Monthly Archives: September 2014

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Hope for Hallmark® a Sabbatical from Likes…

It’s can’t be that difficult to actually write, with pen and paper a proper letter, or at least a note… of thanks.  The greeting card industry has survived for the last century, on sales of not only the printed version of birthday greetings,  but cards to celebrate other noteworthy (yes, pun is intended) occasions.

Store shelves and twirling spinners are filled full of lovely embellished cards, some worthy of framing and hanging on the wall. Every retailer seems to offer up the opportunity, lest one forget to commemorate an anniversary or console a friend who is under the weather.

Clever are the retailers who have “captive customers” such as those milling around at the local carwash. I admit to finding some of my best cards in these establishments. I had plenty of time too.  Not only were they washing my car, but changing the oil and checking the other fluids.

Ever intrepid, my local Danny’s Family Car Wash even had a windshield chip repair technician on site. I could read “War and Peace” whilst the tiny dings on my windshield were repaired and my windshield rendered safe from further damage. Unsealed chips might develop into unsafe cracks at any time and I needed to be prepared.

Back to my rant about how hard is it to actually communicate in written form. Many were certain that using email would be the death blow for the US Mail. Fortunately, spam in the form of mass mailing circulars will keep these couriers moving on the swift completion of their appointed rounds for many years to come.

When email to a friend failed to elicit a response, I spied her on the side Chat Bar that tells me who is logged into Facebook and sent her a message. She responded immediately.

Facebook, it seems, is the new communication platform by which many of our friends, a term used quite freely these days, utilize to spread their news, opinions, and post pictures of sometimes questionable taste.  Greeting cards are even posted on this massively viewed medium. Look out Birthday Alarm Greetings… your future may be in peril too.

I admit it… sometimes I have succumbed to clicking on the little thumbs up icon, better known as “liking”, when I felt compelled to let the friend know that I saw their post and enjoyed its content. I have even gone down the road of “sharing” posts of items that I truly “liked”.

My Home Page fills so rapidly with posts and people liking and sharing other people’s posts. One of my dear cousins recently called me out, for not responding to her comments on a post that I had commented on a day or so earlier.  I told her that some of my friends (she being a chief offender) post so prolifically that my fingers get tired scrolling down the screen trying to keep reading posts, as they pile into the column.

I can relate to another friend’s comment.   I feel like I am going down a To Do list each time I log into Facebook. I am compelled to click like on every post, so that my friends know I am paying attention.”  I liken this compulsion to the old anonymous doodle, KILROY WAS HERE, the graffiti made popular during WW II. Clicking on the little thumbs up or down lets everyone see that you were there… that you did indeed read the post and have marked it as such, so that all the rest of the friends know you were there as well.

Come on, admit it, you have clicked on the list of likes to see who else read an item posted by one of your Facebook friends.

A new concept is being shared around on Facebook… taking a hiatus from clicking on the LIKE button!

Imagine this. People are beginning to realize how hollow and mindless their attention to and appreciation for life events has become.  One friend stated she would stop for a week. On a later post she shared how difficult it was to not click LIKE! Maybe there is hope for the greeting card industry yet.

Spoiler alert!  I did notice that Hallmark has a Facebook page… along with all the other card companies.

I do see this as such a good step in a direction. It might lead to all sorts of random acts of communication. Two friends could call each other. OK… they’d probably TEXT. Make a  plan to get together. They’d sit down and have an actual conversation over a cup of coffee. A rich life experience, happening in person, in the moment, between two human beings!  WOW!

I was so taken with this idea that I “liked” it and “shared “it with all my friends on Facebook!

FB likes

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Pickles!

Blackberry Crumble CurriedRiceTofuSalad

I opened the veggie bin and stared into the empty space. Until recently it was full of carrots, celery, Jalapeno peppers and onions. I’d checked the inventory earlier in the week, when I did my usual shopping trip. I had plenty of supplies to complete my planned meals for the week and the dishes I planned to take to my husband’s company picnic.

The software company my hubby is currently working for is delightfully social. The office manager schedules many well attended and very enjoyable events throughout the year for their employees and families. The Summer Company Picnic is a highlight on the annual calendar.

Running a bit behind on my agenda, it was 9:30pm and I was about half way through the two recipes when I discovered the ingredient deficiencies in the refrigerator’s storage drawers.

I was signed up to make my Curried Rice and Tofu salad. I needed lots of celery, onions and there was not a single stalk or bulb in sight. My rice was already steamed and in the bowl, dressing well under way.   My trusty Cuisinart, fitted with the proper slicing blade, stood on the counter ready for the stalks of celery to be fed down its chute. All that was missing was that celery!

In addition to my contribution for the shared dishes, there was another fun event, the Dessert Contest! I had entered my EVOO Cake last year in the Most Unusual Ingredient segment and lost out to the office’s baking Diva. Not only did she win the most creative category with an adorable Alligator cake but she beat me out with her “to die for” Guinness Stout Cake with Irish whiskey ganache and Irish Cream frosting.  Oh yeah. I went back for seconds on that one.

I was doubly determined this year.   However this year’s entry for Most Unusual Ingredients would be Just Plain Ordinary Blackberry Crumble without the tiny minced jalapeno peppers lurking amongst the dark juicy fruit under the crispy oatmeal laced crust. Yup, you guessed it. Not a single pepper in the crisper!

Glancing at the top shelf I saw several Quart jars of pickled veggies! My celery, onions and even the Jalapeno peppers, my “unusual ingredient” that I hoped would win the dessert category by the same name, were all floating in pickle brine!

My husband has been on a pickled beet kick. Several weeks prior, he’d filled every available canning jar with wonderful fresh tasting beets and onions. They were truly yummy too! Our deck holds several flats of baby lettuce and chard. A bumper crop of greens this season has supplied us with super fresh salads and smoothies that must brim with extra vitamins that are supplied by the freshly picked greens and mint. His savory beets piled on top of fresh lettuce, topped with walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of Dijon Vinaigrette are a perfect summer meal.

Apparently the enthusiasm and praise for the pickled beets spurred my husband on to greater culinary preservation feats!  He had requested on the “Shopping List”, a magnetized pad, attached to the front of the refrigerator, cauliflower and eggplant.

This is our system for communicating to whoever does the shopping.  Desires for future dish ingredients or the notice of a recently depleted item, like celery or pickling spices, for instance, can be written down on this pad, with the pencil also attached to the front of the refrigerator by a magnet.

Didn’t happen! Hey, no system is perfect.

No worries. Our local grocer is open until 11:00pm every night.  I stomped down the stairs and in my best “Princess Obvious” voice stated “There is no celery! I need celery and green onions for the Curried Rice salad.”

Husband looked up from his book. “Can’t you get them at the store tomorrow morning?”

“I am in the middle of the recipe, right now. The Cuisine art is out and ready to slice the celery. And … this is for YOUR work’s company picnic. You signed me up for this and I am doing my best here…”

His big sigh interrupted my tirade. “Can’t you just go?”

I subscribe to a philosophy similar to that of shopkeepers who display signs that say” You break it, you buy it!”

“You are the one that used up ALL of the celery and onions!”

“OK, OK… Is there anything ELSE, since I am going to the store in the middle of the night, I only want to make one trip!”

“Yes! All of the Jalapeno peppers have disappeared as well, so I will need at least two.”

He returned, almost 45 minutes later. The QFC is about 1 mile from the house.  I could have walked there and back.  On wheels, I could have done the week’s shopping and even had time to gas up my husband’s shiny black V6 Jetta on the return trip.

He plunked down two paper grocery bags. I decided this was not the moment for the Ecology lecture about recyclable grocery bags. I know there cloth bags are on the front seat of his car, I put them there, a subtle reminder. Colored bright lime green and yellow, maybe he is too manly to tote them into the store. I make a mental note to switch out his bags to a more discrete khaki shade.

“Beer was on sale. There was a new one from Elysian, called “Loser”… celebrating 25th anniversary of Sub Pop Records. This stuff is normally $14 for a 6 pack; it was on sale for $7.99!”

I bit my tongue, resisting the temptation of a cheap shot regarding the aptly named beer.

The picnic was wonderful. Held on a park just above a beach looking out to the Puget Sound, the blue skies and sun a perfect backdrop for all the sail boats, soothed any leftover animosity.

Our two Elkhounds took 1st and 2nd place in the Navigating the Dog Obstacle Course.  They were the only two entries, but I can’t fault them for that part! They won fair and square.

Best of all, I won the “Most Creative Dessert” category.

Here are the recipes. Bon Appetite!

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Little Giant, Big Brain

I have been in deep weeds this summer helping my son Nick Baker finish up a book called “Turtle.” It is Nick’s story of being made fun of by kids in his grade school. Nick was so different from the rest of children at his grade school and 25 years ago he was truly a novelty on campus. Using using a long white cane to find his way earned him the nickname “Turtle”.  This is an illustrated book. Nick is both blind and on the Autism spectrum. He truly needed my eyes and editorial skills to help complete his book.

cover with text

Great news! The book is finished and is selling well. We have it uploaded to Amazon for sale as both print book and Kindle EBook. Local press has been kind to Nick. A recent feature on My Edmonds News TV garnered the attention of the local NBC affiliate, KING 5. They sent a reported and cameraman out and did an in-depth interview. The show was to air the next day.

 

My son set his alarm for 5:00 am, the stated beginning time for the King5 morning news broadcast. He promised to keep the volume low, knowing that Mom and Dad’ alarm would remain at the usual 7:00 am rising time.

 

True to his word, we didn’t hear a peep. By 7:00 am our bedroom TV set tuned into the King 5 morning show. Excitedly watching for the next part of the segment that featured Nick, I shouted; “He’s on now!” My husband was in the shower. Steam blew out from the bathroom as he leaped out, towel in hand, to get a look at our family celebrity.

We have ultra sensitive smoke detectors in our home. The weirdest things will get them going… like steam from a hot shower. Yes, they all went off. The units must all belong to the same “union”, when one goes off, they all follow suit and start emitting obnoxious beeps!

Instead of seeing my son on TV, we were running around swinging doors, turning on fans; doing whatever we perceived would make the noise cease and desist. Nick raced up the stairs to see what was happening. He started shouting “I’m going to call 9-1-1”…which of course was not the best idea. Our two dogs were affected by this shrill noise too.  They barked in tandem with Nick. Their voices added to the pleas for the pandemonium to cease.

 

I stopped dead in my tracks.  As calmly as possible given the uproar in our home, I reviewed with Nick the circumstances under which it was permissible to call 9-1-1. He agreed that he did not smell smoke, or feel any heat from a possible fire. Most importantly there were two other adults were present who had the skills to detect a possible fire or other emergency.  He did relent and hand over the phone. I was truly grateful that he doesn’t have a personal cell phone, or the next sound I’d likely hear would be our doorbell, rung by a local police officer.

A side note here… our name is probably on the “list” of 9-1-1 prank callers. We have had this happen more than once. On the off chance that Nick might still waiver, I took the upstairs base phone off the hook.

The fans and doors seem to increase the smoke detectors activity. Each time things calmed down and we’d breathe a sigh of relief…shrill squawks would again fill the air. Eventually the air cleared of the stimulus and silence prevailed. But wait, now a different beep was heard, the low battery signals. This extra activity had depleted the 9 volt back up battery in two of the units.

This was an easy fix. The ladder and some fresh batteries were all I needed. The situation seemed well in hand as my husband dashed out of the door and backed the car out of our garage.  I waved and silently prayed that he was able to catch the last bus downtown.

The ladder is called Little Giant, but a Big Brain is required to set it up. If that brain belongs to engineering major who’s of a brawny build, so much the better! I wrestled the Little Giant® MegaLite™ Aluminum Ladder out of its storage spot and into the house. “Lite” in the name surely doesn’t mean the physical weight of the ladder.

The brochure (which was nowhere to be found at that moment) says how versatile and easy it is to use. One can configure it to just about any position, like reaching the Smoke Detector mounted on an 18 foot high ceiling in my dining room.  I set up the ladder in the usual A-frame position. I use this ladder about twice a year, so the mechanism to change positions is a little dicey.  I simply could not get it into position to reach that unit located on the 18 foot ceiling.

All the while the random beeps from the low battery continue to drive us crazy. I’d yet to have a cup of coffee, the dogs had not been fed and the show’s last segment is now over. My son, who also hasn’t breakfasted either, heads upstairs. He announces, in case my ears were no longer working, that the smoke detector needs a new battery.

This was the exact moment I’d opened the drawer where our batteries are kept. A crunching sound from a crinkled, empty package, which once held 9 volt Duracell batteries, greeted my ears.

I was on the internet in a flash, Googling: “Handy Man” in Edmonds, WA.  Twenty five minutes later my knight in shining armor, actually clad in jeans and a sweatshirt, arrived to silence the squawks for good.  In no time he had properly aligned the settings and mounted the Little Giant ladder, now stretched to its full height. The joy of not hearing the beeps was short-lived.

My knight on the shining ladder determined that the unit doesn’t just need a battery, it needs to new, as in be replaced with a new unit. The expiration date on this particular one is 2011…oops!

I mentally schedule a stop at the local Home Depot into my rounds for the day. My list included 9 volt batteries.

Much later, I sat down to write this post. I marveled at how our happy high; seeing Nick as the star of the segment on TV this morning, crashed into the reality of daily living on the spectrum.

Just when I thought it was safe to get back in the water…

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