Where Does the Time Go?

End of May we got together with an old friend. He lives in Maryland but was going to be in Wisconsin for a funeral. I estimate it has been over 30 years since we have all seen each other face to face.

We met Jon, and at that time, his wife Molly, when we were in graduate school at Northern Illinois University. Curt was a Graduate student in Ceramics and Jon was one of his ceramics professors. The unusual part was Jon and Curt were the same age, separated by 25 days, Curt being the older. A friendship and a mutual respect developed between the two of them. I got to know Molly better and the four of us became friends. Once we graduated, we left Illinois. There was no email then, no Facebook so  but kept in contact with each other through letters and Christmas cards. Jon and Molly visited us once in Green Bay and we visited them once in Maryland.

Then: Curt and Jon

But over the years the cards and letters got fewer, life happened, as it does, and we lost track of each other. A few years ago I found Jon (or he found me) on Facebook. Our mutual interest in birds, love of food and Jon’s connection to Wisconsin (he was born here) brought us together. He was going to be in LaCrosse in May and then planned on doing some camping in Door County, so we knew this was the time to rekindle an old friendship. In the intervening years there has been homes in 5 states, 3 children raised (He-2, Us-1), careers built, a divorce, less hair, gray acquired and a couple of retirements. But here we were again eating and talking and laughing.

Now: Curt and Jon

Funny thing with good friends, the conversation picked up like we just saw each other yesterday. And with that many years gone by we had a lot of catching up to do.


I’m sure you’ve noticed the proliferation of advertising for prescription drugs on the TV in recent years. Gone are the days when the name of a drug might give you some understanding of what it does. The names are often a meaningless and atypical grouping of letters (with frequent use of “bohemian” letters like J, V, X, Y & Z) that are intended to make the drug name stand out but instead makes them all start sounding the same.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been keeping track of the drugs (mostly prescription but a few over-the-counter) advertised on broadcast TV during prime time. I’ve come up with 31 different drugs although I’m sure I’ve missed some.

In looking over the names it occurred to me that many of them would be great Scrabble or Words-with-Friends words (if proper names were allowed) so I tallied the scores each would bring, not counting any double/triple letter/word bonuses.  Any thing above 15 is a respectable score but some drug companies are just not trying very hard to win the game and use too many low scoring vowels and consonants in too short names.  A few load the deck, using hardly any vowels and extra “bohemian” consonants.

Of course, their scoring potential aside, I doubt you could tell me what more than a handful of these drugs are for.

The addition of the X saves the day with a score of 19

Score = 8    Too short, too many low scoring vowels

Score = 13

Score = 20

Score = 17

Score = 16

Score = 18

Score = 11

Score = 13

Score = 15

Score = 18

Score = 16

Score = 15

Score = 16

Score = 11

Score = 17

Score = 21

Score = 15

Score = 12

Score = 12

Score = 12

Score = 14

Score = 14

Score = 14

Score = 10

Score = 21

Score = 14

The winner at 39 points. Too bad there aren’t two Xs in Scrabble

Score = 24  Good job of packing the high scoring letters into a short name

Score = 17

Score = 20

Not Dead Yet

I can’t believe it has been almost a month since I last posted any recipes, book notes, inspiring stories or general ramblings. What have I been doing? A friend of mine emailed me wondering if I was well since she hadn’t seen any postings. Well, let me rack my brain, what have I been doing?

Since we last talked on March 8…

• I have attended two different book groups.
• Sold two journals, one was a custom order so I had to build that one.
Brushed the cat
• Worked on a brain hat for the March for Science. ( I made Pussy Hats so I know I can  make Brain hats)
• Got the taxes done
• Worked the Big Book Sale at my library
My son was home and he brushed the cat.
• Raked lawn (we had one warm day)
• Baked a batch of ‘They Might Be Breakfast’ cookies (from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan)
• Baked Raisin Bars (same as above)
• Continued at the Health Club 2x a week exercising and strengthening my new knee
Brushed the cat.
• Got on an embroidery craze. (Worked on my Stitch a Day project and finished one auxiliary project and started another)
• Binge watched season 3 of Grace and Frankie.
• Binge watched Season 3 of Chef’s Table
Brushed the cat. (Damn! She should be bald by now.)
• Read or listened to 8 books (3 graphic novels, 3 audio books, 2 book books)
• Got my hair cut
• Went to the chiropractor
• Did a little birding, (added grackle, cowbird, sandhill crane, black duck, hooded merganser, northern shoveler, killdeer, redhead duck, lesser scaup, song sparrow, ringneck duck, coot and white pelican to my 2017 list)

Starting upper left: custom journal, Chef’s Table, Raking, Stitch a Day, The Cat, Cookies, Hooded Merganser, Book Sale Boxes, Knitting brains, Leg Press, Embroidery 1, Embroidery 2, Reading, The Cat again!

And then when you add in all those pesky weekly and daily chores like washing dishes laundry and grocery shopping…well, I guess I’ve been busy. So to my friend in Colorado, I’m alive, sort of busy, but nothing too exciting. Unless you count filling up a grocery bag with cat hair exciting. Hmm, I think we can build a new kitten from all that hair.

Another Idea to Try: The Street Store

Lately in some of the various magazines and publications I read I have been coming across little ways to make a difference. Some are just simple ideas or information that might just make life easier. Whether that be in my life or in the lives of others. Many times it has something to do with the environment because that is where my mind is these days. Some I can do personally but many times there are projects or initiatives that I know someone or a group of someones out there might just seize on. Maybe you are in the right place, or have the right resources or you know someone who would be the perfect partner.  Anyway, I’ve decided that when I find one of these I am going to do a very short post. Who knows? It might make a difference somewhere.

Today I went to send out a link to The Street Store. It is a pop-up clothing store for the homeless. Watch the video. It is a great idea and if you live in a city or town it might be perfect for you. It started in Cape Town, South Africa but it has expanded to many places around the world including the United States. So what is: “The world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “pop-up clothing store” for the poor, found entirely on the street.

Their mission is to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, making it easier to donate and more dignified to receive.

This store is made just out of posters where you “hang up” donated clothes and drop shoes into “boxes”, and then the homeless help themselves. All of the art work is sent to you, free of charge.”

So watch the video, pass it on if you know someone who might be able to do this, or just be amazed that in spite of it all there are good things going on in this world.

A pop-up Street Store

Institutional Food #2 – The Rehab Facility

So I was discharged from the hospital at 11:00 am and got to the Rehab Facility around 11:30. Got checked in and installed in my room by 12:30 pm. I know someone asked me if I had eaten and something was brought to me but that is lost in the mists. Probably because dinner that evening was very memorable, a Pizza Burger.

Now before I go any farther I have to explain the meal situation at this place. It is an  Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Facility. That means there are short-timers in rehab, like me, and there are long-timers or people who actually live here. We are separated into two wings but we can intermingle. I could have gone over to the other side for Bingo and a Packer Party on Sunday but I passed. Long-timers are mostly elderly seniors (Hey! who you looking at?) and as a group they mostly want their noon meal to be the main meal (what I call dinner) and their evening meal light ( what I would call lunch). They outnumber us so that’s how the meals are served. This will all make sense later.

Now, the Pizza Burger. As in the hospital you get a little menu ticket. On it are usually two choices for a main and then a bunch of sides. You can circle everything if you want. I think one of the choices that night was fish so I went with the Pizza Burger, on my Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) recommendation. Later, I had to remind myself that I really didn’t know anything about their taste in food so recommendations were a crap shoot.

Pizza Burger

Pizza Burger

My dinner included a very soft bun, a beef patty covered in Marinara sauce and a few bits of cheese, a bag of chips and yellow jello w/ cool whip top. But that’s not all that made this a PIZZA burger. When I bit into it, surprise! it was stuffed with mozzarella. The cole slaw was good.

After getting pancake/sausage bites one morning for breakfast, I decided to stick with cereal, raisin bran, because I needed to stay ‘regular’. However this place is the same as the hospital, that is, make sure you ask for everything. If you don’t circle milk, you’ll eat your cereal dry. And the raisins are usually dumped in a pile in the middle. So I would break up the clump and get some milk and it was a good breakfast.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three year old would love them.

Sausage/pancake bites are soggy pancakes around breakfast sausage with some syrup for dip. A three-year old would love them.

Remember my explanation of lunch vs dinner servings? This is what I mean.

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

Meatloaf, Turkey and Swedish Meatballs

These were usually pretty good but whoa, that’s a lot of food for lunch. Each had a dessert and beverage as well. Veggies could have been crisper but I don’t think they were from a can. Then there was dinner.

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a bisquit (right)

Billed as chicken salad (left) and potpie on a biscuit (right)

On the menu it said chicken salad on tomato slices. I love chicken salad but an ice cream scoop of salad on one little tomato slice was pretty disappointing. Potpie on a biscuit was also a controlled serving. More like chicken a la king. It was fine but I wanted more! And come on folks! It was September. Our garden and our local Farmer’s Market still had really good tomatoes coming in. So did the grocery stores. Where are the people at this facility forced to shop? Here’s what I mean. One night a BLT was on the menu. Well can anyone resist a bacon sandwich, with a red ripe tomato and crispy lettuce on toasted bread? Sorry. This just didn’t come close.bbllttFortunately when I got home my Sweetie made me a BLT worthy of the name.

Finally, did you recall that tossed salad I praised in my hospital food post? When I saw tossed salad on my Rehab menu I thought oh yes! that will make up for any sins of limp bread, pink tomatoes or fruit cocktail. However, one tossed salad is not like another.

1. Actually different items to toss 2. iceberg lettuce.

1. Actually different items to toss (hospital) 2. Iceberg lettuce (rehab)

Oh well. I don’t mean to diss the food service at rehab too badly. The food came pretty promptly, I had choices and except for a few missteps, it was all edible, sometimes pretty tasty. However the whole time I was there I kept clicking my heels and repeating, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

I Had a Little Adventure

Hello there. I’ve been off having a bit of an adventure. Well if you can call knee replacement surgery an adventure. But after numerous cortisone shots, repair of torn meniscus six years ago, more injections ( this time some stuff made from cock’s combs that helped lubricate all those bone-on-bone moments ) and finally bone spurs that did me in, I had to have the whole darn thing replaced. It was the last resort.

Here’s my leg, the afternoon of September 20th, almost two weeks ago.

About three hours after surgery

About three hours after surgery

I was propped up on a machine I called the sled (I guess it looked like a one-legged toboggan to me) which was slowly pumping my leg , moving it up and down. My feet had little pumps on them, keeping the blood movin’ and the big blue thing is an ice pack. The tube on the far end is attached to an ice chest on the floor. Icy water is flowing through that tube and into that honeycomb pattern. It is very effective. I have spared you all of the wrapping and ace bandages and staples and ripe red plum bruising and I promise you won’t see any further down the line.

I am home now with my crutch, my walker and my exercise plan. But three nights in the hospital and eight nights at a rehab facility have certainly provided the fuel for a few more posts. Food, definitely, will be at the top of the list.

So as I continue to heal, stay tuned for reports from the field. A few from my fun time away and a few from my homecoming. Hey, If you can’t complain and laugh about a situation you don’t have any business going into it in the first place. See you soon.


Last week I spent three fabulous days with two dear, dear friends from high school  (graduation: June 1967). We have been getting together on and off over the years either going out to Colorado to where Lynn lives or up here in Wisconsin with me or to Arlington Heights in Illinois, Audrey’s stomping ground. Last year we got together in Santa Fe, New Mexico and vowed that we would not let years go by before getting together.

Reason 1) We ain’t getting any younger.

Reason 2) We heard about the untimely death of one of our former friends.

Granted we had lost touch with Sue but it still was a shock to hear of her death in a car accident. In high school we used to be a “group” of five but Marie left us very early from a severe health issue. Then we were all working on marriage and kids and everything else that comes with life so we hadn’t even started to think about our mortality or getting together to celebrate old times, since those times weren’t that far in the past.

But hold on, this wasn’t supposed to get so maudlin. This year was our 2nd consecutive gathering and I was not going to miss it no matter what. That meant hobbling around on my arthritis riddled knees (coming up this fall: knee replacement ). So with drugs and a knee sleeve, I made it. Of course my besties sure made it easy. We held back on the walking (the tram around the Chicago Botanical Garden was great) and Audrey even had a small stool for getting into the back seat of the van. However the bag of frozen carrots I iced my knee with in the evenings might never be the same. The rest of the time we talked and ate, and laughed and drank, and talked and ate some more. Another year, solving all the problems in the world. We’ve all had our trials and tribulations, our health issues and setbacks, our joys and celebrations. It was good to share them. So I am ending here with some pictures that I know Audrey is going to kill me for posting. I subscribed her to my blog last week but I think I heard her say something about not wanting to see herself on it. Close your eyes Aud!!

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that's what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Then: circa 1967. Looks like Aud and Lynn went to the same hair salon. Hmm, so that’s what they did on those weekend outings without me.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles.

Now: circa 2016. Looks about the same to me except Aud and I have exchanged smiles. (from left – Jeanne, Audrey, Lynn)

Rule of thumb: Planting Potatoes

dandelions blooming

Rules of thumb are common guides to navigating everyday life without having to refer to some authority. Wickipedia says the term is thought to originate with carpenters who used the length of the tip of their thumb (approximately 1 inch) as a handy – get it, handy – unit of measure rather than resorting to a ruler. In general, rules of thumb are principles with broad application not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. They are easily learned and easily applied for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.

Farmers have many rules of thumb.  One that I remember and invoked today was “Plant you potatoes when dandelions bloom in an open field”.  The logic is that the weather (and soil) is warm enough for the seed potatoes to flourish.  Why in an “open field”?  Because the soil near a foundation is warmer than the soil in a field and dandelions will bloom near a foundation days or weeks earlier than those in a open field where the soil will still be too cool.

These wizened things will sprout in several weeks and yield a nice small but nice crop of Russian Banana potatoes.

These wizened things will sprout in several weeks and yield a small but nice crop of Russian Banana fingerling-type potatoes.

Another Turn of the Page: Those Who Read

“When I am dead, I hope it may be said: “His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”
Hilaire Belloc

redshelfThis is the report on our February meeting so naturally I started looking for red books, red shelves, red things…Valentine’s references of course. Once I had the shelf I just couldn’t resist the quote I found from Hilaire Belloc but then I thought who is this Belloc person? Seems that Hiliare Belloc was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. Well that surprised me, I’d have thought I would have at least heard of the man. The article I looked at also went on to say that, “He has been called one of the Big Four of Edwardian Letters, along with H.G.Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and G. K. Chesterton, all of whom debated with each other into the 1930s.” I certainly have heard of those writers so why not Belloc? For me, this man fell through the cracks, which makes me think how many other well-known writers of their time have disappeared from our/my attention? I proceeded to look into Mr. Belloc, who besides being an orator, writer, poet, sailor and political activist, was a satirist. Two of his best are “Cautionary Tales for Children” and “The Bad Child’s Book Beasts”.  His books are in Project Gutenberg so you can find them quite easily ( I have included links). As I read some of the poems I realized Hilaire was the Shel Silverstein or, maybe, the James Thurber of his day. Some are funny, some are droll – quick verses to enjoy.

So, where am I going with this, well right to another quote, this one by Frank Zappa, that I will paraphrase, ” So many authors, so little time.” Now on to the books my group enjoyed last month.

February161. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre (2012) 399 pages. This is the story of Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents during WW II. This is how they deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy.

2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980) 536 pages. This book has it all – medieval history, Gothic noir and a classic whodunit rolled into one. Warning, it is a very slow – however if you persevere, your time will be rewarded.

3. The Bootlegger by Clive Cussler, Isaac Bell series #7, (2014) 403 pages. It is 1920, and both Prohibition and bootlegging are in full swing. When Isaac Bell’s boss and lifelong friend Joseph Van Dorn is shot and nearly killed, Bell swears to him that he will hunt down the lawbreakers.

4. A Walk in the Woods : Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (1997) 397 pages. This book describes the adventures (& misadventures) of author Bryson and his friend, Katz, on the Appalachian Trail.

5. The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014) 304 pages. A fiction story based on the actual disappearance of State Supreme Court Judge Crater who was never found. Told from the point of view of the three women in his life, this book also is a historical depiction of New York City in the early thirties.

6. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012) 320 pages. A post-apocalyptic tale in which the world has been decimated due to an out of control flu and blood disease. Hig, who has survived the flu lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog. His only neighbor is a gun-toting misanthrope. As time goes on Hig feels he must fly out and see if anyone else has survived even if it costs him his life.

7. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1937) 297 pages. “This book is about two ‘pioneering French missionaries’ and their missions in New Mexico. The novel is based on the true life stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe and his companion, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf and their mission among the Mexicans and the Indians of New Mexico in the 19th century.” -Goodreads.  Considered one of Cather’s best.

8. The Light Keeper’s Legacy by Kathleen Ernst, Chloe Ellefson Mystery #3 (2012) 360 pages. Third in this enjoyable cozy mystery series, this one takes place on Rock Island, which is the farthest island off of the Door County peninsula in Wisconsin. Besides being a good mystery a lot of history of the fishing industry and the Potawatomi Lighthouse is included.

9. Kafka’s Last Love: The Mystery of Dora Diamant by Kathi Diamant (2003) 416 pages. The author attempts to give insight into who Kafka was, particularly in his last year of life when he met and fell in love with Dora Diamant. That story only covers the first third of the book. Following Kafka’s death, we find out what happened to Dora as she travels from war-torn Berlin to a declining Russia and eventually to England, but not to safety.

10. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014) 272 pages. A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He never remarried after his wife’s death, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives him the chance to make his life over.

11. Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey : the Official Companion to all Four Series by Emma Rowley (2013) 288 pages. Now that Downton series has finished its run you will want to pick up this book to learn how all that magic was accomplished. Perfect for the diehard fan.

Another Turn of the Page: It’s All About Character

“If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.”
Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

shelf copyI always listen to books while I work in my studio. Studio work for me is a bit of painting and a lot of book construction. Once the designing and planning for the pieces is done listening to a story does not distract me. I can glue boards and cut pages while someone reads me a book. It is quite enjoyable. The funny part comes later. Once the book is done, for a short time, the story doesn’t go away completely. Maybe it is because I have the voice of the narrator still in my head but I can pick up a tool or start doing a task and what I was listening to when I did that task earlier, plays back in my mind. The characters flash back. Kelsier and Vin from the Mistborn series fly through the air on their way to avenge their people, Bill Hodges still tries to catch Mr. Mercedes – clack!, and Walt Longmire and the Bear head over to the Red Pony. Why? Maybe because, ” characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.” These flashes occur only until I start the next book. Okay, you think I’m a bit crazy, I don’t mind, but next week when I start painting papier-mache boxes, Wax and Miles are going to be fighting on top of a speeding train again (The Alloy of Law).

You will make the acquaintance of a lot of great characters in this month’s books.

august1. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey (2012) 464 pages. In her last book before her death, Binchey takes us to the west coast of Ireland where Chicky Starr has returned to open a holiday hotel. The individual stories of all the guests who stay in the first week are what makes this book such an enjoyable read.

2. The Kingdom by Clive Cussler (2011) 392 pages. The third adventure in the treasure-hunting world of husband-and-wife team Sam and Remi Fargo. Typical Cussler adventure but still not as good as Dirk Pitt.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013) 295 pages. A quirky romance with an unusual premise. Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with Aspberger’s syndrome, is seeking a life partner. So, he creates an application for the ideal match. His best friend, Gene, sends Rosie his way. Rosie meets all the requirements but is also more than Don expects. (followed by The Rosie Effect)

4. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930) 267 pages. The novel tells the story of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members.

5. Finders, Keepers by Stephen King (2015) 448 pages. The second book in the Bill Hodges trilogy ( following Mr. Mercedes). A different twist on an old theme as Bill hunts for a killer who is obsessed with an author and his characters.

6. Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing (2013) 340 pages. The author examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver.

7. Camel Club by David Baldacci (2005) 606 pages. The Camel Club a group of misfits who try to uncover conspiracies and force the government to acknowledge the truth. The leader of the club, the “past-less” Oliver Stone keeps a vigil in a tent in the park across from the white house and works as a cemetery caretaker in the evening. During one meeting of the Camel Club, the members witness a real murder and a conspiracy to cover it up. First in a series.

8. So Big by Edna Ferber (1924) 376 pages. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “So Big” is a novel of turn-of-the-century Chicago. It tells the life of Selina DeJong, a gambler’s daughter-turned schoolteacher turned cabbage farmer, who, as a widow with a young son, lives in a dutch village just outside of the city.

9. The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower (2015) 352 pages. An intimate account of life in the White House from the point of view of the service staff. This covers the Kennedys to the Obamas.

10. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2008) 342 pages. A journalistic account of a much-loved and respected Syrian-born small business owner, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a resident of New Orleans, who stayed in the city after Hurricane Katrina to guard his home and to serve as a caretaker for the property and possessions of his friends and neighbors.












shelf copy