Most Embarrassing Moment

If only I had a photo of what happened on my way to work this week. I was riding my bike, and I had to make a decision between staying on the road with a cement truck backing up and moving over to a sidewalk where a worker was standing with a scraper. In my thought process, he was about to receive fresh concrete, and I would be able to ride past him. He and I were both astonished as I rode right into his freshly smoothed concrete that looked like a dry sidewalk. My bike stopped, and I planted both feet into the gooey mix. He put his hand down in a failed attempt to stop me before I ruined his work, and before he could yell at me, I said something like, “You must hate me.” In that moment, he shifted his attention to helping me. His crew had a hose, and they cleaned me and my bike off. That stuff will burn you if you don’t get it rinsed off. I must have said, “I’m so sorry,” about eighty times. The crew assured me that they were just glad I was ok. They agreed it looked dry, and they should have had that side blocked off. I couldn’t stop talking about how I was so busy watching traffic, and my husband and I had just talked about the safest route for me to take. I needed to debrief, but they needed to get back to work. During the few minutes it took to clean me up, the worker had smoothed over my damage. Off I pedaled in my soggy canvas shoes. At work, I remembered what I learned while walking the Camino in Spain: Stuff newspaper into your wet boots. All morning, I took out wet paper towels from the toe bed of my shoes and put in dry sheets. The next morning, I walked to work, and there was the concrete crew yet again holding up traffic. I was very careful this time, and they seemed to have everything taped off more completely. They didn’t see me, and I sure didn’t call out a greeting.

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Not so Innocent

Earlier this week, I was standing in the check-out line at a Whole Foods. The man in front of me was busy unloading his cart while his two little girls waited. The youngest one, around three years old, had a chocolate doughnut, and her sister, around four years old, was eating a chocolate chip cookie. The older sister wanted to exchange bites with her sister, who refused. In fact, the younger sister pushed her older sister a few times, unseen by the dad. At one point, both the dad and the older sister were looking away when the youngest lost a piece of doughnut on the floor. She picked it up, got her sister’s attention, and offered it to her. The older sister was delighted and immediately offered a bite of her cookie while hugging her little sister. She even got the dad’s attention to share the good news.

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How to refurbish cat scratching posts

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Cats with their front claws need scratching posts, and if they have access to a cozy nesting spot on top, even better! Rather than having to buy new cat furniture every time the sisal rope starts to fray and unravel with use, I finally learned how to refurbish the post. I ordered untreated sisal rope from Amazon and purchased a hot glue gun with a huge supply of glue sticks. Unwrap the old rope, which is intriguing to the cats. They may even want to sit on top of the post during the project. Then, Put some hot glue where you want to start wrapping and begin. You will need to glue and then coil the rope repeatedly. Watch out for burning your digits! The sisal rope is also painful to work with, so you may want to wear gloves. I tried just wrapping, and the rope won’t stay in place even when tightly wrapped without a line of glue. I didn’t need to use any nails or u-shaped hardware. The rope is expensive if untreated, but I read that treated rope has a nasty smell and may be harmful to the cats. My project held overnight, and Mimi and Lina are enjoying their refurbished furniture. 

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Digging in the Dirt

As a kid, I used to wait till the crab apples were mushed into the ground before I’d collect them in a bucket and dump them into the woods. It was my least favorite chore. Well, that, and picking up sticks before my dad mowed the lawn. I would procrastinate on that one too. Adrenaline kicks in when Dad is roaring behind you on the riding mower. Now, I’m in my forties and own a city house with a postage-stamp-sized lot. Occasionally, I actually crave working outside. It is gratifying to take care of some plants, listen to the birds, and sweep away debris. My husband was digging in the dirt today, so he can plant some tomatoes. I know he didn’t enjoy working in the garden as a kid. Our yard today has numerous weeds, but it is appealing to work on it bit by bit. And yes, if we had a kid, he/she would be given some duties, and he/she would probably hate doing them. 

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

I had the privilege of joining Ellis students for an evening with Justice Sotomayor. I am now reading her memoir, MY BELOVED WORLD, and I highly recommend it. You really feel like she is talking with you at a kitchen table over a cup of coffee. She starts with learning to give herself insulin as a child by standing on a chair, so she could light the stove and boil her needle. Now, I’m reading about her college years at Princeton and her outreach to other Puerto Rican students from neighborhoods with limited opportunities. It’s really a book about her connection to her family and lifelong learning.

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Kitten Bowl

I’m not a football fan (gasp!), but I think I would like the Kitten Bowl:

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/kittenbowl

Mimi and Lina with their Terrible Towel

Mimi and Lina with their Terrible Towel

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Depths of Winter

I heard a newscaster say that this bitter winter has a medieval quality to it because it is hard to endure. The Arctic Vortex does make me appreciate having a heated home, layers of clothes, and plenty of food. I wonder how the tiny birds are surviving, and when I see them in the bushes, they are all puffed up. I feed them and clear a path for our mail carrier. They are the hardy ones with long exposure. The young man who climbed our electric pole to replace our failing line survived the lashes of wind while Pete and I waited in sleeping bags and blankets for the heat to climb back up. That was a few weeks ago. Today, Pete and I cleared more snow, and I felt like it was a game of shovel racing. And more snow will come with skin freezing temps. I saw a headline wondering if we have become weather obsessed. That made me feel silly. I don’t have crops to worry about, but my uncles do. Grandma said that the snow protects the stalks from freezing. I can walk to work, and when I have to drive, my only drama is wondering if the car will make it up a steep and snow-covered hill. Survival and comfort. How did I get so lucky and comfortable?

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Christmas

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The amazing doughnut tree (130 doughnut holes)!

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Diane, Peter’s mom, made this incredible gift for us. These are the blocks Pete and his siblings played with. Diane glued Italian words and medieval music on them, painted them, and then selected photos from her trip to Italy. She shrunk the photos and hand cut them to fit on the blocks. Imagine cutting out the laundry  (top right).

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Soup

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There is something about soup made with potatoes Grandma grew in her garden. I am not one to cook, but Grandma gave Pete and me a bag full of her potatoes. She wasn’t going to put a garden in this year, and then she changed her mind. That makes these potatoes extra special. She will be 89 tomorrow, and I can’t wait to spend the day with her. My mom also received a bag of Grandma’s potatoes, and she guided me over the phone on how to make this very easy soup. You just boil the potatoes in some stock, add a yam, mash the softened potatoes, and then add cooked onion and celery along with a cup of whole milk. Mom said some artisan bread goes along nicely. I didn’t have any, so I put a piece of toast in the bottom of my bowl before ladling in the soup. After living in Italy and eating fresh food all year, Pete and I crave simple, fresh ingredients. We really appreciate the gifts from his parents’ and my grandma’s gardens.

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Amy Tan

My friend Andrea and I were fortunate to get tickets to hear Amy Tan speak in Pittsburgh last night. We were on a waiting list, and our seats were very close to her. I read Tan’s The Joy Luck Club with my eighth graders, and it was so enriching to hear her speak about her mother and grandmother, who inspire her to write their stories in fictional accounts. She has a new book that was just released, The Valley of Amazement. Tan shared the experience of finding out her grandmother was a courtesan, and her life was a very different story than Tan had ever imagined.

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