Monday, June 30, 2008

Dave And Marc Rock!


Did you hear that?
That’s the sound of running water my friends and it is a wonderful sound indeed! The sensation of hot and cold running water from start to finish in the shower is particularly awesome! And don’t even get me started on the wonder and the glory that is the indoor plumbed flush toilet!

Happy sigh of contentment...

Dave and Marc from County Pump arrived first thing this morning with a truck filled to the brim with every possible pump related item, that could ever possibly go on the fritz. County Pump is the same company that came to our rescue during a much bigger water crisis back in 2000. Turns out, this time an electrical gizmo on our well pump was fried by lightning! Coincidentally, lightning is believed to be the cause of the nearby house fire. Dave and Mark dispensed vast quantities of knowledge as they installed a new electrical gizmo-switch-thingy. Obviously, I did not absorb all of the details of the knowledge they were dispensing, but in my defense, I was busy. My starring role was running up to the bathroom to turn on the cold water in the shower. I did this on cue and shut it off on cue - albeit the shutting off somewhat reluctantly. When all was said and done, a check was happily written, which did leave money in the account - Yay!

Life is good.
Life with running water is very, very good!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Timing Is Everything

It’s a good news, bad news sort of thing. Everything’s fine and we still have electricity. That’s the good news. Bad news: we have no water. We don’t know why - not yet. Over the last several days, we’ve had a few fierce storms with tremendous downpours. Rain pouring down in buckets doesn’t quite cover it. Looking out the window, the rain was so thick, dense and torrential, it looked white. Luckily, though our electricity browned out a couple of times, we never lost the power for more than a moment or two.

After another big storm this afternoon, we heard emergency vehicles race by the house. A little while later we heard some commotion outside. The fire trucks were tapping a water source down the road from our house in order to battle a house fire on another street. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the main part of their home is still habitable.

Because of the storms and the hubbub, I had delayed taking my shower on a laze-around-the-house-read-the-papers-Sunday. I had just gotten into the shower, when the water cut out. I’ve already crossed the TMI (too much information) line here, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t at as soapily-awkward a moment as it might have been. However, I was far from being through the shower and ready to grab a towel. Chuck heard my mellifluous: “Yoo hoo, Sweetie?” (Read: CHUCK!!!!! ) and quickly checked the pump in the basement. He came back up to the second floor with two cold tea kettles of water for me and information. The good news: the pump appeared to have nothing obviously wrong with it. The bad news: the pump appeared to have nothing obviously wrong with it!

We went out and bought some gallon jugs of water. We also bought a pizza and brought that home for dinner. The pizza was good. The ginger ale on the rocks with Pimms No.1 was equally good. The pump guys will be here first thing in the morning. Hopefully, by the afternoon, we’ll have both water and some money left in our checking account!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

We Have A Winner!

Right in the heart of Worcester County is the town of Barre. Crisscrossed by Routes 32, 62 and 122, Barre is easy to get to. Why is that important? Because if you want a truly delicious dining experience in an elegant, but relaxed atmosphere, you need to drive to Picasso in Barre.

Chuck had heard good things about Picasso and had been wanting to check it out. I had the place tangled up in my mind with the previous restaurant which had occupied the former Post Office in Barre. That place had primarily served undistinguished, red gravy, Italian food, which all tasted pretty much the same. But that place is no more. Now Barre boasts Picasso, right on The Common and it is definitely worth the trip!

We went to Picasso around eight on a recent Friday night. A few folks were seated at tables on the outdoor patio, overlooking The Common. We were lucky that a table for two had just opened inside and we were seated promptly. The dining space is small, with a warm, inviting feel about it. Dani, our waitress, was cheerful, informative and attentive. She ran through the specials and pointed out the highlights of the menu. She brought us some warm focaccia with some olive oil for dipping. I had walked in the door thinking I would order fish or seafood. Chuck was thinking about beef. But within a few moments, the New York Strip Steak had caught my eye and Chuck decided on one of the seafood specials!

We each started with a dinner salad. The homemade dressings, a blue cheese vinaigrette and the creamy herb, both had a bright, fresh taste. Then Dani brought our entrees. Chuck’s evening special had salmon, mussels, peas and asparagus in a broth of white wine and butter. Some wedges of focaccia were added to better enjoy every drop of the broth. He declared it “witty” and the essence of spring! I had a perfectly charred, tender steak, covered in a rich port wine sauce, laden with caramelized onions. The steak was resting on top of a serving of the most decadently creamy, garlic mashed potatoes. Alongside were lengthwise wedges of grilled zucchini, which still had plenty of fresh bite. We traded tastes which left us each delighted with our own choice, but wanting more of the other’s entree!

After dinner, we were enjoying the experience so much that we decided to order coffee - not our usual custom. Even the coffee was great! It wasn’t just an afterthought, but a full bodied espresso roast that had us thinking about coffee in the North End of Boston. Then a single serving of Tiramisu arrived with two spoons. Each delectable bite had a feeling of “death by Tiramisu” about it. Tiramisu can be made in an industrial, mechanized way. Or it can be created with love like Mama used to make - if Mama was Italian and really knew her way around the kitchen. Someone at Picasso is making Tiramisu with love. Actually, the folks at Picasso are making everything with love and they’re serving nothing but their very best.

Need more convincing? Check out this stellar review in Worcester Magazine.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Special Problem

Chuck and I aren’t big drinkers. I can hear members of my family who read this blog saying: “ Hey! How about that liquor closet of yours?” It’s true. We do have an entire, albeit small, closet devoted to wine, liquor, liqueurs and bar paraphernalia. But we really don’t drink that much, that often. (I’m going to stop trying to explain myself, because you folks are going to start thinking: “ Methinks she doth protest too much!”) However we are experiencing a bit of a liqueur crisis right now. We recently ran out of Kahlua Especial. That’s not the crisis. The crisis is that we can’t find it anywhere. I know. It’s true. We are the kiss of death with all kinds of wonderful products. But in this instance Kahlua is still producing this intense espresso liqueur, but no one in our area is carrying it.

So begins another quest. After trying several of the big liquor stores and a couple of packies, we’re going to attempt to special order it. We’ve had good luck in the past with special orders through Kappy’s in Leominster. Again, I think I’m compounding the perception about our alcohol consumption by mentioning we special order alcoholic beverages. Maybe I should just delete this entire post? Or perhaps I should mention that in a previous life I was a drug and alcohol counselor?

Aw, the heck with it! If you like coffee and you’re of legal drinking age wherever you reside, go try a bottle of Kahlua Especial. If enough of us keep enjoying it, they’ll never stop making it.

My finger is still hovering over the delete button...

Thursday, June 26, 2008


As the world economy continues to shudder, money is on the minds of many of us. So, tonight I first pose three questions:

What would you do with a million dollars?
What would you do with 10,000 dollars?
What would you do with 100 dollars?

I am fortunate to have regular readers from around the world. So I have re-posed the question in the top three nation’s currencies, at current exchange rates:

What would you do with 1,046,026 Australian Dollars?
What would you do with 10,460 Australian Dollars?
What would you do with 104 Australian Dollars?

What would you do with 503,347 British Pounds?
What would you do with 5,033 British Pounds?
What would you do with 50 British Pounds?

What would you do with 7,937,500 South African Rand?
What would you do with 79,375 South African Rand?
What would you do with 793 South African Rand?

Then, ask yourself, what would you do with those different amounts of money if you couldn’t spend any of it on yourself.

Me? I’d take the million and pay off the mortgage on our home. We’re halfway through the note, with the worst of the interest already paid, but it would be a big relief to own it “free and clear” as the saying goes. Maybe we’d even have a mortgage burning party, the way folks did, once upon a time. Then I’d see what I could do for my family members’ mortgages. (I wonder how far that million dollars would stretch?!) Then I’d put a rush on the new roof, the new windows and the paint job. Oh! And I’d love to get off the grid, so solar and wind power here we come! Hmmm... I fear I’m already way over my million dollar budget!

$10,000? Well, after a million dollars, that’s a serious cut in pay! I’d pay some bills, and set the rest aside for the new roof, but I wouldn’t call to put the same rush on!

$100? This inflation is gobbling up the resources faster than I expected! I’d go to a bookstore with Chuck and then out to dinner. How much we spent at the bookstore would determine where we dined.

Now for the non-me-me-me version:

With a million dollars, I would still want to help out my family. There are mortgages and school loans and weddings and... But I would also look at the charities and organizations we support: like the MSPCA, Mama Maria, the American Civil Liberties Union, Friends of Acadia and the Alzheimer’s Association. Because this is a critical election year here in the United States, we would contribute the maximum allowed by law to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Then, even though I am registered as “unenrolled” here in Massachusetts (small “i” independent), I’d send some money to the Democratic National Committee, because without a majority in Congress we’re in for more gridlock.

$10,000? I hope my family will forgive me, but it’s all going out the door to the charities and Barack Obama’s campaign.

$100? Wow, where would it do the most good? How could I make the greatest impact? Or does even the smallest stone tossed in the pond still send out a worthwhile ripple? O.K. Half would go to the American Red Cross because they help people in the worst moments of crisis and devastation. The other half, no surprise, Barack Obama’s campaign, because I’m looking toward the future.

What would you do?

Is it just me, or does anyone else have the Barenaked Ladies song “If I Had Million Dollars” running through their mind right now?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Evening...

This evening, we sat in the the old green on green lawn chairs, on our front porch. The terry slipcovers felt good as the sun began to set and the dampness rolled in. The tall, thick glasses which held two Virgin Marys kept creating a steady flow of condensation, puddling it all on the table. Whenever we are going to be out there for a spell, we leave the front door open to the porch so the cats, Abby and Cassie, can come and go as they please. Cassie always darts out as soon as she hears the storm door open. Abby races up to the threshold, pauses, looks around carefully, then saunters out. They each explore and sniff every inch of the screened in space. For some reason, they often go to separate corners and then, as if on cue, trade places. Occasionally, one or both freezes in what approaches the feline version of a pointer’s stance. At that moment we know to look across the lawn for something like a chipmunk, a squirrel or, near dusk, bunny rabbits.

On several blogs I visited today, the topic of gratitude came up.
For all of the above, I am grateful.


If you want to see something sweet and perfect click here to see the first published photos of Sarah Faith! I guarantee it will put your whole day in perspective.

For those of you with sharp eyes, the answer is: “Yes”. This is the same photo I posted on June 20th. I just had some fun “growing” much pinker roses in Photoshop Elements!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Three On The Screen

I have a theory. Actually, I have many theories about many things, but today I’m referring specifically to a televised baseball theory. It is as follows:

If a batter hits a ball and three opposing players all converge and are visible on the television screen simultaneously, the odds are good that the ball will drop to the earth - uncaught.

Infield, outfield it doesn’t matter. Three on the screen is not good. Unless of course it’s three players from a team other than the Boston Red Sox. Then it’s still true, but very good! Keep an eye on the next televised baseball game you watch. Soon you’ll be sounding like me: “Three on the screen!” Which, depending on who’s in the field and who’s at the plate, will be followed by “Yes!” or “Noooooo!”

Yup. Some days it’s a whole lot of fun around here!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Second Life - No Not That One!

These two lawn chairs were my Mom and Dad’s when they lived in the house I mostly grew up in, on Post Road in Warwick, Rhode Island. That means they must date from the late 1970s or early 80s. Instead of a flat woven web, they’re covered in what I think must be a vinyl tubing, all on an aluminum frame. They are still very comfortable. But as is true of almost any lawn chair, if you sit on one while wearing shorts, there is a tendency to end up with some sort of stamped impression on the back of your legs when you stand up! In this case, that would be stripes.

So I decided to make a couple of slipcovers for them. I wanted the fabric to be washable, soft and not too thin. I also wanted to use something I had on hand - preferably recycling something in the bargain. That’s when I thought of some old cotton terry cloth bath sheets I had tucked away for whenever another dog joins our family. Because the towels were very worn and frayed on the edges, I first trimmed and hemmed the top and bottom. Then I draped one over a chair, fussed with it a bit and began pinning. I first stitched up the top pillowcase-like end on my trusty Singer. Then I slipped that part over the chair and decided what to do next. Some more pinning, stitching and then aggressive trimming ensued. Lastly, I did some machine tacking where the long front meets the pillowcase-like back. I figured that was the point most likely prone to strain.

The reason I made them so long was because I wanted to be able to use them on our foldable lounge chairs as well. We really like these covers. They’re soft and cozy and in this humid climate, help us avoid the clammy, clingy feeling of vinyl on bare skin. But I admit, they are a little ho-hum. So now I’m trying to decide if I want to tie dye them or dye them some other interesting way! Stay tuned...

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Fonts: Georgia, Bradley Hand ITC TT

Friday, June 20, 2008

Now They Are Three...

Sarah has arrived!

Fiona left a note in my comments this morning that Ronnie and her husband Steven, welcomed their daughter Sarah into the world! Here’s what Fiona wrote:

Hi Lee, just to let you know that Veronica and Steven have had the most beautiful baby girl. Her name as you know is Sarah. She had her operation on the same day she was born and it went well. She will have to be in intensive care for about 2 to 3 weeks. Veronica will be home soon and will do a beautiful post I am sure with the most gorgeous pictures. - Fiona

We’ll keep holding Sarah in our thoughts and sending strength and love her way until she is home in her Mom and Dad’s arms!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Little More Spring...

...before summer officially arrives.




I mentioned this in the comments, but our cat Abby’s tests all came back normal. Of perhaps equal importance, she now seems her usual self. Her veterinarian wants us to keep an eye on her in case anything else out of the ordinary emerges. But, knock wood, so far so good! Thanks for all the good wishes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good Luck Del & Phyllis!

Del and Phyllis have been a couple for 55 years. They were married this week. They actually were married once before, in San Francisco, in 2004. But the California Supreme Court stepped in to say it wasn’t a legal marriage because Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are a lesbian couple. However, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that same sex couples do have the constitutional right to marry. So longtime partners and activists Del, age 87 and Phyllis, age 83 were married once again on Monday evening, by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. They were among many same sex couples married in California this week, with many more planning weddings over the summer.

This November, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California will be on the November ballot. I hope Del and Phyllis will not have to endure another reversal of their marital status.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Please Stop

If you smoke tobacco, please stop now.
If you chew tobacco, please stop now.

I quit smoking twenty-three years ago, back in 1985.
Today we attended the funeral of a friend of ours who smoked cigarettes nearly his entire adult life.
He died of lung cancer.
He was 61.

Need help? Start here:

American Cancer Society
American Lung Association
Australia - Quit Now
South Africa - Ten Tips To Quit
United Kingdom - Go Smoke Free

I know it’s not easy.
I know it’s worth it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hello Cybele!

This beautiful butterfly arrived at just the right moment yesterday afternoon. It had been a day of ups and downs. Starting early in the morning, Abby, our twelve year old cat of “The Look” fame, wasn’t feeling well. (A trip to our wonderful veterinarian this afternoon, along with some tests, will hopefully reveal more in the next few days.) Later in the morning, we learned of the death of an old friend and former colleague of ours. He was just 61 years old. In the afternoon, Chuck spoke with his Dad out in Washington State. It was one of the better phone calls he has had with his Dad since we returned from our visit back in April. Dad sounded strong and in good spirits. It was the highlight of the day.

Toward the end of the afternoon, we stepped out onto the front porch to sit and read the newspapers for a little while. That’s when we found this lovely creature clinging upside down, to the inside of one of the old screen panels. I stepped back in the house to retrieve the camera and shot the photos you see above. (Unfortunately the camera and I had trouble getting the focus on the butterfly and not the screen or the world beyond the screen.) When it clung lightly to Chuck’s finger for the trip outside to the waiting tree, we were both amazed and delighted. After some research in a nature book and on the internet, we discovered it is a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) - a very cool name, a very cool moment.

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Fonts: Arial, Bradley Hand ITC TT

You can click on the image to get a better look at “Cybele”.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Chuck and I were both fortunate to have great Dads. My Dad passed away an impossibly long twenty years ago. Chuck’s Dad is 93 and lives in Washington State where we visited him this spring. The saying goes that any guy can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad. So here’s to all the dads, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. And here’s to all the godfathers, big brothers, uncles and good men who serve as father figures. Happy Father’s Day to you all!

The layout above, is the card we sent to Chuck’s Dad for Father's Day this year. I wanted it to be very simple, clean and crisp graphically, in order to allow Dad to enjoy it more easily. The snapshot is one of the earliest we have of the brand new family of three back in 1943. I started out with the scanned copy to the right and tweaked, “healed” and cropped it. The photo was taken in the midst of World War II, when Dad was serving in the Army. I love how Mom and Dad have Chuck (CeeGee as they called him) protected in their mutual embrace. I love the look of happiness, wonder and confidence that shines out through the grainy image. The world was in crisis and chaos. But after much thought and soul searching, Betty and Milton decided to try to create a family, even in a world that could allow a Hitler to come to power.

Layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe PhotoShop Elements 4.0 for Mac. Fonts: American Typewriter, Lucida Handwriting

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Got Ribs?

More to the point: need ribs? Ever since Armadillo’s second incarnation, on Park Avenue in Worcester, went out of business, it’s been a challenge to find decent barbeque in the area. When Chuck was working in Greater Boston, we used to swing by the consistently excellent (and aptly named) “Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q” in Arlington. We would call in our order and pick it up “to go”. No matter how well they packed it up for us, as the smoky aroma filled our car, the ride home became excruciatingly long! We’ve been to Firefly’s in Marlborough a couple of times and it’s been good. But as Chuck has reported: “Our socks are still on.” We tried The Texas BBQ Company in Northborough and it too was good, but, again, nothing to write home about. Wild Willy’s in Worcester helped take the edge off our jonesing for barbeque with their very good chili and tasty burgers. But they don’t pretend to be a barbeque joint, so our search continued.

Well, the search is over. Welcome Texas Roadhouse! You know I prefer local, independent places to national chains, but I will happily and no doubt repeatedly, make an exception for Texas Roadhouse. The other day, Chuck had a craving for ribs. Thinking it meant a long distance trip or settling for ersatz barbeque somewhere, I began suggesting all kinds of local, yet non-barbeque alternatives. No dice. Chuck suggested we try the Texas Roadhouse over on Lincoln Street. I wasn’t enthused, but he’s my BFF/Hero/Wonder Hubby so I resisted whining and off we went. It was after eight o’clock on a Thursday night, but the parking lot was crowded. The restaurant has the look of a western theme park about it from the outside and when we walked in, it was dimly lit, crowded and very noisy. A pleasantly chipper hostess greeted us immediately and began to take us to our table. She must have caught my deer-in-the-headlights look and paused to ask if this was our first visit. She explained how everything worked as she brought us over to our booth. Two tin buckets were waiting for us; one filled with roasted peanuts, the other waiting for the shells. "What have I gotten myself into?" I thought as I smiled gamely at Chuck.

Another enthusiastic staffer approached. It was Maria, our server for the evening. She was great; patient, friendly and most importantly, met my number one requirement: attentive without being intrusive. We read the menu. In light of our recent forays to Wild Willy’s, I decided to get an “All American Cheddar Burger” to which I added bacon. Chuck ordered the “Fall Off The Bone Ribs”. Again, because of Wild Willy’s, we each ordered a cup of the Chili. The Chili arrived first and it was darn good. Straightforward, beef and bean chili with the right flavors and just enough spicy heat. I was no longer feeling grim. Then the entrees arrived. The steak fries accompanying my burger were very good. The burger came on a “Goldilocks” bun: not too big, not too small, but just the right size and of good flavor. The burger itself was well charred and cooked just to the medium side of well done, which turned out to be great. It was really delicious. While I was exploring my plate, Chuck was tucking into his ribs. He had ordered the green beans which had a very good pot liquor flavor about them, but were still identifiably green! The mashed potatoes were real and tasted thus. But it was the ribs that had Chuck on the verge of a “When Harry Met Sally” moment. They were exactly as the menu promised: fall off the bone tender, well charred, smoky, with a slightly caramelized sauce on the outside.

Chuck was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. They know from barbeque in that neck of the woods. Add to that, his Dad liked to barbeque on the blacktop turnaround behind the carport, which was attached to their ranch house. For Chuck, barbeque is all tangled up with happy memories of childhood, St. Louis, his Dad and summer weekends framed by charcoal smoke. The barbeque bar is set very high for my husband. Last Thursday night, Texas Roadhouse cleared that bar. Chuck was happy. I was happy. There was just a slight pang as something precious and perfect from the past seemed to be eclipsed. But it wasn’t really. The Roadhouse had just brought all those good memories flooding back - and that was at no charge.

Flag Day

“...indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

It Doesn't Seem Possible

Tim Russert of the NBC television network passed away suddenly today at the age of 58. He is survived by his wife Maureen Orth, their son Luke and his Dad “Big Russ”, who was the subject of Tim’s 2004 bestselling book “Big Russ and Me”. Tim was the heart and head of all things political at NBC and MSNBC. Being as interested in politics as Chuck and I are, this feels like a personal loss to us, based on that strangely deep connection we have with folks that communicate to us through the vivid TV screen.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Turnabout’s Fair Play

Since I asked you for help on that bizarro tech problem yesterday, it seems only fair to share a helpful tip with you. (Unfortunately, as yet, no one has provided the magic solution, but I really appreciate the moral support!) An enduring problem around our household is paper - financial statements, bills, third class mail, receipts - what have you - trees are dying at an alarming rate as their remains pile up around us! A few months ago, we switched over to on-line bill paying and it has been a revolution and a revelation. I absolutely love it.

That electronic success got me looking for other ways to cut down on paper waste. We use a Mac laptop with the Leopard operating system and Safari as our primary internet browser. When we want to print something, we have the option of choosing to print a page on paper or save it as a PDF (Adobe’s Portable Document Format). In the past, I might see a clever how-to or a potentially yummy recipe and I would print it out onto actual paper. But then I had to find the right place to put it so I could easily lay my hands on it when I wanted it. Let’s just say that “system” wasn’t working well.

Instead, I have now created several folders within my general Documents folder in my computer. One is called “Recipe Box” another “Digi-Scrap Tips & How Tos” another “Family Tree Information”, etc. (These individual folders live in my Mac’s Finder Sidebar for easy access.) Now, when I want to save a craft pattern or JPEG of a census record or recipe, etc., I save it as a PDF or drag and drop it onto my Desktop. Then I slide it into the appropriate folder and Ta Da - saved and filed!

This electronic filing system is also fully and easily searchable (unlike those teetering piles of mixed paper). Using my computer’s Search Box or Spotlight, I just need to type in a word or two like “Gazpacho” and up pops a list of everywhere that word can be found: a recipe in my “Recipe Box”, a layout in my “Digi- Scrapbook Pages Completed”, even a poem in “Poetry & Prose”.

Maybe you’ve been doing this forever. If so, why didn’t you tell me about it?! But if not, give it a try. To get you started, take a look at designer Amy Butler’s free downloadable patterns. Her fabrics are luscious. Click on this link which will take you to Amy’s main page. Then click on “Free Patterns” at the bottom of the column of choices and begin downloading, filing and saving a tree.

P.S. Don’t forget to back up your computer - frequently and in multiple ways! You have all kinds of fabulous things stored in there!


We’ve all heard the rumors, innuendos and outright lies. Now you can read the facts about Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at a webpage devoted to debunking the rumors.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Relief & A Tech Question

The heat broke last night. It broke rather noisily with high winds, heavy rains, frequent lightning and enough rolling waves of thunder, that it was difficult to try to count off the miles. Unlike some nearby neighbors, we did not lose our power and we had no damage from the storm.

I’ve been happily humming right along with my digital scrapbooking. Believe me, it was wonderful to be able to work on my laptop computer in the air conditioned bedroom over the weekend! This morning I finished up another layout in Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 for Mac. I duplicated the PSD file and saved it as a JPEG file. I then printed out my JPEG of the file onto my absolute favorite paper - the Double Sided Matte Photo Supreme from Staples - using our Canon PIXMA MP810 All-in-One Photo Printer (I tried to find a link, but I think Canon has replaced it with a newer model). Out it comes with a strangely heavy drop shadow under one of the layers. I looked at the computer screen and tipped it back and forth. Sometimes the position of the screen leads to a differences in how images appear. It did look a little heavy, so I tweaked it a little. I printed it out again on the back side of the paper (just another reason I love that paper). This time it looked better. But strangely, the direction that the “light” was coming from to create the “drop shadow” had changed. Instead of coming from the top left down toward the bottom right as I wanted, it appeared to be coming from the bottom left toward the upper right. But what made this head-scratchingly-puzzling was that it looked one way on the screen and this completely different way on the paper! Hunh?

One of the things that I love about working in PSE is the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) functionality. I have never had anything like this happen before. I’ve poked around in PSE Help, in PSE itself and on the internet. I’ve learned a whole bunch of neato stuff which is great, but nothing which helps me solve this particular oddity.

So, Dear Readers, any suggestions would be appreciated. Especially one which says: “Oh that happened to me and I can have you all sorted out in two shakes of a lamb’s tail!” That one would be awesome! Thanks in advance...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Look

This is Abby. This is Abby this afternoon. This is Abby stretched out in the open window in our bathroom on the second floor. Outside it was about 95 F (35 C). Inside it was about 85 F (29 C). Abby was so hot and so fed up with the heat and humidity that she didn’t even race away when I brought out the camera. Instead, she just rolled her head in my direction and gave me the look.

It’s O.K. Abby. I totally, completely understand how you feel. No. I’m not anthropomorphizing. I really, totally, completely get that look. Just ask Chuck. He’s seen that look more and more as this heat wave has gone on. He really, totally, completely gets that look too!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cats As Thermometers

Just when I begin to think I am a complete heat wimp, my cats vindicate me. Both Abby and Cassie have been suddenly dropping to the floor and sprawling out in a variety of ungainly poses. They only do this when we are deep in the Three Hs: Hazy, Hot & Humid. Neither will allow me to photograph them in these undignified positions. But I don’t want to be photographed all flushed and “glowing” (read sweat pouring off me) as I fan myself incessantly, so I really can’t complain. Cassie likes to lay on her side, head up, legs in four directions, making herself as long as possible. Abby will lay flat on her stomach, legs in four directions or flat on her back, otter style, paws in the air. As if to provide me with further proof, they have even deigned to join us in the bedroom with the air conditioner and neither one likes the hum it makes.

Thank you girls. Mommy feels (irrationally) much cooler.

Hip Hip Hooray Morgan!

I couldn’t find a flower named Morgan, so an Iris will have to do!

There are two milestones today in the blogosphere.
One: Today is the birthday of Morgan of DancingMorganMouse!
Two: Today, Morgan, of DancingMorganMouse, wrote and uploaded her 1000th post!!!

Thanks for keeping us on our toes and entertained!

Feel free to drag and drop this banner onto your blog Morgan!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


In the midst of the heat and humidity, our rhododendron is suddenly a riot of blooms and frothy color! The lilacs and their heady scent have nearly all gone past, but now the mock orange is pouring its perfume in our bedroom window. Along with that distinctive spicy, floral scent comes the constant sound of bees buzzing!
Lots of bees buzzing - everywhere!

Honeybee on the Mock Orange

Our Rhododendron (Weigela in the foreground)
That’s a second story window on the right!

Bumblebee on the Rhododendron

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ready, Set, Heat!

If the meteorologists are correct, then all of our preparations should pay off. The last few days have been cool and damp, including some much needed, steady rain (yay!). But the weather prognosticators are saying that we are in for an “official” heat wave. That means three or more consecutive days with temperatures above 90 (32 C) degrees. If either of my sisters, who live in Georgia and Arizona, are reading this, they are no doubt doubled over in laughter and calling us heat wimps! Heat wimps we may well be. I have no idea how they tolerate the fierce heat and, for Gail in Georgia, the sweltering humidity. I know I couldn’t handle it!

While my sisters need and have central air conditioning, we use an Energy Star window air conditioner, which Chuck installed in our bedroom yesterday. That along with ceiling and stand fans, a screened front porch and my favorite low-tech accessory gets us through the hottest of summer days. This afternoon, to further prepare, I cooked up a storm. I made up a big bowl of pasta salad with lots of veggies. Then I cooked a double batch of felafel. Finally, I made my quick gazpacho, this time using the fire roasted tomatoes. Now everything is stowed in the refrigerator, ready to be pressed into service to help pull together quick meals.

Of course, this flurry of activity to get ready for the predicted heat wave, could be akin to carrying an umbrella and insuring it doesn’t rain! I’ll keep you posted...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Save The World, One Rooftop At A Time

Colin Beavan, in his blog No Impact Man, continues to write thought provoking and inspiring posts even though his one year extreme environmental experiment is over. His recent post about urban rooftop farming struck me as logical, brilliant and doable! Take a few moments to check it out - especially the “cool links” at the bottom of his post.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Merry Christmas!

In addition to the Tulip Fairy we have a seasonally challenged Amaryllis. Which isn’t really an Amaryllis but a Hippeastrum, which is part of the Amaryllidaceae family. As opposed to the real Amaryllis which is known as Belladonna Lily or Naked Ladies. Does your head hurt? Mine does.

Anyhoo, a couple of Christmases ago I purchased an Amaryllis bulb “kit” in a box to give as a gift. The “kit” consisted of an Amaryllis bulb (which we now know was really a Hippeastrum bulb), a bag of potting soil, and a plastic pot. For some reason (unknown to me now) I never wrapped said “kit” up and gifted it to anyone. But I also forgot to open and pot up the poor thing. One day, months later I’m embarrassed to admit, I spotted a leaf sticking out of the side of the cardboard box. Such guilt! You can only imagine. So I quickly opened the long forgotten box and potted up the forlorn bulb which had sent out its effective little semaphore. But I was too late.

Or so I thought. I placed the pot with its limp leaf in the kitchen window, just above the sink where it would get the morning sun and warm, moist air from dish washing. It threw up another leaf and then another, each one greener and healthier than the last. But alas, no fabulously showy Amaryllis (er - Hippeastrum) flower emerged. But we left it where it was all through the spring and summer months. By last autumn, all the leaves were looking ragged and wan. I was tempted to compost the poor thing just to end my prolonged guilt. Or, better still, try putting it out in the potting shed to give it a bit of cold and then try bringing it back in around, well, Christmas.

But I never got around to taking action in either direction. It just sat contentedly above the kitchen sink, getting the morning sun and the occasional spritz of water from the dish sprayer. A while ago, some new leaves emerged. Then, a couple of weeks ago, a bud began to push up. We couldn’t believe our eyes! Over the next few days it pushed determinedly upward, both stalk and bud thickening daily and stretching to its present height of 32 inches (81.28 centimeters) - with three buds in all! Wow!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Spring and Summer too!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


It was four years ago this summer that Chuck and I stood before our television in our kitchen, riveted by a passionate speaker at the Democratic Party Convention in Boston. Chills ran down our spines. We applauded. We were choked up with emotion. We felt the first wave of hope in four long years - no, even longer. The speaker was Barack Obama.

Tonight, Senator Barack Obama is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic party! Tonight, he spoke again, just as passionately, just as powerfully. Below is an excerpt from the finale of his speech.

“...Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes.  And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again. 
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity. 
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom’s cause. 
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.  
America, this is our moment.  This is our time.  Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past.  Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face.  Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult.  The road will be long.  I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations.  But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.  Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.  This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.  Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.”

- Senator Barack Obama
June 3, 2008
St. Paul, Minnesota

You can read the entire speech, as prepared, here.

Or you can watch and listen to Senator Obama here:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Just A Number

O.K. It has been two full weeks since I crossed the half century mark and officially turned fifty. I have to tell you that other than relief that the long anticipation is over, I feel exactly the same. Well, no, I actually feel a little better. The irrational (I know it really was) anxiety about turning fifty has lifted and I don’t feel fifty - whatever the heck fifty is supposed to feel like!

Chuck and I have been comparing notes about our ages. Neither one of us could have ever imagined feeling as we do now, way back when we were in our twenties or even thirties. So much emotion and baggage - social and otherwise - gets tied up in the big milestone numbers. We assumed that when we turned certain “magic” ages that we would instantly, naturally, inevitably feel old. Umm. No. Not true.

When I was a little kid I always thought all my grandparents were really old. But when I was born in 1958, my grandparents were actually 75, 71, 57 and 56. Yikes 56! Someone asked me recently how old my Mom is. I replied: “Oh, she’s young. She’s only 84.” and I meant it! In the 1960s there was a saying “Never trust anyone over thirty” and even today 40th birthday parties have “Over The Hill” themes. Sheesh!

I used to think the cliche: “Age is just a number” was both hackneyed and glib. Well, it may be found guilty on the hackneyed, but it is by no means glib. Turns out age is just a freakin’ number. And you can trust me on that ‘cuz while I’m no “Sally O’Malley”, I am fifty!

Clip of Molly Shannon as Sally O'Malley on Saturday Night Live

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Milford Pink

Jeff found an interesting newspaper article and companion video about the pink granite quarried in Milford, Massachusetts. The granite was used in the construction of the Worcester City Hall, the Boston Public Library, New York City’s Pennsylvania Station, the foundation steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. - and more! You can read and view more by clicking here.