Monday, March 31, 2008

Homemade Cards

In honor of March being National Craft Month, I decided to try something new. Those of you who know me well know that I have not one single creative bone in my body! My sisters all got that particular gene – not me. But I am a letter writer, so I thought perhaps I could try my hand at making my own cards.

I went to the Paper Wishes web-site ( and signed up for their Cardmaking Personal Shopper program. For the low monthly fee of $19.99 (plus shipping and handling) I get a package in the mail each month that contains every thing I need to make 20 cards: all the supplies, blank cards, and instructions.

They also have a page in their website catering specifically to cardmakers that gives tips, special deals, and more patterns to follow each month.

Since I have never done this sort of thing before, I invited my sister to come over for an evening of crafting, since she is a veteran scrap-booker and has tons of supplies, tools, and ideas. She helped me thru the agonizing process of making my first card – which honestly didn’t turn out that bad! My second card, made on my own with minimal help from her, was much worse. But – I had fun!

I was only able to make the two cards that night, so invited a friend from work to come over on a different night to make some more. She is, again, a veteran scrap-booker – and, again, had all kinds of goodies with her. She worked on her project while I worked on mine, and we had a nice evening of chatting, crafting, and admiring my girls (the cats).

I think I’m going to like this crafting thing…

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Formula

My brother called the other day with a problem.

He had a 1” pipe (that’s the inside diameter) that was 280 feet long, and he needed to know how much antifreeze to buy to fill it completely.

I told him I had no idea, but did happen to know somebody who would be able to figure it out. John is a guy I work with who always seems to know the answer, so I asked him.

This is what he figured out:

Take the diameter of the pipe, squared: .5 x .5 = .25
Multiply that by Pi: .25 x 3.413 = .85325

Take the length of the pipe and turn it into inches: 280 x 12 = 3360
Multiply that by the result of the above calculations: 3360 x .85325 = 2866.92

That answer is in cubic inches.
Convert that to gallons = 12.41104

Therefore, you need 13 gallons of antifreeze!

I called my brother back and gave him the results, and sure enough = it was dead on.

Way to go, John!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Women for Women International

I can’t remember where I first heard about this organization, but somehow I ended up at their web site one day (

“Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. We envision a world where no one is abused, poor, illiterate or marginalized; where members of communities have full and equal participation in the processes that ensure their health, well-being and economic independence; and where everyone has the freedom to define the scope of their lives, their futures and to strive to achieve their full potential.”

Since I had just received my tax refund and felt extravagantly rich, I decided I should help out. Just the other day I received my information packet: I now have a new sister! Her name is Joseline Muhawinimana and she lives in Rwanda. She is 23 years old and is single. She lives in a house with 2 other people (I assume they are family members) with no electricity or running water, and states that her general health is poor.

“The situation of the Rwandan women who participate in our program is extremely difficult. The disastrous consequences of the 1994 genocide have weighed heavily on the women of Rwanda. Many have witnessed the murder of their loved ones, and some have been raped and brutalized. Through years of fighting, destruction and displacement, Rwandan women have struggled to support and sustain their families. Injury, death and the loss of family breadwinners have forced women to assume a greater role in providing for their dependents, a role which has become increasingly more difficult with the slow pace of reconstruction efforts, waning international aid, loss and destruction of homes, and high unemployment rates.”

My commitment to Joseline includes a monthly donation of $27.00 (I am assured that 82% of that money will go towards supporting my sister and her participation in the program), writing letters to and receiving letters from my sister (letters are translated in the field; if my sister is illiterate they will be read to her and she can then dictate her response), and getting regular updates on her progress.

“As a sponsor, you will be the hope your sister needs as she rebuilds her life after war. Each month, your funds will help your sister provide for basic needs for her family. You and your sister are encouraged to write letters to each other. The letters you write to your sister can be the most important possessions in her life. Many women in our program carry their tattered letters or pictures from their sponsors in their pockets everywhere. While participating in our trainings, women often have to arrange alternative care for their children and still perform their normal day-to-day activities of caring for their families. Some are suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It may be difficult for your sister to write, but we encourage you to continue writing to her, as your letters provide an incredible source of support as your sister embarks on this enormous commitment and journey.”

I am looking forward to a long relationship with Joseline!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Mother and Kelly came out to Anchorage on Saturday to help me deal with 5+ years of back-log on my recycling efforts. I am so thankful they did. I could never have gotten thru the pile without them - and not just because Mother has a truck and I don’t!

First, we went thru the house and picked up all the magazines I had stacked up all over the place. It’s truly amazing how much junk you can store in the corners! As long as it’s stacked neatly, I don’t seem to notice the piles…

At the same time, I gathered up all the glass and plastic I could find. I’m a water bottle collector, apparently. I have water bottles all over the place, in various levels of “empty” (as in: half-full, nearly half-full, mostly empty, etc…).

The boxes piled up in the garage was definitely the bulk of the load, however. The recycling center requires them to be broken down prior to being put into their bins, so Mother was stomping on them and Kelly was wielding her pocket knife while I ran around picking up the trash and thousands of Styrofoam peanuts.

We finally got the truck loaded up just in time for lunch, so washed our hands and headed out to the Thai place near my house. I don’t know if it was the company, the hard labor, or just the cook’s talent = but lunch was really good that day!

At the recycling center, we found that most of Anchorage had the same idea scheduled for Saturday = there were more people there than I’ve ever seen before! But, we shouldered our way in and got it all in the right bins eventually.

All in all, it took about 3 hours of work – but I feel much better now. And I have a clean garage, just waiting for some bins to be put in place!

Happy Easter!

Easter this year was quite the event. Mother organized the whole thing, and ended up inviting 32 people to join us! Well, actually she invited more than that, but that’s how many showed up.

Dinner was at a new restaurant in Palmer called The Red Beet. I highly recommend this place! I think it might even be an Inn where you can stay over. For sure it is a very nice place to eat. The cook makes excellent dishes with unusual combinations of food, and uses mostly local produce.

We had 8 tables set up with 4 place setting each. The tables & chairs had an antique look to them – whether they were actually antiques or not, I don’t know – but it was a very nice presentation. They had tiny little vases on each table, with sprigs of pussy willows cut from the trees right outside the window. Makes for a nice local touch!

At the first table, we had Mr. & Mrs. Guinotte = my sister Noel’s in-laws. Sitting with them was my brother Stewart and his friend Tucker. At the table behind them sat Mr. & Mrs. Pollock = my sister Kelly’s in-laws. We were very happy to see them both, as they are both getting on in age and don’t get out very often. My niece Tara and her cousin Ben sat with them. The table behind them had my high-school friend Rachel and her husband David and their daughter Ellie. We sat our new friend Chris there, and they had a good time talking about hiking and whatnot. The next table had my sister Kelly, her husband Danny, their daughter Laurel – who is 7 months pregnant with their first grandson! – and her partner TJ.

Starting over again at the head of the room but one row over, we had Lisa and her husband Mark and their little girl Mabel. My sister Noel and her husband Hank joined them. Behind that table, we had a special guest: Carmen Kern, a lady from church, joined us this year with her friend Anne. Carmen is in her 90’s we think: she is a retired teacher and probably had each of us kids in one of her classes at one point in time or another! My nephew Robin and his wife Jamie sat with them, along with Jamie’s father Jim. (I know: they broke the 4-people to a table rule there) the next table is where I sat, with my friend Anne from Germany, my brother Reed and Stan, my mother’s partner. Behind up sat Mother, keeping my nieces Lauren & Madelyne company. The girls were doing Sudoku puzzles throughout dinner, which kept them quite occupied.

The food was, as mentioned earlier, quite wonderful – and very different. The appetizer consisted of the absolute best chocolate! Now, that right there told me I was going to like this restaurant – they know how to treat a guest! The chocolate was followed by a salad of some unusual greens topped with slivered beets, sliced strawberries and asparagus tips. The main course was a herb-crusted pork loin along side a generous piece of potato pie. I’m told the pork was quite good, but of course I did not have any myself. I can say the potato pie was excellent. The cook used purple potatoes, so it did look a bit strange: but the taste was superb! The whole meal was wrapped up with a small pastry in the shape of a cross, drizzled with a chocolate sauce and topped off with some cream. Tea & Coffee was served throughout the meal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The End

Our final Family Movie Night was this past weekend: we had a record turnout, too! I think I counted around 20+ people at one point, but may well have missed a few heads.

Lets see if I can name them all: Mother, Myself, Heather, Reed, Gleo, Pam and her friend, Stewart, Julie, Tucker, Noel, Hank, Kelly, Tara, Laurel & Baby (still in the oven), TJ, Gareth & his girlfriend, Robin & Jamie… I think that’s all…

As usual, a lot of people did their craftwork while watching. Julie is starting a blanket with her crochet, Tara is working on a tote bag (she’s crocheting it out of plastic bags!), Noel had some knitting…

We did a Taco Bar this time, and had all sorts of yummy fillings for the taco shells. There was halibut or ground beef to start out with, and then all the toppings you can imagine to top it off.

The movie itself, I have to admit, was not as good as the previous ones have been. This one was mostly talking: interviews with leading scientists in whatever field they are in, dignitaries from all over the world, Big Oil was even represented with the guy’s ideas on what is going on and how to deal with it.

There was a lot of talk about getting another series of movies going, to continue the Family Movie Night theme, but I am kinda looking forward to spending a Sunday afternoon lounging around my own home for a change. Maybe in a week or two, I’ll be ready to do it again.

Reed was talking about showing the Firefly series (that’s a Sci-Fi Channel series), or maybe I can get The Body Atlas on DVD and show it. It costs a pretty penny ($150.00) but would be so cool.

We’ll see…

Thursday, March 13, 2008


It started out as just a regular bout of the flu: achy joints, runny nose, a slight temperature. Uncomfortable and inconvenient, yes, but certainly nothing to worry about.

I was in my mid-20’s: young enough to still consider myself to be immortal so I really didn’t think much of it, except to note that my hips really hurt. That’s typical for me: sickness finds the weak spot and settles in right there. At that time of my life, the weak spot was my hips.

It was a couple days later that I saw them: three big tabby cats standing at least seven feet tall and dressed like Rambo, each one with a machine gun in their hands, ammo belts across their chests, bowie knives hanging at their hips, and camouflage bandanas tied around their foreheads. They were waging a war in my library. I somehow knew there were more than just those three, but they were “hiding in the bushes” waiting to kill the enemy.

I was, understandably, a little bit concerned. Having 7-foot tall Rambo Cats fighting guerilla warfare in one’s library is not an everyday occurrence.

Thankfully they weren’t paying any attention to me, so I was able to hobble around them and make my way down the stairs, each step causing a considerable amount of pain in my hips. I made it to the phone finally and called Jack, my boyfriend at the time. I told him I needed to go to the hospital. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him about the Rambo Cats in my library. He agreed that I did, indeed, need to go to the hospital right away and assured me that he would be right over as soon as he could find someone to watch his kids.

Things start to get a little fuzzy from here on out. I think the fever was starting to soar, and consciousness was becoming a tenuous thing, at best.

The next thing I remember was being at the Emergency room. The nurse was standing across the room waiting for me to follow her into the exam room. My hips, by this time, were excruciatingly painful so walking was very difficult. I had Jack at my side to help, but even so it was not easy. I made it to the exam room, where the doctor had me lay down on the exam table. He lifted my shirt up so he could palpate my stomach area, but just paused and stared at me for a moment.

“…um… You, ah… You have a Band-Aid… on your bellybutton.” he said.

“Yes, I do.” I agreed.

“…um… Why?” he asked.

“Because it’s leaking. I didn’t want my clothes to get stained.” I replied.

“Okay….” He said, with his eyebrows raised in amazement. He very gently put my shirt back in place without disturbing anything.

Once again, things go fuzzy on me. The next thing I remember is standing in an elevator. The doors opened to reveal a long hallway stretching out in front of me, with windows on the left and a row of doors on the right. My friend Willow was beside me, and as we stepped out into the hallway she apologized for the fact that her apartment was all the way down at the very end. She assured me that she would help me to walk down there as my hips were still very painful.

I faded out once again, and came to later on to find myself in the shower. By that time I was apparently so weak I could not stand on my own, so Willow was in there with me. I don’t know how she managed it, but somehow she held me up while at the same time washing my hair for me. I remember thinking that it was pure heaven, to be clean again and to have warm water cascading down my body.

Consciousness faded one last time, and I came to this time to find myself lying on the couch in my mother’s house, out in Palmer. She was in the process of feeding me a few spoonfuls of watered-down oatmeal.

My fever must have finally broken by then, because I no longer lost hold of reality. Even though I spent most of my time sleeping and recovering, I remember each time I woke up. Mother would feed me a few more spoonfuls of my oatmeal each time, and I would go back to sleep a few minutes later.

Once I recovered from whatever it was that hit me so hard, I started trying to piece together what had happened. Jack told me that before he came over to pick me up, he had called Willow. He knew that she had been concerned about me missing so much work (unusual for me) and also knew that if it turned out that I would need some TLC he would not be able to do so.

Willow met us at the Emergency Room and took me home to her place from there. I spent a couple days at her place before she decided that I needed around-the-clock care, which she was unable to give as she had to go to work each day. She called Mother who sent my little brother Reed in to town to pick me up. I was out in Palmer for 3 days before my fever finally broke.

I don’t remember what the doctor had to say. I don’t know what the diagnosis was, or what – if any – medications he prescribed. I don’t even know who paid for the visit!

I do know that I totally believed, at the time, that my bellybutton was leaking. I realize now that that was probably another hallucination. Bellybuttons are not hooked up to anything, and therefore cannot actually “leak”.

I don’t know who took care of my cats for me while I was “gone” either. It was over two weeks, all told, so somebody must have been feeding them for me. The only food I remember eating myself was the oatmeal Mother spooned into me, a bite at a time, but that was only after the fever broke.

I also don’t know why Mother didn’t take me to the hospital once she realized how sick I actually was. I can only surmise that it was a hold-over from our shared past. Growing up, my first 15 years were spent in abject poverty, with barely enough money to keep food on the table. We certainly didn’t have enough money for the luxury of hospital stays, and so we learned to get by on home-remedies and prayers.

I eventually recovered fully from the sickness, and it never came back again. It is very strange to have “lost” that week; it’s just a big blank spot in my memory. Even though I know what happened to me, it’s like reading an article about somebody else – there’s no connection to me in it at all.