Category: The Hodge Podge


Christmas Porch

Decorating the front of my house always feels like a challenge. 

Porch Xmas signI am a simple girl, not quite a minimalist but definitely not a ‘more is more’ kind of person. I like it simple and not over done. In fact, when I decorate at work I get it to the point where I like it and then add three more elements. That way I know it is what it should be, what is expected for Christmas decorations. 

This last fall, I saw a porch decoration for fall in Better Homes and Gardens that really fit my vibe. So I copied it as much as I could. I didn’t have the super thick rope or the grapevine balls.

I had orange lights and orange rope. I had other pieces of halloween decoration and pumpkins. Once I put it together, I was really happy, it was simple and elegant. It wasn’t over done.

But now it’s Christmas.

Christmas seems to say excess, maybe scream it a little.

porch-xmas-wreath.jpg

So what did I do?

I stayed in my comfort zone.

I kept the orange rope, changed out for white lights, changed out the wreath, and added a Christmas sign where I had a Halloween ‘beware.’

A part of me thinks about adding some pine cones to the rope. And then I re-think when I consider all of the work involved. Now that school is done for the semester I want to be lazy.

I am making cookies, watching movies, and thinking about switching around that one troublesome part of my book to make it flow better. My plans include buckeyes and peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars in the centers. If I get lucky, there might be some Rumchatta chocolate pudding. 

But still, it’s pretty isn’t it? And it is a start of Christmas Cheer, even when this might be as far as I get.

Porch Christmas

Study Music

For the last two years I have been working towards a certificate called a Library Technical Assistant.

It was a part of the condition of my job that I have, that I am to be working towards this certificate if I didn’t already have it. It has been great in a lot of ways; I have learned so much about the world of libraries and researching. The course on technology nearly killed me even though I learned more about excel and word.

Through all of this I have learned to listen to music while I am writing which helps build a wall between me and wherever I might be working. Some days I find myself in a library because my home computers do not have Microsoft products.

My school bag keeps a set of ear buds in it at all times so I can plug in and get going on what ever project I am doing. Having that wall really helps depending on where the computer area located. Some are right next to the check out desk which means I get to hear all of these conversations as people check out or get their card renewed.

What am I listening to?

duranduran 1980sDuran Duran

I loved these guys back in the 80s when they first hit the big time. I loved dancing to their music and would have loved to have gone to a concert but I was a poor college student. 

To be honest, I still have no idea what The Reflex is or why we are waiting for the New Moon on Monday. Some of the lyrics make no sense and I have no idea how some of the videos connect to the song that they are emphasizing. At some point I decided not to care.

At some point I lost track of the guys. I got married, had a kid, got divorced, got remarried, listened to a lot of country music and Raffi. Had more kids.

Hello Bananaphone. Goodbye Duran Duran

Then one day at a garage sale I found a Duran Duran Greatest Hits album. The more I played it, the more my kids made fun of them but I didn’t care. I loved their music. Then for one of my classes, I did a research project on the boys. I found out that they are still making albums and interesting music despite breaking up, connecting with other musicians, and later re-connecting with the original five, and breaking up again. At this time four of the original musicians are still in the group.

Duran Duran GettyImages-todayThrough 2015 they have been creating new music, some of it reminiscent of their earlier stuff and other albums that moved on with more modern sounds. As I hear more and more of these songs, I find my self falling in love with their music over and over again. White Lines, What’s Gonna Happen Tomorrow, All You Need is Now, and Pressure Off are just a few of my new favorites. As much as I don’t appreciate the costumes in the video of Girl Panic, I find myself loving the song and the supermodels portraying the guys.

I listen to their music because the mid-tempo songs help my typing become quicker and easier. I feel happy when I am listening to it and that makes projects get put together much easier. I will admit that I could have never gotten through this program without the music of Duran Duran.

Everyone has a band or an artist that they love. For me it is Duran Duran. No apologies, no justification. Not sure if I really care if the rest of the world disagrees with me.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go listen to Serious one more time.

Duran duran serious

Tom and Meg

Tonight I watched one of my favorite movies. It was made in 1998.

When did 1998 become twenty years ago?

It seemed like yesterday in the golden age of romantic comedies. But her I am, twenty years older, just like Meg and Tom.

Yes, I am on a first name basis with these two as are many women my generation. We watched them in Joe Vs. the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail.

I realize that Tom is really busy and Meg is taking time to work behind the scenes. But it is time for them to make a movie again.

Seriously.

They are a part of the Boomer generation and maybe it is time to see these two back in a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy in which the two people are the approximate same age going through similar circumstances with their business and family and life.

And I have the perfect vehicle for them.

It’s called Juliet and Romeo by Jeanne Ray.

Julie and RomeoThis book is about an couple whose families are life long enemies although no one is quite sure why. The both own flower shops and have large families. Julie is divorced while Romeo ‘s wife died a few years ago.

Their attraction begins while attending a seminar for small business owners who are struggling and need new ideas.

After seeing each other across a hallway, the two develop a bond. They fall crazy in love. But now they have to fight against old hatreds and new-fangled shenanigans from their children.

It feels like it could fit these two people who are now older but have feelings that are definitely something from when they were younger.

Now Meg and Tom would be the obvious choices for Julie and Romeo. But there are two daughters for Julie and several sons and a younger daughter for Romeo. And this could be fun casting. Personally, I would love to see Selena Gomez as Romeo’s younger daughter. She could hit that younger boho vibe with an iron will. You will need a few tough guys to play the oldest son and daughter on each side along with some star-crossed loved in that younger set.

I used to think Sandra Bullock would be great as the older daughter. But now I am thinking of someone else, perhaps Eva Mendez or Amanda Peet. Maybe Adam Driver could be Romeo’s older son who is a force to be reckoned with. He needs to lighten up sometimes. And for the old grandmother, you could go for the Italian stereotype or allow Betty White to do something besides the naughty old lady.

All I am saying is that Meg and/or Tom need to read this book and figure out how to make a fun movie out of it.

Is that so hard to do?

Halloween has become my favorite time of year.

The weather is not too hot and the snow hasn’t started yet, most years. This year we had a snowstorm on Halloween day with high winds later in the night. Some towns in my area put off Halloween trick or treating to Friday or Saturday.

I chose to celebrate with a little house decorating. Better homes and Garden showed a cute way to decorate the house using a thick hemp rope and big bulb lights. I had orange thin nylon rope and orange lights. Nor do I have the Grape vine balls they used and didn’t really show up in the picture. I might head to the thrift stores and see if I can find any to add to my porchscape.

Front Porch Halloween 2019

But I did find three ghosties at the dollar store to hang on the garland of rope and lights. Plus I had a fun sign to put on my pitchfork tines. I felt very halloween-y.

Now Halloween is over. The wind is blowing more. Time change has come and it was inky dark by 5:30. I m not ready to go full Christmas. Which was OK because the BH&G issue showed how to make this ready for thanksgiving.

 

Front porch post halloween 2019

 

I removed the ghosties and other Halloween elements. The pumpkins can stay till they are eaten or become too mushy to live on the steps. I need a new sign to hang on the tines, something in the order of “Give Thanks” or “Welcome Friends.” The orange lights get to stay until the Christmas lights go up.

Maybe I need a big fat turkey.

Gobble, Gobble.

I Read Banned Books

Last week was banned books week.

Maybe you are familiar with it, maybe you’re not. It is this week that we celebrate the freedom to read – even if it is something you or someone else would not read. I prefer not to read horror but I am not going to stop someone else from reading it.

As people try to ban or challenge books, it becomes imperative that we continue to fight for this right. At the beginning of September there was a story about a principle in a Catholic school who wanted to ban the Harry Potter books because he said the spells in the books are real. I think there might be many children and adults who would disagree because they have tried with no results.

But this story emphasizes why it is important to fight for the freedom to read. We won’t agree on everything but by reading the book in question, we can discuss the issues brought up by these books. We can discuss the rights and wrongs of bringing it up and explore those issues.

I read banned booksI work in a library and so we take it seriously, including getting tee-shirts. I love mine which is a v-neck football style. I can no longer find it on Cafe Press but they do have similar tees. I tend to wear it once a week, before and after banned book week.

So I was wearing it this past week and after work I stopped at the grocery store. The thing is, people kept looking at me and smiling. I don’t know any of these people. I was beginning to think everyone was happy that it was Thursday and only one more day in the work left to go.

Then I hit the check out line and the cashier mentioned my shirt. He was smiling, too. We talked about banned books while he rang up my order. Once I got to my car it hit me that the people smiling at me loved my shirt. I forgot about what I was wearing. But for them it must have been a clarion call. A signal that it is ok to reject complacency or lemming behavior.

I was telling people, through my shirt, it is okay to read whatever you want. I gave permission to be themselves as I raised my own freak flag.

It made people smile, even for a moment. And I can get into that.

By the way, I really do read banned and challenged books.

What banned books have you read lately?

Rice Pudding

My husband loves to watch cooking shows.

And we watch them all.

Because of these shows, I have worked to try new foods and new recipes. Which can be difficult because the family does not like to try new things. I always make sure there is an old favorite along so the new thing isn’t a total disaster.

As some of you know, I have been fighting Type Two Diabetes for the last few years. I am always trying to find ways to make old favorites amenable to the new way of life. The family is not always happy about these changes. I am the only one who like brown rice. And no one was interested in cauliflower/mashed potatoes mixture.

rice-pudding-end-product.jpg

They don’t really like rice pudding, well a few of them. But while watching Milk Street on PBS, I saw a recipe utilizing mango and knew I had to try it.

The Senagalese Mango and coconut rice pudding also includes coconut milk and shredded coconut.

This is suppose to add more flavor while reducing the amount of sugar in the dish. Sometimes it feels as if I am always looking for the holy grail of foods that allows me to have what I like without the damage of carbs.

Now, there is a small part of me that is fiercely anti-creating old favorites when you have turned a new leaf – voluntarily – foodwise. Vegan burgers, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan cheese make no sense to me. I also don’t understand why you want to re-create the taste and texture of a food you are no longer eating for moral reasons.

We had a long discussion over the dinner table about this in which my daughter who should become a lawyer argued that I am doing the same with my mashed caulifower, dark chocolate, and no bread rule.

rice-pudding-ingrediants.jpgNope, I am not doing the same because I am making changes by force and not due to want. Bread and pasta are slowly being eliminated from my diet. I recently had a unwich from Jimmy John’s and liked it. I didn’t miss the bread, almost.

I used to eat more pasta but I have asked my husband to serve those meals on the nights I am at school. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I think about going Keto but the lack of beans really doesn’t satisfy my taste buds. Nor do I want to ask my family to make that huge jump for me.

I am willing to adapt old favorites. So when I printed out this recipe, I was able to decide how to adapt or change based on what was available to me. Coconut milk, right there. Unsweetened coconut. Not so much so I ended up using a sweetened version.

Rice Pudding - toasting coconutBefore I even started the first step, I made sure everything was poured out and ready to go. Knowing that toasting coconut can be tricky, I wanted everything to ready to go.

So when my pan was ready to go. I poured in the coconut and stirred.

Walked away, stirred again.

Tried not to get too anxious. Stirred again.

Took a picture. Stirred some more.

Waited, let more than half of it finally get brown.

This takes place in a minute and a half. Maybe two minutes.

rice-pudding-sauce.jpgSo I pour in the coconut milk, finally. Sugar, vanilla, and salt go into the pot as well.

The recipe says to let it get to a simmer.

Then I am supposed to let it stay on medium heat for five minutes.

So I stir and walk away. I take a nice picture.

Gwen is cutting up the Mango for me and I show her how to score the fruit once the sides are cut up.

I stir a little more and deem it ready for the next step. You want it to reduce a little bit but not too much. Once that is done, you add the rice.

I had a mixture of Basmati and white rice. They were leftovers from a taco meal. The Basmati may have been leftovers from another meal. The point is it needed to be used up. So I put it all in which was just a little more than the two cups required by a quarter cup.

rice-pudding-final-additions-and-simmer.jpgThen I added a cup of water. This is not in the list of ingredients but it was in the instructions. So I put it all in the pot at a nice little simmer.

The directions said to simmer for about 15-20 minutes to get it to a nice semi-thick consistency.

So I stirred and walked away. I put away all of the ingredients. I got bowls and spoons out. I stirred the pot.

I put the mangos on the table. My husband lamented there was no whipped cream. I stirred the pot after rolling my eyes. When there was more rice than liquid and almost but not quite sticking to the bottom, I turned off the burner.

I had decided not to do the camelized honey for the mangos because I wanted less sugar. I am sure it would have taken no time at all. In fact, I could have done it while the pudding was on it’s last simmer. Have two teaspoons of honey in a skillet and at the right moment throw in the fruit of a cut up mango.

But I didn’t.

With a 1/4 cup of reserved liquid of the sauce mixture, we added the mangos to the rice pudding in our bowls.

So good. and there were no leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Pillow

We all want keepsakes of our loved ones even when, or especially when, they are gone.

My father died four years ago.

I can’t believe it still and I know it happened.

Sometimes I smell his cologne around the house, sometimes it is pipe tobacco.

But I also wanted something tangible of his to hold. That’s when I saw shirt pillows.

pillow chairYou take a loved one’s shirt and convert it into a pillow. To make it easier to wash the insert or replace it, a zipper is placed at the bottom of the pillow.

I took one of Dad’s favorite shirts, with Mom’s permission of course, to make into a pillow. The patterns I saw called for a 16″ pillow. But Dad was a big guy and we came to realize that an 18″ pillow was going to work much better.

Making the pattern was the easy part. I cut out an 18″ square out of newspaper. Originally I thought I was going to make a 16″ pillow and created that patter piece in the same way. But we quickly realized the pockets would be cut on the ends. Mom didn’t want that so I went two inches bigger.

pillow pattern cut outOnce I placed the pattern on the shirt and pinned it down, it came for the really hard part.

I had to cut the shirt.

In cutting the shirt I had to admit to myself just how real this all is. Dad is not coming back. He is not going to come around the corner quacking at me or the kids. He is not going to say “It’s too damn hot” or “it’s too damn cold.”

The door to the house will not open and he will not walk through. Cutting the shirt seemed more final than when we spread his ashes.

I had to wait until I was back home before I threw out the remains of the shirt. I couldn’t do it at Mom’s house where I made the project. All in all, it took me an hour to get the courage to cut around the pattern, giving it a half inch seam allowance.

pillow front stitch downAs I began to work on the shirt, I followed the good advice of my friend, Steve. It was tempting to simply leave the shirt able to open at the buttons. But puckering was a concern. Steve suggested that I sew down the button over lap, making it look like top stitching.

Another great suggestion was to put in the zipper before I created all of the side seams. That way the zipper is in before trying to make it fit. Once the zipper was in, all I had to do was create the side seams with a traditional 5/8 sewing line.

To be safe I did a zigzag stitch along the edges just to make sure there would be no raveling of material. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the pillow form to come from Amazon. Once it did, all I had to do was fluff the pillow form, bend it in half, and zip up the closure.

pillow finished

If I had to do it again, I would top stitch along the zipper for less gap. I can always go back and do that.

I might have used a 19″ pillow to fill out the corners better and to have a more pop of pillow fluffiness.

Otherwise, this went well. It only took a few hours in real time. I did have to take a while since it was the first time I made this project. Steeling your courage without alcohol takes time.

While I have some of his other shirts in quilted flannel, they are not going to get the shirt treatment. They are too warm to cut up.

Still, it makes for a great memory keepsake, especially when you need a little warmth or hug back.

pillow supplies

 

Supplies

1 Shirt

Matching or coordinating thread

Zipper – I had a 16″ zipper because that is what I planned initially. I would go with 1-2 inches shorter than the form size you plan to use.

Pins

Pattern

Pillow Form – On inch bigger than your pattern for a bigger fit.

Seam ripper – for all necessary unsewing

 

WE ALL HATE FAKE NEWS.

Doesn’t matter which side it comes from, it is all pretty deplorable.

And the worst are the memes which misappropriates pictures to make what ever point people are trying to make.

You know the ones, those images that come from the certain relative who makes every family gathering crazy.

So today I am going to show you how to find out the origin of a picture. This is not a job for your cool cellphone. It takes several windows at once. If you don’t have a PC at home, you can always go to your local library and use their computers to do the heavy lifting.

So let’s start with an image that’s been turned into a meme. Click on it so it is a stand alone image.

Picture 1

 

Now do a right click with your mouse.

 

Picture 2

 

See that lovely dialogue box? Good. Now click on the line that says “Copy Image Address.”

Good! Now open a new window on your browser. I prefer Chrome.

 

Picture 3

 

See the circled portion that says Image? Click on it.

 

 

Picture 4

Your next window will have a camera icon. Click on it.

 

 

Picture 5

 

Remember how we did that neat little “copy address of image” technique? Now get your cursor in the box and hit CTRL and “V” to paste that address in the box. then click on “search by image”.

 

 

Picture 6

Now, Bang. your search has produced something. At the top of the page it says “best result = festival.” I scrolled down to find our guy sitting in his chair. Apparently he has been doing a lot of chair sitting. But I found him here in Glastonbury.

 

 

Picture 7

And look at that date – 2017.

Just because an image or meme makes us feel good or vindicated doesn’t make it true. Always check it out and stop disinformation in it’s tracks.

Thank you

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

The Right to What?

Since the Parkland shooting, I have been nonsensical with grief, worry, and anger.

All I seem to hear is the usual NRA rhetoric of good guy with a gun, we need more guns , and how dare those kids talk about gun control.

The mother’s anguished screams to President Trump to ‘do something’ has not left my brain.

But what really set me off was someone I know stating that we can’t control crazy or evil people, they are going to do what they do. Therefore the only course of action is nothing. Because I had been unreasonable towards them, I felt the need to apologize. They accepted it and then felt the need to lecture me once more so I might understand their  point of view.

That is where they lost me. Accept the apology and move on. Explain your side so that I can know how wrong I am and I know you are a pompous ass who only cares about your point of view.

I also know that they were wrong because I know that determined people can change a society.

Look what happened when the federal government instituted speed limits. While states have been setting speed limits since 1901, the federal government set highway driving speed limits at 55 mph in 1972. This lead to a drop in driving fatalities by nearly 50%. That was huge.

In the 80s, the federal government also forced states to raise their drinking age to 21 by refusing to give them highway money. Maybe it didn’t matter to those of you surrounded by states with all the same drinking age but it really mattered where I grew up. Wisconsin was only 90 minutes away. Kid could drive up, drink, and come home.

But every year, there was always a fatality of a car load of kids coming home. Every year our year book had a dedication page to the dead. Every year someone did not come home. These were laws that made changes to behavior that were seen as unchangable.

It was during this time when mothers became and angry about their children being killed by drunk drivers. MADD was formed in 1980 and these women worked to change laws, make reforms, and stop the death toll.

Unlike the temperance unions that destroyed bars and banned the creation of alcohol products, these women went after the people who drank to excess and worked to get them off the roads. That is how drinking ages were raised, penalties for drunk driving increased, and various punishments put into effect. The efforts of MADD brought down the fatalities rates 50 percent.

I think people would have said that there was no way you could bring down the drunk driving fatality rates. You can’t control what drunken people might do.

But what if we took some of those same ideas towards gun laws. Say we made gun laws consistent across all states so that every one follows the same rules. What if age limits were set for gun owner ship? What if magazine sizes were limited? What if we changed gun rules to match what MADD did or the federal government did that actually saved lives?

Or we could sit around pretending there is nothing we can do so that we can continue to caress our guns and be satisfied that the right to own guns is safe.  Forget the inalienable rights declared in the declaration of Independence as the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. As long as guns are available no matter what, who cares if another group of school kids are shot to death.

 

 

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

A few weeks go, I began to talk of my favorite musicals.

 

Musicals were always my place for hiding when I couldn’t deal with life. And sometimes it was the place I need to go when I need a break from the real world. Maybe you do it with ice cream or potato chips or golf. Sports on TV always seem to make my husband relax after a long day.

 

hamilton_Lately, I have been listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton. It is interesting how different styles of music are used to define different characters. The King of England uses the style of a pop love song, the three Schuyler sisters sound like pop trios from the 80s. And Mr. Hamilton is a rapper telling a complicated story. You think he is fast until you hear Marquis LaFayette.

 

But I have to admit at this time I think it is more important to pay my mortgage than take the family to see this award winning show. One of my friends joked that it would be less expensive for him to take a Rhine River cruise, including the cost of airfare to Germany. Until this show comes to the big screen, I need to be patient.

 

This made me think about some of my favorite musicals. The ones I love are energetic with saucy heroines. When the movie is done, I want to feel as if I could dance and sing for no apparent reason. I get this feeling whenever I watch Mamma Mia starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. I like to put is on whenever I feel blue because by the end of the movie I am laughing and singing and dancing. I last watched this on the day of my colonoscopy as I recovered from the anesthesia.

 

guys-and-dollsI feel it is one of the great ones, not for the wonderful singing. The older guys are all a bit imperfect in an adorable manner. All cast members have such fun singing that I can forgive the imperfections I would normally rant and rave about.

 

That is what makes Guys and Dolls great as well. There are many great singers in the Frank Sinatra version. But Marlon Brando had never sang before in the movies. I don’t think he ever did another musical but I really liked what he did here. His voice was strong and interesting, filled with musical imperfections that makes for a great song stylist. Imperfections make a song come alive, strengthens the emotional intent.

 

Frank Sinatra uses his imperfections and strong accent to make his gambler sing of the misfortune of being dragged around by the nose by a doll. That is until his doll tries to make him quit the gambling life. Then his voice turns into smooth cream to keep her happy for just a while longer.

 

moulin_rouge_movie_posterAnother musical that I love to watch is Moulin Rouge! directed by Baz Lurhmann. Released in 2001, this movie crossed time periods and musical styles while telling a story of a young writer who falls in love with a beautiful courtesan. He (Ewan McGregor) sings Your Song, originally sung by Elton John, to his love despite the fact that she has to please the Count underwriting the show.

 

Satine (Nicole Kidman) has wonderful productions including a mash-up of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend and Material Girl while swinging about the auditorium. Like anything by Lurhmann, the set designs are incredible and big, really big. And this re-telling of La Traviata will have you crying at the end.

 

A word of warning. Moulin Rouge! is not meant for small children. It is fill with sexual innuendo and direct talk. Guys and Dolls would be better but not by much. After all, we have guys talking about, and creating, a massive floating gambling game. Perhaps the younger ones would just like to watch Frozen for the umpteenth time. Who can get tired of listening to Idina Menzel over and over again?

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.