Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The New 'Do

I love the Wudgie's new hairdo. In fact, it is her very first 'do. Here's to a lifetime of healthy hair, my sweet and may you have only good hair days, bangs that grow out gracefully and no split ends.
And happy 100th post to Good to be Home!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

'shroom 'shroom 'shroom

I love these mushroom inspired crafts that are popping up on crafty blogs lately. These are definitely on the "to do" list.

Wonderful knitted toadstool baby rattles from Purl Bee.

And these felted chanterelles from Kathryn Ivy.

Remember the mushroom decorating craze of the 70's? I think it was on the heels of the "avocado green and harvest gold" movement. My high school boyfriend's mother went fungii-crazy decorating her kitchen with Sears Merry Mushroom patterned everything. The wallpaper, dishes, pots and pans, linens, clock, appliance covers, canisters, and on and on!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bless the Ships at Sea

I have two younger brothers. The oldest of the two is a Captain of very large container ships that travel all over the world. He is assigned to this autoliner now, picking up and delivering cars from and to ports in very interesting places.

Captain Brother, always interested in the details of life, writes the most interesting emails to my parents from his ship. Here's one he wrote back in April on one of his "3 months at sea" duty rotations. He then returned and did a "3 months at home".

He's due to ship back out in August. Say a prayer for smooth sailing.

From: xxxxxx- Captain [mailto:xxxxxxxxx] Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 1:56 AMTo: "xxxxxxx" Subject: Pacific Cruisin

Hi Dad,

Hope all is well there with you and Mom. Things are going ok here. It was pretty busy in Japan as we hit 5 ports in 6 days. As you would expect, the Japanese are pretty efficient, and things went like clockwork. A bit of a change from the Med routine where everybody had the Manana attitude. We departed the last port on Sunday, and headed out into a large building late season winter storm. We had 8-9 meter head seas for the first 24 hrs as we headed southeast as fast we cou ld to get out of its path. Finally the wind shifted to the west so the head seas died down, but a huge following swell started to build. We're still in the effects of it now, five days later, but the swell is finally starting to lie down. People were starting to get edgy after the second day or so without sleeping very well, but everyone is sort of used to it by now. We had a month of relatively calm seas between Gibraltar and Japan.

Japan was pretty cool. I was looking forward to getting there, and I wasn't disappointed. Our first port was Kanda on the southern most island. It was at a private Nissan terminal which was kind of sterile. Had to go through the inland sea of Japan to get there. We picked up a pilot at the entrance to the inland sea which was a big help. It was a five hour transit in to Kanda in really heavy tr affic, mainly small coastwise ships of which Japan has thousands. All the pilots were very professional, the younger ones in their sixties, and the senior guys in their late seventies. They have a real problem getting younger applicants as their Merchant Marine is in the same shape as ours. All were quite familiar with this type of ship as we saw many every where we went. It was as if we were schooling fish on the spawning grounds (which we were I guess). After Kanda we sailed overnight to Kobe which was much bigger than Kanda. It was kind of neat as we docked at a terminal on Rokko Island which was all ship berths on the perimeter, and a small city unto itself in the center. There were a couple different schools, Universities, shopping centers, a Sheraton hotel, apartment buildings, and professional buildings, all within walking distance from the ship. As we were there for a rare overnight I took the train in to downtown Kobe. That alone was pretty exciting as hardly anything was in English. The city center was like Times Square with lots of neon and flashing lights, and mobs of people going every which way. The weather was nice and crisp - perfect for walking around with my mouth open. The few westerners spotted all made eye contact with me- that sort of "what are you doing here" kind of look. The older Japanese kind of look at westerners as a novelty. They were all very polite to me, but you can tell they are sizing you up at the same time. I had a nice, rather expensive, dinner which was a bit of a challenge figuring out what to order. I remembered I liked Tempura and managed to get that across to the waiter. It was very good. Made it back to the ship okay. Was a little concerned I'd end up in Osaka or Tokyo, but I got my bearings and laid the right course.

After Kobe it was another overnight steam to Nagoya which was about halfway between Kobe and our last stop, Tokyo bay. The fishing boats were pretty thick along the coast so we tried to stay offshore of them. The fish stocks can't hold out much longer in the world. Between the European fleets with their technology, and the Far East fleets with their volume, I don't see the fish having much chance. Nagoya was another sterile berth where we loaded used cars for the Caribbean. Evidently there is a big trade in used vehicles out of Japan to the Third world countries. Japan has some very strict inspection laws on vehicles over 4 years old which forces most people to trade in for new. The cars seemed to be in good condition for the most part. I guess there is a cottage industry in some Caribbean countries converting the right hand drive models to left hand. Again it was another overnight steam to Yokosuka, just inside Tokyo bay. This was another Nissan private dock, at their largest plant. It was almost a city by itself. It was a beautiful spring day so I went for a walk into town. It was pretty busy, with a lot of little shops selling odds and ends. Like most cities in Japan, the train station is the center of activity. The trains are clean and fast, and evidently very popular. I found an old hardware store and bought a wood chisel for a friend at home that loves Japanese hand tools. It was a nice walk as the abundant cherry trees were just in bloom - a favorite time of the year for the Japanese. We finished cargo operations at 1600 and shifted out to the anchorage for the night as our berth in Kawasaki wasn't available until the next morning. At 0500 the pilot came aboard and we headed up the bay for Kawasaki which lies just to the north of Yokohama. There were ships coming and going all over the place. I'd never seen so much ship traffic in one place. At Kawasaki we berthed at a big industrial complex and as it was Sunday nothing was open. The weather had changed overnight with the approaching storm so I stayed on the ship and plotted our route to minimize the effects. All in all it was pretty interesting being there, especially after reading so many WWII stories about how brutal a people they were. Then again we've certainly done our share of the same over the years.

Right now we're coming up on the International dateline. We'll have two Friday, April 4ths this week. At midnight tonight we go from being 16 hours ahead of east coast time to 8 hours behind in one swoop. This is another first for me. Last time I was here I went the other way and lost a day. We're now on a Great Circle track to just off Cabo San Lucas were we'll Rhumb line it just off the coast of Mexico and Costa Rico to Panama to catch the favorable current. We'll pass about 600 nm north of Oahu, Hawaii in a couple days. The surfers on the North shore will be happy when these rollers get there. Other than that the closest land we approached on this leg was Wake Island the day before yesterday at about 200 nm. Another good WWII story. Hoegh has us slowed down for arrival at Balboa on the 19th. Actually they want us there early on the 20th, when we're scheduled to transit the canal, but we have to launch our free fall lifeboat so I'm getting in the day before. Looking forward to going through this canal as it means the end is near. 3 months to the day that I joined her. After the canal we go to Kingston, Jamaica, then San Juan, Jacksonville, Newport News, New York, and finally Baltimore where I hope to be relieved around May 3rd or so.

I won't long after when we'll be packing up and heading for Alaska. I finished the books you gave me about the North Country. I loved the bush pilot one, and the other one was great too. I wonder whatever became of that couple. Maybe they are still living in that cabin. Just started The Last of The Tin Can Sailors about the Battle for Leyte Gulf. I read a great book by a Marine infantry guy who was in the south pacific and on Okinawa which I think you might enjoy. Well that's about it for now. Starting to work on the end of voyage paperwork so I'm keeping busy. Hope work is going well for you, and the weather has been nice. Really looking forward to getting back to work on my project at home. Like to have it framed in this summer so I'll have inside work in the winter. Take good care and drop me a line when you get a chance. Hi to Mom.

Love, xxx

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Yikes! Stripes!

UPDATE: Be sure to enter my contest give-away listed in the November 10 posting! And visit my blog often for more give-away goodness!

Ok this is weird. Sephora is advertising this new "press-on" eye shadow from ColorOn Professional. It doesn't have a lot of good reviews. Apparently it's even more garish than it looks and is rather difficult to apply.

I was thinking. What if you applied that eye shadow and then slipped these contacts on.

I bet you would end up looking something like this.

Or maybe even this.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Watch This!

I love quirky movies. Little Miss Sunshine and even Fargo are two of my favorites. And now I have a new fave, Lars and the Real Girl. It's been out for a couple of years but I just heard about it a few weeks ago and have already watched it 3 times (something very unusual for me).

When I first read about the film and found out the "Real Girl" was actually an internet-purchased blow-up doll, well, you know what I thought. Be assured, this little gem of a movie doesn't go there. At all. It's sweet and compelling and funny and beautiful. The cinematography is incredible and makes midwest winters look almost inviting.

My favorite characters in the movie (aside from Lars and his real girl) are Dr. Dagmar and Karen. Both are witty and compassionate and played by wonderful actresses, Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer.

Lars and the Real Girl is available on Netflix so add it to your queue and then let me know what you think after you have seen it once or twice or three times.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Orange + White = Yellllow

I mentioned Tommy the magnificent cat here before and promised more about him. My youngest brother has an innate ability to "find" lost and stray animals- especially baby animals. And even now that he is a middle-aged man with his own family and home, most of his "finds" end up with my parents. That's pretty much Tommy's story. Brother found Tommy as a tiny kitten clinging to a rock wall next to a very busy interstate highway. He somehow spotted the orange and white fluff ball as he was whizzing by at 80 mph. Seven years later with my mother's nurturing, Tommy is one of the most splendid cats I have ever known. Even his vet remarks every time he sees him (think very deep southern drawl from Dr. Kevin): "Mah oh mah he sure is one fah-hine boyeeee". And he has seen a lot of cats.

Tommy has a lot of names, too. He's Tommy Bahama, Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy TomTom, Mr. Man, and when he is in touch with his feminine side, has even been Thomasina.

Tommy is huge and has a real presence wherever he goes. He probably weighs around 20 pounds and has very luxurious fur. Whenever I see him I am always amazed over how white his white fur is. And his orange color is rich and deep. Did you know that most orange and white cats are males?

When Tommy gets anxious (like when he is in the cat carrier going to see Dr. Kevin) he cries out very disctictly. What does he say? The big orange and white guy says "Yellllllow".

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Basket Case

I have a thing for baskets and picnic baskets especially. I love picnic food and the idea of making food and drink portable to places where it can be consumed "out of the norm" yet in comfort. In other words, I like to eat and drink outside with all the "niceties" of inside (napkins, flatware, glasses, etc).

I think outfitted picnic baskets make lovely wedding gifts. Here is a traditional English style picnic hamper that would make a great gift. Looks like tea and scones on the lawn, doesn't it?

Not really a basket but rather a tote, this clever bag is made of astroturf, lined with red and white gingham and includes cutlery in the outside pocket.

I love this little felt picnic set found here on Etsy. The banana even slides out of the jacket and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come apart. I know a little girl that would LOVE this (are you listening, Santa?). Just needs little felt ants and you are all set to pretend picnic.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lighting Up My Life

I love lamps and interior lighting. When we remodeled our home last fall, we were able to replace all of our lighting and lamps. We went for a simple, clean line and found a lot of what we liked in the George Kovacs line. Very minimalist, very functional and very reasonably priced (for lighting). Here are a few photos from around the house.

George Kovacs in the Dining Room. The stainless steel bar slides up and down allowing for different heights of the line of lights.

George Kovacs in the Master Bathroom. He's everywhere.

George Kovacs at our bedside...great reading lights, too. This style light is sometimes called a "marriage-saver".

From Ikea--love the pattern it throws on the wall of the family room

This paper shade lamp on the master bedroom dresser is an Isamu Noguchi tower. I love the delicate little feet and the soft glow from the pleated rice paper shade.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Steal this Recipe (I Did!)

I made these stuffed jalapenos today and they are delicious! I didn't think I would be that crazy about them, but knew the Mister would eat them. I was half right. He loved them and I ate about 20. I ate so many this afternoon that they were basically my dinner. I wasn't hungry again until dessert! They really aren't that hot and spicy--rather mild and sweet when the jalapeno roasts in the oven. And what can be wrong with anything that's wrapped in bacon?

The recipe couldn't be easier. I found the recipe (along with a ton of other excellent ones) at The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog. The PW blogged a few days ago how she made hundreds of these for a big 4th of July bash (and how she ate a zillion of them, too).

If we were fifteen years old, you would be text messaging this after you tried these:

OMG these R 2 die 4. U R my BFF! TTFN.
Stuffed Jalapenos
Cut jalapenos in half and seed. Smear softened cream cheese in the jalapenos. Wrap snugly with half slice of bacon. Cook on rack (so bacon grease drains) on a cookie sheet for 30-35 mins at 400 degrees. That's it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Sea Glass

I love sea glass (sometimes called beach glass) and have been collecting it for years. When kept in water, the little bits sparkle like jewels and when dried off, the soft matte colors are frosty and beautiful. Sea glass is created when littered glass bottles are broken and the pieces are then "polished" by being tossed about in the waves against the sandy beach. Nature's own recycling turns trash into quite a treasure.

The most common colors of sea glass just happen (!) to correspond with the most common colors of beer bottles. Go figure. Brown, green and clear. Blue, yellow and pink glass makes gorgeous sea glass and red is a rare find. The rarest color of all sea glass? Orange. It's only found in about one out of every 10,000 pieces of sea glass. That sounds about right. In all of the tens of thousands of times I have bent over to pick up sea glass, I think I have only found 2 or 3 pieces of orange glass.

What to do with sea glass? I like just the bottled displays on a sunny windowsill. Beautiful jewelry can be made and here's a unique idea of fitting pieces together to make unique art.

The North American Sea Glass Association holds an annual exhibit (coming up this Fall in Delaware) that looks like it would be fun to visit. Check out the "Shard of the Year" contest!

Monday, July 7, 2008

33 Years Ago

I always loved Joni Mitchell's music. I still do. I came across this video featuring "A Case of You" (love the map of Canada line). There are quite a few videos of Joni on You Tube and they all make me smile, cry and remember.

In the slideshow is a photo of Joni that sparked a photographic memory and sent me on a mission to find a certain photo of me. Me doing my best Joni Mitchell impersonation (cuz I sure can't sing or play any instruments!). In a meadow on Block Island during the summer of '75.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pride and Cake

I am very proud of my daughter. Wudgie's mother has had some life-changing experiences lately and she is handling them so well. She has grown from a darling and adorable little girl into a strong and beautiful young woman. Yup, just a little proud.

While growing up, she was never really interested in the "domestic arts" and it just thrills me now that she is starting to express a genuine interest in cooking, baking and other housekeeping skills. So when she asked if she could bake a cake at my house yesterday, I was all over it. And she didn't want a mix cake, it was to be a real cake...from scratch.

We searched through recipes and looked on ingredient boxes at the grocery store. She came up with this chocolate cake from the Hershey's cocoa powder box. And although the recipe includes their own chocolate icing, she has already exhibited the fine art of "tweaking" recipes and decided on the buttercream on the Domino's 10X sugar box.

Out came the trusty Kitchen Aid mixer, a variety of spoons, spatulas, bowls, racks and pans. She measured carefully, fretted over the consistency of the batter (this recipe makes a VERY thin batter- but they tell you that!), paced during the cooking and hurried the cooling time. The results? Absolute perfection. On her first try. A very moist chocolatey cake and a creamy sweet frosting. Classic and delicious.

I won't talk about who did the clean up.


Me on phone: Hi Honey, you coming over soon?

Daughter: Maybe later. I'm busy right now.

Me: Watcha doin?

Daughter: Baking muffins from scratch to take to work tomorrow.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Sad Aftermath

Our neighbors across the street---the ones with the 3 rowdy (but good) adolescent boys and a darling little girl---have had one heck of a 4th of July celebration for the past 10 years or so. Complete with probably several thousand dollars worth of fireworks, kegs in the front yard, cars parked all over the place and a huge fire pit in our very residential neighborhood. Sometimes it was annoying but it was over in a short time and during the rest of the year things are fairly quiet around here. So we have always been "good neighbors" and just enjoyed their revelry. And hoped that our house wouldn't catch on fire.

Another thing about these neighbors. The parents are "yellers". Not mean screamers, but yellers. I suppose thats the way they best think they can motivate 3 very rambunctious boys. And I guess it works for them. Anyway, the 5th of July always meant the dad would be out in the street early with his clean-up crew (the 3 boys) "directing" them to clean up the giant mess of shrapnel (well, paper) in the street and in our yards.

Earlier this year, tragedy struck their family. The dad was killed in a motorcycle accident just a mile or so from our neighborhood. I am not sure how the mom is doing it but the little family is strong and the boys seem to help out a lot.

The Mr. and I wondered if the 4th of July celebrations would continue without the dad. Last night we found out. More people than ever showed up across the street and more fireworks than ever, too. A tribute I am sure. And then this.

This morning as I was sitting here at my computer I heard a whirring sound out in the street. I grabbed my camera and went out front. The boys cleaning the street and our yards. No yelling. No bickering. Not even talking. Just dutiful clean up. And I love the arrow on his shirt pointing up to heaven.

Their dad would be proud.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy July 4th

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The King and I

My new BFF (my Cusinart food processor) has inspired me to do more baking and to become more aware of baking related recipes and equipment. Its a fascinating world of stuff out there.

One of my most favorite resources for baking is the King Arthur Flour website. With wonderful photographs and a great on-line catalog as well as a big database of recipes, this is a favorite hang-out of mine on the web. I love their blog "Baker's Banter" and have signed up for their e-newsletter that includes great coupons and ideas. Yes, I do use King Arthur unbleached AP flour and love it, too.

Speaking of blogs, there are a lot of great ones out there that are centered around tips, triumphs and a few disasters in at-home baking. There is even a monthly baking challenge group called the Daring Bakers where anyone can join. The group "throws down" a recipe challenge each month and the "members" bake the item at home and then submit their photos and notes, blog about it on their own blogs and just have fun with it. This month's challenge is "Danish Braid".

Cakespy blogs about the "baking scene" and Alpineberry has some great archives on her blog. Mary of Alpineberry is taking a break from blogging right now, but her photos and recipes are worth a look.

Oh and one more thing I found out by poking around the King Arthur Flour website. Their headquarters in Vermont is called....Camelot. And yes, looks like a castle.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goodness Gracious

I love good manners, civility and proper etiquette. I am far from perfect when it comes to these social elements but have always been fascinated with the "rules" and "order" of doing things right.

When George Washington was about 16 years old, he transcribed Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation as a school exercise. These 110 guidelines for civil behavior are mostly still applicable today. I love #4 and wish more people would pay attention to that one!

My favorite corporate motto belongs to the Ritz-Carlton. Their philosophy engrained in each employee? "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen". Having been fortunate to stay at a Ritz-Carlton recently, I can attest that each employee I encountered believed this to be true and it showed in their treatment of their guests. And I want to go back. Often.

Ever been through customs going in to Canada? Along side a Canadian citizen returning home? They get a gracious "Welcome Home" from their Border Patrol agents when they present their Canadian passports. How civil is that?

So in the theme of this post, thank you for visiting my blog today. It was most kind of you and I trust you were pleasantly entertained for a moment or two. I am delighted that you came by.

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