Thursday, August 21, 2008

Einstein The Parrot

Today, I received an email from a past co-worker. Our exchange reminded me that he has owned a few parrots while I have known him. They do EVERYTHING with him around the house. That, in turn, reminded me of this video. I know I've seen this many times before, but I could watch it over and over again. I'm amazed at all of the sound and word cues that Einstein knows.

I'll be leaving the office this afternoon to begin my long weekend of projects, and I'm rolling up my sleeves just thinking about it. I'll try to remember to take some pictures of the before and after conditions... even though I'm terribly embarrassed to show the before shots. We'll see if I'm brave enough to post any here. I'm so thankful for the offers of help I have received for this weekend of projects, and I will be attempting to return the favor at their homes in the near future. Hope each of you has a wonderful weekend, and I'll try to post again next Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Northern Indiana Trip

My mom and dad are on a charter bus trip to Northern Indiana. While there, they are seeing the work of many of the local craftsman and artisans... including many Amish families.

After speaking to Dad last night, it was clear they were having an absolutely wonderful trip... one which I would very much enjoy. If they are ever having another tour, I would like to join in on the fun. Just thought you'd like to see a FEW of the neat places that Mom and Dad have seen or will see this week. Of course, some of the best parts are meeting the local residents in their homes, and there aren't web sites for those experiences.

Fair Oaks Farms: The tour consists of a 3D/4D movie, the interactive area, Stewarts of the Land exhibit hall, Mrs. Cowhoun's Cowculus Class, Diva Hallway, the cheese & ice cream production plant, the birthing center and a 45-minute bus tour into one of the largest working dairies in the United States.

Sarah's Oaks Restaurant: Enjoy dinner in the barn, housed in the lovingly maintained homestead of Benjamin Hollingsworth and Sarah Sleeper. Sarah's Oaks diplays its Quaker roots in its restored buildings, the decor, and the food it serves.

Emma's Exotic Eggs: Be spiritually uplifted by Emma's presentation of her collection of decorative eggs. Each egg has been painted, cut, or otherwise decorated to make everything from necklaces to ornaments to photo albums. Emma has crafted over 9,000 decorated eggs ranging in price from $10 to $350, all with either historical or spiritual relevance. Mom and Dad especially enjoyed this very special woman who invited the group into her home.

Clay Critters: Clay Critters was created in 1978 when Rebecca Bollinger turned a hobby into a business. She worked out of her home at first making each "critter" by hand from baking soda and salt clay. Later she began using polymer-clay and added craft workers. She currently employs 18 workers and uses molds and a polymer-clay liquid to create the critters sold.

Yoder's Department Store: An old fashioned shopping experience with a variety of contemporary goods. 12,000 bolts of fabric, 2,800 pairs of jeans, overalls in all sizes, and 10,000 pairs of footwear. Hardware, tools, housewares, home accessories, groceries, and hard to find items.

Menno-Hof: Menno-Hof is a non-profit information center that teaches visitors about the faith and life of Amish and Mennonites and invites groups and individuals to learn about and experience Anabaptist history and lifestyle. Menno-Hof’s multi-image presentations, historical environments, and colorful displays take you on a fascinating journey inside the unique world of the Mennonites and Amish.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Is This?

When pulling into my driveway in the middle of last week, I looked into my yard and saw something small hanging in the air. At first I thought that a spider had created a huge web in the yard and caught something. However, after exiting my car and walking closer to the object I saw this: a green worm-type creature on a single thin strand that hung down from my sweet gum ball tree.

The worm was not opaque, so that is the reason none of these pictures are great pictures. The sun kept shining through the worm. It was one of the prettiest light greens I had ever seen.

As I proceeded to take photos, the worm climbed further and further up the tiny strand that was about as thick as a spider web strand. Does anyone know what this is?

While I was traipsing around the yard in my attempt to take pictures from various angles (and still never captured a good one), the usually panicky squirrel sat and ate his nut. For a change, he didn't seem bothered by me one bit.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Friday Thought 8/15/08

We are born believing. A man bears beliefs, as a tree bears apples.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


By the way, in less than two weeks time, the apples have begun turning red, and the apples are beginning to drop from the tree.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bean Bags O' Fun

I don't know if you have ever played Baggo, but there are different versions out on the market. The rules can differ slightly... and the scoring can differ slightly. But, the main concept is the same: Two teams of two people throw bean bags at a wooden target with a hole. After seeing a couple of sets of targets that my brother built, I asked Aaron if he would build me a set. And he did! So, here is one of the two targets I received this past weekend.

Aaron gave me a sample of the bean bags they use so I could create some for my game. But, first, I wanted to make an extra bean bag set for Aaron and Ketra to extend my thanks. Here they are! Music notes vs. Black and white checks. (They - along with the sample bean bags - are in the mail heading to A&K's house right now.)

Ketra's parents also have a game, so I thought I would make a set for them too. I thought the red baseball print vs. the blue baseball print would be a good choice for Mr. and Mrs. S. (These too are heading to their destination via the mail.) Hope they enjoy using them.

Here is the fabric that I used for my bean bags. I wanted something fun, so I picked red bandana cloth and blue bandana cloth. I can't wait to play the game out in my big backyard. If we don't play before, I hope we can play at the church social that will be held at my house at the end of this month.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

State of Fairness

For a few years now, I've wanted to return to the state fair, and for various reasons, it hasn't worked out. But, my family and I went this year...and I was surprised to see that they had invited my hometown best friend, Susan, to join us. It was even more fun to find out that my aunt, uncle, cousins and their children were at the Illinois State Fair on the same day. Here are a few funny pictures from the trip.

HEY, it's HAY...and Susan! She posed by the blue ribbon winner in the Agriculture building.

Aaron and Ketra are standing by the 250 lb. pumpkin which won. We don't know why, but there were fewer pumpkin entries this year. And, in past years, the winners have been about two times the size of this one. But, it was still very impressive.

Piano Man and his brother, my Uncle Dick, sat down for a rest while Mom took the Sleep Number bed for a test drive. This just cracks me up!

We went to see the Hereford competition and were amazed to see this boy - whose cow and cow prod were both much bigger than he was - win the class.

Each year, there is a butter cow (yes, a cow carved out of butter) in the Dairy House. This year, it was even better than usual. There was an actual scene made out of butter... complete with a cow, calf, skunks, a tree, and some birds. All butter. (I don't know how someone becomes a carver of butter.)

Are there any special features - like the butter cow - at your state fair that you look forward to seeing each time you go? As eluded to in one of my previous posts, we always enjoy seeing the mini donuts, lemon shake-ups, spiced nuts, Taco Gringo sanchos, cream puffs, corn dogs... too many "special features" to mention!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Office Supplies for My Office Space

Just thought I would show you one of the things that my brother and sister-in-law gave me for my birthday: this extremely shiny, extremely heavy, extremely useful paperweight. (See all of the papers I'm trying to keep down on my desk?) Ketra told me that there's no deep meaning behind what is printed on the weight, but I've been trying to do well with the little things all day. And, I accomplished quite a bit... and the big things seemed to go well too. So, I think the paperweight has worked out wonderfully so far. It was quite the conversation piece with my co-workers today. And, as was pointed out several times, it will serve well as a self-defense tool. Let me stress this once again: Extremely heavy.

Of course, I couldn't help but show off another feature of my new office space: my red Swingline stapler. I use it to staple the cover sheets to my TPS reports each morning....usually from nine to eleven when I'm listening to my radio which is set at a reasonable volume.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Going Bananas

I went out to run an errand during my "lunch hour". When stopped at a red light, I looked to the right to see a very large man eating something. I did a double take to make sure I saw what I thought I saw: a mini banana.

Have you seen the mini bananas? This is only the second time I have seen one. I hear they are sold at Walmart, and they crack me up. I can just imagine a little mini monkey eating a little mini banana. So, it especially took me by surprise to see a big football-player-type man eating this itty bitty delicious and natural snack.

The first time I saw one was a few months ago... right around the time of Miss Rian Elizabeth's birthday. (See rubber ducky cake on the counter in the background.) Little Abi and I had just enjoyed some play time in the back yard. (See dirt on her face.) And, after welcoming us in for a drink, Jeff asked her if she wanted a banana. Little did I know it was going to be an Abi-sized banana.

Have you seen these in the stores?

These mini bananas lead me to think about delicious mini donuts... which leads me to think of the mini donuts sold at the Illinois State Fair... which leads me to think of Saturday when I spent time with my family in Springfield... which leads me to tell you that I hope to post some pictures from the trip in the next few days.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Friday Thought 8/8/08

I have attempted to jump right back into my blogging this week. But, some deal was made between my computer and Blogger. I was making posts each day, but none of you could see them. Today, I kept trying to make them post, and they finally did. I hope this interruption won't happen again.

I thought I might start making posts on Fridays which include a special "Thought for the Day." A point to ponder...or a verse in which to sink your teeth...or something that makes you laugh out loud. We'll see how it goes. This one comes from a fiction book I just finished, The Healing Quilt by Lauraine Snelling.

"Trust is forgiveness in walking shoes.
The two always go together."


Thursday, August 07, 2008

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Remember when I spoke about the late frost/freeze in 2007? The one that came after all of my trees and plants had already bloomed? The storm that dumped tons of ice and ceased any production of apples in my apple tree?

Well, the feast is definitely coming after the famine. I had my first clue when I saw the tree bloom this spring. It was amazing to see. Blooms everywhere.

Now, the tree is PACKED with apples, and I wonder what I am going to do with all of them. The branches are actually drooping because of the weight of the apples.

In past years, the ladies at church and I have talked about having an "Apple Day" where we peel, slice, and freeze apples... or make applesauce... or make apple butter. But, since then, there have been two years with no apples on my tree.

This might be our year. My long to-do list now has the tasks of "investigate applebutter recipes" and "research applesauce making" added to it. I am pretty sure this means that a full weekend or two will have to be reserved for this apple situation. If I am not peeling or slicing, then I'll just be picking them up from the ground so the bugs down gather and the ground doesn't rot. I wish I knew when they'd be ripe and ready for picking. Sometime mid-September?

Unrelated to my apples but related because of what is going on in my yard at this time, I just wanted to show that my lilies are up. Brighter than in the past few years.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Colour My World

This spring and summer has been full of some glorious sights. With all of the rain, there have been major trials for the residents of our area. But, with the rain has also come the greenest grass and leaves I've ever seen.

I love my dogwood tree, and I know spring has arrived when I see the gorgeous blooms come out.

When I was driving home from my aunt's funeral a couple of weeks ago, I saw 13 cardinals within one mile, and I am blessed to have a cardinal couple living in my back yard. They love the holly tree. What a rich red the male is!

This bird was poking around my car in the work parking lot last week. This picture doesn't do it justice, but the bird has the brightest coral feet. Just striking.

When we exited Wednesday night church services one night in the middle of July, we couldn't believe our eyes. Vibrant pinks and purples.

God sure has a beautiful color palette.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Weight Watchers for Cats

"Meow Meow mew.... MEOW meow meOOOOOOWWWW meow meow MEOW Meow MEOOOWWWW mew mew meOWWW mew mew meow mew MEow...."

My name is Simon, and I am an overeater.

(Other cats: Hello Simon.)

I go to my food bowl, lie down, and eat as much food as possible as quickly as I am able. I then go to the food bowl of my friend Penny, lie down, and do the same.

My owner, Strem, finally took me to the vet last week. The vet doesn't blame her. Dr. Randla knows that I weighed a whopping 23 pounds when I was given to Strem by my previous owner, Bryan. In fact, in the first year of staying with Strem, I actually lost 1 pound because she made me run up and down the steps to the basement.

But, last fall, when Strem took on a new job, and I was home alone more often, I was able to eat more and sleep more - just the way I like it. I have to admit, when I saw the vet scale reach the 25 pound mark, that I was a little shocked. I mean, I did realize that I just hadn't been looking the same in the mirror, but I had no idea I weighed 25 pounds (even though Strem's mom had the audacity to bring up my growing weight SEVERAL TIMES during her last visit. How rude!)

Well, last week, I fear my time of chowing down and napping all day came to a screeching halt. Dr. Randla suggested that I join - of all things - "The Losers Club" at the vet office. Why I never!!! The nerve of him to suggest it!!! He wants me to weigh 19 pounds by next April. 6 pounds in 8 months. The stress of thinking about it just makes me want to eat! Well, here's my new diet food. (I hate to admit it, but it is actually pretty tasty.)

The vet sent home all sorts of pamphlets for Strem to read. I am sure these brochures are just packed with devious tactics for making me exercise. She's already making me climb up and down the stairs while she works on house projects. I am going to find those brochures and chew them up as quickly as possible. If only she hadn't put them up on a high shelf! Oddly, the Losers Club packet include a book on weight loss for dogs. (I think I received a blessing on that mistake!)

The Losers Club packet also included some low calorie, low fat treats (I gobble them down!) and some cat toys that are supposed to increase my exercise. I enjoy sitting back and watching Penny play with them.

Strem may give you some updates on my progress (or lack thereof) in the coming months. Or, maybe you can come over for a visit to see for yourself. After all of the climbing this week, I think I may have already lost some weight. That nosey veterinarian! Hopefully Strem will leave on a vacation soon, and I can have some time to myself to nap and dream about food.

Monday, August 04, 2008

109 Days Ago

109 days ago, I would've said 'pshaw' to anyone who dared to tell me, 'I imagine it will take you over 3 months to make a post.' I had already taken some blog breaks in February and March during the transition of our company, so I was BACK and ENERGIZED and REFRESHED. 'No need for more breaks.' That's what I kept telling myself. 'I can see the light at the end of the tunnel at work.' That's what I kept repeating. 'I can finally get in the groove of things, be organized at work and at home, and really enjoy this summer. I am not going to let another summer pass me by without enjoying it.' That's how I tried to convince myself.

But, here I sit, 109 days later, with no blog post in all of that time... with piles of folders and papers sitting all around me while wondering when the the light will be seen at the end of the tunnel once again. (Ok, two of those towering piles of papers just slid into one giant pool of papers. This will be a fun afternoon of sorting.) And in a deju vu moment of deja vu, I find myself looking at a calendar page with AUGUST written in bold letters across the top and wondering why I've let another summer pass me by.

There have been many changes at work this year about which I've had no control. And, I'm waiting on word from the doctors to see if they have any new answers about how I can regain my energy. But, most of all, I know I've been affected by the rush rush rush rush rush of how I'm carrying out my life. Some of it is the circumstances. Most of it is still about me.

I've actually started reading books again in the last two weeks, so I know something is different. I like to think it is because life is slowing down a little. When I'm trying to be honest with myself, I think it is more like I'm just fed up with how things have been in the recent months. Mind you, the reading is usually happening during a 20 minute mid-day break that I call my "lunch hour" or when I am trying to fit in 15 minutes of skimming some pages at 1 a.m. before I try to go to sleep. But, I've been able to sink into a couple of books for a few "Calgon, take me away" moments and read about times past. Don't get me wrong. I know cooking over an open campfire doesn't mean life was simple for a woman in those days. Quite the contrary. But, something about having all of one's belongings in a covered wagon seems freeing to me right now. You know, the breeze, the necessities, the time outside, the time with others, the adventure... And, the dread about my un-simple reality is because it's still mostly about all of the "stuff" bogging me down. With my work commute, time and energy are precious. So many projects around the house are half finished. I can't do this or that because I need another person to lift the other end. I feel I have to move 5 things to move 5 more things to get to something I want to find. All of it is draining to think about let alone do something about it.

I've written about this before. Living simply. And, last year, with the help of some friends, I made big progress in my quest at my home. It was a HUGE DENT of progress in the mountain that began building soon after I went through the lay off back in September 2001. But, there's much more to do. And, even though the summer is still passing me by and I am going to spend a lot of indoor time continuing with my project of cleaning out and fixing up, I am ready. I realize the key is not to focus on the 10 pages of projects that need to be completed. I need to be realistic about my expectations. The key is focusing on the one task I'm completing at the time. (I need help in this area!)

Thankfully, my parents have agreed to assist me for about 5 days near the end of this month. And, some great folks at church have agreed to join in the weekend to do the same. So, I'm busy getting my thoughts and plans organized. I have a list of projects for cleaning and sorting. I have a list of projects to build and complete. I have a list of items I need to borrow for the project weekend. I have a list of items I need to buy for the project weekend. There is a list for items I want to sell on ebay...and one for items I want to paint. I have a list of items that I want to find. (Can you believe that?) I have lists of specific tasks for specific people. I have lists of specific tasks for specific days. Now, I just need a list to keep track of all of my lists.

This past weekend, in addition to attempting to finish a big project at work, I attempted to get a big head start on all of this "simplifying." Little did I know that we're all smack dab in the middle of "National Simplify Your Life Week."

After letting that sink in for one second, I say 'Forget the week! I'm declaring it for a whole MONTH!' ...If not longer. I publicly reserve the right to take much longer. Maybe a season? Can I declare it for autumn even though we're not yet into autumn? "National Simplify Your Half Summer/All of Autumn" just doesn't have the ring to it that I'd like. No matter that setback, I'll be taking as much time as I need, but I pray I stay focused and committed while I take care of some of these lingering items once and for all.