Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dec. 26th

Oh the pressure!!

I got an AWESOME camera for Christmas.  I mean the kind of camera you can mess with and make artsy fartsy photos.  I haven't had one of these since my darkroom days.  I knew this before, but I need to say this again - digital ROCKS.  At least when I studied the manual today, I could take some photos and knew to a certain degree what I did wrong or right.  Back in the day, you would set your f-stop and shutter speed and hope for the best.  When you developed your film a week later, you completely forgot what your settings were for that incredibly good or bad photo, and started all over again.  So now, the pressure in on to produce really good photos.  These are my favorite inside and outside shots after having the camera for 24 hours.  They just happen to be photos of 2 of my favorite people as well.

And then there are the pasta maker attachments I got for my monster Kitchen Aid mixer!  I mentioned a couple of times that I wanted to try to make my own pasta.  I know fresh is better, and you can make "flavored" pasta too.  Well, now it's time to pony up and actually do it.  The pressure!  AUGH!!!

So, I will update this when I get to the next level of ...  everything.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Pioneer Woman, I am Not

So there is this awesome woman who has this incredible web site -  Nobody can match her.  If you go to her web site and just sit for a moment in her awesomeness, it will make you feel wonderful and completely inept at the same time.  She is the perfect wife and mother and her cookies look like they are straight from the pages of a cookbook.  Mine, well, not so much.  Her gingerbread men are not modeled after Derrick Rose (star of the Chicago Bulls) and Brian Urlacher (of the Chicago Bears, DUH!), or after being bagged for a week, have been broken to the point where they have to be iced with  "OH MY GOSH!" faces on them, looking at their missing extremities.  In the midst of icing the gingerbread cookies, John made me a Bailey's chocolate martini, and it got even weirder.  Gingerbread women in bikinis and men in Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses.  Then, I exclaimed that "My bag broke!!" meaning the bag I was using to ice said cookies had burst.  But John, watching football in the next room yelled, "The last time you said that, we came home with Jim 2 days later!" 
 Funny.  Really.
So here are my not-good photos of my butter and gingerbread fiascos, and the train wreck of a kitchen that followed.  
Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the kids are alright

My kids are both home from college for the holidays as of this afternoon.

I am OK with being an empty nester, I really am.  I hate that John is gone so much with work, but Lily and Caz keep me pretty occupied.  I'm just surprised at the calmness I feel now that the kids are home.

I wasn't worried about Jim driving home.  It's a long trip, but he's a very good driver.  He apparently hit a falcon on the way home that swooped down out of nowhere, but Jim is fine.  The falcon - not so much.  We see Hannah quite often because her school is much closer.  I don't know...  it's just a really odd feeling.  It's a warm fuzzy.  I'm at peace.  I guess that doesn't happen enough for me to recognize the feeling.  Or I'm so stressed out about something else that I don't let myself feel it.  Sad, but true.

Maybe it's because I see them as adults now.  They are moving on, building their own lives, and it's all done without me and John.  When they come home, they are my kids again.  I loved them when they were little, but to see what they are developing into as adults is an incredible thing for me.

It will be better when John gets home tomorrow.  Then, it's all good.  Let the holidays begin!

If this is the feeling I get every year, seeing my kids for the holidays or whenever, then it's all good.  I don't care if we celebrate Christmas in July, as long as I get to be with them.  They are pretty darn nice people to be around.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

little surprises.

So.  If you've been reading this blog or know me, you know I'm having issues with being alone.  The kids are at college and John is traveling more than he ever has.  You are also aware that I have two blood thirsty pugs to guard me and the house.  But, last week when John was gone, some goon took the wreath off the front or our house.

I admit, it was a little weird for me.  I filed a "citizen's complaint" with the city and requested that patrols be beefed up a little in my neighborhood.  (The mother of a woman I work with lives around the corner and had her wreath stolen too!  The nerve!!)

But then, just as I was feeling all green and Grinchy, some people did something that made my heart grow "three sizes" today.  5 lovely ladies I work with, bought me a new, beautiful wreath and had it delivered to work today.  The card only read, "Ho, ho, ho!  Put a padlock on this one!"  They watched as I tried to figure out who would have done such a wonderful thing - and put on academy award winning performances for not knowing anything about it.  Then, they fessed up.  And I got all teary eyed.

Some people just come through for you in the not-so-smallest of ways.  And make your whole holiday.

Thank you guys.  You're the best.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One of the seven deadly sins - update

I originally posted this back in July, but because sentences have finally been handed down, I felt the need to repost.  Read on, and I'll tack something more on the backside...
I've been thinking a lot about pride lately.  If one "deadly sin" can be worse than another, I think this is it.  

For 2 1/2 years, I was a purchasing manager for a manufacturing company, Wildwood Industries.  I was very grateful for the job. I had taken a long career break to raise two kids and this was my way back in.  I had procurement positions in the past, but that was prior to having children, when I could work late, go to dinner with suppliers and go in on Saturdays.  Purchasing is not the easy job some people think it is.  It might not be the same pressure that sales people experience (as John has shown me over the years), but you are constantly striving to get better materials, at cheaper prices, at precisely the moment they are needed.  The thing I always loved and hated about purchasing is that every cent you save, goes straight to the company's bottom line.  Salesmen (sorry, John) can't say that.

So back to the pride thing.  The company I worked for was a privately owned company and it was ruled with an iron fist.  There was a production meeting every day, and while it was nice to have some of the pressure of making decisions removed, it completely sucked to sit by and watch the wrong decisions being made on behalf of my department.  And let me tell you, there were plenty of bad decisions made.  And I believe all of those decisions were made because of shear pride.

Pride veiled everything for Gary, the owner of the company.  I don't know what happened in the early years of the company, but the last years were very ugly.  Delivery was everything.  It didn't matter what it took or how much it cost - we did not miss a delivery.  I often wondered how we ever made a profit, with all the costly hoops we had to jump through to make some deadlines.  I was not privy to sales contract negotiations, but one of our biggest customers was Wal-Mart.  If you know anything about Wal-Mart, you know they beat their suppliers to a pulp, buy from China and wave the American flag while doing it.  But, Gary was very proud of the fact that he supplied America's biggest retailer along with some of their biggest competitors, even though Wal-Mart bankrupted much bigger players.  He was proud of the fact that he employed entire families.  He was proud that he did little things for his employees, like buy them breakfast or lunch once in a while. He lent them money.  He was proud that he had an elaborate Christmas party every year.  He had an RV that was mostly used by the female officers of the company, to travel to Chicago for Christmas shopping trips and by certain employees to go to NASCAR races. He had a company jet - even though he rarely used it himself and constantly offered it to nearby college sports teams to fly to away games.  He gave a very generous donation to a cause that is very near and dear to my heart.  His name is on the wall at Central Catholic High School, as one of their top tier contributors for the newly constructed building.

Where people thankful of Gary'
s generosity?  Heck yeah.  Was that generosity given for the right reasons? Probably not.

And every time his company got too deep in debt with a supplier, I was instructed to find another.  Be done with the past; be a big shot to a new guy.

I believe that this pride is what brought Gary down.  I honestly think he would do anything to save face.  At some point he got in too deep, a scheme was born to get through it, but no plan was ever made to STAY out of it.  He devised a ponsi scheme of machinery to keep the pride going, and it didn't stop until he was forced into bankruptcy - after being in business or  25+ years.

So now, I try to stay reminded every day of how far, how deep and how wide pride can go; where it can start and how it can become a monster; how you can fudge on something and end up in jail for fraud to the tune of $250 million.  I think most people doubt you can get from point A to point B through just hanging onto your pride.  I truly believe Gary did, and the ramifications stretch well past whatever generosity he ever extended.

So now, everyone has been sentenced and due to start serving in January.  Nice to have one last Christmas at home, I guess.  

Gary, the owner got 15 years.  I am struggling with the fact that because of his failing heath, he will serve his time in a prison close to Mayo Clinic  - and receive better healthcare than half of the people living in America.  I read all the article comments on line and the people defending Gary keep yelling, "But he did it to SAVE the business!"  Like he's some wonderful person to try to save the jobs of 700 people!  No - he is a prideful, spiteful, manipulative shell of a man who was only looking out for himself.  The business would never need saving if he had not run it the way he did.  Would people in general be better off if he had gone under 10 years ago when this whole thing started?  I think so.  And it didn't matter that his son quit the business because he didn't agree with the way things were being run.  It didn't matter that he didn't have a mansion.  He was a pillar in the community and looked up to by hundreds of people for his humble ways and his generosity.  That's all that mattered.

His wife was sentenced to 7 years.  She knew what was going on, but I really don't know what to think about her.  She said in court that she considered divorcing her husband at one point because of what was going on with the business.  THAT, I do not believe.  She's a Catholic and values her family too much to break it apart.  

Dominic, the plant manager received 7 years.  I don't think Gary could have done what he did without Dominic.  Enough said there.  

And Kim.  She only got 40 months. She made my short time there a very difficult one.  Trying to get vendors paid was a full time job there and she had no problem lying to me or anyone else looking for a check.  The check was in the mail, or must have gotten lost in the mail, or - my favorite - the check went out and was received only to have a stop payment slapped on it.  I guess I should be thankful for her lies now and I'm glad I was not part of that little inner circle.  

It's just really weird to be this close to something of this magnitude.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 years ago today

Can't believe it's been 30 years since John Lennon was shot.  I know I should remember where I was when I heard the news, but I don't.  But I was a freshman in college and I remember thinking, why?  Why on earth would anyone harm HIM of all people?  

I took this photo when John and I went to New York the summer before last, to celebrate our 25th anniversary.  I'm sure Strawberry Fields in Central Park is a crowded, solemn place this evening.   I'm very thankful for the way New York City remembered him.  Just to be there borders on a slight spiritual experience.  It's just peaceful there.  I'm sure John would have approved.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I finally have the holiday spirit, even though I baked ALL DAY on Sunday and half of my cookies/truffles flopped.  I used "mild flavor" molasses in my gingerbread cookies.  Note to self - NEVER AGAIN!  They turn out rather bland.

Anyway, this year on the cookie menu, will be:

Gingerbread cookies - the GOOD ones with lots of flavor, iced and decorated by my art student daughter (no pressure, Hannah!!)
Super-Duper Chocolate cookies - an old family favorite
Mint Meringue - or "mint puffies" to my kids...  melt in your mouth and the only low fat Christmas cookie around
Kentucky Bourbon balls - new experiment this year... you soak the nuts overnight.  That gave John lots of fodder for his customers...
Press Butter cookies - a batch of cookies made with a full pound of butter can't be bad
Frangelico truffles - another experiment...   we'll see...
Oreo balls - or "Oreo Truffes" as they are refered to on line. Yeah right.  They are still BALLS and they are still everyone's favorite.

I sort of stopped baking for a few years.  When the kids were little and I wasn't working full time,  I baked Christmas cookies like no other.  I guess now that they are "gone" and off to college, I'm feeling nostalgic and want to bake again.  So the people I work with will benefit or be the victim  my experiments.  Something tells me that either way, they are happy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


We saw the Bodeans tonight.  If you don't know about them you should. They are an awesome band, and I've been listening to them for over 20 years,

I'm not intranets savvy enough to include music to this blog, so do it yourself. It's worth it.