Friday, November 26, 2010

Take my invention idea and run with it!

What could possibly get me blogging after an absence of five months? An idea for a new invention.  One that I really want created, but one that I don't have the time/talent/expertise to see through production.

Here it is . . .  click-on skis for grocery carts.

Here in my neck of the woods we experienced a blizzard that the weathermen referred to as snow-mageddon. After it blew in and left about 6 inches of snow, the temperatures plummeted, leaving packed snow on roads, driveways, and in parking lots. When I went to the grocery store to stock up for Thanksgiving, it was very, very difficult to push my heavy cart back to my car through the snowy parking lot. I experienced the same problem when we lived in Idaho Falls.

Someone needs to invent plastic skis to fit onto grocery carts. I think they really only need them on the front of the cart. Maybe something that allows the bottom inch of the cart wheel to extend below the skis so that if there isn't a lot of snow, the carts can roll smoothly on the asphalt. But when there is a lot of snow, the skis would allow the cart to slide on top of the snow. Voila!

If you happen to know someone who is an entrepreneur, someone who might be interested in developing grocery cart skiis, pass this blog entry on to them. Really. I retain no intellectual rights. I only ask that they contact the grocery stores in my neck of the woods to offer this amazing new product.

Because what I really want is to be able to go grocery shopping during the winter time!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Joys of a Summer Evening . . .

  • a chocolate chip smudge on the wall above the cooling rack -- the only trace of the cookies that Beans and Loula Belle made.
  • sprinklers in a grain field catching the rays of the setting sun.
  • sliding the windows open to let in the fresh breeze; knowing that by morning the house will be crisply cool.
  • listening to the jangle of silverware and dishes as Lou unloads the dishwasher.
  • hearing the hum of an airplane and wondering if Brad Wursten is up in his stunt plane.

Friday, June 04, 2010

It's a bird . . . It's a Western Tanager!

Perhaps you've noticed the small, brightly-colored birds hanging out in the valley this spring. They have a red-orange head and face, a yellow body and a black back and wings. They're actually male Western Tanagers. And they seem to be everywhere this year. Begging the question, why?

I decided to call my local newspaper, and ended up leaving a message for the editor I worked with on the hiking articles from last year. I said something like, "Hi, with all the Western Tanagers in the valley this year I thought you might want to do an article on why there are so many. A lot of people have been talking them. I don't have to write the article, but will if you want me to. Let me know."

Well, the editor called back and said, go for it. (With the deadline being the next evening.)

Long story short, I got busy and sleuthed out the answer to why there are so many Western Tanagers in Utah this year. The article printed today in the Outdoors Section. Here is the online link:

The Bridgerland Audubon Society also has an article on their website written by Holly Strand of the Stokes Nature Center up Logan Canyon that explains the phenomenon as well. You can read it here:

All in all I really enjoyed being in the birding element for a few days. It was nice getting updates from Utah Birdtalk about the sitings others were having across the state.

Happy birding!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Break -- Nauvoo

As long as you're going to be driving to Iowa and Illinois, you might as well make a detour and see Mt. Rushmore. On Easter. While over 200 drummers are performing a well-choreographed number. Very rousing.

Also, I must say the the Quality Inn in Rapid City, South Dakota had the best complimentary breakfast of any hotel we've ever stayed in.

This was the highlight of the trip for Bug -- getting to drive my brother's stick-shift. (And doing a good job of it.)

The weather and climate in Nauvoo was fabulous -- green, moist, and warmer than what we'd left at home. The daffodils were out, the magnolia trees in bloom. Unlike the cold mountain valley we live in, it really felt like Spring.

This was a fun photo that captured the temple and a bit of the restored town. Note the water tower to the left of the temple. Beans, our youngest, referred to these are upside-down onions. They're all across the midwest.

Perhaps the most moving experience for me of the whole trip was our time at the Carthage Jail. I'd heard of the experiences that took place there and of the mob that stormed the room where the Prophet Joseph Smith and other men were. But being in that place of martyrdom brought home the realities of what happened.

For example, the prophet and his companions were in the bedroom of the jailer and his wife because the ground-floor jail cell was deemed unsafe and because the upstairs jail cell had reached 120 degrees the previous day before. The jailer did all in his power to keep his prisoners safe until they could come to trial, even giving up his own private quarters. But that was not to be.

As we left I heard mourning doves cooing nearby. Altogether it was a sad and holy site.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Spring, Bliss and Throwing Out All My Diet Books!

Before I get to the part about throwing out my diet books, I'd like to focus on bliss for a moment. Bliss, according to my Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, is defined as complete happiness. Which pretty much sums up what I experienced this morning -- bliss on a bike.

I dusted off my bike seat after a long winter, put the dog's harness on and went for a short ride up to my parents' house. Annie, my three-year-old Golden Retreiver/German Shorthair mix, loves going for bike rides. When she saw me put on my bike helmet and reach for her harness, I had her complete and devoted attention. Once I'd checked the tire pressure, adjusted my rear-view mirror and secured my pant leg with a band, we were read to go.

And go we did! At the start of every ride Annie has oodles of energy. I encourage her pulling efforts by ringing my bike bell like crazy. I'm sure some hapless observer would think we were nuts, but really, I've got her under control.

I've been riding my bike with Annie since she was about 7 months old. It was a lot slower and more cautious in the beginning. I also taught her some important commands. To slow down I say "whoa." My command for left is "left." (Propper mushers use haw for left and gee for right.) For right-hand turns I say, "this way," as she's following my lead.

I didn't read any articles on bike mushing like this one. I just did what came naturally. We don't use genuine musher equipment, but we both have a great time. In fact, I think that part of what makes the whole experience blissful for me is watching Annie completely enjoy herself. It's as if her enthusiasm is contagious, and I can't help but smile and whoop for joy.

Bliss on a bike -- the most fun I've had in weeks!

And now onto those old diet books. . .

About a year ago I read a book called Health at Every Size: The surprising truth about your weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD. I even wrote a couple blog entries about it such as this one and this one. At that time I was going to give up on dieting, but my anti-dieting resolution didn't last long. I've tried both low-carb and WeightWatcher's momentum plan since then. With little results.

But this time I'm serious. This time I bought the book Live a Little: Breaking the rules wont' break your health, by Susan M. Love, M.D. and Alice D. Domar, Ph.D. Once again, it confirms what my body has known all along -- everyone's body is different, and no one is completely in control of their own health or weight either. These two authors have anazlyzed the research on health, wellness and living a longer life, and they report what is and is not really going to help women live longer, healthier, happier lives. (This really is a great book!)

One of my favorite parts debunks the calories in, calories out myth. They write, "According to this theory, big people are big simply because they eat so very much more than their slender counterparts--and weight gain is inversely proportional to the amount of a person's self-control. But Sims's studies, and other like it, suggest this is not necessarily the case. It's far more likely that each of us has a genetically programmed weight range of about ten to twenty pounds. One person's natural range might be from 160 to 180 pounds, while another's might be from 115 to 130. Yet both people may eat the same amount of calories and perform roughly the same amount of exercise." (emphasis added)

There it is in black and white -- what my body has been trying to tell me for years. I am not genetically programmed to be thin. Yes, I'm bummed about that. (Literally.) But just because I carry more weight than others my height, it doesn't mean that I can't be healthy. On the contrary. After a discussion about BMI (Body Mass Index), Love and Domar state, "A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that overweight people tend to live longer than those in the obese or normal categories."

So live a little! And love the body you're in.

Instead of focusing on my weight, I'm going to do what I can to be healthy and be more appreciative of my body. It may not be January, but these are my resolutions.

Side Note: I just went on to buy Health at Every Size. Apparently it's out of print. A USED paperback copy (only two available) goes for $124.00 or more. I guess it's time to issue a new edition. I'd buy one! (But not for $124.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Husband's New Nickname for Me . . .

Earlier this week while Hubby and I were eating breakfast, he said something like, "It's alright, Rear."

I asked him, "Did you just call me Rear?"

"Yeah," he said. "But I meant to say Dear."

"Oh, so now I've gone from being dear to being a rear. That's okay. I'll just call you Bum."

All this was said in good fun and after a good laugh (on my part -- one of my life's goals is to get my hubby to laugh out loud more. I've given up on getting him to laugh until he cries, but anything audible is a step in the right direction).

As I kissed him before heading out the door to substitute teach I said, "Have a good day, Bum. I'll see you when you get home."

Even a couple days later we've used the tongue-in-cheek nicknames a time of two. And it never fails to make us smile.

Who would've thought that calling your wife Rear or your husband Bum could be a marriage enriching moment?

Monday, March 01, 2010

My Stint as a Washing Machine Repair Woman

I do laundry once a week, and today is the day. Or WAS the day. I'd started a batch of dark clothes in the washing machine and came back a few minutes later to add my black exercise pants. That's when I noticed that although the machine sounded like it was working, the agitator (the white spiral thingy in the middle) wasn't moving. The clothes were basically just sitting there in the water.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure that the washing machine hasn't been working for a couple weeks now. Each time I'd take the dark clothes out of the washer a few articles from each batch still had detergent residue on them. At the time I thought that maybe I'd overfilled the machine. (Which can definitely happen when you're only doing laundry once a week.)

I was not thrilled about the prospect of having to get the washing machine fixed. Although the thought of a new machine was temporarily exciting, I remembered that we'd spent over $600 last month getting the car to pass inspection. There was no money for a new machine, and having a repairman come out for a house call costs $70.

Fortunately, I remembered my 13-year-old daughter's favorite fix for problems -- Google it. I decided to see what I could find out about the costs of fixing a washing machine agitator. And that's when I happened upon this video:

It sounded like something that would work for my problem, so I did just like the guy in this video and took my washing machine agitator apart. Presto! My parts were stripped too. I needed a set of new "Dog Agits" with grippy teeth.

A short car ride and $10 later, I was home and installing the parts. I put everything back together, and IT WORKS! I saved over $70 by watching a YouTube video and fixing my washing machine myself. And it certainly feels a whole lot better than forking over a tidy sum to the fix-it shop!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

All For the Love of Jell-O

Note: I just submitted this write-up for the next Chicken Soup for the Soul's Family Matters book.

Jell-O is the official snack for the state of Utah, and it’s reported that the state also holds the record for the highest per capita sales for green gelatin of any state in the U.S. But few people know the lengths that one woman went to in order to ensure that her family could continue to enjoy their favorite Jell-O dessert.

It all started back in November of 1985 when my mother went grocery shopping. On her list was blackberry Jell-O, the necessary ingredient for the popular dessert Mom enjoys bringing to family parties, church cookouts and work dinners. She had looked for it at two different grocery stores only to find empty shelves. On a return trip to one of those stores, Mom discovered they no longer even had a tag for it. Suspicions mounting, she decided to find out why her favorite flavor was disappearing.

Someone finally had to call General Foods to find the answer. They were no longer going to make blackberry Jell-O. “What? No blackberry Jell-O?” Mom went into a panic.

Much like a dedicated environmentalist determined to preserve a species for the enjoyment of future generations, Mom began her own preservation efforts. She methodically searched the shelves of every grocery store in her area for her beloved flavor. When she found it, she bought it. All of it.

Storing the boxes in several different locations made it possible to disguise the actual numbers of the growing horde. After a few months, however, Dad caught on. Mom recalls, “I really didn’t know how much I had. I didn’t start counting until Dad said, ‘Don’t you think you have enough?’ ‘No,’ I said. To which he replied, ‘Well, let’s see how much you’ve got.’ It was then that we realized I had spent a couple hundred bucks. But you know, if you’re just buying six or ten boxes at a time, you don’t realize that it’s adding up.”

Just what would motivate an otherwise sane woman to spend well over $200 on blackberry Jell-O, accumulating over 300 6-oz. boxes? I put the question to Mom. “I love it!” she said. “I wanted to make that Jell-O until I died.”

It is now 2010, 25 years since Mom’s search and rescue efforts. I asked her how many boxes remain. “Just four,” she said. “I’m saving them so that you can serve my favorite Jell-O dessert at my funeral.” (Mind you, Mom is nowhere near death’s door.) Those may be her wishes, but unless she puts it in her will, I have other plans.

You see, just the other day as I was trolling the aisles at the grocery store, I noticed a new Jell-O flavor – blackberry fusion. Now that they’ve reintroduced a blackberry-flavored Jell-O, I’ll use it in the Jell-O traditionally served at funeral dinners in Utah, and save the four vintage boxes to display near Mom’s casket. In fact, I just might slip a box of blackberry Jell-O into the casket to be buried with her. That way Mom can enjoy her favorite Jell-O recipe in heaven!

Mom’s Heavenly Jell-O
2, 6-oz. boxes blackberry Jell-O (or 4, 3-oz. boxes)*
1 large can crushed pineapple, including juice
1 can blueberries, including juice (not pie filling)
1, 8-oz. container sour cream
1, 8-oz. package cream cheese
½ c. powdered sugar
chopped walnuts (optional)

Boil 4 cups water. Add Jell-O and dissolve. Pour into a 9x13 inch pan, adding scant 2 cups of cold water, pineapple and blueberries (with juice). Stir carefully. Let set in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once set, top by mixing together sour cream, cream cheese and powdered sugar. (We like this topping lumpy.) Sprinkle with nuts and keep cold until ready to serve.

*If they discontinue making blackberry fusion Jell-O, you can substitute one, 6-oz. box of raspberry Jell-O and one, 6-oz. box of berry blue Jell-O.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Really Important Stuff -- Slow-Closing Toilet Lids

When you don't blog very often, it is important to make each blog post count. This one is a counter. For a few weeks now I've been contemplating what I could post to benefit my blog readers. I finally hit upon my topic -- slow-closing toilet lids. Are you familiar with them? If not, it's time to get acquainted.

This is the first house that we've ever had slow-closing toilet lids in. I can't remember who clued me into these, but I ought to make them a raspberry pie. We installed one on our master toilet and after a few months decided that every toilet in the house needed one. If you don't have one on the toilets in your home consider investing in one for each bathroom.

Why are they so wonderful? Mostly because they don't bang when you close them, making them the perfect choice for households with small children or careless adults. Opening these lids is the same as for other toilet lids, it's the closing part that is beautiful. All you do is just start to close the lid, and the hinges do the rest, slowly bringing the seat and cover softly and quietly into the closed position. Bliss in the bathroom for sure.

Note: While attempting to find a photo for this post (no one really wants to see a photo of my toilet) I happened upon this video. Apparently now they have toilet seats that don't even require that you touch them to close them. (Opening them is another matter.) Clearly some inventor must spend a lot of time thinking about toilets.

Me, I'm just a happy beneficiary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Year's in Tokyo, Japan

I'll be heading down to a class on Google Tools tomorrow and Friday. As part of the class we'll be using GoogleEarth and have been asked to bring 5 photos (digital) relating to our personal histories. This is one that I'm taking.

This is me. Age 18. In Tokyo, Japan. I spent my first college Christmas break in Japan, visiting the family that hosted me in the summer of 1988. New Year's in Japan is a BIG DEAL! To celebrate, they dressed me up in this silk kimono and we toured some of the popular shopping areas in Tokyo. I received many stares, got lots of attention, and loved the experience! (Note: My big American feet wouldn't fit into traditional Japanese wooden sandals. I wore the split toe socks with flip flops. Oh well.)

My mother was an exchange student for a summer during high school. I think that's what made me want to have a similar experience. She went to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I went to Tokyo, Japan. I soaked up all that I could and had a fabulous host family who took me to many great locales. I'm still in touch with my Japanese family. We exchange e-mails throughout the year and presents at Christmas time.

As of this writing I don't forsee that any of my children will be foreign exchange students, but they have expressed a desire to use their passports before they expire in 2012. (Kids' passports are only good for 5 years -- but cost only $10 less than adult passports.)

Well, that's it for today. And if you were wondering, YES, I loved Japanese food. (Gained almost twenty pounds in the 2 months I was there in 1988.)