Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sex in the City

Vicarious Living

They have lived on in re-runs but how I have longed for a reunion of those old friends from TV land. Although I was married and a mother, their glamorous lives seemed to add some excitement to mine. Thirtysomethings who dated instead of diapered. Thirtysomethings who gave parties and dined out instead of preparing macaroni and cheese.
The heroine’s career, beautiful wardrobe, city apartment, and dating life were an escape from my life. I even envied her slim figure and hair styles, but mostly the time she had to spend lunching with girlfriends. I smiled at the lusty life lead by the blond in the series. A fantasy life. Oh, Mary, Rhoda, Phyllis, and Sue Ann, you were appreciated and still missed.
Haven’t times changed? The movie “Sex and the City” premiers this weekend. We didn’t have HBO and I didn’t watch it. I have seen snippets in reruns and still wouldn’t be the demographic audience for this show, but am struck that they have some similarity in storylines: single girls, city life, creers, dating. Dating with Mary Richards kissing her guys goodnight at the door. Haven’t times changed?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sad News

Sunday evening the tornado sirens sounded the alarm. We have become a little lax in ducking for cover and watched the TV reports instead. The bad weather missed us, but left a deadly path of destruction about ten miles north. Today my friend, Barb, called with a welfare check on us. Her home town of St. Peter, Minnesota suffered severe damage ten years ago when an F3 tornado struck in March. Barb has expressed interest in moving back to Minnesota when they both are retired. She has some reluctance because of the tornadoes. On one of her last visits to Minnesota in the summer, they had to seek shelter when a twister swept close to St. Peter again.
That is probably why she called to make sure we were okay.
A two year old boy was killed when the twister demolished his home. That is the saddest of stories. Everyone's heart went out to that family. I just received an email from my uncle telling me they are related to us. The child was the grandson of one of my mom's first cousins. Keep them in your prayers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I often read the obituaries in the morning paper looking to see if I know anyone who died. The young may not understand. Today's paper had the obit of a 95 yr. old woman. Under her name was the caption, "Excellent baker of Angel Food cakes and cookies". Nice thing to be remembered for.

I paused to think what might be written about me. Sort of reminds you of that commercial, "What do you want on your tombstone? Pepperoni?"
If I outlive my sweetie, what I would say about him in his obit? Knoedelmaker. Let him be known as the man who made excellent knoedels. I don't think he would mind being known as a knoedelmaker.

What is a knoedel? It is a potato dumpling. The family recipe that came from his paternal grandmother uses raw potatoes unlike the lighter more common version that uses cooked potatoes. Ours are made from grated raw potatoes, flour, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and shortening. Formed into balls, they are boiled and resemble dirty tennis balls when cooked. (Think white tennis balls not the yellow-green) For the uninitiated, they do not look appetizing, but they grow on you--literally. They are a carbo loading meal. Top that with melted butter or gravy for a waistline busting orgy.

While serving in the Army in Germany in the 60's, Jon searched unsuccessfully for a German restaurant that served knoedels like his grandmother had made. Our German friends said the heavier, raw potato version may grace the table of Germans at home, but restaurants do not serve this labor-intensive variation he sought.

After sampling many Gasthaus's (in Germany) knoedels, Jon remained hopeful we would eventually find someone who made them like grandma. Since Jon's grandma was born in Austria, Jon remained hopeful we could find "the right knoedels" in Austria. On one trip to Austria he inquired where Nova Bistrice, her birthplace) was located. We were told it wasn't in Austria but rather the Czech Republic. It was part of the old Austian-Hungarian empire when she lived there but in more recent years the lines were redrawn to include it in Czech territory. Her family were Germans who lived there so it was unclear where this family recipe came from. We did not find them in the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cat House

Watching this video made my eyes itch, my usual reaction to cats. Usually you see some old lady who lives in squalor and has lost control of the cat population in her house. Time to burn the house when the old lady dies. This woman seems to have a handle on living with cats, but.... way too many for my liking.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Blogamania ---None for days and then a flurry

Recent news of another way to exit this world has people talking. They are able to use lye to dissolve bodies. Yuk. I think my sister's choice of a "Green" burial is more appealing. No embalming. We were discussing this lye method when a friend suggested maybe our Andy, the newly graduated chemist, could get a job in this emerging field. "He could be the one to hold the ankles for the dip". I don't think that he has envisioned that in his career path.

I read and often submit comments to our newspaper's Bulletin Board section. One contributor recently commented on the lye disposal. He said he was a gambler and he could finally get a straight flush. Below are responses to his remarks. I remain The MOM in Stillwater. Don't you love the first comment from Mamallama?

"What this country has been needing? (responsorial)
Mamallama of Como Park: "Two things occurred to me as I was reading the May 15 submission by The Doryman about the alternative method of disposing of human remains. Right after the words 'by placing it (the dead body) in a vat of lye,' I thought: 'Isn't that how lutefisk is made?'
"That was immediately followed by my decision never to eat Soylent Lutefisk."
The MOM in Stillwater: "I enjoyed Doryman's comments on his funeral arrangements and eventually getting a 'straight flush.' Disposal of the deceased by chemicals seems the ultimate 'acid trip' for the Boomer generation.
"All this gory talk reminded me of Stillwater's Lumberjack parade years ago. A local septic pumping company had their (clean) truck in the parade. Painted on the side of the truck was their slogan: 'A Straight Flush Beats a Full House.'

It's hard to argue with that.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Traveling With a Six-Year Old Uncle

He was not my uncle. He was my son, our "only child" who happened to have two olderbrothers and a sister. When he was six, our oldest son had a son making Andy an uncle. Andywas born when I was nearly 41 and the mother of 13, 15, & 17 yr. old teens. Andy, the adored and adoring little brother. Andy who shadowed his siblings who patiently allowed him in their world.

We once drove to Rapid City and Mt. Rushmore with Andy when he was five or six. To amuse him on the long ride, we played a tape of music his oldest brother made for him. While Andy's contemporaries were listening to the Muppet's music, he loved Lenny Kravitz. He heard "Mr. Cab Driver" about 50 or 200 times all the way to the edge of SoDak and back.

"Mr. Cab Driver"--one of a few Lenny Kravitz songs with lyrics without profanity. I googled it and listened. I think enough years have passed I just might be able to listen to it all the way to Wall Drug again. Not bad music. How is that for a senior citizen?

Bring Back Mr. Whipple

It's been dubbed "Badvertising". Bad ads. Ads that offend or some dislike. I would like to nominate the new Charmin toilet paper ads that are on TV. Okay, maybe I watch too much TV, but I hate the animated ads with the bears selling Charmin.

The commercial offers a new , improved product that will not shred. One (obviously animated) bear vacuums the rear end of the other bear. The bear has used a toilet tissue that shreds. Is this a problem? Have you needed the assistance of another and central vac to get the shreds off you posterior? Are advertising moguls losing their grip on reality?

Bring back the gentler Mr. Whipple ads. Bring back thoughts of squeezing the product. Banish the suggestion of vacuuming up the shreds. Maybe I should be grateful they use bears.

Words Of Wisdom

I cleaned out a storage area this week and found a bunch of artwork my kids had done years ago. Our daughter, Mary, made this little booklet when she was in Catholic grade school. It illustrated the Eight Beatitudes. She is expecting babies (twins) of her own now and will have a frig covered in artwork in a few years.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mad Science

Our newly-graduated kid will start his first paying professional job Monday. He will be working with a company that monitors contaminants in ground water from the site of a locally headquarted international company. My sister emailed me the following story. It illustrates well how we can become fearful people.

"Subject: Science. Who needs it?
A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won
first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science
Fair, last April. He was attempting to show
how conditioned we have become to alarmists
practicing junk science and spreading fear of
everything in our environment. In his project
he urged people to sign a petition demanding
strict control or total elimination of the chemical
dihydrogen monoxide. Please find below a
summary of his argument:
1. Can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.

2. It is a major component in acid rain.

3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.

4. Accidental inhalation can kill you.

5. It contributes to erosion.

6. It decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.

7. It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.
He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was water (H20). The title of his prize winning project was, 'How Gullible Are We?' He feels the conclusion is obvious. "

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another tricky quiz

Boom Site in Stillwater on the St. Croix

Picture: painting by local artist Kami Polzin. I like her stuff. I googled Boom Site and got this. A boom site was the place loggers sorted out the logs according to owner. Everyone pushed their logs into the river and floated them downstream. Logs were marked kind of like cows are branded. Next step was the sawmill. This town was full of sawmills in the late 1800s - early 1900s. As that is left now is a small roadside marker and rest stop.

The other Boomers, that rebellious generation that drives the culture has another adventure coming. I was listening to the radio this morning and someone said that when they retire it will adversely affect the stock market. It is predicted boomers will withdraw funds from the stock market and reinvest in bonds, a safer place to invest that pays steady income. Don't blame me. I am not a Boomer. Born a year too early. I am retired but still in the market. I think I will forego checking to see what happened to my China fund today. I am still reeling from my Financial services funds hit. Anyone have a good idea where to put the $$ besides the matress?

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Graduate

Our youngest son graduated with honors Sunday from St. John's University. The weather was sunny and warm enough. The ceremony was in the Abbey church. No one did a cartwheel or made a radical political statement, but two of the graduates received their diplomas barefooted. Andy wasn't one of them.

The past four years have gone fast. His friends said the same. I think it was beginning to sink in that their lives would never interact the same way again. Andy's roommate freshman and sophmore years is moving to Florida. Another roommate will work in Houston this summer and then work at the college for a year before going to grad school.

I spent the day cleaning out closets and storeage space making room for the stuff that will come home with him. It takes time because I stopped to look at a box of childhood art and school projects from the kids. Kids art--the best. Why didn't I frame it? My daughter was the most prolific. Will have to take that box out and show it to the kids next time we get together. There may be 16 yrs between kindergarten and college graduation but it seems much shorter.

News today of a huge earthquake in central China. I asked the "kid" if it was near where he stayed last summer. He did spend four days in the city that was the epicenter of the quake. No news that Chongquin (where he lived ) was badly affected. Aren't these disasters coming a little too close? We will keep China in our prayers and especially Linfeng, Andy's Chinese grad. student partner from last summer.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater

A local philanthropist has been donating money to the city parks. A couple years ago this former Dell computer guy and his wife gave $3,000,000.00 to build a Teddy Bear park. It is tucked in a spot by the limestone bluffs downtown. For $3 mil you get a pretty fancy park. It isn't large, but very nice. As we drove by it this am I told our second son Dave about the granite teddy bears there. "There is a 9 foot sculptor", I said. He picked up quickly on that and replied, "Where did they find such a big artist?" Sculture. It is a sculpture of a 9 ft teddy bear. There are several and a small performance amphitheatre as well as a concrete tree house and play train etc. Very fun place. I can't wait until the twins are old enough to take them there. A couple summers ago I took Mina. She looked at it and said, "Grandma. I am nine years old". That is when I made plans to take her to the youth concert of the Jonas Brothers. We will go to the youth concert this summer. One of the cast of Disney's High School Musical will be here. Prepare yourself grandmas for hearing loss.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hope in the Recession

Everyone has tighter budgets after spending $3.65 a gallon to fill their gas tanks. There have been so many things that put the economy on tilt--Stock markets plunged in the last few months. They are slowly climbing back but..

The price of a barrel of oil is at record levels. Food prices are escalating. We seem to be caught in a position of our food prices being tied to the cost of transportation. It might be time to resurrect "victory gardens". Those 18 wheelers supposedly cost $1400 to fill the tank with gasoline.

Added to the rising prices is the housing finance fiasco. People are losing homes. Some retirees have declining incomes because interest rates are low. Part of my IRA was invested in financial services. That took a good hit.

Jobs are scarce. Businesses may be hunkering down to ride out the storm. We have friends who have lost jobs and have trouble finding another.

In all this trouble there might be one sector of the economy that is still healthy. Politics. Yesterday I heard Obama still has 44 million $ in his war chest. Hillary has loaned her campaign 11million$ of her own money. Who is she calling elite? At any rate they will be spending money and the real campaign for president has not yet begun. I wonder if Guam and Puerto Rico will benefit from campaign $$ spent there to catch those last few delegates.

Another bright side of the political season is that there will be all those federal jobs to fill.

Yesterday the buzz was about vice presidential running mates. Sen. Obama dodged the question of whether he would chose Hillary as his running mate if he is the candidate. Pundits reading between the lines guess he may. He may have to in order to prevent a split in the party. Both sides have some extremely loyal supporters who would be reluctant to vote for the opposition.

John McCain must also chose a running mate. There is a video of Mitt Romney "making nice" that left some wondering if he is in the running for VP pick. I wonder if Hillary would accept #2 on the ticket if she doesn't win another primary. If those two scenarios happen; an Obama/Clinton ticket and a McCain/Romney ticket I predict there will be a new federal position to fill in the cabinet: official taster for the president. Would you feel comfortable if you were either of those two men with an ambitious VP only a meal away? I am not suggesting either of them would do anything wrong, but they do have loyal supporters. Apply for job only if you eat arugula and can do shots.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Blogger Formerly Known as Jane

Losing the weight wasn't that hard. As I had suspected (from experience) the real problem is keeping it off. I fell 15 or 20 lbs. short of my goal but stopped "dieting" in December. Since that time I have gained and lost 5 -6 lbs. seven or eight times. Doesn't that mean I have lost and found another 35 to 40 lbs? Struggling on, I have had the grace to get it back in gear until lately. I regain very easily, for example: if I eat the whole meal served in a restaurant I will weigh five pounds more the next day. I think it is mostly a fluid shift but I find it demoralizing. I know people say put away the scale. I wouldn't dare. Over two weeks of bad eating I regained 15 lbs. Two days of dieting and I lost 10 of it but have an extra 5 to chase to get back to where I was in December. I still haven't lost the 15 or 20 I wanted to lose.
I am trying to cheer myself up. I am walking more now that it is nice. I am my own worst enemy most of the time. I eat when bored. This morning I was at Curves and noticed the name of a woman who had won a contest at Curves. Her name; Hope Lean. Hope lean. I think I will change my name. No more plain Jane. How about "Disciplined Jane"? or "Thinner Jane"? When someone asks me my name I will say, "I am Thinner". I believe in the mind connection to outcomes. I think I will be Thinner.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ruby Slippers Come at a High Price

I am amazed what prices woman are willing to pay for shoes. $1300? $2500? Designers are peddling glamorous 6 inch stillettos to fashion conscious women. Most are young. In my youth I don't remember anything over a 4 inch heel. The human foot does not easily conform to an extremely high heeled shoe. Some women have plastic surgery to remove a toe to fit in the shoes they want to wear. They may look good but will probably pay a high price someday when mobility is more important than beauty. I knew the Chinese or Japanese tradition of foot binding left feet deformed but had never seen a picture before.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cross Country

I wrote yesterday's blog and emailed it to the guy at the newspaper's Bulletin Board. He emailed back with a book recommendation: "Cross Country" by Robert Sullivan. I requested it online from the library and can hardly wait to read it. Here is a link to a book review:

I love peoples travel stories. After high school my husband took a trip on a motorcycle with his best friend. Two guys. One motorcycle. They worked their way around the perimeter of the USA. They were underfunded and only made it to LA before having to sell the bike. They made it the rest of the way on their thumbs. There were a few relatives and acquaintances along the way that put them up free. They stayed with Jon's uncle and aunt in Pennsylvania. When it was time to go the uncle took them to the freeway ramp. They stood with a sign that said, "Minnesota". When Uncle Butch came back from work in the afternoon the boys were still there. Most times they got a ride. One of their benefactors was Jimmy Hoffa's son. Another was a guy who offered them a ride working in the carnival? Any of you read Jack Kerouac's "One The Road"? He had the same experience. Jon relates being offered a ride by two attractive girls in a convertible somewhere out west. They declined. The girls were going the wrong direction. Oh to be young.
One of Jon's cousins is a great story teller. Her tales of family road trips are hard to top. Her father, a no nonsense small town businessman, was all about "making good time" when they traveled. Her mom was more sympathic to the three kids in the backseat. One time she pleaded for him to stop because one of the kids 'had to go'. He didn't. No unscheduled stops. Couldn't the child wait until they needed gas? He didn't stop. The kid couldn't wait and had an accident. An annoyed mom made dad stop and give him a bath in a shallow stream.
This Uncle also had cleanliness standards for restaurants. This was the 50's. Not as much fast food. They would drive until the kids were famished. If they went into a restaurant and the dishes were cracked or dad's elbows stuck to the tabletop they would leave without eating and drive on. I don't think the kids or mom cared. One can see how McDonald's became so popular.
No cracked or chipped dishes. No tabletops.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

California Dreaming

A recent BB contribution about a childish belief that they charged admission to get into California prodded me to remember one of my childhood beliefs. I thought California was a city and was disappointed when I found out it was a whole state. In my mind it was a magical city. I had an aunt and uncle who lived there that I had no memory or ever seeing. My mom promised when we were old enough we would drive to California and see them. She actually said, "When you are old enough to wash your own underwear" we would go. I think she wanted to travel with kids who could be self-sufficient. The goal ages were twelve and fourteen. Having raised kids myself now, I would not chose a road trip with teens. It didn't matter. We never took that trip. California relatives came to us when we were about those ages.I think I missed the experience of a family road trip in my youth, so when my husband suggested we do it with our kids I was anxious to go. He had a brother and family who lived in California. We would take the kids to Disneyland. My husband was about to start a full time job after four years of free-lance work. He would be limited to two weeks vacation a year for the first five years of employment. We had not had the finances to travel when he was scraping together a living as a free-lancer. This seemed the opportune time to take a three week road trip. We made the final decision to go one morning and left in two hours. Two hours to notify family, stop the mail, arrange for the grass to be cut etc. We didn't tell the children where we were going until we were in the car headed toward Iowa. I even managed to cook fried chicken and wrap it in foil. We reheated it on the tail pipe which ran through the trunk of our big Ford Galaxy. The odometer on that car read 100,000+ miles. We made some lasting memories. I began the trip with a bit of bribery. I had a sack of hard candy and offered the kids a piece of candy every ten miles if they would behave and not fight. You can imagine the outcome of that fiasco. We had the wild bunch in the backseat by the time we hit the border. What was God thinking when he entrusted me with kids? We vowed never again to drive across the desert in August during the day with three kids in the backseat of a car that is overheating and we can't use the AC but must actually run the heater and open the windows. I am pretty sure it was easier to travel with kids than it would have been to travel with teens but who knows. Every now and then I reread the log and look at the photos of that trip. Magical. Even if California is a state. This family adventure was in 1978, a few years before National Lampoon's Vacation hit the big screens. I think we were the original Griswolds.