Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gas Prices Up~~ the CDs Play On

I had just declared that I was cutting down on my fuel consumption when all kinds of trips, meetings, and opportunities came up. I'm using just about a tank a week, but at $4-Plus per gallon, that is way too much. I'm not buying a scooter, but I've dug out my tunes, and am enjoying my spendthrift ways.
The music is only partly the reason for my fantastic mood lately, but for this post, I'll talk about the music.
This pretty much started with the debut of the self-titled, Lady Antebellum CD. I liked the first release, and even went to see the group when they played at a local sports bar. They were bright, all of them good-looking, and more than personable. I seem to really gravitate to music with a heavy bass or drum-beat, and this CD is full of pieces like that. The opener, Love Don't Live Here is great. The words are good, too, especially if you have an ex who comes to mind when this plays. It's a "feel good" song for having been done wrong. "I'm over you, and you lose!" The rest of the music: Lookin' For a Good Time, All We'd Ever Need, Love's Lookin' Good on You, Can't Take My Eyes Off You, etc are all written by members of this group in any number of combinations. The music, the lyrics, and the spirit of this group just bounces out of the speakers, making this a wonderfully enjoyable CD. Track One is particularly great if you need to get tension out. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one is a 15!
Another winner, if just a few months old, is Gary Allan's Living Hard. This one starts out with the recent hit, Watching Airplanes. Other tracks of note are We Touched the Sun, As Long as You're Looking Back. When I first listened to this collection, I thought it might be a sort of healing piece after Allen's wife's suicide. But, listening more, I have decided that while there may be some dealing with that past, Gary is really stretching his music muscles with this. He sounds like the good-looking bad boy every girl wants to try out. I first became aware of him with his Smoke Rings in the Dark. His very sexy, almost growly voice in that one got my attention so many years ago, and when I got the chance to see him in person at the American Indian Summer Festival a few years ago, I wasn't disappointed. He's wildly sexy, and his constant reminders of his wife and children were as much a turn on as if he were actually stripping onstage. The growly, raw sexiness of Allan's voice comes through on each track as if it were standing alone. Half the songs beg the listener to crank the volume (especially if you're cruising down the highway with the sunroof open) and the nearly tribal drum beats don't hurt at all. My favorite of the entire CD is Like It's a Bad Thing. The play on words, as well as the wording itself just catches me right: "They say I drive fast; Say I like to push the limit; Everyday I'm living like it was my last -- I was put here to live and love; so, what if I don't do it like everybody else does".... that one is heard best at #11 on the volume dial.... I do believe I just about have that track worn out -- can CDs wear out?
I'm also playing some more Jimmy Buffett (only about 7 weeks to the concert!), and a couple of old Toby Keith CDs--can never get enough Toby Keith. Now I'm looking at Blake Shelton. He just redid Michael Buble's Home and I love it! Hope you give some of these a listen, I think you'll like them whether or not you like Country -- these are outside the country realm. Check out -- you can pull up anything you want to play FREE! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I really dislike politics, and read what I have to in the quest to elect the CORRECT candidate for President. Yuck.

But, I am perfectly willing -- nay, enthusiastically cheering for the world to recognize the beauty and splendor of sunsets over this notorious body of water in the southeastern corner of the State of Wisconsin.

I've been to Key West, where at the very least, hundreds of visitors and residents jockey for an unobstructed vantage point from which to watch the sun slide into the sea. The daily sunset celebration ceremony at Mallory Square, including fire-eaters, jugglers, and various and sundry street entertainers. It is said that if you see a green flash just as the sun melts into the sea, (an occurance that happens about as often as you see a comet or a shooting star) you've seen the "10" on the list of "Best Sunsets".

In Door County, Wisconsin, everything comes to a screeching halt as people park their cars, drag lawn chairs to the shore, even delay the start of Summer Stock Plays to savor the sight of Ol' Sol going down for the count. Some clap, some sigh, everyone appreciates.....

There are more to report, I am sure, but I am not very widely traveled, and I've come to love and cherish this sleepy/crazy burg called Lake Geneva. I love clouds, I watch birds, the water ever fascinates me. I have come to really appreciate our sunsets. Clouds make things more interesting for my lens. Different atmospheric conditions offer colors, streaks, and interesting designs. I will forever try to capture the beauty and delight that I see and feel with each sunset here.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of peers on this shoreline. People drive past and try to see what I am photographing, and never slow the car down. Others are rushing to the nearby bars to catch up with buddies and down more beer. People who flock to the local eateries vie for position, demand window tables, but never glance outside. In summer, boaters are coming and going at the dock, and in winter, I can only wonder what the ice fisherman are thinking as they sit on the ice, bathed in the colored glow of a spectacular sunset. I seem to be the only person looking up....

Witness these few images and tell me you will start to check it out, too. Just look. And appreciate..... Thank you.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Today is Good Friday -- the sacred Friday before Easter. It is also the day after a wondrously sunny First Day of Spring boasting 45 degrees. It is the wonderful Friday when we are sent home after working only half a day.

Well, today would have been a half-day of work ANYWAY because of the weather! The boss's ski trip might be cancelled because of snow! And the above are photos I snapped on the way home from work. Enticing, eh? (By the way, they ARE in color!)

"Welcome to Wisconsin"

You have to realize that I jest. No, not about the weather. The weather is happening, exactly as pictured above, as I type. What I'm joking about is the disgust in the weather. As Wisconsinites, we have been griping about the lack of snow for several years. I have active dogs, and we spend a lot of time outside, year-round. Without snow, I have nearly no grass left by Spring. I then spend the next four months trying to get grass to grow again. With the heavy snow cover we've enjoyed this season, I am certain to find grass just raring to be cut whenever the snow goes away. The real joke is the complaining so many people are doing these days about our winter. This year, we have finally seen winter as it used to be: cold and snowy days, again and again. I probably sound cocky because I finally have a decent car and it has a heater and it starts every day. I confess, lately, the dreary days have been getting the better of me, as well. But we have forgotten that Easter has come very early this year, and it is still the Month of March. We must lighten up!

No, I couldn't "go out and play" when I arrived home today, and I had to shovel the snow off the dog when I brought her in, but Spring will get here! I am getting my kayak gear ready -- just wait until the ice melts on the lake!

Monday, March 17, 2008


But I firmly believe that Spring is in the air!

Now that the days are getting longer, I can catch the sunsets after I get off work. There have been times that I snuck out into the parking lot to snap a few shots over the trees when the sky has been an incredible color, but now, I can take my time and go where I need to go to catch a shot like the one above.

Funny thing on the shot above; I had been driving east toward home, after Canoecopia on Saturday, and as it grew later, the sky just became grayer. Suddenly, I was nearly blinded by something in my rearview mirror. It was this sunset!!!! And the weird thing was that it was a well-defined round ball. I was afraid to wait until I got down to the lake, so I pulled over on the highway, and got out of the car to shoot. Other cars pulled over into the far lane, and most slowed down -- I imagine they thought I was some kind of lunatic and had no clue what I was photographing. This wasn't the most scenic composition I could have done, but I was afraid to lose that ball. I snapped several views, then proceeded down to the lake to see what I could get. As I'd guessed, it was grey and lifeless down there, so I continued on and headed home. As the road wound around and up, I caught another glimpse of the sun!

I turned down the next side street, and headed for the lakeshore. There, as I watched, the sun proceeded to sink QUICKLY! I sat on the street, and shot through my window, and barely caught anything I could use. It was astounding! The sun was gone!

If you see a crazy person slide suddenly to the side of the road, and jump out with a camera in her hand, it's probably me -- indeed I've probably spotted a hawk, an eagle, a great cloud formation, or a wonderful tree. I've got the beginning of a dream to produce a book of trees. I love trees! You'll have to keep an eye out for my book....

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


As you can see, I am up and typing once again. One day last week, as I paid my cable/internet bill, I saw that it was larger and there were items on it that I hadn't ordered. My phone call revealed that they had done an "upgrade" and my old tier now included some extra things that also cost extra. Lucky me. When I "opted out", they had to take down the service for a short time, and that took down the internet, as well. Turned everything back on. Oops..... not everything came back up -- my wireless router didn't know me anymore.

I called back to complain/ask for help. Was sent to tech support. Tech support took me through a whole bunch of hoops, all to no avail. I must say, that I needn't have worried about lack of exercise on THAT day! I had to unplug the cable box (the plug for that is behind the entertainment center which is snug up against the window seat and the wall); then unplug the modem box for 30 to 60 seconds (that plug is behind the computer desk, only reachable by standing on your head and squeezing between the chair and the side of the desk); unplug the wireless router (that one was easy, but I had to stand on the recliner to reach across the desk and the bookcase to where it was so the cat wouldn't toss it on the floor). I wondered if the guy on the phone could see me, because I had to repeat that exercise a few times before he gave up. He was nice enough to give me a phone number for tech support for the router company. Yay.

Of course, I wanted this resolved, so I dialed up the new tech support. I was greeted by a very young-sounding woman who didn't seem to understand me too well. EVERYTHING I said, she responded with "Uh-huh" "Uh-huh"... I kept feeling like she was just waiting for me to stop talking so she could say "Uh-huh" and feel that she was indeed helping me. The woman would be great as a psychotherapist. She had me unplug and plug things, then took me for a spin several times around and into the menus to flip switches and change readings. We chatted away about 30 minutes before she said: "I can't seem to help you, let me give you a number for one of our techs"!!!! I thought I was talking to a tech! Seems I really did get into some Big Guy's home phone and I apparently was talking to a 10-year-old! Oh, I thanked her for her help, and begged off -- I'd already been on the phone and been playing around with this for nearly three hours. I was tired, irritated, had to go to the bathroom, and was dying of thirst (forgot my trusty, rusty, ever-at-my-side water bottle in the other room). I was giving up.

The next day at work was rough, and I had no energy to call up Tech Support when I got home. Then, the weekend happened, and I had no time to play with wires. Finally, on Monday, I planned to spend at least three hours on the phone. I called the cable company, and it only took about twenty minutes to get everything working as it should through the cable. I had internet, but I couldn't unplug my laptop until the wireless was working. I called the wireless company, and this time was immediately connected to a woman who sounded like she knew what she was doing. We hit a snag when she wanted me to hook the laptop to the modem, hook the modem to the router, and hook the router to the laptop. I'd run out of wires. Glitch. Write down my case number, go buy a cable and call back later. Grrrrrrrrr.......

TUESDAY, after work ("No ma'am, my life really doesn't revolve around playing with computer equipment!"), I bought the cable, had my supper, then braced myself for some more computer abuse. I dialed in, gave my case number, and was immediately connected to a live tech. English-speaking, calm, knowledgeable. She ran a couple of tests, then had me hook up this wondrous cable monument (looked like I was playing Cat's in the Cradle with electronics--thank God, the cat was busy elsewhere!) We checked the connections, unplugged the extra cable, and....(drum-roll) it worked! I checked my email, answered a few queries, then shut the thing down. I didn't have the energy to do much more. Whew!

You know, for this same reason, I resisted buying a car with electric windows for many years -- when these things don't work, you're up the proverbial creek without a paddle; heck not even your arms to operate the paddle!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


This past weekend, I spent two days at Canoecopia, a Paddler's dream! Now, for you perverts who think this is something quite different, try turning your imagination to the water, and all "silent" sports thereof. There were canoes, kayaks, and even surfboards in evidence, as well as a full roster of lecturers on subjects complete from paddle methods to cooking in the woods.

I spent the entire last year with absolutely no energy for my kayak. It sat in the yard, looking lost and forlorn, and all I could do was glance at it guiltily once in a while. This year has to be different. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly two years since I dumped my kayak in the sand cave up on Lake Superior. It was cold and frightening, but the group I was with boasted some pretty experienced kayakers, and two of them were able to get me back into my kayak, towed me out of the cave, bailed out the boat, and got me back on track. It was three miles back to the mainland and, as I trembled from the overuse of adrenaline, I figured if I dumped again before we made it back to shore, they could just tow my lifeless body back.....

Anyway, this year, things are going to be different. For starters, I attended two lectures on rolling a kayak -- this is one skill I want to master this year. Of course, this class was taught by a red-headed guy with an accent (not sure if it was English or Australian), and I have no idea why that appeals to me so, but I was ready to follow him into heavy seas. I picked up a new set of tie-downs for transporting my kayak, and a new cockpit cover. I also found a portable deck light, so I don't have to race home as the sun goes down -- I can stay out on the water after dark!

I've been chasing the sunsets with my camera, and have heard the sandhill cranes' return, although I haven't spotted them yet. With the flip of the "Daylight Savings" switch, I am beginning to feel the sap of spring movement. Now, if the snow would just go away!


Sometimes my own thinking scares me. With the Winter dragging on and on and on, my dog and I both feel that we're prisoners in our own home. She's dying to get out and play soccer, take long walks by the lake, and just plain kick up her feet. Unfortunately, she's landed on her butt at least twice as many times as I have, and she's all too ready to come inside when I admit that the wind is just too damned cold to fight any longer. I signed up for a health club about the same time the record snows began to fall. Just after that, I came down with the world's longest-term cold-turned-to-bronchitis-turned-to-asthma. Haven't stepped foot in the health club since.... Talk about cabin fever!

I've gotten some knitting done, organized some of my photographs, am starting to learn to use my Photoshop program (found the Red-Eye tool!!!!), the last week, I've put in at least six hours on the phone with various techies to restore my internet after my cable company screwed it up. I think I've caught up with almost all of the past episodes of Two and a Half Men (can't seem to get enough!) and now I'm obsessing about the Gene Simmons series. I've never been a Kiss fan, but that guy rocks! Love it!

Soonly, as daylight takes hold over dark, maybe all this snow will begin to melt, and there will be solid ground beneath. At that time, my quest resumes to get this place packed up and find a real house in which to live. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Another Day....Another Day

Today is the eighty-third day of Winter here in the upper Midwest. As of Sunday, I have quit chastising others for complaining about the snow and cold. Winters here used to be like this. We had snow day, days without power because of crippling ice storms, and snow piled higher than a car EVERYWHERE. Sounds a lot like today, doesn't it?

The difference is, we were able to stay home from school, build snow forts, and go ice skating in the backyard. Now, the agenda entails making the sidewalk navigable, clearing the nearest fireplug, shoveling the driveway so I can get in and out for work, trying to walk the dog in all of this - particularly hard when the temperature makes it difficult to bear being outside. Sure, we can still build the snow forts and ice skate, but after a full day at work, and then the fight to keep a status quo at the homestead, who has the energy?

Times like this, I argue that Man is a creature who was meant to hibernate like the bears. Face it, we start putting up for the winter -- lay in the wool sweaters, get out the boots and comforters. A lot of us seem to have the tendency to bulk up at that time of year, as well. And with the shorter days, snoozing away the winter is a mighty tempting notion. As a positive person, I look forward to winter because I can pull my turtlenecks out of storage, and all the items I've been knitting get some use. True, when it's REALLY cold, I don't like to go outside, and when it snows a lot, I can't walk the dog ANYWHERE. But, Christmas is coming, and the chill in the air is invigorating, and I have high hopes. I rejoice on December 21st, the shortest day of the year, and then watch the skies each evening for later and later sunsets. It has worked for my state of mind for many years -- until this year. Up until Sunday, I was also enjoying the photos I was getting of the many faces of this fabulous winter.

This year is the year of weather records. The first January tornado happened just a few scant miles from my own abode. The temperatures haven't seen 30 degrees for more than a day or two since sometime in December, or was it November. We are counting a record number of inches of snowfall -- somewhere around 80 or 90 inches, last I heard. Yes, despite all that, I was still reveling in WINTER up until this past Sunday morning. What happened Sunday?

I was dog-sitting for some friends this past weekend, and I'd gotten up early to run over there and take care of the dogs. I was dressed, ready to go, and just had to take my own sweet dog out for her morning constitution. As we opened the door, I saw the wooden steps were clean, and the cement patio below them was also free of snow, but had about 1/2" inch of water pooled because it was pouring rain. No problem; I was dressed warmly, even had a hood on to keep the water off my head. I told the exuberant dog at the end of the leash to be careful because the piles of snow all around the patio were probably very slippery (you know, rain on top of snow in the cold = ice). She made it off the steps and into the snow without a problem. Turned out the ice at the bottom of my steps was incredibly clear and slick. I went from step off--straight to flat on my back in the aforementioned 1/2" of very cold rainwater. The shock of it all allowed enough time for the freezing water to soak into my down vest, cotton sweatshirt, turtleneck, jeans and even my socks! My shoes were the only things that stayed dry because they were in the air!

Of course, I couldn't get up fast, because I had no footing. My poor dog stood at the end of her leash hoping that she hadn't caused me to fall. Once on my feet, I couldn't go straight into the house -- if you tell a dog she's going out to potty, it's not polite to change the rules on her.

I changed my clothes then, and went on with my day. The dogs I tended were well-enough behaved so that I was able to let them go out into their yard while I watched over them. I was so "ice-shy" by this time, I was willing to walk around with a bucket of ice-melt the rest of the day. The cold, pouring rain continued until about three o'clock, when the temperature dropped back into "bitter cold" regions. All of the water that had fallen from the sky since morning was turning into ice. I was back to take care of the dogs twice more that day before I was able to go home, put on a bathrobe and curl up with my aches and pains.

Turned out, I wasn't terribly hurt, in fact I think the fall put my chronic hip problem back into place. But my body ached and I must have hit my shoulder good when I went down, because that started to hurt about Tuesday. I have been achy, out of sorts, and yearning for sun and warmth every waking moment since.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Books Are My Life... Books Are My Downfall

A week or so ago, I was in my favorite book store with a 25% coupon in hand. Do they know a mark when they see one? Of course, I can't stop at that one book at 25% off on top of my 10% member discount. I had to check out the sale shelves, the best-seller tables and a few other various and sundry nooks. In this hunt, I came upon a table marked "Must Haves". There was a book titled: "1000 Places You Must See Before You Die". That one was easy to leave befind, because I have my own list of places I want to visit -- I don't have to pay someone else $20 to tell me. There was "1000 Movies You Must Watch". Nope, didn't need that one either. The Ultimate Stupidest Book on Earth, in my opinion, is: "1000 Books You Must Read". Oh, come on! I need to spend $30 to find out that none of the 20,000 books on my shelves are listed?
Another thing that is starting to drive me nuts, is the fact that I am addicted to a certain kind of datebook, and for some, unknown reason, I am so far, unable to find it! The worst part of this is that my search is taking me into every available book store and newstand around! This is dangerous! I'm supposed to be packing up my belongings and getting ready to put this place up for sale. So far, I've just been getting more boxes for more books! My new house is going to need wall to wall to wall to wall bookshelves! I've got to get these all read so I can start getting rid of them. Wish me luck!

You Know You Spend Too Much Time on Your Computer if....

I put in a long day at work today, working at my computer for 8 1/2 hours, stopped for a quick salad, then went to my Photoshop Class for another couple of hours in front of my computer. Finally home, I sat down in the living room with the TV for company -- the football game was on, and I was trying to read the tiny print on the little scoreboard at the top of the screen. I know, I have a 19" TV, so reading anything isn't easy. I picked up the remote and looked at it for a minute, and finally realized that I was looking for "the button" that would "zoom" in on the portion of the screen I wanted to read.... Then I realized that I can't do that on my TV. I'm sure someone has a fancy set-up where they can do just that, but not my little TV.... Okay, you could call that a Brain Fart.... But wait, I'm not done.
Just a few minutes later, I was going through my mail, and my latest Bead Style magazine had come in. I was relaxing a bit, and sat back to browse through the mag. An ad caught my eye, and I was intrigued. I noticed the "www.blah-blah-blah" in the ad, and reached for the mouse. Ooops! Magazines don't come with a mouse. Again I was out of luck! Am I just burned out? Overtired? Overstimulated? Scary stuff here!
I don't know about you, Dear Reader, but with the advent of internet access at work, if the conversation in the office turns to weather, someone will click into the local weather report. We inform each other of current temperatures, lowest local gas prices, and race each other to see who can come up with a phone number without using a phone book. We've checked specials at our local restaurant, theatre times, and perusing our chosen "home page", can come up with the most bizarre facts, foibles and news du jour.
If you're location is urban, you are probably marvelling that I've FINALLY found the internet. Unfortunately, I tend to believe there are a lot more people who DON'T have this magic access and it would make their heads spin. The scary part is when we find ourselves without these conveniences.
Recently, I've taken full day trips to Chicago or Milwaukee with nothing more than my plain little cell phone to keep me connected to the rest of civilization. While driving, I find myself wondering about closing times at my favorite stores, and even debating the efficiency of driving to a store to see if they have what I want, as opposed to going online to see.
It's really crazy! I've always laughed at people who can't seem to function without their precious cell phones and laptops. I've become one of THEM!!!!!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Recent/Current Readings/Music

Sure I'm busy, and instead of reading, I should be PACKING all these books, but I just can't help myself!

Lately, I've been catching up with the Janet Evanovich/Stephanie Plum series. My mother is the one who introduced me to Evanovich, and I've undertaken this completely. I started out with the "10"th book, and proceeded to search out the rest. Believe it or not, these books are not easy to come by! I usually pick up used books at rummage/garage sales, Goodwill, and other thrift shops. Over the past year and a half, I've found just ONE book, number 7.... When a temp in our office needed some reading material, I brought in some of the tomes I have here at home. She riveted on the Stephanie Plumb series, and began to ask for more. I then went online to my favorite, and came up with the rest of the series for about $30, shipping included. I pride myself on being able to find bargains.

So, I am up to Three to Get Deadly, and am taking a slight break before I get to the next episode. They are absolutely addicting, and unless I want to just "check out" of real life, I have to temper my obsession.

My daughter has given me the Carol Alt book about raw diet, which is a little slower going, but I want to absorb what I'm reading. I was literally given a taste of raw diet while I was visiting her last week. I've been eating whole foods, approximately 80% since my bout with cancer eight years ago. Studying nutrition, foods, the human body, so there is a lot of information in the book that makes sense. Also, my daughter swears that she feels so much more vibrant and full of energy when she sticks to the raw diet. I was able to sample a wonderful spinach and garlic mixture over sprouted beans, as well as a taste of the raw chocolate/banana/nut butter shake she has for breakfast. Yum! I have also just received Naked Chocolate, by David Wolfe and Shazzie, which is supposed to be the "truth about the world's greatest food". I've paged through it and it looks fascinating! Can't wait to get a minute to check this one out!

Half Price Books knows a mark when they see one. Before my vacation, I received a postcard from them with a series of discount coupons that covered about one week: 40% off on Monday and Tuesday; 30% off on Wednesday and Thursday; 20% off on Saturday, and 50% off on Sunday..... Do they have a plan, or what. I was able to get out there on Tuesday, and came home with way too many books, and a CD or two; and I waited until Sunday, and took advantage of the big coupon. I came away with a couple of interesting cookbooks (obviously, I'm not completely into the RAW food thing yet), and another book on CD.

THAT one was by Jimmy Buffett, one of his later writings, called A Salty Piece of Land. I've been listening to that on in the car, and it is well worth the time invested. I am a little disappointed that Jimmy didn't read his own book, but with this being my first foray into Jimmy Buffett's writings OTHER than poetry and music, I am pleasantly surprised. The man is a storyteller, and apparently, writing fiction is just a natural offshoot of the rest of his talents. I also happen to have the hardcover copy of this book, and I'm so taken by this book that I am following along in the book when I'm getting ready to go to bed. It's THAT good!

Other books I picked up are about nutrition and the somewhat NEW subject of rebuilding your body. I am scheduled for a bone scan tomorrow, and even with the evidence of my blood test and other clinicals indicating that I am free of cancer still, I am dealing with chronic back pain, bad enough that I cannot sleep comfortably in a bed, a night in a recliner is much more comfortable. Healing nutrition for arthritic conditions, and, once again, rebuilding debilitated tissue.

I heard the newest Eagles music on the Country station I love. When the news broke that the CD was ready in stores, I checked it out. Call me petty, but although the price was right: $11.88, the double CD is presented in a cardboard folder, not your plastic jewel case. I nearly left it on the shelf. I know, it sounds petty, but because of the way I haul these things around and they get would be better off in a sturdy hard case... Oh well. The music is definitely Eagles, and some of it sounds a little "familiar", but isn't that the nature of your favorite artist? The writing is good, the music is good. Some of the pieces will definitely get me into trouble in the nearby burg next summer -- they ticket vehicles driving through town who have the music a little too loud.

Other music? More Jimmy Buffett -- what else?

Hello, IKEA!!

Recently, I found myself about an hour away from home, with some time on my hands. I was on the way home from the Airport, and was going to stop at the vet to pick up my cat, but had some time I had to kill. That was a great excuse to stop at the Cheesecake Factory for a late lunch, and on the way to that stop, I passed the IKEA store, just off the expressway. I thought I could spend about a half an hour there and see what all the fuss was about.

My only experience with IKEA was through borrowed catalogs that I'd mooched off of friends who were in the process of furnishing apartments or "first" residences away from Mom and Dad. It looked cool, but I thought some of the prices were out of reach and I could always furnish through Goodwill, or the local rubbish day.

Immediately upon my arrival, my eyes were opened, WIDE! Not only are high prices NOT the norm here, but the sparse, European styling is not the only choice. I found no less than a half dozen ideas for appointing a bedroom, didn't even bother to walk slowely through the kitchen department.... I made a few purchases in the area designated for office appointments, and nearly bought too much in the children's department. My cats have new bowls, and a new reading lamp has yet to be assembled for my living room/work area.

I am in the process of trying to get my house packed and ready for sale, and at this point, I don't have a definite place to plan on decorating. The reality is that I don't know WHEN I will be moving -- depends on how long the house is for sale... at that point, I can make my plans. In the meantime, I am perusing my new IKEA catalog and planning my new bedroom, living room, dining room, work room, etc, etc, etc....

Let's Go to Maryland!

Travel.... I love to travel, but I want to be home with my "things" and my animals, and my routine/non-routine. But I have EMBRACED every trip I've taken in recent years.

Up to six years ago, I was "tied down" by a husband or significant other, and THEY did not want to travel. Talk about insecurities.... My one and only vacation with my first husband was a four-day car trip to FLORIDA. We left about noon, and drove throughtout the remainder of the day and through the night all the way to Pensecola. My biggest disappointment was the lack of palm trees! I thought all of Florida had palm trees. No. I was able to spend a half hour in the ocean, and we found his cousin's house, shared supper, and were off again. Yay. There was no other stopping or sightseeing, we were in constant motion, and I am not sure what he was trying to accomplish. I was less than thrilled.

Exciting trips I've enjoyed since then have been long weekends up north, camping on a penninsula on Lake Michigan; camping on the shore of Lake Superior; visiting my daughter at her prestigious college campus in New England; a couple days on my own in Vermont and Maine (not enough time! not enough time!); a wonderful nine days with my daughter, driving from one adventure to another in the State of Arizona; exploring the tropical wonders of Floridas Keys, both alone and with my best friend~~in a tent and exploring the crazy motels from days gone by; my first taste of Las Vegas; and most recently, the exploration on several different trips of the Washington D.C. area.

Why am I writing about this? Why should you care? The facts are: I am a single female, okay, I'm what may be considered "middle age"... disgraceful term, isn't it? The really disgraceful part of this, is that I've just learned about enjoying travel. When I was younger, and had a child to care for, I worked hard, and sometimes earned the right to take time off from work, sometimes, even paid time off. However, I obsessed, and stressed about it so much, that I often cancelled any travel and opted for staying home and tending to business/busyness at home. I currently am entitled to three weeks' vacation per year, and it's all in my hands. The problem at this point, is there are so many places I want to go and things I want to see and do, and there is so little time.....

I root for Maryland at this time, because I've just recently returned from there -- I visited my daughter and her family. We went to the National Zoo, visited Alexandria a couple of times -- it's close by, and my daughter and I both have some favorite shops and cafes in the neighborhood and visited Mount Vernon. The remainder of the time out there was family time and getting ready for a great Halloween Party. I want to get back there and see more of the Smithsonian offerings on the Mall, visit the Monuments again -- I'd seen them once when she first moved out there, but would like to see them in nice weather and at a more leisure pace than the first time.

I want to get out to the shore, see the Chesapeake Bay, and see more places like Annapolis, etc. There is a sheep farm we were going to visit this last time, but the rain was awful and not exactly conducive to roaming through barnyards.

I have friends who are planning trips to Hawaii, Mexico, France, Italy, Africa, Greenland, Belize, and so on..... But there is so much to do in this country!!! I fell in love with Arizona, and am still planning to go back to the Grand Canyon for a backpack hike down the Bright Angel trail. I don't know WHEN I'm going to do it, but I am going to do it. How does one fit all this in, with only three weeks' vacation? I'd apply for a job as an over-the-road truck driver, except, I don't want to be away from home for that much time.... Maybe I should get rid of the house and the job, buy a motorhome, and take this act on the road.... I'll get back to you.


I will shout to anyone who will listen that Two and A Half Men is my ultimate favorite TV show. At the same time, I have to tell you that I do not clear my schedule on certain nights, I don't avoid people.... okay, there are times I just don't answer my phone because it rings at the wrong time. God forbid, if I AM sitting in front of my favorite show, I am not going to interrupt it just to tell some idiot that I really do not need a satellite dish.

Back to Two and A Half Men.... The writers are brilliant, the talents mesh beautifully, and it is just plain FUNNY!!!! Tonight, I came straight home from work, found a can of something to heat up, and sat down to see what I was going to accomplish tonight, a whole night at home, for a change. Browsing the channels, I found TAAHM reruns on a Chicago station, filling space opposite local news. I was there. Turned out to be an episode I hadn't yet seen~~~~ Charlie was pretending to be gay to get in the good graces of a contact that gave him lots of jingle work (he supposedly writes ad copy and jingles for commercials). He was invited to bring his "significant other" to a cocktail party, and proceeded to convince his brother Allen to be his "date". Needless to say, Jon Crier filled the bill quite well, and even elicited a pass from the host in the form of a weekend invitation to Big Sur.

At the same time, the young Jake had heard that one out of three men suffer from erectile dysfunction, and since he didn't have a problem, he figured it was his father or his uncle. Of course, the mother stumbles into all this and is enjoying the discomfort of her over-confident, super-cocky (yes, enjoy the pun)oldest son. I decided right then and there, that this is going to be a series that I am going to own on DVD. My best friend also loves this show, but the rest of my world can't seem to understand the attraction of this mostly sarcastic, basically outright mean cast of characters. I love it! Go Charlie! Go Allen! Go Jake! Keep up the great work!!!!!

P.S. I'm hoping that a good number of these episodes are already written and the Writer's strike will be short-lived.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jimmy Buffett Doesn't Live Here, But I Wish He Did...

I grew up loving the Beatles, didn't like the Rolling Stones - they were "bad boys". The Beach Boys were okay, but Elvis was a bore -- I had to listen to Elvis because my older sisters listened to him, so he was "old" to me by the time I had a choice.

As I started to buy and collect 45s, I did get one Elvis record, but the rest were mostly of the British Invasion: The Kinks, The Animals, the Dave Clark Five -- and yes, every piece of vinyl the Beatles produced. I even got the cleaver/raw meat/broken doll cover of one of the LPs that was quickly covered up. My sister and I spent an afternoon peeling the "innocent" cover off of it, probably rendering it forever worthless..... I never checked that out - I really wasn't interested in selling it.

Even later on, I didn't listen to much else. When Aerosmith, AC/DC, Kiss, Michael Jackson, Bob Seger, and Jimmy Buffett came along, I found Billy Joel, the Guess Who, Barry Manilow (I'll admit it!). I knew some of the other music, but when I did pick up an album, I found I'd like only one or two of the songs out of the whole list. In the late seventies, my whole family (Mom, Dad, sisters, brother and their various spouses found a great local band called the Brite Set, and we followed them around the area. Their shows introduced me to The Who, Leonard Skynnard, and The Boss. I still didn't get far out of my own circle of preferences, which including Harry Chapin and Jim Croce.

The early eighties seemed like the death of music as we knew it, and I found Country. Country music was evolving -- true country enthusiasts claim that was the "Murder on Music Row", but it turned out to be a genre to which I was attracted. Alabama was my first big crush -- I even have a photo of them signing autographs at the Crystal Lake K-Mart. Thinking about that now just blows my mind! Vince Gill has the voice of an angel. Johnny Cash, Mel Tillis, Kenny Rogers, and on and on. I am a true-blue fan of today's country music, and quite a bit of the old country music.

So, how have I become a Parrot-Head? "Margaritaville" has always been one of those songs that caught my ear -- I love the play on words, the change of heart within the song, and the melody's not so bad, either. Three years ago, I was scheduled to travel to Miami for a conference. The conference was only four days, and I had plenty of vacation time, and I needed a vacation. So I took a look at the Florida map and discovered that Miami was at the lower tip of the state. I never knew that, I'd never had any intention of going to Florida. Further search showed that the Florida Keys were just below that. The legend indicated that Key West was 137 miles from Miami, and I was intrigued.

I spent about two months researching and planning a few extra days into the Keys, after the conference. I really didn't have much money, so I reserved a campsite down in the keys, and packed my backpack tent and sleeping bag. Unfortunately, I was going to have to eat out all the time, but I was going to be out exploring most of the time, so it wasn't going to be too bad. I'd discovered a kayak outfitter and scheduled a kayak trip into the mangroves, and I'd found out that the famous Jimmy Buffett had a restaurant on the infamous Duvall Street, I was on a mission.

That trip, I was in the Keys for just three days, but I'd gotten "the Bug" and was hooked on anything "island". I took myself to lunch for my birthday at Margaritaville, and was immersed in the Jimmy Buffett experience. Upon arrival home, I began to buy up old Jimmy Buffett music. The delight I found in the song, "Margaritaville" carried over to his other songs; each was a story, a mini-movie, a little bit of biography. I realize that JB probably hasn't written EVERY song he sings, but I'd be terribly disappointed if he wasn't really as he seems through his music and his other writings.

I've been back to Key West again, and even entered a contest to try to win a job in Key West. My time is too short, or I'd run down there more often, but my state of mind is more and more on Island Time, and specifically in Jimmy Buffett modality. I continue to add to my CD collection of his music, I stream Radio Margaritaville, and I've only been to one of his concerts. Whether or not I get to spend any more time in Key West, I am definitely aiming for a life as depicted.

My favorite JB song? "Fruitcakes"! I feel it is the epitome of the sarcastic, cock-eyed look at people -- sort of the way I see people. I love it! This is the song that makes me think that Jimmy would be a person I'd like to sit down and sip Margaritas with on the lake shore. Okay, if I had to go to the Keys again, I would.... What do you say, Jimmy Buffet? Up for some Heart to Heart?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

This Way, I Didn't Spend Much on Wool....

This weekend, I was looking forward to attending the Midwest Sheep and Wool Show in Jefferson. Arriving yesterday, I was tickled to find out I was parked very near the Stock Dog Demo area. There were only two demonstrations for the day, and I'd missed the first one. I noted the time for the second one, and went inside to find some wool with my name on it. Things inside were so awesome, however, that I missed the second demo.

Coming out of the barn and heading toward my car, I was delighted to see that something was still going on. Turned out that the trainer was holding classes for people who had signed up ahead of time, and I ended up getting some great photos after all. I was stationed near the entry gate, and two women were discussing the merits of the dog they had brought. I overheard that they had entered their "Abby" for an Instinct Test. My ears perked up and I moved closer. Finally, I had to ask about their dog.

Their Abby is a pampered apartment dog, and she performed fantastically. I got very interested in the details, and ended up talking at length with the trainer. She encouraged me to bring my own dog, even checking and verifying that she had an opening this afternoon. She gave me a registration form and told me to think about it. Consider this: Abby is little more than an apartment dog -- woo-hoo! she has a big yard! But otherwise, she also has her own, fluffy bed (or mine...) and probably the World's Largest Treat Cabinet. She's nine years old, and if she's ever seen a sheep before, it was from a car going about 45 miles per hour!

Getting home last night I began with the pep talk, telling Abby she was going with me tomorrow, and she'd better get a good night's sleep. She gave me her "big eye" look and circled around , and went to sleep.

We both woke up early and Abby posted herself at the door, just making sure I wouldn't forget her when I left. I got the usual done, and packed a bag for Abby: extra water bowl -- bottles of water, poop bags, treats...and ..... camera......

Abby gets excited if I let her come along to pick up the mail from our mailbox on the highway. The drive to Jefferson, she was ON and kept watch over my shoulder the entire hour's drive. Once we pulled into the fairgrounds, she spotted some dogs and the excitement escalated. She was definitely "ON". We walked up to the stock dog trailer, and she was VERY interested in the sheep that were penned on the one side. They were very leery of her, so I held her back so she wouldn't start a stampede or anything. We went up to Joyce and let her know we were signing in, then headed for registration. Coming back out, we headed over to watch the stock dog demo, and Abby tuned in immediately as a guy brought the Indian Runner Ducks out and put them in a pen in the center of the arena. She could barely contain herself, and I had to keep a good grip on her leash, because she found a hole in the fence that I'm sure she could have fit through if I'd let her go.

Once the demo started, Abby was restless, but I was able to stay fairly near the fence and get some good photos. Things were good. I was glad she found things interesting, but I was still nervous about what might happen later on in the afternoon. The demo ended, and some other people and dogs came into the arena, and both Abby and I were riveted to the spot until they broke for lunch.

We wandered around a bit, and found ourselves out in the back "40" and watching real stock dog trials. The field they were working was massive, and it was ringed by eight-foot cyclone fencing, a combination that was absolute death for photography. Abby, on the other hand, was mesmerized. The crowd was light, so we sat down in front and watched a couple of trials. The last dog totally botched her test, and Abby was beside herself. I swear she was determined to go out there and help. I was watching the clock, and we had to go back over to the other side for Abby's test.

We walked up as Joyce was finishing her demo, and answering questions. As we stood there, she looked up at me and asked if we were ready. "Us?" I asked? I thought we were last on the list, but since no one else with a dog was around, I figured it would be great to let Abby get it over with.

Joyce knew we had been talking about a nine-year-old dog, but she acted surprised when she saw Abby. I have to say, she does not look nine! I introduced Abby to Joyce and vice versa, then handed the leash over to Joyce, who led Abby into the chute leading to the arena. Abby didn't hesitate. Let me stop here to clarify: Abby, who will not part with me in public to allow me to go to the bathroom without her; Abby, who howled all through my friend, Bruce's talk when he tried to use her as demo dog for Animal Massage; Abby who didn't use to trust ANYBODY..... THAT Abby, went trotting off with the woman who had three sheep waiting at the other end of the arena. Oh, once she looked back at me, but it seemed more to assure me than for herself! It felt like my daughter's first day of kindergarten all over again.

Joyce led her across the arena, then stopped to talk to Abby, and unsnapped her leash with a flourish toward the sheep. Abby started out walking, then with a word of encouragement, she began to trot, and then run toward the sheep. Somehow, Joyce was keeping both the sheep and Abby close to her. I wasn't sure before this what Abby's reaction would be. Half of me was worried that she would chomp onto the leg of one of those creatures and take it down like a lioness on a gazelle (we DO watch a lot of animal planet). Another part of me wondered if she would decide that this was NOT her cup of tea and try to climb the fence OUT!

Well, if I've ever had a doubt that Abby is at least part Border Collie, she has rid me of doubts from here on in. She took off after the sheep as though she knew what the different ques meant. At the beginning, she was a bit too agressive, and Joyce was not holding her back, to make sure that she didn't get discouraged. Once she'd just about winded herself, however, Joyce stepped forward with her staff and started to slow Abby down and direct her a little more. There was one instance when she heard the ducks quack in their pen and she realized she could see them, but it didn't take Joyce much to call her away from there, and back to the sheep. They took a short break at one point, and Joyce worked her again for another few minutes. Joyce was working with a microphone, and announced to the crowd that Abby had done a great job. The audience clapped and Abby had the biggest grin on her face (I didn't catch that with the camera, I was beaming a little too much myself!)

Afterward, Abby took a dunk in the little tank Joyce keeps on the side for just that purpose. We stepped aside, and I thought I could hang around and get a few more photographs, but Abby couldn't wind down, and she wanted SO BAD to get back in there and help whatever dog was working HERD THOSE SHEEP!

I think we have a new hobby.....

Friday, September 07, 2007


I guess I needn't be THAT amazed -- after all, children can operate the intricacies of the computer, the internet and even some forms of Photo imaging software. I really don't know why I find it such a challenge. This one scared me -- I thought for sure I was going to get all 351 images posted on my blog!
As you may see, I am making some progress. I have signed up for an online photoessentials course through hp. I have completed Lesson #1 with a 100% score..... Yay -- it amounted to reading the material, downloading the program (which I'd already done), and making a comment on the Chat Board. Oh, yes, there was a quiz -- hence the score. Tomorrow, I'll tackle Lesson #2.... Wish me luck.
My ultimate goal is to conquer this beast and the other beast, my digital SLR camera. I wasn't really afraid of the camera. I'd carried a 35mm SLR for years, and felt pretty slick with it. I did a fairly decent job with that camera... It took me a long time to rationalize the expenditure for a digital camera, let alone an SLR. I was feeling cocky, and not at all afraid. I had purchased an "interim" digital -- a fairly high end zoom camera that took some awesome images. The jump to an SLR digital was daunting. For starters, because I purchased an off-brand lens, it took me three hours and the manual to figure out how to take my first picture. I was sitting in Caribou Coffee and had a VERY LARGE coffee in front of me to keep me company. I don't know if people were staring at me and wondering what I was doing or not. But I finally found the answer. Once I conquered THAT obstruction, it just took a couple of minutes scanning the manual to figure out how to work a few more of the doodads on the camera. I was off and running.....
I've been a crazy person with a camera ever since. I always knew that unlimited photo potential and me would be dangerous. Well, I haven't broken any records, nor made my mark like Ansel Adams just yet.... I have to figure out Photoshop......
I guess the most fun is experimenting to see WHAT I can do with the camera. Above is my favorite recent example: a jellyfish in the crazy, warped aquarium at the zoo, IN THE DARK!!!!!
The last time I was there, I caught one image that was halfway decent.... some thought, some experimentation, and now some practice, this is what I can do.... Only the world awaits!

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Why is it that everytime I FINALLY get a chance to sit down in front of the computer, I get sleepy?????