Monthly Archives: December 2007

…and I’m back

I just spent 8 fabulous days in Peabody, Kansas, population my sis, her husband and son, and a few hundred other people. Took the dogs, who enjoyed one day of running on the green Kansas grass in sunny, 50* temperatures before it snowed, and snowed and, yeah, snowed some more.

Nephew Michael graciously walked Ricky a few times so I could concentrate on the true meaning of the season — playing Scrabble and stuffing my gob. And I did have a few Scrabble high points: I broke 300 points in one game, used all 7 letters another time, and beat big sis “all 7 letters on a triple word score” Linda several times. Of course, her game was a bit off. One evening, I beat her, Michael beat her, husband Leroy beat her, and the dogs were getting ready to challenge her * when she called it quits. She did rally, though, and in our last game used all seven letters to spell “beanery,” putting the “Y” on the end of “snuff.” There may have been a double or triple word score involved, too — my recollection is unclear due to envy and shame. I didn’t even break 100 in that game. It was clearly time to come home.

Presents were exchanged as well. The amount of gifting was perfect — enough to say “it’s a special day and I love you” but considerably less than “I hit the mall with my Mastercard and emerged from a daze driving down the parkway with a crapload of pointless gifts and 6 months of debt.” Linda received enough knitting supplies to keep a normal person happy for a few years and the average knitter satisfied for a couple of months. I received some wonderful knitting stuff too, and music, and organic chocolate, and much lovely miscellaneous. Leroy got hiking boots and hummingbird feeders, which makes him sound a lot more granola-y than he really is.**

Even the dogs got gifted. Well, their first gift was Linda and, especially, Leroy*** allowing them to come and stay for a week or so. They’d even bought Ricky a big doggy pillow, which Violet immediately staked out. Michael, however, did that one better. He bought Violet a bag of rawhide treats, which Ricky may share if Violet, who is a greedy bitch, doesn’t find out. Ricky got a high-tech shower nozzle/bath system, because Michael thinks it’s funny that Ricky rolls in things like deer entrails.***** And for Zeke, being boarded at the vet in Storm Lake, Michael wrapped up a very special chunk of coal with a tag that read, “Hey Zeke — bite this.” Because it was Christmas, he refrained from adding “you little green bastard,” which has been his pet name for Zeke ever since the bloody index finger incident of ’05.

So here I am, home again on New Year’s Eve. I *still* have a few bags to unpack. I’ve done the laundry, though, and restocked and de-smelled the fridge (note: birdie veggie mix with broccoli does not do well left for 8 days), given the kitties some love and picked up Zeke this morning from the vet.****** I’m going to make some navy bean and ham soup later, read a novel, nap with the dogs, walk them, and read some more. Chocolate (organic/free trade) and chips and dip may be involved. I expect to be peacefully asleep long before midnight.

A happy, peaceful 2008 to all.

*Ricky is confident that a spelled-out beagle yodel — awbarowowowooo — would handily (pawsidly?) win the game.

**Actually, he’s not granola-y at all. He’s more oatmeal-y. Instant oatmeal, quick and economical. The man votes Republican, for heaven’s sake.

***Leroy believes dogs should live outside in warm kennels to which they retire after they’ve flushed some pheasants or retrieved some ducks or, at the very least, had the decency to crap on the neighbor’s lawn and not his.****

****He was sighted, however, patting Violet’s head. Unlike Ricky, who is at least of working dog stock, Violet’s only purpose in life is to be cute and to refrain (mostly) from peeing in the house. But it was Christmas, after all.

*****Happened in early December. I was too traumatized to blog about it.

******He tells me he was terribly abused and unloved for 8 days, but I know they gave him fresh apple and the vet himself brought him leftover turkey. They even rigged up a set of vicegrips to keep his little sleep tent attached to the top of the cage, despite Zeke’s efforts to throw it on the floor. All this for $5 a day and all the blood Zeke can extract from their fingers as they feed him and change his water. I love my vet’s office.

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Xmas: My (stolen) gift for you….

Angry Chicken (what a fab blog name!) has a set of hilarious — and truthful — gift tags you can download and print.  My favorites:

“Don’t get excited, this box is from something else.”

“I was starting to really run out of ideas.”

“I totally want to get one of these for myself, so let me know if you don’t want it.”

And the tag I will be ever more using on my gifts to my buddy Jennifer: “This seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’m not so sure.”

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Buy Toro!

I just went out to fire up the Toro electric snow blower and, well, blow some snow. But plugging the extension cord into the unit requires one to turn a plastic key to remove a guard at the plug in site. The key is gone and nowhere to be found (probably under the snow from the last snow blow!).

I called Toro’s customer service and they are sending a new key immediately. That’s good service, but that’s not blog post-worthy in itself.

Here’s the amazing part: I dialed the number, pressed “3” for all services other than irrigation, and immediately got to talk to a real, live person. No circular hell of punching numbers, no automated invitations to use the website, no optimistic voice informing me that my call is important and would I please hold for 10 minutes while listening to music any decent elevator would be ashamed to play. Just a nice young woman who helped me.

I don’t think I’ve had a customer service phone call like that since the early 1990’s.

Speaking of the early ’90s, now I have to go remove snow the old fashioned way. By flirting up a man to do it for me. NO, I have to shovel. Shoveling’s way less work than getting my body into flirting shape and, in the end, I won’t have some guy clumping around my house needing me to pay attention to him rather than to my novel.

Well, crap.

Consider the following:

1) I adore milk chocolate and eat a lot of it. If Americans eat, as claimed, about 12 pounds of chocolate per year each, then I’m doing the work of two or three.

2) I encourage my English 100 composition students to write their research papers on topics that they want to learn more about, and they often learn amazing things about pretty ordinary subjects.

3) I very much admire Quaker John Woolman, who wore undyed cloth because slaves in the South grew and processed indigo. Woolman also urges us to examine our possessions and habits to see if they contain the “seeds of war” or oppression.

Combine those three points and imagine my horror when I was helping a student do some research for a paper on chocolate and learned that all of our big, multi-national chocolate companies (M&M/Mars, Hershey, Nestle, etc. and SEE’S*) buy cocoa from the Ivory Coast, where extensive child slave labor has been known to be used on cocoa farms since at least 2001. The companies have done little to change this (including successfully lobbying against a US congressional effort to label chocolate sort of like tuna: Slave Free).

*Sigh* now I just can’t eat the stuff.

Fair trade chocolate is slave-free, of course, as is organic since Ivory Coast doesn’t do organic farming and organic farms must be inspected and certified, but a) do you know what that stuff costs? and b) they do very little milk chocolate. Evidently the chocolate connoisseurs who eat fair trade and organic prefer dark chocolate. Bastards! Where’s a middle-aged English teacher with ethics and creamy, delicate sensibilities supposed to find fair trade milk chocolate in rural Iowa?!

Okay, so my pain isn’t as bad as, say, that of a chocolate farm slave.

I’m going to have to switch to Red Vines licorice as my paper grading reward, and only one store here sells hat — Walmart (talk about a rock(candy) and a hard place). Everywhere else in town, it’s Twizzlers, which is the Devil’s own candy.

*See’s milk chocolate covered butterscotch squares and dark chocolate covered raspberry cremes –*sigh* If only I’d known the last time I had them that it was the last….naw. I still would have scarfed them down.

Gone feral part deux…

Thursday was exhausting; I was on campus from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday was almost as bad. So when I got home, I just ordered pizza to be delivered. My favorite pizzeria here doesn’t do much delivery service, so they send the pizza in Storm Lake’s only taxi, which I always find amusing.

Anyway, they had a two-fer deal, so I ordered two larges. After eating my dinner and putting the rest of that pizza in the fridge for weekend noshing, I got out some quart freezer bags and bagged up 2 -3 slice portions of the extra pizza to freeze. The dogs were both sitting right there watching this with anxious eyes (they’d both already had a couple of bites). I said to them,* “By freezing this now, we can enjoy it another time.” And then it hit me: freezing pizza slices for me and the dogs is the closest I’m ever going to come to that uber-domestic activity, canning produce or jam for my loving family.

Not that I particularly want to can, or want any creature living with me that doesn’t eat pet food and like it, but still. I just recognized that another domestic marker and part of my own childhood** had passed me by.

Oh well. The dogs probably wouldn’t like jam, anyway.

*Yes, I talk to the animals. A lot. I figure that as long as they’re not talking back, I’m not crazy, just endearingly eccentric.

**My mother made and canned the BEST jams and jellies. Both her raspberry jam and pie-cherry jam (from our own garden) should be in the freaking Smithsonian, except if there were any jars left, my siblings and I would fight over them. Viciously.