Monday, December 28, 2009

Not a creature was stirring - not even a mouse, well maybe a mouse

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

Notice that I highlighted the word "mouse". Yeah. It appears that my sister, Linda, has a mouse in the house. She said it walked right in the front door when she left it open a few weeks ago. Imagine that. She temporarily stored some bird seed in the front closet because she didn't want to leave it on the front porch for fear that it would attract mice. Instead she left her door open and invited them in to dine. She found piles of empty shells from the sunflower seeds in the closet on the floor - evidence that she had visitors.

Linda's daughter, Kelly, first saw the mouse about a week or so ago run into the closet. So Linda set up a row of boxes leading from the closet to the door, thinking that once they opened the closet door the mouse would run out, and run alongside the boxes and out the door. Wha-lah! She opened the door and....waited 35 minutes and nothing happened.

Another day they thought they spotted the mouse running along the baseboard in the kitchen. So they put two sticky traps down on the floor. A little while later Kelly's daughter Arielle, who is 6, came down for school in her stocking feet and stepped on both traps.

"What the heck is this?" she asked as she lifted up each foot and the sticky traps were stuck to each sock good and tight. Kelly couldn't remove her socks from the traps. Linda said that they only thing they caught was a 6 year old.

They put the sticky traps back into the front closet.

Last week Linda had a party at her house with some of her good friends (thankfully). She asked Arielle to go into the front closet and get the package of paper plates. Arielle accidentally dropped the package and it stuck to the sticky traps. While the plates were falling, it knocked over the package of 100 plastic cups, which in turn ALSO stuck to the traps. So Arielle carried this whole contraption into the kitchen: paper plates stuck to the traps with the socks still stuck to them and the plastic cups stuck to the traps too. It was one big mess. Everyone had a good laugh about that!

The night before Christmas Eve, my sister slept on the couch in the living room with 3 of her grand children. Since my husband and I are staying at her house while we are in town, we're sleeping in her bed. Kelly and family live with Linda, also. It's a lively house to say the least. My sister, "Grandma", promised the kids that they could all sleep on the couches, drink hot chocolate before going to bed, and sing Christmas songs. (She's a wonderful Grandma.)

In the wee hours of the morning, my sister heard a scratching sound and thought it was the mouse. She woke up Kelly.

"Kelly! It's the mouse! Wake up!"

Kelly stumbled up the stairs and saw that Linda had lined up a long row of boxes. She thought that the mouse was under a tray that was sitting on the ground. She stood there with a broom and a mop.

"Okay," she said, "You lift up the tray! But what do I do with these?" Indicating the broom and mop.

Kelly quickly lifted up the tray but no mouse was stirring.

She shuffled back to bed.

Linda heard the noise again, only this time it sounded like it was coming from under the couch.

"Kelly! Wake up! It's the mouse again!"

Kelly stumbled up the stairs again. They woke Riley up.

"Riley, go on the other couch. There's a mouse under your couch." Well, his eyes just about bugged out of his face!

Kelly turned the couch over but no mouse. There WAS a small nut though.

The third time Linda heard the mouse and called Kelly, Kelly wanted no part of it.

"Mom, I'm TIRED."

So Mickey is alive and well and living in Bensenville.....

On another note....

We leave on Tuesday for Minnesota, the REAL Winter Wonderland, for a quick 3 day visit to see Jim's Dad, who will turn 99 in February. Don't think I'll have computer access.
Just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flying the Friendly Skies - Part Two

It was raining in Dallas when we arrived AND we saw that our connecting flight to Chicago was delayed about 50 minutes. So we had more time to wait. Oh goodie. I sat and watched the people milling about waiting for their respective flights to depart. I was surprised at how well behaved all the kids acted. I mean, sure there were crying babies, but on the whole, all the kids were pretty good. It was as if they knew Santa was watching them. I have to say, even the people didn't seem too crabby.

On our flight to Chicago, Jim and I lucked out - the window seat next to me was empty. I think it was one of the only empty seats on the plane. So I quickly scooted over and Jim and I shared the wealth. Aahh....

We had a family sitting in front of us - a boy around 5 or 6, a girl around 3 or 4, a mom, and a baby. The father sat across the aisle and they passed the baby back and forth. The mom seemed a little tired and cranky, and I heard her mention that this was their second flight. But she seemed a little tough with the kids - yelling loud things like "STOP IT", "SHUT UP", and the like. I was pretty tense and felt uncomfortable and embarrassed for her. She threatened to separate the kids numerous times, but didn't live up to it. I don't know why she didn't just sit in the middle and put one kid on the end, so the husband could partake in disciplining them. Although I really didn't think they were bad at all. I mean, if indeed it WAS their second flight, I'm sure they were tired. A little bit of kind words could go a long way. Why not read a book to them or something? The little girl peeked between the seat at me and poked her small hand out. I put my hand out and tickled her fingers. She giggled and then the game began. Soon her brother started peeking at me, first from one side, then the other. I played along for awhile, tickling the little arm, peeking at both of them, until I heard the mother growl, "TURN AROUND!" Now, if she thought they were bothering me, there was a better way of handling it.

I tried to take a little snooze so I turned off the overhead light. I felt a light touch on my knee a few times, knowing it was the little girl, but I kept my eyes shut. I must have dozed off because I heard myself emit a big snort that woke me up. Great! I caught the father glance back at me. Co-inky-dink? Hmmm....My husband didn't even stir. Could be one of three reasons: a) He's deaf; b) He's so used to my snoring it didn't even phase him; or c) You really couldn't hear me over the noise of the plane. I'm hoping it's C.

Before I knew it, we were landing at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. It was a balmy 32 degrees outside. I called my sister to let her know that we had arrived and to send someone to pick us up. She said, "You'd better take a cab. We've all been drinking here." Swell. They were having their "Secret Santa" party.

Jim and I walked outside to the area for cabs. There wasn't a long line waiting. In fact, we were the only customers. There was one cab in line. We hopped in, Jim told the driver the address, and therein was the problem.

"Bensenville, huh?"

"Yes," Jim said, and proceeded to give him directions.

The driver wanted to go way out of his way to jump on the expressway because he thought it would be faster.

"No", we both had assured him. "We've lived in this area. This way is quicker," I said.

He still sat there. Then he said, "You know, I MUST get back here within 40 minutes."

I told him, "No problem. It's about 15 minutes away."

Jim said to him, "Do you have a GPS?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Well, type in the address."

I had to tell him the address at least three times, and s-l-o-w-l-y. He still seemed to have a problem with this. By this time, at least 10 minutes had elapsed. I didn't seem to understand WHAT the problem was exactly.

I asked him, "What do you want us to do? Get out and take a different cab?"

"No, no!" He said. "But this is considered a short trip. You understand that you will be charged a fare and a half for it. It will cost you around $24. Okay?"


He finally put the damn cab in gear and off we went! It is such a racket for all the cab companies working at the airport. They would prefer the longer cab rides, and "punish" the patrons who only need short rides by charging them 1 1/2 times the rate. What can you do? The only way around this I guess, is to call a local cab company from your town, and wait for it to arrive. But after traveling all day, that was the last thing on my mind.

As it was, my day was still not over when I arrived at my sister's house. I had to make one more leg of the trip. I needed a ride over to my brother's house to pick up his vehicle for our use while in town. So my niece gave me a ride over there. I didn't get back to my sister's until 10:00 p.m. Central Time. It was a long day.

There is snow on the ground and a definite nip to the air. We are home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Flying the Friendly Skies

We are flying home for the holidays. Oh what fun! We shot out of bed at 6:00 am Mountain Standard Time. Showered, dressed, packed the last minute items. We had no milk left for cereal, no bread left for toast. Score! We have eggs! So I whipped up some scrambled eggs with ham and cheese and we washed it down with some juice.

Jim and I went over our check list before leaving:

turn furnace down - check
turn water heater off - check
take out garbage - check
lock up bikes - check

Our friend offered to drive us to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and he arrived precisely at 8 a.m. Traffic was surprisingly light for that time of the morning, and I had hoped it was a sign that the rest of our trip would move smoothly along. Yeah. I'm optimistically stupid that way.

My first chuckle of the day was the sign by security. There were two lines; one for the "VIP's" and one for the "casual" travelers. They might as well have written "Peons Line Up Here", because that's what they really meant, wasn't it?

I obligingly removed my shoes and vest, and put them in the bin to be scanned, along with my purse and camera bag. My poor husband stood there undressing - taking off his shoes, belt, suspenders - all the while I prayed that he wouldn't drop his drawers! Talk about a security breach! We made it through the check point unscathed, Jim got dressed, he grabbed a coffee, and we walked to our gate to wait for a couple of hours before departure. I don't mind waiting though, because I brought things to occupy me - a book, crosswords, and of course, a notebook and pen. My laptop bit the dust, so I feel a little naked without it.

I also like to people-watch. I watched a young, good looking Asian father play endlessly and unashamedly with his two young daughters, who seemed around 3 and 5 years of age. He would pretend to throw one of their stuffed animals, they would turn their heads, then he would quickly stuff the toy up his shirt, with only the head peeking out at his neckline. The girls would look back and fall over in fits of giggles. "Do mine, Daddy, do mine!"

Or else they played the tickle game and climbed up on Daddy's lap and tickled him unmercifully. I couldn't help but grin when I heard the father laugh and laugh helplessly. Then he'd start to tickle the girls. You could tell that they had such a good relationship. I thought that he was brave to be traveling alone with these two little ones, but he seemed comfortable with them and obviously didn't think it was a big deal.

The gate got more crowded as it got closer to boarding time. As soon as the flight attendant announced the rows that could board, the crowd thickened and closed in around the counter. She calmly announced, "No need to crowd, people. This plane isn't taking off until EVERYONE is boarded. So back up, give us some space and wait your turn." I could hear a few chuckles around the concourse.

In order to save a little moola, we were flying from Phoenix to Chicago via Houston. Crazy, I know. Jim and I are not small people, but I like to sit next to him on the plane in case I have to kiss my ass goodbye, at least I'm doing it in front of someone I know. Jim likes the aisle seat, which leaves me squished in the middle. A thin young woman, with beautiful long hair, sprawled out in the window seat, taking up more room then was humanly possible for such a little body. Her skinny arm claimed the entire arm rest and bony elbow poked me in the ribs the whole flight. I was surprised when she ordered a rum and coke - thinking she wasn't old enough, but she produced the proper ID and promptly received her drink. The pilot landed the plane none too gently, and skinny girl slammed both her hands on the seat in front of her as if to brace herself. She turned and said to me, "That drink was totally necessary!" Then she took the emergency procedure card out of the pocket of the seat in front of her and started fanning herself. "I HATE flying!" She continued. As soon as the plane stopped, she popped up in her seat and I let her get in front of me - she seemed like she was going to jump out of her skin!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Drunken Fudge and a frustrated Suzie Homaker

Yesterday at my water aerobics class, one of the women brought in some Bailey's Irish Cream Fudge. It was to die for. During the break, (cause even though it's only a 50 minute class, we're old and tired and need a break), some of the women waded over to the side of the pool to taste the fudge. I have to admit, there DID seem like something was wrong with that picture - eating fudge during aerobics - but hey - they needed their strength! (I had a piece of fudge AFTER the class.)

Here is the recipe. It makes a shitload. (Pardon my French, but that's the best way to describe it.)

Bailey’s Irish Cream Fudge

This is an “adults only” fudge.

4 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
½ pound butter
2 (12 ounce) packages milk chocolate chips
1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 (7 ounce) jars Marshmallow crème
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 cups chopped nuts

Follow directions EXACTLY.

Set chocolate chips, marshmallow crème, vanilla extract, Bailey’s and nuts in a very large bowl. Set aside for later.

Bring butter, sugar and milk to a boil and then cook slowly for exactly 11 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour milk mixture over the other ingredients and stir slowly to blend. Do NOT use a mixer. Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 pan and an 8” x 8” pan and chill very well. Cut when cold.

So, I decided to make this fudge and give it away for little gifts to all my friends here in AZ, along with my Christmas card. Now remember I am working in a tiny kitchen, so feel my pain, okay?

I followed the first step and put it into a huge plastic bowl. Did you ever try to get Marshmallow creme out of a jar? Not an easy task, I tell ya! But I got that done and set it aside. And who's says the cook can't have a little glass of Bailey's while she's cooking, right? No rule against it!

I melted my butter in the microwave first before pouring it into the pot with the mounds of sugar and milk. Then you are supposed to stir constantly, wait for it to boil, and stir it for EXACTLY 11 minutes. It takes at least a couple of minutes for the concoction to begin to boil. I do not have a kitchen timer, so I yell out to my husband to give me 11 minutes on his watch. It has a stop watch. I hear beep, beep, beep as he sets it up. I also hear Tina Turner belting out a song in the background. It seems that while Jim was flipping channels, he came across an old concert of hers that had been broadcast live from Amsterdam. This could only mean trouble. My husband absolutely LOVES Tina. Her long, muscular legs to be exact.

Meanwhile, little Suzie Homemaker is busy stirring the fudge in the tiny kitchen.

I yell out, "What's the time?"

No response.

"Uh, hello?" I yell. "Can you tear your eyes away from Tina for one minute to look at your damn watch?!"

"7 minutes, 34 seconds!" he says.

I continue stirring.

Then it dawns on me. I have to pour all this hot mixture into the other mixture that is sitting in a plastic bowl. That can only spell disaster, right? I can just picture the plastic melting and all the ingredients oozing out all over the counter and floor, and all this expensive stuff going to waste.

So AGAIN I yell to my husband. "Hey! Can you come here for a minute? I need your help!"

"What!" He snarls at me!

"Can you PLEASE tear yourself away from TINA for ONE MINUTE and come here?"

I hear him let out a big sigh and he stomps into the kitchen.

"What do you want?"

"I can't stop stirring this fudge. After this is done I have to pour it into that other mixture and I'm afraid it will melt the bowl. So I need you to pour THAT mixture into a big pot. Can you do that please?" I ask, stirring the fudge and batting my eyes.

He begrudgingly does what I asks and goes back to Tina. I continue stirring, but take the plastic bowl and turn it upside down over the pot to get every last drop of the Bailey's cream that is sitting on the bottom. Don't want to waste a drop!

"Time?" I yell.

"10 minutes, 34 seconds, 40, 50, TIME!!"

I quick take the golden liquid off the flame, pour it into the large pot, mix up the wonderful concoction that is wafting orgasmic smells from that pot. Now I have another dilemma. I need a couple of hands to hold the large pot so I can help spoon the fudge into the appropriate pans. Dare I ask for help again?

"Uh, hon?" I say sweetly. "Can you come here again?"


"Please hold this pot so I can spoon the fudge out."

We get the job done. I even volunteer to let him lick the spoon. He refuses. I don't know if he was just being stubborn or what. Who cares? His gain. Slurp!

P.S. I would have taken pictures of the step by step process of making this fudge, but you can see that there is no stopping while making this.

P.S.S. No husbands were hurt while making this fudge.

P.S.S.S. This is what the husband was watching.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekend Reflections #13

This sculpture is affectionately called "The Bean", located in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. It's official name is "Cloud Gate", by Anish Kapoor. I love how the skyline is reflected in the sculpture. Obviously this was taken during the summer. If you were to walk by it today, there would be snow on the ground and snow flurries in the air!

For more weekend reflections, click here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

I've haven't got my Christmas cards out yet. I decided it was time to get off my butt and get to it. I happen to have a box filled with boxes of Christmas cards that I bought on sale a few years ago. It is the ONLY thing Christmasy that is in this trailer. Unfortunately, it is stored in a cabinet along the back of the trailer, above the rocking recliner.

This means that I have to do a balancing act on said recliner, to get the box down. Not an easy feat, since the box is buried under various paraphernalia such as six decks of cards, in case we have a large crowd over to play cards, Dominoes, a bag of what's left of tinker toys (in case I feel like being a kid again I guess), a bag full of Mr. Potato Head parts, and a bag full of another game's parts. So, imagine me, if you will, standing on tippy toes, rocking the chair, grabbing on to the wall for balance every now and then, and trying to reach up and grab all this crap and throw it on the couch just to get the damn box of cards. Yeah. So now you know why I put it off. I looked a little like this. Just without the f***ing tutu. And I have more teeth.

You might ask why I just didn't ask my big, strong, 6'2" husband to just reach up and grab the box down? A) Because I'm stubborn; and B) (READ THE REAL REASON) Because I didn't want to hear him say, "You've GOT to get rid of some of this CRAP! We have TOO much WEIGHT in the trailer!"

You know EXACTLY what I'm thinking, ladies! If HE left, there would be about 10 hardcover books, 50 paperbacks, and 5 games worth of weight I could fill right back up with, easily!

Anyway, I digress. I was talking about Christmas cards. Each year I debate whether to send them or not, but then I break down and send them because I really like to receive them myself.

I hand address every one because it seems a lot more personal that way. I don't mind using the return address labels, though. And thank GOD for self-adhesive stamps. Remember back in the days when we had to LICK all those stamps? By the time I was done with my Christmas cards, my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth! I was speechless for awhile. I think those were Jim's best moments, looking back!

I always write a newsletter telling everyone what has happened to Jim and me, and our family during the past year. It's been a lot easier since the kids have grown, and we've been on the road. I can write about the places we've seen, people we've visited, etc.

But back when the kids were growing up, it was hard. Here's why. I had normal, every day kids. Yeah. I'm ashamed. They didn't get straight A's in school, they didn't excel in sports, and they sucked at playing any instruments. I hated when I got those letters from friends bragging about their kids and all their accomplishments. "Why my little Suzie is SO SMART, she has made honor roll all 3 semesters. And she takes tap and ballet lessons!" Blah, blah, blah. Reading it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I mean, geez, I'm happy for you, really, but can you tone it down a bit? Is it wrong of me to pray to God that that kid is a little shit to her parents? IS IT?

Don't get me wrong. I had (have) great kids. BUT THEY WERE NORMAL, AVERAGE KIDS. My son played soccer when he was little, but didn't continue in school. My daughter started out playing soccer, but quit after the third game after I made her pee in a bush because there were no bathrooms in the park and she had to go potty. She never forgave me for this - she had a stubborn streak and refused to play soccer ever again. She was 5. She was on cross country and track in high school. Was she the fastest? No. But she enjoyed herself.

So, I was at a loss what to write in those damn Christmas letters. Let's see...Hmmm...I could have lied, but that's not me. I just left things out. Like the time my son was a freshman and got suspended from school because he wrote the word "Goofy" on a locker. It was considered vandalism. Yeah. I know. Kind of a rough punishment for that. I mean, he didn't write, "fuck you", or he didn't write, "Why did Mickey Mouse have Minnie committed? Because she was fucking GOOFY." No. He wrote the word "Goofy". That's it. So yeah. I left that little tidbit out of the Christmas letter.

So thankfully now I write about our travels, and one or two lines about my kids. I still get a letter or two from those same people, but now it's about their grandchildren, and how they are such whiz kids, future presidents, blah, blah, blah.

I have to go. I must finish my Christmas cards and write my Christmas letter. Maybe I could make up some good lies about Jim and me......

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Christmas Card to you and other thoughts

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my fellow bloggers! Here's a little something to bring you some holiday cheer!

Click here.

It's funny if you type in a song they don't know, like "Grandma got run over by a reindeer."

I had a good laugh this morning while singing some Christmas carols. No, I was not laughing because of my voice. I was singing, "Winter Wonderland" and laughed when I remembered that for years my daughter sang, "Walking in my winter UNDERWEAR" because her GRANDPA, (my Dad) told her those were the words to the song. So next time you hear that song, sing, "Walking in my winter underwear!" It will be fun!

I miss when my kids were little and they would come down on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought them. It was fun to watch them exclaim over their presents, their hair all mussed up from sleep, while my husband and I could barely keep our eyes opened.

I bought one of these pickle ornaments from the Christkindlemarket in downtown Chicago.

The German story that goes along with the pickle is to hide the pickle in the tree, and the first one to find the pickle gets an extra gift on Christmas morning. I'd just hand out $5. My kids were in middle school by the time I had bought the ornament. My daughter was always quicker than my son to find the pickle.

Here are pictures of the Christkindle Market in Chicago, all courtesy of their website. Jim and I would always go downtown, and it seemed it was the coldest day of the year, of course, with blowing winds, (they don't call it the Windy City for nothing folks!), snow, etc. But it was fun to see all the treasures from Germany. We'd buy a mug of mulled wine, a warm sandwich of bratwurst and we were good to go for another hour or so.

We have been on the road for 4 1/2 years now - since April 2005. That means I have not put up ANY Christmas decorations in five years. It is very strange. We always go home for the holidays, and this year is no different. It will be a very busy two weeks, as we will spend some time with my family in the suburbs of Chicago, drive down to central Illinois to see my daughter, son-in-law, and grand daughter Lily, and drive up to Minnesota to visit my father-in-law, who will turn 99 in February, God-willing-and-the-creek-don't-rise. I also have some doctor's appointment scheduled and some standard tests. So we will be busy, busy, busy!

I will be happy to be around Christmas decorations, to be with my sisters, see my kids, and to see snow, actually. I'll probably be cold the whole time I am home, but that's okay, because my heart will be warm.


At last count, it seems overwhelmingly true that dogs paws smell like Fritos. So now you know. It's amazing the things you learn here, isn't it?

Last night my husband and I were in bed reading. I was reading a fiction novel and I came to this sentence, "Dan was allergic to pet dander and they'd never had so much as a parakeet, but Helen grew up with dogs and missed them, their glad eyes, the way their paws smelled like corn chips."

I yelped and jumped up in bed! Jim thought I was crazy! I said, "You've GOT to read this one sentence!" I shoved the book under his nose and pointed to the sentence. He laughed sooo hard!

Can you believe it? I am going to write to the author, Elizabeth Berg, who is my favorite author, by the way, and let her know that she just made my day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I am the Frito Paw Smelling Bandit

Okay. I need all of my readers who own a dog or know somebody who owns a dog to help me out. Listen up. I need you to sniff your dog's feet. His/her pads to be exact. Am I crazy? Well, yes, that's a given, but that has nothing to do with this request. You see, dog's feet smell exactly like Fritos Corn Chips.

You may think I am kidding, but I am not. My twin sister, whom you met in Meet My F***ing Twin Sister first gave me a heads up on this phenomenon. So when I was at my daughter's house, I smelled her two dog's, Venus and Atlas. Yep. Fritos Corn Chips.

So, last Friday night, a group of us are gathered together for a nightcap after going out to dinner. I decided to share this little tidbit with everyone. Well, after everyone finished laughing their butts off, my friend, Rachel, lifted up her little dachshund, Petey, and all of us women sniffed his paws. Some agreed that they smelled like Fritos. Others agreed that they definitely had a smell, but they didn't know what Fritos smelled like.

We were going to get together on Sunday for another Happy Hour. Yeah. I know. It seems that all we do around here is drink. It's true I guess. Well, Carl was going to serve authentic Mexican tamales that were made in corn husks. It was a perfect opportunity for me to bring a chili dip and Fritos corn chips so we could have a sniff off. I wanted to blind fold every one, have them sniff a dog's paw, then a Frito, and decide which one was which. I really thought they'd all be game for this.

Here is the group of the usual suspects.

They must not have drank enough, because they did not want to cooperate and sniff the dog's paws. The owner's didn't have any problems, of course. And look at how cute the puppies were for Pete's sake! How could you not want to sniff these cuties?

This is Pedro. He's a rat terrier. His Mommy is Sandy.

This little one is named Pinky. She is a Chihuahua/Miniature Pincher. She was adopted from a shelter by her Mommy Carol.

Surprisingly, Pedro and Pinky did NOT smell like Fritos. I have no idea why not. Their paws smelled like, well, feet. Imagine that. Here's a photo of brave little ole me sniffing Pinky's paws.

SOOOO, I'm not confessing to a new fetish here, folks. Just trying to take a survey. Smell your dog's paws. Tell me - yeah or nay - Fritos?

So far, my sister's dog, my daughter's two dogs, and Petey are yeses - that makes 4, and Pedro and Pinky are no. So it's 4-2 for Fritos. Let's hear from you!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why don't they sell fleas at flea markets and why don't people swap anything at swap meets?

If you ever come to the Phoenix area, and you like flea markets/swap meets, then the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet is for you!

It is located on the outskirts of the city of Mesa, with the Superstition Mountains looming in the background.

There is plenty of parking on three sides of the buildings.

The swap meet is huge with 1,600 vending booths that cover 1 1/4 miles of shopping lanes. They sell everything imaginable from jewelry to toys to furniture to shoes to socks to hats.

This is at the start in Aisle A. There are four aisles to walk down. I'm usually tired after only two, just to give you an idea of how big this market is!

Maybe you'd like one of these nice ceramic pots:

Or who could live without a cow's skull? Or perhaps a nice cactus?

If you should get hungry while shopping, they have several food areas to grab a hamburger, hot dog, or the like.

In Aisle B you can sit down and eat AND listen to entertainment.

On this particular day, The Needham Twins were performing. They are a real popular group in the area. They sing songs from the 50's to the 70's. They have performed at our park several times.

The Snow Birds are a major part of the shopping business and the vendors are always happy to welcome us back into the area.

Here are some of the Red Dirt products. Their gimmick is that they are dyed from the red dirt of Arizona. Click here to read more about them and see more of their products.

Here are some beautiful ceramic animals. The rooster is cute. I could see all of these guys in front of my trailer. But I think they'd be hard to travel around with, don't you?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekend Reflections #12

This week's reflection is a photo of the sunset through my car's side mirror. You can see the contrails from the planes high in the sky.

To see more reflection photos, visit James at Newton Area Photo.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You are as old as you feel!

This is Bernice. You met her in a previous post. She turned 95 last June. Bernice is still very active in this retirement community. She bowls once a week on the bowling league and attends all the dances.

Whenever the band plays a polka, Bernice will get up and do a sort of line dance with another couple.

Her dance card is never empty, as many of the gentlemen in the park ask her to dance the slow dances. She has been overheard remarking, "They keep asking me to dance the slow ones, but I'd love to dance a fast one now and then!"

I've never been to Bernice's place here in the park; I've always just walked or ridden by on my bike and waved "hi". Well this time I paid her a visit to drop off copies of the photos that I took of her in the Christmas parade. We had such a wonderful visit! What a joy it was to sit and listen to her talk about her life.

Bernice grew up in the State of Montana, and went off to North Central College in Naperville, IL during the 1920's. That's quite a hike, especially back then. Tuition was $90 a semester. She signed a note promising to pay back the money. Before she went off to college, and during the summer months, Bernice worked for a woman who owned a sheep farm. She would lace vests together that were made from sheep skin and other suede clothing. As a send off gift for college, this woman gave Bernice a suede vest and a dress that had fringe along the bottom of the hem. She wore these items at college, which earned her the name of "Pocahontas". Later the nickname was shortened to "Pokey".

Bernice graduated with a B.A. and wanted to be a teacher. But there were no teaching jobs to be found during the Depression. So she settled for a nursemaid job looking after two young girls and an infant boy for a couple of years. At least it was a job, paid room and board, and a small paycheck, so she was able to put some money towards her tuition loan.

After two years of looking after children, she found a teaching job in the small country town of Monroe Center, just outside of Rockford, IL. There she taught a combined class of 45 students. She shared a couple of funny stories with me about the kids.

One little girl in her class had a sister who had given birth at home. The next day the little girl came to school and told all the other kids how her sister had a baby and where it came from. A little boy came up to Bernice and said, "Miss _____, Mary said her sister had a baby and it came right out of her. Did it?"

Well, Bernice was a little startled. You have to remember, this was a LONG time ago, and topics like this just weren't spoken about - especially in a first grade class. Bernice said that she stuttered a little bit and then said, "Well, you should talk to your mother about that!"

Back in the good old days, you could hug a child (now you are not allowed to touch a child), and you could spank a child (I'm not condoning this but there sure was better discipline in the classrooms!) There was a little boy named Bill who was always talking and causing trouble in Bernice's class. She'd have to reprimand him several times. Finally she said to him, "Bill, I warned you several times that if you don't behave, I'm going to send you down to the principal's office. How many times does Mr. Marriott have to spank you?"

"Probably a couple of times will help!" Bill said.

So off Bill went to Mr. Marriott's office for his paddling. A little while later, Mr. Marriott escorted a hopefully more disciplined Bill back to the classroom. Bernice noticed that the principal could hardly conceal the smirk on his face. Later he filled Bernice in on what had happened in the office.

Bill had entered Mr. Marriott's office and handed him the note that Bernice had wrote, explaining why he had been sent to the principal's office.

Mr. Marriott had Bill sit down and lectured him about good behavior. Then he told him it was time for the spanking. Mr. Marriott took out the ping-pong paddle and had Bill bend over his desk. Just when his arm was raised up and he was ready to spank, Bill yelled out, "Ready! Aim! Fire!"

Mr. Marriott said that it took all he had not to burst out laughing!

Bernice said that Bill behaved for a couple of days before he needed a good spanking again!

Over the course of the last 25-30 years, Bernice has made these beautiful crafts called jeweled trees. They are all made out of costume jelwery which she then removes the backings from and collects them in a box. The shape of the tree is cut out in a lightweight wood such as plywood and then glued to a velvet fabric. Then she starts arranging the jewelry around to fit on the piece of wood. She covers the wood pretty thick. Because the piece is raised up on wood, she decorates the edges with a beaded necklace. There is a lot of intricate work involved, but it is worth it.

Here is a close up of one so you can get a better idea of the beautiful image. All the jeweled tree images were taken with my camera phone so they aren't that great!

All in all, it was a great visit. I learned so much about Bernice in that short hour visit. I promised that I would come back to see her again. And I tell you what....I am really looking forward to it and am anxiously awaiting to hear more of her stories!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Watery Wednesday

Last Fall, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ featured glass work from the famous artist Dale Chihuly. It was a spectacular sight, especially to see the large pieces of glass in the dirt and sand, surrounded by tall saguaro cactus and many other kinds of cacti.

This particular exhibit featured large pieces of glass floating in the water. It is called, "Blue Polyvitro Crystals". Here is a close up of the exhibit.

Here's a shot of it a little farther out.

And finally, the whole thing.

This is a traveling exhibit, and if it ever comes to your area, I highly recommend you to go see it. You will not be disappointed.

For more Watery Wednesday photos, click here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Comes to Val Vista Village

Friday was our annual Christmas parade here at Val Vista Village. The cool weather got us all in the Christmas spirit - it was in the low 50's to upper 40's. Hey - that's cold for Arizona!

We lined up down Park Ave in anticipation of the parade. Anyone could be in the parade. If you decorated your golf cart, for instance.

Or perhaps your bike......

Maybe you had a motorcycle built for two:

Let's zoom in on his passenger; he looks a little like a hairy elf!

We were entertained by music from the Kitchen Band, a group of people who play objects found in the kitchen, sprinkled among some real instruments. They blow on funnels, bang pots, spoons, etc.

A group of line dancers performed to a Christmas song. They all appear to be in step!

That's Margaret, in the center of the front row. She's the line dance teacher. Free line dancing every Thursday night here in the park.

We had some kayakers who were "high and dry"! I would say this was the most original entry in the parade!

This Motorcycle Mama is Bernice, who turned 95 years old last June. She is a real sweetheart.

Here's who we all were waiting for! Santa Claus!

When the parade was over, we all gathered inside for a sit down dinner of chili in a bread bowl, bread pudding, and vegetables/dip. Here our food servers are just waiting to be of service.

Bernice walked around to each table, beaming from ear to ear, showing everyone her sash and tiara. She was "Miss Val Vista" and proud of it!

Our entertainment of the evening were some children from the Sunshine Acres Children's Home from Mesa, Arizona. "Sunshine Acres generally admits children from families who are experiencing:

- Homelessness
- Chronic or terminal health concerns
- Incarceration
- Drug or Alcohol challenges or rehabilitation
- Difficulties meeting the needs of their adoptive child
- Challenges with a kins(hip placement (children currently living with a relative other than birth parents)

Sunshine Acres is a long term residential home. Initial placement is a minimum of 12 months. Once admitted, a child may stay as long as needed, even into early adulthood (college)."

The kids sang and danced. Their last song was "Silent Night", which they sang a cappella. After a few verses, their choir director motioned with her hands for the audience to join in with the kids. There was probably 200 people in the audience. Everyone joined in singing. It was an emotional moment. Then the minister of Sunshine Acres said a few words and said that some of the kids wanted to say some things.

One girl came up to the mike and said, "I just want to say that Sunshine Acres is the greatest! Every day I wake up and I am so happy I am there!" My eyes filled up with tears, and I looked around me and saw many others with wet eyes, too. I wondered what this little girl's home life was like if she loved the orphanage so much. It sure gave me pause. That little boy in the picture is only five. How sad to be so little and have your life already so hard. But Sunshine Acres sounds like a great place. You can read more about it here.

Santa came up on stage and distributed gifts to any kids who sat on his lap. It was a wonderful evening. Afterwards we walked over to a friend's place and had a nightcap of rum/eggnog. A good time was had by all.