Knights of the Texture Round Table

Been back in medieval times for a few weeks, so I've been illuminating manuscripts instead of blogging. We did a print project that involved making a texture collage on a shield-shaped piece of cardboard. We made prints of the textured surface, called collographs, onto colored cellophanes and framed them to resemble stained glass windows. Finally we painted and mounted the texture collage as if it were a heraldic banner hanging on a castle wall.

Thanks to all the noble lords and ladies who contributed cds, bubble wrap, zippers, and buttons for the project!


Winning word for the week

Comanical is a preschooler word used to describe the giant mechanical rat and other animals in the automated Chuck E. Cheese pizza show. It perfectly captures the maniacal quality of the allegedly comic or child-friendly mechanical characters.

My first visit to a ShowBiz Pizza Place, the early name for a Chuck E. Cheese's, was before I had kids. My friend loved to take her two preschoolers there for lunch, and I was just along for the ride. What a terrific place! First you could overstimulate the kiddies on miniature carnival rides with flashing lights until they were queasy or crabby, then order some bad pizza and watery pop. Take your tray into the darkened Show Room where your shoes stuck to the carpet. Park the youngsters in their booster chairs just in time for a "show" of lifesize animatronics with a rockabilly bear and a nightmare-inducing cheerleader mouse. Take two Excedrin, bundle the kids into their snowsuits, and fasten them into their carseats. Pull out of the parking lot onto Dodge Street, and the chain-reaction barfing begins. The night terrors won't start for a couple nights.

Received a videocassette in the mail when my spouse's nephew was born. Ack. It was a video of his delivery! Thank you so much for sharing.

Received another videocassette a year later. A birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's for a one year-old freaked out by the comanical rat, the blaring music, and an uncomfortably loaded diaper, and a large collection of aunts and uncles forced to eat bad pizza and Excedrin.

I used to worry about the part in the black and white televised Nutcracker ballet "where the mice come in". It wasn't as scary as the Oz flying monkeys, but very worrisome when I was a preschooler. I would have to really squint, or even leave the room, when the mice came in. The cheerleading Mitzi Mozzarella mechanical mouse was way scarier, and I was in my late twenties by then!

This is just to let my sons know that if they ever get married and procreate, I would prefer that they not celebrate special occasions at Chuck E. Cheese's. Let's just say this future grandma would rather watch a delivery room video while have dental work done in the downtown Greyhound bus terminal than ever see the comanicals again.


Planning your day is so important

"If I quit before noon should I bring my lunch home?," my dad used to ask my mom across the Cheerios breakfast table. I knew that meant he was mighty tired of his job and coworkers, and probably of carrying his sack lunch on the bus. His sack lunch usually had a thermos of soup along with a sandwich, fresh fruit, and cookies, so it wasn't all the lunch's fault. Maybe indecision over whether to carry the brown bag back home or to abandon it caused him to just eat it and keep his job despite the aggravations. Many days this mustard and mayo dilemma paralysis makes perfect sense to me, and keeps me employed through another afternoon.

In a team-building/corporate-training/pass-the-monkey seminar a few years back our facilitator stressed the use of Day-Timer calendars to set goals as well as record appointments and assignments. Much of this seminar whizzed over the heads of our team of "look at all the pretty colors" art and drama teachers. Still, I've carried my Day-Timer to work and back every day since 2000 and managed not to get paint all over it. My calendar has been annotated with birthdays, soccer schedules, and zit doctor appointments for my kids all this time.

Yesterday was a busy one in Lincoln. Two bank robberies in one day! One suspect was nabbed after she walked the four blocks from the bank to stand in the long line at the Subway sandwich shop in the center of downtown during the noontime rush.

Plan your day. Should you bring the loot home if your rob the bank before lunch? Should you carry a sack lunch with a thermos of hot Campbell's soup, a roast beef sandwich, fresh fruit, and some cookies to the bank job? Order the fresh fruit cup instead of the chips and pickle? Maybe eat a late brunch so you won't be all that hungry after robbing the bank, and can just hop the first train out of town? Stop in at the Christian Science Reading Room after robbing the bank, and use the bag of loot for a naptime pillow?

My extensive reading about the James and Dalton Gangs, thanks to Nebraska novelist Ron Hansen, leads me to believe the usual routine is (1) have a hearty breakfast or at least lots of strong coffee; (2) rob bank; (3) get out of town; or (4) worse case scenario, have your bullet-ridden corpse displayed at county fairs all over a tri-state area. Again, I stress using your Day-Timer (if your fingers are too fat and your vision too poor to program your calendar into your cellphone!)

Bank robber, or robberette, Eva Fischer, spent her misguided moments in the stomping grounds of my youth. We could ride the bus downtown to swim lessons at the YWCA at 15th and N, then shower, dress, and buy a giant Tootsie Roll for a nickel. Walk next door to the main city library at 14th and N to check out some books, then continue on foot to Dad's office building at 13th and N to pick up prescriptions, have a dental check-up, and make a lunch rendezvous plan. Next walk south on 13th to Brady's Juvenile Shoes to get back-to-school oxfords and ride the giant rocking horses. Back north to the old Sears Roebuck with the wood floor at 13th and N to buy some Buster Brown socks and undies, then on over to Miller & Paine at 13th and O to meet Dad for lunch. Sometimes we ate in the tearoom on the fifth floor, and sometimes at the lunch counter in the bargain basement. The macaroni and cheese and the cinnamon rolls were the same either place. After showing Daddy our new shoes, he would go back to the office. We would cross 13th and pass the Walgreens with its lunch counter. Heading east along "O" Street we might visit the Toy Castle before proceding to Hested's to look at the bolts of corduroy in bright colors to sew back-to-school jumpers. If we ventured west instead we could windowshop at the more fashionable Ben Simons store, then pick up a Milton Bradley game or some "notions" at Woolworth's. I liked the Woolworth's store because the entrance was at a 45 degree angle to the street.

My parents would suggest that Eva stop in at the Cornhusker Hotel right there by the bank to have a Reuben sandwich for lunch. She could pop into the Sharp Building for a haircut before catching the bus back home with all her loot.


Des Moines June 1974

Dateline: Iowa State Fairgrounds 1974 Only got to see the Grateful Dead perform once, but it was a magical experience. Thanks to a computer-savvy Deadhead daddy of a student, I now have a set of cds of that exact concert. What a strange and wonderful gift!

"My" concert was thirty-one years ago, so it's no wonder it has taken on mythic proportions in my memory. We got up mighty early in Lincoln, Nebraska to drive to Des Moines for the concert that started around noon and lasted until after sunset. I sat out under the maple tree listening to locusts in the dark of the predawn, waiting for the VW microbus to pick me up.

The concert started off with major speaker problems, but the sun broke out of an overcast sky just as it always does in Grateful Dead legends. Still, the first cd is a frustrating experience waiting for the technical adjustments. It just keeps getting better after that, beginning with "China Cat Sunflower", and on through the second and third discs.

Jerry Garcia died nearly ten years ago. My student's daddy probably wasn't even born on June sixteenth, 1974. The music transcends the years and generations. I am very grateful for the cds!

The Blog Doctor Is In

The big employee lunchroom discussion was about using Coca Cola to remove car battery corrosion. We also discussed why you can't grow green mold on hot dog buns.

I sure hope the space shuttle launch and mission goes well tomorrow. Maybe the astronauts should pack some Coke Classic along with the Tang. Never know when it might come in handy.

The authblogger/blogauthor of "Screaming Thighs" needed some html voodoo. Having watched educational videos about the rainforest all Sunday, I was well equipped to perform a shaman dance with face paint, poison dart frogs, blow guns, and bromeliads. After two hours dancing around in the blog template shaking gourd rattles, burning sage, and spraying Coke on the terminals, I'm all worn out.

I'm either a flying purple people eater or a blog witch doctorette. But I never, ever leaked the identity of a CIA agent.

....Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla walla, bing bang
Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tangWalla walla, bing bang...
Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla walla, bing bang
Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla walla, bing bang

"Accuse me!"

Work can be refreshing if it's different work. I'm helping out while there's a vacant position at my former library job. Got to spend Saturday with childrens' books, and enjoyed seeing young families using the library. Quite a few grandparents came in with children to enjoy the puzzles, puppet theater, and dress-up clothes, as well as some cuddly read-aloud time together.

One little girl was having a splendid time skipping circuits of the room in her dress-up attire. Each time she passed me as I straightened books on the shelves she said, "Accuse me!" Very nice manners for such a young lady!

I got to confuse several of my art students by being in the wrong place. Why was the art lady now the library lady?

When my middle son was in preschool, we saw his teacher at the mall. He refused to make eye contact with her, because she was in the wrong place. Wonder how we learn as kids that the actors in our own personal drama exit stage right to perform other stories on stages we can't see.


Not your Oldsmobile's tuna casserole

In the Vetted Good Old Days, tuna casserole was made with "Sorry, Charlie" Starkist, Gooch's egg noodles, and Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. Crushed Weaver's potato chips were sprinkled on top to entice children to eat of the magic potion. Tuna casserole was served with carrot sticks and black cherry jello with canned Royal Anne cherries.

In the 1980s Oldsmobile had an ad campaign with Ringo Starr and his daughter called, "This is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile". About that time I was perfecting my new-fangled tuna casserole. Charlie Tuna and the mushroom soup were still in, but the noodles were now spinach noodles. The soup was jazzed with 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 good shakes of Tabasco, 2 T of sliced green olives and pimento, a shake each of dill weed, garlic, and paprika. Top the casserole with grated Monterey Jack.

Squirrels jumping into transformers

Now that I think about it, the whole explanation seems unlikely. During snowstorms back in Nebraska in the late-Seventies the electrical transformers on power poles would sometimes explode quite loudly around our neighborhood of small, older apartment houses. We believed that the explosions were caused by cold-crazed squirrels leaping into the transformer units. This was twenty years before I heard the term "suicide bomber". Our lights would flicker after one of the explosions.

Whenever I make pork chops and Spanish rice, I get a visual memory of looking out to the northeast from our apartment balcony window toward the alley, the parking lot, and the power pole with the transformer all covered with four to six inches of snow.

The one-bedroom apartment had bright Husker red shag carpet. The kitchen was one corner of the living/dining room. The fridge and range were harvest gold. We were the newlywed managers of the 8-plex, so our rent was $145 a month! Our phone bill was $7/month. We didn't have a car payment on the banana yellow rusty Chevy Nova. Our black and white t.v. was about 12" diagonal.

Our crockpot was avocado green. And yes, we had macrame plant hangers.

We got up early to use the snowblower and shovel so the residents could get their cars out of the lot and up the gravel alley to go to work and school. I would brown the thick pork chops in a heavy cast iron skillet. Didn't have to add oil to the pan then because the chops weren't trimmed of all their fat.

Put the browned chops into the crockpot. Add a can of stewed tomatoes with green peppers, one canful of water, 1/2 tsp. dried parsley, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. sage, 1/2 tsp. salt if you are young and don't even know about blood pressure, and 1.5 cups uncooked rice (not Minute Rice). Stir. Plug in crockpot, and set on low. Go to work and school. Come home and shovel the lot and sidewalks again. Collect rent checks. Vacuum stairway. Serve pork chops and Spanish rice with Gallo Hearty Burgundy. Wash dishes by hand. Listen to Miles Davis.


Comfort Food for Parole

One of these days I'll become a maven convicted of insider trading and sentenced to house-arrest. I'm looking forward to the house-arrest part, except for the ankle bracelet.

One of the ways my former spouse thought I could save our marriage was by wearing an ankle bracelet with a little heart charm. Usually when people think "romance" they don't think "Montgomery Wards", but that was where my ex charged two identical ankle bracelets. He brought one-stop shopping to a whole new level. I read the credit card statement with interest.

During my house arrest, I plan to eat macaroni and cheese like my mom used to make.

You need a three quart saucepan with a lid and a double-boiler. You also need a three quart Pyrex or Corning Ware casserole dish, and a colander.

Fill the saucepan 2/3 full with water. Cover and heat to boil. Add a teaspoon of cooking oil, and a package of large elbow macaroni. Boil 2 minutes stirring and watching. If the water starts to boil over, lift the pan off the burner and turn the burner down a bit. After two minutes remove from burner and cover saucepan with lid. Set timer for ten minutes.

Use this time wisely to grease the bottom and sides of the casserole dish. Cut or slice 16 oz. of Kraft Deluxe American cheese (one small box). When timer dings, drain the macaroni in the colander in the sink and rinse it with cold water. Put the drained macaroni in the casserole dish.

Put two cups of water in the saucepan, and set the double-boiler pan into the saucepan. (You don't have to wash the saucepan first.) Turn the burner on High. Melt a 1" chunk of butter or oleo in the boiler pan with 1 tablespoon flour, two good shakes each from a Worchestershire bottle and a Tabasco bottle. Add a pinch each of dry mustard and garlic powder. As it heats, stir ingredients into a paste. Turn the heat down to Medium-Low as soon as steam starts escaping from under the boiler pan. The double-boiler keeps the sauce from scalding, and is a very energy efficient way to cook.

Stir two tablespoons of milk into the paste until smooth, then two more, and two more. Stir occasionally as the mixture begins to thicken. Add a cup of milk into the boiler pan and stir until smooth and the consistency of sauce. Then add a few slices of cheese. Stir.

Add two and a half more cups of milk and the rest of the cheese a little bit at a time, stirring occasionally. When it's all smooth, pour it over the macaroni in the casserole dish. Add more milk if the sauce isn't up to the top of the macaroni. Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on the top, and shake paprika over it. Paprika makes it brown pretty.

Bake in a 350 degrees preheated oven for 50-60 minutes. If you want to get fancy, take casserole out of oven after 40 minutes. Put tiny dabs of butter (1/4" cubes) on the top of the cheese about every two inches, then sprinkle bread crumbs lightly over the top. Finish baking.

Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Individual servings can be frozen to nuke in the employee lunchroom.

The yummiest way to reheat leftovers is in a small skillet on a medium burner. Melt 1T butter or margarine in the skillet, or heat 1T vegetable oil. Add the mac and cheese. Chop and turn the mac and cheese with a spatula as it heats and gets a bit crispy. The aroma will overcome existential angst and urban alienation in the Post Industrial Age. Serve with ketchup or chilled cranberry jelly.


Come Fly With Me: Reserve Your Armchair Now

Sinatra and Smetana color my mental travel brochures. Captain Kangaroo used to run a video of river photos with Smetana's "The Moldau" that made me proud to be of Bohemian ancestry. Another video with Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite" might have ignited my interest in the American Southwest.

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars

Where would I travel if money was no object? An interesting evening's pondering, and well within my entertainment budget!

Not having been much of anywhere, this is where I would go if money and time were irrelevant:

Ashfall State Park in Nebraska

The whooping crane migration along the Platte River in Nebraska

The cliff dwelling sites of the Four Corners region. Got hooked on the Anasazi reading National Geographic story about Weatherill Mesa in 1966.

On a riverboat cruise up the Mississippi

New York City to see the art, theatre, dance, and opera, and look for sites in Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books.

Crete and Santorini—I have wanted to visit the island ever since reading a juvenile nonfiction book from my local library in about 1966. Knossos, Minotaur, frescoes

Michoacan, Mexico to see where Monarch butterflies spend the winter.

Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Tut, Tut. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Alhschwede, was reading aloud to the class about Howard Carter when JFK was assassinated.

Botswana because of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books

A trip through the Ukraine, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe, especially Prague, Split, and Kiev

Krakatoa and Java because of The Twenty-One Balloons and one of the worst movies ever made

Australia, thanks to Bill Bryson

Boston because of Make Way For Ducklings

James Herriott’s England



Spandex exercise requires changing clothes and taking showers, and often driving to a gym or pool to work out. It's not that I dislike exercise, but that I'm opposed to excessive clothes-changing and showers.

When my walking buddy phoned this morning, I croaked and snarled that my throat was raw and I was going back to sleep. Once I did get my motor going an hour later, I considered driving over to the mall for some air-conditioned dork-walking. Wandering out to the kitchen to make coffee and poached eggs, I discovered that the package of chix boobs I was thawing in the fridge had leaked all over. Gross! My mom would be horrified. Time to clean and disinfect!

An hour later I had taken all the food out, and removed and washed all the parts of the fridge, even ones I never knew were removable. Stood on the stepstool and cleaned the top of the fridge.

Another hour, and I had pulled the refrigerator out. Mopped the floor underneath. Vacuumed the fuzzy dust off the back and pulled off the back panel to vacuum the dust-packed innards. Emptied the beverage storage cart next to the fridge (one of the best $21.95 purchases I ever made), and washed it in the shower. Started the self-clean cycle on the oven, and washed the burner drip-pans. The Ventures and the Spencer Davis Group were in the cd player, and I was doing the Swim, the Pony, the Frug, and the Limbo as cleaning fumes altered my reality.

Another hour for cleaning the counters, the inside and out of the microwave and toaster oven, and removing the glass globes of the dining area light fixture to wash. Up stepstool, down stepstool. Feel the burn!

By now I had entered that rare primitive berserko cleaning rhythm where no grime is safe. I vacuumed baseboards and under the oven. I cleaned the counter backboards (or are they backsplashes?) with Clorox disinfecting wipes that work better than anything I've ever used. I was in The Zone! Don't stop me now! I put Old English on all the cupboard doors. Hauled trash bags to the dumpster. Swiffered Dry and Swiffered Wet. Cleaned the exhaust fan.

Would I clean more often if it required a day-glo Spandex outfit? Hardly. Do I feel ten pounds lighter? You bet!

Movie Ratings

For several weeks I've been listening to groups of children chant "I like to move it, move it." On the "Who let the dogs out?" scale of annoyance, this is only a 6.5. Still, I was mildly curious if the movie "Madagascar" had any redeeming qualities. Thank heaven I'm not trying to find a summer movie for little kiddies these days! "Madagascar" is either creative, delightful, and so harmless that parents can park the kids and go see an adult movie in a different theater at the megaplex, or a totally offensive brain-rotter that will poison even the minds of adults, depending which site you read.

Just thinking about that island the size of Texas off the east coast of Africa reminds me of Flashman's Lady. And what has become of Sir Harry Flashman and his creator, George MacDonald Fraser? Thank heavens there's a twelfth installment in the Flashman Papers! The U.S. publication date is November, and I would stay up until midnight and put a temporary tattoo on my forehead for this British invasion release. Fraser is in his eighties now, and some U.K. reviews suggest Flashman on the March is not the best in the series. Any Flashie is better than no Flashie at all! I need some Fraser footnotes!


Playing with papers and shapes last weekend, a collage gradually emerged that sent me off in search of images of the bioluminescent creatures in the deepest parts of the oceans. Hadn't heard about the movie "Deep Blue" at that point. My "March of the Penguins" movie buddy knew we had to go see "Deep Blue", though. The cinematography is impressive, the soundtrack perfect, and the enormous cool wetness of the subject makes it an excellent escape from the hot Dallas afternoon for adults and teens.

Reviews of the movie clearly explained that Nature is a violent, gory, orca-eat-seal place. Mother Nature is concerned with survival of species, not the fate of individuals. While the movie is rated G, it is not appropriate for children. Still, there were many freaked youngsters in the theater, and someone is going to have to sit up with them when they have nightmares! The movie also requires an attention span not found in viewers addicted to massive doses of car chases, bathroom or bedroom humor, or blasting special effects. I noted, too, that watching all the water sent many more audience members out to the restrooms than any movie I've ever seen!

"Deep Blue's" footage of jellyfish and the bioluminescent life in the deep abysses is mind-blowingly beautiful. I couldn't wait to tell my photographer son with his interest in Dale Chihuly's glass art. The hay-bale swirling schools of fish are like underwater tornadoes. Night in the coral reef is far more terrifying than I ever imagined. My awareness of Earth's oceans is greatly enhanced, and I may even have a nightmare or two. Still, it is impossible to get emotionally involved in "Deep Blue", unlike "March of the Penguins".


Dumping the Shark

The Art Teacher Wore White: Clearly a Mystery

Why would a practical, sensible, Type A fifty year-old art teacher who scored a 39 on Dr. Phil's alleged personality test wear an all-white outfit? Why would she worry the whole day about resembling an albino manatee? Why would she think this was a good day to take Larry the Shark to the dumpster?

And just who was this Larry fellow?

It is easier to boost a sawed-up couch into a dumpster than it is to chuck a nearly toothless one year-old papier mache shark.

Gordon MacRae

Oklahoma, where the snakes will bite you in the groin!

This from today's Dallas Morning News, page 11A:

Oklahoma man bitten by 2 snakes in garage

Tecumseh man was in critical condition Friday after being bitten four times by two snakes. Officials said James Cave, 47, was at a garage Sunday when he felt a pain in his foot. When he reached down, a pygmy rattlesnake bit his hand and his other foot. He stumbled back and fell over a barrel, landing on a copperhead snake that bit him on the right foot, then in the groin, officials said.

Yep. That would be the Oklahoma I remember. Bet James Cave, 47, said, "Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!" Once this James Cave, 47, gets out of the hospital he will go home and tell his buddies to beware of barrels.

We had a copperhead of significant size reclining against the garage wall behind the boys' little red wagon at our second house in Edmond, Oklahoma. Construction of two homes along the creek had probably displaced Our Reptile Friend. I didn't even get very freaked, although I did hack it to pieces with a garden shovel, a technique I had perfected in Omaha on large garter snakes whose worst offense was surprising me by lying under my kitchen doorstep when I got out of the Toyota carrying a baby and bags of groceries. After a couple years in Oklahoma you get used to dangerous varmits and poisonous vermin (not to be confused with yerm-lim) being part of the daily scenery. After the horrendous invasion of the field mice in our first Edmond house, I generally cheered for snakes and other predators.

I was pleased to find a new internet tool, ePodunk.com. Give it a try. It doesn't bite. And I'm glad to report it is raining here in Texas, and that sure smells sweet:

Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Oklahoma, Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin' lazy circles in the sky.
We know we belong to the land
And the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!
We're only sayin' You're doin' fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma O.K.

Short and stout

My younger brother, who was not really named Igor, was terrified of creatures he believed were living in our basement. He called them The Gooeys. We were never sure how he pictured The Gooeys. I gradually developed my own mental image of his fear factors. The first time I saw pool noodles in Albertson's in the mid-Nineties, The Gooeys popped into my mind.

My biggest basement fear was just of piano practice, but maybe "dread" is a better description than "fear". When my parents bought a piano and paid for piano lessons, I thought they had ruined my life.

For the past year, my high school senior son has told me regularly, "You ruined my life, Mom," all because I insisted that he take fourth year French. His school counselor backed me on my requirement that he continue with math OR with French in twelfth grade.

Over the year, French 4AP has become the biggest YRMLM ever, even bigger than a basement Gooey adjusted for forty years of inflation. YRMLM is pronounced yerm-lim, of course. It is a noun, and also a fairly active and useful verb in its past plupretzel-apoplexic tense.

This weekend I'm not the POD or the T-POD. Im still a yerm-lim, though:

POD Parent on duty
T-POD Transporting parent on duty (sing along: I'm a little T-POD, short and stout)
YRMLM You ruined my life, Mom


At Least He Admits It

"I dont no Waer WE OR"
The kindergarten male has captured the trouble facing pirates since days of yore. I hope he will stop and ask directions!

Clay island glued on a corrugated cardboard circle, painted with liquid watercolors. The volcano is about to erupt.


Rob From the Rich

I forget, Robin. Are we good guys or bad guys?"

My kids loved the 1973 Disney animated "Robin Hood" with animal characters, and Phil Harris doing the voice of Little John. By Disney standards, it was light stuff. No orphans or forest fires. No nightmares about being swallowed by a whale or turned into a donkey. (No farting warthogs, thank you very much.) I actually purchased a VHS tape of the movie, (or maybe it was Beta!), and let them watch it once every month or so. Then my Merry Men mini-guys would go merrily off to wander in Sherwood Forest down the hall to outsmart the sheriff of Nottingham . Wearing sawed-off pillowcases over their PJs, green felt hats, paper towel tube quivers slung over their shoulders for the suction-cup arrows, a sockful of pebbles tucked into a $3.99 black plastic gun belt now missing its holsters and pistols, and maybe the "Special Bunny" or a sippy cup, they were ready for action. With only the slightest of adjustments and additions to this gear, the guys could also play Peter Pan, Camelot, the Oklahoma Land Rush, Plains Indians, California Gold Rush prospectors, and Ice Age cave men. For instance, my youngest might need a juice box and a cup of dry Cherrios instead of the Special Bunny and sippy cup. The sofa cushions might become a fort long enough for me to change the sheets on the bed with the stagecoachesque headboard, or scrub the bathtub moat.

The bed with the weird stagecoach headboard also made a very fine hook and ladder firetruck, or a covered wagon for Laura and Mary Ingalls, with Jack, the brindle bulldog, leaving the Big Woods of Wisconsin to travel to the Prairie or the Banks of Plum Creek. Didn't matter that Laura and Mary were girls. My sons knew good, brave characters to play when they heard about them.

Faint heart never won fair lady,
Little John advises Robin. Can't quite pin it down, but this seems to be a very old proverb. Faulty bridges don't seem to woo fair maidens, either. A young gentleman of my acquaintance is having trouble with his eight year-old dental Maryland Bridge falling out of his mouth at inconvenient moments. This causes him to hiss like the Terry Thomas narrated snake/henchman in the movie. It puts a dent in his self-confidence, and a crimp in his whirlwind romance when the fake tooth gets stuck in a sandwich.

Unfortunately, remedies are expensive. Might be time to trade in the quiver and sippy cup for a dusty felt hat and a Sara Lee Butter Streusel coffee cake aluminum pan for some serious prospecting.


Check the freshness date

I do so wish I'd discovered that the Anchored Nomad blogger was seeking photos of refrigerators (and written inventories) from around the globe before the project expired on Friday. It would have been a good incentive to do just a little tidying up before telling my fridge to smile and say "Cheese".

There's something fascinating about staring into an open refrigerator. Of course, I am a woman of a certain age, and this is Texas, so coooolness is the main attraction.

It's entertaining, too, to watch other people stare into a refrigerator. Are they making mental shopping lists or imagining what new casserole they might invent? My youngest stares like he's waiting for a fully formed meal to spring forward like Athena from Zeus' forehead, then he eventually grabs a DP and the salsa. My middle son actually pulls out every fresh fruit and veggie, deli meats, cheese, and condiments to make something really yummy for himself. My oldest stands there holding an open book in one hand until he completely forgets about eating and goes back to reading.

Anchored Nomad's contributors have given us the opportunity to stare as long as we want into strangers' fridges wondering if they are the type who would drink straight out of the milk carton or what's the occasion for all that champagne. When I finally pull myself away, it's with regret that I couldn't see inside the freezer compartments, then study the magnets and calendars on the fridge doors, too.

Some of the refrigerators are so organized that they remind me of model appliance demonstration kitchens at the gas or electric company headquarters or the county extension office. Some really suggest cultural differences. None suggest that children or teens live in the homes. Obviously, none are from Texas, because there's not a can of Dr. Pepper to be seen!

And let me just add, I'm jealous of the librarian who got to catalog the Frigidaire Collection at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. What a cool job!

Also, in the what's-this-world-coming-to category, you can buy a retro 1950-look refrigerator with "21st century" technology inside for about four thousand dollars (free shipping, though). I'm not talking about the Sims game here.

My first house in Omaha had a genuine pink 1950 refrigerator as big as a tank with the freezer at the bottom. We called it Big Pink.


Teeny Little Surfer Guys

Sesame Street debuted in 1969, when I was in my teen babysitting career mode. I made between thirty-five cents and a dollar per hour babysitting. My young charges were sometimes allowed to watch Sesame Street or Mister Roger's Neighborhood. My own kids watched Sesame Street sometimes, but they preferred Reading Rainbow. I did too, since it encouraged development of a longer attention span.

There are three songs* from Sesame Street that pop into my brain uninvited. One is the Teeny Little Super Guy. Had to confer with colleagues of similar age to come up with the visual memory of the Guy when my class started work on their teeny little surfer guys for our Surf City art project. Our Surf City is also inspired by last year's movie Riding Giants, which should have been on my list of cool movies this week, and by Gloria and Ted Rand's picture book, Aloha, Salty. That's why you'll see some surfing puppies if you look real close.

Female Singers: Teeny Little Super Guy
Pops right up before your eye
He's no bigger than your thumb
Teeny Little Super Guy: Snap your fingers, here I come
Now stop me if you've heard this one...

*The other two Sesame Street song flashbacks:

Takes a lot of little nuts
To make a jar of peanut butter
'Cause one peanut in a jar
Really doesn't go too far
Gotta crack and shell and mix 'em
There's no other way to fix 'em
Takes a lot of little nuts to do the job


I'm a dog
I'm a workin' dog
I'm a hard workin' dog
Hard workin' dog

Jan & Dean
Surf City

(Brian Wilson/Jan Berry)

I bought a pretty cool wagon and we call it a woody
(Surf City, here we come)
You know, it's not very cherry, it's an oldie but a goody
(Surf City, here we come)
Well, it ain't got a backseat or a rear window
But it still gets me where I wanna go
And we're goin' Surf City, 'cause it's two to one
You know we're goin' Surf City, gonna have some fun
Yeah we're goin' Surf City, 'cause it's two to one
You know we're goin' Surf City, gonna have some fun, now


When it rains it pours

Few things rival the chills, spills, and excitement of teaching a preschool class during a dramatic thunderstorm. The change in barometric pressure before the storm already has the kids in a loud and hyper mode, then during the actual lightning and thunder there's a full spectrum of panic, mild fears, whimpering, orating, yelling, and bladder control issues. I was just glad the electricity didn't go off during this morning's storm.

Sometimes the best course for a preschooler is to draw pictures about the storm. Grab a handful of crayons, and color scribble-scrabble with them all at once as forceful as the thunder while making sound effects! Drawing can help get you through the tough days when your goldfish dies, there's a big spider in the bathtub, or when you have flashbacks to Bambi in the forest fire. It's best if your favorite grown-up sits with you very patiently while you draw circles for Bambi, Bambi's mother, and everything else that is bothering you, with extra tornadoes thrown in for good measure.

Just home from making a presentation at the condo association meeting. Nothing on "Seinfeld" about condo associations was exaggerated! Our meetings would be great Jerry Springer material. I had to get my special blanket and my special bunny to rub against my cheek until I felt calm enough to start scribbling with a handful of crayons!

My oldest son was the crisis response man aka grad student supervisor on the scene last Saturday at seven a.m. EST when a berserk wounded deer found its way into the dorm quadrangle courtyard. The deer had become injured crashing into plate glass windows. While it had descended stairs to get into the courtyard, it wouldn't go back up the stairs to leave. When campus police arrived, they wanted to shoot the deer, but were afraid of ricocheting bullets around the enclosed quad. My son also wanted to avoid traumatizing the ten year-olds staying in the dorm for a summer basketball camp--it's that Bambi's mother thing. The police finally herded the deer up the stairs, and it took off running for the Alumni Center.

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Folks in a town that was quite remote heard
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Lusty and clear from the goatherd's throat heard
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

O ho lay dee odl lee o, o ho lay dee odl ay
O ho lay dee odl lee o, lay dee odl lee o lay


Imitating Penguins

I've always believed that a really cold movie is just the antidote for the Texas summer. It can't be a cool movie with action heroes and special effects. I'm talking about COLD.

My old cold favorites include the Russian dacha parts of Dr. Zhivago. I'm always annoyed that Omar Sharif's Yuri prefers the blonde Julie Christie's Lara to the brunette Geraldine Chaplin's Tonya, but the ice encrusted dacha is so beautiful, so magical, he can be forgiven! Just writing about it can ward off a hot flash.

My new cold favorite is March of the Penguins. This documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman, in his cool voice, is just mind-boggling in its true-life-real nature strangeness. The cinematography is gorgeous, and more chilling than standing in front of your open refrigerator all day. And then there are the penguins! Emperor penguins live such harsh, bizarre, and beautiful lives that you can't help going slack-jawed watching. Your struggle to find a parking place is nothing. Your long wait at the grocery deli counter to get the sliced ham and provolone--nothing. Troubles balancing family and career? Phooph! Can't find comfortable walking shoes? Thphthph! Need a Milky Way to tide you over until lunch? You are soooo pathetic! Someone else controls the office thermostat??? Try seventy below zero with winds over one hundred miles per hour, and you've got to balance an egg the size of a mango on your feet, preventing it from touching the ice while you keep moving so you don't freeze to death---FOR WEEKS AT A TIME WITH NO MEALS! It's so weird the Surgeon General has warned that it causes Brain Freeze.

If the movie isn't coming soon to a theater near you, go to the website to see the trailers and still photos. There are some great shots to use as your computer desktop background. The movie is probably appropriate for kids over ten.

Trying to explain the movie and the lifestyle of the penguins is very difficult. If you see someone at the office watercooler waddling on his heels, with arms tight to his side and hands flared out, and moving his neck in odd arcing motions, you will know he has been to the penguin movie! If he regurgitates a full belly of krill on your wingtips, or tries to demonstrate the choreography for passing off the newly-hatched chick from the dad's feet to the mom's feet in that tight space behind your desk, he's gone way over the edge. He can't help imitating the penguins, but do suggest he practice in the privacy of his own home!

What of the other favorite cold and golden oldies? I always feel refreshed after watching Sean Connery and all the submarines off Greenland in The Hunt for Red October.

I usually want to go off on a trip to Lithuania in the winter, after Ramius tells about growing up in Vilnius and going fishing with his grandfather. I can feel the snow against my cheeks even though it's over one hundred degrees outside.

Still, a woman of my years can feel overly warm at times, especially on an Ozone Action Day. That's when it's time to play a video of Jeremiah Johnson with Robert Redford and Will Geer fur-trapping and inviting bears into their cabin. Are you wearing a fur hat and snowshoes yet?

Shivery Honorable Mentions go to:

--the 1940 Disney "Fantasia" for the animation of the fairies changing the seasons with the "Dance of the Flowers" music from the Nutcracker Suite.

--the scenes just before the massacre on the Washita in Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman and Chief Dan George.

--the winter scenes in the 1969 version of Jean Craighead George's book, My Side of the Mountain.

Please submit your own personal cold movie favorites. The National Weather Service is predicting a steamy summer for my zip code. Thanks, and chill out!



Technology is either the hero or the goat tonight, as Charlie Brown would say. I'm looking at the marvelous images of Tempel1, the pickle/potato/eggplant comet, on NASA t.v. over the internet, and hearing the Mission Control communications for the impactor maneuvers. It's worth staying up past my bedtime.

There are some things technology couldn't handle today. Efforts to rendezvous at Kaboom Town, Addison's large fireworks display and festival, with several other parties failed. We were all trying to communicate by cell phone to find each other in the crowd, same as thousands of other folks. The network overloaded, and we never managed to rendezvousie-vousie with my friends or my guys' college friends. Smoke signals would have been more effective. We did have a great time watching the vintage aircraft from the Cavanaugh Flight Museum flying in formation in the lovely sunset sky. The fireworks were impressive, too.

Once we managed to find our car, we were trapped in parking garage gridlock for a full hour. Only my youngest's trusty iPod full of music kept us from going stir crazy! Not the same as being marooned on a desert isle, but frustrating all the same.

My gosh! I hope you are watching these images from NASA!


What a fun month this has been!

Deep Throat revealed, and now Deep Impact. At about one a.m. CDT today NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully released its impactor into the path of the pickle-shaped comet Tempel 1. That was just about the time the tiles on the wall surrounding the upstairs bathtub fell off. When I did the major clean of the bathroom Friday, I noticed that the tiles were pulling away from the wall, so it was probably all damp behind them. Swell. That tile wall has been a source of periodic headaches starting when the ceramic soap/washcloth holder fell off three summers ago.

I would like to hurl an 820 lb. washing machine at the tile wall, but it probably wouldn't tell us much about the origin of the solar system. According to NASA's website, the Deep Impact spacecraft is about the size of a VW Beetle. The impactor has been described as the size of a washing machine, or a coffee table. With an impact velocity of 23,000 m.p.h., it could take out a lot of bathroom tile. Scientists expect the crater caused by the impact will be the size of a football field.

In case you think this is the work of Bill Watterson's "Spaceman Spiff", there's really a lot of valuable information to be gained by this mission. David Grinspoon, planetary scientist and author of "Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life," has written a helpful op-ed in today's New York Times:

We stand to learn a lot about impact cratering - one of the major forces that has shaped all the worlds of our solar system. We will also have the chance to peer into the newly formed crater and observe the ice and vapor blasted back into space, thereby learning what lies within this frigid little world. .. Deep Impact will simply make one more small hole in an object that, like all planets large and small, has been repeatedly dinged by colliding space debris since our solar system's origin 4.6 billion years ago. ..It is those dusky beginnings that this experiment can illuminate. Beneath the dirty ice crust of a comet like Tempel 1 is material that has been in deep freeze since the birth of our solar system. Mixed into this timeless frozen treat are organic molecules like those that seeded the young Earth with raw materials for making life. This ice may hold some buried chapters of the story of our origin.

And maybe, just maybe, scientists will discover a material to keep the tiles stuck on the bathroom wall. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Tonight, just as fireworks displays are in full bloom in Dallas, the VW Beetle will be at its closest approach to the pickle.



On Beyond Swiffer

Last January my sister did her best to brainwash me into joining the cult of Swiffervangelism to which she belongs. Like the causes and creeds of many who have try to bring me into their chosen fold, Swiffervangelism sort of grazed me and bounced off. It's been almost six months, and already I'm on my second package of Wet Swiffer amazing disposable mop cloths. I'll have to buy my second Dry Swiffer on my next trip to the store. At twelve Swiffs per package... six months... I'm up to cleaning the kitchen floor twice a month. Bet that wasn't what either my sister or HomeMadeSimple had in mind.

You could say I just go to church for the music. This is the
Top Three Dry Swiffer Countdown:

This Week's Newcomer to the Charts
Dry Swiffer Hit Number Three

Got a good reason for taking the easy way out
Got a good reason for taking the easy way out now

She was a Dry Swiffer, a one way ticket yea
It took me so long to find out, and I found out

She’s a degreaser, she took me half the way there
She’s a degreaser, she took me half the way there now...

Dry Swiffer, yea
Dry Swiffer, yea

Dry Swiffer Hit Number Two

I told you ’bout living in the u.s. of a.
Don’t you know that I’m a Swiffer of rooms
Let me tell you people that I found a new way
And I’m tired of all this talk about brooms
And the same old story with a new set of words
About the dirt and the lint on the floor
And the times keep on changin’
So I’m keepin’ on top
Of every cat who tracks dirt through my door

I'm a DrySwiffer
Bet you weren't ready for that
I'm a DrySwiffer
I'm sure you know where it's at
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Dry Swiffer Top Tune of All Time

DrySwiffer, he's the mop, the mop with the Midas touch
A spider's touch
Such a SlySwiffer beckons you to enter his web of dust
But don't you trust

Golden words he will pour in your ear
The white glove test you needn't fear,
But a mother-in-law proves that she's the SpySwiffer
It's the swiff of death for Mister DrySwiffer

[Having a cleaner kitchen floor still hasn't earned me a ride in 007's Aston Martin.]

So far, Wet Swiffering only has one song, and it is kind of a downer:

WetSwiffer, WetSwiffer,
Mop up that splash,
Dissolve that old chunk
Of congealed goulash.
WetSwiffer, WetSwiffer
Erase that ew-yuk,
And make me a perfect cook (while you're at it)

WetSwiffer, WetSwiffer,
You won't need a pail
To get rid of black heel marks
And sticky spilled ale.
Shine up my floor for I'm longing to be,
The envy of all I see.

What would Dr. Seuss think about Swiffer?
After all, Mr. Sneelock is one of my friends. He'll probably help out doing small odds and ends. Little odd jobs he can do with such ease. Would he do the darn Swiffering if I say, "Please"?

The fine print:

Goldfinger - Artist: Shirley Bassey - peak Billboard position # 8 in 1965 - title song from the James Bond movie starring Sean Connery, Gert Frobe as Goldfinger, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, and Harold Sakata as Odd Job - Words and Music by Lesley Bricusse, Anthony Newley and John Barry.

"Space Cowboy" from Brave New World, Steve Miller Band, released June 1969 by Capital Records.

1965 1971


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