Hating on the Holiday’s

There is no part of the holiday season I hate more than being inundated by stupid television commercials.  At present the one I hate the most is a diamond commercial where a “hearing boy” gives his deaf girlfriend diamonds but first he shows her that he knows how to sign Merry Christmas.

Naturally she’s over come with silent excitement and enthusiasm over his split-second hand gestures; like he just spent a year learning to speak perfect Chinese.  Seriously, she’s hearing impaired not stupid… although her boyfriend might be since signing 2 words appears to be a difficult and complicated feat for him.

Let me just say…barf.

The one I hate the second most is yet another diamond commercial. Mom rocking baby in the middle of the night, Dad gets up in his t-shirt and gives her a diamond.  I imagine her saying, “Oh, honey I can’t wait to see what it looks like on my hand cleaning a dirty diaper!”

Seriously, she doesn’t want a diamond, she wants him to take the baby and say go get some sleep.

The third most hated Christmas commercial is the perfume commercial with a couple ice skating to I’ve Got You Babe. Naturally she can skate well and he keeps falling down, but he is sincerely trying to meet her in her world. It’s about as stupid and trite as that scene in New Moon where the writer wanted to depict a happy future for Bella and Edward by dressing them in white and showing them running through a meadow. It’s vampire fiction not a Julie Andrews film.

Once again, let me just say…barf.

Here’s a commercial I did like! Anyone whose raised a daughter over the last decade knows this commercial is pitch perfect. From the beat, to the dance to the gestures…its all girl.

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And another that made my Holiday Like List:

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Menopause

New Dresses from Gayle <3
Image by betsyjean79 via Flickr

I’ve heard that women going through menopause experience changes in their hormone levels that cause mood swings. Since I’m a recent inductee to this club I can say from my own personal experience that this is rubbish. It isn’t the hormone levels that cause us to be crabby, we’re just pissed off because  we dressed and undressed all night long…on the hour, every hour and we don’t have any new clothes to show for it.

***I’ve nixed the automatic link that appeared below my post… skip going to the doctor, skip the prescription for hormones instead try increasing your soy intake. Asian women don’t experience hot-flashes and the reason is thought to be dietary. For other natural cures visit my favorite online resource at http://www.earthclinic.com

 

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

Author Claire Cook considers herself a late-bloomer having published her first novel in her mid-forties. I knew of Claire’s work because I read the second book she wrote, Must Love Dogs and then picked up a copy of every book that followed.

Years later I met Claire online on the Goodread.com website. Our conversation started after Claire visited my online journal and read some of my writing. At the time I had just written “I Forgot that Sunflower’s Die,” which was just a few lines that touched upon the death of my daughter’s father. Claire had also lost a parent as a child and she shared her story which had recently been published in Good Housekeeping magazine.

Since then Claire’s periodically sends a note cheering on my writing, and with each book she writes I’m reminded that it’s never to late to follow your heart.

Whether you find yourself writing at a child’s swim practice or in the humid, hum of a bustling laundry mat, remember to love what you have and to bloom where your planted.

Here is Claire Cook’s interview on the Today Show…well done, girl:)

well

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Roasting Roma’s

Roma's and Roasted GarlicI planted 80 Roma tomatoes in early spring and have been harvesting produce for about a month now.

Today I roasted about 300 tomatoes and I was finally completely satisfied with my recipe.

Here is how I prepared them.

Slice Roma’s in half, lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil, added salt, pepper, a hand full of garlic ( I prefer fresh but used loads of minced and it was excellent) oregano and finely chopped basil.

Mix well so all tomatoes are well coated.

Place face down on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees until skin start to pucker. Different baking surfaces will cause  the length of time vary.

Remove from oven and scoop into a blender or food processor, buzz for about 10 seconds.

Pour into a food mill or a potato ricer.

Potato Ricer

Process all tomatoes, add fresh basil to taste, simmer sauce to desired consistency and enjoy!

Perfect

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This Weeks Good News

WordPress  ranked my blog post “No Escaping the Bridget Jones Syndrome, the best of 227,832 bloggers.

Nicholas was certified and hired by the community college to tutor in all achedemic areas including chemistry and physics.

Benjamin and Rachel leased a new home:)

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Speeding: A How To Guide

After being pulled over for speeding today I discovered that you can side step a ticket by wrinkling your nose at the officer.  Said officer opened his mouth, rolled his eyes and said “fine,” but he didn’t give me a fine.

Thanks for the great haircut Cookie:)

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Today in the Garden

Nick and I gardened today with the Porch Cat. Porch Cat has taken to joining me in the garden and for reasons I can’t explain he likes rolling in the dirt next to me. Perhaps it’s escaped his notice that his coat is half white.

Anyway, my son teased me for wearing garden gloves and garden shoes saying, “I love living closer to the earth…I just don’t want to touch it.” I may have pelted him with a rock, I just can’t remember:)

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Pushing a Turtle

Three-toed_Box_Turtle.
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Today I drove around a corner near my Mother’s house, which is on the Mississippi River, and slammed on my brakes. There was an enormous turtle sunning in the middle of the road and I stared at it from the top of my steering wheel hoping it would get busy and cross the street. He didn’t, so I got out of my car, leaving it in the middle of the narrow road to stop anyone coming around the corner from hitting me or the turtle.

First I tried shuffling my feet behind him hoping to spook him into running for the ditch. Apparently, he noticed the size of my shoes. Instead of running he turned towards my feet confident that his 2 foot mass trumped my size 5 sandal. He hissed and I think he even growled, a noise that would have made my dog run sideways away from him. Not that that is saying much since Jack has been known to runs sideways when the kids burp but you get the idea. We keep telling him to tell himself that he’s a big brave dog…whatever.

I briefly considered wishing the very large turtle  the best of luck and leaving, but he was so extraordinarily large that abandoning him, regardless of how disagreeable I found him, would never be right. In light of the green swamp slim covering his back, the 2 inch claws on all 4 of his limbs and my neatly pressed white blouse, carrying him seemed unsafe, unsanitary and was otherwise out of the question since I was afraid of him. I kept telling myself, I’m a big brave dog but it didn’t work for me either.

I shuffled my feet a few more times and he continued to come after me, he didn’t appear to have teeth but I wasn’t willing to do any further investigation into that theory. After that I tried to taunt him into chasing my sandals to the side of the road but he remained unmoved. When that strategy also failed I went back to the car and inspected its contents as I considered my options. I grabbed a cardboard shipping flat, hooked the edge over the turtles shell and I scooted him to the shoulder of the road.  At that point he began walking in the direction I was moving him,  like an old man who just remembered where he intended to go right before he  forgot. Minutes later the turtle was making his way down the weedy ditch and I was making my way home.

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Oberstar Tweets

Several weeks ago, after reading a legislative update from Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar, I emailed him and suggested that he consider tweeting some of his updates on Twitter. Today I received the following reply:

Ms. Jody Scott-Olson

Royalton, Minnesota 56373-0184

Dear Ms. Scott-Olson:

Knowing of your interest in a Twitter account for me where you can be updated on current legislation and other relevant issues, I am pleased to report that you can now follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JimOberstar.

With best wishes.

Sincerely,

James L. Oberstar, M.C.

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And That Ends the Entomology Lesson…

About a year ago my son, Ben called from his apartment in a Minneapolis suburb, he had just returned from a week of camping at an outdoor concert when he noticed a massive beetle about the length of his hand on his bag. He thought it was dead so he poked it. The beetle began vibrating, opened its massive wings and took a flying leap to his wall.

Ben was quite on the phone for a minute then said…”yeah,” in a low quiet voice, pausing again, “…all I could do was scream.” He paused, “I gave the guy down the hall beer to kill it”

Yesterday, my oldest son Nick called me over to an area of the driveway where a similarly large beetle had landed on the dogs rear end before falling to the ground. It reminded so much of the beetle Ben described that I decided to take a picture and see if it was the same bug and maybe even find out what kind of beetle it was.

As I snapped the camera the beetle vibrated, opened its wings and took a flying leap at me.  Like my son,  I screamed, so loud that all noise from activity in the neighborhood went silent including the birds and the only audible sound was Nick mumbling “…and that ends the entomology lesson.”

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Ant Jumps off Ledge

Is it just me or is it unusual to see an ant jump off the edge of something as opposed to walking down the side of it. Any other species okay but it didn’t seem very ant like.

My son said it was probably a phenomena like Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), leave it to Nick to dish up some  run of the mill theory. I naturally asked what CCD was and he said it was when worker bees stop working and leave hive.  I laughed…I’m still laughing… its sounds so postmodern. Of course bees are exhibiting disorders because Pfizer has a pill right?  Send them to bee therapy because they keep getting passed over for promotions.

Wiki sites among possible causes GMO’s with pest control (can’t imagine that being an issue) or cell phone radiation (really its negligible!)

But truthfully, if anyone in my house needs therapy it’s the cat, he lies.

Food Irradiation: City Pages, Let Them Eat Shit

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The Cat’s Sleepwear

Веснушки
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My fingers are blue,  my feet are cold and so is my nose. It’s May and the area forecast says temperatures will dip below freezing tonight. Depsite the high winds and the cold air I’ve already managed to spend enough time outdoors to induce the reappearance of freckles on my nose and cheeks, wasn’t I supposed to out grow them, I don’t know, when I was 7!!!

Last weekend I participated in the city-wide garage sale, the weather turned cold and I’ve been fighting fatigue and a sore throat ever since.  I have so many things to do and I seem to require more than my share of naps lately, I’m begining to feel like the cat…actually I’m begining to behave like the cat, except his sleepwear looks warmer than mine:)

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Spring Rain

The garden finally got tilled this afternoon and by the length of the nap I took afterward you would have assumed I was the one who labored over it.  As the yard serviceman tilled the very last row of my garden drops of rain dotted my face and hair as cracks of thunder rumbled across the afternoon sky. I intended to work inside of the house but was  so sleepy that I climbed the stairs to my room instead. As the rain tapped against my window Simon & Garfunkel‘s Kathy’s Song played in my head until the space filled with strange dreams.

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How I’d Improve the American Education System

My daughter is immune deficient and has been an online high school student for about 2 years. I think the best and most cost effective solution to improving the American education system is to build a hybrid that blends the best online education has to offer in a public school setting.

Here’s how it could work:

Each student is provided a laptop computer to work off of  and they independently study digital textbooks, watch podcasts on  subjects they are studying and complete assignments, all within an online learning environment.

At first blush it doesn’t sound earth shattering but consider these net impacts:

The use of podcasting would allow the US Dept of Education (DOE) to hire the worlds best and brightest educators to deliver the curriculum because the person doesn’t need to be in each classroom to teach students. (Imagine  Stephen Hawking podcasting a high school physics course.) Such a change in the delivery of material would allow the US DOE to establish uniformity in the quality of instructors and instruction being provided to all schools EVERYWHERE regardless of the communities financial health. On site teaching staff can then focus on the students who are struggling and need additional instruction.

An education hybrid of public and online education would also allow the US DOE to offer a huge variety of courses to ALL schools everywhere regardless of who is available in that geographic location to teach. As a public school student my daughter could choose from a couple foreign languages, as an online student in rural Minnesota she studied Mandarin Chinese.

Even more important, these courses are self paced, students can move through coursework as quickly as they like or they can take the the time they need. Unlike the current industrial model of education, a 9th grader could work well above grade level while remaining grouped among his or her peers, students could even graduate early and or start college from the very same classroom environment. This would mean that the best and the brightest in our country would no longer have to wait for average learners to catch up and it can all be done within the confines of a single classroom.

Individual schools could allow rural students  the option of attending in person or online cutting the need for additional space and busing. Students with health problems, like my daughter, could still attend their local school by attending online when they are sick. School districts could eliminate the need for home-bound tutors, substitute teachers and even snow days.

Digital textbooks are cheaper to produce than standard textbooks and easier to update without mowing down a forest. They are also hyperlinked to dictionaries and wikipedia’s should students needs more information to grasp a given concept. Whereas a standard textbook might have offered a photo of an Egyptian tomb, in online schooling teachers can podcast an actual tour inside a tomb where students can pan the interior of the tomb right from their computer.

As as a parent of an online student I can log on and see the teachers grade books, I can see how my student scored on each assignment and I can see how much time she is spending studying each subject. This allows me as a parent a clearer view of daughter’s education and more importantly, her work habits.

The post-industrial model I’m suggesting also relieves the pressure on overburdened instructors and quells the issue of classroom size by allowing the human resources within our education system to concentrate on the areas they are most needed.  Even better, this model would allow the US to deliver the highest, most uniform standard of education to learners everywhere regardless of how wealthy or impoverished their community. Equal education could truly mean equal quality and an equal opportunity regardless of geography and its highly likely we’d save money doing it.

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How to Recognize GM Produce in the Supermarket

These apples have PLU stickers with the number...
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Often the fruits and vegetables sold in the supermarket carry a sticker with a PLU code, that code doesn’t just tell the cashier how to ring up your produce it tells you how the food was grown and whether or not it was genetically modified.

Produce that has been conventionally grown consists of 4 numbers and organically grown produce has 5 numbers prefaced with the number 9.  The PLU code on produce that has been genetically modified also has five numbers but the number is prefaced with the number 8.

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Minnesota Spring

Alexa has been sick. As she makes her slow recovery I’ve taken her on car rides to no where in particular, just to get her out of the house for a short time. I love our drives, I love the rural landscape all around me. I especially love this time of year because after so many months of seeing nothing but blankets of white, the gold and green patchwork farmland that spills to meet the cerulean blue sky takes my breath away.

As I was driving I wanted to describe the view to someone I’ve been exchanging letters with and this is what I wrote:  To Mark in AZ.

Round, tractor tire-sized bales of flaxen hay dot the landscape as periwinkle sheets of rain daub the western horizon.

On swizzle stick legs baby calves lean into the misty April breeze.

One calf is the color of oatmeal and I name him Norman.

He stands still as a Bonnie Mohr painting.

His eyes are black like buttons floating on soft peaks of whipped cream.

With his jaw high he faces spring as the wind smooths his downy fur from his eyes.

A nearby tractor awakens the earth as the Midwest wind twirls her,  sleepy and unexpectant.

Dusty plumes roll and scatter as her dark rich scent whispers her fertility to the wind.

Naked trees watch shivering impotently.

A gust blows and Norman’s mother calls.

On new legs Norman runs.

Blue sky, red barn and the gentle color of Norman; my American landscape.

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Free Annette Yeomans, Jail Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff isn’t in jail but Annette Yeomans is? Yeomans is the bookkeeper who embezzled millions and purchasedcloset over 400 pairs of shoes.  If Bernie Madoff’s crimes aren’t serious enough to warrant tossing him in jail, surely any civilized person with an appetite for shoes could understand Yeomans weakness.

I mean lets be honest,  it’s not like any of us went to see Sex and the City to witness Carrie Bradshaw and Big’s wedding. We went for the clothes, we went for the shoes, we went to see a fictitious and mythical man give a woman a really BIG closet.

When I first heard of Yeomans crime and the 400 pairs of shoes my heart  skipped a beat just thinking about Shoesa room fill with that many shoes! All the different styles and designers she could slide her feet into, I sighed. There are things that I can live without but there are  also things that just shouldn’t be missed.

To hell with ballet flats and kitten heels… give me legs that go on forever!

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Today I Want…

imagesToday I want winter to end and menopause to begin. I want to take a long walk in warm weather. I want to read a book on the back patio while sipping wine and roasting Red Crab on the grill. I want Amish Snap Peas from my garden, I want the house to fill with the garlicky smell of Roma tomatoes roasting. I want the windows open, I want my sheets to dry on an outdoor clothesline. I want to fill a basket with fresh organic asparagus then fold it into a bed of Parmesan Fettuccine. Today I want my bare feet to feel the earth.

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The Death of Stemware: Giving Saloon Nukie a Whole New Meaning

The New York Times Diners Journal reported on a new restaurant opening tomorrow called La Cave des Fondus. La Cave des Fondus is an American replication of the French restaurant Montmartre restaurant Le Refuge des Fondus an establishment where customers are served red and white wine in plastic baby bottles.

The Manhattan restaurant is owned by Jacques Ouari who told the New York Times, “I wanted to set up my place exactly like the one in Paris. It’s such a fun place. Everybody loves drinking beer and wine from baby bottles – even my father thought it was fun – and I think New Yorkers will like it too. I checked with the health department and as long as we put the bottles in the dishwasher they have no problem with it.”

Waitresses working for Hooters will without question feel the most pressure in light of the new trend, fearing the infantile digression will expand to increase the demand for breastfeeding. The Le Leche League has yet to comment on the increased use of plastic baby bottles but insiders expect that the group will issue a press release in the days to come capitalizing on the opportunity to reaffirm the health benefits of breast feeding.

While not yet known, a growing number of diners believe the type of nipple used by La Cave des Fondus will be a determining factor as to the ultimate success or failure of the new establishment. The Nuk, or as it is more commonly referred Nukie, is considered by many to be the best compliment to any alcoholic beverage.

***It should be noted that the Parisians establishment serves wine in baby bottles to avoid the French tax on wine served in glasses. While Parisians most likely appreciate this little tax dodge and go along with the slap-in-the-face humor, the activity may not hold the same charm with New Yorkers since the baby bottle will incur the same tax as an elegant piece of stemware.

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I Forgot that Sunflower’s Die

The sunflowers were in bloom today, the ones my daughter and I planted as a memorial to her dad. One flower bloomed weeks before the others, then it slumped over and hung its head. My heart hurt. As I walked to the house I wondered how I would face the remaining 50. I wondered if my garden would look like the people who stood in rows at his funeral. I forgot that sunflowers hang their heads when their season has ended. I forgot that sunflowers die.

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