated sophomore.

I drove down from New York today and it really was a perfect day. I called on the way down and Michelle, who lives in Austin, but had already arrived at Mary's, asked me what I wanted waiting for me... I thought about that, knew I'd get fed and watered and so the only pressing need I could think of was a toilet. When I drove into the alley to park behind Mary's house, I saw a porta-pottie right by Mary's house and I thought, wow, she takes my requests seriously. But it was only her neighbor who is having some construction.

Tomorrow the official celebration begins.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Albuquerque Balloon Festival

My client in Albuquerque sent me these shots. The Balloon Festival is an annual event that's gone on for years -- I had no idea so many went up at once. Tomorrow someone at the client is going for a ride as part of what they call a "mass ascension" which should be cool.

Love the Dogwalkers

For me, one of the iconic images of life in New York is the dogwalkers. One walker might have six or seven dogs at one time. They seem to group the dogs together by size. This group of two walkers was all big dogs. Sometimes you see a group of all little dogs. The difficulty in walking is when the leashes get all tangled up and it's not unusual to see the dogwalker stopped, untangling the leashes. In the summer, the dogwalker will often carry a bowl and water with them. So here they are, right as I was coming out of my apartment today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Organ Donation

As part of my NY State driver's license renewal, I had to check off that I was willing to be an organ donor. I have never had a problem with that and think of what a great humanitarian I am to make the blind see and the lame walk, or something like that.

It used to be that you'd just sign a portion of your license, but NY State is doing a database and so I received a letter from the Department of Health confirming I'm now in this database as an organ donor and that I have given permission for my organs to be donated or.... USED FOR RESEARCH!


I have zero problem... in fact, I'm really thrilled to be an organ donor meaning my organ goes in someone else's body... but to have my liver dissected at a medical school... gee, not what I signed up for.

The letter gave a web site that you could go to in order to make changes. After a few minutes, it seemed foolish to me to care one way or another. I won't be using them and I did think that I could still be a humanitarian in helping find a cure to a disease or something.

When it was just a donor to someone else, I specified that I'd give everything but skin, as I couldn't stand the thought of being "skinned" but then I relented and said take anything.

I am not sure what bothers me about the research angle, but I've let go of it -- well, at least a little, and I don't feel strongly enough to go change it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mary's Memory Walk

Here are Mary and Matt on today's Alzheimer's Memory Walk at the Washington Nationals Stadium. Fran made the sign for Mary who says, "People smiled in a touching kind of way when they read it and one woman told her friend they needed to make signs like that. I'll be saving it for next year."

Lois is Mary's mother. Belle and Alva are Mary's grandmothers. I sometimes wonder if there is anything, any story, any experience, any anything about Mary that I don't know after all these years, and I have to say I don't think I could have named her grandmothers. I know they both went to college which was amazing for their era. So here's to Lois, Belle and Alva and all the other great women we've known with hope for the future.