Friday, February 29, 2008

Virtual Viral Vapors...in the Victorian Sense

Natalie informs me that I'm the only person who does this, so since it's something that makes me unique I feel I must blog about it. Heh...

When I read a blog entry or message board post about sickness I start to feel like it's catching. Lately on the message boards and blogs I read there have been some gripping and sometimes graphic accounts of whole families suffering from various seasonal ailments. Some of them have the flu, and there is a lot of discussion about who had the flu shot and still got it and to what degree...and did they catch it in the doctor's office, or did the shot lower their resistance, or is this year's shot just not as effective as it should be.

Then there are the tummy trouble postings...the ones that describe (in way too much detail for me) the slaying of an entire family by a vicious GI virus. One post I read recently was a strategic plan for dealing with said virus in a family with many children. The first point of the plan was accepting the fact that everyone in the family would soon have it. The author lost me right there; my first step in dealing with any illness is total denial. "It's just allergies."

Anyway, when I get done reading these posts or messages I find myself feeling slightly queasy, perhaps a little feverish, a trifle fatigued. I start looking at the children to see if they are paler than usual. I get up from the computer and wash my hands thoroughly. And it's usually at that point that it hits me: I only know these people through the Internet. The family I just read about lives across a continent from me. I've never met them, never shaken hands with them or hugged them, never been breathed on by them, never eaten at their table.

It's really highly unlikely I'm catching what they've got. (Besides, as my husband points out when I'm sharing this ridiculous phobia with him, we have a Mac and Macs don't get computer viruses.)

Meanwhile, we live and move in our own realm of this world. A world inhabited by people who get sick and share their germs. So while I am imagining catching dire illnesses from the virtual world, my son is busy socializing with virus-laden strangers at the grocery store, drinking from water fountains in public buildings, hugging his friends, etc. He's sick now, of course. Not that nasty GI thing, just a typical winter respiratory plague.

Or maybe it's just allergies...

PS...if you want to see what The Cat looks like in her human form, you can take a look at the Winston-Salem Journal's little profile of this blog. I know, a genteel lady is only supposed to have her name in the paper when she is born, marries, and dies. Oops.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dinnerware Redux

I can feel the anticipation hovering in the air, all of you waiting impatiently to hear the outcome of the great Dinnerware Philosophy question. Can I come wait with you? Do you have Cheese Doodles? Because I could seriously go for some Cheese Doodles right now.

First of all, thank you very much for all the input and suggestions! They truly are helpful, but also interesting from a psychological standpoint. Some of you are more opinionated about your table settings than I expected. I am tempted to invite all the commenters over for dinner and create a mixed table setting by giving each of you the exact opposite of your ideal dinner plates. Because I'm cruel like that.

I printed out all the comments (yes, I do know how to cut and paste) and I'm scanning them to find any common themes. Three of you thought it was acceptable to mix up patterns and colors. Several of you said, essentially, that it might look nicer to have things match but that non-matching or non-traditional dishes shouldn't stop a family from having friends over. One person said it was okay for me to do that as long as his plate was the same as mine. :) Do you remember how we used to fight over the "special spoon" when we were kids, Jim?

A couple of you thought small plates might be a problem, but some of you wouldn't be offended by having to refill your plate if it was too small to hold all you wanted to eat. This was an interesting point to me because when I've shopped for plates I've noticed they seem to be getting bigger and bigger all the time. Many dinner plates for sale right now are 11 or 12 inches in diameter. My blue transferware dinner plates (from the late 1970s) are 9.75 inches. I have some china that was my grandmother's and when I first saw it I thought there were no dinner plates at all in the set. It's in the attic right now so I can't measure, but I think the plates are no larger than 9 inches and might be as small as 8.50 inches.

We do have a practical issue in regard to the size of plates. Our dishwasher will only hold plates that are 10.75 inches or smaller. So 12 inch plates are out of the question unless I want to wash them by hand.

Some of you really don't like paper plates, and some of you don't really care one way or another. I don't think any of you preferred paper plates over other options. I'm in the "don't like 'em" camp, BTW, but I would never, ever, ever be offended to eat off of paper plates at someone else's house. Well, unless I found out that they had plenty of other dishes and thought I was a slob who would break the plates or something. Those of you who are related to me have eaten plenty of meals here off of paper plates when I just couldn't face loading the dishwasher one more time. I appreciate your forbearance!

So, what did I learn? I learned that my readers are a varied lot, but I knew that already. :) I learned that I'm going to have to make this decision knowing that I will not please everybody. I'm hoping that if I feed people well those who don't like my dishes will get over it. I learned that it is possible to overthink dishes...well, I think I knew that already, too.

So, thank you again to all of you who commented. I haven't bought any more dishes yet. I will let you know when/if I do (who me, pass up an easy blog post?!). But...guess what else I learned? My husband has a Dinnerware Philosophy! Yes, we've been married 20 years and I did not know he had a DP. Neither did he, actually, it just appeared out of the blue.

But that's another post. ;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Washes Whiter Than...*

Our washing machine celebrated its 14th birthday this month. It has lived a long, virtuous, hard-working life. It washes, on average, 2 loads of laundry per day. It seldom gets a day off, but when it does it ends up making up for it the next day.

Tom has awesome washer repair skillz, so our washer has never had to be seen by a repairman. When it gets ill, parts are ordered from the online parts store and inserted lovingly into it in the comfort of its own home. In its long life it has had only a handful of repairs that I can recall. Early on we had to replace its tacky plastic control dial with a sturdy metal one. And there was the Agitator Dog incident, and also the Spring Failure woozies. Other than that it has remained quite remarkably healthy.

I think it does suffer from some feelings of stress which it resorts to taking out on our clothes. Whirlpools with direct drive agitator systems are like that...sort of the stressed-out firstborn children of their species. Our clothes have been wearing out faster than they should have ever since we've had this washer, but I have been in denial about it because it gets the clothes so clean.

The Spring Failure woozies happened in 2005. One day Natalie and I were doing laundry and found that we couldn't get even the most normal load of laundry to stay balanced. When we pulled a sopping wet load out of the washer to try to get it straightened out we found that the washer tub was swinging around rather wildly. Tom took the whole washer apart and found out that the springs that hold the tub in place had come loose from the frame of the washer because that section of the frame had rusted. He replaced the springs, drilling new holes to attach them...but he said that the next time they came loose they would not be fixable.

Well, that next time might be upon us. Lately the washer has been having a lot of trouble balancing, and the tub is swinging a bit too freely to be good. The other day I was reading some message boards about laundry and I read a post where a man said his washer had "joined the choir invisible". Our washer has not quite reached that point, but it is definitely pining for the fjords, if you know what I mean.

So, in our house, that means research is in order. And researching I have been! Did you know that the government (the same ones who brought us low-flow toilets) have gotten into regulating energy and water usage in washers? Now, I know what this kind of regulation means for toilets, but what I can't seem to figure out is what it means for washers. It sounds like manufacturers have had to change the rinsing procedure, and now instead of filling completely with water the washer will spray water on the clothes whilst spinning. This part concerns me because we have allergies and skin irritations and getting our laundry thoroughly rinsed is helpful in dealing with those things.

Then there's the whole issue of electronic controls on washers. Is it really a good idea to put a circuit board on an appliance that generates that much moisture? We've had problems with boards on a stove because of heat and moisture, so we're not thrilled with the idea of similar problems on a washer. Also, these new controls seem to be designed with some sort of laundry-challenged blithering idiot in mind. I know how to do laundry, thank you very much, and I know how I want to do my laundry. I want to assess the laundry situation and determine on my own what type of cycle to run and for how long. I do NOT want to press little buttons that say things like "boy's denim jeans with light mustard staining and heavy clay on knees". When the washer starts loading itself, handing the washed clothes over to the dryer, and the two of them cooperate on the folding and putting away...then it can take over making the decisions about how things are going to be washed.

So, as I said, research is under way. I've been haunting the Laundry Room forum at Garden Web. This is a scary place indeed. So far, what I've managed to learn is that there are people who are very fiercely attached to their washers and dryers. I've also discovered that to question the efficacy of different brands of laundry appliance, or to question whether front-loaders or top-loaders are better, is to start a holy war that nearly rivals the Mac vs. PC battles.

Anyway, I soldier on despite these obstacles. Because, of course, I'm a perfectionist, and buying a less-than-perfect washer is simply unthinkable. Right now I'm leaning toward a very simple, mechanically-controlled Speed Queen with no wonderful bells and whistles. I haven't seen one in person yet, though, so it's possible that might change my mind. I also need to pick the brains of the salesman (I almost typed salesperson, but it's always a man) about the water restriction issue.

And I shared all this with you, my faithful readers, because I knew you would want to know. :)

*Petra fans may feel free to commence humming rhyming songs now.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't Think and Bathe...or shower..

When you have distractions all around you all day long it can be hard to think. Human children follow you around saying things like "Mom, Mom, Mom....Mom...I...I forgot what I was going to tell you." Feline children follow you around informing you that the food bowl is empty again, and this house is boring, and no they don't want to go outside, well maybe they do but first let's stand here with the door open and think about it. The phone rings and annoying recordings tell you to vote for this candidate, or pay your overdue bills (if your name is Morton Vixleferber, and if it's not why did he give us this phone number?), or remember to get your teeth cleaned on Tuesday, and you have library books to pick up, and so forth.

So, when you finally get in the shower at night and the downpour of water drowns out all that distraction, it is tempting to use that time to think...to ponder...to debate options in your head...

I did that Monday night. I had a bunch of things churning in my brain, and I let them keep churning while I enjoyed a nice warm shower. I was still thinking as I toweled off and prepared to step out of the tub. That was the point at which it would have been prudent for me to shut down the brainstorming for a second or two to give my attention to getting myself safely out onto dry land. I didn't.

With my mind going 127 mph about something, I stepped out onto the rug with my right leg. My left leg should have followed smoothly along on the next step, but it didn't. Instead my big toe and the two next in line caught on the edge of the tub. Because of the principles Newton expressed in his First Law of Motion, the rest of my body kept moving and at a pretty fair clip at that.

May I just say here..."OUCH!!" Not only did I hurt those poor toes pretty fiercely, I pulled a muscle or group of muscles all the way up my leg to my hip joint. And, of course, two seconds after it happened I realized it was something stupid that I could have prevented by paying a little more attention to what I was doing.

I took some ibuprofen and felt sorry for myself. Tuesday it didn't feel too bad and I got around the house just fine, with an occasional gasp of pain when I stepped the wrong way. Wednesday I woke up and it was a lot worse. Why does the body work that way? Weird. Maybe it had something to do with the cold front that was coming through.

At any rate, Wednesday meant more ibuprofen, less walking around, and staying home from prayer meeting that night. Because, ironically, while it hurt quite a bit to walk around, it hurt even more to sit still in a socially-acceptable position. Today is Thursday and I can still feel it but I can tell it's getting better. I can bend my toes now without them hurting and I can walk without limping if I walk carefully.

Maybe I need some sort of waterproof decal to put in the shower. "Stop Thinking Before Exiting" Hmm...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dinnerware Philosophy

Okay, before I wade in here, let it hereby be known: I want comments on this post. Please! Pretty please with sugar on top! I don't care if you comment anonymously; I'll approve any comment so long as it's decent and not spam. I want some opinions, and I want those of you who think you don't have an opinion on this to come up with one and share it with me.

BTW, this is one of my random posts, so I expect that the comments might be random, too. That's good, that's what we need here...y'all are my therapists...help me out here. Because it's random, I have to use bullet points. I think in bullet points.

•Do you know anyone else crazy enough to want to develop a Philosphy Of Dinnerware?

•We were talking around here the other day about inviting a group of 10-15 people over, and in the course of the discussion it came up that we do not have enough dessert plates or bowls to feed that many people.

•We've fed dessert to a group that size before by using both plates and bowls. But if we were to serve something that specifically required a bowl or a plate, we would not have enough of either.

•We used to have enough of everything to feed 16 people.

•The set of 16 place settings were this neat swirly bistro-looking pattern in cobalt, spring green, and yellow on a white background. We got all 16 settings for $40 at K-Mart. We live large. (Before this we had pink and gray Pfaltzgraff, about which the less said the better.)

•After 10 plus years of use the K-Mart dishes got really nasty and chipped and scraped up. So I started out looking for something to replace them.

•My goal was to buy "everyday dishes" and use them for company also, but then start accumulating "good dishes" to use for company.

•Thanks to a series of fortuitous Ebay purchases, we ended up with a lot of blue transferware. We have enough dinner plates to feed an army, a handful of small plates, ditto small bowls, and a bunch of tea cups with fiddly little handles that infuriate men with large fingers.

So, that brings us to where we are today. Now, where I need help is this: I am overthinking this issue to the Nth degree. The simple way to handle things would be to get on Ebay and buy some blue transferware dessert bowls and plates. And also some cups with decent handles. But it gets sticky...so here are the philosophical/practical/stupid questions messing with my brain:

•Transferware does not seem to have been made in any kind of robust, manly, coffee mug shape.

•I dream of someday having china cabinet full of creamy ivory china with gold rims. In the china cabinet I would also have miscellaneous pieces of other china in different colors and styles which I would effortless combine with the basic ivory pieces to create beautiful "tablescapes" for all occasions.

•Tom is concerned that guests would feel uncomfortable eating on dishes with gold rims. Even though we know that "good china" is usually more durable than inexpensive stoneware, and even though those gold rims can go in the dishwasher. He still thinks we would be rude to make our guests feel uncomfortable by using them.

•I like too many different kinds of dishes to make up my mind. But if I buy a place setting of each thing I like, will the table look chaotic?

•If I have all blue and white dishes on the table is it overwhelming?

•Do people feel pressured to eat lightly if the plates are too small? The blue and white plates are a little over 9 inches; most modern dinner plates are at least 11 inches. Will my company feel like they are being put on a diet with small plates?

•In my opinion, most food looks good on blue plates. Am I just biased because I like blue? Do any of you hate the look of food on blue? In your opinion, what would be a better background color?

•I saw an online discussion recently where some people said that it is "snobbish" to use nice dishes when one entertains. These people recommended paper plates or inexpensive plastic plates to make guests feel comfortable.

•Do you notice dishes and tablesettings when you eat at someone's house? Or do you notice the food more? Or are you a conversation and people person? (I thought I noticed dishes, until Natalie and I tried to remember what kind of dishes several friends have and came up almost blank...and I know we've eaten off of something other than paper plates at these folks' houses.)

So, if you were a Dinnerware Counselor, what would you suggest I do? Please feel free to share your opinions even if you've not been in our house. I promise to take any and all suggestions seriously even if you say something like "carve bowls out of birchbark".

Speak out, speak up...vote for something that really matters. :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Perfectionism and the Amish...or perhaps not...

Lately I've been thinking about perfectionism. Why do we become perfectionistic? Is there a cure? Should we want to be cured? If I'm a perfectionist why is my desk a messy pit? If I'm a perfectionist why don't I have a hairstyle? Are my kids perfectionists because I made them that way or would they be otherwise? Is there any way to make my kids become more perfectionistic?

Anyway, these thoughts have been swirling around in the old gray matter for a while now. So, I thought this would make a perfect blog topic. Heh heh...

I even had the perfect little anecdote to start the discussion...to wit, the Amish and their quilts. I've been told a lot of times that Amish women deliberately make one mistake in each of their quilts to remind themselves that only God is perfect.

So, I was going to start off with this idea...and as I thought of it, the more irritated I got. How dare those Amish ladies think they are so skilled and so perfect that they have to PUT an error into a quilt! Isn't that basically saying "I could be perfect, as God is perfect, except I must stay humble so...whooops...deliberate humility mistake!" If I'm a perfectionist these gals are...are...(hmppphhhh).... Well.

Being a perfectionist (and knowing that certain people who read my blog are too, and will point out my errors) I decided I'd better just check and make absolutely sure about this Amish/quilt/error business. Uh...turns out it might just be an urban legend.

Okay, no more righteous indignation against the Amish. At least not for that. But it does give one pause to wonder why it is so easy to accept this legend as truth. It's not like most people would shake their heads and say "Oh no, Amish quilters wouldn't do that...they are so freeform and random and relaxed in their quilting. They would embrace mistakes as part of the artistic process and let the errors become a new art form. The Amish believe it's all good, man."

Likewise, this legend wouldn't be as believable about, say, the more abstract of abstract painters. "Oh, yes, see that error right there, that's to remind him to be humble. What do you mean, you can't tell what's error and what's art?"

I can't think of the perfect way to end this post. See how many humility errors you can spot.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Do I HAVE a brain?

Okay, so I forgot the MOST important thing I wanted to mention in the Valentine's Day post.

On Monday, Tom took the day off work so we could run around and shop and do fun stuff like that. In the morning while Natalie and I were getting some laundry and stuff done around the house, he redesigned my blog for me!

I love it; it is exactly what I wanted. The cat image in the banner expresses perfectly the whole idea of "the cat in the adage". The cat sits there, wanting to catch a fish, but afraid to get its paws wet..."letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would'". He even adjusted all the colors so the links and sidebars, etc. show up exactly the way I want them.

Aren't I lucky to be married to a Professional Web Designer?

Thank you, Sweetie!

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Wow, how does the time go by so fast?! I keep thinking "Oh, it has been a couple of days since I blogged, better get a post written." Of course when I looked this morning I realized it had been over a week. Yikes!

So, what is everybody doing for the lovely "Hallmark holiday" of Valentine's Day? Or is this really St. Valentine's birthday? (checking Google)

Okay, I'm back. This is really confusing. Apparently there was more than one "Valentine" who was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, and today is in honor of two, or possibly three, of them...depending on who you believe. Interesting. Also interesting that the day had nothing to do with love and romance until the time of Chaucer. Okay, so that's enough history. Anybody who wants more details can go look at Wikipedia like I did. :)

Tom and I went out for Valentine's Day Monday night...because that's the sort of romantic people we are. :) No, we actually went out early for two reasons. One, to beat the crowds, and two, because our babysitter had other clients wanting her services for tonight. We ate at Carrabba's and had a lovely meal and a good time getting to talk and enjoy being out together.

This morning I came out of the bathroom to find a bag of Lindt Extra Dark Chocolate Truffles on my side of the bed. I've never read any of those books about "love languages", but I think if I have a love language it is Dark Chocolate. Fortunately, Tom knows this.

Tonight we'll have a nice dinner with Colin. Maybe afterward we'll watch a Kipper video, or read the next chapter of "Runaway Ralph". It sounds like a good cozy evening to me.

Have a happy Valentine's Day! Oh, in Japan, women have an obligation to give chocolate to all their male coworkers today. There is something seriously wrong with that idea.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ten Things Tuesday

Rebecca's Ten Things Tuesday post this week is "Ten Things For the Home That I LOVE". I had some grand plan of posting about Super Tuesday and asking for comments about how the primaries are coming out. But that's really too far out of my realm, isn't it? Let's stick with the home stuff meme.

Ten Things For The Home That I LOVE

1. KitchenAid Mixer (mine is cobalt blue)

2. Blue and White transferware dishes

3. Walls painted in neutral colors in most of the living areas

4. Ceramic-top stoves

5. Ceiling fans

6. Cross-stitched samplers and pictures

7. Oak cabinets...any oak furniture, for that matter (yes, I know it's out of style!)

8. Small thin vintage bath towels

9. Book shelves full of books

10. Braided rugs

That was fun, but I had to keep editing the list to keep it to just 10!

Monday, February 4, 2008

What I Am Doing Today

**making bread

**catching up on laundry from the weekend

**watching Colin build with his Kapla blocks

**making yogurt (a 2-quart batch, we're going through it quickly lately with all the smoothies)

**researching savings accounts (anybody know anything about online banking with ING?)

**thinking about kitchens in general

**thinking specifically about countertops (how bad does Formica have to get before it's morally acceptable to replace it? how hard is it to install granite tile? how bad would a dark countertop look with black appliances? can Formica be painted and then coated with polyacrylic? and, if it can, how amateurish and weird does it look?)

**wondering how someone who likes O'Hare Airport can think of herself as Southern

**debating what to cook for supper...is 52 degree weather too warm for meatloaf?

**opening and shredding junk mail

**rescuing emails from Natalie from my spam folder...what does Earthlink know about her that I don't?

**thanking God for the rain even though it's making my sinuses hurt

It's an exciting life, I know, and not everybody would have the stamina to deal with it.

:)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Bacon

Last night we had a really good, really decadent supper. It was Natalie's night to cook and she made bacon, hardboiled eggs, and pancakes. The hardboiled eggs are there as a sort of Puritanical protein ballast. I don't know why.

The whole thing was very, very, very good. I ate two big pancakes and one small one, one egg, and a bunch of bacon.

Here's the problem, though. Today the whole house smells like...bacon. Natalie cooked the bacon in the oven, and she had the exhaust fan going the whole time. But the smell still managed to permeate the house.

This morning we opened up windows and doors and ran all the exhaust fans to try to air it out. It's a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit here, and it's raining. I ate breakfast (a COLD smoothie) wrapped in an afghan to try to stay warm. Natalie is wearing long underwear under her flannel-lined jeans.

Finally, I had had all I could take of the airing-out. I told Natalie to boil some vinegar and spices to clear the air instead. So, she closed everything up and did that, and it smelled really spicy and yummy while it was boiling.

But now the boiling is done, the windows are closed, we are finally thawing out. And the house smells....like cinnamon...and bacon.

When I held the cat a few minutes ago, her fur smelled like bacon.