Sunday, September 29, 2013

Looking Back

I was simply too discouraged last week to have any desire to write about accomplishments, or lack thereof. 

The well situation is still unresolved (in other words, I'm still showering in E.coli water. . . ) but we found out this week that we can hook up to the city's water.  It's going to take much longer than it would to have the UV filter placed on our well, but will hopefully be about the same cost.  I think it will be worth it in the long run.

St. John, enjoying his prized snake skin.
  • St. John brought me special gift. . . a snake skin over three feet long, which I assume he found in the basement. He thought it was the Best Toy Ever, and was so cute showing it to my husband that evening. Notice in the photo it was broken into two pieces. I fleetingly wondered where the third tail-end piece could be, assumed he'd lost it playing with it in a favorite place, and promptly forgot about it. Imagine my emotions when I turned back the quilt and found it in my bed two days later!
  • completed the Halloween Sampler
  • baked delicious banana bread from this recipe (though I used sugar instead of honey and agave)
  • made my husband his favorite dessert for his birthday: homemade chocolate pudding pie
  • created my own recipe of a chili Bisquick pie/casserole for his lunches
  • made a huge pot of homemade cheesy potato soup for my meals (noticing all the cooking/baking I have been doing since the new toaster oven, it's no wonder my jeans didn't fit!)

I feel like I'm at a standstill in most of my organizing and rearranging projects.  Nearly everything needs a help from my husband (heavy work) so I can proceed.  He'll be taking some time off soon, and I'll have to put him to work!

Meanwhile, plans for next week include:
  • clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable.
  • measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left
  • finish rereading Breakfast at Tiffany's for the Classics Club
  • I also want to get outside more this coming week, since it has cooled down some.  
  • maybe make this marshmallow pumpkin pie!
  • working on the Autumn Sampler

I am thankful for:
  • cooler, Autumnal weather!
  • time to read and to cross stitch
  • an understanding family
  • a new interest in cooking/baking
  • cats that play together

Now, for more kitty photos. . . .

St. John is maturing somewhat, but even at 12 months, he still looks like a baby!.  Here is this month's  photo mosaic.  I included a goofball photo this time.

Autumn Book Challenge

Megan of Semi-Charmed Kind of Life is hosting another book challenge.  I finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) the summer challenge, so I'm excited to participate in this, the autumn challenge.

I rarely plan out what I will read in advance, but I thought this challenge might be good for reading many I have in my private library.  I found I enjoyed looking for these books in advance, and now I won't have to struggle to remember what book came to mind when I saw the topic!
(note: I decided to just keep to this page, instead of making a new one, so, I'll be replacing my planned books with the books I actually read.)


  • The challenge will run from October 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on October 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on December 31 will count.
  • New rule:up to three books for the challenge can be rereads. 
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audio books are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements.

The challenge categories:

  • 5: Read a book that does not have "the," "a" or "an" in the title.
    Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh (318 pages, audio, October 2013)
  •  10: Read a book that has been featured in Oprah's Book Club.
    Planning to read A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens or Open House by Elizabeth Berg (272 pages)
  • 10: Read a book that takes place in the state where you currently live.
     The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs by Richard Yancey, Tennessee (336 pages, November 2031)
  • 15: Read an epistolary novel.
    Anne of Windy Poplars (not entirely epistolary, but mostly) by Lucy Maude Montgomery (301 pages, October 2013)
  • 15: Read a book first published in 2013.
    Princesses Behaving Badly (will be published November 2013; I read the ARC) by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie (288 pages, October 2013)
  • 15: Read a book with something spooky in the title.
    Possibilities: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (272 pages), The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (288 pages),  The Phantom Lover by Ruby M. Ayers (262 pages), The Haunted Pajamas (374 pages) by Francis Perry Elliott or The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins (336 pages, reread)
  • 20: Read a book with "air," "water," "earth" or "fire" in the title.
    Several possibilities: Hot Water by P.G. Wodehouse (256 pages), From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, (240 pages), Running Water by A. E. W. Mason (256 pages) or The War in the Air by H. G. Wells (389 pages)
  • 20: Read a book on which a television series has been based
    Several Possibilities: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman  (327 pages, series of the same name), Little House in the Big Woods (256 pages, Little House on the Prairie series, reread), a Perry Mason mystery, one of the Saint mysteries, Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner, Jr (basis for the Waltons), or The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (208 pages, series of the same name).
  • 25: Read a fiction book that has someone’s first and last name in the title
    The Lives of Christopher Chant (reread) by Diana Wynne Jones (240 pages, audio, October 2013)
  • 30: Read two books by the same author.
    Toward Zero (259 pages, October 2013, audio) and Crooked House (260 pages, October 2013, audio) by Agatha Christie
  • 35: Read a fiction and nonfiction book about the same topic.
    The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (304 pages, October 2013, audio) and Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney (256 pages, November 2013); topic: bipolar disorder
To save space, I've abbreviated the rules and categories.  Complete rules and details on the categories can be found here.

135 points

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review of Clipper 10-inch Commercial Non-Stick Pans

Clipper 315-90011 10-Inch Commercial NSF Nonstick Saute Pans

$41.99 for a package of two at Amazon
4/5 stars

I was given these pans through the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

I generally do not use nonstick pans, due to PFOA concerns.  Clipper maintains that these are PFOA free, and while I only have their word for it, I was willing to give them a try.

These are extremely sturdy, heavy gauge, saute pans, with a strong handle that is ergonomic and well attached.  They are 10 inch pans and are deep enough and wide enough for a stir fry or other large recipes.

Cooking with it was easy: non stick (naturally), deep enough to keep from flipping food out, and though heavy, easy to handle.  Other reviewers note that the handle stayed cool; for me, it did get almost uncomfortably warm. (Hence four stars instead of five.) When I cook with it again, I will make sure that this isn't due to user error, and will update accordingly.

The Eterna nonstick coating appears to be durable, and Eterna has received good reviews for it's durability.  This will be proved or disproved as time goes on, and I will update my review should I find it beginning to flake within a few months.

The pan was a breeze to clean: a quick wipe in the dishwater and all food particles were gone.

The price may be off-putting to some, at over $20 per pan (these come in a set of two).  However, if the longevity of the pan matches the obvious good quality, then it is an investment that is well worth making.

On a personal note:
I am not a good cook, and certainly not good at frying or sauteing, but I was certainly impressed.  Besides doing all I said above, they are of such weight that I might keep one by my bed, in case of intruders!  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Halloween Sampler, Completed

I finished my Halloween Sampler (designed by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery) late Tuesday night.  I don't care for Halloween, personally, and yet I love this sampler!

The beautiful cloth color was achieved by dying white Aida with Rit gray.  I used silver Kreinik for the stars of the H and W, and added it to the steel gray of the ninja's weapons.  I used a single piece of gold Kreinik with the yellow of my lightening.

It's hard to pick a favorite, but I think the owls might be mine.  Or maybe the ghosts.  Or the lollipops. Or perhaps the black cat.  No, definitely the owls.  I think.

H is for Haunted
A is for Apparition
L is for Lightening

L is for Lollipop
O is for Owl
W is for Witch

E is for Eyes
E is for Eek!
N is for Ninja (costume)

The Classics Club: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of those classics about which references are always being made, and it seems like everyone has a general idea of the plot, whether or not they've read it.

I knew it was one that I needed to read, but had always put it off, thinking it would be too depressing.  I am so glad I finally read it and recommend it wholeheartedly.  If you've not read it, make this the next book you do read!

While Orwell's dystopia is a terrible place, the book was not so much distressing as thought-provoking.  Like Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, I also found it disturbingly prophetic.  NewSpeak made me think of the horrible text message shorthand, and the Ministry of Peace was frighteningly similar to the way current governments present the need for war.  As for the Two Minutes Hate. . . How often have we seen a more subtle version of this in the recent past?!

I thought a great deal about how easily people can be "brain-washed" into living in horrid situations or doing vile acts by the government or other powerful institutions--good people, too, with honest intentions who think they are doing the right thing.

I thought about the fact that Orwell wrote this not long after the ending of World War II, and how Hitler's Germany must have been foremost in his mind.

I also thought about the control of history; the victors always write (and sometimes rewrite) history.  This is nothing new, and continues to this day.

 I felt frightened at times, by how similar some of the situations were to today's society.

I was enthralled by Orwell's prose; I had expected it to be dusty, dry, and yet it was alive and relevant.

I felt so much sadness for Winston; he was so real to me that I was emotionally invested in his journey.

I did feel confused by the Party requirements, and struggled to comprehend it fully.  I felt that it would have been better if Orwell had given that explanation early in the book, and more completely.  However, who am I to judge?!  I assume he had an excellent reason for waiting as long as he did, and my lack of understanding  was the fault of the reader, not the writer.

"The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in."

"Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull."

"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?"

"The object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war."

"A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This—although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense—is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: War is Peace."

"All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers."

"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."


My explanation of the Classics Club can be found here
and the Classics Club itself can be found here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review of The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

The Night Guest
Fiona McFarlane

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (October 1, 2013)
  • 3/5 stars

I received the advanced copy of this novel from the Amazon Vine program in return for my honest review.

This begins as a gentle, charming novel about a 70-something lady dealing with aging, memory and love--as well as what she thinks is a tiger roaming her home at night. It then becomes a psychological thriller about trust, deception and abuse.

McFarlane writes well; her character are fully fleshed out and her descriptions bring the setting to life. With one notable exception, the situations are completely believable, and could easily happen. Even the magical realism of the tiger incidents are well done.

I'm not adverse to reading uncomfortable novels; in fact, Lolita is one of my favorites, due to Nabokov's exquisite skill. However, I found The Night Guest so disturbing that McFarlane's prose could not make this a "good read" for me.

One a more personal note:

I can not stress how disturbing this novel is; it made my stomach hurt and I had to skim several chapters as the end neared.  

At the risk of spoiling it for a potential reader, I have to say that it focuses around the abuse of an elderly woman by a trusted caregiver.  It is not at all what I expected from reading the blurb. McFarlane just isn't a good enough writer to take a topic like that and make it readable for me.  I've tried to understand why I can find Lolita an amazing novel, and yet be so squeamish about this one.  As my husband pointed out, it could be because that Nabakov is not graphic and the psychological abuse in The Night Guest was explicit.  All I know is that when I pulled off the pretty paper of McFarlane's writing, all that was left was gut-wrenching abuse.  When I pull off the pretty paper of Nabokov's writing, I see so much more.

I did give it three stars, though, because McFarlane does write well.  My review is the lowest given at this point, however, so maybe I just wasn't a good fit for it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's in a Name Challenge: Completed

The categories:

  1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title
    Down Among the Dead by Patricia Moyes (June 2013)
  2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title
    A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie (February 2013/audio) 
  3.  A book with a party or celebration in the title
    The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011) by Alexander McCall Smith 
    (August 2013)
  4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title
    Flame and Shadow by Sara Teasedale (July 2013my discussion)
  5. A book with an emotion in the title
    Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse (April 2013/audio) 
  6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title  
    After discussing it with the moderator, we agreed that The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared  by Jonas Jonasson would be appropriate. (July 2013/audio)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Halloween Sampler, Week Two

I've been trying since Tuesday to get a photo that does justice to these colors, but keep failing!  This is the second week of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's Halloween Sampler. 

I think the owl is my favorite for this particular week, but it's always so hard to choose!

I used silver Kreinik for my stars and added iridescent Kreinik to my moon; I dyed the cloth with the soft gray Rit.  

Can't wait to see what the final week will be!

H is for Haunted House
A is for Apparition
L is for Lightning

L is for Lollipop
O is for Owl
W is for Witch

Monday, September 16, 2013

Looking Back

 This was another unusual, off-schedule week for me, as my husband was home sick the entire week!

On Monday, I was still sick myself and my wonderful Mom came over and helped me wash dishes and get meals cooked.  I am so blessed!  We would've been eating off paper towels, without her help--though what we would've been eating, I can't imagine!

On Tuesday, I had to take my husband to the doctor, as he was actually worse instead of better!

After that, the week was a bit of a blur. I did an abbreviated grocery trip, but other than dishes and laundry that was the only weekly chore I accomplished.

I did cross stitch, and finished the first week of the Halloween Sampler.  I had such great results dying the fabric for that project that I dyed the fabric for the Autumn sampler that will be starting soon.  I'm really pleased with it too; it's a rusty color and looks lovely with the colors that will be used.

I made some mutant cookies, but rebounded today with a yummy crustless cheesecake.

I made mashed potatoes last night (there is nothing like real mashed potatoes!) and used the leftovers to make cheesy potato soup tonight.

We're waiting to hear results from the county about our water, and until then are still drinking bottled water.  Seeing as how I drink at least a gallon a day, it's a bit pricey.  Hoping for a clean bill of health on our well, and soon!

I mowed the lawn with our amazing new lawnmower.  I can't imagine why more people don't use a reel mower!

Oh--I did mop the floor tonght! Just lightly, but enough to keep me from having to admit that it was still unmopped!

Hopefully, this coming week will be more back to normal, and I can finally get to this list from a few weeks ago!
  • clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable.
  • measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left
  • write up my thoughts about Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • research for a new vet
  • I also want to get outside more this coming week, since it has cooled down some.  

I am thankful for:
  • Mom's help
  • my husband finally feeling well
  • only being lightly ill
  • cool autumn breezes
  • chai
  • small victories
  • colors
  • fresh, crisp sheets
  • Wednesday noon Communion
Pretty Miss Lizzie

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Great Cookie Disaster

What looks like a pleasant stack of pancakes is, in fact, a mountain of Evil Cookie Mutants.

Today, with the cool crisp autumnal air, I was inspired to try a new recipe.  These "soft, chewy" sugar cookies looked divine on her blog, and I was eager to have some for myself.

The result, as you can see, was not pretty.

I think the blame needs to rest on the use of gluten free flour (to which I didn't add any xanthan gum) and not so much on the recipe.  Or, it could just be my newbie baking skills showing through again.

I ended up with one pan of super crispy cookies (Buttery Sugary Crisps), one pan of running not-fully-done cookies (Eat the Edges, Avoid the Middle), and one pan of moderately okay cookies (These Will Do if There are No More Sweets in the House).  

By that time, I was pretty much over the whole endeavor, so I put the rest in a Pyrex square with the intention of making bar cookies.  Ha.  I got a pan of burnt top and jiggling insides (Throw it Away and Don't Bother).

In the end, I'm out 5 1/2 cups of flour, four sticks of butter, a few more ingredients and some time.  And, I have a mound of Evil Cookie Mutants just waiting to attack me the next time I go into the kitchen.

I'm handing in my potholders and calling it a day!  (Dinner out, anyone?)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Amazing! (Review of our new Push Reel Mower)

Sometimes technological advances are not an improvement!

Review of the Great States 415-16 16-Inch Standard Full Feature Push Reel Lawn Mower With T-Style Handle And Heat Treated Blades
5/5 stars

I can not give this mower enough praise!

After years of battling with gas-powered mowers (our latest, new John Deere, was no different), we decided to concede the struggle and replace it.  Looking at "electric" mowers, we were disappointed to see that they wouldn't be as much of an improvement as we'd hoped.

Then we began to look at push reel mowers.  I had always been fascinated by them and wanted to try one for many reason, not the least being that it was human powered.  After some research, we bought this model and it was one of the best decisions we've made as homeowners!

This mower is easy to push and pull, and doesn't put strain on my troublesome back.  In fact, I find it much easier to control that a gas-powered mower.  I don't have to pull back on it to keep it under control, and it responds to a moderate amount of arm power.  I can go as slow or as fast as I want to go, unlike a gas mower where I am forced to keep up with it.

The quietness of this mower is fantastic.  It makes a pleasant noise, as the scissors snip.  It doesn't disturb the wildlife in my yard and trees or give me a headache.

I was surprised at just how good a job it does at cutting grass.  The cut lawn looks good and is even.  I have seen complaints that it doesn't cut long grass well.  Our grass was long, but I had no difficulty in cutting it.  Long weeds with thicker stems, however, are more difficult to cut.  It is prone to push them down instead of cutting them.  That is not a problem with us, though, as there are few weeds and they can be trimmed with clippers if need be.  I would advise, if that will be a problem, that the lawn be mowed closely one last time with a gas mower.  For us, though, it was not a problem.

I have also seen complaints about this push mower becoming jammed.  That is true: it does get jammed when run over rocks or if it gets a limb caught in the blades.  It is easy to fix, though, by jiggling it from side to side.  As I don't regularly run over rocks or limbs, this to is not a problem. Frankly, that small problem is better than having rocks and limbs thrown out the side of a gas mower.  (My husband still bears the scar of being hit by a rock out of the gas mower.)

There will certainly be people who try a reel mower and don't like it, because it is not a gas mower.  For me though,  the lack of noise and gas fumes, the ease of control and the good cut make cutting the grass with this reel mower a pleasant task.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Halloween Spooky Sampler: Week One

On Tuesday, I finished the first week of the Halloween Spooky Sampler,by the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery.  It's going to last three weeks, a row each week.

H is for Haunted House
A is for Apparition
L is for Lightning

This was my first attempt in dying cloth; I used a Rit gray and I am so pleased at how well it did!

The silver stars are silver Kreinik, and I added gold Kreinik to my lighting.

I can't wait to see what next week's letter surprises will be!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Looking Back: Woah! Whatta Week!

Some good things this week:

  • The cutest thing was LizzieLouLa loving greasy cut short beans!  (Do you have them in your part of the world?)  They have always been my family's favorite green bean, and Mom's did well this year.  I was eating some and Lizzie wanted to smell.  I didn't expect a cat to eat a green bean, so I had no trouble pretending to share.  She ate it, and another, and had four pieces the next night!
  • First hot tea (or any hot drink for that matter) since about mid spring; huzzah for fall weather!  I love hot tea, especially chai!
  • The new autumn/Halloween fragrances from my favorite small business arrived this week.  They are Frosted Pumpkin (smells like pumpkin bread and yummy vanilla icing), Full Moon (my favorite of this season; smells like mulled apple cider), Zombie Brains (smells like Granny Smith apples) and Poisonberry Cider (smells like blackberries, cranberries and spices) and they are all great.  I highly recommend checking out this little shop; I guarantee you won't be disappointed.  I've bought jewelry, lip balm, perfume oil, perfume sprays and buttons from her and have loved everything I have gotten. (And, no, I'm not getting any kickbacks; I just love these products that much!)
  • I am working on the Frosted Pumpkin's Halloween sampler, and I wanted a grey fabric.  Since I couldn't find anything I wanted, I tried dying the fabric.  It was my first time using Rit and it worked beautifully!  I used the "pearl grey" powder, and stirred it for about six minutes.  It's a lovely, light purpley grey; just perfect for what I wanted.  I don't have any photos yet, but I will by the end of this coming week.
Some bad things too. . . 
  • Our well water began to taste bad on Monday, so we're drinking bottled water as we run some tests.  Seeing that I drink at least a gallon a day (measured out to be sure, because my body needs that much), it is rather expensive!  Happily, most of the tests look okay.  The pH is extremely high, as is the hardness.  The latter is no surprise, but I'm going to have to research what to do for both.  The worrisome thing is that the bacteria test we did didn't give us a certain result either way.  We're going to have to find another, more specific test.  Extra prayers about our water situation would be so appreciated!
  • Our oven completely died on us at the end of last week!  After some thought we decided to buy a larger toaster oven for now. We got a Oster Designed For Life Extra-Large Convection Countertop Oven for under $100 at WalMart.  It is fantastic.  It holds a 9 x 13 Pyrex with no trouble at all!  I think this is going to be a wonderful addition.  I'll write up a review after we've had it a while, but thus far, I actually like it better than our oven.  This might not turn out to be as bad of a thing as it could've been.

Woah! Whatta week!

On Monday I my husband was home and I didn't do much.  I made a few breakfast and lunch things for him, did the laundry, we played mancala (I won 2 out of 3) and then I cross-stitched for a while during the evening.

Tuesday became grocery day, since Monday was a holiday.  So, I went to Kroger (it's always worth it to go to extra stores if they have cheaper items), Walmart (shopped, and had the oil changed), the bank, and had a short visit with Mom. By the time I wrestled all the groceries and that huge toaster oven into my hatchback, I had a massive migraine! If it hadn't been for the hatchback, I would've never succeeded!

Wednesday was noon Communion, which I love; wonderful way to pause and reflect mid-week. After church, I had to stop by Kroger again (I had forgotten my almond milk!), go to FedEx to send back that horrible printer, and go by Walgreens for prescriptions.  Luckily, I had packed a lunch (Celiac and borderline diabetes will teach you that, if nothing else), but I still had a migraine again long before I got home.

On Thursday, things got odd.  My husband stayed home sick!  In the past 12 years, I can only remember him taking five or so sick days--he was terribly sick with a chest cold!  Of course, my schedule was totally off with him home.  I tried to be quiet so he could sleep, which kept me from doing usual chores.  I made him veggie soup, and made myself a big pot of macaroni and cheese (thank heavens I did, as you'll see later), and seemed to spend most of the day in the kitchen.  Then, I coughed all night!

He went into work on Friday, and I had a last-minute, urgent appointment that morning.  Before I left the house, I knew I had his cold.  After the appointment, I had to wait a long, long, long (well over an hour) time for Walgreens to fill a new and important prescription.  I stocked up on more chest cold medicine, went home to bed.  He barely made it a half day, and came stumbling in shortly after.

From that point until now, we've both been too ill to even stand for long periods of time, let alone cook or clean.  I'm so grateful for those meals I cooked on Thursday!  My darling Mom has answered my cry for help and is coming over tomorrow to help me clean the kitchen and prepare some food.  My husband is going to see how he feels in the morning before deciding about work.  How's that as an end to a week that started so well?!?!

At this point, I really can't imagine doing anything this coming week.  If I do, it will most likely be the things I wasn't able to accomplish this past week due to all the running around and being sick:
  • mop the kitchen floor  (Yeah, I know.  By now, I'm hardly even bothered by it anymore.)
  • clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable.
  • measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left
  • write up my thoughts about Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • research for a new vet
I am thankful for:
  • Mom and her willingness to help
  • drinkable water, even if I have to buy it
  • St. John the Great Lizard Hunter
  • Lizzie the Nurse Cat
  • how good it feels when a migraine goes away

Caveat Emptor: Reviewing the HP Officejet 4620

A review of the Hewlett Packard Officejet 4620 Wireless Color Photo Printer with Scanner, Copier and Fax

Oh, how I wish I had read reviews before I purchased this printer.

The installation began with not being able to connect to my wireless network. This wouldn't have been a deal-breaker entirely, because though we had wanted a wireless printer it wasn't essential. However, the cable given to connect the printer to the computer was extremely short (about two feet long) and as such, made it impossible to connect from any position on the desk.

The installation attempt ended with the paper jamming on every attempt. My husband, a former copier repairman, spent an hour trying to find the reason, but to no avail. Every piece of paper (20 weight office-quality copier paper) that was fed through it jammed trying to feed through.

I've already sent it back, now, and I swear I will never buy another Hewlett Packard product!

(And now, of course, I still need a new wireless printer/scanner combo.  Anyone have a good recommendation?)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

False Economy: a Review of Great Value Water Filters

I have used a Brita for about twenty years now.  We have two going all the time in our house (one in the fridge and one on the counter) and these filters make a discernible difference in the taste and quality of our well water.

I tend to stretch out replacing the filters longer than I should, though, because, well. . . the price!  Even with coupons, Brita filters are not cheap!  I don't know what they are priced around the country, but I generally pay about $16 for three filters.

So, you can imagine my excitement when, on going to purchase Brita replacement filters, I saw that Walmart had their own, priced at three filters for under $10!  As one who is I not averse to using generic brand products, whether it be food or other goods, I thought it was going to be a true blessing.

Boy, was I wrong.

The filters did fit our classic pitcher just as they should; no problem there.

However, that was pretty much where the comparison ended.

The first filter I put in the fridge pitcher didn't actually filter the water.  I don't mean that it let impurities get through. . . it didn't even let the water get through!  The water stayed up in the well and wouldn't trickle down.  I tried taking it out and putting it back in.  I tried gently shaking it.  I tried the initial soaking again.  Eventually,  I threw it away.

Okay, so now I've got two filters for $10 now.  Still a slightly better deal than the Brita though, and I assumed it was a fluke.

The second filter I put in the fridge pitcher seemed to work.  Good deal.

Then the counter pitcher stopped filtering, and did the same thing as the first fridge filter. This time though, it would sometimes drain and sometimes not.

By that time, the second fridge pitcher was beginning to act up as well, so, I just threw them both in the trash and bought a pack of Brita filters.

Which means that my experiment with Great Value filters eventually cost me about $8.60 a filter.

Buyer beware; don't make my mistake!

Note: This is my opinion.  If you disagree, write your own review.

Further note: I've been accused of being in the employ of Brita.  I am not, nor are any of my family or friends.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sintra Fans: a House Divided


My husband and I are both Sintra fans, and were long before we met.

When we began to share our CDs with each other, it became apparent that we were, actually, fans of two different singers.

He prefers the world-weary, old gambler looking back on life, the mid-life Frank.

I prefer Frankie: the skinny band singer, whose voice makes me swoon.


We only just realized this last month--after twelve years of marriage--but it explains a lot about why we don't always care for the other's Sinatra choices!  

Now, you can see the difference for yourself.  The same song, sung by my young Frankie (first) and then by my husband's world-weary Frank.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Looking Back

 Today is St. John's birthday!  Not his actual birthday, as we don't know exactly, but close enough.  He is one year old and has been with us for 11 months.  Amazing!  At the time, I thought getting him was one more thing on my already overflowing plate, and I didn't think I would be able to handle having him with us.  Turns out, I needed him as much as he needed us!

I had a birthday party for him.  Lizzie-cat was invited, of course, and my husband.  We all had vanilla ice cream (except my husband who was too full from dinner).  St. John wasn't crazy about the ice cream, but did try it.  Lizzie thought it was the Best Thing Ever and has since expressed a hope that St. John would have a birthday every week.  St. John's gift was a roll of crepe streamer, but to our dismay he was either too sleepy or too grown up to play with it much.  We'll see tomorrow.  He's grown out of a lot of his favorite things in the past two months.  He still looks like a kitten, but he certainly maturing.

Now for the party photos. . . .  There weren't many, as the party only lasted about 45 seconds.

Lizzie loved her ice cream!

St. John investigates his ice cream.

Now, on to this past week!

This past week I:
Taken during my wade through the river.
  • moved the last bookshelf to the closet room
  • put most of the clothes and blankets into their new places on the four bookshelves in our "closet room"
  • had Mom's help to reorganized all but two of the kitchen cabinets; it is amazing what a weight that has taken off my shoulders!  I feel so much lighter in the kitchen, knowing that there isn't a mess hidden behind those doors!  She did an incredible job.  When I reached the panicked point of being overwhelmed (those with experience in Special Education will understand when I say that I was frantically signing and saying "all done! all done!  all done!"--and I was!), Mom stayed calm, redirected me and kept plugging along herself.  I am so blessed!
  • took a wonderful drive with my husband on Saturday.  He took me to a lovely spot by the river, where I was able to wade in and take photos, and we drove around and stopped for photos of anything that caught our fancy.  It's been a long time since we have done that and it was wonderful!
  • worked more on organizing my craft supplies (my husband is still building me shelves)
  • made a loaf of bread
  • made meatloaf, vegetable soup and boiled eggs for my husband's lunches and breakfasts.
  • made a delicious "Indian-spiced" chickpea dish; it's my new favorite.
  • did NOT mop the kitchen.  I'm so ashamed that I have to confess it here.  I think I've been trying for about a month now.  I'll try again next week!
  • took photos five out of seven days.  I had hoped for a full seven days, but that's still good.
All this was despite one day being taken up with grocery shopping, a half day with no power and a couple of migraines.  I didn't accomplish everything, but I feel mostly satisfied with last week.

Next week I would like to:
  • Mop that kitchen floor!
  • clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable.
  • measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • not miss a day taking photos 
  • reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left
  • write up my thoughts about Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • get the oil changed in the Escort
  • research for a new vet
  • look at our Indian cookbook and see which recipes would work well with chickpeas instead of meat/chicken

I am thankful for:
  • Mom's help and understanding
  • river water
  • a husband who doesn't begrudge me craft-supply-money
  • cats that play with each other
  • feeling stable

August Book List

Despite completing several cross stitch projects this month, August has been another good reading month.

Books Read:

  1. The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers (2007) by Sarnath Banerjee
    I found the story hard to follow, perhaps too clever for me, but Banerjee is a talented artist and I had no trouble interpreting the emotions he portrayed. 
  2. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2013) by Marie Brennan
    Fabulous yarn with a wonderful narrator; I look forward to more installments!
  3. Transparent Things (1972) by Vladimir Nabokov
    Parts of it were absolutely brilliant, parts of it I didn't get. I plan to reread it in a few weeks before writing about it.
  4. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011) by Alexander McCall Smith
    The twelfth in his charming No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  I've not read all of them, but this was as gentle, warm and enjoyable as the others I have read.
  5. Death at the President's Lodging (1936) by Michael Innes
    I found this an intelligent  well-written novel--it's rare I need the dictionary for a mystery!--and the solution was believable and amusing.  This was my first time reading Innes, and he will be a favorite.
  6. Some Die Eloquent (1979) by Catherine Aird
    The first mystery I've run across by Aird; she's now another author I wish I had found sooner.  I look forward to reading more!  
  7. The Imposter Bride (2013) by Nancy Richler
    Well written and richly layered; I read it in two days.  (Don't be fooled by the title; it's not a romance.)  Highly recommend this one.
  8. The G-String Murders (1941) by Gypsy Rose Lee
    Rather ambitious plot with a somewhat murky ending, but both characterizations and conversations were excellent.  The inside look at the burlesque was also wonderful.
  9. American Born Chinese (2006) by Gene Luen Yang
    Graphic novel, often poignant, with an excellent message that would be especially relevant to teens that feel like outsiders.
Audio Books: 

  1. Death of a Gossip (1985) by M. C. Beaton
    The first of the Hamish MacBeth mysteries.  I didn't care for the foul language, and the readers weren't given enough information/clues, but I did like Hamish quite a bit; I may read more of this series, if I find myself short of audiobooks.
  2. Poseidon's Gold (1993) by Lindsey Davis
    I am rereading the earlier ones of this series as I work my way to the ones I've not yet read.  I enjoy the characters and plots, and especially all the historical details.
  3. The Secret of the Old Clock (1930) by Carolyn Keene
    I am sure I must've read this one as a pre-teen, since my parents blessed me with a large collection of Nancy Drew books, but I didn't remember the plot.  It was silly, yes, but I still enjoyed it--especially now that I can picture the clothes and vehicles in the right time period.
  4. Sparkling Cyanide (1945) by Agatha Christie
    An intriguing "stand-alone" mystery.  I hadn't read this one before and was kept constantly guessing and changing my mind about who was guilty.
  5. By the Pricking of My Thumbs (1968) by Agatha Christie
    Another in the Tommy and Tuppence series; a rather complex solution, but satisfying, nonetheless. 
  6. Anne of Green Gables (1908) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  7. Anne of Avonlea (1909) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  8. Anne of the Island (1915) by  Lucy Maud Montgomery
    I had seen the two Anne mini-series as a teen, but had never read the books.  These books are gentle, pleasurable, and full of the morals and mores of the turn of the 20th century.  I was immediately drawn into the stories and felt deeply for the characters.  I will definitely read the rest of the series.  (Naturally, the mini-series bear only little resemblence to the books; why make up things for the movies when the books were filled with such wonderful material?!?!?)
  9. The Sign of the Four (1890) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    The second Holmes novel; better written and more enjoyable than the first but still not of the quality that the short stories will become.  Still good fun, though.
  10. Instructions for a Heat Wave (2013) by Maggie O'Farrell
    The characters and situations seemed very true to life, as did the rather ambiguous ending.  I found it an excellent read.
  11. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell
    Wow.  I'll be writing up some notes about it soon.  (update: my discussion is here.)