Saturday, August 29, 2009

Factory Outlet Stores

Their a sham. Yes, I said it. Generally the only people who truly save money at these places are those who already have plenty of money.

It's a lot like gambling. Don't even start if you're not loaded to begin with. You've simply GOT to have money to lose if you expect to gamble on winning. Otherwise it's no fun and there's no point.

Such is the same at the outlets. Sure there are some great bargains. But who can afford them. I mean I'd REALLY like to see these people who can afford to pay a mere $1000 for a $2000 bag. Or ONLY $3500 for a $7000 gown. Even a wallet---yes a wallet---goes for around $200, down from $400!!!

If you walk your legs off enough and visit some of the non-clothing stores, you can actually find a few good bargains. But for clothing, shoes, and accessories there are NO great buys to be found for the common working class person.

So BUYER BEWARE! They're out to get you one way or another.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Early Riser

It's 3:00 A.M. Just me and the bugs here. I woke up at 2:30. I got up at 2:38. Put on the computer and while it booted up put yesterday's clean dishes away.

I generally like being up early in the day. It's a much quieter world, although the cicadas are active right now. The birds will wake soon and join the chorus. Soon after that it's time for people. The first sign is a car or truck driving through the neighborhood. Then the household begins to waken. First Tim is up making coffee and bagel. Usually I'm next, but it seems today I'm already up. Next is Molly who may actually be up fairly early today as she went to bed at about 7:00 last night.

I wouldn't want to have to be up at this time every day--to have to dress, eat and be out of the house very early. But once in a while this early can be nice. I will probably go back to bed and read some more, taking advantage of the extreme quiet. But first perhaps a visit to Polyvore. Ta tah! : )))

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hot, Ornery and Frustrated

Grrrrrrrrrrrr! I am just NOT happy with myself. It's hot sitting at this computer and that doesn't help.
I want to be watching our movie (War and Remembrance), but one of us wanted to sleep so we put that on hold. There's just so little on TV that interests me. The "King and I" is on right now, but that's a pretty big investment of time (2.15 hours).

Our house still shows NO signs of selling. Now I'm beginning to think we should just move anyway. And that opens up a whole new can of worms. I tell myself every day I should start packing--at least the basement. But I don't. I've been gathering boxes so there's lots of those. No excuse there.

I tell myself also every day to take a walk. I need to exercise. But I don't! I get a little at P.T. three times a week. But not much aerobically.

I'm supposed to be working on my church newsletter, but articles are very slow in coming this month. Geez, you'd think I was asking for blood! I enjoy doing the newsletter. I do NOT enjoy the lackadaisical attitude of many of the contributors. Very frustrating.

Okay, done complaining. Gonna take myself to bed and read. I'm currently reading "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan about Frank Lloyd Wright. It's pretty good, but looks to be fairly long and can't imagine where it's going to go. Pretty much just getting started on it.

Signing off,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

War and Romance

Our family is currently watching the huge mini-series "War and Remembrance" by Herman Wouk. We've already completed the first series, "Winds of War". These are magnificent and should be shown to every U.S. History class in this country. Yes, the history is tainted a bit, but only a bit, by romantic interludes involving various members of the "Henry" family. I can think of at least three triangles going on. But does that distract from this history? Or is it PART of the history.

On looking back at this period of time, now 60 years ago, I notice a distinct and almost shocking difference in the way our current culture perceives romance. In this movie it's beautiful, painful, heart-rending, and mostly understated. When Rhoda and Palmer are "having tea" it's pretty clear what's really going on. But as adults, we know that. We don't need the whole affair graphically shoved in our faces on a large
screen. So while we know it's not right, it's still allowed some beauty in our minds.

Nobody would argue that the years of World War II are possibly the most romantic in the history of our country. Beautiful movies were
produced, songs just dripping with love, heartache and incredible melody were written by the thousands, letters were written, by hand and frequently. And all of this with the backdrop of a truly horrible war. Fighting everywhere so that it seems there will never be peace again. Unspeakable atrocities occurring in Germany that defy human reason are actually kept secret to the rest of the world for too long. So many families broken as men are shipped overseas and women move in to take over the jobs they left.

So WHY did romance thrive as it did? I don't know, but as I think about it my thoughts go back to a kinder time in general--a slower time when people took time to talk to each other, to visit, help, support--even before the war began. But then, what's happening now?

We are currently fighting a war. It's in some faraway place just like WWII, but much stranger to us. It's also not a "popular" war. People seem more concerned with placing blame, saving lives, ending it. I don't know enough to talk intelligently about this current war, but I know there is NO romance involved. It's just not part of it. The songs are not pretty. Movies about the war are ugly and unsettling--with little or no love.

I'm not proposing that WAR is a beautiful thing. It's decidedly not that. Too many people die or are debilitated. Society is torn apart. It's just interesting to note the incredible differences between then and now.

So getting back to the idea of showing this movie in history classes, I think seeing this sort of romance would do today's young people as much good as the detailed historical facts presented in this series. Perhaps more romance would encourage better feelings in general. Who knows?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Composer Trivia

Just a a quick post. I want to mention the new link I've added, Composers Datebook. This is an interesting site. There's an option to have a daily post sent to your email with interesting information about an incredible variety of composers. It may sound like, "oh, no--not another junky email". But it's not. And it's short. One page with usually only 4 or 5 paragraphs. An some of this stuff is pretty interesting. And there's an option to click so you can hear the music while the article is read to you! Almost effortless knowledge!

Old Dog, New Trick

A few years ago the choir director at our church retired after a service of 41 years. I decided to volunteer for the job. Having played in orchestras most of my life, I figured I was on pretty safe footing. I mean, I know musicality, ensemble, and the general music stuff like rhythm and pitch. What I was lacking was specific knowledge of the human voice.

So I asked my daughter, who trained with an excellent (and expensive) teacher for about 5 years to help me out. She did. Not always willingly, but once I managed to drag her to a rehearsal, she was able to miraculously transform that group of mousy, lifeless singers into a beautiful sounding choir. It was magical to watch her work.

At first, I was pretty insecure in this new position. I had never, ever done any conducting. But as the weeks and years passed, I came to love it. These people were all my friends so that was fun. And after the right kind of training and molding, they created the most beautiful sounds. And with the right motivation, they could produce some pretty good volume as well. There were only 10 so they had their work cut out for them.

A couple years ago I found a cantata, "Let Heaven and Nature Sing Gloria!" by Mark Hayes in my box at church. Usually I just toss these things in the recycling with the thought that we can barely learn the Sunday morning worship and had no time for such a grand undertaking as a cantata. But something moved me to open this one up and have a glance. The music was so grand, light, modern and almost attainable that I gave the accompanying CD a listen. It was glorious and I wanted to do it. This was September and it was a Christmas cantata. It wasn't going to happen that year so we planned to present it the following year.

So I asked our praise team at church if they'd join us for this. That gave me a whole bunch of instrumental musicians which were crucial to the performance. It also provided me with 4 more singers. Then I put out a special plea to the congregation for anyone who'd like to sing with us only for this giant undertaking. I acquired a tenor, three basses, an alto and 2 great sopranos. All in all, our ranks swelled to about 20 + singers and 5 instrumentalists.

We began practicing early in spring and worked throughout the summer learning one song at a time. The devotion of this whole group was touching and amazing. Most of us were learning from "the ground up". I had little experience conducting. Most of the singers had no idea how musical they could sound. Some of the instrumentalists surprised themselves. Later on we added two narrators, had some final all-inclusive rehearsals and it was time for performance.

Now would we get an audience? I had sent out notices/flyers to all the congregations in our area to let them know what we were doing and to suggest this might be a great way to kick off their holiday celebrations. In the end, we were very blessed to perform to a full house! Of all the concerts I've done, that was the most satisfying. So MUCH work culminated in a wonderful payoff. A truly great experience for all.

We made a CD, but it's not available online. However, I do have a link which shows our choir joining our praise team at one of their early concerts.

I learned so much from this experience--about my own ability and about human nature. And about singleness of purpose. Everyone dedicated to one goal. It was unforgettable. Praise be to God!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Excitement of Music!!!!!

I couldn't live without music! That's it. I simply don't think I'd survive for very long if I couldn't hear those familiar melodies I've learned to love--and sometimes hate. (We're talking ear worms here.) I've even been known to utter the statement, "If I had to lose one of my senses, eyesight or hearing, I'd select eyesight hands down." I feel I've seen a lot of things and will carry the visual of it all forever. But music is a constantly renewing sense of joy and exhilaration that simply doesn't lend itself easily to memory. There's something in the "nowness" of it that I love.

Yesterday I heard the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. There aren't words to
describe the magnificence of that piece. I'm usually hearing it in the car and turn up the volume almost all the way so I can recreate the experience of actually being in the orchestra amidst all the instruments. What a rush!!! And it's just unbelievable that the composer, himself, never heard a performance of this work. It is one of my biggest hopes that he will hear it in heaven.

Okay, so that was Beethoven. Today I heard Liza singing "Cabaret". Wow! She feels that song down to the center of her soul. I love her and truly feel that if I met her I actually would love her. She's not had an easy time in life. One thing I admire most about her is that she was brave enough to follow in her mother's wake and make it. And make it big!

If you know of Nancy LaMott, you are very lucky. If you don't, look her up and get her CD's. She sings every single song as though her life depended on it. My husband and I always say that once Nancy sings a song, there's simply nothing else to be done with it. It's fully complete and utterly satisfying. The very first time I heard one of her CD's, "Listen To My Heart", I was drained and reduced to tears by the end. Besides the beautiful music, I had in the back of my mind the knowledge that this was the last CD she would ever make. She died right before it's release. This knowledge made the final song on the album, "I'll Be Here With You" even more poignant.

Later, and I don't even remember how or where, I discovered Michael Feinstein. I listen to Jonathan Schwartz's show and he probably mentioned him a lot. Michael has become my new best friend. He never fails me. No matter what "state" I'm in, Michael smooths me out. I love him and the way he sings a song. Oh, and I'm pretty sure he and Nancy were good friends. It figures.

The featured album here is "Only One Life" and it includes only songs by Jimmy Webb. This albums is mesmerizing and gets moreso with each listening. Try it, you'll like (love) it. Also very good is his Broadway/Movies album which has Michael singing "The Way You Look Tonight" that I feel with every fiber of my being each time I hear it. It's almost as though I can taste it. Crossover senses?

I grew up loving Tony Bennett. My mom loved him and we listened to him more often than I'd like to admit. I still love him. What a performer. I think my favorite of his (and this is really saying something when you consider his repertoire) is "The Shadow of Your Smile". But only the version that includes the introduction. So lovely, you can imagine yourself walking along the beach with the sandpipers.

Music, music, music! I could write forever. I love so many different kinds. To name a few of my favorites I haven't yet mentioned, with apologies to those I forget: Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Vladimir Horowitz, Claudio Arrau, Itzhak Perlmann, The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Mac Davis, Dan Fogelberg, Adam Lambert, Bobby Darin.

And, good grief, I haven't even mentioned Broadway! As I was growing up, I had only a few LP's. "The Music Man", "South Pacific", and a Bobby Vinton album. I played them so much I'm surprised there were still grooves.

But enough. You get the point. I love music!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homemade Applesauce

I'm making applesauce today. Last time I needed applesauce I bought it. I thought if I bought a high-quality brand, it might be good. It wasn't. wasn't bad. I mean, it was edible. But bland! So yesterday I bought 12 Granny Smith apples and today is applesauce day. It's a lot of peeling and cleaning, but the result is so-o-o-o worth the effort.

I usually like to go to an orchard in the fall and select a variety of apples---lots of them. Then I spend a day making lots of applesauce and put it in the freezer. What a great treat to have all winter long. If you have never made your own applesauce, here's my recipe, or procedure:


Apples (your choice and you can mix them up)
sugar (very little)

Peel the apples. Core them to remove seeds. An apple sectioner works great for this. Put in a large pot and add a little water. For a whole dutch oven type pot, I use only about 1/2 cup of water. The apples create their own juice so you only need enough water to prevent burning at the start.

Cook on low heat for about a half hour more or less. Stir them every 10 minutes. They will break down and get mushy. When they're almost all mush, turn off the heat. There will be some chunks which add to the yumminess. Add sugar to taste. With some apples you don't need any at all. Then mix in some cinnamon. Probably about 1 or 2 teaspoons, but this is also to your taste. Let it all cool. Place in containers to store in fridge or freezer. Enjoy at will!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Jersey vs. Wisconsin

For the past 28 years New Jersey has been my home. It's been good. I made lots of good friends at my church. I played viola with a fairly good local orchestra. I've seen over 25 Broadway shows. I've traveled extensively up and down the Eastern coast. Yes, it's been good.

And yet, I can't wait to move back to Wisconsin. My friends at church are sick of hearing me say this. I don't mean to belittle my friendship with them. I will miss them horribly. But I have missed my family for the past 28 years. I've seen my favorite uncles and aunts way, way too little. And I hardly even know my cousins anymore. I have other good friends in Wisconsin I've even stopped writing to whom I'm hoping to become friendly with again. And I'm looking forward to exploring more of our country west of the Mississippi.

So I thought I'd include some pictures here from both NJ and WI.

First New Jersey

NJ - This deer just spent a couple of days laying in our backyard.
She wasn't hurt, but we think she may have been pregnant.
She was laying about 10 feet from our back deck.

The Jersey Shore. People flock to it every weekend all summer long.
I like it best in the off-season. The sound of crashing waves
always soothes and strengthens me.

Clinton, NJ. This barn and waterfall scene is one of the most photographed and painted in NJ.

We live in a modern log cabin. The logs are vertical
and the whole interior is the inside of the outside it's all wood.
We decorate the day after Thanksgiving and leave it up
until New Year's Day.

Now Wisconsin

Sheboygan, WI harbor in October. I love being here.

I love Terre Andrae State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan.
I "grew up" here. It was only a half mile from my grandparent's farm.

This is one of the prettiest art museum's I've seen.
It sits on the shore of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.
The roof has huge wings that open and close. This shows it closed.

This is Olbrich Gardens in Madison, WI.
It's one of my favorite places to visit--and it's free!

That's it for now. One day I'll post some pictures from my favorite vacations.

Seriously Intimidated

This happens to me a lot. I get an idea. Then while pursuing it further, I check out what others are doing only to discover others are doing it in such a tremendously grander way. Since I'm just "getting my feet wet" in the blogger world, I did a little looking around at some of the featured blogs.

There is some truly fantastic stuff out there. I feel like a big, old baby just beginning to walk! But...I will persist. As noted in an earlier blog, I'm in waiting mode right now and my life offers nothing more than inactivity. So I WILL actively pursue this blogging thing.
Therefore, I have decided to add some pictures. Some I photographed--well, there will be many of those. Some I "built" on a site called and some are paintings/drawings done by my daughter who uses the pseudonym, imprisoned whimsy.

Let's start with Polyvore. This is a site wherein you can build fashion and interior design pages similar to a catalog or magazine spread. The site provides items for use, but also offers a way to import other items from the web. It's great fun if you are a fashionista or, as in my case, a closet interior designer. It can also be a great morale booster as people can have the option of leaving comments or "liking" your set. So now some of my more popular sets:

I call this one "Southern Comfort". Using this odd assortment of colors, fabric
and texture, I was surprised when 105 polyvorers liked it!

"Feeling Blue?" got 91 hits.

Polyvore Roundtable. This was created for a contest Polyvore ran when
they were looking to design their new office space.
I took 1st Place!!!This fashion set was entered in a tribute contest featuring the designs of Yves St. Laurent.
It took 2nd place, but has over 1100 hits!!! It's been very popular.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Social Security

12:26 P.M. I'm sitting on hold with the Social Security Office. My wait is "greater than 10 minutes". It took forever to get to this "holding" position. All I want to know is why my husband's check hasn't arrived yet.

Since my last post, I've been to physical therapy (for my shoulders) and feel good after that. Then I went to brunch at Panera and spent a lot of time reading my book. It's a good one, "Mayday" by Nelson DeMille--a real page turner. After brunch I stopped at the grocery store for some meat for the week. I came home to pay some bills, but now I find the SS check has not been deposited. More waiting. Oh, and my realtor called and left a message that she'd call later.. I don't want to talk to her--it's just too depressing. All I want to hear from her is "We have a buyer for your house!"

Now it's 12:38 and I'm still on hold. So I'll post more later.