2014 in review

Happy New Year to all my readers. May you find joy, peace, and happiness in the next 365 days ahead.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Murder on Christmas Eve

There is always something extra to do on Christmas Eve. For instance, this year I published books for the three youngest grand children. They have sat on my desk for a month, but here I was at the last-minute rushing to wrap them. To get some work space I disappeared to my workshop in the basement. There I would have the space, materials, tools, and desire needed to wrap the gifts in solitude. The job took all of fifteen minutes, and I had peace knowing it was done. It was time to clean up, and to put the paper back in the pantry. Upon returning, I noticed a funny black rope like thing on the floor just five feet from where I stood wrapping. A closer look revealed the rope was alive. Oh S__t! ISIS has invaded Frankfort  (Illinois Snake Inside Shop).

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This is the fourth time in nine years I have had to deal with one inside. Each time it is in the winter, it is in the basement, and each time it rattles me. The previous three times the snakes were small, only about a foot long and the diameter of a pencil. This time the damn thing was two feet long and much bigger in girth. It was also much scarier. I am still in a quandary about how they get in. One theory is that they enter from the sump pump water storage hole. In the midwest we place a large plastic pipe filled with holes around the perimeter of the house foundation. It allows ground water to seep into the sump instead of seeping into the basement. There is a pump in the hole which lifts the water out into the yard away from the house. I envision the garter snake using this pipe system as a winter den and following the water into the sump. We had a heavy rain two days earlier and most likely the snake washed into the hole. At least, that is one plausible explanation.

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My mind raced with solutions for getting the snake out of the house, and also from my mind. I recalled a story from my book Jun-e-or(available from Amazon in eBook format). I wrote a vignette titled “Scream” in which I describe my mother’s dislike for snakes, and how she dealt with them.

I made a quick trip to my tool box to find a weapon, and stealthily walked back to the slithery creature from behind. There was no way I wanted to scare this thing into some dark recess of scrap woodpiles scattered about my shop. I had visions of picking a piece of wood for a project and uncovering a mass of twisted yellow striped squirming bodies in a hibernaculum. The image of my mom’s method for dealing with a serpent played wildly in my mind, and in a second it was over. I used my putty knife to decapitate the poor thing. I walked away filled with pangs of guilt thinking I murdered one of God’s creatures on Christmas Eve.

By the time I got a dust pan and a bench brush to sweep the corpse up, he was coiled on his back exposing his under belly, a pool of blood oozed from his body, his head joined by a sliver of skin. It took a quick brush onto the pan and a dump into a plastic bag. I walked upstairs past Peg sitting on the couch reading. She looked up and said “what have you got in the bag?”

“Just a last minute gift for the kids,” I said. I took it immediately to the trash can in the garage and disposed the evidence.

 

A Very Modern Christmas Tree

Macy's Chicago 2014 Christmas Tree

Macy’s Chicago 2014 Christmas Tree

One of the more recent traditions we have as a family is to eat breakfast under the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room at Macy’s in downtown Chicago. We had a three-year hiatus, and I missed going. The disruption occurred when my son and his family moved out-of-town. It made the venture less exciting. This year, however, my daughter told me my youngest grand-daughter, asked why we don’t do it anymore. Well, we couldn’t have that, so we planned it, and the bunch of us crowded into her family van and off we rode to the Loop.

Since Peggy and I don’t like walking in the cold, we found a parking garage immediately across the street from the Macy’s Randolph Street entrance. We arrived at eight o’clock just as that door opened, or so we thought. Nevertheless, we hustled to the elevator to the seventh floor. As we walked through the store with its bland decor we passed a sea of designer handbags. I named to the canyon of bags. None of them are affordable in my candid opinion. I saw a big sign announcing a twenty-five percent mark down sale. The bag, on sale, sported  a three hundred and eighty dollar tag. We made it to the elevator without buying a single purse, there was no line. The elevator doors opened on seven and we saw a line at the entrance to the Walnut Room. Granted, it wasn’t the sometimes serpentine line like when visiting Disney World, but it was a line. So much for the doors open at eight. We were about fourth, and led to seats immediately, although not under the tree, but rather away from the tree right next to the buffet. My emotions wrestled with would I rather be under the tree or next to the food, the food won out.

The buffet was unexciting, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, French toast, fresh fruit compote, a yogurty thing with muesli, and muffins. It was a filling station buffet, certainly not up to Macy’s image and quality. In years past, we ordered from a limited menu of some really nice, and creative breakfast foods.

One feature of the breakfast is the Fairy Princess who works the room looking for wee kids to amaze. We were about to leave when she finally appeared and asked my eleven year old Jenna Rose if she wanted a wish granted. “Yess”, she answered shyly. The Fairy Princess waved a magic wand around Jenna’s head and sprinkled fairy dust on her. Fairy Princess then asked Jenna, “What did you wish?”  Jenna replied “It is a secret.” My sixteen year old grandson, Jenna’s brother debated about whether he should take a nap or hit on the Princess. He caught his mother’s look and decided a nap was in order, but he couldn’t because we all got up to leave.

Jenna Gets Her Wish

Jenna Gets Her Wish

We viewed the tree from the eighth floor and took pictures before exiting for the next adventure, to view the City of Chicago Christmas tree. Before going for the car we did the obligatory window walk to see what Macy’s had done for Christmas this year. In past years, we couldn’t get near the windows without some weaseling through the crowds. It was different this year, we were able to walk right past the windows without anyone obscuring the view. Where are all the shoppers? There were none.

My Son-in-law Jeff was about to put money into the machine to retrieve the van when I ordered him to stop, “this is my pleasure,” I said. I whipped out a twenty-dollar bill fully expecting change, but the machine was silent. The info screen said it wanted another sixteen dollars, what? I guess that is the cost I must pay for parking at the front door. That offsets the deal I got from Macy’s who charged me a child rate for my grandson’s meal. He ate enough for three adults.

We found the Daley Plaza to view the city tree. As usual, it is a live tree forty-five feet in height and nicely decorated. They used mini lights this year. What a bunch of jerks they are, don’t they know that a tree of this height needs huge lights to stay in scale? The mini lights were all but invisible. Oh well, a dull tree for a dull town.

Watch the tree and see what it does.

Crumbling Ego

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Today, I decided to bake some Hungarian walnut filled  crescent cookies(Kiflik) for Christmas. I whipped out Mom’s trusty green covered cookbook and found the recipe. I had all the ingredients handy, so I jumped into the activity headfirst. The project began at nine this morning and finished at noon. The result was disappointing. The last time I made these cookies was last year. It was a baking day with my grand-daughter. Last year was the first time in my life that I made them, so this was a second chance at glory. I failed to achieve glory, but because they are not perfect I have a rather large batch of cookies to consume by myself.

Foe some reason unbeknownst to me the dough was very crumbly. The crumbliness made the dough hard to roll out, even more hard to hand-roll into shape, and after baking they crumble in your hand. They still taste good, they just don’t look good nor do they behave like a crescent cookie should, that is, to stay firm in your hand as you bite into the lusciousness. If there are any readers who bake, and know what makes a dough crumbly please tell me what the heck I did wrong.

Dough after one hour of rest.

Dough after one hour of rest.

Hungarian Crescent Cookies (Kiflik)

Hungarian Crescent Cookies (Kiflik)

As bad as they are I cannot stop eating them.

The Extraordinary Life of Barack Obama’s Imaginary Son

AN excellent essay on racism as imagined by our President and his wife.

Whopper of a Fish Story

When I close my tiny backyard pond I dread pulling the pump in near freezing water. The cold is so intense my hand hurts with a burning sensation for an hour. This video of a Lake Superior ice fisherman extending his arm into the ice hole to extract a fish mad me shiver. Obviously, his adrenaline rush was so intense he didn’t notice his arm burning up to the shoulder. The fish he caught is certainly a trophy, and he did the right thing.

You Can Play Broke Too

North Korea is teaching us a lesson. Being a Socialist State they know how to spy, and play dirty tricks on their enemies. Many people believe that the North Koreans are not behind the hacking of SONY Pictures, but rather SONY Pictures had themselves hacked to make headlines, and to get free publicity for their movie The Interview. In my book that smacks of Progressive liberalism. The hacking was most likely initiated from within, how else could the world’s most tech-savvy people let themselves be broken into? They might also have had a sequel in mind which would follow the exact story line we see in today’s headlines. SONY is a Japanese company and we all know the Japs lead the world in electronics and gaming software. They would be the last ones to have left a door open for a North Korean hacker to enter and steal everything.

A second scenario would give the North Koreans the will and reason to hack into the USA. They know how to make an atomic bomb, hacking a computer system would be child’s play for them.

A third scenario is that the CIA and NSA did the hack as another diversion for Obama. He needs a major distraction from the ass kicking he got in the last election. He pretends that it doesn’t matter because he has a phone and a pen, but his ego must be just a wee bit shattered by the country’s message to get out of Dodge. We are coming for you O,in a short time you will hold a sign on an expressway exit announcing “I work lie for food.” After all, your number one competitor resigned from your admin and announced she was flat broke. We should all be so broke.  You can play broke too, it is the Progressive way.

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