Wednesday, November 30, 2005

terrific twin toddlers

Marsha and JordanMarsha and Jordan

Jaedyn and bear

Pictures can't begin to tell you how delightful these little girls are, but they're a start. We had so much fun hanging out with these sweet-tempered girls, my grand-nieces, at my brother's home in Illinois for a couple of days before returning.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thankful for travel, family, food, and warmth ... but no jello wigglers!??

panoramic view out the back door[click to see larger]

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving trip, with lots of fun with family and of course the most wonderful food. My pictures of the Thanksgiving spread didn't come out well, so I won't post any pics of it. But I promised a picture of the corn field within which I would be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, so here is a shot of what my cuz sees out her back door every day.

Those of you who know farming will point out this isn't exactly the shot of a corn field that I promised. It's true. The farmer planted beans this year! I was hoping his horses would wander by while I was looking so I could include them in the shot. They often work their way right around the edges of the field. There must be better pickin's in some other section right now.

But lest you suffer from corn field withdrawal, here's one right across the road.

We New Englanders aren't used to seeing land so flat. The views in the Midwest cover lots more distance than ours.

I got this picture because I had gotten up early one morning. Everyone else was still asleep, and I was getting ready to settle down with something to read when I noticed this sunrise and dashed to get my camera. I stepped out onto a frosty deck and took a couple of shots before I realized I should step out of the lee of the building to get a better angle. Now, stepping out of the lee of a building in the flatlands means stepping out into a darn strong breeze. What felt like "frosty" before suddenly felt like "frigid", with my hair wanting to whip in front of the camera to boot. One quick shot and I was back indoors, thankful for the warmth.

It makes me think of the Pakistanis who lived through the big earthquake and don't have protection from the cold as winter settles in. If you live in a wintry area, you know what it's like to be exposed to the cold too long. Please consider sending something to a charity to get tents and blankets to those folks. A Jewish community group in our area has contacts over there and is collecting to send things directly to the affected Pakistanis. I loved sending our contribution there, because there's no overhead costs other than the shipping. No salaries, no office supplies, no rent, all contributions going straight to the cause. I'd be happy to send you their contact information if you'd like to help.

P.S. It's true, the traditional jello wigglers did not put in an appearance this year. Nobody seemed to miss them much, so it appears tradition is evolving. Here are some pics of some third cousins who found my digital camera very entertaining!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Painting outdoors during Thanksgiving week? Unheard of!

We had a spate of soft fall weather today, in the fifties, nary a breeze, light gently filtered so no sunglasses were needed. Even though I should be readying the house for our weeklong absence, I could not resist getting out there for an hour this afternoon to paint the trim around the front door. I knew if I didn't, I would regret it all winter, driving up the driveway and seeing that detail missing.

I'm so tickled about getting it done, I even took a closeup.

See the before & after photos in my previous posting this month ...

Speaking of cooking ...

... which of course I wasn't, not personally, but others have been ... I've been reading a bunch of food blogs like Kalyn's Kitchen and Simply Recipes, The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, and Farmgirl Fare , all of which are a treat for the eyes and have great recipes as well.

And I'm inspired to try my hand at it soon. But not till next week, because tomorrow the huz and I go away for a real Thanksgiving (unlike those psuedo Thanksgivings practiced by others ... :o) in The Heartland. Yep, that's right, land of corn fields and corn-fed beef and corn-fed turkeys: Iowa. My cousin lays out a spread for her kids, grandkids, and inlaws that is pure down home.

Everyone brings something, and I guarantee you we'll have delicious turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes,green bean casserole, fruit salad with cut-up Snickers bars (Ok, I gotta give an "eww" to that one), relishes, bread, and jello wigglers for the little ones. Sometimes we get lucky and someone fixes a duck with sweet dressing. I'd make the trip for that alone!

And, to top it off, cuz's house is situated right in the middle of ... you got it ... a corn field! I'll try to add a picture to this post on my return.

If there's time, I'm thinking of volunteering to make my New England Corn Bread, which is easy as can be and a hit anywhere I've served it. If you like a slightly sweet corn bread with corn bits in it and lots of butter, this is the one for you.

Yes, it's a cheater. It starts with a boxed mix. I haven't met anyone who has held that against me after they've tried it!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I know, I know, too many dog pictures! Believe it or not, this blog is not all about my dog. Really. But he keeps looking cute for the camera. What's a doting mom to do?

Actually, lately he's not crazy about the flash. So when I've tried to take his picture he lays his ears down and turns his face away. But this is the look I see hundreds of times during the day ... and it always makes me smile.

For more photos, see Simba on Rodent Patrol, my color-coordinated dog, Happiness is a soft warm doggie, and my hot dog

See more cute dogs at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's site!

I'm a lemon meringue ... perfect!

You Are Lemon Meringue Pie

You're the perfect combo of sassy and sweet
Those who like you have well refined tastes

The huzz and I watched Million Dollar Baby tonight. Cried my eyes out. Lemon meringue figured prominently in the movie. Perfect!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Before & after

We may get a little more painting done on the house before winter sets in, but I'm not counting on it. So I ran out today to get a shot of the front of the house to show you its semi-final look.


You need to use your imagination a bit to "see" the final product. Imagine the deck isn't there at all. It's so old and soon to be removed, so we didn't bother painting it. If construction doesn't start next summer, though, we might reverse that decision. Anyway, stretch your imagination a bit more to imagine the trim around the door off the deck has been painted white, and also the sort of peaked roofline above the garage. Then you'll have the general idea.

The setting isn't as colorful as the "before" shot. You can even see remnants of snow on the ground from a dusting we received two days ago that hasn't fully melted. I had just painted the door its dark color, and was coming back to do the trim white when I noticed snowflakes coming down. Mind you, it was at least 35 degrees out, or I wouldn't have been painting. I'm hardy, but not foolhardy! (Hush up, Rick) Paint doesn't adhere well below 35 degrees, so I was pushing it a little to put the paint on at all. I tacked up some plastic so I could leave the front door open while it dried for a while at room temperature. But to paint the trim was going to require exposure to the elements. I could have kept going but, I don't know, it just didn't seem right somehow to paint in the snow!

I've surprised myself by enjoying the application of color to the trim & doors. I felt a little tense while we were struggling to get the colors right, but once we got started I've felt a rising excitement to see our little house starting to look respectable again. It really needed this paint job. And I really was happy to see it getting its light-colored coat of paint. It just made all the difference to me. Woodscapes is wonderful to work with, very full-bodied and with great coverage. We spent a few extra dollars getting good brushes, which have made all the difference in the world. And every trim item that got a coat of white primer (which is all that's on most of the lower-level stuff) just made the house look tidier and, I don't know, less like a dump!

I don't want to be one of those people who major on externals. I know it's just a house, and just paint. But I'm a pretty visual person, so the pleasure isn't about owning this house or pridefulness about its appearance. It's about visual contentment, appealingness for its own sake.

So, I have lots more painting to do when the weather permits, but I don't think I'll mind. Doing one set of windows whenever there's a day with time and good weather is a pretty nice way to go. Each bit of trim gets ticked off my little list, and that's a really satisfying feeling. And it's also good to know we're prolonging the life of our siding. And Woodscapes has an 8-year warranty for solid stain! We don't have to do this for at least another 8 years! Hmmm ... how old will I be in 8 years ... yikes! Way old. Todd will probably have to do it all himself next time. :o)

A weapon for my midlife battle

I've been trying to figure out how on earth I can eat a reasonable number of calories when a single taste of something I love (Wheat Thins, Oreos, Smartees, Hot Tamales, the list goes on & on)torments me with demands for more, more, MORE! Not only that, but there ARE more, and lots of them. And all loaded with calories this midlife bod can ill afford. So, now that I've done advertising for 4 commercial food products, I will do extreme advertising for one that I'm so happy to have found:

Nabisco 100-calorie packs of Fruit SnacksThey stay in my cabinet, I take out only one package, they're yummy (in a gummy worms sort of way), and I'm far less tempted to overeat. Also, NO high fructose corn syrup! I'm going right back to the store to stock up.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Happiness is a soft warm doggie

Today was a chilly day. We had friends over for brunch after church, and then walked around the yard pointing out the sights and admiring the new paint job. I was inadequately dressed for the coolness, so I did what all dog-loving goose-bumped people do ... called over my dog for a snuggle! At least then the front of me was warm.

Look how relaxed he is ... and how happy I am! :o)

More Simba pictures

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pat will make a few television and radio appearances while there

Did the headline catch your eye? There's this fun little game you can play with Google You enter your name as the search term, along with the verb of your choice. Put it in quotes so Google doesn't ignore the verb. For example: "Marla is" or "Marla thinks". The results can be quite amusing. The title above is my first result.

The past few weeks we've been having the top half of our house painted, and doing the bottom half ourselves. I'm not sure we'll get it all done before cold weather sets in permanently, but it's really starting to look nice! Tomorrow I might have a picture that will give you a decent idea of what the finished product will look like. For today, I'll post the "before" picture.

Choosing the colors was quite an ordeal. Those orangey bricks are devilishly hard to work with, especially since I was wanting to lighten up the colors and use a very light trim. I found a really nice little utility at the Benjamin Moore website that you can download for a small fee. It allows you to work with a scanned picture, delineating the various areas pretty easily, and then cycling through a variety of color choices. My absolute favorite was the tropical scheme: salmon, light turquoise, bright turquoise. Or, as BM would say, Creamy Orange, Marina Bay, Harborside Blue. But Todd was concerned it would hurt resale value. "We're not planning to sell it!" I protested. Hmmm. Mayhaps that wasn't his real reason.

A good friend who is an artist and an art teacher and whose home redecorating projects always look good to me came over and looked at swatches with me, to get us started. Then I tried color after color after color ... ad nauseum. I actually tinkered with the tropical colors just because I was getting kind of punchy. Poor Todd ... I think he'd have accepted just about any color scheme after I showed him that one! An unanticipated side effect. (Really! If he'd let me, I'd actually have painted these colors! You think I'm weird now, just wait till I get really old!) Fortunately, I think we're both very pleased with how it's coming out.

Once we started painting, it was several trips to the paint store till we got the colors we ended up using. I'll be dogged if I can ever just pick out a color by looking at swatches. Even the little visualizer program wasn't foolproof, mostly because we were buying Sherwin Williams' Woodscapes product, which was universally recommended by every building professional we spoke to. It has this amazing 8-year warranty on it, and after painting with it, I can see why. Going from a dark color to a light color, the coverage was so good we really could have stopped with one coat. But we did (and are still doing!) two coats anyway. The wood had been basically unprotected for quite a while, so it seemed prudent to assume some of the first coat was being absorbed into the wood and the second coat would be the one that really protects it.

So, are you dying to see it? Sorry, you'll have to waaaaitttt!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Time for more fun!

This is blog tag, and I've tagged myself. At the end of the entry, I'm going to tag a couple more folks, and then you have to answer all these questions and tag others. Keep it going!

3 names I go by
- Pat
- PatL (pronounced "Pattle")
- Aunt Pat

3 screen names I've had:
- BigRed
- can't tell you this one
- can't think of another!

3 physical things I like about myself:
- hair
- feet
- my height

3 parts of my heritage:
- Air Force
- Iowa
- Illinois

3 things I am wearing right now:
- robe
- PJs
- slippers

3 favorite bands/musical artists I like a lot (too many to choose only 3 “favorites”!):
- ShadowFax
- Talking Heads
- Cream

3 favorite songs I really like (here, again, too many for only 3 faves):
- Pony, Pony by Billy Idol ... no better dancing anywhere!!
- Psycho Killer
- Born in the USA

3 things I want in a relationship:
- reciprocity
- respect
- shared core values

3 physical things about the preferred sex that appeal to me:
- eyes
- height
- physical strength

3 favorite hobbies:
- cross stitch
- wallyball
- reading

3 Things I want to do badly right now:
- go to India!
- lose some weight
- grow closer to God

3 things that scare me:
- dental drills on inadequately anesthetized teeth (been there)
- people who have no respect for life
- the thought of Simba's death ... it will happen in the next few years and it's going to hurt!

3 of my everyday essentials:
- computer time
- food
- sleep (how basic can you get?!)

3 Careers you have considered or are considering:
- waitress
- simultaneous interpreter at the UN
- cookie packager

3 places you want to go on vacation:
- Kenya
- Jordan
- Spain

3 kids' names you like:
- I’m not the into-kids-names type. I could more readily list names I dislike due to overuse or general cutesy-pie-ness.

3 things you want to do before you die:
- scuba dive again
- palpably experience God's presence again
- see my loved ones saved

3 ways I am stereotypically a boy:
- love computer hardware, programming, understanding tech stuff
- love the NBA playoffs
- like to know the nitty gritty of how things work

3 ways I am stereotypically a girl:
- care too much about what others think of me
- love to cook and host parties
- absolutely melt over puppies, kittens, infants, etc.

3 celeb crushes:
- I must be getting old. Can't think of any!

Ok, now I tag Eva and Margaret!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Note to self: easy menu!

We had the pleasure of hosting a really nice family for brunch today, John & Jackie G with their kids Allie (6th grade) and Zach (3rd). John & Jackie were really fun to talk with. The kids were super, very patient with all the adult nattering, good eaters, and very good-natured. Allie helped me with some of the preparations, Zach initiated a little hoops shooting after lunch, and they both seriously and persistently participated in a toad hunt. It turns out we have an even dozen toads in our house, but they're not particularly noticeable. With time and only a little help finding the last one, they were able to spot every one!

In addition to the great company, this brunch was enjoyable for me because it was relatively simple to prepare and yummy to boot. So I make this note to myself; this could become standard brunch fare at our house! Here's the menu:

Luxury Scrambled Eggs
Maple-Oatmeal Scones

Fruit cup (honeydew, cantaloupe, seedless grapes)
Bacon (extra thick Oscar Mayer and Louis Rich turkey)

That's it!


The night before

  • Set the table
  • Run a load of dishes and get them put away
  • Put some Pellegrino in the fridge
  • Set up the coffee maker with water & coffee grounds & set it to come on at 1:00


  • chop the herbs and scallions
  • combine the eggs, cream cheese, salt & pepper
  • I held off putting the herbs into the eggs until I could ask whether the kids would eat them. They did, and seemed to like it!


  • Prepared them up to the point of rolling them out & cutting them.
  • Put them in an airtight container with parchment sheets between layers.
  • Made the glaze; left on the counter so it would spread easily when needed.


  • Cooked both types of bacon, just a little shy of being done
  • Cooled, stored in a plastic bag overnight

That day

I came home a few minutes early (just left church with a bare minimum of socializing) while Todd stayed after and rode home with our guests. That gave me time to:
  • egg-wash the scones and put them in the oven
  • add the egg wash to the prepared eggs
  • pull the OJ out of the freezer, open it, up-end it in the pitcher
  • put the bacon on a platter for reheating in the microwave
  • get the fruit out of the fridge, use a melon baller on the melons
  • last, cook the eggs
Allie then helped me by:
  • adding water to the OJ and stirring diligently till the frozen concentrate was thoroughly mixed in (I love making the OJ at the last minute like this. You get cold OJ without having it take up room in the fridge)
  • putting washed grapes in the fruit cut
  • drizzling the glaze on the scones
It was a yummy meal, if I do say so myself, and I was so relaxed and able to the interact with everyone. So, I record this menu because I want to remember to do it again!

So you want to go to India!

For the past several months, I’ve been “on call,” waiting to hear that India has approved the adoption of my soon-to-be niece, Hope Aradhana. When she gets The Call, Nanette will spin into action, making plane and hotel reservations for approximately two weeks later. It’s good we have more than two weeks to plan for this trip, though, because there are an amazing number of details that need to be managed before going to India, not least of which is to apply for (and hopefully receive) a visa. I thought it might be helpful to blog all the details, for my own future use if I ever return, or for others who might be contemplating going. What to do in preparation? What to bring? What to wear? Here’s what I’ve learned.

First order of business: get your visa! This assumes, of course, that you already have a passport. If not, then get your passport! moves to the top of the list. To apply for a visa to go to India, you will need:

  • Application form for visa, completed.

  • The appropriate fee (at this writing, $60) in a cashier’s check.

  • Your original passport, which must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of intended departure from India

  • An extra passport-sized photo pasted on the application. By the way, you don’t need to go to any special place to get this photo. I printed one in the appropriate size from a nice head shot I had of myself.

If you cannot hand-carry these items to an Indian Consulate office, you can mail them. Of course, you will want to send them by certified or express mail, and you will need to include appropriate postage to get them returned the same way. Consult the Indian Consulate website for details. There actually appear to be several Indian Consulates throughout the US; we used the one in NYC. Its website has all the information you need to get your visa. It also can direct you to the other Consulates. Look for their Where To Apply For Consular Services page.
If all this seems to be too hard, search for “India visa” on the web. You’ll find many services that will help you for a fee. I haven’t done that, so I can’t recommend any.

Ok, now you have your visa. Now what?

Next, you want to find a good travel book, which will orient you to the vast complexity that is India. Over 1 billion people as of 2001, compared to just under 300 million for the US. The population of New Delhi is 13.8 million. The largest city in the US, New York City, is around 8 million. It’s home to hundreds of religions and sects, close to 100 different languages. It’s a wiiiiiiiild and crazy place!

Some practical things you’ll want to consider, traveling to India from the US (sorry, that’s the only perspective I can offer):

The electricity is 240v, so you’ll need not only an adapter but a step-down converter if you want to use any of your electronics.They come in a variety of wattages (I say this as if I have a clue what I’m talking about!), so you’ll want to know what appliances you’ll be bringing and what wattage they require. For instance, some hairdryers can pull as much as 1800 watts (more?), so you’ll need a converter that can handle high wattage and also lower wattage for a travel clock radio or an electric shaver.

I found a great converter kit with a set of adapters on Ebay for a total cost of just under $20 including shipping.It can manage 50W to 1600W. That about does it for me! Of course, I haven’t used it, yet, so we’ll soon see if it was a bargain. See an example here.

The flight to India is long, usually with at least one stopover. You might want to consider bringing some snacks with you. In recent years, I’ve found the sound of the engines become very wearying on long flights. This trip, I’ve purchased some excellent headphones and an adapter that will let them fit into the funny little two-pronged outlets in planes, in hopes of finding something to listen to that will engage my hearing without wearying it. The headphones also fit comfortably and closely on the ears (called “closed-design”) and have a noise-cancelling option (requires batteries), so perhaps for once I will be able to watch a movie on a plane without the need for using one or both hands to press the earphones to my ears!

If you’re thinking about shopping in India, then be sure you travel very lightly unless you want to ship some items home. Many airlines only permit 50 pounds per bag now, with a 2-bag limit.

For women, you might want to consider bringing only one or two changes of clothes appropriate to the time of year you’re there. Tailors in India purportedly will take your measurements one day and have the items sent to your hotel for you the next day. You may be more comfortable wearing the sort of clothing Indians customarily wear. If you’re not up for a tummy-baring sari, the pajama-like Punjabi suit might do.

... to be continued ...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fun tests!!

Your Personality Profile

You are happy, driven, and status conscious.
You want everyone to know how successful you are.
Very logical, you see life as a game of strategy.

A bit of a loner, you prefer to depend on yourself.
You always keep your cool and your composure.
You are a born leader and business person.

Your Haloween Costume Should Be

A Bumble Bee

Your Brain's Pattern

You have a tempered, reasonable way of thinking.
You tend to take every new idea in, and meld it with your world view.
For you, everything is always changing. Each moment is different.
Your thinking process tends to be very natural - with no beginnings or endings.