Monday, January 28, 2013

Thrilled to death

Gettin' in gear
Our 3-year-old grandson from California has never driven our little battery-operated power cruiser before.
He's always been a thousand miles away when we had a grandma's carnival or summer party.
So Saturday, when I suggested we give Jack a spin in it after he'd exhausted our stash of toys and wanted to know "What else ya got?" his parents and Marc all said it was too cold, he was still too young and it was too dangerous.
"Piffle!" as my mom would say.
We moved the real vehicles, cleared a path and hauled out it out.
We put Jack inside and admittedly, he's a tad short.
Look out world!
To push down the gas pedal, he had to sit up close and stretch out his leg.
Steady as she goes
But he soon roared away with no trouble, right into a snowbank.
A few minutes later, after his dad and grandpa sorted things out, he took off again, flying down the sidewalk with this mixture of glee and terror on his small face.
He looked like he literally had a tiger by the tail and I had to hoof it to get out ahead of him to get pictures.
He drove to the west. He drove to the east. He went around the curve.
He discovered the radio and changed the channels.
Once he realized he was the master of his ship, he decided he was having unmitigated fun.
For probably 30 minutes, he stayed at the wheel, running at top speed, turning only as necessary and gaining confidence with each tiny mile.
He was so focused it was difficult to tell if he was really enthralled or just hanging on for dear life.
Outta' my way gramps
But at the end, when it was time to go and he had to get out, he said, "But I just want to go for a drive to the park!"
He cried too.
I think he's a fan.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Freezing at the flicks

It's one thing to get cold outside or when you run to get the mail in your bedroom fuzzy slippers.
It's another to freeze at the movies where people usually go to get out of the weather and get warm or cool off, depending on the season.
Marc and I are going to see films at the annual LDS Film Festival in Orem at the SCERA Center of the Arts.
And I guess, the budget doesn't allow for paying for heat.
The showhouse was frigid to start and then it got increasingly colder as the night wore on.
Perhaps those in charge thought the crowds would come in and warm up the place with body heat.
That didn't happen.
First of all, the crowds never materialized.
It was the smallest opening night crowd I've seen so far and I've been attending this event for years.
Then it started late. (I've never really understood how people who can make movies, using all kinds of high tech equipment, can have such problems getting a DVD projector to work.)
We were in our seats early — just in case there was a crowd — and then it took more than 30 minutes to begin.
It seems the festival producers wanted to show us a little preview piece they had put together to get us interested in some of the other movies coming our way.
The equipment gave them fits about that and we kept seeing little messages on the screen like "no storage found" and "the storage won't aggregate."
As a result, by the time the 7 p.m. movie started, it was after 7:30 and my feet were frozen.
The movie seemed very long (there's a review coming that explains that further) and so by 10 p.m. we were SO cold.
We came home, drank hot chocolate, bundled up in robes and blankets and went to bed early to get warm.
This morning as I write my review, I'm trying not to let my discomfort affect my opinion but I'm thinking maybe the festival organizers could offer to pass a hat for heat, whaddaya think?
It might help.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Smokin' 2

Oh, baby. I'm cookin' now!
Marc is always tough to surprise with a Christmas or birthday gift.
Either he'll buy what he wants himself a few days before the event or he guesses/finds/peeks at whatever I've hidden for him.
This year, however, I think I got him.
We'd noticed a little news story about a program called "Be The Chef" offered by Benihana Restaurants.
For a modest sum (it's only modest if you add in the cost of feeding four at the restaurant and the price of a lumpy red hat and crisp, white apron), a chef would train you and then you and your friends could come watch the show as he demonstrated new skills.
I signed Marc up.
Shielding the sharp
My daughter was dubious. "Does he like doing that?" she said when I shared my brilliant plan.
I thought so.
He's always making omelets and stir-frys and grilling outside. He enjoys food and loves kitchen gadget stores. His favorite show is "Diners and Dive-ins (is that right?)" on TV and given some free time, he'll watch whatever cooking show is on. He's kind of a cooking junkie.
So I paid the money and hoped for the best.
Saturday night we got to see the results.
We all trucked up to Benihana's in Salt Lake and waited to see Marc come out in his cooking costume.
He looked good in his apron and hat and utensil belt.
I was a little worried about the very sharp knives and very hot grill he'd be working with. Sometimes Marc can be dangerous with kitchen toys.
The rice, about to be tossed. I like the lip.
But "Louise" came out with him and stood by Marc's side as he chopped, cut, sauted and swirled.
He spun an egg and broke it into a bowl with one hand. He created a little onion volcano and made it smoke. He deftly cut up little shrimp and big shrimp and steak.
Laying out the shrimp
The only problem we could see was a lot of smoke, Marc's station billowed gray smoke more than the ones around us.
Apparently he used too much oil prepping the grill, according to Louise.
And he was a touch slow. Louise started to advise him to move ahead, don't worry about this and that and keep it going. (The restaurant was getting busy and they needed our table.)

Cutting off the tails

Marc's puffing volcano
But I counted it as a huge success. Marc was beaming the whole night through and we were all impressed. Our meal was delicious.
And now he has another fall-back career, right?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saving time and money

After we threw away the cheap, plastic tablecloths I had bought at the dollar store for our family Christmas party, I thought: Why not make some?
Instead of wasting $5-$6 every year for thin, unimpressive tablecloths, I could construct some reusable, colorful cloths.
After all, I have a new sewing machine I'm still breaking in.
I figured I could buy some fabric in Christmas patterns and colors at the after-season sales and come out ahead.
So the journey began.
Christmas cloths
I looked for a pattern. (I should have kept one of the dollar cloths to provide one but too late, they were already at the bottom of the church's dumpster.)
I settled for a well-worn pattern bought about 25 years ago that was close to what I needed. It was all fluffy and frothy with a huge ruffle all around.
I would leave off the mighty ruffle and just go for a simple 84-inch round.
I started figuring out how much yardage that might be.
The pattern back suggested 4 1/2 yards each.
That seemed like a lot so I started working it out on my cutting board, tape measure in hand.
It came out to...let's see about 4 1/2 yards each.
I headed to the fabric store and bought several bolts (at least it felt like that) of red and green polished cotton material.
I came home and cut out six tablecloths.
I sewed the side pieces to the middles. I ironed the seams flat.
Then I decided to trim the edges. It would take 6 1/2 yards each for lace or dangly pompoms or braid. (At $3-$5 a yard, that would come to a painful amount.)
Then I remembered my machine came with 60 decorative stitches.
So now I'm going round and round, day after day, folding, ironing and stitching the hems in little flowers, diamonds and scallops.
I've bought six spools of thread and four more bobbins so I don't have to keep running out.
I've bought a storage bin for the finished product.
So far, let's see, I've spent about $80 for fabric, $12 for thread, and $6 for a storage bin.
The tablecloths will be pretty and I'm not sorry but how many years will it take me to come out ahead?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Warping personalities

There's a storyteller, Donald Davis, who comes to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival almost every year who tells some delightful stories about his childhood and growing up pains.
He shares one about he and his friend getting into trouble for jumping up on the desks, tossing erasers and generally creating havoc in the class room.
The punishment included a spanking from first the school principal and secondly from his mother who happened to be his second-grade teacher as well.
One line stands out for me: "They didn't care then about warping our little personalities."
In retrospect, it makes for a slightly more dramatic story to include the spanking on little 7-year-old bare bottoms.
But I'm thankful that schools have come to recognize that swatting children with paddles or rapping their knuckles with yardstick, even setting them in a corner with a dunce cap on their head, is wrong.
Over the years, I had to fight many a battle to keep some teachers from "warping their little personalities."
I had head-strong kids (where do they get that from?) and so there were several instances where the teacher, my child and I came into conflict.
My firstborn, Dana, was so focused on doing everything perfectly so that his fourth-grade teacher decided he needed to learn he couldn't always get an A. She made it her mission to teach him about dealing with failure here and there. She gave him little black dots on his desk when he talked out of turn or laughed at the wrong moment.
For him, black dots were the mark of the devil. He was devastated by each one.
For her, it was merely a light kind of discipline designed to make him conscious of his mistakes.
We switched teachers.
My third child was busy and focused...if you could get him focused in the right direction, he could change the world. He was blessed with a teacher who understood his energy and needs. She asked for him for three years in a row and he blossomed. Today he's still busy and focused but also confident.
My fourth baby was dyslexic before dyslexic was cool. His teacher decided he just wasn't trying hard enough and she and I and he battled for weeks before I pulled him out of her class.
His next teacher recognized his needs and provided overlays and extra time for doing his work, bless her.
So now, as various grandkids come up against teachers who discourage rather than nurture, I say...
Get them outta there, now! You won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


A'coming down the track
Marc has taken great care of the Lionel train his brother got for Christmas some 60-plus years ago.
He saved it after his big brother discarded it and several years after he came to American Fork he wrote a newspaper column about it.
Someone read it and called him up to offer help restoring it, then took the engine and went through it and got it working again.
And so, we now have this ancient, heavy black steam engine train that circles our Christmas tree every holiday season on a track held together with paper clips.
It goes around and around past our little Christmas houses and stores and stops at the candy station.
It entertains the older grandchildren and scares the little ones until they figure out it's harmless. (They are more dangerous to it than it to them.)
Tiny fuzzy bears and rabbits get to ride in the open rail car and sometimes Santa from the ceramic village gets a turn.
An engineer and his apprentice
It's always fun and despite some occasional derailments from trying to go too fast around the corners, it keeps chugging along.
It's sturdily built so it can take some loving from the wee ones.
The headlight still works.
All five cars link together and have their wheels.
But it stopped smoking a few years ago.
Marc had read somewhere that the smoke tablets were deemed to be deadly if small children ate them. He was pretty sure they were completely unavailable.
The teeny, tiny tablets
However, somebody with an eye for a profit had bought up a bunch and were now offering them on Ebay. Only $15 plus shipping for a bottle that cost $1.50 years ago.
He ordered one and it came in a great, big box, this tiny bottle with about 40 pellets inside.
We set up the train track. We put a pellet in the chimney. We started up the engine.
Around and 'round it went until it got hot and "lo and behold, smoke!" little trails and donuts coming from the engine and it's fun.
Who cares that it's very expensive smoke?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Too cold for 'cycling

What's wrong with this picture?
I thought our recycling bin looked funny as I pulled out of the driveway yesterday on my way to a funeral.
There seemed to be part of it missing.
I could see a gaping, oddly shaped hole on the side.
And there was a blue piece of something in the road.
It took me until I was down the road aways to realize it was broken, a piece had apparently fallen out when they hucked it onto the truck to empty it.
(That's says something about how cold it was the night before. It must have made the plastic so brittle it just shattered when smacked down.)
So I dutifully called up the recycling people and reported my discovery.
They didn't seem overly concerned.
"Well," said the lady at the other end of the line. "We have a truck that comes 'round to make exchanges and drop-offs every Friday."
That's good, I thought, since it's already Wednesday.
The missing piece
"But not this Friday because of the holiday so it'll be next Friday before we can pick it up," she continued. "If they don't get it, just keep putting it out until they do."
I calculated in my mind. That's at least a week away and we regularly fill up our recycle bin faster than our regular waste bin because we take so many newspapers.
Maybe with a little planning, we could make it until then.
But she went on.
"If we don't get it on that Friday, just keep putting it out until we do," she said.
OK. That would mean every Friday for the foreseeable future we would be setting an empty container on our curb hoping the Good Fairy would take it away and leave a new one.
Our neighbors would get all mixed up because we all rely on one another to see if it's recycle day. If one bin is put out, everybody's comes out.
If it's empty, it'll blow over and away.
If we fill it, they won't take it. This could go on for weeks.
Such a dilemma. Such a pickle (especially in light of the world's real problems).
I think I'm going to have to arrange to borrow space in somebody's.
Can we use yours?