Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Don't Weed the Charmin!

Today's good things are Burger King's 50 cent ice cream cones.  I love that I can drive through and get a small sweet treat for 53 cents (including tax).  It's not expensive and it's not huge, so it's not guilt inducing, and on a hot summer day it's a perfect little treat.

I've been weeding the garden again and so we have another installment of the misleadingly named Weed a Week.  I discovered half a dozen odd-looking plants with yellow flowers, large heart-shaped leaves, and strange thistle/crown shaped seed pods.  After some research, I determined that this weed is called Velvet Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti) or Buttonweed.  It was originally brought from China to the U.S. for the purpose of making rope, but it was a commercial failure and soon became a noxious weed.  It's often found in corn fields where it's quite a nuisance because it out-competes the corn for nitrogen resources in the soil. 

As I found with other weeds, this weed has its own virtues.  It's useful for making rope.  Here's a video showing how to harvest the fibers for use.  It's also edible -- the seeds may be eaten as snacks and supposedly taste like sunflower seeds.  The flowers and leaves may be eaten either raw or cooked.  Most useful of all, though, the velvety leaves are large and -- in a pinch -- can be used as toilet paper!  

It's too late tonight to get a good picture, so I'll add some tomorrow before I ruthlessly pull them up. 

Added pictures: 

These things can grow six to eight feet tall!
Large velvety heart-shaped leaves
Interestingly shaped seed pods
These are the mature seed pods -- the seeds can lie
dormant for 50 or 60 years.  A very durable plant!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

Today's good thing is the satisfying feeling of getting exactly what you want at a bargain price.

We've tried to make a manly space in our house for Jeff in what we formerly called the computer room.  Nowadays, everyone takes their computer from room to room with them and we don't really need a dedicated computer room.  I cleaned it all up and repainted and decluttered and declared the space to be Jeff's.  Since it adjoins the living room, though, it needs to look somewhat presentable. I replaced his old huge broken-drawered office desk that we bought second hand when the firm was selling off old desks with a smart-looking cherry desk with multiple functioning drawers and a glass top for durability.  Well, he hated it.  He doesn't care about drawers, functioning or non-functioning, but he does care about having a large flat surface area and the new desk didn't have it.

So, I started looking for a large table/desk for him.  After poking around for a couple of months, I came across this gorgeous solid cherry Bob Timberlake desk from Lexington Furniture at an online estate sale.  The top surface was discolored in a couple of places (I should have taken "before" photos), but I knew that Jeff would want it to be refinished with polyurethane anyway so he wouldn't have to worry about setting glasses and dishes on it.  So, I picked up this beauty for $60.  Yay!

I stripped the finish off of the top and re-stained it.  Now all it needs is a couple of coats of polyurethane.  It looks great and fits in perfectly with our Queen Anne cherry living room ... AND gives Jeff the large surface area he wants.

I have the satisfaction of reclaiming a gorgeous piece of furniture that fits perfectly with our decor and fulfills Jeff's needs for a mere $60.  I feel smart!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Shrugging it Off

 Who chewed up this computer power cord?
 Was it you?!  Of course not.

You there, with the two chew toys right beside you, was it you!?  I think we've found the culprit.

Which leads us to today's good thing.  This is a good thing specific to my life -- and specific to this particular time in my life.

Last night we discovered that the new puppy had chewed up Ally's computer power cord.  The power cord was spanked and told that it was a bad power cord and Pepper was given a "good chew" as a substitute.  As we went to bed, Jeff heaved a big sigh and noted that there was $100 down the drain.  And that was it.

I thought to myself, "Thank God, we can cover that loss without stressing out."  No one likes to have to pay $100 they don't have to pay, but it wasn't a crisis in our house like it might have been in some houses.

This morning when I was thinking, a memory floated back to me of a trip we took to King's Island amusement park when the girls were little.  We were on the tram going into the park with a bunch of other eager kids and their parents. A little birthday girl about six years old and her dad were near us.  She was squirmy with excitement and I remember her dad impressing on her that he had promised to take her to King's Island for her birthday and that he was fulfilling that promise.  It wasn't hard to guess that there were a lot of promises in this girl's life that he hadn't fulfilled.

A little of the joy drained out of my day when I thought of our season passes and that my daughters had been to the park so often that it was almost a bore.  This little girl had never been and her dad was so proud to be able to give her this treat.

I like to think that we would be the same people if we were in different circumstances.  We would simply make different choices and have different joys.  Instead of looking forward to a trip to Japan this fall, we would look forward to a trip to Gatlinburg or a camping trip -- like my family did when I was a child.  Instead of dining at Jo An's and Robert's Table, it would be a treat to bring home KFC or eat out at Frisch's.

But that's probably not true.  When money is tight, there is an added stress to life.  There is pain when you have to say "no, we can't afford that," to your kids.

Of course, not all of my daughters' dreams were fulfilled.  We never got that pony and I never furnished the outdoor fort with electricity and running water.  But, overall, we've been able to say "yes" to most things.

I hope no one thinks that I'm boasting in a back-handed way.  It's just the opposite. I recognize that I'm not entitled to this standard of living and I'm grateful for it.

And it was a blessing to be able to shrug last night and know that we could buy a new computer cord without economizing somewhere else.  Maybe the real blessing is in recognizing what a blessing that is.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Abundance in the Aisles

Today's good thing is the grocery store.  Last night I went to Meijers and got some groceries for the week.  Everyone at home was in the mood for fruit, so I bought some peaches, mangoes, a papaya, bananas, plums, avocados, grapes, and apricots.  What an abundance of fresh fruits from all over the world!!!  We have a selection available to us that no previous generation has ever had.

In addition, I was able to purchase all the ingredients necessary to make sushi -- the seaweed binder, the special rice, the rice vinegar, everything -- right there in the store.  So now Kate and I can put to use what we learned at our sushi making class last Saturday.
Kate's sushi

My sushi

When I was in graduate school, I had a good friend who was Latvian.  She had been raised in America, but her grandparents were still living in Latvia under Soviet rule.  When her grandmother came to visit one year at Thanksgiving time, my friend told the story that they ran out to a convenience store to get some butter and the store was out.  It was Thanksgiving and a lot of supplies were running low.  The grandmother was triumphant and seized on this as an indication that there were shortages in America, just like in Latvia.  They could never convince her that all they had to do was go to a different store to find some butter.

We're very lucky to live in a country and a time when so much is available to us.  So, grocery stores are a good thing.

My meditation this morning was so interrupted it was almost comical.  I settled down with Pepper in my lap and Sam on the floor beside me.  After about two minutes Sam was suddenly alerted to one of his phantoms.  He doesn't hear very well at all anymore, but sometimes he starts barking for no discernible reason.  He can't hear us telling him to hush, so he continues until he feels the danger has abated.  He got Pepper all riled up and she went to the door and rang her bell.  [We're teaching her to ring a little bell on a string hanging from the door knob when she wants to go out.  So, of course, when she rings the bell we're highly motivated to open the door and reinforce that behavior.]  They both went out to deal with the impending doom.  After about six minutes, they were back, wanting to come in.  I guess their mission was successful.  I let them both in.  Well, it turned out that Pepper was coming in just to see what Sam was doing and she started ringing her bell to go out again.  I ignored it twice and then figured I'd better open the door for her.  I got to meditate for a few minutes and she started scratching at the door to come in again just about the time the meditation timer bell began to ring.  So much for peace and serenity!!!