Monday, December 27, 2010

Kitty Surprise

Today was the day the Gracie was being spayed. Bob has the week off so we decided to drop her off first thing and head to the Jelly Belly Factory because Bob has never been. We packed Gracie in the carrier with her blankie from Nanna Sue and dropped her off and headed out.

We had a great time seeing jelly beans being made and sampling candy and headed back to town. Since Gracie was the first surgery of the day, we had expected a call by now so I decided to call to see how things went. The receptionist at the vet said that everything was fine but the vet wanted to talk to me. I was a little curious about that.

The vet came on the line and told me " I have some good news and some embarrassing news. The good news is the surgery went fine. The embarrassing news is that Gracie is actually Grayson". Yes, when we first brought him in at 3-4 weeks he didn't have noticeable "boy parts" so he was labeled a she. Now I had begun to suspect that perhaps that wasn't the case, but when I pointed them out to Bob he told me "all cats look alike."

Well, Grayson is at home and we are adjusting to calling him a him. He is still full of piss and vinegar.

Bit now he seems to like watching 3 Stooges with Bob. (Its a guy thing)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Promise 2010

"And so this is Christmas, and what have you done..." ~ John Lennon

This year, we have been blessed again to spend our Christmas Eve with Christmas Promise. For me this is how we celebrate Christmas. This year, Chuck, our elf for several years past moved up to being a Santa. Our replacement Elf had his schedule changed at work and was unable to help so we decided to try and steal an elf once we got there.

We waiting about 20 minutes and we finally snagged an Elf. She happened to be one of the main volunteers who was in charge of the pot luck and has been working with Christmas Promise for many years. We got our assignment, loaded up the sleigh and headed out.

Our 2 houses were within spitting distance from each other so I figured this would be easy. The first house was in a groups of fourplexes which not only did not have legible street numbers, did not have good unit indicators. Our Elf tried to find the location, but we ended up having Santa call the family. After a bit of a language barrier, Santa finally convinced them he was legit and we discovered they had moved to an apartment complex about a mile away. This turned out to be an enormous complex with no parking so the sleigh had to be parked on the street. Our Elf scouted out the location and came back to give Santa directions. She also indicated there were a couple of teen aged boys with skateboards on the way, so Santa stowed a six pack of coke in his bag and headed to the apartment. I stayed with the truck while our Elf tailed Santa with a bag of gifts. A short time later the boys cam walking by and headed up to the corner to meet their friends with the cokes in hand. I could hear a bit of the conversation.

"Hey, where'd you get the sodas?"
"From Santa."
"No really, where'd you get them?" Followed by an argument in Spanish.

A few people passed me standing by the truck and everyone was happy and wished me a Merry Christmas including the woman and her "ugly husband" as she put it who were going to the corner store.

We finished the delivery and headed back to stop number 2 which was and upstairs unit at one of the original 4plexes. Santa headed up the stairs followed by the Elf who hung out around the corner. Santa came out to get the first bag. Elf took 2nd bag up. When Santa came out to get the 2nd bag, I saw Dad come out and look around. Elf was hidden and I could see him shaking his head. Santa said he kept asking where the stuff was coming from. As Santa was handing out gifts he noticed that one little girl was not getting anything. Turns out she was a cousin who was visiting. When he came out to get the next bag he relayed her info to Elf who gave me the info. I made a quick call to the North Poles and the Elves got to work on getting together gifts for a 3 year old girl. Elf ran the last bag up the stairs. When she came down I took the pecan pie rolls and sodas up so she could have a break. As I got to the top of the steps, one of the sodas slipped out of the six pack and fell down the entire flight of stairs hitting each step as it went. I figure it would be pretty tacky to give the a "5-pack", so I brought them back and tried not to giggle.
As Santa left he assured the little 3 year old that he would be back. She just looked at him and shook her head "No No".

Back we flew to the North Pole where we found Chuck back from his run. Paula informed me that he cried after his delivery. When he got to his house he asked for the little boy "C' by name. "C"'s eyes got big as saucers. "Are you "C"?" "Dad had to prod him to answer. Then Grandma saw Santa and burst into tears. Uncle was there, pretty drunk and insisting that Santa was his "best friend". "C" told Santa that he was the answer to his prayer. Grandma kept quizzing Santa on where he was from and who sent him but Santa didn't break. Santa didn't think Grandma would ever let him go. When he got outside he broke down and cried. I am so proud of Chuck. He is hooked now on being Santa!

Bob finished his paperwork and we grabbed the gifts for the little 3 year old and headed back. They were on the balcony when we came back and the little girl was so excited. I think she thought Santa forgot her. I could see her jumping up and down and Santa brought her gifts out of the bag.

As we were leaving, a woman came out from one of the other apartments with a toddler and a young boy about 8 who kept telling her "I told you Santa was real!" Santa had some gifts for them in his magic sack and then we hopped in the sleigh to head back home for a long winters nap.

Chuck's Elf, Chris Denny with Santa Bob

Santa Bob filling out his paperwork

Santa Chuck

Santa Chuck and his Mrs. Claus, Paula

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time to Remember the Poor

Cold winter is come, with its cold chilling breath
And the leaves are all gone from the trees.
And all seems touched by the finger of death
And the streams are beginning to freeze.
When the young wanton lads o'er the river slide,
When Flora attends us no more,
When in plenty you are sitting by a warm fireside:
That's the time to remember the poor.

The cold feather'd snow will in plenty descend
And whiten the prospects around.
The keen cutting wind from the North will attend
And cover it over the ground.
When the hills and the dales are all candied with white
And the rivers are froze on the shore,
When the bright twinkling stars they proclaim the cold night:
That's the time to remember the poor.

The poor timid hare through the woods may be traced
With the footsteps indented in the snow,
When our lips and our fingers are dangling with cold
And the marksman a-shooting does go.
When the poor Robin Redbreast approaches your cot
And the icicles hang at the door,
And when your bowl smokes reviving and hot:
That's the time to remember the poor.

The thaw shall ensue and the waters increase
And the rivers vehemently grow;
The fish from oblivion obtains its release
And in danger the travellers go.
When your minds are annoyed by the wide swelling flood
And your bridges are useful no more;
When in plenty you enjoy everything that is good
Do you grumble to think of the poor?

The time will come when our Saviour on Earth
All world shall agree with one voice.
All nations unite to salute the blest morn
And the whole of the Earth shall rejoice.
When grim death deprived of its killing sting
And the grave rules triumphant no more
Saints, angels and men Hallelujah shall sing
Then the rich must remember the poor.

(Traditional English Folk Song)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Farewell Sweetie Pie

The hardest part of being a pet parent is knowing when its time to say goodbye. On Tuesday, December 14, 2010 we said goodbye to Sweetie Pie.

Sweetie Pie came into our lives in July of 1999. In February of that year, my Father passed away and in June, we had to say goodbye to my Mom's dog, Holly. Mom was completely alone and very unhappy. A small voice, which I think was my Dad, told me to go to the pound one weekend. There in one of the cages I saw her

She was a beautiful cream, brown and black. She was not bouncing like the other dogs. She seemed to be waiting patiently. She reminded me a bit of my brother's dog Sunshine, who had stayed with us years before. I took her into the walking pen and knew that she was the one. I filled out the paperwork and then went to Mom's house to tell her.

Mom was a little unsure at first, but all doubt was swept away when we went to pick her up from the vet. They had given her a bath, checked her over and microchipped her. They also guessed her age at about 3-4 years old. Mom was overjoyed. The vet techs kept talking about what a sweet temperament she had so Mom ended up Christening her "Sweetie Pie".

She and Mom were inseparable. She slept on the bed with Mom, ate cheetoes with Mom and really brightened her spirit. We discovered she was terrified of loud noises. During thunder storms she would try to hide behind the couch. As long as her head was covered and she couldn't see anything, she felt safe. She was pretty strong and if you were sitting on the couch when thunder cracked, you would almost get thrown off the couch from her diving behind it.

I would come over to clean house for Mom every week. Sometimes I would bring my cats Sayuri and MoMo. Sweetie was scared to death of cats and would cross to the far side of the room to get away from Sayuri. Sayuri knew this and would purposefully come and rub up on Sweetie. Mom was another story. He was still a kitten. He looked like a cat, but didn't quite smell like a cat. Sweetie would follow him around sniffing him. Sometimes she would be sniffing so hard that his hind end would not ever be on the ground anymore!

She also had a problem with gunk build up in her ears. Dr. Faber from our local vet clinic would make house calls to treat her and visit with Mom.

Sweetie did not have a tail, but when she was happy she would shake her whole hind end. With her long hair she looked like a hula dancer when she got going.

She was there for Mom after her stroke. Caring for her helped Mom stay focused.

Bob and I adopted Sweetie the day Mom passed away in 2002. I had gone to the pound a few days earlier to get a second dog to be a companion for Sweetie. They day we brought Honey home from the vet was the day Mom passed away. She never got to meet Honey.

Sweetie's life changed a bit after that. She was outside more because both Bob & I worked, but she had Honey for company. She continued to sleep on the bed for as long as she was still able to get up there. She also loved playing in water so we bought her a kiddie pool and she would splash all summer long. She would not fetch but would bounce and bark when you threw the ball for Honey. She also surprised everyone by stealing a whole tri tip at a bbq we hosted.

Time began to take its toll on Sweetie. Her muzzle became greyer and her steps a little slower. On Thanksgiving morning this year, she had a small seizure. We thought perhaps it was from the cold, but a week later she had a grand mal seizure. At first the vet thought it might be a brain tumor, but the blood work showed a pancreatic tumor. Sweetie had pancreatic problems for years. We had to add a special enzyme to her food to help her digest it. Now her body was producing too much insulin causing her blood sugar to drop dangerously low. For a dog the normal range is 100-160. Hers was dropping into the 30s. We began feeding her small meals every 4-6 hours but the seizures were becoming more and more frequent. She would sleep much of the day, and when she was awake, she would stagger aimlessly. We knew it was time.

We made that final trip to the vet. Dr. Faber was there with us. She was not sure she could do it, since she was so close to Sweetie Pie too. We all help her and loved on her as she passed from this world. I sat on the floor sobbing into my hands. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know as we bid her farewell here, she was bouncing up to Mom in the next.

I think the card my co-workers gave me sums it up best

"Dogs have a way of teaching us about love, loyalty, joy and friendship. The gifts your dog gave you - happiness, companionship, unconditional love - these will never leave you"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pattern Party!

What do you do when your friends get patterns published? Throw a party of course! SO that is exactly what our Thursday Night Knitting group did.

Gus had her very first pattern published on Ravelry.

Her Estonian Stitch Lace Hat made with lovely Malabrigo sock yarn.

AnneLena had her first pattern published in Interweave Knits Winter 2010.

Her pattern is for the Lollipop Cap made from Blue Sky Alpaca Melange.

As if this were not exciting enough, she will also have patterns in the Spring and Summer Editions as well!

I think that these achievements need to be acknowledged and that every woman, needs a reason to wear a tiara at least once in her life!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dangly Bits

Gracie has discovered that she can go under the blankets. A whole new world is under there.

The other morning, after putting the dogs out, Bob let Gracie out of her cage and then came back to bed. (Note, Gracie sleeps in the cage at night because she is still a kitten and because Honey does not realize there is a difference between "kitten" and "snack food". When Gracie is older she will get to sleep with us)

Gracie came running down the hall and climbed onto the bed. I felt her crawl behind my head and head under the covers. I was just drifting back to sleep when Bob yelled, flew out of bed and slammed the bedroom door.

It seems Miss Gracie in her undercover explorations discovered "dangly bits" that looked like a cool new cat toy. She attacked. Bob was not amused.

Doggie Torture

2:30 am and I am wide awake. Insomnia? No. The incessant licking sounds coming from the hallway. Every now and then Sweetie will lie in one spot and just lick the hardwood floor. For some reason this sound is to me like fingernails on a chalkboard. I try to ignore it, but the sound begins boring into my brain.

Lick lick lick lick lick.

I tried a stage whisper, "Sweetie, Stop it!"

Lick lick lick lick lick.

I try several more times

Lick lick lick lick lick.

At this point my brain remembers that Sweetie is hard of hearing. I am not.

Lick lick lick lick lick.

I get up and stumble to that hallway. Sweetie stares at me innocently and stops licking.

I stumble back to bed and just get comfortable when...

Lick lick lick lick lick.

Damn. I remember that Sweetie can hear different tones so I begin stage whispering at high pitches and low pitches.

Lick lick lick lick lick.

I try clapping.

Lick lick lick lick lick.

At this point I am wide awake, grouchy and yell "GODDAMN IT SWEETIE! STOP IT!" This wakes up Bob.

Lick lick lick lick lick.

I finally go and shut the bedroom door and crawl back in bed.

Poor MoMo Kitty senses my distress and walks up my body purring. "Mommy, if you pet me you'll feel better!" and proceeds to start licking my hand.

Lick lick lick lick lick.

I can't win.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flying Walendas vs. WWF Smackdown

Its a quiet Friday evening and I am sitting in the den listening to the sounds of the rain falling outside and the sounds of what could very possibly be the "Flying Walendas vs. WWF Smackdown" going on in the living room. Those sounds can only mean that Mo and Gracie are at it again.

While Sayuri and Miss Itty Bitty want nothing to do with the interloper, she has found a playmate in MoMo. Pretty amazing considering Mo is referred to around here as "Wussy Pussy" and has a fear of potholders thanks to Bob. I really don't think he realized she is going to get bigger and kick his ass.

No one is safe from Gracie. Walking down the hall mean you are subject to attack from "Ninja Kitty" who will fly out of the shadows, bite your ankle or toe and then disappear back into the shadows. I have also been rudely awakened on several occasions by a small grey ball of fur flying at my face. If I am lucky the claws are in and I don't have to head to work looking like the victim of some tragic farming accident.

Mo has his quirks too. He loves to chew on my hair. One day he was tearing around the house like something was out to get him. Turns out he had a dangly poo hooked to one of my hairs that had passed through and every time he stopped running, momentum would cause it to hit him in the butt which led him to think he was being attacked and take off running again. When hubby and I finally stopped laughing, we caught him and rescued him from the "Attack of the Dangly Poopie".

Now as I type this, Gracie is sprawled across my shoulder, purring like mad. Usually we declare the den a "cat free zone" because Gracie thinks the computer is a cool cat toy that is warm and has lots of dangly things attached. When you try to retrieve her from the tower cubby, it becomes a game of "Attack the Finger Monsters" Gracie has yet to grasp the concept that "skin" is different from "clothing".

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boobs In A Vice

One of the more challenging aspects of getting older is accepting the changes to your body and the new and wonderful medical procedures that you must endure. When women hit the age of 40, we must begin to undergo mammograms. This sounds simple enough. Obtain a digital image of your breast to look for any abnormalities. Unfortunately, to obtain the image you have to place your breast on an x-ray plate and then have it maneuvered into place and then clamped in a vice.

Not only are they clamped and flattened from top to bottom, but then they do them side to side. Its an uncomfortable procedure. The technician will maneuver your breast into place, clamp it down and then tell you not to breath. ("Honey, I couldn't breath even if I wanted to!") You hear the whirr of the x-ray and then the tech releases your boob and tells you to breath as a huge sigh of relief escapes you. If you are lucky, there is no problem with the image causing them to be re-taken.

I have had the procedure done twice. Both times I have had wonderful, compassionate female technicians who were gentle and explained the procedure in detail.

This being said, even though there is brief discomfort in the procedure, the alternative is much worse. I have several friends who have undergone treatment for breast cancer and I would much rather catch it earlier than endure cancer treatments.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gracie Does Chores

Well! Finally one of the furry critters steps up to do some chores around here and earn their keep!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"High?" Fashion

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about "High Fashion" I think the "High" refers to what the designers are when they come up with some of their designs.

This is from the Alexander McQueen ready to wear collection:

Do you think she realizes she has a hubcap on her head?

This reminds me of how they used to bind the jaws of the dead to keep the mouth from flopping open. Obviously they included a couple of beers to tide her over on the boat ride to Hell.

Ever wonder what you could do with a few Hefty bags and some free time?

Even better if have some bubble wrap laying around.

I call this one "Frobot". Wonder what she transforms into?

When the guys from KISS aren't touring, they're walking the catwalk in Paris.

All I can say is, it must have been one heck of a party!

Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond

Bob and I seem to gravitate to San Francisco for my birthday. This year was no exception. We went to the DeYoung Museum to see the Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne & Beyond exhibit. My Mother and Grandma Hart both cultivated an interest in the arts in me. They taught me that art is meant to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. Not everyone likes every style of art, but that doesn't mean that the art is bad. We all have different tastes.

We had tickets for 12 noon. (The Deyoung sells tickets at 15 minute intervals to help keep the flow of people moving through the exhibit) We were lucky enough to get to park in the parking garage, use the restroom and have 3 minutes to spare.

I was excited about seeing the exhibit. I never expected the visceral reaction when I walked in. The first paintings I saw were some winter landscapes by Claude Monet and I started to cry. Monet was one of my Mother's favorite painters and just being there looking at the actual paintings, seeing his brush strokes and the actual colors was just so overwhelming. It is one this to see a photograph of a painting, but even photography fails to catch the true colors and emotions of most works.

When I was young, I was not a big fan of Van Gogh. I think subconsciously I was picking up on his anguish and mental illness from his heavy brushstrokes and treatment of subjects. As I have gotten older, I have come to understand his madness and suffering. Several of his painting at the exhibit really stood out to me.

The first is Starry Night.

The colors are so vibrant and the stars seem to leap out of the painting.

The second painting was this self portrait from 1887

The eyes in this painting are haunting. He captured the anguish of tortured soul in paint for future generations. I felt a catch in my chest as I viewed the painting and felt a connection across the years. In a letter to his sister he wrote "I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer." He succeeded in this painting.

The exhibit is definately worth seeing. I will probably never get the chance to go to Paris, so when Paris comes to me I jumped at the opportunity!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bye Bye to KIttens

Well George and the other boy kitten were both adopted today by people at the warehouse. It was so hard to see them go but I knew we could not keep all the kittens and I know they have good homes. I am still a little sad about it though! Gracie is a little lonesome though. I gave her a stuffed toy to curl up with.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Last night I took Gracie & George to Knit Night were the ladies surprised me with a "Kitten Shower". All the attention wore Gracie out.

The Dears made the kitten sweaters, a blankie and bought them lots of toys. Good thing too. The shower items will come in handy because this morning my phone rang at 6:30am. It was Bob.

“Guess what?”
“You found another kitten?”
“Guess again.”
“You found 2 kittens?”
“Guess again.”

Yes, they found 3 more kittens in the warehouse this morning. That brings the total up to 5. The record for most kittens in a litter is 15 so I REALLY hope Momma Cat is not an overachiever!

Luckily 2 were adopted by one of the salespeople so only 1, the frightened one in the 3rd shot came home with Bob.

George and the new kitten are both happy with solid food. Gracie is still bottle feeding.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Uh Oh!

I got a call from Bob this morning. They found Gracie's sibling in the warehouse this morning.

We ran him by the vet and its a boy. Think we'll call him "George". Gracie seems happy to see him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Her Name is Gracie

I swore I would not get attached, but her name is Gracie

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Yesterday, I got a call from Bob. Seems they found a small kitten in the warehouse, just bebopping down one of the aisles. No sign of Momma Cat or any siblings. Pretty lucky not to have been squished by one of the lifts! Bob is now regretting telling me that. I came by on my lunch hour and picked up the kitty ion a box and stopped at Western feed to get some KMR and a bottle and took it back to work.

Bottle feeding a kitten is not as easy as it sounds. Nor is waking up at 3am to feed a hungry mewling kitten. I am trying very hard not to name it or get too attached.

Today I took it to the vet and confirmed that "It" is a "She". Vet says she looks pretty healthy but gave her dewormer to be on the safe side. She seems to be settling in a bit. We are keeping her in a box in the bedroom. The other cats have come in while I have been feeding her, sniffed her, hissed and ran away. Honey Bun, however, was quite interested in her. So much so that she had to sleep outside last night because she would not stay away from her.

We are hoping to find a home for her before I get too attached.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ginger Ale

I found a recipe in Guideposts Magazine by Rebecca Katz for Ginger Ale that I have been wanting to try. Yesterday, while grocery shopping I decided now would be as good a time as any to give it a whirl.

First step was buying the ginger. I have seen ginger (not to be confused with this Ginger)

in the store but never actually bought it. Most ginger I have come incontact with is the ground variety in the spice department (which I learned at an early age does not taste like gingerbread!) or the pickled variety in sushi restaurants. The recipe calls for 2 cups so I just sort of winged it.

Then you wash the ginger and pat it dry. Slice intyo manageable pieces. The fresh ginger smells so good but I resisted the temptation to take a taste.

Place the ginger in 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour. THen remove cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the ginger through a cheesecloth.

You should have 2 cups of liquid. Then add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of honey.

**Note - We are lucky to have a small, prolific lemon tree in our yard. When the lemons are ripe, we pick then, juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Once frozen, we put the cubes in a bag in the freezer and pull them out as needed. The fresh lemon makes awesome lemonade in the summer and is so tasty on fish. **

Now I have what looks like a bad urine sample but it smells wonderfull!

Add 1/4 cup to a glass of sparkling water or soda water and enjoy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Forgiveness is one of the foundations of Christianity. We are asked to forgive others and ourselves. Forgiveness is difficult to do but quite a release when you actually accomplish it.

However, forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. If someone in your past has hurt or abused you, in order to move on, you have to forgive that person, but that does not mean that you allow them back into your life to continue the negativity, drama and abuse. Life is far too short to spend it with people who make you miserable or physically ill. Especially when they are so entrenched in their own little bubble to see how their thoughtless words and actions affect others.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meatball Soup

Clouds are rolling in and there is a chance for rain tomorrow which means this is a perfect evening for soup! I have been craving this one for a few days and the leftover spiuach will go towards spinach and feta cheese pizzas tomorrow night. This is a great recipe from our local grocery store: Raleys.

Mrs. Claus' Meatball Soup

1/2 lb. ground round
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. each: beaten egg and California Sun-Dry
Sun-Dried Tomato Salsa
1 tsp. Morton & Bassett Italian Seasoning
(or you can cheat and buy the pre-made meatballs in the frozen food section)

10 cups beef broth
1½ cups California Sun-Dry Sun-Dried Tomato Salsa
2 each: celery ribs and carrots, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp. dried basil
2 oz. angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces (I used whole wheat spaghetti)
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 1 hour total

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix together all meatball ingredients in a medium bowl.
Shape into 1/2-inch balls and place on a small baking sheet. Bake for 10
minutes; set aside. Meanwhile, stir together all soup ingredients except pasta
and spinach in a large pot and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered,
for 45 minutes. Add meatballs and pasta and simmer for 15 minutes more. Stir in
spinach and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.
Nutritional Information:
Nutrition per serving (411 g): 250 calories, 15 g protein, 10 g total fat (1.5 g sat., 0 g trans), 22 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 40 mg cholesterol, 1660 mg sodium, 5 points

This is a very hearty soup. Love the spinach!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where is America

This is too good not to share:

Where is America

Where is America? Has anyone seen her? I know she is here because I saw her about 9 years ago when she was knocked down. We all helped pick her up, dusted her off and showed her that we cared. We flew her flag everywhere, from houses and cars to bridges and mountains. But now I don't see her. I only hear about her briefly. What happened to the days when we sacrificed for her? Did she see how empty and selfish we have become and leave? The flags are not as common as they used to be, the support for our country is fading and I am afraid that if we don't find it she may never come back.

What happened to the days when we believed in what America did regardless of what our personal thoughts were? Are the troops the only ones who still think that way? Why is it that we rush home to see the chaos and turmoil on our TVs but won't attend a flag raising ceremony or a veteran's parade? Why is it more important to know what movie star is dating what movie star than what our troops have accomplished on the war front. Why is military service looked at as a last chance escape for troubled youth? Why does it always have to be someone else's responsibility to fix a problem or serve in the military? Why do we have to get approval to be patriotic in our neighborhoods or work places? Why are there so many organizations against the military and our country and only a handful for them? Why do the media organizations only report that negative aspects of the war and not the positive?

How come in 1943 Americans worked 24 hours a day to rebuild our Naval Fleet now it takes five years just to develop a single test vehicle? Is it money or technology that has slowed it down? The World War II generation is known as the greatest generation, yet if you ask Americans from that generation what made them great they will probably tell you nothing. They just did what Americans had always done. Were they great because of the heroism they showed or was it their undying devotion that they showed to their country? How come today we care more about ourselves than each other? Does anyone remember the words John F. Kennedy spoke? "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

I still believe in this country because I have seen that compassion and love we are known for. We ban together to rebuild and restore other countries when they are in need, yet while helping others while simultaneously ignoring our own. When other countries fall on hard times America is there to help in any way we can. We do it because we are America and that's what we do. When our country was devastated by September 11th and Hurricane Katrina, we did not expect any help from anyone else, because we our America and we take care of ourselves. Why does it take a catastrophic event for us to show we care?

I constantly hear how messed up our country is. If we are so messed up why do people still immigrate here? If we are such a selfish and ruthless country why do so many still come here looking for a better life? Maybe it's because they believe in America more than we do. Maybe that's why some of the other countries hate us so much, because we take our own country for granted. In my short time on earth I have seen this country do some amazing things and show more compassion than I ever thought was humanly possible. We go further and further into debt yet will not stop rendering aid and money to those less fortunate than we are. We have stepped up and defended the weak and abused of this world. We have shed blood on foreign soils all for the greater good of other countries as well as our own.

I understand war is an ugly thing, as do most members of the military. It takes the lives of our loved ones before we are ready to let them go. However, war is a sad reality of life due to the fact that there are individuals out there that have an obsession with power rather than an obsession with love. I believe in peace and think that world peace would be a wonderful thing, but in order to have that peace we must stand in front of the Sword of war and fight it until it is beaten. That can only be done if we all stand together for a greater cause and not our own individual cause.

Look around you and see how much of America you see and then think about how much you could see if we stopped worrying about trivial things that have no impact on our country. America is missing because she is out looking for Americans! Will she find you? I along with my fellow service members serve everyday knowing that it is my responsibility to protect this great country and her people at any cost. Reading this should not make you rush out and get a flag to hang up or a sticker to put on your car; it should make you proud to know that you are an American. It isn't just that sticker or flag that makes you a Proud American; it is how you show it.

Remember this, great people step up every day to serve this country and sacrifice their lives and their dreams so that we don't have to. Are you that person? Regardless of what your political affiliation is, what your beliefs are, or what you might call your greater being support your country, support your military, and love America for it is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave.

How American are you? Answer these questions and see if you are guilty of being American.

What would you be willing to sacrifice so that our troops could have more?

Would you take the bus instead of driving so that the fuel you use could be used for the troops?

Would you take a pay cut so that the extra money could be put into saving the lives of Americas troops?

What would you think if your child told you they wanted to serve in the military?

There are lots of right and wrong answers. What do your answers say about you as an American and us as a country?

GySgt Micheal D. Travers
RSS Eugene, Oregon

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lentil Rice Loaf

In an attempt to incorporate more meatless meals into the menu, I attempted a lentil rice loaf. Now I will say it looked good and it smelled good while cooking. However, that was just a tease. I have heard of "dirty rice". Well that is what this tasted like: dirt and rice. I was never a big fan of mud pies as a kid and I am not going to eat a "mudloaf" for dinner. It will definitely be a while before lentils get a second chance on the menu. This recipe god a big "BLECH" in the book.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

This week's foray into new recipes came from a Guideposts magazine. Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is literally "Whore's Spaghetti". Rumor has it that it's quick preparation made it popular as a fast snack between clients. Now most people when they hear "anchovy" immediately respond with "Ew! I hate anchovies!" "Have you ever tried them?" "No, but everybody hates them!" Not the ancient Romans. Anchovies were considered an aphrodesiac to them. Today they are one of the ingredients in worcestershire sauce,remoulade sauce and green goddess dressing.

The recipe sounded intriguing. I like most of the ingredients, although I thought capers was something to do with frolicking not little round pickled things.(they are actually the picked buds of the Capparis spinosa which is native to the Mediterranean and found in many Mediterranean cuisines)

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

3 tbsp oil oil (I use my favorite garlic olive oil because there is no such this as too much garlic in our house)
4tbsps minced garlic (Bob had to mince by hand since I broke the garlic press last week making the chicken marsala stew)
1 can black olives cut in quarters
3 tbsps of capers (about 1/2 of the tiny bottle)
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes (aka pizza pepper)
1 2oz can anchovies
1 15 oz can Italian plum tomatoes (I used a can of Italian Style Stewed tomatoes, cut up with juice reserved)
1 tbsp salt (optional)
1 pound spaghetti (we used whole wheat spaghetti)
4 tbsps chopped parsley (we used fresh and it adds some nice color to the dish)
1 tbsp butter
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic, olives, capers, pepper flakes and anchovies. Keep at medium low for about 5 minutes breaking up anchovies (they dissolve).

Add tomatoes and reserved liquid, raise heat to medium high til tomatoes start a slow bubbling boil.

Stir ingredients. Lower to medium low and occasionally, simmering for about 20 minutes.
Cook pasta and drain when done.
Add parsley and butter to sauce.
Mix sauce and pasta. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

This dish is slightly salty and the anchovies give it a nice added flavor. The anchovies don't resemble a fish like a sardine does. They looked more like crushed, de-boned fingers. This might be a plus in enticing little boys to eat this due to the "ew" factor.

We served it with a light Caesar salad (keeping the anchovy theme) and some crusty sourdough bread. Bob like it, but then again he is a salt freak and would be perfectly happy with a salt lick in the yard. I like the subtle play of flavors. You can taste the anchovy but its not overpowering. We will definitely be making this again!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicken Marsala Stew

I found this recipe in the paper and it sounded really great so I decided to try it. I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe.

Recipe: Chicken marsala stew with spring vegetables

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Serves 4
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (I used garlic olive oil)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt ( I left this out, don't tell Bob)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (I used fresh shitake mushrooms from the farmers' market)
8 ounces baby carrots (I sliced up 2 regular carrots)
1 cup frozen baby peas (I don't care for peas so I sliced up 2 ribs of celery)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (since I used garlic olive oil, I only added 1 clove)
1/2 cup marsala wine I used the whole bottle!)
11/2 cups chicken broth (fat free, salt free, again for Bob)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken pieces and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with another 1/2 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining chicken, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add another 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the pot. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to soften and give off liquid, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the carrots and peas, then sauté for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the pot. Add the onions and sauté until they soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the marsala and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer. Add the chicken broth and reserved vegetables, then bring to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the reserved chicken and vinegar and simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Per serving: 361 cal.; 33 g pro.; 26 g carb.; 10 g fat (2 sat., 6 monounsat., 2 polyunsat.); 68 mg chol.; 821 mg sod.; 6 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 25 percent calories from fat.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Swap Package!

Its always a good day when a package arrives; especially if the package contains yarn! Today I got my Mystery Swap package from Jessica in MA.Lots of cool stuff:

Some lovely tapestry fabric samples; 2 skeins of Atacama 100% alpaca (mmmmmalpaca); a skein of Knit Picks Gloss in celery; an absolutely hysterical postcard of Turkmenistan Wrestlers (they have what appear to be gigantic pompoms on their heads) from her recent trip there; little party drink umbrellas; size 6 needles, a mix cd of ocean music; travel sewing kit; metric measuring tape, amethyst bead bracelet, a beaded ocean ring; a stamp and scratch art kit which looks like fun, a cowl pattern; energizing and relaxing tea and tropical shake and go drink mixes which I can't wait to try.

Oh what to knit, what to knit!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stop The Voices!

It started off innocently enough. Karen from my knitting group brought in some delightful caramels from Bequet Confections : caramels with celtic sea salt. It sounds like an odd combination, but they are heavenly. I decided I needed to buy some for myself. They arrived yesterday and I thought I would take a few into work to share.

I tell you these things are evil! All day long I could hear this little voice calling from my desk drawer. "Eat Me!" "You know you want some."

Now if I were at home things would be different. The little caramels voices would be drowned out by all the other voices at home crying out: "Wash me!" "Vaccuum me!" "Clean the toilet." The voices would have become just white noise. But no! Here are work they are loud and clear and I have been helpless to resist them. (Resistance is futile!)

I will just have to blame Karen for introducing me to them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Look Mom! I'm Helping!

Miss Itty Bitty feels she is indispensible to the knitting process.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Its Finally Done!!!

The bathroom is done! Finally! It started off with a soft spot on the linoleum behind the toilet so we decided to tear out the floor. With the floor out, it seemed like a good time to repaint and go from the bright yellow to a slightly more mellow color. Then the vent fan died so we put in a new one. And since I have never liked the old light fixture (one of those bar lights with six bulbs that made you feel like you were on an airstrip when you brushed your teeth) we installed a new one one of those. Oh and lets do the door too while we're at it and sand out the old paint runs and drips. Well we're gonna need some new towels now.

For many months, everything has been done except laying the tile. Bob finally did that last week. Since this is the only bathroom in the house, he started the job on a Tuesday which is his day off, but not mine. Careful planning was done by all, meaning I fully utilized the facilities at work and bowling on Tuesday. The tile has to sit for 24 hours before you can grout it. So Wednesday morning was somewhat challenging for me, but in true "pioneer style" I managed quite well. The problems started when Bob we to put the toilet back in. The first flush indicated that the tank had become loosened in the move from the dining room back into the bathroom. Bob took the toilet out and proceeded to have an argument with it. The toilet lost. So Bob got to take a trip to Home Depot and purchase a new "low flow" toilet. (In answer to the questions on everyone's mind, yes, it is quite capable of handling everything we have put in it with no problem) Slight problem. The newer toilets are taller that the older models. Our new toilet is 29 inches high where the old one was 27. When installed, the new one fits under the counter, but we can't get the lid on the tank. The counter covers it so I have no problem with that. The new toilet seat is also slightly higher which took a little getting used to but I like it.

So here are the pictures you have all been waiting for. Now Bob thinks the tiles are slightly crooked, But I really don't see it. I think he did an awesome job!

I really love the tile floor!

The shower curtain is striped with pale blue, pale green and white: the colors of beach glass.

Yes, those are Bob's socks drying on the blockers.