Better Than Fruitcake

One of my favorite stores to waste some time is Big Lots, a place that sells some discontinued and overstock items. Bunch of junk really, but I like going there.

Last spring I found a case of Illy cappuccino drinks (cans, for the fridge) for about 75 cents each. Amazing drinks, way better than the Starbucks brand. After we ran out, I looked at every grocery store for them, even looked on the internet to see where I could buy more.

No luck.

A couple of months later we were in Italy and they were everywhere for about $3 a can. Totally got hooked on those damn things.

Since then I peek in every one of those glass fridges by the checkout of every store I shop looking for Illy.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Illy (I buy their whole beans), they are selling these drinks on their website now. The price is excellent, 12 cans for $20, so I stocked up. The shipping isn’t as bad as you’d think.

They make great gifts, I think, especially for those out of town people on our list. I hope they like coffee. Ho ho hooooooooooooo.

Overpowering the Sun

At around twelve noon this time of year the sunlight passes through a window in the foyer, crosses the loft upstairs and lands on a ceiling fan in a room at the back of the house. It goes on and makes a shadow of the fan against the back wall.

This fan is two stories high, so the light is strong to make it through and through my house that way.

During this half hour of revealing sunshine, I realize just how dirty that fan is. No artificial light I have in here ever shows the fan that way. I remember this from last year, and since then nothing has changed.

Again, I brainstorm ways of getting up there to clean it.

We don’t have any ladders that go that high. No telescoping two story brooms or dusters. It is possible I could stack two tables on top of each other and then put the eight foot ladder on top. Then use a long handled broom. So I imagine myself on this contraption and as soon as I begin to swipe at the fan, the blades slip away from me as there is no way to lock the fan in place.

And the dust bunnies giggle at me.

Then. The sun goes on its way and the spotlight is gone. The fan looks clean again and I think to myself how great it is that I’m the only one aware of this or gives a damn about it.

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Lens help needed

One of the stupidest things I’ve ever written is that I use my point and shoot Panasonic around the house for snapshots of the family. I realized as soon as I’d posted this (I can’t remember which blog post it was) that things should be the other way around as pictures of my family are way more important than any of the others I take.

So I’m glad I wrote that stupid thing because it made me realize that I should only use the point and shoot when I have to (places where dslr cameras aren’t allowed, such as concerts) or on a trip where I don’t want to be weighted down with a heavy camera.

To be fair to myself, the point and shoot does take wider angle photos which is great for shooting inside a house especially if there are a lot of people to fit into the frame.

So. Wide angle lens needed!

With this newish camera I have, I only own a couple of lenses, so this Christmas would be a good time to add a wide angle lens. I haven’t done much research yet, but I know I don’t want a fish eye lens.

Anyone have recommendations? This is mostly for carrying with me on trips, so I think I’ll go with a fixed length good quality glass.

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Surely, this must be a joke

Don’t you just hate it when everybody else but you gets something?

Over the last year I’d been seeing more and more references to contemporary American artist Mark Rothko. Maybe one of his paintings recently sold for a record amount, I don’t know why his name kept coming up, but I tell you, I saw a segment on his contribution to the art world and I completely didn’t get it. In fact, that was the big joke in the house over the summer, me running around spouting out at random, “I don’t get it, I don’t GET Rothko! Help.”

At times I thought it was some snobby art joke on people who pretend to “get” things they don’t. Especially rich people who put up millions of dollars to buy these huge color rectangles of paint on canvas as proof they get it.

I almost blogged about it but that would have taken way more research than I was willing to do at the time. Once I start clicking on links about art, I go down a rabbit hole that i might not come out of for weeks or months. I was already entrenched in Ren art. Adding modern art to the mix might have broken my brain.

And it was part of this thirst for consuming Ren art that I found myself in the Dallas Museum of Art this fall, less than 50 feet from the front door and was punched in the face with a Rothko.

It was a canvas so huge it completely filled my visual field. Orange and red, not colors I even care for too much. Just before that, I’d seen about 15 paintings by various artists and my brain was probably a bit overstimulated with all the visual information. Shapes, colors, important moments…

I’ve read that people get the sensation of levitating while viewing Rothko’s abstracts. It was a little like that for me but I can tell you exactly how it felt, maybe this has happened to you.

You know that feeling you have when you are immersed in thought and your brain is racing a million miles an hour and you’re moving around rushing through a well lit room doing whatever it is you are doing and suddenly the lights go out and BAM you stop dead in your tracks and it is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face? For a moment everything in your mind is cleared and you don’t know what hit you and you have no plan yet to get back on whatever track you were on?

That moment. That meeting yourself in the dark moment.

It made me laugh. It made me feel human and wise and like I was everywhere at once.

It is no joke.

This is the painting that zapped my brain.

Orange, Red and Red

If you want to hunt down some of his work and decide for yourself whether or not this is a pile of crap, click this link to find a Rothko near you.

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crank crank sputter

Let’s see if I can get this thing started up again, Holidailies starts tomorrow and I’m going to do it again. This is my fifth year.

That means 30 days of blogging. Things I hope to blog about: concert we went to last night, travels over the summer, writer’s block, Greek yogurt, friends and family, concerts we will go to, funny things my dogs do, photography, things that are strange to me, the holidays and how I can’t wait until they are over.

God help you all.

Now go sign up and do this with me. Or ELSE!

Romancing the Blog

Here I am dragging my ass to the finish line of my fourth year of Holidailies, the thing where we promise to blog every day for 31 days straight. This year was very different than the others in that I didn’t feel as pressured to blog.

Over the last four years, I’ve learned there are no Holidailies police, and it is okay to play catch up with posting, for example, post twice in one day because you missed yesterday.

I’ve also learned being behind on posting does not make one ineligible from having a post of theirs selected for “Best of Holidailies.

Someone asked me once if I knew any of the judges. I have no idea who judges the posts or how many of them there are. I do know they read a ton of posts every day, probably about a hundred. I don’t have a sitemeter to stalk down who reads what or how long they stay here, but I do have the WordPress admin panel that tells me I’ve got hits coming from “reader’s pick.” Without fail for every single post, even if it’s a crappy one.

So I’d like to thank you nameless, faceless Holidailies Judges out there, whoever you are. Just for coming here and reading.

I’d also like to thank Jette and Chip for organizing and hosting Holidailies. This project is not only an amazing way to meet new bloggers and get back to reading some old favs, it also keeps my mind on writing. I’ve been really slack about that in the last year and although I never intended to give up blogging, I’ve been so neglectful toward something that has given me so much joy and gotten me through some very rough days.

With Holidailies2009, I fell in love with my blog again.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Holidailies and those who watched from the sidelines. Maybe next year you will join us?

Thanks also to Jennifer at Whispers of Fairydust for creating the above Holidailies badge.

Nobody

Nobody is driving me nuts. They keep sending me blank emails and it’s gotten to where my inbox is so clogged up with these blank emails that I exceed my quota and emails are bouncing.

At first it wasn’t so bad. Just a few a day. Then the damn thing went hog crazy and started shooting me emails about every three minutes of the day that the sender has his/her computer on. There are days when I get 400 of them. Four hundred!

I can view the raw source code and see that it is coming from one email address, a person/entity I do not know. Nothing I have filters this thing. It’s not a virus on my computer, rather a virus on theirs. So I call my webmaster and ask him to block the ip address, but the problem with that is it blocks a chunk of people with the same ip.

I’ve sent this person emails asking them to remove me from their address book and informing them that they have a virus, but have gotten no response. Figures, huh?

Anyway, just want to put the word out that my business email is flaky right now. If anyone needs to email me, use the address on the about me page of this blog.

Ghetto Med

I’ve been knee deep in a class for my nursing Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or hours so I’m screeching in here to make a Holidailies post and have no idea what to write because I’ve been studying diabetes all day.

Photos! There’s always something rat-holed in iPhoto, just waiting to be posted. This one stood out.

An xray of my mother-in-law’s fractured fibula (broken leg).

Can you see the break? It is that long lateral dark line in that thin bone to the right.

How I got this from an 11×14 film (hard copy) to a jpg image is the story.

The ER doctor discharged my mother-in-law and said she would not need surgery. I was worried the sharp point on one of the fractured pieces was puncturing the other bone. The gap between the two broken ends seemed a bit wide too. So I called a friend of mine, a radiologist who lives in Louisiana (where my mother-in-law lives) and asked her to look at the xray. She asked me to email it to her. All I had was the hard copy, not a digital image.

I tried to scan the film with my scanner. Didn’t work.

I have a couple of halogen lights on the vent hood above my stove that are crazy bright. So I taped the films to the vent hood in front of the lights, put a plain white sheet of paper behind the light, and took a photo of the film.

Voila.

Digital x ray. My friend was quite impressed, she didn’t think I’d be able to really email that image to her where she could actually see anything. And she thought it was funny.

Ghetto medicine. We do stuff like that every week at the free clinic where I work, we make do with what we have. Gives the mind a good challenge and that’s just one of the reasons I like it so much.

Back to my CEUs.

Circus Kitchen

I hardly ever go back and read old posts. Never think about it. Except when I’m looking for a recipe I’ve put up here. I’ll use the search bar (upper right column) to find it. It’s much easier than pulling out my battered recipe scrapbook which has pages falling out all over the place. I know a lot of cooks have recipes memorized or they make things up as they go. I do that too, but I also post recipes of things I don’t make often and have to look up measurements. Or other people’s recipes.

A recipe page on here would be great, I can find them all in one click…

A little while later…

Okay, I’ve made the page and it is toward the top, in the right-hand column. Or you can go click the link The Circus Kitchen to get there.

Blue Moonlight on ice

There was a blue moon on New Year’s Eve, which is rare. We only see that once every eighteen years. The term “blue moon” really isn’t about the color of the moon or the moonlight, it refers to how many full moons there have been in a cycle. You can read about that here in a Yahoo news article.

Since this was special and as I love the light of a full moon, and there was ice in my alley, I went out and took a photo. Not too well focused, but I think the light is pretty.

I used my 50mm lens and just put the camera down on the ice. This is a 2 second exposure at f1.4, ISO 125. I did a little post work in Photoshop, but I can’t remember what I did.

I could have gotten a much better photo had I closed down the aperture and done a longer exposure, but I was freezing out there in my pajamas.

What’s New?

I never really did like to celebrate New Years Eve. It seems like the stupidest holiday. Like we’re kicking out the past and starting new again just because we’re starting another calendar year.

I don’t feel it.

Demarkations on a calendar, even the lines between the days don’t mean too much to me. Maybe I got like that by working so many graveyard shifts. Coming in one day, leaving the next. It was just a shift for me. Actually, the change in date during work gave us a little bit of extra paperwork to do.

I think what it really is, this holiday, it scares me. Too many accidents. I’m so glad it’s over and I got to see all three of my kids healthy and happy today. Whew.

Monkey See, Monkey… Sea-monkeys!

Before Christmas, Kara was asking about Sea-Monkeys, “Are they real?”

So for Christmas I surprised her with one of those kits and just a day or so later we could see them floating around in the water, doing backflips and all that. They remind me of fleas.

I took out my reverse ring adapter and decided to do a little macro photography today to show you the sea-monkeys.

For even better magnification, I got out my close-up lens set and used that with one hand while I moved the camera with the other to focus.

Extremely difficult, requiring tons of patience. This is about the best shot I got of a baby sea-monkey.

I got a video too, but after uploading it, I found some other sea-monkey videos and decided to trash mine.

Here’s a better one someone put up on Youtube.

Yuk.

I wish I had not seen that. Really, now I want to throw these ugly little things down the drain.

Not as advertised!

I should be ashamed

I don’t know why I have a fascination with amusement park type machines/gadgets for home kitchens, but I do. Years ago I kicked off my collection with a cotton candy machine.

It’s not the toy one, it is a good sized machine that makes full sized cones of fluff. Of course I didn’t pay full price for it, I stalked that thing in the store until it went down to about $30. Through the years it has been the big thing to pull out for the kids’ birthday parties.

We have had just about every type of snowball machine you can imagine and if there is a hand crank or Snoopy character involved, you can bank on having your shoulder go out. No photo of that one, but we have an electric one somewhere and it is probably the one machine the kids have used the most.

The hot dog roller is fun to drag out by the pool in the summertime.

But the donut machine thingy was a total disappointment, I never could make a good one and none of us are crazy about fried anything.

I should have known better, if we’re going to eat donuts, this is the way to do it.

I never get these machines unless they are on clearance. Don’t know why I’m like that, maybe it helps with the guilt.

For Christmas I got Blane a popcorn machine. He’s been saying for about 5 years that he wants one and he was going to find just the right one, but he never got around to it. I found one on sale at Kohl’s for $30, the same one they are selling at Target for $100.
You have to see this in action, so I uploaded to YouTube:

I swear I didn’t really buy this for myself. I originally bought it for Blane Jr. but someone else gave him one, so I asked Blane Sr. if he wanted it. He jumped on it like a kid in a candy store. Or like me in the clearance aisle.

Time to watch a movie.

How Do I Catch Falling Snow?

Today provided a great opportunity to test my mad photography skills. Snow! Yes, again. We’re not used to getting it here in this part of Texas, so I have no snow skills. What a wonderful day to learn something new.

I grabbed a couple of lenses and tried to capture falling snow. There was no wind, so it was falling straight down. What it looked like to my eyes and what it looked like in a photograph were entirely different things. It was pouring down snow, but in the first few photos, no snow.

I was determined to catch that snow.

So I manually focused in the middle ground and got this:


1/60 f5.6 ISO 400, flash fired, manual focus

The snowflakes were way bigger than that and there were a lot more of them.


1/10, f6.3, ISO100, flash fired
You can see the size of the snowflakes, but there was much more than that.

1/40, f2.8, ISO 200, no flash

The lower f number (wide aperture) seemed to make the biggest difference. This is a little better, but there were about four times as many snowflakes.

Or was I just imagining things?

One thing is certain. The snowman I made keeled over and died.

RIP snowdoggy dog.

Short answer to the question in the title: With the ground.

Next stop, flash

I finally ordered that clamp for the flash to go on the umbrella stand I got last year. Now I’m looking at ring flash adapters and it seems as if I’ve gone down the rabbit hole. My attention is just all over the place, one minute I’m looking at the Ray Flashes and the next I’m all over soft boxes.

I got a new lens for Christmas, a Canon 28-135 f3.5 with image stabilization. It’s okay, but not as spectacular as the Canon 50mm f1.4 lens I got last year. Seriously, that fitty is just amazing. If I could have only one lens for the rest of my life, it would be that one. It’s a light eater and has a crisp focus. Even better, it is small and lightweight. With the new lens, everything looks sort of fuzzy and dim.

The thing about the 50mm lens is it is fixed, so I can’t zoom in or out with it. It’s great for portraits, but not so good shooting landscapes and wildlife. Still, it’s the lens I take with me on vacation since it is so lightweight.

Here’s a photo with the 50mm lens at 1.4 on an overcast day.

It’s supposed to snow here later today so I’ll go outside and try that new lens. Maybe it’ll do better out there than inside the house since it needs more light.

Anyway, I’m ready move on and master that flash, that way I won’t have to rely so much on natural lighting. I keep a photoblog :::here::: if you are interested.

Covered

I’m a big fan of As Seen on TV things, in fact I’m known to piss away money on just about every product they can throw at me. It’s a big joke in this family, my weakness for those things.

I was never impressed with the Snuggie, however, and the jingle makes me cringe.

I am impressed with their marketing. Who would have thought those things would be such a hot selling item? The stores around here, they knew. Starting at halloween they had mountains of them for sale. Intuition or whatever you call that inner voice said, buy one of those stupid things because there will be none left a week before Christmas and you will want to send that to someone. I resisted buying one until I saw all of those stacks of Snuggies dwindle down to nothing.

Sure as shit I did find myself driving around looking everywhere for the blanket with sleeves to give my mom. I don’t know why I thought I had to get it for her, but by the time I found one on Amazon.com, I had pretty much convinced myself that my mom would freeze to death in her house without it.

Then I wanted to get one for Blane. Now that’s bat shit crazy because we don’t want or need another blanket in the house. We have stacks of throws in a basket behind the sofa and there is no room for another.

So why did I buy him an electric throw for Christmas?

One thing in particular I haven’t wanted in this house is an electric blanket. It’s not about the fire hazard or that we don’t have room for it, it is about an aversion to them. I don’t even like seeing them in stores. I know that sounds crazy, but when my dad was dying in the hospital he kept asking everyone to bring him an electric blanket, that he was so cold.

I knew hospitals don’t allow them and he was too sick to understand that or to remember that he had already asked for it a million other times.

So I hate electric blankets because they remind me of a dying wish that was not fulfilled.

And this has been sixteen years since my father passed.

So while looking for that Snuggie thing, I got to go near the electric blanket section in the store and I had my usual gutted feeling. Then I thought, I have got to think about this differently. I grabbed one and bought it.

Got home, wrapped myself in that thing and felt almost as if I’d gotten a hug from my dad.

I went out the next day and bought more “hugs” for Christmas. One for Blane, one for my son, one for his wife. They loved them. It was a great gift, and probably way better than a Snuggie.

All was well until the meat grinder got involved

The day before Christmas Eve was so perfect I got to take the dogs out and shear off all that hair they’ve been shedding all over the house. The next day it snowed like crazy and although it was about 45 degrees when it began, the temperature dropped rapidly, the snow picked up, and then it piled up everywhere. Perfect. First white Christmas in my lifetime.

So everyone’s all crazy happy, singing Christmas carols that only a day earlier they said they never wanted to hear again, ever. Blane, he’s putting up the Christmas tree. I didn’t even have to ask, this is what Christmas snow does to southerners).

Me? I pull out the new meat grinder I got to make rice dressing. Last year I tried chopping all the meats and it didn’t work out. This year will be different for sure, there is magic snow on the ground and… Dude. A meat grinder, okay? What can be cooler than that in the kitchen?

It’s not one of those old metal crank ones.

I will get one of those next time I’m in Louisiana. I grew up watching my mom use hers, so I know how to operate the thing.

I got what I could get around here, an attachment that fits on my KitchenAid stand mixer.

What’s important to know about this is it’s electric and I don’t ever read instructions to anything. Half the fun of a new thing is figuring it out how to make it work.

So I threw a pack of raw chicken gizzards down the hole and used the plunger thing to tamp it. Out the other side, curly strings of meat emerged. Awesome and quick. This was something that took at least an hour to chop by hand last year. Oh what a magical thing.

Next came the raw chicken liver. I threw those down the hole and tamped it, but nothing happened. So I shoved the plunger down hard and out the other side… An EXPLOSION of pureed chicken liver in my face, hair, on my arms, shirt. I look behind me and oh God, my dog Mireille! She’s white and I see these thick, red lines of raw meat all over her.

Now that was pretty disgusting for me, but for the dog? She ran around in circles licking herself, what a gift she must have thought, if she could think.

When the other dog heard all the ruckus, she came dashing in to clean the floor. That stuff was all over.

You know how difficult it stop a dog from eating raw meat spray? It took two people to straighten out that mess. Thanks a million, Blane, you saved Christmas.

White Christmas? Really? In Texas?

It’s hard to believe there is a chance of snow for Christmas Eve, really, I can’t believe it. Yesterday it was sunshine and 72 degrees. For the last few hours it has been pouring down rain, maybe mixed with a little hail, whatever it is, it’s loud and I like it. When it quiets down, I run to the windows to see if the snow’s started.

That is a magical moment, when rain turns to snow. Reminds me a little of being on the runway in an airplane when it lifts off.

I’m such a doofus, I get a rush out of that. I probably should be shaking at the knees while a plane is taking off, it’s one of the most dangerous parts of flight, but noooooo, not me, I’m all giddy like a five-year old. I tune my ears to the sound of the wheels on the pavement, glare out the window at things zooming past, place my hands on the armrests to feel the vibrations of the plane. When it comes, that sudden, smooth change from riding to floating, I smile. Every single time.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a White Christmas. The one time it snowed here for the holidays, we were in Louisiana visiting family. I got to see all the magical Christmas snow of Dallas on the news over there.

Maybe with this big snowstorm I’ll get my turn to see one? I feel like I’m sitting in a plane on the runway. Fingers crossed.