Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Thanks to those of you who wished my eyes to heal quickly. I can see again, though it still looks like I took a beating with an ugly stick.It was my own fault, so I deserve to be laughed at more than I deserve sympathy. Besides, now I have a really good excuse for getting a cleaning service -- I'm allergic to dust and I'm allergic to cleaning products. Damned if I do and damned if I don't.

Send in the maids!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Thanksgiving Disaster

The week has been... interesting...

The Engineer left Saturday for big business doings in Texas. The plan was for me to fly down and join him Wednesday and we would spend Turkey Day with the Twin's family in Houston.

Monday the insulation guys finally blew the yucky gray fluffy stuff into the attic. Boy, did it stink.

Tuesday afternoon, I decided to go postal on the Engineer's shower. Regular cleanser just doesn't do the trick on the tile, so I bought some Lime-Away, stripped down, put on latex gloves and climbed on in. I spent a couple of hours scrubbing each tile individually. I wanted the colorful, 1950's vintage tiles to shine.

By the time I was ready to attack the grout with a toothbrush, my eyes were stinging like the dickens. I decided the grout could wait until the next time he was out of town. I rinsed the shower walls off, sprayed it with regular cleanser, then climbed back in with a sponge to wipe down the walls and shower myself off.

Within two hours, my eyes had swelled up to the point I couldn't open them at all and was effectively blind.

I knew it was an allergic reaction. I've done it to myself a couple of times before when using oven cleaner. Which is why I have the dirtiest oven in Utah -- I no longer go anywhere near oven cleaner.

So the Engineer spent Thanksgiving in Houston and the cats and I stayed home.

It's really boring to stay home with blind eyes. Not a whole lot to do besides try not to knock anything over. A friend did invite me to join his family for the feast, but I demurred because eating by braille in public is simply not polite (and pretty darn gross for onlookers, I would imagine.)

My eyelids have unswelled to the point I can see again, but it will be a few more days before I'm back to normal.
Guess that grout won't ever be toothbrush cleaned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Money Makes the World Go Around

I try to say that I don't understand what it is about money that makes people so avaricious, but that's a lie, I think I do. It's not the grubby pieces of paper, metal or plastic, it's the power they bring. With sufficient money, you can do what you want, when you want, how you want. Don't we all wish for that?

I honestly can't understand the things that some people want, however.

Why would anyone want a forty room mansion and a fleet of cars? Keeping up 40 rooms would be a full time job and you can only drive one car at a time.

True, if you had unlimited money, you could afford staff; a maid, a butler, a chauffeur, a cook. Nice to be freed from daily chores, but, to me, privacy is more to be desired. Even if I had the money for mansion and staff, I wouldn't have them. A cleaning lady once a week, on the other hand...

Not that I don't have my weaknesses, I do. Who doesn't?

If I could have all the money I wished for, I would want enough to take care of day to day living without worry for the future. Enough to travel some, to visit friends and family and see the world. Enough to give gifts when I felt like it and donate some to worthy causes. Enough to see me to the end of my life with maybe some left over to throw a nice farewell party. I don't want palaces or yachts or empire, just security.

Which, sadly, is more than most people have.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Unmentionables

Sex, religion, politics and money: these are the things that a Proper Southern Lady cannot talk about in public. Thank God I'm not a Proper Southern Lady.

Some of these topics were more unmentionable than others in my childhood home. Sex was never discussed, nor was money, both topics were totally taboo. To this day, I have no idea how much money either of my parents made and firmly believe that my siblings and I were immaculate conceptions.

Religion and politics were simple subjects with the basics assumed. When I was a child, there were three major religions: Protestant, my family's religion; Jewish, lots of smart people were Jewish; Catholic, they had too many babies. There were three immutable premisses about politics: Republicans were good, Democrats were bad; evil Communists were trying to take over the world.

I'm sure that my parents are quite baffled by the way their eldest daughter turned out. I'm a flaming, bleeding heart, tree hugging, whale kissing (right on their blubbery lips), but fiscally conservative, liberal agnostic who thinks sex is one of the most hilarious things going. For some reason the strictures on discussing money did take. I'm not comfortable discussing personal finances to this day, it's none of anybody's business but the individual's. Public money is fair game, however, and dang the way those idiots in Washington spend my tax dollars!

It's time to step out of the comfort zone and blog on these forbidden subjects. I just need to figure out what order to take them in...

1. Money -- the one I'm least comfortable with.
2. Politics -- the most annoying one.
3. Religion -- the scariest, most confusing one.
4. Sex -- the fun one!

Blog you later, alligator.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Dinner Party

was a success. I got the house cleaned and the food cooked before the guests arrived. Even managed to get in a shower. The food was good. The BirthdayBoy loved his pies and made sure to take the remains both of them home with him.

I did forget (actually didn't even think about it) one thing...

I did not vacuumed the chairs at the dining table. Due to the remodeling chaos, it had been over 18 months since they'd been used. By humans, anyway. The cats have been sitting on them the whole time.

Everybody got up with cat hair all over their derrieres.


Friday, November 16, 2007

What Have I Gotten Myself Into

A friend's birthday is tomorrow, but the Engineer is leaving town Saturday morning, so I invited the friend and his wife for dinner tonight. Which means I have to bake two pies, Friend's traditional birthday pie and one for the dinner. (I'm famous for my pies.)

The Engineer has been fussing since we started work on the house that we haven't been able to have a specific couple over to entertain. Since Couple A and Couple B know each other, I invited Couple B as well to kill two birds with one stone. Then I thought about Couple C, who know both Couples A and B, and figured I'd better invite them too.

So tonight's the first dinner party in the half remodeled house. The Engineer set the table last night, as he doesn't trust me to do it. I'm just glad he didn't use the fine china and Waterford crystal - I hate washing that stuff by hand, I'm always afraid I'll break something.

The dining room looks much better than it did in March. Kind of wish the Engineer had somewhat different taste in art, but the two paintings on the back wall are by a very famous Latvian artist, so he treasures them. The are both of the same thatched roof grain storage barn. The Twin has a similar painting. Twin's wife calls them the coffins. I concur.

Excuse me now, I've got to go tear up the plastic he taped to the floor to keep the carpet from being walked on. Then I will start baking and cooking.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Wanna

Since returning from my long vacation, I have not been in the mood to blog. Don't know why, just don't feel like it. I've been arguing with myself about it.

"Okay, Witless, why did you start this blog in the first place?"

"To practice consistency and build character."

"Are you doing that right now?"

"Don't wanna."

"Is that any kind of an attitude?"

"Yeah, a poopie attitude."

"One of the hallmarks of being an adult is showing a little self discipline."

"Poop on being an adult, it's no fun."

"Think about the feeling of accomplishment you get when you make a blog entry every day."

"Is it really an accomplishment or is it just a demonstration of Sturgeon's Law? 'Ninety percent of everything is crap.'"

"Well, you sure as heck aren't going to get the 10% of good stuff if you don't wade through the 90% of crap."

"Maybe my crap stompin' boots got stuck in the muck and I pulled one off struggling to get out of it then stepped my bare foot into the crap and the yuck squished up between my toes."

"Seems to be about where you are right now."

"Ain't that the truth."

It's no wonder one of my nicknames is GrumpoGirl.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thank You Notes

My mother was raised to be a Proper Southern Lady so, of course, she tried to raise her own daughters in the same proud tradition. There were lots of rules.

  • Always keep a pleasant expression on your face.
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
  • Sit with your legs together and your back straight.
  • Wait hand and foot on your men.
  • Keep your home, your family and yourself immaculate at all times.
  • Accept compliments graciously.
  • Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies "glow."
  • Go to church every week (except for Communion service.)
  • Help those less fortunate than yourself.
  • Write graceful thank you notes for every gift and kindness given you.

I must hang my head in shame and admit to breaking every one of these strictures, some of them more frequently than others.

Except the one about Communion services, I never go to Communion services -- not difficult since I don't go to church except on special occasions.

Some of the rules, I have no qualms about breaking. In fact, some I revel in breaking. "Wait hand and foot on your men." HA! Ain't gunna do that. EVER! (Though if I'm honest, I will admit that the Engineer is pretty spoiled.) And when I'm working out in the garden in the heat of summer, I sweat. It's good for me and I take a shower afterwards.

The one about the thank you notes is the one that niggles most at my conscience because I agree with it and don't faithfully do it. It's worse now than ever because here in the Land o' Mormon all nice young LDS girls are trained by their mothers in the fine art of thank you note writing. Back home, most women, and all men, of my generation are indifferent thank you note writers. Here the thank you note always arrives in less than a week. Sometimes, if I'm good and send off a nice thank you note, I get back a thank you note for my thank you note.


Thank you notes are hard for me; possibly a visceral rebellion to my mother's not letting me play with the toy, spend the money, read the book, wear the clothing, until the appropriate note was sent. It's not that I lack gratitude, but how do I convey it gracefully? One must state what the gift is, how it will be used and how appreciated and valued it is. To make it more complicated, the note must not seem trite and formulaic, it must be bright and original.

"Thanks for the book, I've always wanted to read it," just doesn't cut the thank you note mustard.

"Thank you for the lovely red sweater. I will wear it every time I teach at the Red Cross this winter. I will feel thematic and look sharp too." Okay, that sounds good, covers the thank you note bases. Of course, the note must be filled in with how nice the giver was to give it to you and how you appreciate their friendship more than any, no matter how wonderful, gift.

Then there's the problem of what to do when you get a gift that you'd really rather not have. A gift that will live in the back of your closet except for occasionally, when you're seeing the giver, that you feel obliged to pull it out to demonstrate that you really are using it. And don't try to tell me you've never gotten one of those gifts, we all have.

"Thank you so very much for the puce and purple fuzzy scarf, it will be a valued jewel in my wardrobe." Okay, I've covered what the item is, how it will be used. I guess it's honest, valuable jewels are put into a safe deposit box and never seen -- that's honest. Isn't it?

So, to those of you to whom I owe thank you notes, Thank You! I really do appreciate it, but sometimes, when it comes to putting pen to paper, I'm simply inarticulate. Not to mention a bit of a procrastinator.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Bynum, North Carolina used to be a cotton mill town, but the mill closed and most of the folks moved away. Then the artsy, but not wealthy, people from a few miles north at the University of North Carolina discovered the little town on the Haw River and moved in. Now the mill houses have tenants again.

A friend of mine lives in a little lavender mill house. It is clapboard inside and out, walls and floor and ceiling. The heating system is a wood stove in the living room. She has a couple of electric space heaters and a warm and friendly dog to get her through winter nights. She loves Bynum and her little lavender house. She says it's like camping out full time.

Around the corner and down the road a piece lives Bynum's most renowned resident, Clyde Jones, an old guy who stuck around after the mill closed. He started carving "Critters" with his chainsaw about 25 years ago. He never sells them, but if he likes you, he may give you one. Most every house in Bynum has a Clyde Critter or two on the lawn.

Only in Utah

Did you know that Jell-O is Utah's "Official Snack Food"? Yes indeed, the state legislature passed the resolution a couple of years ago. Heck, Bill Cosby's an honorary Utah citizen because of his Jell-O commercials. When the Olympics were here in 2002, there was a green Jell-O (with julienne carrots) commemorative pin. Sold like hot cakes, very collectable.

Jell-O has other uses besides eating... It makes an excellent temporary hair dye. Provided, of course you want purple, green or orange hair. It's cheap. I know teenagers who swear by it.

Here's what's been in the newspaper every day for the last week:

Break the mold and write a Jell-O haiku
The Salt Lake TribuneArticle
Last Updated: 11/06/2007 06:54:25 PM MST

Write a haiku about your family's favorite holiday Jell-O salad for the The Tribune's inaugural Jell-O Salad Haiku Contest and win cookbooks and other food prizes.
Be silly, funny or sarcastic. Just send your poem, the recipe and, if you're really ambitious, a high-resolution photo of the Jell-O creation to

What can a witless wanderer do besides write the dang haiku:

Fruit jewels in bright jell
Autumnal, ephemeral
And it jiggles too

When the Engineer heads out of town Sunday, I plan to make orange Jell-O with mandarin orange slices and take that hi-rez photo. Tah-dah! Pretty spiffy picture of fall themed jello, don't ya think?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


For almost 15 years I've been a volunteer Red Cross instructor. I have taught First Aid, CPR for adults, children and infants at the citizen responder (regular folks) level, AED, CPR for the Professional Rescuer and Infectious Disease Transmission. Every few years the Red Cross changes the curriculum. Every few years the manikins change too.

I've worked with seven different manikins over the years, five in the past, two now:
  • Resusci Annie, a life-size, full-body, heavy-weight female manikin who is normally reserved for professional level classes. The Cadillac of manikins, some models can be plugged into a computer -- she's expensive.
  • Crash Kelly, now passe, thank goodness. He was a major pain in the derriere to put together, but a workhorse once he was assembled. Like most adult manikins, he was just head and torso, no arms or legs.
  • Chris Clean, my personal favorite, a head and torso manikin that was medium-weight but easy to assemble -- his rubber face (nose, mouth, chin and cheeks) popped on and off for easy cleaning.
  • The babies and Actar -- more about them below.

The old baby manikin was a fairly realistic, life size doll in an ugly pair of striped shorts. His legs bowed out like a cowboy or a frog on the dissection table. The whole front of his head was a latex mask that buttoned on behind his ears. When his face was off he looked like something you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. When his face was on he looked enough like a real baby that he creeped out some students. Because of this, I named him "Mutant Vampire Frog Baby."

I call the current baby manikins "Mutant Alien Vampire Frog Babies." They don't have the secret vampire face under a latex mask, but they still have frog's legs. They are hollow silver plastic with pop off heads and bitty plastic lungs that get buttoned to their chests under a blue foam tabard that snaps on at the crotch. They get toted around in a special zipper bag with "Actar Infantry" printed on it. Students find them much less distressing to work with than the old realistic baby manikins. You have to be very careful how you handle the new babies, though, or their heads fall off.

Now-a-days the primary manikins are cheaper and lighter. As well serving as an adult, they stand in for Little Timmy, which I guess is okay since, with no legs, they're short enough. Actar comes in four pieces, a hollow white plastic head, a corrugated black plastic cylinder that functions as a rib cage, a plastic bag lung and a blue foam sheet with three holes in it that the head and two ends of the rib cage cylinder get plugged into. When we get to the part of the class that requires the manikins, I have each student pick up the four pieces of Actar then guide them in putting him together.

I kinda miss Chris Clean, he was my main man for a few years. In fact, I bought my Mazda 626 based partially on being able to fit six Chris cases, a TV, a VCR and a box of supplies in it (amazing how much you can stuff into a hatch back) because I drove all over the western end of North Carolina certifying adult Girl Scouts.

I could never get that serious about Actar; he works, but he ain't no Chris Clean.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Meeting in DC

It was a grand expedition to meet Cicada for lunch then go view pandas at the zoo.

Fortunately GuiGrl had inside information and we found a parking spot in a garage directly under the restaurant. Cicada was waiting as we emerged from the subterranean warren. It was a good time, never a scarcity of subjects for conversation or laughter. Thank you Cicada!

I've heard a "bloggers-in-real-life" photo is mandatory for these occasions, so here it is. Cicada has shown her face on the Internet before, but GuiGrl and I will preserve our anonymity. (Plus Cicada's taller than the two of us -- everybody's taller than the two of us.)
The zoo was not a smashing success. I had gone skating on a grape in the produce department of the grocery store a few days before I left on my trip and damaged my right foot, so I was more than a little gimpy. The light was too stark for photography and the pandas, both giant and red, did not pose obligingly.
I did, however, get an excellent photo of the rare and elusive Arachnida holloweenius.

I Need a Break to Recover From My Vacation

It was a good trip. Of the twenty people I wanted to visit, I saw sixteen. I wish it had been twenty out of twenty, but time and circumstances didn't permit.

I stopped at Grace's condo. For closure, I guess. The wheelchair ramp had been refurbished. I hope somebody nice lives there now.

My old apartment is about a half mile away from Grace's place, so I went by there too. Big changes -- when I lived there it was brown brick with old fashion windows and doors, no air conditioning. The street of fourplexes has been made into a street of condos, "Starting in the low $190's." I used to pay $145 a month rent. Boggles the mind.

All the driving and the visiting isn't what I need to recover from, however, it was the trip home that wore me out. Fortunately, I left Chapel Hill for the Charlotte Airport early because traffic was stopped west of Greensboro for about an hour for road construction. Dumped the rental heap and made for the gate as fast as I could, heart pounding for fear I'd miss the plane. Only to discover all Newark flights delayed. They finally boarded us two hours late and we arrived in Newark at 7:45 p.m., just as the plane to SLC was taking off. I ended up spending the night in Terminal C and flying to Houston on the 5:30 a.m. flight, then on home in the afternoon.
Newark Airport, Concorse C, 2:00 a.m.

When the taxi dropped me off at the house, Kitsu came running down the driveway, wailing at the top of her lungs and hugged my legs. As soon as I got into the house, Sachi went into VelcroKitty mode too. For the last three nights I've slept under a living fur-and-purr blanket; warm and cozy, but a wee bit difficult to change positions without making the girls whinge and moan.

The Engineer seemed glad to see me too. He hadn't changed the sheets since I'd left, so that was one of the first things I attended to. He's had me running my tail off since I got back. Loads of laundry, lots of cooking and cleaning, running errands and shopping. And we had to attend an engineering geek fest and dinner Saturday night. No rest for the wicked it seems.

I really could use a couple days off to relax..