Friday, January 28, 2011

Of flakes and semi truck crud

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And with that unlikely title, I’m off.  (Off what, you’re wondering: off your meds, off your rocker, or off to the grocery store?)  It’s been too long since I have written a completely and unashamedly useless post.  That’s why the “flake” part of the title gets inserted.  Truly, I have been a flake.  I’ll try my best to make it up to you all…. 

Why the word “flake” gets associated with being undependable, I don’t know.  What did poor flakes ever do to deserve this deprecating connection?  Snow flakes are beautiful (but they don’t last long unless it’s really cold and they can grow into a big pile).  Corn flakes* are repugnant, unless they are covered in honey, sugar, nuts, or some other flavor disguiser.  I know this because I’ve been trying to choke down corn flakes for breakfast lately, and only the ones encrusted in other flavors can bypass the gag reflex.  Flakes of gold are hard to come by, but maybe the next storm will blow some into town.

My flakiness has a root cause.  No, it’s not stubbornness.  Not today, anyway.  I have been hit with a bad case of semi truck crud, or STC.  Tuesday night: book club numero uno until 11:15pm.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And I wasn’t the last to leave.  But I did leave healthy.  A good night’s sleep followed.  And then, with no warning at all, I woke up with STC.  Symptoms include, fever, chills, fatigue, desire to ignore one’s own flesh and blood, and quite a bit of groaning and sleeping in turn.  Not nearly enough sleeping. 

The fever broke, and fifteen minutes later, I was at book club numero dos, but alas began to regret it around 9:30pm, when I was slightly alarmed to discover I was stuck to the leather recliner in a sweat.  I have no doubt the hostess donned a hazmat suit and debugged the chair after I left.

Day Two of STC finds me without a voice (hurrah, the children shout), and coughing.  At least my teeth aren’t aching anymore.  The desire to perform even the most basic tasks has evaporated.  And that left me thinking of times in the garden (and in life) when something happens and our priorities shift.  Like that time I grew fifty Delphiniums from seed.  They were gorgeous, but this is a story that doesn’t have a happy ending.  All the staking and fussing with them was a nightmare for my lazy self. 

And then, one day, that was it.  My desire to enter the garden plunged to nil because of all the work that had to be done with those plants.  I went from passion to disgust.  They were given away to garden visitors and my sanity was restored.  I entered the garden with joy once more. 

There are more reasons than sickness for garden aversion syndrome, or GAS (yes, I just made that up), but my sick/tired brain can’t think of any at the moment.  I’m off. Truly, this time.

Ever temporarily ended a horticultural affair?  What made you do it?  What brought you back?   

*Does anyone else associate corn flakes with John Denver or is it just me?  

Monday, January 17, 2011

The flip side of the “new” coin

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I suppose it would be dingy, scuffed, and nicked but as I am not a coin connoisseur, I can’t be more precise than that.  Last week I rhapsodized about the benefits of new, new, new.  My two X chromosomes are kicking in the guilt from suggesting all those sparkly, shiny, crisp, and brand new things, threatening to overwhelm me.  But to paraphrase dear Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennett, don’t be alarmed, I’m sure the sensation will pass away, no doubt sooner than it should.  Let’s celebrate the crusty, musty, flaking, stretchy, squeaky, and just plain old, shall we?

1. Favorite sweatshirts or sweatpants.  Assuming one wears sweatshirts, that is.  The hubby has an old green hockey sweatshirt from UAA.  At least fifteen years old.  My ratty navy one is from when I was sixteen.  Don’t tell my mother I still have this one.

2. Photos.  As the kids get older, I get more (disgustingly) sentimental about all those silly pictures.  As they get older, the images become more dear…or maybe just the fact that pictures don’t talk back is dear.

3. Certain types of footwear.  Ice skates, the hubby suggests.  Hiking boots, soccer cleats, and other shoes of the kind that are broken in and molded to your foot.  Do Birkenstocks count? 

4. Any sentimental bits: teddy bears, blankets, etc.

5. Some food and beverage items.  Wine, from what I hear.  Being a teetotaler I’ve no idea.  Cheese, I’ve had some experience with and prefer a little age to it: I adore well-aged sharp cheddar, for example.  Is any other category of food good with a bit of time?  Weigh in…. 

6. Friendships, in many cases.  New friends are good, too, I hasten to add, but some friendships of long standing are like the proverbial old sweatshirt (see number one).  Comfortable, and you can let it all hang out with no pretending.  (All my old friends will shudder at the prospect of me letting it all hang out, I imagine.)

7. Professional relationships.  I don’t want to have to find a new doctor/dentist/mechanic unless the wrong organ/tooth/spark plug is removed through incompetency.  Just lazy, I guess.

8. Movies.  Some of my old favorites are Some Like It Hot, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Great Race, Ghostbusters.  Too many more to list.  Astute movie buffs will notice these are all rather silly and absurd examples.  And those astute (and faithful) LFG readers will not be too surprised.

9. Trees.  Not too old, mind you.  Anything leaning at a precarious angle toward the house is deemed “too old.”  I have a grove of spruce trees at the new place and I’m not going to lie: I wouldn’t have picked that many of the species to plant here, but the privacy they provide is outstanding.  I don’t have to have blinds on any of my windows.  (Hurrah, no dusting of blinds, one of the most dreaded and tedious tasks ever, outranking filing taxes even.)

10. Antiques.  With the plethora of programming on TV about finding, repurposing, and/or selling old furniture, jewelry, cars, homes and other odds and ends, this one is a no brainer.  (No unkind comments from the gallery, now!)  Frankly I’m ready to sell my old Haviland Limoges china set.  The kids have broken one half and chipped the other.  Do they sell galvanized steel plates?  Surely those are kid-proof.  

And for a bonus, the LFG hubby recommends 11. trophy animals.  He points out the animals are bigger with age.  (And yes, I do have carcasses hanging in the hallway.  Not by choice, mind you, but one has to make compromises.  I came home from vacation and animal silhouettes had appeared in the hallway.  Surprise, honey!)

What is best with (a bit or a lot of) age? 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Things that are best new

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Having no wish to draw the ire of the reuse/recycle crowd, but lacking in the common sense department, I will forge on ahead and just say it: some things are better new.  We have an entire holiday devoted to the newness of a year, so don’t tell me it’s not true.  Is it the novelty, possibilities, satisfaction, usefulness, or condition of a new thing that makes it so great?  I don’t profess to know, but here’s my list of things I like new:

1.  Books.  Yes, I know, I’m single-handedly bringing down a good portion of the rainforest.  But there is something to be said for reading a book that doesn’t smell stuffy and of which you can be sure hasn’t visited the toilet with anyone (but you, if you must).  Or you can bypass it all together and get an electronic reader like I did.

2. Computers.  Good grief, I think my desktop gets about three minutes slower loading pages every month.  While my shiny new iPad sings along at a brisk rate.  It’s really quite fascinating how a reasonable person can go from calm to tense to upset to frothy rage while waiting for a computer to do its thing.  I think I’ll skip the in between stages and just prepare for frothy rage when I turn on the computer.

3.  Underwear.  I refuse to explain this one.  

4.  Hand pruners.  No matter how I try to sharpen them, it’s never as good as when I busted the package open for the first time.  I think they can sense when you take them outside and start to develop dull blades and rust immediately.

5.  Food.  Some people finish what their kids/partners/dogs/etc. leave on the plate.  Something about a burger that’s been previously mouthed and is now coated in someone else’s saliva…blech.

6.  Appliances.  We had an old (it was even old when it was new) fridge for ten or eleven years.  It was like being in an episode of Star Trek shopping for a new one.  “Refrigerators make ice now??  No way!”  I’m not absolutely sure, but the dishwasher that came with our  home might not actually wash dishes.  At least that’s what the evidence tells me.

7.  Cars.  This is my opinion, which was formed (malformed, some may say) at a tender young age.  My folks loved used cars.  Which broke down rather often.  My car as a teenager, I was thrilled to have one you understand, literally broke down every other month.  Once it broke down on Halloween.  I was parked on the side of a major road and had to dash (I won’t tell you what my costume was, but it wasn’t cute) to my viola teacher’s house to use the phone and get dad to come out and tow the car.  Again.  Scarred, I tell you.  I need a reliable car.

8.  Hats.  I had lice once as a kid, so back to the scarred thing.  I still recall sitting in the bathtub with my sister with our scalps on fire with a toxic sludge “cure” for the better part of a day.  I think they used kerosene for a cure back in the 80’s.  At least it felt like kerosene.

9.  Relationships with politicians.  At the end of them, you’re quite ready to throw the bums out.  Or worse.  At least at the beginning, you have a hope of a moral compass or a shred of ethics.  Unless you’re an old cynic like me.

10.  Soap.  Trying to grasp the last little bit of the bar and having it squirt out of your hands and down to the drain is frustrating.  And I adore the crisp writing on a brand new bar.  Simple minds, simple pleasures.

And a bonus for all of you because I’m feeling particularly creative but more likely a bit tired.  Number 11.  Jokes.  I’m sure everyone has a joke they’ve heard three dozen times and which their great-uncle persists on telling every family gathering.  Maybe after that many times it’s more of a tradition than a joke.     

What do you prefer new?  Or do you like the oldies but goodies? 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bunny Boots: the choice of champions (in Alaska)

Or at least, the choice of those that want to keep all ten toes during cold weather.  And no, they aren’t made of bunnies, though they could resemble two obese ones if you squint your eyes.  I was a skeptic too, until last winter (and my first road test).  My laugh of derision would echo through the house every time I saw the LFG hubby’s bunny boots, otherwise known as Extreme Cold Vapor Barrier Boots.  He has three pairs, two the standard white (Type 2), and one black (Type 1).  All ugly, real ugly.

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Yet it seemed determined by fate that my laugh would not be the last one heard around the house.  Until very recently, my boot collection consisted of several stylish boots from different outdoor clothing merchants.  They looked cool.  They also, most unfortunately, felt cool after a time.  I am not a hardcore outdoorswoman in winter or summer.  Venturing outside in 10 degrees Fahrenheit to ride a snowmachine at x mph (I can’t say just how fast, you’d never believe I was in my right mind) is not the high point of the year, but I’m married to someone that thinks it is, so I step outside on occasion and join him in my subpar non-bunnies. 

Now some facts I picked up while doing ACTUAL RESEARCH, SORT OF.  Take a deep breath, I amazed even myself with the depth of scholarship in this post.  The Type 1 bunny boot, the black Mickey Mouse boot, is rated to –20F.  I can’t conceive of an instance that I would need a lower rating than that, but this is Alaska, so it’s possible.  For those more adventurous/stupid, Type 2, the white boot, is rated for –64F.  And if you need colder than that, you are either mental or a polar bear.

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Bunny boots make one feel like quite the nitwit.  They have instructions written on the outside of the boot in several places.  It’s as if the manufacturer couldn’t be sure wearers weren’t of the litigious ilk of that woman that sued McDonald’s for millions because she spilled hot coffee in her lap.  Hot coffee, imagine that.  So I imagine the lot that produce these boots are thinking along those lines.  “We can’t be sure some stupid fool won’t __________.”  You fill in the blank. 

I think the corporate lawyers (in conjunction with a preschool teacher) designed such printed basics as: keep double laced to hold firmly.  And I refuse to consider why it would read “Keep closed unless airborne” unless they are thinking of a body hurtling over the snowmachine handlebars.  “Oh, I am going to hit that tree and go flying.  Best I open up that little air valve thing-y right now!”  Can you imagine trying to get through airport security wearing these babies?  And don’t even think of folding the gusset the wrong way because wearers are commanded to “fold gusset this side only.”

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An article about the history of bunny boots explains all: they were originally meant for the United States military, hence all the directions and great fashion forward style.  I note the article reads, “Bunny boots are very popular in Alaska.”  I looked in vain for a footnote that read “Amongst rabid snowmachiners and those individuals possessing a Y chromosome,” but that seems to be an omission in an otherwise quite scholarly article.  The above picture is an action shot of a snowmachiner wearing the black bunnies.  Exciting, no?

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If I had to categorize ugly boots, bunny boots would definitely be in the top ten, along with Ugg boots (aka “Make your foot look like a big duck foot for under two hundred dollars”) and moon boots, which for those of us that remember their heyday in the eighties, laugh at the resurgence in popularity.  Or at least, I hope we do.  I still haven’t forgiven mother for buying me a navy pair in grade school.  And now I have Santa to blame for my new black Mickey Mouse bunny boots.

Any bunny boots in your closet?  What are the ugliest boots you’ve ever owned or seen? 


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