Thursday, May 24, 2012

Time For A Little Color!

We are having a very dry spring here, after an extremely dry and mild winter.  I noticed the other day that the pine tree in our yard is showing signs of stress, it's needles faded and slightly rusty looking.  Today I saw that the grass in the local parks is dry and yellow like the end of July in a hot summer! Our spring flowers were forced out too early by the unseasonable heat in March and their colors faded within days - sometimes hours - of first blooming. When I was planting some summer annuals this weekend, the earth in some places was so dry it collapsed like gravely sand. I've never seen anything like it here before.

I hope we get rain soon and plenty of it!

Anyway, all of this dryness and wonky weather made me long for spring showers, the soft caress of cool damp fog on the cheeks and the sweet, clean fresh air heavy with the fragrance of lilacs after a late spring rain.  I am longing for deep, bright colors and cool refreshing damp air. And I know just the place to find that!
(via Newfoundland on facebook)

Some houses are wide.
Some houses are thin.
Some are so thin
you can hardly get in.

But wherever you go,
you will hear someone say,
"Come over to my house.
Come over and play!"

Come over to my house.
The fishing is great!
They bite all the time
and you don't have to wait.

Come over some day
and bring plenty of bait.

You can play on my roof, 
but my house is so tall,
it's a long way downstairs
to go after a ball.

My house is bright pink
and it's happy and gay.
Our streets are wet water.
We like it that way.

Every house in the world
has a ceiling and floor.
But the ones you'll like best
have a wide-open door.

Some houses are rich
full of silver and gold.
And some are quite poor,
sort of empty and old.

Some houses are marble
and some are just tin.
But they're all, all alike
when a friend asks you in.

There are so many houses
you'll meet on your way.
And wherever you go,
you will hear someone say  . . .
"Come over to my house!
Come over and play!"
From Come Over to My House, Theo.LeSieg (Theo. Geisel)

And, just for good measure - one last dose of color and glory. You're welcome!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

In honor of my daughter, graduating today with her degree in physics and philosophy. 

You challenged yourself. 

You took the road less traveled.

You learned how very capable and talented and awesome you are.

Congratulations, Niftydottir,  I am so proud of you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Housekeeping Notes...

My regular readers may have noticed a little change up yonder in the navigation bar - I registered my own domain name yesterday!  The moment I did so, however, I realized that I must have completely lost my mind. I have no idea how to set the new domain up for my blog. I wasted about an hour quite a long time trying to find a help page that could even point me in the right direction, before quitting in a fit of pique  giving up in frustration.

I know nothing about web design, web hosting or anything else connected with the actual operation of computers. This is not false modesty (oh, I wish!), but a simple statement of fact.  Really, it is an understatement of fact, because few words can describe my sheer incompetence with computers. Obviously, my ritual of pouring a glass of wine to fortify me when tackling vexing computer-related issues is the one sensible thing I am able to point to in this story, but the rest was a disaster!

Actor portraying your frustrated correspondent
It may have all worked out just fine if I had had even the most elementary introduction to how computers work and basic keyboarding. Instead, Mr. Nifty dragged yours truly into the modern era, kicking and screaming, in the mid-1990's and soon thereafter left me to fend for myself. The intervening years have not been pretty.

I am not one to complain, but there are some things that are just ridiculously over-complicated and personal computers are the worst. I can never remember how to open programs or even to find things in my own files and the computer experiences regular meltdowns because I forget how to do the simplest operations. Actually, I barely know how to use a keyboard, either, having never learned it when I was younger and now being too old to learn these newfangled tricks!

As a matter of fact, I have been meaning to have a word with the gods about this.  I want to know why I had to suffer the misfortune of being born too late for the computer revolution? Really, it is all too much! Personal computers were just becoming a thing in the couple of years after I graduated from university. Yes, I made my way through college without the internet, without word processing - I hand-wrote most of my term papers and all of my essays! - and without any understanding whatsoever about any of the new technologies coming right up behind me. Life is so unfair!!
Huh? Speak for yourself!

Let us be perfectly frank: when it comes to computer technology, I am as ignorant and helpless as a baby. No wait, a baby would probably be ahead of me in this game. Aren't they training youngsters in basic keyboarding and DOS and fortran and all that nonsense in utero these days? It seems like that to me.

Anyway, in keeping with my usual thoughtless impulsivity mature reflection,  I decided to register my domain name in preparation for the hordes of internet traffic that will never  eventually  soon be visiting my blog every day, without a doubt!

Eventually, I managed to find help*, and figured out how to simply redirect this blog to that web domain and here we are!  It really is very simple for calm, capable people like Your Able Correspondent.

Nothing to see here!
Situation under control
Except that when I logged on this morning to check on my favorite bloggers from my blog list, the blog list was gone!  Searching frantically through random files and clicking crazily on every link I could find, I soon managed to create more chaos than is imaginable on one desktop put everything more or less to rights. True, files have been moved and stuffed wherever I may or may not have remembered they belong, and the desktop is cluttered with more zips and pix and other junk than you can shake a stick at, but I have everything under control!

I have gone through and put my favorite blogs links all back on here, but who knows what else may have been dropped into the internet void during the migration!  The horror!  I may never figure any of this out properly, but I plan to lurch haphazardly onward with my usual impatience  continue to work diligently toward my usual outstanding results!

I hope my regular readers will help out by letting me know if they notice anything that seems wonky on my blog, or if anything has gone mysteriously missing.  It is probable  possible that I may have  brought about blog armageddon overlooked one or two things during the transition!  Not to worry, though!  In no time at all I will have restored the blog to full operating capacity, tamed the internet demons and once again be sitting down to write daily at a desk that looks like this:

Artist's rendition the future workspace of Your Faithful Scribe

Back to the NiftyUniverse forthwith!  Good Day to All!

*Pro-tip:   Type: "How the #$#!! do I set up my blog?" in the google window-thingie and voilà!  Step-by-step instructions. You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Après Ski

We are back home now, but suffice to say....I still have what it takes!

 Yours Truly triumphantly riding up on the chair lift to the top of the bunny an expert hill.

  It is true that,  in spite of my childish dabbling youthful prowess on skis,  I had never actually been anywhere serviced by actual chair lifts or lifts of any kind.  The pathetic shoestring ski club  awesome little ski club to which I belonged as a youngster did have one very primitive tow rope (and by tow rope, I mean literally a raw, thick rope which towed a skier up the hill -  the friction of the coarse rope clutched against one usually burning one's jacket to a frayed remnant at waist level in the process. We had no t-bars or little handles of any sort.  One learned the hard way to figure out how to time grasping the rough rope while fitting one's skis into the deep ruts and tried not to get stuck on mild days so that the rope pulled all of you (and your skis) up the steep hill,  rather than simply yanking your upper body first, causing you to sprawl in an ungainly heap across the grooves less than 5 feet from the tow hut*).

At Big Powderhorn,  they have chair lifts!  And plenty of 'em!  I consider this to be a marvelous advance in ski technology and it is high time it was done!  It was deliciously relaxing riding up above the powdery whiteness, though a little unnerving to watch reckless snowboarders and novice skiers whizzing directly below my chair!  There was a momentary awkwardness when the silly chair reached the top and the foolish man there failed to stop the lift so that I could gracefully disembark,  but with my usual aplomb,  I nimbly hopped off and performed a very difficult and highly admired sit-ski** over to the top of the hill where my long-suffering spouse grabbed my arm and heaved me to my feet  where my dear husband exclaimed over my amazing technique!

I was greeted there by my two handsome sons,  both expert snowboarders, naturally (they are my sons, after all!).  We sporty people tend to pass our sporty genes on to the next generation.  You're welcome, kids.

Edward (l) and Kenneth

No sooner did I arrive at the top of the hill for my first descent, than these two little monsters  young imps pushed off down the corkscrew trail on the other side of the hill!

Unruffled,  I simply made it my business to badger  offer Scott some tips on skiing technique before launching myself down the hill.

Later, the boys and I met on top of an even higher run,  where I once again shared my helpful hints:

I think it is safe to say that,  thanks to my knowledgable presence, everyone had a wonderful time!

  *Not that this ever happened to me, of course.

**Technically, this means that I slid off the ramp after sitting down hard on my skis and could not get up again.  However, this is very difficult to do! (I got the hang of the lift exit maneuver eventually soon after!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ski Weekend

Yes, of course it is going perfectly well.  Why do you ask?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winter Adventure, Winter Torture?

Those in the know are well aware that I am nothing if not a faithful correspondent.  A few people complain that I do not write posts often enough,  and although I am never one to point to the failings in others,  it behooves me to mention that "faithful" is not a synonym for "frequent".  So, let us not have any more of this complaining!

It has been a long, miserable winter so far.  True, it has been one of the mildest winters on record for our region, with temperatures 20 or more degrees above normal and sunshine nearly every day,  but the fact remains that January is the most dark and depressing month of the year and I feel we are well shot of it.  Besides, I am not sure why we are expected to be thankful for milder temperatures and sunshine in January!  The milder temperatures were hardly tropical!  Rather, it was only mild enough to prevent any snow from falling - and snow is the one thing that can brighten the landscape (and the spirits!) in the dark of winter.  I, for one, would have preferred temperatures ten degrees colder and plenty of snowstorms to liven things up around here!

Speaking of snow, however, I am happy to report that Scott  I came up with the perfect mid-winter getaway!  We would pack up the boys and their snowboards and Scott's skis and drive to a Michigan ski resort for the long winter weekend!  Just the tonic for the winter blahs!  It is true that I haven't been on skis since I was fourteen,  but I have seen plenty of TV and movies featuring the idyllic ski vacations of people just like me - glorious mountainsides, glittering sunshine through towering pines, hot rum toddies sipped by a crackling fireplace inside a luxurious hilltop chalet overlooking the dazzling slopes. Oh yes, I know all about it and I could not wait to set off!

We left yesterday morning, full of good cheer and confident that, although it was dull, brown and deadly at home,  there would be cooler temperatures and bright snow up north.  Sure enough,  the snow started to fly as if on cue just about 100 miles north of home, and by the time we arrived at the resort, we were driving in a veritable Christmas Card scene.  TITK understand that I am nothing if not a nature-lover, so this scene was a balm to my weary spirit, indeed.

rustic kitchen
The snow fell thickly all afternoon and evening, which was all very nice. Although I do wonder sometimes why the sky gods always seem to send either too little or too much of a good thing!  It would have been fine if our lodgings had been at all as I had imagined based upon movies and tv shows  as advertised!  Sure, there is a fireplace (or a wood stove, to be precise) and yes there is a view over the glistening slopes, but I want to know why these northern, woodsy vacation spots always have to make everything so very northern and woodsy!

 Let me be perfectly frank.  Whenever one hears the phrase "rustic charm",  one must understand that one is hearing an oxymoron.  A place that is truly rustic, is rustic full stop.  Unlike in the movies, where "rustic charm" means a little northwoods decor is draped around accommodations so luxurious one could transfer them to Beverly Hills without anyone noticing - hence, I presume, the source of the delusion that rustic and charm ever belong in the same phrase together - the true ski chalet is actually rustic.

rustic living room
The main feature of "rustic" is wood.  Woods outside the chalet (fine),  wood piled up beside the chalet for the woodstove (fine, and useful too), and wood panelling on every possible surface, wall, doorway and cupboard  (oh, my eyes!), except for the one place where wood would have been welcome, which is the floor.  There, you will find shag carpet and linoleum painted to look like ceramic tile.  While this is all very servicable,  I must insist that we call a spade a spade and admit that there is no "charm" in rustic, unless "charm" means useful, servicable and adequate (but not beautiful).

In all other respects,  I am prepared to admit that the lodgings are more than adequate and indeed quite cozy, because (as Those in the Know can attest) I am the epitome of gracious flexibility.  Scott and I sent the boys off for an afternoon on the hill, while we went off to rent ski equipment for me.

rustic fireplace
I may not have been on skis in almost 40 years,  but I understand from the expert in the pro shop that it is "just like riding a bike - you never forget".  This would be far more encouraging news had I not,  in fact,  definitely forgotten how to ride a bike (and no, I am not interested in discussing the embarrassing circumstances under which this fact became apparent to all me).  Nevertheless,  I am nothing if not foolhardy courageous, so I laughed in hearty agreement and declined the free beginner ski lessons on offer.  Who has time to waste on the bunny hill?

So, this morning, we are all up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to hit the slopes!  I am looking forward to a glorious day swishing down the sun-speckled trails and speeding down the wide hills.  Look out ski world, here I come!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ring in the New Year! Review the Old Year!

Before any of you decide to wax pedantic,  unnecessarily pointing out that it is already January 6th,  let me say, "Pooh, pooh!"  It is the last day of Christmas,  so a perfectly legitimate time to begin a New Year's post.  Those in the Know™ understand that I am the soul of patience (not to mention propriety), but there are times to remain silent on the inadequacies of others and this is one of them!

My first thought when planning this post was to create a masterpiece of beauty and wit (as usual),  airily and effortlessly touching on the highlights of 2011, and generally presenting a year-end roundup which would educate and delight my many several one or two non-existent followers.  After staring at the blank screen for 20 minutes,  Eventually, I realized that such grandiose plans are just beyond my capabilities  silly, so I have revised my thinking.  I intend to bash out a quick overview of the past year in my usual haphazard  happy fashion and simply get the damn thing over with, finally break through the writer's block and call it a day keep it short and sweet!


Writing about the year is too hard too boring,  so instead I will post a little photo montage for your viewing pleasure!


Hmmm,  well it seems we have a slight problem.  I seem to have forgotten to organize and label virtually all  some of the photos from forever last year,  so I am afraid the photo montage will have to wait forever a while.  Oh well, who cares?  Photos and year-end roundups are vastly overrated anyway! I am sure that TITK will heartily agree with me!  The important thing is that I just cough up a few hundred words so I can say I posted on the blog  that I have touched base with my faithful blog friends!

Why bore everyone with well-written and amusing essays when the real question is what happened in 2011?  With this important focus in mind, here is the year 2011 chez Nifty in review - in bullet points:

- January: Rang in the New Year with all hands on deck and possibly a record-breaking party turnout. Wedding preps shifted into mid-gear. Reception venue fell through with spectacular suddenness, but Yours Truly saved the day, as usual. Kiki began her Masters in Journalism.

- February: Scott and twins went to Powderhorn in Michigan to ski and decided it might be a nice annual trip. Yours Truly stayed home to write get a few things done around the house.

- March: Wedding preps shifted into high gear.  One near-disaster after another,  usually caused neatly thwarted by Your Dependable Servant.  All to Hilton Head at various intervals for March Breaks - joined by Deb - hooray!

- April:  Enjoyed an Easter visit with Dennis's parents.  Wedding preps train sped toward grand finale in June.

- May:  Jessie and Jack returned from university. Jack considered transferring out of Chicago. Your Faithful Scribbler kept the wedding train careening wildly from crisis to crisis on track.  Everyone else was useless.

- June:  Numerous friends and family members converged on our home for the Wedding of the Century.  The whole family Your Exhausted Correspondent managed to pull everything off smoothly. Thanks to No thanks to Scott, Kiki, Dennis, Jessie, Rachel and many other dear family and friends the rest of the useless louts around here.

- June:  Retired to Hilton Head for much-deserved (by Your Humble Servant, certainly!) vacation. Joined by our dear friends the Roths.  I never complain, but it was deucedly hot in South Carolina last June! 

- July:  Spent first two weeks in Hilton Head, then returned to Illinois where, as far as I can tell, we did absolutely nothing for about 4 weeks.

- August:  Hilton Head for one brief week again,  then back to school for everyone.  Jack transferred to Miami. Jessie began her senior year at Miami. Edward and Ken back to school as sophomores.

- September:  Jeanne and I went to Hilton Head for our annual R&R sans annoying families.

- October:  Scott took boys to BVI for a sailing weekend while I went back to HH to host the Ya Yas shopping extravaganza.   Very quiet Hallowe'en this year - major downside of children growing up. :(

- November:  Scott and I went back to HH yet again for our 27th anniversary. Jeanne came to stay with the boys. Thanksgiving with a wonderfully full house. Jessie brought her new puppy, Ducky.
This photo has not been posted to raise viewcount.

- December:  Went to Chicago for the annual pre-Christmas shopping/dining event. Then home for a full house at Christmas and yet more visitors (Em, Gail and Deb) for New Years.  New Years Eve party with neighbors and friends not a record-breaker but decent 50-60 guest turnout.

And there you have the year in review!

And there is my blog post!  Thank the stars!  Don't mention it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Four Hundred Twenty-Five Words

Actor portraying Your Capable Correspondent on a difficult day

Do you see what I did there?

Obviously, I would never pad my pitiful premium-quality manuscript by using double names (the character of Mary Ann clearly requires that name, and was not chosen because every time her name is typed I get two words for one. Please,  the very idea!),  or by writing out words for simple numbers which are conventionally written as numbers (which, by the way,  the Powers that Be of the word processing world have diabolically rendered non-words when calculating word counts!  Those villains!).

So, yes, my manuscript is currently only 425 words in length,  which some might say means it is hardly in existence at all.  Those in the Know, however,  are well aware of the magic that Your Faithful Scribbler can create out of 425 words!  A mere kernel of a story, to be sure,  but never forget my friends: War and Peace was once a manuscript of only 425 words!

Besides, I have a very good reason for this slow start apart from my usual laziness, procrastination and lack of talent quite apart from my usual busyness, industry and brilliance needing to be applied in other arenas (I am,  you ought to recall, a very busy woman™!):  yesterday, I was summoned to the big city for my citizenship interview!

I am thrilled to report that I passed with flying colors!  I am nothing if not modest,  but TITK will not be surprised to hear that the officer who interviewed me practically asked, "What took you so long?".  Actually, she did, literally, ask me "What took you so long?".

I was immensely flattered, of course, that the United States of America was so eager to welcome me as a citizen (although obviously, Those in the Know are probably not surprised at all - I simply do not realize my own value!),  but I gently wagged a finger at her and smilingly reminded her that I am a Very Busy Woman™.  As much as I try to fulfill the hopes and expectations of my legions of admirers (including, it now turns out, the United States of America itself!),  from time to time I must put aside the wishes of others and devote myself to wasting time, procrastinating and endlessly putting things off which ought to have been done years ago  other stuff.

The officer looked taken aback -  as well she should have been! I am the last person to point to the shortcomings of others,  but - while TITK will completely understand her excitement at having me as a fellow citizen at long last - how could she not have known how lazy busy I always am?   She repeated the question - a little testily, I might add*.

I replied truthfully (of course) that, since I have three children who likewise were not born in this great country, I waited until the last of them had gained the age of majority before applying for citizenship myself,  thus preventing them from acquiring automatic citizenship through me and allowing them to consciously choose citizenship for themselves as adults.  I am sure everyone will agree with me that a momentous decision such as choosing to become a citizen of this great country ought to be a conscious and enthusiastic one made by informed adults.  Sure, it would have been easier to have saved my children the trouble when they were younger,  but it is a responsibility that I am sure they will claim joyfully.

The interview moved along swiftly after that.  I even managed to give the officer some helpful hints for decorating her office in a more elegant and inviting manner,  although I must say she was not as appreciative of my efforts as one might have expected.  Perhaps it was merely an unfortunate natural expression, but she looked utterly nonplussed  somewhat confused ( clearly, a difficulty which might have been considerably ameliorated had she the benefit of my advice years ago and beautified her surroundings which would have promoted a restful and composed attitude at all times).  Oh well, c'est la vie!  One can only offer!  The interview concluded rather abruptly shortly thereafter, and I was escorted out to the waiting area with a haste which I thought was entirely unnecessary.

Since I was in the city, I had made arrangements to meet Kiki for lunch,  so I sent her a little flurry of texts letting her know I was ready, where I was,  how poorly decorated the federal offices were, how annoying the construction out on the city streets was, and various other irritating interruptions to her day  delightful details about my day until she texted me back begging me to stop!  inviting me to come to meet her as she was still at work.  How exasperating!  How nice!

I must say,  my talented and industrious daughter has a very impressive job at a bookstore right in the very heart of the city.  While I waited for her to finish her shift,  I made it my business to point out to the other customers that the paragon of wit and intelligence manning the information desk was my own amazing offspring.  I am pleased to report that I saw Kiki's  jaw drop in appalled embarrassment  delighted smile of modest appreciation as her co-workers all looked on admiringly.  This is the sort of motherly boost for which I am justly notorious  famous!

We had a wonderful lunch at a little Italian place near the store.  Visits to the city are so invigorating!  And visits with my daughter are the highlight of my month!  But alas, it was soon time to head back home.

Needless to say,  after such a full day,  writing of any description was totally out of the question.  Sure, Kiki went on to write several thousand more words, even after a full shift at work, homework and probably a class or two,  but I am a very busy woman and must pace myself!

Today,  I plan to move mountains!  Good day to All!

*The moment I become a citizen, Those in the Know can rest assured that I will waste no time before sending off a complaining  helpful letter to our state senators and representatives.  It is about time for the United States of America to enjoy the benefit of my wisdom and guidance! No need to thank me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011



Yes, you read that correctly.  I expect the peanut gallery to maintain a dignified silence. Thank you.


Here is the thing:  it is not how many words one writes which is really important,  it is the quality of those words which matter.  Obviously,  I could easily have flicked off 500-1000 sub-par words last night,  as I am sure many Nanowrimo participants may have done,  but for moi,  it is more important to produce a superior piece of fiction.  Those in the Know are quite familiar with my work ethic and my attention to detail.  In short, I am a perfectionist and nothing but the best will do.

All right, yes, it is true.  I did not write a single word last night.

This morning, however, is a different story!  I already have 116 high-quality words on the word processor,  which is obviously a win!  From little acorns mighty oaks will grow and all that!