pen rainbow

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday—The Reading Corner

Books I've Been Reading Lately

Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resillience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit) — True story about an American 1939 Olympic runner from Torrance, CA, who survives a B-24 crash in the Pacific, drifts at sea for 40 days, is captured by the Japanese, and spends over 2 years as a POW.  Just finished this one.  Incredible story!

Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith — Entertaining historical fiction.  I'm a vamp fan, but holy cow, this book is gross...So gross, it's campy.  Young Abraham Lincoln goes around hunting and killing vampires.  Splat!  There goes another one.  I am currently reading this and am having a hard time getting through it.  I hear they're going to make a movie out of it, so I'll keep plugging away.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron — A real tear - jerker!  Plan on crying a lot.  The main character starts out as a puppy and lives 4 very different lives as a different dog each time.  It has a nice ending, but omigosh, have some Kleenex nearby.     

A Rope and A Prayer by David Rohde & Kristen Mulvihill — The true story of a Pulitzer Prize-winning, NY Times foreign correspondent and his 7 months in captivity by Taliban militants in war-torn Afghanistan and the Pakistan mountain regions.  This book is written from the perspectives of his wife and her efforts to get him released and from his own during captivity.  I wanted to smack this guy more than once for getting himself kidnapped for a second time after only 2 months of marriage, but it's a fascinating account of his kidnapping and his daring, nail-biter escape.

Legacy:  A Novel by Danielle Steel —  Like, like, like!  The story of a woman who gets dumped by her long-time boyfriend, then fired from her job, so she takes up her mother's hobby of genealogy while she's recovering.  She discovers that she is a descendant of a Sioux princess, and her genealogical research leads her to Paris and back.

Family Ties:  A Novel by Danielle Steel — Ah, romance novels...  This is a story about a family and all of the things that happen to the kids as they become young adults.  It's an engaging read for moms of young adults and for relationship junkies.  Like any good romance novel, it's a soap opera in a book.  A good read at night before bedtime or on a beach with waiters who serve you tropical drinks.

Eat to Live:  The Revolutionary Formula for Fast & Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman — To be honest, I could not slog through every page of highly technical information about why veggies are so good for you. It's basically the same premise as Michael Pollan's, Eat Less, Not too much, Mostly Plants.  Eat lots of vegetables, reduce your calories, and exercise.  There!  Problem solved, and you don't even have to read the book.  I did enjoy his thorough evisceration of the Atkin's Diet, though.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown — Our intrepid hero, Robert Langdon, returns in another code-breaking, adventure story that takes place this time in historic Washington, D.C.  If you liked, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons (the better of the two, imho), you'll like this one, too.  It's more of the same, except it takes place in Washington, D.C.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson — The first book in the Millenium series.  Quirky, and at times, factually burdensome because of the Swedish author's style, but riveting.  Super-engaging characters and a good murder mystery.  Love the heroine, Lisbeth Salander!  I also recommend the other two books in this series.

Warning!  There is an intense & brutal rape in this story that almost made me quit reading the book.  It is integral to the plot's progression, and sweet revenge happens later in the story.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson — Our heroine returns and the story continues.  Things get a whole lot more interesting!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson — The final book in the Millenium series.  A little too much detail about the heroine's sex life for my taste, but the plot carries.  The main characters are even more developed, and Lisbeth continues to kick Swedish bad guy-ass in this book.

On Deck:

Hardball:  A V.I. Warshawki Novel by Sara Paretsky — 1960's Chicago politics and a murder mystery.

Decision Points by George W. Bush — Dubya's recollections of his time in the White House

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mini-Post Thursday—Say what?

Seriously, Gramma—Get a pair of glasses!

Saw this tweet:  "Rabbis protest Fox news..."

Thought it said:  "Rabbits protest Fox news..."

Yup, I'm sure they do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Household Wednesday

Sears Kenmore Elite 24" Stainless Steel Ultra Wash (1312)

Major Appliances — Dishwashers

I happen to love my dishwasher, so I thought I'd post something on my blog about purchases that have been a success!

A good recommendation based on real-life experience can go a long way when it comes to purchasing a major household appliance.

When a dishwasher craps out (that's an old-timey, Nevada gambling term)—it's not the end of the world.  You can always resort to washing dishes by hand.  But, most of us depend on our dishwashers to save time and to simplify our daily household routine.  A dishwasher is one of those appliances that we use every day, so reliability and efficiency are important.

Last year in March, I replaced my one-year old Maytag dishwasher with a Sears Kenmore Elite 24" Stainless Steel Ultra Wash with HE Filtration (1312).  I replaced the one-year old Maytag because the control panel gave out.  I needed to replace the panel, and it was going to cost me more in time, labor, & parts than it was worth.  I figured if the control panel gave out after only a year, then the dishwasher was going to remain problematic.  So, I set  out to find a quality replacement that would last.

After a ton of mind-numbing research on all of the various major manufacturer models, I settled on the Sears Kenmore Elite series.  I've had good luck with Kenmores in the past (great washers/dryers & refrigerators), and I was looking for certain basic requirements.

  • Energy Star compliant
  • 1-hour quick cycle setting
  • Delayed wash cycles (2, 4, and 6 hours)
  • It's quiet  
  • Steel interior (steel lasts longer and does not crack)
  • Nice top & bottom rack space (soup pots, cookie sheets & pizza pans fit on the bottom rack; a coffee pot easily fits on the top rack)
  • Flat, touch-control panel
  • Easy-to-clean steel door 
  • J.D. Power Award for Highest Customer Satisfaction.            
Practical design & a sleek steel interior

Overall, it's a pretty neat dishwasher, and I like its sleek, modern style.  Keep in mind that this machine is automatically set to air dry the dishes.  Unless you use the "heated dry" feature, your dishes will not be completely dry when the "clean" light comes on (the "clean" light indicates that the load is finished).  Residual heat from the wash/rinse cycles will air dry the dishes if you leave them in for a couple of hours.  I usually unload the dishes right away and let them air dry in the dish drainer.

I bought my model online from the Sears website, and cost was definitely a consideration.  I paid $855.99, plus $159.99 for "in-home support," a.k.a. haul away & installation.

Buyer Beware!  I was livid when the servicemen arrived and informed me that there would be an additional $60 cost for a mandatory installation kit that was required for them to install the unit.  Remember, I had just purchased a brand new Maytag (from Home Depot) the year before, and there was no mandatory installation kit required for that unit.  During the purchase process on the Sears website, there should have been some indication that a kit would be required in order to install the dishwasher, but I was able to complete the purchase without knowing this.

Resolution:  I ended up writing a check to Sears for the installation kit, and I tweeted my response with a link to a more detailed review on Epinions.  Almost immediately, I was contacted via twitter by a Sears rep who offered to compensate me with a $75 Sears gift certificate, which I accepted.  I was happy with the machine, and the installers did a good job, but I did feel that the Sears website should have informed me when I purchased the dishwasher that I would have to pay for the additional cost of a mandatory installation kit.  It should not have been necessary for me to write an additional check when I had charged the dishwasher in the first place.

My machine is still doing a bang-up job after 9 months, but I've read a lot of mixed reviews for this unit.  The model numbers of the Kenmore Elite dishwashers can be confusing, and from reading the reviews on the Sears Community website, it looks like the responses are all over the board.  Some give 5-star "excellent" ratings while others angrily declare a 1-star rating with scathing reviews.  I have not had any of the problems mentioned in the poor reviews.  With the exception of the unexpected installation cost, this machine is a great dishwasher, and Sears did make a genuine effort toward a speedy resolution.

If you're thinking about buying this machine, call a Sears appliance department rep and speak to someone directly about the installation kit.  They will be more forthcoming than the website, which imho, needs improvement for better customer service.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard—January Citrus

Glorious winter citrus!

Ruby Red Grapefruit from Palm Springs
Today, I am going to start the base for Bittersweet Marmalade made from fresh and fantaculous organic ruby red grapefruits, tangelos, and Meyer lemons.  The grapefruit and tangelos are from my friend, Tom Sheridan's, rental property in Palm Springs, and the lemons are from our tree here in Walnut Creek.  Between us, we have assembled a bounty of beautiful citrus from SoCal and NoCal!

All of these resplendent fruits were grown organically with nothing on them except happy honey bees and the occasional curious Scrub Jay who lives in our back yard.   I'll have enough lemons to make a small batch of pure Meyer Lemon Marmalade from Sunset's, Canning, Freezing & Drying.

I've got my eye on another recipe for grapefruit marmalade called, Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade with locally-grown honey.  This was posted by another blogger, The Cosmic Cowgirl,  It uses 4 lemons, so that will help me use of the rest of our lemons.

I will post pix when I'm finished.  Now, off to let the cat in before he claws the weather stripping off of the screen door, then a quick sandwich, then it's time to start canning!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Join The Conversation

Why Blogging Is Good For You

Seth Godin (entrepeneur and writer) and Tom Peters (best known for his 1982 publication, In Search of Excellence) are best-selling authors who write about marketing and pretty much everything related to marketing.  They don't think about marketing the way that Office Space-type, marketing drones think about it.  They humanize the practice of commerce.

My blogging helper, Clara
I found this YouTube clip on one of the blogs that I follow (My Name Is Kate, by Kate Trgovac  Seth Godin, in particular, perfectly articulates my own reasons for writing a blog.

(…I see your little ADHD trigger finger reaching for the mouse.  Just watch the vid.  It's cool, and it only takes 1.37 minutes.)

  • It doesn't matter if anyone reads it  
  • Humility comes from writing 
  • Think about what you're going to say
  • Explain yourself to others
  • Describe why you did something in 3 paragraphs
  • Respond out loud
  • Stick with it, and you'll get good at it
  • Micro-publishing platform
  • Do it for yourself
  • Become part of the conversation
  • Change your perspective  
  • It's free

I would add "Photo sharing" to the list.

I get why Tom Peters is so over-the-top in his enthusiasm for blogging.  He's an exuberant personality to begin with, but blogging gives him a platform to organize and express all of that intellectual and emotional energy.  He must have a bazillion or so followers who read his blog, so he has created an extended family of readers who share his interests and enjoy his perspective.  We need that, as human beings.  We really do, according to Chilean economist, Manfred-Max Neef's, Heirarchy of Fundamental Human Needs:
  1. Subsistence — Some people make their living from blogging (financial success > food & shelter)
  2. Protection — Organizing your thoughts contributes to a sense of balance and security (caring for yourself)
  3. Affection — Friendships develop through blog connections
  4. Understanding — Critical thinking & analysis of topics
  5. Participation — Become part of the conversation; you feel plugged in
  6. Leisure — Writing is relaxing
  7. Creation — Writing is creative
  8. Identity — Blogs convey the unique style and personality of the blogger
  9. Freedom — Freedom to express whatever is on your mind
This is pretty serious stuff when we're talking about what people need in order to be healthy and thrive.  But, we all share the very basic human need to connect, and that's what blogging does best.  It connects us from the outside in and from the inside out.  Twitter and facebook provide connections, as well, but they are transitory and incomplete.  Bullet phrases can work in some contexts, but you never really get past a certain degree of superficiality.  There is simply more to know and more to learn from blogging.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mini-Post Thursday—May the Underpants Be With You!

May The Underpants Be With You

25 Lines from Star Wars That Are Improved by Substituting the Word, "Underpants"
  1. A tremor in the underpants.  The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.
  2. You are unwise to lower your underpants.
  3. We've got to be able to get some reading on those underpants, up or down.
  4. She must have hidden the plans in her underpants.  Send a detachment down to retrieve them.  See to it personally, Commander.
  5. These underpants may not look like much, Kid, but they've got it where it counts.
  6. I find your lack of underpants disturbing. ::::choke::::
  7. These underpants contain the ultimate power in the Universe.  I suggest we use it.
  8. Han will have those underpants down.  We've got to give him more time!
  9. General Veers, prepare your underpants for a surface assault.
  10. I used to bulls-eye womp rats in my underpants back home.
  11. TK-421...Why aren't you in your underpants?
  12. Lock the door.  And, hope they don't have underpants.
  13. Governor Tarkin...I should've recognized your foul underpants when I was brought on board.
  14. You look strong enough to pull the underpants off of a Gundark.
  15. Luke, help me take these underpants off.
  16. Great, Chewie—great!  Always thinking with your underpants.
  17. That blast came from those underpants.  That thing's operational!
  18. Don't worry—Chewie and I have gotten into a lot of underpants more heavily guarded than this.
  19. Maybe you'd like it back in your underpants, Your Highness.
  20. Your underpants betray you.  Your feelings for them are strong.  
  21. Jabba doesn't have time for smugglers who drop their underpants at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.
  22. Yeah, well short underpants are better than no underpants at all, Chewie.
  23. Attention!  This is Lando Calrissean.  The Empire has taken control of my underpants.  I advise everyone to leave before more troops arrive.
  24. I cannot teach him.  The boy has no underpants.
  25. You come in those underpants?  You're braver than I thought.
Originally posted in my old aol email, Monday, June 14, 1999 @ 4:36:51 p.m.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Searchlight Wind Energy Project

Century Plant
Big Wind v. Searchlight

The picture that I've used in this post was taken in 2009 on my mom's property in Searchlight.  This huge plant is called a Century Plant, and it's a member of the agave family.  A Century Plant lives for about 25 years and blooms once in its lifetime.

They are called "century" plants not because they live for 100 years, but because of the extended period of time that it takes for the plant to flower (anywhere from 10 to 20+ years).  When the plant is ready to bloom, it sprouts a tall stalk from the middle of the clump of sharp, pointed leaves at its base.  The stalk can grow as rapidly as one inch per hour and can reach a height of 30 to 40 feet.  The root system produces baby century plants in a ring around the mother plant, and after the central plant dies, the cycle continues.  Pretty weird and pretty impressive, if you ask me!  It's a giant version of the little garden succulent known as a, "Mother Hen & Chicks."

The desert around Searchlight is a bewildering profusion of natural gifts like this.  It is a rare treat whenever I am out at my mom's place, and a desert thunderstorm blows through.  The vast and beautiful landscape of Joshua trees, chollo cactus, and mesquite chaparral seems to glow as billowing dark gray clouds rumble overhead and pile up against the Eldorado-Newberry mountain range.

The lucent blue sky in the Century Plant photo is typical.  In the mornings, the resident family of quail who live in my mom's yard scurry across the sand  and dart underneath the creosote bushes, while small flocks of mourning doves coo from the top of the garage roof.  At night, coyotes yip and bark to one another across the open range.  Despite the noise from traffic on Highway 95 which runs through the center of town, it is amazingly quiet and tranquil in Searchlight.

Radiant Yucca & Chollo after a thunderstorm
Now, insert into that picture eighty-seven, 428-foot tall, white wind turbines, each with a concrete pad-mounted transformer located at its base.  And, surround the town with wind turbines that cover 9,396 acres of public BLM land.  Add 28 miles of new roads and 18 miles of new overhead power lines.  Add two electrical substations and five permanent meteorological masts.  Locate the nearest turbines 2.5 miles from the center of town, but expect some of these whirling behemoths to stand as close as 1 mile from the edge of town.  Increase the noise level from 43 decibels to 51 decibels, a difference of 8 decibels and the perceptual equivalent of nearly twice the noise level (a sound that is perceived as twice as loud would be 10 dB louder).

Searchlight Wind Energy Project Site Layout Map
Click to enlarge
The next time that you stop by to visit the peaceful pioneer cemetery off of Cottonwood Cove Road, imagine the constant low drone of giant wind turbines behind the torrents of wind as it races over washes of juniper, blackbrush, and desert willow.

If it were up to Searchlight Wind, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy Corporation (a Charlotte, NC, based company and one of the nation's most aggressive developers of wind power), and the Clark County Board of Commissioners who voted to approve the project in August 2010, this would be the new face of Searchlight.  Here is a good description of the project prior to and following public meetings in 2009:

Scoping Summary Report, URS Corporation, April 2009:

The good news is that the project has been delayed, but who knows for how long.

Transmission concerns
According to Greg Helseth, manager for the Bureau of Land Management Southern Nevada Renewable Energy Coordination Office, the project has been delayed until Duke Energy conducts more studies on the state's transmission system and the ability of the grid to deliver the energy from this project to its end user customers.  (Nevada Wilderness Project, October 21, 2010:  )

Biological Reports
Last August, Mr. Helseth reported to the Basin and Range Watch desert watchdog group that the project was delayed due to the lack of biological impact reports from the applicant, Duke Energy.  (Searchlight Wind Energy Project Update, "Wind Project Delayed," August 2010:  )

Native Voices
Let's all send Harry an email and let him know that the Searchlight Wind Energy Project will have negative impacts on both the residents and the critically endangered wilderness areas that will be affected by the construction and maintenance of this large facility.  And, be specific about your concerns.

Feel free to tweet your concerns Nevada-style as 140-character silver bullets!

An Alternative
Erect a small wind generator on your property like Harry has, and generate your own power!  Go off the grid altogether.  Searchlight residents have always been self-reliant and resourceful.  The town has a long history of getting by with whatever resources there are, and for those who already know how to live in the desert, using solar, wind and thermal power is nothing new.  The town could become a model for utilizing clean energy resources to power businesses and individual homes, using the ingenuity and practical skills of its citizens.

There are alternatives to this project.  Don't get blown away by Big Wind.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Globe 2011 — A Fast, Down & Dirty Review

Ladies & Gentlemen, the envelope please...

Let's take a quick look at last night's Golden Globe Awards!

Cecil B. DeMille Award:  Robert De Niro      
I like Robert De Niro, but his speech...meh.

Best Motion Picture — Drama:  THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Love THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but I'm going to see THE KING'S SPEECH tonight, so I may change my mind.  I think it is harder to make a movie about facebook and make it interesting to a general audience than it would be to make a movie about an English king.

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Best Actress In A Motion Picture — Drama:  Natalie Portman, BLACK SWAN
I haven't seen any of the movies, and I'm not a fan of Natalie Portman.

Halle Berry:  Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman:  Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence:  Winter's Bone
Michelle Williams:  Blue Valentine

Best Actor In A Motion Picture — Drama:  Colin Firth, THE KING'S SPEECH
Great group of actors in this category!  I've seen only one of the nominated performances (Jesse Eisenberg in THE SOCIAL NETWORK), so I can't compare them.  Will update tomorrow.

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Best Actress In A Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical:  Annette Bening, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
I'll have to see the movies to comment any further.  I am partial to Angelina Jolie, though.

Anne Hathaway, Love & Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie, The Tourist
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone, Easy A

Best Actor In A Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical:  Paul Giamatti, BARNEY'S VERSION
Haven't seen any of the movies in this category, but I've always enjoyed Paul Giamatti's work.

Johnny Depp, Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp, The Tourist
Jake Gyllenhaal, Love & Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack

Best Actress In A Supporting Role Motion Picture:  Melissa Leo, THE FIGHTER
Haven't seen the movies in the category.

Best Actor In A Supporting Role Motion Picture:  Christian Bale, THE FIGHTER
Haven't seen THE FIGHTER, so will wait to compare movies.

Best Animated Feature Film:  TOY STORY 3
TOY STORY3 — as good as it gets!

Best Foreign Language Film:  IN A BETTER WORLD (Denmark)
Yay! for the Danes

Best Director Motion Picture:  David Fincher, THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Seeing THE KING'S SPEECH tonight, will rent INCEPTION, haven't seen THE FIGHTER

Best Screenplay Motion Picture:  THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Totally agree with this.  It took a lot to make this movie compelling.

Best Original Score Motion Picture:  Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Nine Inch Nails rocked a cool, mystical score for this movie.

Best Original Song Motion Picture:  "You Haven't Seen The Last of Me," BURLESQUE
Music & Lyrics by Diane Warren.  The song wasn't that great.  Cher needs a BIG song for that unmistakable voice.

Best Television Series — Drama:  BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
Haven't seen it, but it looks really good.  Love Steve Buscemi!

Best Actress In A TV Series — Drama:  Katey Sagal, SONS OF ANARCHY
Very versatile actress.  I really liked her in, MARRIED WITH CHILDREN.  Wonderful & weird in, LOST.  

Best Actor In A TV Series — Drama:  Steve Buscemi, BOARDWALK EMPIRE
Steve Buscemi always delivers a gritty & interesting performance.  I'm going to have to watch the show!  This was a tough category with equally deserving actors.

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Med
Hugh Laurie, House

Best TV Series — Comedy or Musical:  GLEE
Always happy for the GLEE kids!

Best Actor In A TV Series — Comedy or Musical:  Jim Parsons, THE BIG BANG THEORY
His career is on fire this past year!  He totally deserves it.

Best Mini-Series TV:  CARLOS
Haven't seen it.

Best Actress In A Mini-Series or Film Made for TV:  Claire Danes, TEMPLE GRANDIN
Claire Danes was amazing!

Best Actor In A Mini-Series or Film Made for TV:  Al Pacino, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK
Didn't see the movies in this category.

Best Actress Supporting In A Series, Mini-Series or Film Made for TV:  Jane Lynch, GLEE
The category is a little too broad, but she is great!

Best Actor Supporting In A Series, Mini-Series or Film Made for TV:  Chris Colfer, GLEE
Love this guy!!   The GLEE cast is great!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Outsmarting Cats

Cats 101: The Litterbox

We love our kitties, and they love us, so why don't they use the litter box 100 percent of the time?  It's not because they want to be hurled outside like a cat rocket.  One should never hurl a kitty under any circumstances.

Besides, cats do not find their eu-de-kitty offensive.  To them, it's just part of their regular routine.  Wake up, stretch, eat, drink, visit the cat box, groom, eat /drink again, roll around on catnip toys, stare at squirrels, nap, wake up, another trip to the cat box, snack, drink, play, sit on owner's lap, take a nap, etc.  It's really our responsibility as educated cat owners to decode a cat's behavior, especially when it comes to peeing outside of the litter box.

I consider myself an amateur expert on this topic because I've had cats all of my life.  I've spent a lot of time cleaning up after the little beasties!  The real expertise, though, comes from our cat sitter extraordinaire, Jennifer.  Jennifer was the one who told us to use aluminum foil to discourage cat activity, and she was right!  The shiny texture and the crinkly sound of aluminum foil is to cats what fingernails on a chalkboard are to humans.  In particular, it is the sensation of walking on foil that they don't like.  I've discovered that hanging foil does not have the same effect as laying foil on the floor.  To our persistent orange tabby, Tigg, a strip of foil taped to the bottom of the bathroom door is just another vertical surface to squirt.

To really solve the problem of a cat who keeps peeing all over the house, you really have to get to the cause.  The next time you find yourself thinking about mailing your cat to Abu Dhabi, consider these tips from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine ©2002:

Helpful hints for preventing litter box problems

Choose an appropriate litter and box
  • Most cats prefer unscented, finer-textured litter, at a depth of one to two inches.
  • Young kittens, elderly cats, and cats with mobility problems need boxes with low sides.
  • Overweight and large cats need bigger boxes.
  • Most cats prefer an uncovered box that lets odors escape and allows a 360-degree view of their surroundings.
  • Have as many litter boxes as cats in the house-plus one.

Choose a good litter box location
  • Most cats prefer a location that is quiet, private, separate from their feeding area, and easily accessible 24 hours a day.
  • Do not locate the litter box up or down stairs if your cat has trouble climbing.
  • Place multiple boxes in different areas of the house.

Keep the box clean
  • If you use clumping litter, remove feces and clumps daily and add clean litter as needed.
  • A liner may help keep the box cleaner, but many cats don't like them. 
  • To clean the box, scrub it with a gentle detergent, dry it, and refill with clean litter. Litter should be changed often enough so that it looks and smells dry and clean. The more cats using the box, the more often this will need to be done. 
  • Replace old boxes that smell or are cracked.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

As Close As I Get

Bow Thy Head & Tweet

While drinking coffee & listening to my purchased live version of, Stairway to Heaven, I decided to review the twitter accounts that I follow.

Among others, I follow tweets from Jesus!/jesus  and


Betcha didn't know that I'm all that religious.  Well, I'm not, and I don't think that these twitter folks are, either.  They are two of the funniest humor writers on twitter.  Since, I am apparently incapable of writing about anything substantive this morning, I'm going to talk about twitter and why it's a religious experience. As religious as I get, anyway.

Why Tweeting Is Fun
  • You don't have to say much
  • It fits any mood
  • Trending topics can be funny
  • Smart people tweet
  • Instant news
  • Miraculous retail interaction

If it weren't for twitter, I wouldn't know what was going on half the time. I stopped getting a daily newspaper, and my online subscriptions require that I read entire articles. Sometimes, all I want to do is listen to my iTunes playlists and scan tweets. Twitter just belts them out in meaningful 140-character packets of information with attached pix and additional links for more details.

Communication is hard, ask any chimp. And, there's an art to conveying the most meaningful parts of a story. It is what most hu-mons need to know in order to be able to relate. A good tweet delivers meaning, feeling, mood, and a desire to know more. It can even educate and enlighten.

So, thank Goodness for the twittersphere! It was not spawned from the same demon keyboard as facebook, which is trying to take over the souls of all living things. Tweet on, my cyberbrothers and cybersisters!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Finding Purpose In Sad Times

Saturday was a very bad day

My post today will be short because I am still trying to wrap my head around the actions of another crazed gunman.

It  is impossible to know what cultural influences may have contributed to the delusional thinking of Jared Lee Loughner.  It appears that he has been sliding into insanity since 2007 when he attended a local meet-and-greet event hosted by Congressman Giffords.  Yet, a lot of people made an immediate connection between the vitriolic political rhetoric of extreme right wingnuts like Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and the explosive behavior of a murderous lunatic.

The right thing to do here is to acknowledge that the connection, whether there was one or not, scared the crap out of everyone.  It is a indicator that the level of vitriol has been so high that Jared Lee Loughner's actions were not inconsistent with the expectation that violent language could lead to violent actions.

I believe that the majority of high-ranking elected officials are decent, and my hope is that they rein in the incendiary fringes of their patronage by excluding violent imagery and inflammatory rhetoric from their political repertoire.

I hope that the parents of this disturbed young man can find peace one day.

I hope that the parents, children, grandchildren, and friends of the victims feel surrounded by love and compassion.

And finally, I hope that there are more people like Gabby Giffords who are brave enough to step forward and participate in the only system that we have for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Long live the truly brave-hearted.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Weekly Blogging Schedule

On the blog track!

Monday - Wednesday: Regular blogging days
Content will vary, sometimes serious, sometimes snarky, sometimes just for fun.

Thursday: Mini-Post Thursdays!
These will be my shortest posts of the week. It could be a YouTube vid, or a movie I made, a set of pix, or a repeat of one of my twitter posts from the week.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: These are my days off when I do non-computer stuff, like clean the house, go to Northstar, DIY house projects, go to a movie, write my book, work in the garden, craft biz, go out to lunch, make a nice dinner, go into the City, have fun!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Smaller Fish

How Long Should A Blog Post Be...

...if you want anyone to read it? I'm going to say one paragraph is pretty much what anyone is willing to read these days, with one exception. People will read anything, no matter how many pages it is, if it's salacious enough. It has to be really juicy and easy to understand. Something like, "Stuff I Overheard Super-Important People Say When They Were in the White House Restroom." That might be a pager turner. The key determinant is the time that it takes to read the paragraph, more than the meaning.

As much as I love a good tweetfest, I also enjoy reading longer texts, like books, recipes, newspapers, instruction manuals, and nutritional information. We live in an information overload kind of world where rapid-fire messages are passed along as tweets in 140 characters, or less. Texting reduces communications even further with acronyms like, 2BZ4UQT (Too busy for you, Cutie), 404 (I haven't a clue), and ABITHIWTITB (A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush), for the chronically cliché- impaired.

When I say paragraph length, I mean the kind of paragraph that college applications ask for. "In one paragraph, briefly describe why you are an asset to all of Humanity." That could be a very short paragraph, "Because, I am Batman," or it could be a very lengthy description of your existence on Earth and all of your achievements during that time, "I was born in a stable in Bethlehem on a starry night in December next to my pet goat, Jezebel, and my favorite donkey, Bart..."

For the attention-deficit crowd, the tweeters (including myself), people who surf during meetings, and for students, I give you...Mini-Post Thursdays! Friday is my day off from blogging, and Thursday is the end of the week, so it will be the shortest post of the week. If you don't have time for my regular posts, check in on Thursdays, and I'll make it brief and worth your 5 minutes (or less).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Here Comes The Sun

Taking A Breath of Fresh Air

A sunny day after the long, dark, cold, rainy winter that we've had is a reason to celebrate! Last year's Christmas cards are packed up and back in the garage. The silver tinsel tree is tucked away in its original container. The stockings are nestled all snug in their Nordstrom box. Life is returning to normal, and it's time to start the New Year. Let's clean the house!

Favorite Cleaning Solutions: CALDREA
I discovered Caldrea products at a specialty green products boutique, but they are now available at Target. I like the website because they have sales that I don't usually see in the stores. My favorite scent is Ginger Pomelo, but I also like the Basil Blue Sage fragrance. I love the counter spray and the fabric softener!

Favorite Household Broom: O'Cedar Angler Broom
This broom is a work horse, and I can personally attest to its efficiency and durability. I have it in two sizes, and it's great on all types of surfaces, indoor and out. The angled edge makes it easy to get into corners and the soft, synthetic bristles are great for picking up dust bunnies. Beats a straw broom for grabbing fine dirt, and it's easier to use with a dust pan. The only drawback is that the angled edge makes it harder to lean up against a wall or a counter, if you need to park it for a second. No biggee, just use corners to prop up the broom.

Favorite Mop: Swiffer Sweeper with Wet Mopping Cloths & Febreze

For everyday use and for heavy cleaning days, I use this little wonder to get every floor in the house clean as a whistle! I sweep first, then get the grime off the floor with the Swiffer wet cloths. What's cool about this sweeper is that it angles like a dream, and you can get into corners and around the backs of things like toilets and table legs. This sweeper is so maneuverable that I use it to clean the lower part of the interior doors where grubby pet stuff (hair, slobber, cat pee, etc.) tends to land. The wet cloths work on any kind of flooring, including the mystery concrete composite material that makes up my entry way. I have not used my sponge mop since I bought a Swiffer. The sweeper, the cloths, and other Swiffer items can all be purchased at Safeway, Target, and Ace. This is the type of product that makes you think that it was designed by somebody who actually cleans house!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Last Christmas Card

Warm & Fuzzy Holiday Things

Send a Christmas Card next year!

As I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago, I design, order, and address my Christmas cards a year in advance. I realize that it sounds a tad anal to do my cards eleven months ahead of time, but it saves a ton of time during the crazed-out holidays, and it gives me a chance to look at the cards again and to review the holiday newsletters.

I mail my cards out on December 1st, and they are usually the first cards to arrive. My mom's side of the family is particularly good about sending Christmas cards. I'm not sure if it's an old-fashioned tradition, or a tradition that my mom's relatives have always enjoyed (or a combination of both), but they always send pretty, glittery cards. I love that about the Reids.

Thanks to every one of these folks for filling up our coat closet door with Christmas cards and making our holidays brighter!

Cousin, Marla, and her family (Aaron, Saundra & little guy, Campbell)
Cousin, Dee, and her family (Rob, Stephanie, Meghan, Jack, Mark & Ally)
Cousin, Jolene, and her family (Dave, Eliza, Abby, Sarah, Sam & Gracie)
Steve's Broham from high school, Ken & his wife, Rita
My bud from high school, Antonio & his lovely wife, Jane
My co-worker, Patti & her family (Roland, Andrew & Kristen)
First cousins once-removed, Carol & Lloyd
Girl Scout friends, Linda & her daughter, Chrissy
First cousins once-removed, Melody & Sam
Cousin, Darius & his family (Karen, Weston & Brendon)
My sister, Heidi, & her family (Vic, McKay, Avie & Jaeden)
First cousins once-removed, Pat & Larry
Second cousins, Jeanie & Richard
Omaha friend, Teresa & her family (Jay, Cody, Chad & D.J.)
Copenhagen Friends, Camilla, Anette & Soren (Caralee's boyfriend's family)
Steve's parents, Jim & Sally
WC Friends, Patty & Bill
Omaha school chum, Pat
Searchlight friends, Jane & Carl
Kittysitter, Jennifer
First cousins once-removed, Buzzy & Lee
First cousins once-removed, Bobby & Alice
Second cousin, Lari
Ex-first cousin once-removed in-law, Lynn & her son, Bob
Second cousin, Michael & his family (Michelle & Peggy)
First cousins once-removed, Vernon & Janis
Cousin, Daren, & his family (Krissy, Tess, Claire, Katie & Peyton)
Aunt Linda & Uncle Jud
BCHS friend, Cindy & her family (Pete, Brett, Megan, Courtney, Zachary & Chad)
Work friends, Kelly & his family (Denise, Lauren, Justine)
My BFF, Laurie & her family (Mike, Nathan, Aaron & Kayla)
Omaha friends, Jim & Kathy
Girl Scout friends, Kathy & her family (Doug, Teressa, Courtney & Kelsey)
Second cousins, Kathe & Mark

Welcome to 2011!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Last Jingle Bell

Getting the Most Out of the Holidays

Every year around this time, I think about what made the holidays more enjoyable and what didn't. Yesterday, I wrote about things that worked:

• Do the Christmas cards a year in advance
• Giant Christmas cookies
• Flameless candles
• Tinsel Tree
• Gift Bags

Let's take an honest look at what did not work and resolve to plan things differently next year.

One Week Or The Other, But Not Both
As much as I enjoy having guests, two full weeks over Christmas & New Year's is too long. The first week before Christmas seems to work. Everyone is glad to be together for the holidays, and the week is filled with preparations for Christmas Day. The second week before New Year's has consistently been a drag. It's slow, it's a letdown from Christmas, and everyone is usually sleep-deprived. New Year's is one of those holidays that can be celebrated in a variety of ways. Alone or together, at a party with friends, at a big public celebration, or at home with a cozy fire and a bottle of champagne.

A couple of days before Christmas and a couple of days afterward are enough to reconnect and enjoy family time together. After that, it's time to revive, reflect, and make plans for the New Year, in whatever manner suits you best!

Traveled the weekend before Christmas
Because of a scheduling crunch and not enough advance planning, I had to fly to Southern Nevada the weekend before Christmas. I got back to Walnut Creek on Monday the 20th, the same day that our Christmas visitor was due to arrive. This meant that I had to have all of the holiday chores completed before I left, or I had to finish up after I got back during Christmas week. Believe me, shopping in downtown Walnut Creek the week before Christmas is something to avoid.

During the last few days before Christmas, downtown Walnut Creek becomes the unhappiest place on Earth. It is taken over by glassy-eyed shopping bag zombies and retailers who have their phasers set to "Kill." Finding a parking space is fun if you like cage fighting.

I vow never to travel during Christmas week again.  

Overall, there weren't too many things that went wrong this Christmas season, and the good times outweighed the bad. Tomorrow, a review of Christmas cards!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Last Gingerbread Cookie

Worth Doing Again Next Year

One of my gingerbread creations

Every year at this time, I think about what worked during the holidays and what didn't. First...

Things That Worked

1. Design my Christmas cards for next year on iPhoto
Order them, sign them, and pre-address the envelopes for next year. When December 1st rolls around, all I have to do is write a personal note or two, seal the envelopes, and add postage if necessary. Then, drop them off at the Post Office before the maniacal Christmas crowds hit. I also custom design my stamps on

2. Giant Christmas Cookies & Holiday Wafer Papers
This year, I ordered 6-inch and 7.5-inch cookie cutters from Instead of making a ton of little cookies out of my gingerbread dough, I made a total of 4 giant cookies. After they cooled, I piped on some pretty white cream cheese frosting stars and added silver dragees for a shiny finish. Santa nibbled half of a big gingerbread snowflake when he delivered our presents, and we just finished off the last cookie today. Do not overlook the beautiful holiday wafer papers. They are made of potato starch & printed with edible ink. The Victorian Christmas wafers make exquisite gingerbread postcards. Super-neat & lots of fun to work with!

3. Programmable Flameless Candles
I replaced all of my fireplace candelabra candles with Pottery Barn's flameless 4" ($16.50) and 6" pillars ($24.50). These candles are super-neat because they can be programmed to come on at a certain time, stay on for 5 hours, then go off. Each candle requires two C-batteries, which lasts for 500 hours. Durable wax exteriors create a realistic looking candle. The control switch is on the bottom of the pillar. No one would be able to tell that these are not real candles unless they were told. I consider these candles the best holiday find of this season! Pottery Barn Flameless Candles

4. Silver Tinsel Tree
There comes a time in every family's evolution when decorating a big, fresh tree doesn't work anymore. The kids are too old for it, and it becomes an immense chore to decorate and un-decorate the tree. No more dry needles to vacuum up! Our 5-foot, tabletop, silver tinsel tree gleams and sparkles with a single strand of white mini-lights and a couple of dozen silver & red jingle bells. I wrap an old Christmas quilt around the base and let it drape down around the sides of the table. Everyone appreciates it as much as a living tree, and we don't have to worry about it drying out. A breeze to put up & take down. Pop it into its box in the garage for another year. Fake trees are the way to go! Ours was purchased from West Elm three years ago and is no longer available. But, Amazon has some nice silver trees in a variety of sizes that come pre-lit: Tinsel Trees

5. Bag it! Stuff it! Tag it!
Stock up on gift bags, tissue paper, & stick-on tags during the after-Christmas sales. This year, I wrapped almost all of the gifts in gift bags & tissue. Wow, I had no idea how much easier it would be and how much time I would save! I was able to bag each gift the day that I bought it, so no more late nights on the floor wrapping presents. Stick-on tags made it super-easy & fast to label the bags, and I used tie-on tags for variety. We saved the bags for next year, and I'll reuse the tissue to pack the out-of-state Christmas boxes. We wrapped a couple of boxes that were too big for bags, and they looked nice mixed in with the bags.

My favorite squishable, shippable eco-bags came from The Container Store. Watch for their collection of gift bags next year! Creative gift containers