Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Healthy Wealthy and Wise

For 2008, my New Year's Resolution was to be Healthy Wealthy and Wise. The reasons for this "catch-phrase" I will try to explain and let you know how I fared this year.

Last year I got a membership to the YMCA and wanted to get back to my workout routine. Except for a couple of weeks where I had to go into work early, I have been going most mornings during the week. I also am very pleased that one time when I weighed myself I weighed the lowest I have been for several years— though I have not weighed myself lately to know if I kept the weight off.
At year's end last year I was struggling financially and wanted to get a second job to help make ends meet. After this didn't seem to pan out, I changed it and tried to have a wealth of friends instead. However it does not appear that I have an overabundance of friends either. In fact… I may have acquired someone who considers me their enemy— but I cannot be sure of that. I must admit that my financial situation has leveled off and I am not struggling anymore— so I guess I should have stuck to my original resolution after all.
It is hard to say if I have gained any wisdom. I guess it all depends on what you consider "being wise". I'm sure if I look back on the year, I know that I have learned something… but if what I have learned has made me wise is up for debate.

Though it may appear to me that I have failed many of my resolutions— I realize that it is a process and that it does not end once the year ends. I will continue to apply these resolutions in my life moving forward, and also have a new resolution for 2009.

Happy New Year!

Kichen Sink-Gate

The saga continues…

As a follow-up to my previous post I left you indicating that the plumber would be installing the common drain pipe— well… when it rains… it hails! Everything seemed to be going fine until my wife got home around 4 and we were debating if we wanted to go out to eat or order out (since there still was no sink to do dishes with)— when my wife smelled smoke. The plumber indicated that was probably the torch they used with the solder on the pipe. We took this to heart until my wife comes down the stairs in a panic telling me to call 911 and report a possible fire. By this time we could smell smoke upstairs as well as in the basement and I could not find out where it was coming from.

I quickly called 911 and reported that we have a possible fire between our two apartments due to plumbing work being done next door. Three minutes later we hear two fire trucks barreling down the street. How many firemen does it take to put out a fire… I counted at least 20 people milling around. The tricky part was that it was somewhere in between the two units making it difficult to figure out where it was. They were using infra-red detectors and pointing it at the walls trying to figure out where the smoldering was. The other interesting thing was that there was an extra vent that did not match up with any of the other unit's configurations and smoke was pouring out of it.

Most of the time the firemen were next door, but from time to time they came in our unit and poked around. By this time my wife grabbed the dog and camped out in the car waiting things out. She called her daughter who showed up and offered support. It was at this time that the firemen determined where the source was and was proceeding in hacking away at the neighbors kitchen to try and get at the fire. One fireman came in and told us that they might have to get at the fire from our side and suggested removing any dishes from the cabinets… (You don't know how many dishes you have until you have to remove them quickly).

Scrambling to try and get all the dishes out from above the sink we managed to get all of them out only to hear that they got at the source and did not need to rip our cabinets out after all. I should have taken pictures, but I'm sure some people would say "I don't see any difference in what your kitchen looks like anyway". Rather than try and put back all the dishes again, we opted to wait to allow us (me) to go through them and determine which ones can be given away.

Since the house still smelled smokey, my wife decided to invite us and the dog to stay at her daughter's apartment overnight. So, we packed up our sleeping bags, some PJ's, and some dog treats and proceeded to go over there. We left a set of keys with the neighbors in case they needed to get back in (wouldn't want the firemen to return and break down our door just to get in). The neighbors thanked us for calling and wished us a happy new year which choked us both up after seeing the aftermath in their kitchen.

Our daughter's family made us pizza (yes it wasn't delivery… but Digiorno's)— and we slept on their living room floor… (why does my back hurt). I think that the only one who appeared nervous afterwords was the dog who was panting most of the evening— probably because he never stayed there before.

My wife had to be at work at 6:30, so we left around 6 and left a thank you note for her daughter and family and went back home to assess the damages. Things were still a bit smokey, but not to the extent that we could have if we didn't catch it as soon as we did.

I'm currently trying to get all the dishes back, but thought I would at least tell everyone that we're OK and that we are very fortunate. What a way to end the year— so looking forward to 2009.

Wordful Wednesday - Puppet Hand

When I was a child my mother made a sock puppet out of an old sock, some buttons and a pom-pom and called him Cecil the Sea Serpent Sock Puppet. This year my grandson was using the "puppet hand" when we were playing board games and I had to pull out Cecil… we had so much fun I neglected my turn every time. I always find that the "puppet hand" has so many uses that I thought I would highlight on one of them to in order to participate in Wordful Wednesday.

In theater I tend to use the puppet hand as a marker— indicating where a given person is if they are absent. You just take your hand and bend it a bit closing the thumb with the upper fingers. You can pivot the wrist a bit and have the hand puppet look around "playing their part". You can even go so far as to say lines by opening and closing the thumb and upper fingers accordingly.

When I was in the play Deadwood Dick there is a scene where we have a hangin' and proceed to take Pong Ping out to the nearest tree and hang him. Because we had to have off stage voices during the scene— and because Pong had to have a costume change— the posse would act out the scene in the far corner of the stage and use the puppet hand for Pong. Because we couldn't risk a flash during a performance, I had someone snap this shot in the green room as proof of what we were doing.

No socks or animals were harmed in the making of this post.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Everything but the kitchen sink

Why is it that during the holidays I have problems with our kitchen sink. Several years ago during Thanksgiving a pipe in our sink broke. This was fine in itself… but because we share a common drain with our neighbors— every time they used their sink it leaked through our broken pipe. What a sight it was seeing my nephew and I scrambling to bail out the water from the aluminum roasting pan under the sink. I had to go next door, ring their bell and hope that they understood enough English to understand not to use the sink because it drained into ours.

Believe it or not, a few years later on Thanksgiving we had problems with the sink again— but this time it was the common drain pipe that was clogged and had to be rooted out through the connector that was only accessible from the neighbors side.

I know that turnabout is fair play— but when it effects you it's not so funny. Fast forward to Christmas Eve this year… I'm doing the dishes in preparation for our annual Christmas brunch when the doorbell rings. It's the neighbors telling us to not use our sink because they have problems with their sink and it's backing up into their sink. Twenty minutes later the neighbor comes with pipe in hand trying to explain to me that the pipe is cracked and they might not be able to get a replacement part because the hardware store is probably closed.

Hoping that they got to the hardware store in time, I proceeded to test the sink on Christmas morning. At first it appeared to work, but then started to back up. Thinking quickly, I bailed out the sink into a bucket and sucked the stuff I couldn't bail out with a turkey baster, then emptied the bucket into the toilet which thankfully shares a common pipe with our other neighbors. Knowing that a plumber could not get called on Christmas day, I proceeded in doing my dishes into a roasting pan emptying when it got dirty into the bucket and emptying the bucket into the toilet. If you ever wonder how much water you actually use— may I suggest you try this technique… you would be surprised as to how much you use (waste).

Hoping that things were to be fixed on Friday, I waited til evening to try again, and again I get a ring at the door asking that we don't use our sink since the common pipe is backed up again.

Saturday rolls around and I see the plumber asking that he check to see if the rooter is going down to the common pipe and not into our sink by mistake. Cool… things will be fixed by evening so we can prepare our roast duck… NOT.

As of today (Monday) it appears that the common pipe has corroded and needs to be replaced— probably from too much rooting. The pipe will not be replaced until tomorrow— so keep your fingers crossed perhaps by New Year's Eve we will have our sink again.

2009 Polar Bear Plunge

At noon on Thursday, January 1, 2009 I will be at Loyola Beach participating in the annual polar bear plunge. If you are curious and want to know why I do this— read my post here.

Depending on how many people come to cheer me on will determine if I have people over at my place for "hot" drinks— hot-chocolate, hot-apple cider, hot-toddies, etc.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The best Christmas gift ever

I must admit that my wife knows how to get gifts that have a personal touch. This year she got me a stick which was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. She also included her own set of instructions:

I especially like the fact that she also included the 2007 Hall of Fame winner— Cardboard Box. Her cleverness never ceases to amaze me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Paula falls into a pile of rocks

When I was at ISU I had a classmate who showed up to class on crutches. When I inquired about what happened, she proceeded to tell me the story of how she was with a group of friends who were carrying her and she sprained her ankle when they set her down. I forget the exact details of the story, but it did inspire me to write a poem.

Paula falls into a pile of rocks
was she drunk this time I say not

But careless she was while carried in sway
when we put her down her legs just gave way

And what is to be learned by this gracious tale
not to wind up in jail when put on your socks


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh go jump in the lake

Man jumps in Lake Michigan and exclaims: "it's bleepin gold"— is it Blogo??
…No, it's your friendly neighborhood blogger, and I probably said: "it's bleepin COLD!!"

Back on New Year's Day, 2007 my wife and I went down to Loyola Beach to cheer on some friends who were part of the Polar Bear Club. That particular year there was not any snow or ice at the beach and those who participated in the Polar Bear "plunge" just ran straight into the lake. I was pretty inspired to jump in with them… but felt that it would be better if there was snow and ice there so that you knew it was winter. Besides, I did not have my swim suit with me and did not want to be unprepared.

Fast forward one year to New Years Day, 2008. I do not know why my wife looked up where the plunge was going to take place, but she did and let me know the day before. I knew it was going to be cold, so I decided to be prepared. Besides my usual hat coat scarf, I dressed in loose layers so that I could quickly dress after I got out. The first layer was just my swim suit, followed by the heaviest jeans I could find, a sweatshirt and a zipper flannel sweater. I brought my sandals so that I would not have to worry about cutting my numb feet on all the beer bottles that are thrown into the lake. My wife made a thermos of coffee to to warm me up after I got out. After all our preparations, we were off to see the glaciers.

I don't know if you have ever seen Lake Michigan in the winter, but there is a big buildup of ice along the shore that resembles glaciers. Because of the buildup of ice, you cannot tell how deep the water actually is. This put my wife into a panic because she thought that the depth of the water had to have been at least 5 feet or more judging from where the edge of the ice was and where she felt the shoreline started. After some scouting by other members of the club a point of entry was determined and everybody was told to get ready.

All of us had to negotiate around a large puddle to get to the edge of the glacier. Once there we all posed for our "final" photographs before heading in. Probably the hardest part was stepping down off the glacier and into the water— after that it was very easy to wade out about ten yards, turn around, and dunk.

The trudge back to the edge seemed longer— are there hidden rip tides in Chicago??… but I managed to get out unscathed. Once out I noticed my feet getting awfully heavy and were caked with ice— I was worried that I would not be able to get my sandals off, but realized that I could always chip away at them. I was also covered by a thin sheet of ice all over my body which thankfully was a great insulator— I used to hate the fact my body is so hairy, but now I'm glad… that's another story…

A quick rub down with a towel while on a thermal blanket my wife provided to keep my feet off the ice— then I got dressed and we went back to the car. Unfortunately I was too "focused on the prize" to hook up with other polar bears to go to any warming parties afterwords— but was quite proud of my accomplishments… so you could say I didn't need to party.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Be true to yourself as your own self true

As a followup to my previous post Why can't my friends be friends with my friends— I would like to focus on being a different person when with different groups of people. This may not be a bad thing— but one needs to be aware if they are changing in order to "fit in".

People are never one dimensional— but rather have many aspects that make a person who they are. People are multifaceted like diamonds— there are many ways of looking at the stone depending on your perspective. Because of this, it is very difficult to "see" the whole person.

People are seen in the various groups that they participate in and are viewed as a reflection of that group. Your behavior in that group may influence what others see you as… which is sometimes a shock to someone when they see you in another locale and appear to act differently. What is a disappointment to me is that you can be pigeonholed as acting a particular way based upon what group someone sees you in— even though you are not acting that way… the seeds of prejudice have thus been planted. But what troubles me more is that some people will behave differently on purpose when in different groups.

I am reminded of the short story The Martian from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles where the martian shape-shifts himself to death. I do not think that we will kill ourselves when trying to fit in with the groups we are in— but I know that it is quite stressful having to "switch gears"… especially if the behavior is dynamically opposed.

I believe that anybody who consciously and purposefully "acts the part" are not being true to themselves— but are fooling themselves. One needs to be aware of their self and how they can be perceived in the various groups they participate in. This way you can be true to yourself as your own self true.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

OMG I reek like BK

Mmm… Hamburger

There is a Burger King not too far from where our offices are at work. About three years ago a colleague and I were walking by this Burger King and someone came out and exclaimed: "Oh my God— I reek like Burger King". We both thought this was a pretty ridiculous thing to say and used the phrase whenever we got something for lunch from there. I don't know if this person was in on the ground floor— but the new Burger King® Flame™ just came out.

I saw the announcement on the news but didn't put the two together. Low and behold, I get a Facebook message from this colleague saying "I smell like BK". This really changes the meaning of this phrase significantly. I can just imagine the applications…

  • You could go into a Vegetarian restaurant and wear the stuff as a sign of protest…
  • If you are Catholic and are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays— you could wear it to see if anybody is paying attention.
  • If you are a known Vegetarian or a Vegan and have a warped sense of humor, you can always wear it and make people think…

I'm sure there are others… but I'll just leave that up to you…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why can't my friends be friends with my friends

Every place you go you have the opportunity to make friends. From Pre-school, to High School— from the swim team to the planning team… you probably have made friends from each. Every place that you make friends has a different dynamic— each has its own set of rules, ways of speaking to one another, expected behavior, etc., etc. One would think that if you get along with one group of people— those people should get along with people from another group you know as well.

I recently made a comment to a co-worker that I felt I was always the same kind of person no matter who I'm with. They payed me a nice complement by saying "I can definitely see that in you"— after which they surprised me by following up with… "but I'm a completely different person outside of work…". I'm not saying that this person is a chameleon— but it made me wonder if people tend to act differently depending on who they are with.

Call me an idealist— but I tend to think that if I can get along with people from many different groups, they should as well. I fully understand the concept of group dynamics— and that even people within a group do not necessarily get along with everybody in the group… but I am still left to hope.

I did have one nice consolation where a former colleague from work struck up a conversation on Facebook with a theater friend over a topic that I never engaged with either beforehand. I'm not saying that we all should have the same number of friends and mutual friends on Facebook, but at least knowing that people can relate to one another even though they are from different groups is refreshing.

So, I will pose the question again…
Why can't my friends be friends with my friends?

Saturday, December 13, 2008


With inspirations from Mom…

This is a recipe that I found is very easy to make and is one of the cookies I make every Christmas. Caution… this recipe uses "real" ingredients— I have never tried substitutes, but if you are successful using something else, let me know.


1 lb. Butter (4 Sticks)
8 oz. Cream Cheese
4 C Flour
2 T Baking Powder
2-3 T Sugar
1 12oz. Can Cake & Pastry Filling
1-2 C Confectioners Sugar
  1. Soften the butter and Cream Cheese in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Cut in the Flour, Baking Powder and Sugar.
  3. Mix with your hands until it becomes a dough.
  4. Chill overnight
  5. Preheat Oven to 350°
  6. Roll no thinner than 1/8".
  7. Cut out circles.
    I use a shot glass, or even a small orange juice glass to do so.
  8. Place the circles on a baking sheet.
  9. Place an indentation into the circle to hold the filling.
  10. Place a small spoonful of filling into the indentation.
    I like raspberry and apricot as flavors, but feel free to use what ever you like.
  11. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle Confectioners Sugar on top
  13. Enjoy

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writers Workshop: Corn or Soybeans

Thought I would take on Mamma Kat's writers workshop today and talk about allergies.

I attended college in central Illinois— the heart of the corn belt. I found that I usually caught colds either in March or October— I never was able to get through either month without catching a cold. I felt that most of my colds may have been allergy driven because I noticed that I tended to get them at the same time of year. But there was a pattern to my colds that I found to be very interesting:

I realized that my colds were heavy one year and light the next. For example— I may have a light cold in March and a heavy one in October… but the following year I have a heavy cold in March and a light one in October.

This got me to thinking— the crop rotation in central Illinois is corn one year, soybeans the next… so I must be allergic to either corn pollen or soybean pollen depending on which crop was more in abundance that year. I know what you're thinking… why in March? I believe that this is because that is the time the farmers start plowing their fields and this stirs up the pollen from the previous year's harvest.

This was an interesting hypothesis, but I had no way of proving it. I had no way of determining what the abundant crop was for any given year. Further arguments to this hypothesis is that after I graduated and moved to Chicago the colds stopped… I went about 2 years straight without catching one. Now I think I get my colds from people… not plants.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Over the Blvd. and down the hill…

…to grandmother's house we go.

Before my mother-in-law passed, she used to live just across the street and down the hill. Being house bound she couldn't get out— so one Christmas morning my wife and I decided that we would go over to her house and wake her up to celebrate Christmas with her. Since we didn't feel like getting dressed, we put on our bath robes and ran down to see her. After this we decided that we would always celebrate Christmas in our pajamas.

Me in my PJ's… Coffee in one hand— dog in the other.

Lately we have held Christmas at our house and have cooked a Christmas brunch for the kids and their families. Even though they no longer live with us, we have insisted that they come in their pajamas and we all have a great time opening presents, eating brunch, and enjoying the day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The birth of a flag— the "short" story

I was telling this story yesterday, but Life Liberty and the Persuit…'s post inspired me to retell the tale.

I was playing Judge Wilson in the musical 1776 and was getting fitted for my costume during one of the rehearsals. I was trying on various pants in another room when I heard my scene was coming up. I have been comfortable wearing boxers on stage since I played Tony in West Side Story— so going on without pants was not a bother. I didn't want to miss my entrance, so I went into the rehearsal room wearing my thick red and white striped boxers.

Being that the show was a comedy, I tried my best to stay in character and not crack up seeing all of the people giggling. But the real kicker was when the person who played Ben Franklin shouted out "Martha… I have a great idea for a flag" to which the entire room broke out in laughter and the scene had to stop.

Ever since that time, whenever I wore those boxers I had to giggle a bit.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Multiple personalities

No, I'm not Sybil…

I must admit that I am my parent's child. Looking at some of my physical traits you can tell that I am genetically related to them— my flattened nose from my Dad, my crooked bottom teeth from my Mom, etc., etc. But I also know that I have inherited other things as well.

Besides the fact that Mom likes cream in her coffee— Dad likes sugar… and I like both cream and sugar, I know that I have inherited some distinct personality traits.

Sophisticated — Sarcastic
I get my sophistication from my Dad. He's the one who taught me how to order in a restaurant, how to tie a tie, and how to think logically. I think that he also influenced my "old fashioned" nature and my desire to wear hats, shave with a straight razor, etc. Not to say that he's a stuffed-shirt— he can also be quite funny— but this is what I notice to have gleaned from him.
I get my sarcasm from my Mom. We were always trying to top one another and usually wind up saying… "you won the smart alack of the year award". Not to say that she's always goofy, but she does have an interesting wit that I also have in abundance.
Personal — Professional
My mother is very personable. She's the one I always had those heart to heart talks with when in my formative years and I always appreciate her care and concern. I believe I got most of my parenting skills from her and know that I am thoughtful and loving towards others because of it.
My father— though retired now— has a lot of professionalism that I greatly respect. It's his work ethic that I admire and I try to emulate his dedication to the task at hand in the work that I do.

"First impressions are everything" they seem to say… but it may be that if I lean towards one of my traits, I do not get the acclamation or respect that I think I deserve. I may be quite sarcastic at times which seems to effect my being personal because people don't take me seriously. Or, I may be acting quite professional and later tell a very subtle joke that nobody gets. If you understand that I am a combination of these traits, you should be able to understand me better in the long run.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chocolate Cake

With inspirations from Per

Whenever our milk turns a bit sour, my wife always suggests making something with it rather than throwing out the milk. So, I pulled out her moms recipe for Chocolate Cake. I was surprised to find how easy it is to make Chocolate Cake.

Chocolate Cake:
4 Squares unsweetened chocolate (cut fine)
4 T Butter
1 C Boiling Water
2 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1/2 C Sour Milk
1 t Vanilla
1 t Soda
2 C Flower
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°
  2. Boil the water in a small sauce pan with the butter.
  3. Sliver the chocolate and add to the boiling water.
    I like this step because I do not have to melt the chocolate in a double-boiler.
  4. Add the sugar to the water butter chocolate mix. (chocolate syrup)
    for lack of a better term.
  5. Once well mixed, turn off the heat and let cool.
  6. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the eggs milk and vanilla together. (wet)
  7. In a separate mixing bowl, add the Soda and Flower together. (dry)
  8. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture.
  9. Add the chocolate syrup mixture to the mixing bowl.
    You do this last because you do not want to cook the eggs.
  10. Grease and flower a 9 inch baking pan.
  11. Add the batter to the pan.
  12. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a butter knife comes out clean.
  13. Cool.
  14. Enjoy!

Though we may not always want Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, I find this a great thing to eat anytime.

Web Analytics