pen rainbow

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mini-Post Thursday—Cute Mystery Sound

sound fx courtesy of jackie's guinea piggies
We used to have two of these...  (turn up your sound & click)

Wednesday—Good For You, Good For The Home: Green Cards & More to MOO About

Cool environmentally-friendly paper products that make a positive difference!

31st Anniversary card 
I found these great little cards by at Whole Foods, but they can also be found at Papyrus and Franklin Covey, or you can order online from their website.

10 percent of the profits are donated to Conservation International and Climate Solutions, two environmental organizations dedicated to sharing practical and profitable solutions to global warming.  

The parent company, Compendium, Inc., based in Seattle, has been around since 1985.  They manufacture gift books, journals, stationery, desk accessories and home décor. Positively Green® is a product line of greeting cards, notebooks, gift wrap and gift tags.  Be sure to check out all 8 of the product lines.

How positively green are they?
I like companies who go all out when it comes to incorporating green methods into their manufacturing process.  Positively Green® uses FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) 100 percent post-consumer waste paper.  The crisp, clean colors are created with soy inks that are printed by a wind-powered press, and the paper is chlorine-free.  Now, that's a serious commitment.  

Plus, they do not print a paper catalog—yay!  Instead, they have a rather wonderful & very well-designed website where all of the product lines can be viewed.  I really like the gift wraps and the Anywhere Notebooks!  How cool are they?  Creative ways to repurpose wrapping paper are printed on the back of each sheet of gift wrap.  Everything is priced reasonably so that buying multiples is affordable.  $3.95 for gift wrap, and $2.95 for a 3"x5" Anywhere Notebook.

Leaving a light footprint
I also like the grown-up, smart style of these products.  They reflect a balanced, positive attitude, and the sentiments aren't too sappy or over-the-top.  I especially like the greeting cards for women, although I must say that they aren't just for women.  The "Garment District" boxed set of blank cards, as well as the "Pressed Leaves" set, are perfectly suitable for guys.  A man who knows how to write an appropriate note these days conveys good manners, modern nobility, and consideration for others.

The Compendium Kids product line has some chic little thank you card kits for kids.  $14.95 for 10 cards, 10 matching envelopes, and 6 sheets of themed stickers.              

Good for Employees, Good for the Community
Going green is a wonderful achievement, but this company has also been recognized for doing good things in the workplace, as well as in the community.

In 2009, Compendium, Inc., was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.  This recognition is part of a national project on workplace efffectiveness and is given to companies who go above and beyond efforts to provide flexibililty in order to meet the needs of both the employees and the employers.  It is a "yes" philosophy, which is one sure way to get the most out of a team.  The recipients of this award are ranked in the top 20 percent of employers who provide flexible work programs, policies and culture.

In April 2010, Compendium, Inc., was recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the top 75 Corporate Philanthropists in the Puget Sound region.

Good prices, good products, good for the Earth.  ✥

One of my round MOO sticker designs
More MOO
I've written about the Moo company before.  It's my favorite custom business card site, and I've used their snazzy mini-Moo cards for the past 4 years.  Now, you can design your own custom round stickers, which I love for return address labels, envelope seals, and also for gift wrapping.  Right now, they're on sale marked down from $12.99 for 52 stickers to $7.79.

You can upload your own pix and make 52 unique stickers if you want.  Or, divide them up and make a few of each.  I created my own birthday sticker in Photoshop, saved it as a jpeg, then uploaded it as one of my custom stickers.  The MOO website is exceptionally easy to use when it comes to uploading your own photos.  Just follow the instructions, and they'll walk you right through it.

How green do you MOO?
Another really great thing about the MOO company is that it has a green alternative for use in different kinds of paper products.

Their recycled business cards are 100 percent recycled from post-consumer waste, and the cardboard containers for the cards are made from recyled pulp board.  They are Green E certified, Green Seal certified, chlorine free, acid free, and FSC certified.  In addition to all of that good stuff, the factory that produces their paper is wind powered.  I have to admit that I'm not entirely crazy about wind farms, but still, that's an impressive set of e-credentials!

Another company worth mooing about!  ✥

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard—31st Anniversary Table

A celebration dinner at home, restaurant-style...
Wedding candles from Crate & Barrel

Clear distressed plates from the thrift store

Flowers from Whole Foods

Antique white napkins & white rock place holders

Mismatched stemware from David M & Pottery Barn

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday—The Reading Corner—Two Girl Detectives & An Amazing Cat Story

Kindle...How do I love thee?
Girl detective #1...

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith — $7.99 Amazon Kindle
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first in an engaging and entertaining series of stories about a confident, clever lady detective named, Precious Ramotswe, from the South African Republic of Botswana.

I don't know where to start talking about all of the things that make this book (and the entire 6-book series) so much fun to read.  The author puts you squarely in Africa with Mma Ramotswe as she navigates in her tiny white van through sumptuous African landscapes to solve mysteries that are brought to her by the local citizens of Gaborone.

The story evolves through a series of crimes—some minor, some complex, all culturally rooted—as new characters are introduced and their backgrounds are revealed.

I love the tone of the writing, the African dialect in the narration, and the infusion of gentle humor throughout the book.  Each little mystery percolates cheerfully and optimistically from one chapter to the next, like a comforting hot pot of bush tea.  These books are a fun, fast read, and each one makes you want to click over to the Kindle store and download the next one ASAP.  

Video Series
What could possibly make this literary experience more enjoyable?  An accompanying HBO series!   The pilot episode debuted on the BBC in 2008 and was produced by the late, great Sydney Pollack (Director/Producer, Out of AfricaTootsie, The Firm, Sabrina, etc.); Timothy Bricknell (a regionally rich film maker—Cold Mountain, 2003); and Amy J. Moore (old-school horror & suspense—Slash (2002), Grim (1995)).

Directed by the late, Anthony Minghella (Academy Award winner for Best Director, The English Patient (1997); screenplay, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)), who died unexpectedly in 2008 at the age of 54 following cancer surgery.  Co-written with Richard Curtis (Oscar nominated, Four Weddings and A Funeral; Emmy awarded, HBO's The Girl in the Café).

The pilot and all of the six episodes in the series will be available On Demand starting Monday, July 11, 2011, and will run through Sunday, July 31.  I can't wait!

The entire Season 1 collection is also available on iTunes (look under "TV Shows") for $20.93, or you can buy individual episodes on iTunes for $2.99.  If you have an iPad, iPhone, or Android, check the App Store or Android Market for free downloads of the episodes with your HBO subscription.  

Amazon has individual episodes available to rent for $2.09 per episode (Look under "Amazon Instant Video") to download episodes to your PC, Mac, or compatible TV or device.  You can also buy the DVD set, Complete First Season, for $32.99.

Click here to watch a trailer & see for yourself!  Starring...

•  3-time Grammy Award winner, R&B singer/songwriter, Jill Scott, as Precious Ramotswe
•  Anika Noni Rose—the exquisite voice of Princess Tiana in The Princess and The Frog (2009) and Lorell from Dreamgirls (2006)—as Grace Makutsi, the agency's secretary
• And, Royal Shakespeare Company actor, Lucian Msamati, as JLB Matekoni, the finest mechanic in Botswana

Girl detective #2...

The Devil's Hour (2010) by J. Carson Black — $3.97 Amazon Kindle
★  ★  ★  ★ 1/2    

I've been reading a series of suspense thriller /crime detective novels this summer, and this one is definitely worth a read.  It is the third in the 3-book Laura Cardinal series which starts with Darkness On The Edge of Town (2005), followed by, Dark Side of the Moon (2006), and finally, The Devil's Hour (2010).

The main character is a woman homicide investigator from the Arizona Department of Public Safety named, Laura Cardinal.  At the beginning of the book, she is reassigned from active homicide investigations to the cold case unit by her new supervisor.  She and her Brylcreem-infused partner, Detective Jaime Molina, are investigating a rash of kidnappings that occured in the Tucson area between 1996 and 1997.  Each kidnapping involved the disappearance of a 14-year old girl.

The story gets interesting when a young man who is staying at his grandfather's cabin in the mountains above Tuscon has a close encounter with the ghost of one of the girls.  From there, the story takes off in a variety of directions and picks up speed all the way to the surprising end.

As a native of Southern Nevada, I loved the setting of this story and enjoyed the seasonal descriptions of the desert washes and high forest landscapes.  A gold star to the author for creating characters who accurately reflect the laid back, no-nonsense culture of Arizona.  You have to live in the desert to be able to describe how it feels to be a part of it.

Now, I have to read the other two books!

How My Sister's Cat Moved from Utah to Florida in a POD

Katie, The Miracle Kitty (A true story!)
Once upon a time, my sister and her husband found a cute little kitten in a parking lot at a grocery store in Logan, Utah.

The kitty came home to live with them, and five years later, they decided to move to Florida.

They packed up their house and put everything into a POD (portable-on-demand moving container).  The POD people (heh) picked up the POD and started the 2,300 mile drive to Gainesville.

After a week of searching, my sister and her husband finally left Utah without poor Katie.  A few days later, they arrived at their new home in Florida, opened the POD, and heard...

My cat, Tigg
"Me-ow!!  Me-owww!"

It was Katie, skinnier, but alive and well after 12 days in the POD.

Now, Katie lives in Florida with her sister cat, Sabrina, and Nubbie, the oldest bunny in existence.

The moral of this story:  Check your POD for podcats

✿  ✿  ✿

Cats are amazing creatures.  If you have one in your household, consider yourself lucky to  have been chosen by providence.  ~dsmp

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday—Catching Up

paper daisies ❀ searchlight, nv
One can of nonfat evaporated blog...

I'm not sure when I lost track of last week, but I think it was somewhere around Monday.  I had a trip to Boulder City scheduled for the middle of the week, and I had to condense a week's worth of scheduled activities into Monday and Tuesday.

Plus, I had a canning project on deck, which takes a lot more planning and coordination than non-canners realize.  I had a pile of fresh organic rhubarb in the fridge, and I was attempting a new recipe, which requires more culinary acumen than my usual routine.  I grabbed a few pix along the way, and I'll include those in Tuesday's post.

And, I finished 2 good crime detective books, so I'll talk about those this week, as well.

On Wednesday, I was on a plane flying from the temperate Bay Area into McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.  Once I arrived, I hustled down to the Alamo car rental garage and tried three different vehicles before I finally settled into a spiffy new, steel blue, Ford Fusion with Arizona plates and lots of nice upgrades.

After 10 minutes of hopping from one standard model to another, I slid into the cozy tan interior of the FF and familiarized myself with all of its basic operations...except for one...which I could not find...and, I blame it on the fact that I was dragging my little wheelie carry-on suitcase around an asphalt tarmac in the middle of a parking garage in June in Las Vegas.  Shortly before my eyeballs began to melt, I gave up and slowly drove up to the check-out booth.  While the Alamo guy fiddled around with my Silver Legacy reservation (okay, it's not called a "Silver Legacy" reservation, but it has the word, "silver," in it), I went through my options for asking the grumpy dude in the booth how to turn on my headlights.

There must have been an intelligent way to ask where the controls were for my headlights, but I'll be damned if I could think of it at that particular moment.  The check-out booth guys are usually in a very gnarly and unsocialable mood.  I imagine it comes with the mind-numbing tedium of sitting in a glassed-in box all day.  One sure way to avoid the disdainful look that they always give you when you fukk up at the booth is to be in full control of your vehicle at all times, as if it's taken you no more than 5 minutes to fully assess and absorb every detail of the vehicle you have chosen.

There are some things that I've learned to ignore until later, like on which side of the car the gas cap is located.  If I forget to check this before I leave the garage, it's okay.  I do not panic.  I have the rest of my trip to find the gas cap so that I don't embarrass myself at the gas station and piss everybody off behind me by pulling up on the wrong side of the pump.  Driving in Vegas, especially on the freeways, is risky business, and you need your headlights so that sleep-deprived hotel workers, drunken tourists, and caffeine-addled mothers in SUVs won't jump a divider and hit you head-on.  I wasn't about to drive from the airport to Boulder City without any headlights!

I was starting to sweat under my bra when the guy handed my credit card back to me, and I was suddenly out of time.  The green signal light went on, and the guard rail went up.  The guy looked at me and leaned through the window of the booth like he was getting more irritated with each additional second that he had to look at me.  His lips pursed together and squeezed into a thin, mean line.  His eyes narrowed, and his nostrils flared...

One of the great things about being a 50-Something woman is that I no longer care if I am liked by insolent service people.  Especially in 108° degree weather.  There was no one behind me.  I had all the time in the world to keep my foot on the brake and contemplate my next thought.  Eyeball me all you want, Booth Man.

"I can't find the control for the headlights.  Can you take a look?"

With a glacial stare, he unlocked his swinging door, stomped over to my open window, and punched the turn signal lever a couple of times.  I casually set my elbow up on the window frame and watched him with equal disdain.  When slamming the turn signal didn't work, he thrust his bulbous head and spongy shoulder through the driver's side window and spotted the dial for the headlights below and to the left of the steering column.  He jerked the dial to the right, and the headlights went on.

"Thanks,"  I said.  By then, he was already back in his box with the door closed punching away at his computer keyboard.

If I'd been an excited tourist visiting Vegas for the first time, I might have left the Alamo car rental garage with a negative first impression.  I may have thought that the locals were cantankerous and unfriendly.  But, as a native Southern Nevadan, I just chalked it up to the heat.

Native Nevadans aren't bothered by the heat, and if you meet an SOB, he or she is probably a transplant.  On the flip side of that, if you meet a friendly person at the airport who seems to go out of his or her way to answer your questions and start your trip on a positive note, be sure to tip that person a couple of bucks.  They'll appreciate it, and you'll feel like a cool Vegas cat who knows the turf.

★  ★  ★  This week is double-points blog week!  Two blog topics in each post.  ★  ★

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mini-Post Thursday—Happy Hot Dog Men!

While we're on the topic of weiners...


Wednesday—Good For You, Good For The Home—Going Gray

Gray is the new blond
Comfortable in your skin

I prefer to call it "platinum elegance," as one vlogger referred to naturally gray hair.

Gray hair is mostly a result of genetics, but stress and exposure to toxins in the environment are contributing factors.  It's ironic, isn't it?  The hair color that women and men apply so diligently to mask the gray may over time be making hair turn gray faster due to the constant bombardment of harsh chemicals on the delicate cells (called, melanocytes) in the hair follicles that give hair its natural color.

Fwiw, melanocytes grow alongside keratinocytes, the cells that build hair strands, but they have a much shorter life span than keratinocytes.  As hair grows, the kerantinocytes build the strands, and the melanocytes provide melanin to the hair follicles through melanosomes (little packets of melanin within the cells).

In fact, the whole process is fairly elegant and complex because the specialization of cells within the follicles originates with stem cells.  As the stem cells within the hair follicle begin to develop and organize, they communicate with one another through messenger molecules.   There is a lot going on at the molecular level of every hair on your head.

When hair continues to grow, but the pigment is no longer being delivered, it means that the melanocytes have stopped doing their job.  Part of the reason is due to normal aging.  According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2005), half of all 50-Somethings are at least 50 percent gray.  In addition,  sensitivity of our cells to genotoxic stress (i.e. things that damage cells at the genetic level, like toxic agents, the sun's ultraviolet rays, chemicals in our food and the environment, background ionizing radiation, and free radical molecules produced during metabolism) increases as we age.  There are too many genotoxic stressors to avoid them altogether, but it probably does not help to soak the complicated little hair follicles for extended periods of time in harsh chemicals that are specifically designed to alter the natural color.

The research also shows that genotoxic stress is a much more potent factor than everyday life stress when it comes to decreased melanocytes. Everyday life stress affects every system in the body, but relative to gray hair, the cause has more to do with genetics and normal aging than it does with job stress, moving, or having kids in high school, (although, that last one can cause hair-pulling for both parents and teenagers).

I like the idea of changing my current hair palette.  Natural gray adds boldness and distinction.  The baggers at Safeway are always offering to help take my groceries out to my car, and one of these days, I may take them up on it.  But, for now, I'm perfectly happy to prove that I can still hold two fully loaded bags of groceries with one arm, while I yank open the passenger door with the other, and manage not to drop my car keys underneath the front tire.

I'll look even cooler doing that with my lusterous silvery flowing hair.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard—What's Cold & Blue?

Delicious, smooth, creamy, home-churned blueberry ice cream! 
IT'S three weeks before the Fourth of July and time to start bringing out the red, white & blue.

June is also blueberry season, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with a fresh batch of classic homemade ice cream.

( FYI, we are past the First Day of Spring, which is the day that we traditionally celebrate with an ice-cold gin & olive martini out on our deck).

This recipe is from the Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, by Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield with Nancy J. Stevens, ©1987 ($7).  I've updated it by using a Kitchenaid mixer ($250-$300) to do all of the mixing and a Cuisinart electric frozen yogurt & ice cream maker (about $50) to make the ice cream.  I've also used nonfat milk in the cream base to cut down on the fat.  It tastes just as good, and it's a little healthier!

Ben & Jerry's has 2 other cream base recipes to choose from, but base #2 does not hold up well in the freezer, and base #3 makes a less creamy ice cream.  So, even though base #1 has 2 eggs in it, I like it for its overall consistent texture and richness.

I could not find any nutritional information for B&J Wild Blueberry ice cream, so I've used the info from strawberry ice cream, instead.  There will be less fat and fewer calories in my recipe because of the nonfat milk in the base.

If you would like to print this recipe, go to:  printfriendly  Copy and paste the url for this post into the window; scroll over sections that you want to delete; click Print.  Easy!

Estimated Nutritional Info based on B&J strawberry ice cream: Calories 170, calories from fat 90
Total Fat 10 g, saturated fat 6g, cholesterol 55mg, sodium 35mg, total carbohydrate 19g, fiber 1g, sugars 18g

Wild Blueberry Ice Cream
Serving Size:  1/2 cup — Makes 1 generous quart
Allow 2 hours prep for the berries

--  Bowl-type mixer like a Kitchenaid or a hand-held electric beater
--  a mini-food processor or a blender
--  ice cream maker

•  1 pint fresh, rinsed blueberries
•  1/2 c. fine, baker's sugar
•  Juice of l lemon
•  Sweet Cream Base #1

    Make the ice cream
    1.  Toss the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice together in a mixing bowl.  Cover & refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to release the juice.

    2.  Prepare the Sweet Cream Base #1

    •  2 large eggs
    •  3/4 c. fine, baker's sugar
    •  2 c. heavy or whipping cream
    •  1 c. nonfat milk

    Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light & fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.  Pour in the cream & milk and whisk to blend.  Makes 1 quart

    Back to the ice cream
    3.  Drain the juice from the berries into the cream base & blend;
    4.  Pureé the berries in a mini-food processor or blender & stir into the cream base;
    5.  Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions 

    Freeze to firm up the ice cream, garnish with a whole blueberry & serve with a crunchy oatmeal cookie.  

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Monday—The Ranting Corner—Facebook Privacy Fail

    It's all about privacy, or the loss of...

    Four consumer advocacy groups—
    1. The public interest research group, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
    2. The Internet safety group, The Center for Digital Democracy
    3. The California-based Consumer Watchdog; and 
    4. The consumer education group, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
    —filed a complaint today against facebook asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate facebook's new image identification system and to force facebook to stop compiling user biodata to be used in this automated system.  U.S. Representative, Ed Markey (D-Mass), co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, happens to agree. 

    The complaint contends that the covert collection and compilation of personal information to be used for automated tagging, without the opt-in consent of users, adversely impacts consumers and qualifies as unfair and deceptive trade practices.  The complaint also points out that the recognition system is under the sole control of facebook, which eliminates users' control over their own images and violates facebook's own privacy policy.  The FTC has taken action against online sites for misleading users and violating their own privacy policies.
    Opt-out of facebook's new tagging feature
    Biodata is the biographical information drawn from a user's profile that creates a distinct impression of the person.  It contains information about work history, hobbies, education, family, and photos.  It is basically the kind of information that people add to their profiles.  Facebook's new tag suggestion feature uses this biodatabase to automatically recognize individuals in photos and tag them without their consent.  If you thought it was a PITA to be tagged without your permission in some photo that you'd never seen before, at least you could blame it on the individual who tagged you.  But, now this new facial recognition system does it for you automatically! 

    The complaint was filed with the FTC six days after facebook rolled out the new system (on June 7th).  Do you remember getting that nice, clear notice last week from facebook telling you all about it?  Remember being told that the default was set to enable the feature?  And, do you recall how facebook clearly explained how to opt-out of the new system?  Chances are you don't because facebook didn't do any of the above.  

    Under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, that is precisely why facebook's actions qualify as unfair and deceptive trade practices.  Anything that is likely to mislead a consumer who is acting in a reasonable way under normal circumstances is unfair and deceptive.  Not informing users of a new feature involving the use of their own images is a pretty big omission that seems unfair and deceptive to me.  Users should have been informed that the feature was about to be launched, and account holders should have been given a link for opting-out.

    The good news is that you can still opt-out of the automated system, but you have to find it in your privacy settings, first.  Then, you have to recognize the obfuscating terminology and figure out which setting to change.  If you want to opt-out, and you haven't changed your privacy settings, here's how to do it:

    Go to your Account > Privacy Settings > Customize Settings > Things Others Share > Suggest Photos of Me to Friends > Click on, Edit Settings > Disable > Hit, OKAY

    The important setting to look for is written in light gray just under, Suggest Photos of Me to Friends:  When photos look like me, suggest my name  

    Do you see the word, "tag" in there anywhere?  I don't.  Facebook deliberately avoids the word "tag" because experienced fb users generally don't like to be tagged all over the place, especially without their permission.   So, fb avoids using the word, "tag," and uses, "suggest," in its place.  But, suggest and tag are two different things, aren't they?  Suggest is ethereal; it's softer, it's fuzzy around the edges.  Making a suggestion is different than making a positive ID.  I'm suggesting that the guy in the photo is Bob, OR I'm saying that I know it is Bob, and he should wear a sign around his neck that says, BOB.  The latter is facebook's idea of a suggestion.  

    My suggestion to every facebook user is to deactivate your account right now and find a free photo-sharing site like Flikr, Picasa, or Photobucket to share your pix with family and friends.  If you need a facebook account to stay in touch with people, or to post links to a group like I do, either pull the pix that you don't want to be automatically tagged (leaving them up is an automatic invasion of privacy for your friends and family), or deactivate your personal account and create a new one with only those pix that you want tagged.

    Protect your privacy and the privacy of your friends and family.  Zuckerburg, et al., can go suck a rock.

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Mini-Post Thursday—Pet Painting Kits

    For dogs & cats...and even talented turtles!

    It's a clever way for your 4-legged friend to become a bonafide artiste.  Authentic art created by pets!  

    This kit does not require your pet to hold a paintbrush and chew on it.  This is just part of the creative process for HRH, Clara.

    Wednesday—Good For You, Good For The Home: LivingSocial

    For the bargain hunters!

    I want to share a great daily bargain site that I've been using for the past couple of months called, LivingSocial.  It's safe, reliable, spam-free, and the deals are fantastic!  

    What's really neat about the daily deal is that you get your coupon for free if 3 of your friends buy the same coupon from your unique link.

    i ❤ good deals

    Here's the catch:  There is a time limit on how long your friends have to buy the coupon.  Sometimes, it's a couple of days; sometimes less, but usually a day.  They have to be checking their email, facebook, or twitter once a day to catch the offers before they expire.

    Another thing that I like about the livingsocial coupons is that these are deals that I can actually use.  I really don't need a 20 percent off coupon on 5-inch designer heels or a discount on handbags with big gold chains on them.  I do not own anything with the word, "juicy," on it.  I'm not interested in getting any part of my body tattooed, botoxed, or artificially tanned.  And, I don't want to dine at restaurants that are so far away that the cost of gas more than exceeds whatever I'm saving with the coupon.  Not to mention the stress of driving on Bay Area freeways.  But, I do shop at Ace Hardware for interior paint, and I do buy movie tickets online from fandango.

    The coupon vouchers have a nice long expiration period, but they do expire.  And, they are non-replaceable if lost, stolen by teenagers, or they become indechipherable as a result of spilling coffee on the bar code.  Just be smart and read the small print before you buy.

    Oh, and you can choose how to share your coupon.  You can post to facebook &/or twitter, or you can send email to individuals.  I tend to stick with emailing individuals who I know would be interested in certain types of deals.

    I am naturally cautious when it comes to advertised bargains.  There are just too many spammers and tech-savvy crooks who are looking for ways to rip people off.  But, the livingsocial site is well-organized, and I know others who use it, so I am happy to recommend it.

    Here's my link for the fandango deal I bought today.  It's 2 movie tickets for $9.  The tickets have to be for the same movie, so go with a movie buddy.  Ticket vouchers are good until September 9, 2011.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Tuesday's Cupboard—What Rhymes With Artichoke?

    A freshly picked artichoke from our garden
    Bicycle spoke, antidote, periscope, telescope, anecdote, endoscope

    It's artichoke season!  Here is one of my favorite summer recipes for a simple, healthy shrimp salad with fresh steamed artichokes on the side.

    I could have tucked the shrimp salad in-between the steamed artichoke leaves, but it was a lot easier just to serve it on a fresh bed of spring greens & baby spinach.

    Artichokes take 35 - 45 minutes to steam, so for an easy, no-fuss super, make the salad while the artichokes are cooking and refrigerate it while you wait.  The salad has 6 ingredients (shrimp, celery, olives, onion, lemon juice & mayo) and goes together in a snap.

    If you pick artichokes from your garden, be sure to soak them in a bowl full of cold water weighted down with a plate on top.  Buggies will vacate after about 10 minutes, then proceed to snip the leaves & rinse out any remaining debris that might be left down inside of the leaves.

    Classic Shrimp Salad with Steamed Artichokes on the Side
    Adapted from Weight Watchers Super Foods Cookbook, © 2006
    Makes 2 servings
    • 2 large artichokes (make sure that they will fit in your steamer)
    • 1/2 lb. peel & cooked small shrimp
    • 1/2 c. chopped celery
    • 1/4 c. chopped green onion or shallot
    • Two-thirds of a 4.25 oz. can of chopped black olives (about 10 diced olives)
    • 2 T. Best Foods Light Mayo
    • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 T. melted butter or mayo on the side in which to dip your artichokes
    • A liberal dose of cracked black pepper on top of the mayo or hot butter
    • Fresh baby spinach leaves & spring greens (enough for 2 dinner salads)
    Classic shrimp salad with baby spinach & spring greens
    Pull off the small and discolored leaves near the base of the stems on the artichokes.  With a good pair of kitchen shears, rotate the artichokes and snip off the sharp, pointy tips of each leaf (see the picture of the artichoke from my garden).  With the sharp barbs removed, run a stream of cold water through the leaves, separating them slightly with your fingers.

    Depending on the age of the artichoke, you may be able to loosen up the center leaves of the thistle with your fingertips.  This helps the steam penetrate the core of the artichoke, which as all artichoke connoisseurs know, is the yummiest part!   

    Cut the stems of the artichokes short so that they stand upright in the steamer.  I use an electric Black & Decker veggie/rice steamer that does a great job on artichokes.  If you use a steamer basket in a pot, bring an inch of water to a boil, cover tightly, and steam for about 35 minutes.  Check the artichokes for doneness by piercing the outside leaves with the tip of a sharp knife.  The artichoke will be tender and the knife point will go in easily.  Remove from the heat & set aside until ready to eat.

    Combine the shrimp, celery, onion, olives, mayo & lemon juice.  Serve on top of a generous handful of baby spinach leaves and spring greens.  My grandma used to mix the shrimp salad with lots of fresh torn iceberg lettuce from her garden.  It's delicious that way, too!  Sprinkle on a little paprika for color.  Meanwhile, plate the warm artichokes on the side with a small bowl of seasoned mayo or butter.  Place a big bowl in the middle of the table to throw the leaves into.  

    Beverage suggestion:  A glass of lemon or lime flavored sparkling water over lots of ice is lovely with this meal.  If berries are in season, add a fresh half of a strawberry, a sweet blueberry, or a plump blackberry to each glass.  Otherwise, a half-slice of lemon, lime or orange is also wonderful. 

    Don't forget to light a candle for the dining table when you serve this healthy & delicious summer supper for two!  ❤ 

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Monday—The Reading Corner—The Brass Verdict

     The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly  ★★★★1/2

    If you enjoyed, The Lincoln Lawyer, you're going to like The Brass Verdict, too.    In fact, you may even like this one better.

    As with any good sequel, The Brass Verdict brings back some of my favorite characters from the first book and introduces some really great new ones.  Without revealing anything about the ending of The Lincoln Lawyer, the Brass Verdict jumps off with an unanticipated set of circumstances.  Our intrepid hero, Mickey Haller, is more vulnerable this time, and we see him work through the labyrinth of his next big case on shakier ground.

    Michael Connelly does a great job of putting you in the courtroom as the lawyers, judges, jury, and key witnesses weave through the layers of evidence.  We are introduced to a new character, Hieronymous Bosch, the hard-boiled and somewhat mysterious veteran police detective who works on the case parallel to Mickey's legal team.  Mickey ex-wife/office manager, Lorna, is back.  His other ex-wife, prosecutor Maggie McFierce, is back, along with his daughter.

    The Brass Verdict is a great read, especially if you've ever been on jury duty.  I was selected as an alternate juror the first time I was called up thirty years ago.  The case was held at the County courthouse in Martinez, and the defendant was accused of stealing a car.  As an alternate juror, I attended court every day and sat in on the deliberations.  This was my first exposure to a real courtroom, and after a week-long trial, the guy was convicted.

    A few years ago, I was called up for a grand jury selection in San Francisco.  I did not make the cut because I'd been a Girl Scout leader for 10 years, and the case involved two teenaged girls in Berkeley who had been illegally brought into the country as part of a forced labor ring.  One died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in the apartment building owned by the man who had been running the operation.  He was convicted, but the case was on appeal.  During questioning, I was asked by one of the defense attorneys if I had felt protective over the junior-high girls in my troop, and I responded truthfully with, "Yes."  That's the thing about jury selection.  You'll either be chosen or not chosen for all the right reasons.

    Last year, I was called up by our local municipal court, and the case was settled before the jury selection began.  The whole process of jury selection is tedious, but the human component can be dramatic, and The Brass Verdict takes you inside of that process.  It drags a little when it comes to courtroom procedures (just like the real thing), but that tends to make the story and the characters more realistic.

    I am currently reading, The Reversal, by the same author.  Like Darth Vader, Mickey Haller has gone to the Dark Side, and this time, he's a special prosecutor.  This is a fun series, and the books get more engaging as you work your way through.  Perfect for summer time reading!

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Saturday Extra! Extra! — For the Lounge Lizards

    Our table lamp in BC
    Sahara Hotel & Casino Liquidation Sale  

    Home of the Rat Pack, Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin, Johnny Carson & Tony Bennett

    Even if you won't be there, these pix are fun to view!  

    First, click on the link above to get to the liquidation site.

    Then, click on the first thumbnail to click through the individual slides.  Use your browser back button to return to the thumbnails.  Scrolling over the thumbnails gives you subtitles for each slide.

    1.  Check out the king-size bed completely surrounded by mirrors from the Beatles suite (image 39).

    2.  The Beatles stayed at the Sahara on August 19, 1964 (image 106 plaque).

    3.  The circular marble tub with overhead spot lights and plate glass windows is kind of interesting (image 28).  If these walls could talk...

    4.  The entry-lobby camel will go for a fortune (image 102), and the Arabian-style wall sconces from the restaurant are pretty neat (image 55).

    5.  The game tables and stools will be in high demand—images 91 roulette, 97 red game stools, 112 blackjack, 114 hi-lo, 121 craps.

    6.  I like the little camel clock-lamp (image 50).  Pure Vegas kitsch.

    Postcard from the Sahara Hotel early days
    And, if you happen to be in Vegas on June 16th, at least go in and check it out.  You might find some treasures and come home with a really neat piece of Las Vegas history.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Mini-Post Thursday—My favorite Google Homepage Widget

    ABowman makes some great little doodads for your igoogle homepage.

    I ❤ this little interactive widget of a hamster eating, sleeping, and running on its wheel!

    Hamster widget

    Wednesday—Good For You, Good For The Home

    I'm not sure if my kindergarten teacher
    was my friend, or not... 
    You know you wanna...How to Clean Up Your Facebook Friends List

    Pay attention to #4:

    Reflect on what friend means to you...What is a friend 

    by your definition and not by Facebook's or social media in general? 

    Don't be afraid to call a friend a friend and an online acquaintance an online acquaintance.