Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Heaven on a bun

Chicago Hot Dog

George and I really love Chicago Hot Dogs.  A true Chicago Hot Dog is not available in very many places outside Chicago.  On our way to Milwaukee last week, we were scheduled for a 2 hour layover in Chicago, and had high hopes of getting one there at O'Hare, but our flight was canceled and we ended up in Charlotte, NC.  No hotdogs there!   When we had time in Milwaukee, we looked for a Chicago Hot Dog place and didn't find one.  I asked someone who seemed to know restaurants in the area, and she looked at me rather blankly -- a what?  I guess Chicago Hot Dogs are not highly coveted in Milwaukee.  Either that, or she was a vegetarian.

In the Boston area, George and I have driven the 60 miles round trip to Weymouth to a small hotdog stand that imports the right buns, the celery seed, the special all beef Vienna hotdogs, and they even import the pickles and relish.   Windy City Eats is a great place, and I wish it was lots closer!  The owner used to live in Chicago, and he missed them so much, he opened this business.  He understands the obsession!

In Chicago, years and years ago, I remember standing in a line at a small hotdog stand on the west side of Chicago to get a dog, and sitting on a picnic table nearby.  This would not be that memorable, except that the line was about 30 people long, and it was obviously a "happening".  The hotdogs were delicious and something to look forward to on a cool Saturday morning.  No one minded sitting outside; the hotdogs were glorious.  In Boston, they don't know hotdogs.   All the excitement around here is for the best lobster roll.   Lobster rolls are great, don't get me wrong, but they, well,  whatever.

Finally, on our way home from Milwaukee last Monday, our flight was delayed, we had a long layover in Chicago, and as we got off the plane, there was a big open Cubs Restaurant...Chicago Hot Dogs!!   We ordered.  We enjoyed the wonderful flavors of the pickle,  the peppers, relish, mustard, celery seed, soft poppyseed bun and a true Vienna hot dog nestled in all those melded flavors -- and happily paid the check - over $30 for one plate with two dogs, and fries and two cokes.  It was worth every penny!

Here is what I'm talking about!   Have a great day.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

I just returned from Milwaukee where we traveled so I could attend the PMC Certification Class - Level One - taught by Irina Miech at Eclectica Bead Studio in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  It was an amazing experience.  This is the picture of the pieces we made -- not my actual pieces -- but I don't have pictures of those yet.  We all had to complete these 9 projects to graduate.

There were nine of us in the class, and we made nine pieces in 2 days of class on Friday and Saturday, October 3 & 4h.  I have to admit, I was very nervous when we started.  I arrived with my backpack of water, and some clay tools that Irina had said I could bring, and we all dove into our projects with Irina's help and patient instruction.  The clay and tools were included and she already had everything we would need to complete our pieces.  I met some really nice people -- and we all worked very hard to get our pieces exactly right.  It was not easy!  We motored on, and I was able to leave at the end of the class with all my pieces finished, fired in the kiln and packed away in my jewelry case.  There is some work with patina on a few of my pieces so I will take pictures later.

My world right now is all about metal clay, and since I already purchased a beautiful Paragon Caldara Kiln a few years ago, I am ready to get good at this!  Something about retirement -- it frees you to do each day what you REALLY want to do.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Penta plant

Tuesday lunch in Newburyport, hummingbirds & other things

Today we had lunch with a friend at an Indian Restaurant in Newburyport.  She asked me how I liked retirement, and I said that I can't find anything NOT to like.  Having lunch with someone on a beautiful day near the sea on a Tuesday is pretty great.

I am surprised how fast the days motor on.  I can get into a project, look up and two hours have passed.  There is a long list of things to accomplish, and George and I whittle away at it as we motor through the day.  Today he mowed the lawn, and washed out the hummingbird feeders.  We had our usual 3 hummingbird summer -- that is, we fill and refresh the feeders over and over, and each summer, we have very few hummingbirds partake of anything we offer.  This past week, we had a lady hummer visit us on the back deck.  She was interested in the small but prolific pink Penta plant that I salvaged for a dollar from Lowes - because it was a plant that looked like it needed saving.  It thanked me by blossoming and Mrs. Hummer came right to the table where I was sitting to graze on my little plant.  Amazing.  Then, off she flew over the roof - too quickly by far.

Our projects take us to places like beneath the bathroom sink, to reorganize and clean with new shelf paper, and into the basement to do more throwing out of stuff, and into the refrigerator to throw out, clean and add new.  There are lots of places in our little palace that always can use a little visit to make things better.  Working full time has a way of eating the time that you would normally spend "bettering things".  When we tire of making things better, we always seem to find a project that will make things worse.  When my son was small, he went to Montessori class in the morning.  I remember his first teachers meeting.  The teacher said that he was REALLY creative about use of the toys and tools, but he was having trouble getting the knack of putting things away.

I know the feeling.

Have a GREAT day!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Do or don't....lets don't.

Two weeks ago, my 2 year old Dell Inspiron laptop slid off my lap and fell against the corner of an open drawer.  The impact with the sharp corner broke the screen and created a Rorschach test on my screen.  My heart broke.  When George told me that I was two weeks out of warranty, my heart broke again.  What a waste.  We did some research on the web.  George found out that you can purchase a new screen for a Dell Inspiron from Amazon for $50.00.   When I called Dell, they said they would fix it for $260.   Mike said I could buy a new Chromebook for about $260.

Also on the web, George found a YouTube about how to replace the screen yourself on a Dell laptop. He thought maybe we could bring it to Mike's house where they could work on it together.  That seemed like a terrible option, since it would clearly waste a whole day with two nice guys fussing and worrying about a thing gone wrong with a good chance of terrible results. We delayed a couple more days while we considered our options and then George said, "Lets at least watch the YouTube of how to repair it ourselves."

The man in the video first explained that it was a 20 minute video so we needed to be patient.   His screen was broken exactly like mine.  Then he said, "take a guitar pick and gently gently slide it into the edge of the screen, careful, careful because you don't want to crack anything, and there is a web cam in the way.  If you can't get a separation, try in another place on the screen..."  George and I looked at each other and he said, "Ok, lets send it to Dell".

Sometimes big decisions come easier than you thought.  We both knew instantly that we would not be able to fix this ourselves.

We didn't even know where to get a guitar pick.

Have a great day.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


In the 16 years that I have been making jewelry, I have noticed how much has changed.  In the past, wholesale night at the Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee each June meant that sellers sold beautiful pearls, gems and findings for 40 - 75% off.  It was a five hour extravaganza of buying beautiful beads that made my heart pound!  I still have strands of gemstones, turquoise and premium pearls that I bought at very good prices -- deals which I will never see again.  Now, wholesale "sellers" night doesn't have much allure, since the prices are the same that night as any other day of the show.  Really good gemstones at reasonable prices are becoming hard to find!  The really premium gems are selling by the piece now instead of by the strand.

Once I had a customer who wanted me to make a necklace in Malachite. This started a quest to find nice malachite, and a whole learning opportunity.  Online gem sellers had very little malachite for sale.  George and I made a 60 mile trip to a bead show in a hotel south of Boston.  The gemstone seller knew a lot about malachite and had some beautiful strands in a glass case.  He explained that malachite is a soft stone, easily damaged and hard to transport. Malachite most often comes from African sources.  Sellers don't have a lot of it, because it is relatively rare that they receive malachite that is not damaged.  At that show, I enjoyed meeting someone who knew what he was selling; and I bought several beautiful strands, some costing $60+ each.

In the end, the customer decided not to order a necklace made from malachite.  The sale was quietly canceled.  I never talked much to her about it, and I didn't mind.  In the end, I was able to obtain some beautiful gemstones that I would never have known about before.  I treasure them.  The right buyer may come along...or maybe not.

Have a great day.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh no, the vet

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. thinking and praying that everything would go well this morning.  Simba had a vet appointment at 10:00 for his yearly physical.  Getting Simba into the kitty carrier is a daunting task.  We have had to call and cancel appointments more than once because he ran and hid and we knew not where.  One time we almost had him, but the door to the cellar was open for 1/2 inch, and he got the door open and hid under a work table and we didn't see him for the rest of the day.   Today we had a plan.  But that day we had a plan too; one never knows how this is going to go; hence the praying in the middle of the night.

This morning, after we fed the kitties (Simba and his sister Safari), I nonchalantly and quietly read the news on the computer while waiting for Simba to come back to the bedroom for his morning pet-fest.   George was standing by in the room, I held Simba down on the pillow, and when I said "I have him" (rather too loudly I'm sure), George's role is to run through the hall, into the spare bedroom where we have hidden the carrier, back to the bedroom, through the door, but being careful to SHUT it tight --  I held Simba down on the pillow very firmly, ignoring his attempts to escape, while George put down the carrier and we both took a hand in shoving him in.   It worked!!  All this was in a space of about two minutes.  After that, a day has no where to go but up!

The vet said he was her favorite cat ever -- high compliments indeed.  She said he is perfect in every way; heart strong, weight right on target, just a beautiful healthy cat and whatever we were doing just keep it up.  All we do is offer a little food twice a day, some clean water, and a WHOLE lot of love.

Have a great day.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Turn on, Tune in, Drop out

George went to play 18 holes of golf this morning with his retiree friends.  The house is echoing in its own silence.  I have lots of space to think.  I am retired.   I was reminded about the hippie slogan in the late 60s -- turn on, tune in, drop out.  The Crackers have a song about that.  When the hippies were turning on in Grant Park, and the Yippies were protesting the Democratic Convention, I was with them in spirit - but I was working not far away in an office 9-5.  In the 70s, when my son Michael was born, it was not cool to let your new boss know you had a child at home -- they didn't have to hire you if they knew you may be "conflicted" -- work/home balance was unheard of.  In the 80's, the lunch time crowd I hung with in Chicago went to places where they played disco music we could dance to while we enjoyed our hamburgers.  I still worked in an office 9-5.  In the 90's things got better -- people were able to dress casual on Fridays, and bosses understood when you had reasons to stay home a few days each year.  I dropped out in the 90's and changed careers; moving to Boston to the non profit world, which was much gentler, calmer and more humane, but I still worked 9-5.  For the past ten years I have enjoyed each day that I worked in an office, and as I became older, I was grateful that people were cool, did not discriminate, and accepted me as I am. Many things have changed for the better in my 47 years of working in an office.

So, now it is retired is it?  What is that like?  I keep thinking of the old hippie thing; turn on, turn in, drop out. Instead of turning on, I'm busy turning off.  Off with the outside noise of the world, off with daytime TV (horrors!!) and off with the, lets face it, GRIND of rushing to work every morning.   I am tuned in to the world of weather, clouds, birds, flowers, and a HUGE number of options for each day.  And I can't help but think, as I enjoy the complete freedom of planning each day, that I have indeed dropped out!

hang loose

Have a great day.