Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: King Soopers (Krogers) New-and-Improved Fried Chicken

     Grandma Cumings had a chickenyard.

     She not only used its products for her own large family -- 8 kids, or 'two and a half-dozen,' as my grandpa liked to say -- but delivered eggs to a long line of customers.
     One of her favorite foods was fried chicken, crisped in a cast-iron skillet. She was famous for it and her pies, especially to the threshers who came by each year.
     When the Brick and I married, I gained another side to the fried chicken angle, thanks to his North Carolina roots. But I confess -- rather than go to all the trouble and grease spatters of frying my own chicken, I rely on store-bought.

King Soopers (probably Kroger's, to you easterners) has been tinkering with its fried chicken lately. They sent me a coupon to try a free batch --
      And they're right. It is an improvement!

A box of chicken gets you two of each: breasts, thighs, wings and legs. You can buy them hot off the deli plate (which we did this time), or packaged and ready to take out of the cooler.
    First thing I noticed was the nice crrunch that happened when I bit into the chicken. The meat inside was moist, almost delicate, in spite of the crispy batter outside.
    But something even better happened. I had hardly any grease on my fingers!

I don't know how they do it, but this latest method produces crunchier chicken with less grease aftertaste, and noticeably less pools of grease inside the box, or on your hands. I have to believe this means less grease going into your mouth, as well. Hooray!

The cold chicken wasn't quite as good -- but still less grease.

I actually went and bought some Safeway chicken, to compare the two. That version had a softer crust and more noticeable fat left on the chicken. Back to the grease marks on the carton, too.

King Soopers likes to say, "We have the best chicken!" You know what? In the grocery deli department, I think they do!

(Please note: I do occasionally take Bzz agent jobs, and review various products. I am not paid for these, but do get free and reduced-price coupons. However, I'm not going to say anything I don't believe is true. No matter what.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Woof! In Stitches

Just got this wonderful redwork embroidered quilt via gb-best. (An experienced, trustworthy Ebay seller with a sterling reputation...and good stuff.)

You should be asking...why call it 'redwork' when it's blue? Because to the appraiser, that's the official term, regardless of the color. Many of the first quilts in this style were stitched in Turkey red, because that was the most colorfast dye for a long time. And if you boiled your quilts and kitchen linens to get them clean (common practice for a long time), you wanted to be sure that your colors were going to stay. Why go through all that work, otherwise...

Gb-best dates this piece from the Thirties, and I'd agree -- the late Thirties, that is. Maybe even the early Forties, based on the darker blue. The kicker is the Scotty dog.

My favorite -- and probably a connection with President Roosevelt's dog Fala

No golden Labs, though -- poor Charley and Abby.

Quilting's a lot more elaborate than you'd normally see on a quilt of this type. Was it made by a dog-loving adult, rather than for a child? I'm guessing yes.
    I would have said this was a unique pattern, most probably traced from pages of a dog book or magazine. However, a fellow appraiser, Carol Elmore, tells me she has the same quilt, but in pink. She got hers in Missouri. (Gb-best isn't saying where hers came from. UPDATE: This quilt came from an estate in Pennsylvania.)
    Could they have been made by the same person, or mutual friends and relatives? I'm guessing this is a commercial pattern, but sure haven't noticed it, in more than two decades of research.

Unusual, however you put it. 

See more of gb-best's listings here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Libby Lehman...Want to Help?

This message just came through, regarding our mutual friend, Libby Lehman.

(She had a few strokes, if you'll remember, and is slowly, painfully recuperating. She must learn how to talk, walk and all the rest of the life's other things that we take for granted.)

Here it is...

Great News!
Bill Arnold (Libby's brother in law) has created an online account where donations can easily be made online towards Libby's medical fund using
The email address to use for the donation is:

And here's the June 19 update via Libby's Facebook (and CaringBridge) site:

Tuesday night - icing on our cake, 10 hours ago, Here's the Icing on our cake today, as reported from Diane: "This afternoon the Administrator, Mr. Scoffer, made his rounds as usual. The assistant, Ela, asked in Spanish for Libby to wave to him "Goodbye". Delores (a good friend of Libby and Lester's) said Libby gave him a big wave with her right hand. Ela was so happy about it what when I (Diane) got back from HEB she hugged me and told me how good Libby is doing." This must have been a thrill around the nursing center because during Sarah's visit later this evening she reported that two staff members made sure to tell her about Libby's goodbye wave before Sarah left. It is so sweet to have the staff as excited as we are! Finally, in closing for the day, some words from Lester:
"There are still some big hurdles but I am so hopeful after what I saw today. I will also tell you that every therapist, nurse, and cleaning person in University Place adores Libby."

You can catch up Libby's situation here and here.

Still thinking about and praying for you, Libby.

Here's a mystery for you

An Egyptian statuette keeps turning around. Is it a true mystery...or just 'differential friction?'

(I'd believe the latter more quickly if all of the statuettes in the case were doing the same thing.)


Monday, June 24, 2013

Yes, I am the Mother of a Super-Hero

Here she is, Daughter #1, Wonder Womyn, at the local with one of her buddies:

(She's a cartoonist, as well as a designer -- she did this costume herself. Wow!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Back in the Garden Again

Our sticky, stuffy heat finally eased up today, thanks in part to an afternoon of thunderstorms. These are the first sustained rain we've had for about two months. Sure, we get 'quickie,' often violent thunderstorms, but the ground dries up fast. 
     The Brick also installed a swamp cooler. It sounds like jets are taking off and landing, but did its job so effectively that the kitchen linoleum was cold to the touch this morning. Charley the dog is very relieved; he searches for the absolute chilliest spot to lie in, and this gives him all sorts of opportunities.
     I'm going to try planting again. But this time, thanks to the terrorist chickies, I'm only doing it in selected areas I can protect with wood and netting on top. That seems to be the only thing that keeps them at bay.
    That, and planting in the front garden bed they can't reach. (They only range in the fenced backyard.) Meanwhile:

Detroit just defaulted on $2.5 BILLION in debts. I knew the emergency manager (appointed by the Michigan governor, after Detroit officials refused to come up with a workable plan) was threatening to do this. But it actually happened. This figure includes those poor souls whose pension plans are connected with Detroit, as well. Guess what they're offering creditors, basically saying 'take it or get nothing' -- 10 cents on the dollar. Yow. 

A woman manages to grab the bandanna disguise off the burglar who grabs her purse...and it's her grandson. 

Dirty secrets of tidy families. Ooh, great ways to keep things less messy, fast.  (I can use all the help I can get, Apartment Therapy.)

Double chocolate marshmallow cookies. Think S'mores with an attitude. Can you resist? (From Cleverly Inspired)

An interesting look at the average mom's excellent reasoning why moms and dads alike need life insurance. (From Daily Money Shot.)

What would happen if our water supplies got messed up? Len Penzo has been on "The World's Going to Hell in a Handbasket" kick for months now. He may be right, he may not -- but his tips in this area is worth considering.

Are your flipflops looking ratty? Vamp them up with this easy method, from Morena's Corner.

She does some interesting things with brass thumbtacks and Modge Podge, too.

Off to dig in the dirt...and enjoy the roses. Have a great week. 

The wild roses are nearly done...they were lovely this year. Red roses are still going strong.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hot, Sticky Saturday

The Brick is out on the deck, banging and sawing away at the laundry room window. A swamp cooler awaits installation...should be cooler in here!

The dogs are snoring at my feet. Charley's fur is so thick...he especially feels the heat.

Shoot, I do, too. The keys on the computer board keep sticking to my fingers in a thin pool of sweat.


But that's summer for you.

The 'baby' chicks are now out in the yard, mixing with the older hens. The chicks are now awkward teenagers, with gawky legs. They forever look like they're pulling down too-tight skirts, and God forbid any of the chicks go anyplace in the yard by themselves. Instead, they run in a tight, nervous group. (Sound like any of the teenagers in your life?)
    They remind me a lot of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park:

Or here:

The chickies would be doing this too, if they had teeth and thought they'd get away with it. The strange thing: they make a half-peeping, almost-clucking noise that reminds me of the velociraptors. They've got to be related, the little terrorists. (They're supposed to be related, scientifically speaking.)

Meanwhile, now that articles and e-mail are done, lawn mowing awaits. And cleaning out the chicken coop. Stacking some firewood. Planting more beans. (The terrorists took care of the rows I planted a few weeks ago, in spite of netting and muttered curses.)

Maybe a crisp salad and iced tea for supper...and a movie about snow.

Our new threesome, the Rhode Island 'Production' Reds, are this orange color. The rest are glossy black Australorps.
Go here for a chicken/dinosaur progression...scroll down to see the graphic. Yup, I agree!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Quilting...In Space!

Wow, can you believe it -- a NASA astronaut is bringing quilting into the space age.


Now, if she and I can only get our hands on some of that 'invisibility' cloak fabric...I'll take a fat quarter, scraps, anything!

* * * * * * * *
It's a better day. Another big quilt restoration flew out the door, and on to its destination. I have more deadlines to finish up before Friday, but they're doable.

     Feeling's hot as all getout here, and another fire (a smaller one, thankfully) is making the air smoky again. But we are plugging away. Hope you are, too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monday (er, Tuesday) Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Back in the Saddle Again

Still plugging away at the deadlines. They're starting to go down now, dragging and kicking and screaming as they get crossed off the list. I will make it. I will survive!

Len Penzo's Aunt Doris speaks her mind again -- this one on odd stories. She's got quite a ledger going, from everything to how she survived as a young widow ('Making Ends Meet'). It's like listening to your favorite auntie or grandma while you're having milk and cookies at the kitchen table.

Milk-braised pork loin, from Simple Seattle Living. This made me think of a recipe from one of my favorite Grace Livingston Hill romance novels. (A secret vice. So sue me.)

 In Not Under the Law,  Gracie's heroine has to come up with supper fast:

     "Did you ever bake it [ham] in milk?" asked Joyce..."It's delectable."
     "Cut the ham in big thick slices, as much as you want...Can I use these two iron frying pans? I think it bakes best in iron. Now light the oven please, turn it on full power. I take a handful of mustard and rub it into the meat, all over thickly, and put it into the pan. Then fill it up with milk till it almost covers the meat. Put it into the oven and bake it just an hour, a good hot oven, and it will be the sweetest, tenderest thing you ever put into your mouth." 

    And it is. Thanks, Gracie!

Why having multiple yard sales may be good (because you get regulars who will stop by) and bad (because the good stuff goes, and the junk hangs in there). From the Simple Dollar.

Here's the update on Black Forest and the other Colorado wildfires.   They're almost out...Thank God. (And I mean that literally.)

Pesto's bright green freshness is a wonderful way to bring summer into your menu. Try one of these versions: 101 Cookbooks' Five Herb Pesto, or Our New Life in the Country's Poor Man's Pesto. Yum.

What Paul Revere would do, if cellphones ruled during the American Revolution. I have a strange connection to this one -- Daughter #1 has been dating the friend (actually, the director) of the mandolin player in this commercial. Weird, huh?

Finally, the Sad Cat Diary: 

And the Sad Dog Diary.
(This one's a bit snarky about dogs' favorite habits -- backside-sniffing, etc. Don't watch if you're easily offended. Unfortunately, dogs can easily offend.) After you're done laughing, go out and pat your own Sad Cat or Sad Dog! (Thanks for mentioning these, Daughter #1.)

And have a great week. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Stuff's Coming!

....I am in the final throes of finishing up a quilt restoration.

Plus writing an article.

Cleaning up for tonight's Father's Day supper. 

Picking up the girlies in Denver, so they can celebrate with their dad.

Scrubbing out the hot tub, so we can use it.

Dropping off a kidney stone at the doctor's, so it can be analyzed. (Yes, the Brick is still suffering from these.) 

Picking up camping gear from the airport that we accidentally left in the rental vehicle (from our handguns class in Vegas)

It should all finish out's only 10:30 a.m., but I feel beat already. 

Sorry -- Monday Stuff's got to wait. It will arrive tomorrow.
Otherwise, I may bite someone.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Remembering Pa...and Father's Day

      This is the fifth Father's Day celebrated, without being able to send a card to the Dad who so influenced my life. Peter DeVries: big tough Dutch farmer, brilliant tractor mechanic, and a quiet man who rarely spoke in public...but talked his head off to his children and grandchildren. ("Why speak up and prove that I'm a dumb Hollander?" he used to say, eyes twinkling.)

My dad chose to love me. I was two when he met the Mama. He was the one who insisted he adopt me. He never wavered in that love...and honestly, I never wavered in mine.

Father's Day can be a little difficult around here. 

Long before I lost Dad to multiple melanoma cancer, the Brick lost his dad.

     Dave (The Brick)  was in the Navy, and headed to meet his parents in Missouri...they'd just moved there from North Carolina, mostly because Clyde, his dad, was insisting they needed to. Right away.
     Dave was getting there on a motorcycle, and called just before he hit town. His mom couldn't speak. Clyde, whom Dave had just started to mend fences with after four tumultuous high school years, was sitting on his brother's lawn, iced tea in hand...and had a fatal heart attack.
     Dave was 19. He had to make the rest of that trip, knowing that his dad was dead.

I lost Dad while on a teaching gig at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show in Virginia. I was judging the morning he died...and the Mancusos refused to interrupt the judging process, even for a dying man. By the time I called at lunchtime, he had been gone for a few hours.
     I taught the next three days and had to make the rest of the trip to Michigan, knowing that my dad was dead.

     Dave, my darling Brick, has been a good husband and wonderful father. He loves his girlies more than anything. (They'll be here tomorrow -- Daughter #2 had to work today.) And in that sense, we still celebrate.

But we both have something else on Father's Day: that dull ache, that sense of missing someone who was so dear to us. I met the Brick years after his dad's death, so never was able to meet him. I will someday. As I will see my dear Pa again.

Happy Father's Day, Clyde -- can't wait to meet you. I've seen you so often through your son's eyes. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad -- your daughter loves you very much, and thinks so often of you.

See you soon.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fire Update's getting better, Thank God.

More houses have burned: we're up to 483 now in the Black Forest fire. But still only the two fatalities. And it's 55% contained, with progress still being made.  The fire should be out by midweek. We're still having some windgusts, and it's hot -- but at least it's cooling off in the evening.
     Current news here. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fire and Roses

Another strange week at our house. Is this the new 'norm?'

Colorado's wildfires are still going, though the firemen (bless them) are starting to make a little headway. The media are reporting at least 350 homes burned. Two people have been found dead, in the garage, with their packed vehicle not far away. They should have left more quickly.
    One lady who called the office today said they'd evacuated their daughter's family Tuesday night, then were sitting down to supper Wed evening when the dreaded knock on the door came. They had 20 min. to pack and get out. They literally left the food on the table, threw clothes and papers into suitcases, then spent the rest of the time loading their horses. Now they're at a son's house, waiting to see what will happen. So far, their house is intact.
   Some people are being allowed to return to their homes. I-25, our major thoroughfare, still has restrictions. So far.
    I've heard of an elderly couple that's missing. No one has heard from them for some days. Both husband and wife are active with our state guild, the Colorado Quilt Council, and are nice people. But they should have checked in somewhere by now.
    The air still is not clear...but it's not as bad as it was.

And on a different cheerful thought, the Brick is up and ambulatory...but still carrying several kidney stones in his system. He's had some low-grade pain; hopefully that means they're buzzing through. He's been down in Pueblo for a bus driver's conference, and will somehow have to get through I-25 tonight when he returns home.
    I've been staying up until 2 a.m. nights, working on things...and finally starting to make progress. Still, it will be lovely to see him. I miss that good ol boy when he's gone.

How can it be, in all this uncertainty and smokiness, that the roses are blooming like crazy? The Harison rose (yes, one 'r') bloomed for the first time, warm yellow blossomlets on a sticky, pickery stem. This is the true pioneer rose, one that was carried west in cutting form, stuck in a potato. It's a little fussy getting started, but has nerves of steel once it's established. In fact, it's so hardy that rosebushes have survived even when the buildings and people are gone. (Kind of like lilacs.)
    The Harison, by the way, is the true Yellow Rose of Texas. You can find out more about it via my Golden West book, if you're interested.
    The Persian rose - a great-great-grandfather of the Harison - is also starting to bloom: large, warm yellow flowers on an upright bush. The pink wild roses in the corner of the backyard -- a shady spot where the hens love to scratch, rest and just watch the world go by -- are blooming their hearts out.
    Even the deep red Lincoln rose in the front flower bed is joining the festivities. Is it the heat that's prompting all this activity? (It's certainly not rain - we've had hardly any.)
    Or maybe they like ashes.

This is what a Harison rose looks like..but think smaller size

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


It's started up again in Colorado.

More than 90 homes have burned so far in the Black Forest fire -- a subdivision between here (Castle Rock) and Colorado Springs. It's north and east of the Waldo Canyon fire that singed the Springs last year, in an area full of large mansions on acreage.
     That's kept the numbers lower. But if this hot, dry wind doesn't die down, it will just keep going. Thousands of people have been evacuated, just in case, including the inmates of a prison.

More here:

The air is full of acrid smoke, and hot anyways, making it difficult to breathe. It's not just us, either -- I can see Charley and Abby struggling with it, and the hens are laying fewer eggs.

We're praying for rain. Or just praying -- period.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Better Times Ahead

After last week's huge up and downs, I'm looking forward to some quiet. The Brick is headed out of town for most of the week, going to a big Transportation seminar for the school system. Two hours drive away...and hopefully his kidney stones will behave
    One strange side effect has come out of our time at the handguns class in Las Vegas: neither of us does well with heat right now. It's not that bad out -- only in the high 80s -- but even with cool drinks and fans going, it feels so much more draining. Did all that flirting with heat exhaustion in the past few weeks have a lasting effect?
      The Brick is supposed to help out at a bus-drivers' rodeo while he's out of town. I made him promise that he would NOT stand out in the sun, no matter what. He just can't handle it at present, so soon out of the hospital. (Fortunately, he realizes that.)
      I have a ton of work to do, but more time to do it when the Brick's gone. No well-balanced suppers and ironed shirts; I just eat whatever I feel like, stay up until all hours of the night, and can work on projects for long periods without interruptions. I miss him like crazy while he's gone...but hey, I also get work done. 
     Feeling very tired, but hopeful. Meanwhile:

What's going to happen if the U.S. collapses financially.  Or should I say when?!? (Len Penzo's take on the subject, plus a link on how to deal with it. I'm not as pessimistic -- but not hugely optimistic, either.)

Homemade freezer smoothies. (From Keeper of the Home) Sounds so good right now...

Cherry Lime Syrup, from Frugal Upstate. If you're a sucker for Sonic's cherry limeade, this might be just the ticket.

Moneymaking opportunities are still everywhere -- you just have to know what to look for. Financial Samurai's take on the subject.  (He would certainly agree with Warren Buffett to be greedy when others are scared, and vice versa.)

Signs that someone's drowning -- and it's not what you think.  When Daughter #2 was quite little, our family went to a local hot springs. (Colorado is full of them, in case you didn't know.) I saw her in the shallow end, turned around to say something to my mom...and turned back again to see two desperate little eyes, and bubbles. It all happened so quickly. We rescued her, but barely.

Ten unconventional ways to hang art, courtesy of Apartment Therapy. I was particularly enamored with Jill's "Peacock Fabdonkulous" room. She's fond of Gainsborough's The Blue Boy -- can you tell?

Yep, this is him, courtesy of Wikipedia

(This is a fascinating way to pay homage to a famous painting. I could see Van Gogh's Iris or Sunflowers treated in similar fashion.)

Making a beautiful herbal wreath, with Keeper of the Home's help.

    Better Homes and Gardens has this version, as well:

I wish I were doing this...

...but at least things are doing a little better. Hope they're going well for you.

Attempting to Keep Up

I spent the night in the hospital.

More succinctly, I spent Friday night in the hospital -- after I hung out in the emergency room for a few hours first.
    It's the Brick again...and kidney stones. 

Four in his left kidney (which isn't acting up) -- three in the right one. He passed a big stone Friday morning, then a real hours later, the pain reappeared.

Ever since we got home from Vegas, the Brick has been hurting. He's been able to take sick days to at least rest a little.

I, on the other hand, have commitments. 

Good friends who have an insurance agency hired me to mind the store while they're on a cruise. That goes into next week, as well.

I have a big quilt restoration that badly needs to be finished.

Writing deadlines.

Appraisals to do -- especially a big batch of them on Thursday.

And the usual stuff -- but alone, since the Brick is headed out of town most of this week.

Little sleep, and feeling like I'm being pulled in a million directions.

Thankfully, the Brick is feeling better. But what if he gets worse again? (At least he's got meds this time which should help.)

I am hoping that won't happen. Got stuff to do.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Gunning in Nevada - the Full Report

    As I've mentioned, the Brick and I just got back from a four-day class in handgun use at Front Sight Institute...not far from Vegas.  This is a long post, but I wanted you to understand a bit more about this place, and the experience.

(A quick update from the "Thank God" Department: He finally passed the last kidney stone! And wouldn't you know it --  the biggest. He is feeling much better, though quite wobbly.)

Front Sight is a large desert compound way out in the boonies, a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas on one side, and a 30-min or so jaunt from Pahrump on the other. (It's close to the California border.) This place is HUGE -- at least a dozen firing ranges, plus some classroom tents (big ones) and several buildings, including an armory and a Pro Shop. Adobe walls and large sand berms separate each range, and protect from stray bullets. Sand is everywhere, in the parking lots, alongside the sidewalks, and sand devils (little whirwinds) kick up in the distance. The ranges are gravel underfoot, with spent shell casings that shine in the sun. (A sore temptation, if you're into embellishments. Yes, I picked up some. The Brick just laughed.)
While we were there, a two-day class on handguns was happening, as well as our four-day class, plus other classes on rifles and shotguns. (I also noticed an obstacle course similar to that used by the Top Shot History Channel series.) This made for somewhere around 250 people, all ages, shapes and sizes, out there. Many were hunters; others had a strong interest in protecting themselves and their families. Or both. A healthy sprinkling of women were included. I'm guessing that most, like myself, were just accompanying their mates. (But hey, I could be wrong.) At least five other women were in my class.
     Everyone sports a holstered gun on one hip, and a couple of loaded magazines on the other. Talk about swaggering...

Our instructors (from 3-5, depending on the day) were dressed in quasi-military outfits, and extremely professional. Some guys were ex-military. Others had police training. Several had training in martial arts, as well; one also taught Tai Kwan Do to kids. What particularly struck me: their dedication to safety and training. These people not only wanted us to be able to shoot handguns -- they wanted us to do it well, and only when necessary. For that, we repeated certain steps -- like holstering and loading -- over and over and over. But by the time class ended, I could do it automatically without thinking.

Glasses and electronic earphones went on, the moment we walked into the range. We shot at full bust targets from 3 feet, 5 feet, 7 feet and 15 feet. Two shots to the thorasic cavity. ('Why not take two shots - your gun is already lined up from the first --  then a third sight, just in case.') If that didn't work, then a head shot. (As I said, a strong emphasis on personal protection.) Once you do this, over and over, first 'dry' (no bullets) and then live, it starts to feel more natural.
     It also helped that we had instructors at our elbow, watching and making suggestions -- yelling sometimes, but praising just as often (or more). I became fond of a few, for their encouraging ways...but the master instructor was all business. He didn't want to be friendly -- he wanted us to learn it. "Eyes, ears, ammo" was said so often, that I can hear it in my sleep.

We also had several lectures on legal and moral procedures, as well as training on moving into and out of doors and other visual obstacles. One of the exercises was "Monsters,Inc," a houselike structure with several doors. The instructor hooks a carabiner to your back belt and says, "Open the door."
    "No," I said.
   He blinked a little "Why not?"
   "Because I know something will be jumping out at me." (I hate sudden surprises.)
   "Well, just open the door."

Thankfully, it was just posters of bad guys, positioned in every room. I nailed the first one, then successfully avoided the girl talking on her cellphone. Feeling more confident, I turned the corner into the next room, saw a flash of knife and another leering bad guy. Gun up -- BLAM!
    "Congratulations," the instructor said. "You just shot your son."
    Turns out that bad guy was holding a hostage: a teenaged kid. I'd taken the poor kid out -- oops. The instructor smirked.  But hey, I also got two shots in Bad Guy's knife arm!
     (After class, I phoned Daughter #1. "Guess what? I just shot your brother." She said, "I don't have a brother. NOW what, Mom??")

The entire class wasn't easy. Although we hunt every year with rifles and shotguns, I hadn't shot a handgun since college (hunting rabbits with friend Herman). Raising that gun and pulling it to reset and load took a lot of hand strength I really don't have. (My wrists are not very strong anymore. Blame arthritis and too much quilting.) By the end of each day (though it did get easier), we were just beat. We never even went to the Strip -- just went back to our condo, had a swim and supper, watched TV -- then bed. After all, we had to be at the firing range by 7:40 a.m. the next morning.
    The other issue was the heat. Ninety-five degrees was the lowest of the temperatures we experienced. ("Naw, that's not hot" Terry, our instructor said. "It's not even summer yet!") I got in the habit of looking at the thermometer every time we left at night, when things had cooled down somewhat: 104, 106 and the highest, 108 degrees. Although we had a canopy over the chairs on the shooting range, we were usually standing by the targets, out in the sun. Things got a little hazy at times, even though we guzzled down gallons of cold water. No one in the class got sunstroke, though several came close. I feel pretty certain that the Brick's kidney stones were aggravated by dealing with this heat and dryness, day after day.

We persevered, though, and finished the class. (Classes, for the Brick. He took a CCW class, too.)
        Would we do it again?

The Brick would, in a heartbeat. He has always wanted to get more training in handguns. (Plus, he wants to get a concealed permit.) He is already planning to come back in the fall or winter for one of the advanced courses.

I probably would. (In fact, if the Brick signed up, I'd go, just to be with him.) It wasn't fact, it was so totally different from my usual modus operandi that I had little to compare it with. I often felt awkward, especially at first. But the class helped me learn how to handle a handgun accurately. I knew I could shoot well enough -- I've done that before, with hunting rifles. But what I learned: I don't shoot quickly. (So didn't do well on the skills test, which was all timed.) But the instructors kept emphasizing that it was far more important to shoot accurately, rather than just fast.

That became even more clear during the final exercise. Instead of the single head target we were used to, the instructors stapled up a threesome -- a white figure in front, with a gray figure on either side. He wrote the name of a loved one (in my case, Daughter #2) on the white figure. "This is a hostage," he said. "The others are hostage-takers. Take them out."
     I nicked her. (Sorry, Angel.) But one of the hostage-takers was toast, and I came close to the other one. The mother cougar in me felt proud -- no one was messin' with our daughter!

A final reflection: A read through this post makes the class sound more bloodthirsty than it actually was. There was a lot of emphasis on self and family protection. (For good reaosn too, in this unpredictable world.) And the targets were shaped like people. BUT it wasn't an exercise in blasting everything that moved. Over and over again, the instructors urged, 'Think. Prepare. Practice. Do it safely, and shoot only when absolutely necessary. Then when the emergency comes, you'll be ready.'
     I think they're right.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tightfisted (and Smart) Habits of the Very Rich

     The rich are not like you and me.

Sometimes they're a lot more frugal.

This fascinating recent article takes a look at the penny-pinching habits of the superrich. For example:

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's front-and-center man, wears the same clothing item every day: a gray t-shirt. (He says he has 20 of them in his dresser drawer. How much do you want to bet that he got them on a group discount?)

Warren Buffett still lives in the house he bought for less than $40,000 decades ago. His predliction for hamburgers and root beer floats is well-known, as well as an ever-increasing collection of pithy quotes.

Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA's founder, flies economy class, or takes other transportation. Once he was refused admission to a business awards ceremony because he came off a bus. (Wonder if he was the one being honored?) He still often eats Swedish meatballs at IKEA cafeterias (the cheapest item on the lunch/supper menu), and is said to swipe salt and pepper packets for later use.
    (Special note here: a number of the billionaires profiled in this article don't use business or first class on planes. Hmmm...)

UK mobile phone pioneer James Caudwell cuts his own hair. Before he retired, he generally rode his bike to work.

Indian billionaire Azim Premji drove a Ford Escape for eight years, but recently traded it in...for a Toyota Corolla.

Shades of The Millionaire Next Door. Could these people's money-saving habits have something to do with their accumulation of wealth? If we paid as much attention to the little things as they do, would it help?
     My guess is.. yes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
From the Department of "Back to Normal - or what Passes For It:"

Well, we're home.

     Got back about 11 p.m. last night, after waiting for an hour during construction up in the mountains. (Maddening, especially when noticing all the road guys casually staaannndding around.) The dogs were happy to see us -- the chickens could have cared less. The Brick was in pain by this time -- the kidney stones still have not cleared his system entirely. He'd endured a 14-hour-drive by this time; multiple stops at rest areas, being in the passenger seat (which he absolutely hates - he'd rather be the driver), and a few hours of drugged sleep. His prescription from the emergency room was nearly gone, too.
     It wasn't that great for me, either.
     A night's sleep at home helped a little. He got a shot and more pills at the doctor's, and has an appointment this afternoon. Hopefully this will take care of the pain, and help the stones to pass.
     Meanwhile, I've got work to do, yet somehow must squeeze in the doctor trip, taking care of a business commitment, and finishing up a quilt restoration. Oh joy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Update on Libby

Well,'s not looking good. Not terrible - but not good. Here's the news on Libby Lehman, via a recent post from her sister Cathy:

This is difficult for me to write, so I am just going to give it to you as close to the doctor's words as I can. Today in a meeting with Libby's primary Critical Care doctor, Dr. Stephen Koch, we learned that Libby has lost her center for speech, which was located on the right side of her brain (not unusual for left-handed people) where the major stroke damage occurred. This affects not only her ability to speak, but also her ability to understand what is being said to her. This is why she has little response to verbal commands - she literally does not understand what is being said. She can respond to visual things - If you smile at her she can smile back, if you demonstrate raising your right thumb she can raise her right thumb. The "intelligence" part of her brain is still intact. But he likened her situation to a computer without a keyboard or monitor. Therefore one of the main focuses of her rehab will be on speech therapy. It is possible for her left side of the brain to learn from scratch the cognitive and physical speech requirements, but it is much like a baby learning to talk. We will learn more about this when she is transferred to a Rehab hospital, hopefully as early as next week. The good news is that the swelling in her brain is way down and they removed the trach today. Ellen will give a report on her PT today, which went very well. Please pray for strength and patience.

Think about taking a minute, and posting a message of encouragement for Libby on her CaringBridge link.   

     Original post is here, in case you're not sure what happened. 


Monday -- Tuesday! -- Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Las Vegas Shooting

The four-day shooting class is done! We finished, but not without some effort neither of us planned on -- the Brick woke me up night before last, and we went to the emergency room in Las Vegas. He thought he was passing a kidney stone, and he was right. We spent most of the night there, getting pain meds pumped into him. Then we slept a few hours until the narcotics wore off...and went back to class. 
    The Brick couldn't shoot in the skills test because the stone didn't pass in time; he needed more Percoset to get through without moaning. (Narcotics and guns do not mix.) I shot the worst I'd done all four days, including three malfunctions. So I didn't pass the skills test. (Needless to say, the others hadn't spent the night in the emergency room before they competed.) But the class certificate was good enough!
     We found out later that our teacher didn't even know why we didn't show up yesterday morning; the head office didn't pass on our message (left at 6 a.m.) until just before we reappeared. And he never bothered to tell the class, who probably thought we were slacking. One of the guys in class was a bragging jerk who made some snide comments when we first got there. I made sure to explain what had happened to another guy, very loudly, so Mr. Loudmouth could 'overhear.' (He was kinder after that.) Frustrating.
     The Brick has gone back to Front Sight today, to take a one-day concealed weapons class. He's still hurting -- the kidney stone still has not passed. But he's feeling better. I stayed home to get some writing done. (Okay, and use the pool; it's been really hot here. As in the low 100s every single day.) We haven't hit any of the sights -- just gone to class, staggered home, swum, had supper and gone to bed.  I haven't had much time to troll the Internet, either, but I promise to be back to my verbal self next week. Meanwhile, here's what I found:

How much does talent or effort figure into achieving your goals? Sometimes this struggle means adapting your goals to fit your skills -- or willingness to work at what you want. (Thanks, Financial Samurai.)

 Setting up a backyard movie theater. All sorts of ideas and links via Apartment Therapy.  (I've always wanted to do this...)

Ten easy ways to goof up at life, without even trying! (Daily Money Shot) Okay, you do have to make some effort to do this badly...

 Penny Hoarder has made a terrible mistake -- find out what it was. (I am really loving this regular blog for its practical, yet often innovative advice.)

And yes, I'm still here:

Have a good week. Full report's coming on the shooting class soon.