Thursday, December 27, 2007

Skidboot, the World's Smartest Dog

A friend sent me this link about Skidboot, the World's Smartest Dog, and I was so impressed that I visited his web site.

Rest in Peace, Skidboot. You really did have a wonderful life and continue to inspire others.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Today is the big day! Our family always celebrates on Christmas Eve at my brother's and we're all very glad the doc gave us the OK for my uncle to leave the rehab for a few hours so he can celebrate with us.

I checked NORAD Tracks Santa at 9:30 a.m. and Santa had reached Fuji, Japan. The site is updated every 5 minutes and lets you follow Santa's trip on the map. There's even a link to track Santa in Google Earth!

As you can see, our kitties are waiting for Santa. I think it's funny that Sophie really likes this pillow:

When she's not sleeping under the Christmas tree or playing in the empty Christmas tree box (aka the best toy in the world), Saffron likes to sleep in our Christmas village:

Have you ever wondered how Santa gets around the world with all those stops in just one night? Mark Leiknes tried to answer it yesterday in his Cow and Boy comic:

Actually, NORAD Tracks Santa has the best answer. They even have Santa's e-mail address!

One more link and I'll leave you to your Christmas celebration: I got this interactive eCard from Ashland University from a friend and it's so beautiful I just had to share. Enjoy!

I hope everyone has a peaceful, joyous Christmas and happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Charities to Avoid

Want to help veterans this holiday season? Be careful which organizations you donate to! I just read in the Dec. 13 Flint Journal that Eight veterans charities gave less than a third of the money raised to veterans! Refer to Where to Give As Veterans Get Shortchanged By Charities (by Fox News) before you donate.
Here is the American Institute of Philanthropy's report card for veteran and military charities. (This list was printed with the article in The Flint Journal on Dec. 13 but I have not found this convenient list online, not even on the American Institute of Philanthropy's web site!) The letter grades are based on the charities' fundraising cost and percentage of the money raised that was spent on charitable activities:

Air Force Aid Society = A+
American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation = F
American Veterans Coalition = F
American Veterans Relief Foundation = F
AMVETS National Service Foundation = F
Armed Services YMCA oif the USA = A-
Army Emergency Relief Fund = A+
Blinded Veterans Association = D
Disabled American Veterans = D
Disabled Veterans Association = F
Fisher House Foundation = A+
Freedom Alliance = F
Help Hospitalized Veterans/Coalition to Salute America's Heroes = F
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund = A+
Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation = F
National Military Family Association = A
National Veterans Service Fund = F
National Vietnam Veterans Committee = D
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society = A+
NCOA National Defense Foundation = F
Paralyzed Veterans of America = F
Soldiers' Angels = D
United Spinal Association's Wounded Warrior Project = D
USO United Service Organization = C+
Veterans of Foreign Wars and Foundation = C-
Veterans of the Vietnam War & The Veterans Coalition = D
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund = D
VietNow National Headquarters - F
World War II Veterans Committee = D
Shameful, eh? Especially during the holidays when everyone wants to help our soldiers!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Waiting for Santa

Need something to do while waiting for Santa? Here are some fun Christmas web sites that I enjoy.

The North Pole ( has lots of games, activities, and recipes. (Thank you to everyone who e-mailed me the link to the cookie recipes!) You can even have Santa write a letter to a special kid!

Norad Tracks Santa also has games and activities plus you can track Santa's progress around the world on Christmas Eve (now includes a gadget you can add to your iGoogle). Current Santa countdown: 2 days, 18 hours.

The White House Christmas theme this year is Holiday in the National Parks. The site includes photos, interesting info about decorating the White House for Christmas (I wonder how I can volunteer to help? That would be a blast!), pictures of previous Christmases at the White House, and, of course, the latest BarneyCam holiday movie. I love these little holiday movies featuring the First Pets and look forward to the new one every Christmas. (I wonder how I could get that job? Wouldn't it be fun to take pics/movies of the White House, Barney, Miss Beazley, and Kitty?)

Speaking of the White House, the History Channel's History of Christmas web site includes a video about Christmas in the US (did you know Thomas Jefferson was the first President to celebrate Christmas in our nation's capital?) -- and lots of other good info.

All Things Christmas explains Christmas traditions around the world, with stuff for kids and adults.

For pretty Christmas desktop photos got to the Webshots Christmas gallery. This is where many of my cool desktop pictures come from -- and it's free!

Enjoy theses web sites and have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas in Arlington

I got his e-mail from a colleague and just had to share. I checked it out on the Urban Legends Reference Page and it's true. Follow the link for more details and video.

God bless our soldiers and those who love and remember them!

I had no idea this was done. I thought you might want to see it.

Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.
Know the line has held, your job is done.
Rest easy, sleep well.
Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held.
Peace, peace, and farewell...

Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

Please share this with everyone on your address list. You hear too much about the bad things people do. Everyone should hear about this.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Good Day

Everyone is having a good day today! When I saw my uncle Thursday he alternately thought he was at home, knew he was in rehab, or wasn't sure where he was. Today he was totally clear and understood everything, including the fact that he needs to get well enough to go home. He asked how many days until Christmas, wanted to get cash to put in everyone's Christmas cards, and wanted me to be sure to take all the supplies from his house so I could make Pecan Pies for Christmas. Wow! I hope he has many, many more such good days.

It's been a while since I posted an update about Saffron. After a rough day yesterday she, too, is doing well. Here she is in her Christmas village:

Yesterday we went to the vet to get her meds and quick check-up. She lost 3 oz. last week (which is a lot when you only weight about 5.5 lbs!) and has been scratching her ear for a couple of days. I tried wiping it out with baby oil and cottonball, but couldn't see anything.

At the vet's office Saffron decided she didn't want anyone to touch her, so they had to give her a whiff of gas to knock her out before her exam. (Poor baby!) It's a good thing they did: she has always had sensitive ears she won't let anyone touch and both were full of wax and infection (yeast and bacteria). They had to clean and medicate her ears, which they'd never be able to do if she were awake. While she was out the also did a blood test to see how her liver and other organs are doing, just in case the weight loss is due to her liver disease. She was only out for a few minutes, groggy for a few more, and wide awake and grooming by the time we went home. Her ears were immediately better and she was no longer scratching.

Good news: Dr. Joe called today with the blood test results. Some liver numbers are a little better, some are a little worse. Everything else is good, especially for a cat her age (11). Translation: she is holding her own. The weight loss was most likely due to the ear infections making her not feel well; we'll know for sure if/when she gains weight next week. We don't know how much time she has left, but for now her liver is OK, she's relaxed, happy, eating well, and enjoying life. That's all I want: for her to have the normal, happy life of a pampered indoor kitty.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dazzling Lights

This afternoon I finished my end-of-the-semester grading. To celebrate, my husband and I went to Rochester, MI to look at the beautiful Christmas light show downtown.

My photos came out a little blurry, so this one is from Big Bright Show: Rochester, MI from a web site called LEDgen Lighting. The site not only tells you everything you can possibly imagine about LED lights, it has a Featured LED Projects page with lots more displays like Rochester.

What's amazing is that every building in downtown Rochester looks like this! One of the merchants told me the city does all the lighting from installation to removal.

Here are a couple of close-up, one from the Big Bright Show:

...and one from me:

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this display, featuring Santa:

As I was admiring the Santa display a family walked by and a very small girl, eyes wide at all the Christmas lights, waved and said "Hi, Santa!" It was so sweet I almost cried. The moment was nearly spoiled when her older sibling told her, "Don't be stupid, that's not the REAL Santa!" -- until I realized he, too, still believed. What a joy to know that kids still believe in Santa and Christmas! I needed that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good News!

I went to the Social Security Administration this morning and it only took 15 minutes to fix the problem with my uncle's birth date. Apparently they have always had the wrong day for his birthday and no one noticed until now. The nice man who helped me updated it in the computer system, so it will be all set tomorrow.

I've been so busy trying to finish my end-of-the semester grading that I haven't seen my uncle for two days. Everyone who has visited (and the nurses) tell me he is doing better physically and he is less confused.

I'm still having a few problems connecting the university network and e-mail from home (a problem that started late last week) but it's much better. I just finished grading my three freshman comp classes and am posting everything in Blackboard now. Three classes down, one to go. Things are definitely looking up!

Monday, December 10, 2007


A friend sent this to me in the midst of all our recent troubles. Timely, eh? My grandma's side of the family is part Cherokee, so the title is also appropriate.

Cherokee Seasons

There was an Indian Chief who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest.., in turn.., to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the Winter, the second in the Spring, the third in Summer, and the youngest son in the Fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

The second son said "no" it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful. It was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.

He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

If you give up when it's Winter, you will miss the promise of your Spring, the beauty of your Summer, the fulfillment of your Fall.

Friday, December 07, 2007


My uncle was tired but OK when my husband and I stopped by to see him today. They let us interrupt his PT to say hello and saved his homemade lasagna for him to have with supper. He’s much less confused but exhausted from the PT. We all keep reminding him that he needs the PT to rebuild his strength.

We missed an eye doctor appointment after the TIA so yesterday I gave the nurse the info about his Rx eye drops (for an eye infection). Today my uncle asked if we could see the eye doc tomorrow and I assured him that he didn’t need a trip to the eye doc just for drops. The drops will probably arrive with his evening medicine and I hope they work quickly!

Bad news for me: Social Security says his birth date doesn’t match their records so Medicare won’t pay for rehab. He's 85, which means he signed up for Social Security over 20 years ago and has had no problems, and NOW suddenly there's a problem? HOLY CRAP! Now I have to deal with the Social Security Office. I tried calling them and their voice mail directed to the right form I needed to request but it will take two weeks to get here -- and God only knows how long to straighten out after I submit the form. I want to go to the Social Security Office and talk to a human being. Since I didn’t hear about this until Friday afternoon, guess where I’ll be going Monday? I don't need this on top of everything else that has happened, especially since I'm still trying to catch up from the last two weeks AND finish my end-of-the-semester-grading. It’s just one damn thing after another...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From Hospital to Rehab

I had a very long day today; we moved my uncle from the hospital to rehab. He was very tired but everything went well. He is still somewhat confused but a little better than yesterday. They are giving him a new medicine for dementia and I hope it will help. He starts his physical & occupational therapy tomorrow.

I hadn’t planned on needing to choose a rehab this soon but everyone I talked to recommended this as one of their top 2 or 3 choices. My father-in-law went with me to visit it before I made my final choice. In addition to rehab, it provides extended in case we need it later. Right now the plan is to have him there for rehab and hope he can get strong enough to go home. If he doesn’t improve or if he regresses, we can have him evaluated for Hospice because of his critical heart valve problem.

It’s a nice, clean, cheerful facility. Everyone we saw today (and we were there ALL day) looked happy and well-cared for. No residents were yelling or wandering aimlessly. They have nice family/TV rooms, several dining rooms, activities, a beautiful aquarium, and on-site therapy dogs. (You know I liked that part!) Right now, he’s happy and doing OK. I, on the other hand, am exhausted and heading to bed!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Still Thinking

Today, as I was finally heading work for the first time in nearly two weeks, the social worker from Genesys called. He said my uncle was being released tomorrow and I had to decide in a rehab facility today. When I got to work I frantically called my buddy Anita (a social worker who specializes in senior care) and asked her which rehab facilities she recommends and which to avoid.

Then I went to see my uncle. He's still confused, but is improving as they get his sodium level and electrolytes under control. That's a relief! His nurse told me there is no way he can be released tomorrow because he still has a tube in his chest. Another relief.

When I got home I called my uncle's friend Carol (another social worker who specializes in senior care) and got her input. At her urging, I called the social worker and told him which facilities I was considering and I didn't want him moved until it was safe to do so and I had time to make an informed decision, including visiting the facilities. Then I called the attending physician told him the same thing. He said I was doing the right thing and he wouldn't let the social worker push me into making a decision. Whew!

Interestingly, Anita, Carol, and the doctor recommend the same three facilities. That makes my job of selecting one a little easier! Now I just need to find time to visit them and choose one. I want to choose one where he can go for rehab but that also has extended care in case doesn't get well enough to go home. That's a horrible possibility and I dread making the decision.

Monday, December 03, 2007

No News But Lots to Think About

Yesterday my uncle was moved from the Cardiac ICU to a normal room. Over the weekend he was a little confused but yesterday he made no sense at all. The nurses said his sodium level was low and that could be contributing to the dementia. They stopped the IV and gave him a medicine to help rebalance his sodium level. It was awful to see him so confused.

A Genesys Social Worker came by to talk to me yesterday. He didn't know when my uncle might be released but gave me lots of info and lots of think about. Apparently my uncle will go from the hospital to Rehab (where he can get physical and occupational therapy). After that we'll have to decide if he can go home or if he needs a Extended Care Facility (ECF). He's always said he never wanted to end up in a nursing home, so I'll do everything I can to make that a last resort.

This is the last week of class, so I'm struggling to finish grading my students' final writing assignments. Between grading, my uncle's condition, finding/paying his bills, and thinking about all the social worker told me, I feel extremely overwhelmed! I hope tomorrow will be a better day.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Post-Surgery Update

I still don’t have time to answer you individually right now, but really appreciate all the nice e-mails and the moral support. Thank you so much! Knowing that everyone is concerned is very comforting. Here’s the latest news:

My uncle had surgery today to drain the fluid that was pressing on his heart. He came through surgery with no problems and was resting comfortably when I came home tonight.

The surgeon reminded me that this is temporary fix to make him comfortable. He heart valve is very old/damaged and we can expect to measure his survival in terms of months, not years. His heart could fail at any time, which is not surprising in someone who is 85. The heart valve problem also makes it more likely he will have more mini-strokes or a big stroke. Again, we already knew that. For now he is doing as well as can be expected. We aren’t sure how long he’ll be in the hospital, but I can’t think that far ahead yet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big Decisions

The good news: my uncle is not confused at all today. I haven’t seen him this lucid in months!

The bad news: he has fluid around his heart that is pressing on his heart. Without surgery to remove it he is likely to die from heart failure. The surgery, however, is very high risk and doing surgery negates his Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) wishes. There is a chance he will die during surgery, end up on life support, or in a vegetative state. He understands all that and says he has changed his mind about the DNR: he wants to risk surgery because there is a chance it will improve his quality of life and by having the surgery he is putting everything in God’s hands.

His friend Phil and I have medical power of attorney and agree that he is clear and lucid enough today to make his own decisions and we will abide by his decision to have surgery. I’m scared to death of what might happen but so relieved that I didn’t have to make that decision for him.

The docs left my uncle and I alone to talk and cry together and I’m sure he is lucid. They’ve moved him to Cardiac ICU; now we’re just waiting to see when the surgery will be.

I’ll post another update when we know more or when something happens. Thank you to everyone who has sent e-mail, good wishes, and moral support.

UPDATE We just talked to the surgeon; the surgery will be sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not so Happy Holidays

Thank you to everyone who noticed I hadn't posted lately and e-mailed to see if I was OK. I am OK but my 85-year-old uncle is not.

He spent Thanksgiving week in McLaren hospital with congestive heart failure. His first night home (with 24-hour care) he fell but did not get hurt. We saw his regular doc yesterday and he sent us for a CT scan to make sure all was well. It was, but then he had a TIA (mini-stroke) in the CT waiting room. Now we’re at Genesys Health Park (the closest hospital to the CT place). They did some more tests today and now we’re waiting to talk to the docs. My uncle is pretty confused and we don’t know what will happen next. It’s awful seeing him like this. He has no children, so I am the one taking care of everything.

To top things off, when I got to the hospital yesterday the key stuck in my ignition so I couldn’t turn the lights off and now my battery is dead. When I finally got home at 1 a.m., the toilet backed up (at least it didn’t overflow) -- and then the plunger cracked. SIGH. I feel like I’m cursed. At least the car is now at the dealership where they can take care of everything; the part the caused the problem is still under warranty. Maybe it’s a sign things are looking up.

Hope all is well with you and yours and that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Blog Funny

I almost laughed out loud at today's Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. Follow the link to read it online every day (and the past 30 days in the archive).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Coolest Vest Ever

Isn't this the coolest vest ever?!

My friend Sue made this for me. As you can see it's reversible, with a Christmas theme on one side and a winter theme on the other. All those little pieces are appliqued on! I understand how to do applique but between my tendinitis and my lack of patience with sewing, it would take me forever to do a project like this.

The Christmas side pictures Santa and his reindeer flying over a Tim Burtonesque village. They are from one of Sue's quilt books. The dancing elf is from another pattern. I love the way she combined the whimsical elements and all the colors!

The Winter side features snowmen and cats. Three of the snowmen and all of the cats are based on cross-stitch projects I am working on -- and they look like my cats! The other snowman looks like the snowman pin we made at the Stitchalot Weekend last month. These trees are from a book by a different quilting artist and they are so far beyond my skill level I can't even imagine making them.

If you can't tell, I just love my new vest! I'm so honored that Sue would take the time to make such a wonderful treasure just for me. Expect to see me wearing this often!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Aquadots Recall

In today's news: Aquadots recall after chemicals in toy converts to date rape drug.

Aquadots + saliva = GHB. You have to wonder what rocket scientist didn't think to test how these things would react with saliva.

Atlanta, GA 11/08/2007 03:47 PM GMT (FINDITT)

A popular children’s toy called Aqua Dots, also know as Aqua Beads, are being recalled after tests found chemicals in the toy that can turn into a date rape drug if swallowed. Aquadots were first recalled in Australia where they are marketed as Bindeez by Moose Enterprises. United States based manufacture Spin Master Toys are following suit after two children were hospitalized after swallowing the beads.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the Aqua Dots recall on Wednesday. Scientists say chemical coating on the beads can convert into the date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate when swallowed. They say the chemicals can induce seizures, unconsciousness, coma and death.

And Then There Was One...

Barbara West Daintin, one of the two remaining Titanic survivors, died on Oct. 16 and her funeral was held this past Monday. Apparently her family did not want news of her death released immediately; it was mentioned only briefly in the Mirror yesterday. Barbara was only a year old when Titanic sank and had no recollection of the disaster. She always refused to discuss it saying she wanted "nothing to do with the Titanic people." That's understandable since she lost her father in the disaster and her mother was devastated.

Millvina Dean, 95, who was just nine weeks old when Titanic sank, is the last survivor. She barely spoke about her family's Titanic experience until she was in her 70s. She has been a popular guest at many Titanic events since then.

May Barbara rest in peace and may Millvina have many more happy, healthy years.

UPDATE Nov. 13: Don Lynch found this description of the ringing of bells at Truro Cathedral for Barbara West Dainton.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Davison Landslide

In yesterday's election Mac Fortner was elected Davison Mayor in a landslide and only one incumbent remains on the City Council. Gee, ya think maybe everyone was a teensy bit upset over the canopy removal and the plans for an expensive new municipal center to replace the current city hall and library? :)

I'm so pleased with the election I am pasting the statistics and an article from today's Flint Journal below. (I've linked to them, but I noticed when I when I was updating the category labels on my old entries that some links are now dead. From now on I will paste stuff I never want to lose in at the end of the appropriate blog entry.)

The City of Davison Election Results (unofficial) courtesy of The Davison Index.

Fred "Mac" Fortner -- 452 -- 48.97%

James R. Hansen Jr. -- 246--26.65%
Charles Purdy--10--1.08%
Fred Rappuhn (I)--214--23.19%
Write-In --1--0.11%

City Council
Ralph Arceo (I)--363--15.21%
Tim Bishop--493--20.65%
Don Csutoras (I)--483--20.23%
James E. Hershberger--566--23.71%
Tom Lesnock--126--5.28%
Gordon Winther (I)--352--14.75%
Write-In --4--0.17%

Bad day for incumbents in Davison
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
By James L. Smith
Journal Staff Writer

DAVISON - A new mayor and two new City Council members will lead Davison after voters turned out several incumbents, including Mayor Fred Rappuhn.

Taking the city's top spot was Fred "Mac" Fortner, 60, former owner of Davison Home Bakery. Fortner won easily, nearly equaling the vote total of the three other mayoral candidates.

Fortner said residents told him a decision to explore building an expensive new City Hall was at the root of the change. He has opposed the City Hall project, promising to be conservative with the city's spending.

"I think Davison is ready for a change, and we're ready to pull the city back together," Fortner said. "I'm humbled, grateful, and blessed for all the support."

Fortner's win means Rappuhn, 53, a photo studio owner, will be off the City Council for the first time since 1982. Rappuhn finished third, behind Fortner and funeral director James Hansen.

A "surprised" Rappuhn blamed a controversy over the downtown canopy removal and streetscape improvements for his defeat.

"It was a canopy election," said Rappuhn, elected mayor in 2003. "I enjoyed the work I did with the city. It was fun while it lasted."

The news wasn't much better for council incumbents.

Only Don Csutoras, 64, one of three council veterans on the ballot, survived Tuesday's election. Challengers Jim Hershberger, 56, and Tim Bishop, 36, were elected.

Incumbents Ralph Arceo, 67, and Gordon C. Winther, 56, were defeated, along with challenger Tom Lesnock, 50.

Winther was appointed to his seat in June to fill the unexpired term of Kevin McKague, who resigned because of work requirements.

First up on the docket for the new council is the selection of a city manager to replace Pete Auger, who has accepted a job in Auburn Hills.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Charlevoix and Bullfrog Light Co.

On our way home from Traverse City we took a detour north to visit Charlevoix. My husband had never been there and we enjoyed lunch and a bit of shopping in the beautiful downtown. We had good timing: we arrived just in time to see the Beaver Island ferry unload (but weren't quick enough to get a picture!). Imagine the ferry was in the foreground and be sure to look at the cool house in the background and the beautiful fall colors:

We were surprised to find our favorite hotel in Traverse City, Pointes North Inn, is also in Charlevoix (Points North Inn Charlevoix)! We've decided that the next time we go up north, we'll stay in Charlevoix and visit Traverse City on the way home. I'm looking forward to that! I'd also really like to visit Beaver Island sometime. We like to go up north in the off season (Oct. - April) to avoid the mass of tourists. I assumed the ferry didn't run during the off season but was surprised to see it runs until Dec. 14!

Charlevoix is the home of Bullfrog Candles so we had to visit the Bullfrog Light Co. I've loved Bullfrog's beautiful candles for years. They are not scented but glow from the flame all the way to the base. You can see their many beautiful, seasonal patterns on the web site. I was amused to learn that the store isn't just their factory and store, it's their galactic headquarters. I even took a picture of the sign:

The store was smaller than I expected but it had a good assortment of all their candles plus a "seconds" room where you can purchase slightly imperfect candles at a discount. (Yes, of course I bought some!)

The saleslady was very friendly and helpful. When I told her how much I love Bullfrog Candles, which ones I owned, which I'd given as gifts, etc., she gave me $7 can of Bellagio Gourmet Mocha for being such a loyal customer. What a nice thing to do! Needless to say, I'm even more loyal now. :)

It was hard not to think about all the work (and stress) waiting for me at home but I really enjoyed our weekend escape.

Autumn Wine

One of the fun things about Traverse City is the variety of restaurants and wineries.

Saturday night we decided to try something different and made our way to Boone's Long Lake Inn. They not only get a demerit for the apostrophe error on their web site, I don't recommend the restaurant! After hearing how good it was, I was very disappointed. The rustic lodge is beautiful, popular, and the service was good, but I found the food quite ordinary, especially after eating at Amical (a French Bistro and one of my favorite restaurants) the night before.

My husband has been reading Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haig so this weekend we explored Traverse City's many wine shops look for unusual ingredients. You might think northern Michigan is too cold for grapes but the Leelanau Peninsula is full of Wineries! I hardly ever drink but do like very dry red wine. This weekend I discovered two new favorites at Cherry Republic. Their store in downtown Traverse City offers free samples of all their wines and they tell all about each one as you are tasting it.We tried two: Cherry Red Wine and Cherry Spiced Wine. Cherry Red is a very dry mix of 80% grapes and 20% cherries. It's not expensive and it is the best wine I've ever had. Cherry Spiced Wine has cinnamon and orange in it and is good at room temperature or heated (aka mulled wine). I'm so glad we found Cherry Republic! They also ship if we can't find a local distributor after our supply runs out.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Traverse City In November

We're getting away from it all in Traverse City this weekend. Because of the unusually warm October weather, the fall colors are now reaching their peak. The color is usually gone by now, so the timing was perfect for our trip.

This is the view from our hotel room. Isn't East Grand Traverse Bay beautiful?

Cool weather, pretty fall colors, a calming view, and the U of M-MSU game is on. Who could ask for more?

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Apparently I am going to have to stop reading/watching the news. I was already sad about Mozart when I read that Robert Goulet died Tues. from a rare lung disorder while awaiting a lung transplant.

Although I never got to see him play Sir Lancelot in Camelot, I love his songs in the album by the original Broadway cast.

In a fitting tribute, the lights on Broadway (and theatres everywhere) were dimmed in his memory Tues. night.

Rest in Peace, Mr. G. You'll always be Sir Lancelot to me.

Not Mozart, too!

In yesterday's news: Death Stalks the Meerkats Yet Again. Poor Mozart has also died -- and so has her mate, Carlos.

I'm so glad I'm not watching Meerkat Manor! I can't stand to see these adorable little critters (who sound just like my Saffron!) die. I don't know how the researchers working on Cambridge University's Kalahari Meerkat Project can stand it. They watch these little guys 24/7 for years and must be very attached -- as are fans who watch Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet.

Death Stalks the Meerkats Yet Again
The New York Times
Published: October 27, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 26 — Another tragedy has befallen the meerkats.

Mozart, the troubled daughter of Flower, the late matriarch of the Whiskers clan on the popular Animal Planet series “Meerkat Manor,” died at the end of Friday’s episode; it was the second death to shake fans of the show’s lovable but hard-luck stars in a month.

After Flower’s death — from a snake bite — in the Sept. 28 episode, fans flooded the Internet with tributes in poem, picture and song. Early this week, as news of Mozart’s demise leaked out, similar tributes began to crop up online.

For the uninitiated, “Meerkat Manor” traces the lives of the members of several colonies of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa as they procreate, fight for territory and scarce resources and race around looking as cute as all get-out. The Whiskers clan is part of a 13-year study that was originated by Cambridge University and has been followed on camera by producers from Animal Planet for the last three years.

To the dismay of the show’s more fervent fans, the life span of a Kalahari meerkat turns out to be not much different from that of the average soap opera villain. Despite calls from some fans after the death of Flowers for the repeal of the Darwinian laws of the desert, the producers have no such refinements in mind.

But they did learn something from the uproar created after the first season, when Shakespeare, a lovable scamp of a meerkat, disappeared and was presumed to have died. The producers place radio collars on each family’s dominant female, the better to track the families’ movements, but because Shakespeare, a male, simply went missing, there was no visual evidence of his demise. When Flower succumbed to snakebite, the radio collar let producers track her movements closely and provide viewers with visible closure.

With Mozart, the cause of death was uncertain — it was likely that she fell prey one night to a passing jackal, the show’s narrator intones — but viewers are shown her lifeless body, if from a tasteful distance. Although one meerkat looks much like another, the producers mark each animal with a strategically placed spot of hair dye to tell them apart.

All is not lost, however. Fans of the show are likely to see more of Flower, and perhaps Mozart, in a feature film, “Queen of the Kalahari,” tentatively scheduled for release next year.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Want to write a novel but don't have the time? November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to write a crummy first draft that can be revised later: 50,000 words of fictional prose, no revision allowed. (That works out to about 1,667 words per day.)

If you want to participate you can sign up on the NaNoWriMo web site. There you can find a support group and record the number of words you write each day. Apparently there are local chapters and writers get together to encourage each other. My friend Jim tells me 128 people from the Flint, MI area have signed up!

This sounds like so much fun! I hope to do this sometime but right now, with severe, chronic tendonitis that is aggravated by typing, I don't dare. Some of my colleagues have signed up so I'll be encouraging them and tracking their progress on a chart on my web site (with a hard copy posted on my office door). I'm using Excel sheet and, unfortunately, it won't let me make the thermometer chart my colleagues requested (like the United Way uses) so we may have to settle for a mere bar chart.

Good luck Jim, Jan, Dave, and Janelle! Write, write, write!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Jack-o-Lantern

I had fun making a jack-o-lantern using a Pumpkin Masters pattern. It shows up better without the flash. Here it is sitting in my Halloween village:

Which Holiday?

Today is Sat., Oct. 27; just three more days until Halloween. I ran to the store to get a new pumpkin goop-scooper so I could carve a jack-o-lantern tonight with my friends. Imagine my surprise when Wal-Mart and Family Dollar had practically no Halloween stuff left -- they were too busy putting out Christmas stuff!

For goodness sake, can't they at least wait until Thanksgiving?

If you need last-minute pumpkin-carving supplies, try your local Kroger. They, too, were putting out Christmas stuff, but at least they haven't yet forsaken Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Death of Trick-or-Treat?

What the heck is going on in Davison? This week's Davison Index advertised trick-or-treating downtown (Friday, Oct. 26. from 4 to 6 p.m.). On Halloween night kids can attend "Safe Night" at the high school gym from 6 to 8:30 p.m. and the local churches usually have "Trunk or Treat" (where kids trick-or-treat from car to car) at the Methodist Church.

When did trick-or-treating become so dangerous that we need "safe" alternatives? In Davison, no less. You can't get much safer! We don't get trick-or-treaters at our apartment so I go to my friends' house in the Manford Heights subdivision. I get the joy of handing out candy while they take their kids out trick-or-treating. We usually have 200-300 trick-or-treaters, cops are highly visibly all over the city, and I have never heard of any thing bad happening -- and I have lived in Davison most of my life. That's 40+ years of safe Halloweens, a good record by anyone's standards.

So why do parents feel they need "safe" alternatives in Davison? Don't they remember the safe, scary fun they had as kids running through the neighborhood on a dark Halloween night? Don't they want their kids to experience that special, magical feeling that only belongs to Halloween? On what other occasion can kids dress up in any costume they want, run from door to door, and get candy to boot? I know it's a different world today and parents need to protect their kids, but they can protect them by trick-or-treating with them (from a safe distance if the kids a too old to want mom or dad to tag along). That way the kids get the best of both worlds: they have a fun and safe Halloween without giving up trick-or-treating.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Candy Corn Temptation

Normally, I don't like very sweet treats but there is one kind of candy I can not resist: candy corn. Those little orange, yellow, and white corn-shaped pieces and the little pumpkins call to me from every store I enter. There are bags and bags of the stuff as far as the eye can see and, worse yet, it's all on sale!

The problem, you see, is that I can't eat a piece or two and be satisfied. I can eat one Reese's miniature peanutbutter cup or one petit four and not want more. With candy corn, I can't stop. I've never eaten a whole bag at once or made myself sick, but you get the idea. One year someone put a container of those little pumpkins on top of the microwave at work, which is right outside my office door. Every time I went in or out I had a candy corn pumpkin -- and I gained 5 pounds!

Ideally, I want a few pieces, then I need to give the bag to someone else to take away where I'll never see it again. Unfortunately, I know very few people who love candy corn as much as I do, so I don't have anyone to foist it off on.

Next Wed. is Halloween which I love and am looking forward to, but I dread the temptation of next Thurs. when all the leftover candy corn shows up at work, on top of the microwave, just outside my office door...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dumbledore is Gay

Saturday, October 20 on the news everywhere: J.K. Rowling Reveals 'Harry Potter' Character Dumbledore Is Gay.

I must admit my reactions were the same as Jo's regarding fan fiction and Christian groups who think the books lead to kids practicing witchcraft, but I also wonder if Sir Ian McKellan is now sorry he turned down the role.

My two cents: the fact that Dumbledore's great love also turned into his greatest rival (whom he had to defeat) makes his character even more tragic.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Currently On My iPod

Inspired by the "Currently Reading..." and "Currently Listening To..." lists on Jason Fisher's blog, Lingwë - Musings of a Fish, I decided to add a similar list to my own blog. In the right column below my profile you can now see what's "Currently On My iPod."

Adding the list was actually much easier than I thought it would be! I was using html, making a table to align the pictures next to the appropriate text, etc. and it just wasn't working until I e-mailed Jason for help. He sent me the html and I was surprised. Instead of setting it up like a web page, all I needed to do was include the embedded link to the picture and the text. D'oh! Thanks, Jase. :)

I have so little time for audio books now that it takes me forever to get a book, so I probably won't update this list often, but I like the idea of including it on my blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Golden Retriever Nurses Stray Kitten

Isn't this the sweetest dog in the world?

In the news yesterday: Honey the golden retriever nurses stray kitten: Dog starts lactating to nourish Precious after feline is brought into home

IMAGE: Honey and Precious
Scott Mason / AP file
Precious, right, a 6-week-old kitten, gets a meal from Honey,
a 7-year-old golden retriever, Oct. 2 in Stephens City, Va.

STEPHENS CITY, Va. - A stray kitten has found a new mother in a golden retriever, who began producing milk for the little feline after hearing its cries.

Honey hadn't given birth in 18 months, but after her owner, Jimmy Martin, brought home the kitten, she suddenly found herself playing mom.

"She started licking her and loving her. Within a couple of days, Honey started naturally lactating," said Kathy Martin, Jimmy's wife. "The kitten took right to her, and she started nursing her."

Jimmy Martin noticed the kitten, which the family dubbed Precious, about six weeks ago, when she ran in front of his concrete truck. After following her and realizing there was no mother cat in sight, he took her home.

The kitten refused to drink from a bottle, and Jimmy's mother, Ruth Martin, feared Precious would die.

The family initially tried to keep Precious and Honey apart, fearing the dog would play too roughly with the little gray-striped kitten. But Honey was elated at Precious' presence, wagging her tail and prancing all over the house trying to sneak a peek at her. Eventually, the family let Honey approach Precious, and the dog immediately took to her.

The Martins said they told a veterinarian about Honey and Precious and learned that interspecies nursing does happen on rare occasion.

Precious now sometimes plays with dog bones, and Honey lets Precious gnaw on her like a puppy would.

"She thinks she's a dog," Kathy Martin said. "She's really fit right in."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

William Tell Momisms by Anita Renfroe

I may be the last person on the planet to see this clip of Anita Renfroe on You Tube but it's one of the funniest things I've ever heard. She sums up everything a mom says in one day in a three-minute song set to the tune of the William Tell Overture! These hysterically funny, very clever lyrics rival even Weird Al. I laughed until I cried when I heard my parents' words ("You're grounded until your 36") as well as more up-to-date versions ("Your iPod's my iPod if you don't listen up") in these lyrics. Bravo, Anita!

Squidoo has a nice article about Anita as well as the lyrics but why not visit Anita's web site and buy a CD or book?

Actually, the lyrics are so funny I'm going to post them here so you can follow along with the video clip.

Lyrics to William Tell Momisms

Get up now
Get up now
Get up out of bed
Wash your face
Brush your teeth
Comb your sleepy head
Here's your clothes
And your shoes
Hear the words I said
Get up now
Get up and make your bed

Are you hot?
Are you cold?
Are you wearing that?
Where's your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and your gloves and your scarf and hat
Don't forget you got to feed the cat

Eat your breakfast
The experts tell us it's the most important meal of all
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at three today?
Don't forget your piano lesson is this afternoon
So you must play
Don't shovel
Chew slowly
But hurry
The bus is here
Be careful
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?

Play outside
Don't play rough
Would you just play fair?
Be polite
Make a friend
Don't forget to share
Work it out
Wait your turn
Never take a dare
Get along
Don't make me come down there

Clean your room
Fold your clothes
Put your stuff away
Make your bed
Do it now
Do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn?
Would you like some hay?
Can you even hear a word I say?

Answer the phone
Get Off the phone
Don't sit so close
Turn it down
No texting at the table
No more computer time tonight
Your iPod's my iPod if you don't listen up

Where you going and with whom and what time do you think you're coming home?
Saying thank you, please, excuse me
Makes you welcome everywhere you roam
You'll appreciate my wisdom
Someday when you're older and you're grown
Can't wait 'til you have a couple little children of your own
You'll thank me for the counsel I gave you so willingly
But right now
I thank you NOT to roll your eyes at me

Close your mouth when you chew
Would appreciate
Take a bite
Maybe two
Of the stuff you hate
Use your fork
Do not you burp
Or I'll set you straight
Eat the food I put upon your plate

Get an A, Get the door
Don't get smart with me
Get a Grip
Get in here I'll count to 3
Get a job
Get a life
Get a PhD
Get a dose of reality

I don't care who started it
You're grounded until your 36
Get your story straight
And tell the truth for once for heaven's sake
And if all your friends jumped off a cliff
Would you jump too?

If I've said it once, I've said at least a thousand times before that
You're too old to act this way
It must be your father's DNA
Look at me when I am talking
Stand up straighter when you walk
A place for everything
And everything must be in place
Stop crying or I'll give you something real to cry about

Brush your teeth
Wash your face
Get your PJs on
Get in bed
Get a hug
Say a prayer with Mom
Don't forget
I love you
And tomorrow we will do this all again because a mom's work never ends
You don't need the reason why
I said so
I said so
I said so
I said so
I'm the Mom
The mom
The mom
The mom
The mom

Wolverine Turnaround

Do you hear "Hail to the Victors" playing somewhere? You should because the Michigan Wolverines have done quite a turnaround since the beginning of the season. Yesterday they beat Purdue 48 to 21. Whew! Unfortunately, the game was only televised on stations we don't have, so I didn't get to see the game.

The University of Michigan NCAA News site and The Big Ten Network: Michigan seem to be good places to follow the latest Wolverine football news.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pumpkin Festival 2007

The Davison Pumpkin Festival is this weekend. The Davison Index and the City of Davison web sites both include a schedule of activities.

I love Pumpkin Fest but won't be able to go this year because we already have other plans for Saturday. We won't miss the fish fry at St. John's, however! The food is always good. It's so crowded we usually get our dinners to go and they give us so much we always have leftovers.

Looks like nice (but strangely warm) weather is in store for the weekend, I just wish I could be there to enjoy it!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Funny Warning Sign

My friend Laurie and I were so amused by this sign on the microwave in the breakfast area at the Davison Comfort Inn (where we attended the "Stitchalot Weekend" last week) that we took a picture of it.

Apparently a simple warning was not enough. We can only guess that kids are heating up the hard boiled eggs from the breakfast bar without adult supervision.

If you are having trouble reading it, it says:

Do not put eggs in microwave

They make a huge noise when they explode

Someone will come running

to see what happened

I thought my students (especially those in technical writing) would appreciate this wordy but funny warning sign.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Stitchalot Weekend

Stitches 'n' Things hosted a "Stitchalot Weekend" at the Davison Comfort Inn this weekend. It's like grown-up camp for stitchers. I went with my friends Sue and Laurie. We live so close we didn't stay at the hotel but 45 other stitchers came from all over the state (one even came from out of state) to spend the week.

When we got to the hotel Friday afternoon we were given goodie bags. Each was a huge fabric tote bag with the Stitches 'n' Things logo (not a cheap paper bag!). Inside we found two bottles of water, drink mix to add to the water, a chocolate truffle, cross-stitch fabric (mine is a pretty pewter gray), a 25% off coupon good until 12/31 at Stitches 'n' Things, an "I Stitchalot" Colorforms-type sticker, and a list of info about the weekend.

There was only one class; the rest of the weekend was just time to stitch on your projects, visit with others, and see their projects (which is always inspiring). Also, there was a mini-store set up in one of the rooms where everything was 20% off (and much closer than driving to Stitches 'n' Things in Fenton).

The class on needle felting was held twice on Saturday. My friends and I attended the afternoon session. In two hours we learned the basic techniques and made these cute snowman pins:

I needed to grade papers, etc., Sunday so I only attended Friday and Saturday but I'm very glad I went. I got a lot done on a project from last Christmas that I am determined to finish before this Christmas! I really enjoyed the class and am looking forward to Camp Stitchalot in Feb., which will include three classes by different cross-stitch designers and should be lots of fun. I'll post a link when the class info when it's posted on the Stitches 'n' Things site.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Banned Books Week

I was so upset about Flower, I almost forgot that September 29–October 6, 2007 is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week. Visit the web site and read some banned books.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Scream Theatre

From Stephanie Roach, just in time for Halloween...

Flint City Theatre
presents the return
from the dead
of our
haunted story hour
Oct 19, 20, 26, 27 8pm
The Good Beans Café
Tickets $7, available Oct 1

a Halloween event
for grown ups!
That's right,
adult themes
and language.
Don't miss it!

Update: Oct. 5
Hear a Scream Theater clip on You Tube!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

RIP Flower

I'm so glad I'm no longer watching Meerkat Manor. I nearly cried yesterday when this story popped up on MediaNet on my cell phone: Meerkats Mourning Lady of the Manor. (I'll paste the story below in case the link moves.)

I love Meerkat Manor but had to stop watching during season 2. I was heartbroken when Shakespeare died and little Blossom's tragic death was the last straw for me.

Poor Flower. Apparently I'm not the only fan who feels sad. Animal Planet has added a In Memory of Flower page to its Meerkat Manor site where fans can watch video of Flower, talk about her, and read about the upcoming movie on her life.

I wonder what will happen to Flower's family but I can't stand to watch and see more meerkats die. Please, somebody keep me updated on what happens to Yosarian, Mozart, Mitch, etc., without Flower to lead them.

Meerkats Mourning Lady of the Manor by Natalie Finn
Fri, 28 Sep 2007 09:09:16 PM PDT

The Whiskers clan is without a matriarch.

Flower, the leader of the central gang of meerkats that is the focus of Animal Planet's documentary cum soap opera Meerkat Manor, died in February during filming of the show's third season after being bitten by a cobra. She was six.

Friday's episode of the hit series, "A Journey's End," featured the events leading up to Flower's untimely death, which occurred during yet another meerkat struggle for survival in South Africa's Kalahari Desert—an inevitable part of the frequently compelling, albeit furry and adorable, drama that has made Meerkat Manor Animal Planet's number-one show.

"Flower's courage and strength in life was mirrored in her passing," said senior executive producer Mick Kaczorowski. "Viewer and fans have become attached to Flower because she exemplified the qualities of a true hero and a veritable leader."

According to Kaczorowski, Flower was buried onsite in a market grave by the Cambridge University scientists who preside over the Kalahari Meerkat Project.

Although Animal Planet didn't televise news of Flower's passing, in order to stave off the viewer confusion that resulted when Flower's son Shakespeare was injured at the end of season one and then was gone by season two, a statement was posted in March on the network's Meerkat Manor message board informing fans that Flower hadn't survived a snakebite and would be missed.

"When Shakespeare disappeared over the season, we weren't filming—there was no evidence, no body," Kaczorowski told the Los Angeles Times. "When we came back in Season 2, everybody was completely frustrated. Conspiracy theories came up. The most important thing is to track down the remains or stay with the body so we could put an end to the story."

Animal Planet is planning a commemorative spot, an online tribute and a press event in New York to honor the Meerkat Manor heroine. There is also a feature film in the works, Queen of the Kalahari, which is intended to be a prequel about Flower's life prior to her small-screen stardom.

"Flower was larger than life," said Marjorie Kaplan, general manager of Animal Planet and Discovery Kids Media. "She stood tall against her foes, readily and regularly faced conflict and was a pillar of strength for her family.

"The circle of life is very much a reality in the animal kingdom. We at Animal Planet are devastated by the loss of Flower and recognize that her death will have a deep impact on our viewers. Life in the Kalahari will never be the same."

Up in the air now is the fate of Zaphod, Flower's partner and the dominant male of the Whiskers mob. If losing his mate proves too much to handle, his brother Youssarian—a former top meerkat who has been pegged as having "social problems"—could rise again.

Flower and Zaphod's son, Mitch, also has exhibited leadership qualities in the wake of his brother Shakespeare's death, and he could be a force to be reckoned with, as well.

It's also unsure who will become the new female leader of the extensive clan. Flower's daughter Mozart is a possibility, but despite being caring and compassionate, she has estranged herself from the family more than once.

No, the above was not a summary of a Dallas episode. Although just as it was for the Ewings when J.R. was shot, the Whiskers' societal order now hangs in the balance.

The daily goings-on at the so-called manor may read like a page from any prime-time soap, replete with jealous exes, sibling rivalry, (meer)kat fights, pregnant daughters getting kicked out of the house and a lot of mating, but the stars of this show don't follow any script.

Instead, it's a group of intrepid researchers, their specially built fiber-optic cameras and some crafty editors that have captured a slice of life that just happens to be taking place, at times, in a burrow.

And while regular watchers of the series might sometimes trick themselves into thinking that they're watching teeny-tiny humans who just happen to have tails, crescent-shaped ears, tapered faces and particularly beady eyes, these mammals are members of the mongoose family.

Sean Astin narrates the U.S. version of the Emmy-nominated series, while Brit Bill Nighy is the human voice of the U.K. and Canadian installments.

Topics/Category Labels Done!

I have finished adding category labels to all my previous posts. My loyal readers (all two of you :), can now search by topic for all the entries published on this blog. Just look for the Topics list on the lower right side of the screen. Let me know if you spot any inconsistencies.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stitches 'n' Things

The Flushing Observer published a nice story about Stitches 'n' Things last week.

Stitches N Things, where you count in Fenton

By: Sally Rummel, Business Reporter 09/23/2007

If you think counted cross-stitch is an "old-fashioned" craft for people who have a lot of time, you haven't been inside Stitches N Things at Fenton Lake Square, directly behind Sagebrush Cantina in Fenton.

Reportedly carrying the largest inventory of counted cross-stitch projects and accessories in Michigan, Stitches N Things is well worth a visit, whether you've ever "counted a stitch" in your life or not.

Fenton native/owner Deb Koch has crafted for herself and her customers an interesting, colorful and well-organized retail store in just 800 square feet of space. Downsized from her former Davison location, this store is a tidy space from floor to ceiling, with enough room to house Stitches N Things' growing Internet global presence.

For the crafter, it's a destination for every project idea, supply, accessory or custom frame that one could imagine.

With drawer boxes containing favorite patterns by category, both novice and experienced crafters can easily find what they're looking for. New designs are located in a rack that's changeable monthly, so that visitors to the store will always have an opportunity to see "what's new."

Fabrics, kits, beads, buttons and embellishments are plentiful, too. Stored in cube units, fabrics are categorized by colors and varieties. Pre-made pillows, purses, totes, stockings, ornaments, boxtops and baby items are also available, making a perfect "backdrop" for one's stitching project.

Many new techniques are also on display, providing contemporary designs, textures and visuals. Knotwork (as easy as it sounds), needle felting, needle sculpture and Russian Punch Needle are just a few of these new techniques that have added a contemporary twist to the age-old art of counted cross-stitch.

For the crafting novice, it's a vision of possibilities, because some projects are simple and can be tackled in as little as a couple of hours.

"It's all done for you, you're just reproducing it on fabric," says Koch, who admits she flunked home economics in her school days. "I'm 'sewing challenged,' but this is easy, fun and relaxing."

Serious counted cross-stitchers can also add their own artistry to their projects, by adding texture and embellishments, changing fabrics, etc.

While Koch enjoys teaching the craft, the small size of her store makes on-site instruction impossible, but she and her staff pride themselves on helping customers "over the counter."

"I'm hoping to teach classes this winter at off-site locations," adds Koch. "But please stop in and let us help you with any aspect of your project, even if you're a beginner needing assistance in picking out your first kit."

Assisted by a staff of three, Koch has literally the world at her doorstep, thanks to her strong Internet presence. One-third of her store is dedicated to the Internet portion of her business, from order storage to order filling and packaging.

But it's the people she really enjoys, as they come to her store from as far a drive as 1½ hours. "We are really unique in the state of Michigan," says Koch. "While other cross-stitch stores are closing, we're thriving. And we have more than 5,000 designs in stock for you to see."

Koch is also proud of her extensive custom framing department, which provides a variety of wood frames in dozens of colors and styles. "It's the first thing you see when you walk in the door," says Koch. "You can visualize the completion of your project before you even start."

Stitches N Things is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (810) 629-3333 or visit the store's Web site at:

©Tri-County Times 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury

I just purchased the audio book Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury. It's a wonderful collection of 14 of his most popular stories and, best of all, it's read by Ray Bradbury. He introduces each story by explaining how he got the idea and I like that a lot. My only complaint is that it does not include a table of contents.

While searching online for the table of contents I found some great sites devoted to Ray, including one with quotes. I love this quote:
"If you can't read and write you can't think. Your thoughts are dispersed if you don't know how to read and write. You've got to be able to look at your thoughts on paper and discover what a fool you were." ~ Ray Bradbury (, August 29, 2001)
You said it, Ray!

Here are the web sites:
Ray Bradbury (official web site)
Fantastic Fiction (includes all his works in chronological order)
Ray Bradbury Online (a list of his audio books and some quotes)
Ray Bradbury Audio (contents of many of his audio books, including Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury)
I've loved Ray's books for a long time and have written about him several times. Here are the links if you are interested: Hooray for Ray!, 86 and Still Writing, and Farewell Summer.

For me most of his stories evoke "a world where miracles are just everyday occurrences and even the most ordinary things are pervaded by eerie glimmerings of the supernatural and the unknown" (to quote the blurb on Dandelion Wine).

I feel compelled to read Ray's books in the fall, not just the ones with obvious Halloween/autumn connections (like The October Country, The Halloween Tree,
From the Dust Returned, and Something Wicked This Way Comes). I also want to read those with summer settings that evoke that sense of October and the supernatural (like Dandelion Wine).

There's nothing like curling up with a good Ray Bradbury book on a dark, cozy evening while listening to the rustle of fallen leaves in the crisp
autumn air. My stack of books and I are ready for fall, even if the weather isn't cooperating.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Irish Fest 2007

Saturday I attended the Kalamazoo Irish Fest held in beautiful Arcadia Creek Festival Place in downtown Kalamazoo. Unlike last year, the weather was perfect: sunny, breezy, and pleasant with not a monsoon in sight. The festival itself featured good food (with beer, unlike Scottish fest), music, and shopping. What a great way to spend the day! I was too busy to take many pictures, except of my friends' booth. Here are a few pics of their merchandise:

Now you know where I get my amber and Celtic jewelry. :)

Since the Irish American Club of Kalamazoo doesn't keep archives of the Irish Fest info on their web site, here's the info on this year's Irish Fest:

Friday, September 21st from 4:30 p.m. - Midnight
Saturday, September 22nd from 10:30 a.m. - Midnight

Food Vendors
Gallagher's Eatery
Ibison Concessions
Kalamazoo Scottish Festival
Kalamazoo Kettle Corn Co.

Smirnoff Ice
Coke Products

Marketplace Vendors
Celtic Expressions
Celtic Imports
Celtic Seasons
Darkblade Studios (my friends)
Designs in Glass
Earthencraft Pottery
Lynch's Lair
O'Brien's Irish Cottage
Medieval Madder
Philosophers Stone
Rampant Lion
Scottish Tinker
The Irish Baker
Thy Sterling Silver
UK Market
We'll also have on hand Handiworks Palm Reading and a Celtic Shaman Healer. (I never saw either of these but our booth was very busy all day! O'Brien's Irish Cottage was left off the list on the Irish Fest web site, so I wonder if this list is accurate.)

Main Stage Events
Friday, September 21
5:00 pm Craic Wisely
6:15 Quinn School of Irish Dance
6:50 Harvest Home
8:10 Kalamazoo Pipe Band
8:45 Fonn Mor
10:45 Craic Wisely

Saturday, September 22
11:00 am Twin Thistle
11:30 5 Leaf Clover
Noon Leim Irish Dance
12:35 Squid Jiggers
1:35 Kalamazoo Pipe Band
2:10 Rare Combination
3:20 Quinn School of Irish Dance
3:55 Kennedy’s Kitchen
5:10 Quinn School of Irish Dance
5:45 Whiskey Before Breakfast
6:55 Leim Irish Dance
7:30 Blackthorn
9:15 Belfast Gin
11:00 Napper Tandy

If you've never been to Irish Fest, it's worth the trip to Kalamazoo. Keep an eye on the Irish Fest web site for news about next year's fest. It's usually the third weekend of Sept., no doubt to celebrate the fact that it's only six months until St. Patrick's Day. :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ode to Frost

In honor the unusually high mold and ragweed levels this year: Poems by Clifford Leap, Lord Endall (Scott Russell). Thanks, Scott! You are the only person who has ever written a poem for me and I am honored.

An Ode to Frost

The human head can hold a lot of stuff,
Magnificent cassava whose ripe seeds
Have launched a fleet of rockets at the moon
And named the alkaloids in certain weeds.
But my poor head has finally got enough.
What thoughts may enter it when air cannot?
What music when I can’t hear the tune?
All useful space is taken up with snot!

It is that time when leaves begin their turn
From life to afterlife, from green to fire;
As though a devil claimed them on the limb,
Igniting them before they could expire.
Most people like me, in September, learn
How leaves must burn and suffer for their crimes
Before their gold can tarnish and go dim:
Hay fever is like Hell in autumn times.

One morning dawns, though, when my tears are gone;
As if the dying of the year became
That resolution born of suffering
By nurse and patient both, and both can claim
Relief now that the mortal ill has won.
-- ‘tis John Lennon’s Lucy tumbled down
And dust of diamonds covers everything:
The first frost shines like crystal on the lawn.

I breathe the silence in, the silver air!
As when the mobs of Paris woke one day
Without a king, last August’s stench and heat
Replaced by death and chill. Like them, I lay
In liberty’s embrace, maternal care
That soothes the sickly child back to its health.
The old regime, a miser in defeat,
Now suffocates beneath excessive wealth.

And though I was a royalist last spring,
And welcomed summer days with open arms,
Despite oppression in the heady shade
Or rainless weeks that taxed the poorest farms,
I now renounce the autumn of that king!
The flag I wave in publican belief
Recalls the time when I wept and obeyed.
It is a clean, white, linen handkerchief!

Paroxyismos (An Ode to Sighing)

The tempest in my bosom rose to fall
As once that city on the seven hills
Ploughed round about by those two wolf-weaned brothers
Didst arise; though ‘twas for-told by some
That it would crumble after Christendom.
Thus was my breast to sink in brief repose
As breath once drawn absconded through my nose.
What sound! Unlike a multitude of others.
Sweet air is needed; moaning each lung fills
Until the biggest, saddest breath of all.

Then blow, great billows, blow against the end
That like the ruins on the Turkish shore
Make Heaven’s breath to howl defiant song.
As seaward, coughing oar-strokes brought their horde
Of gruff Achaean warriors heaped aboard,
I heave against the ribs along my flanks.
Did they, knelt on stout timbers, murmur thanks,
Though all their aspirations came out wrong,
And most would not sail homeward evermore,
Once they exhaled upon that dismal strand!