Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Take Five - Commencement Edition

I am late in getting this post out.  This past weekend was commencement on campus.  It is a whirlwind of busyness.

We had a wonderful commencement speaker this year, Tim Brown, president and CEO of Nestle Waters North America.  Commencement weekend always makes me think, what if I gave a commencement speech?  What would I say?  Then I said, "what would the best commencement speeches consist of?"  I came up with the five things I would love to hear a commencement speaker say.  That is this week's Take Five.

1. I am going to stand up here and read the menu for the local bar and grill because no one is paying any damn attention to me.

2.  You almost graduates don't give a rip what I have to say because you all know everything!  You have a liberal arts degree.

3.  Some of you will go on to great success.  Some of you will live in your parents' basement and never kiss anybody because you are losers.

4.  I lied and cheated my way to the top.  Meet me in the lobby after the ceremony and I'll tell you how you may do the same thing.

5.  Everything you learned, you learned in kindergarten so kudos to you for spending a bazillion dollars on an education.  See number 3.

The above are written tongue-in-cheek.  I teach at a liberal arts university and take great pride in my job and in our students.  We have some of the best students.  I just think that if anyone said any of the above, you would have the attention of the audience to be sure.  And you would make me laugh.

I also think it's safe to say that I won't be on anyone's commencement speaker short list any time soon.

Cheers!  And congratulations to our St. Bonaventure University graduates - now alumni!  We are all proud!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Take Five - Mother's Day Edition - Pearls of Wisdom

I haven't posted many Pearls of Wisdom lately so I think I'm due.  Today is mother's day and I am grateful for such a wonderful mother.  We have certainly had our moments, but I admire and love Pearl more than anything.

Below are five things I learned from Pearl.

Pearl of Wisdom 1:  Cooking.  Pearl is the world's worst cook.  I love to hear stories about women who learned to cook from their mother's because they would cook together on a Sunday afternoon and make wonderful five course feasts.  I learned to cook in spite of Pearl.  Examples:

  • Fresh baked bread has flavor.  Who knew?
  • The only time corned beef needs to be in a pot for the entire day is if it's a crock pot.  And corned beef is pink, not white, when it's finished.  Ditto sauerkraut.  Actually, sauerkraut in a pot all day, crock or not, is overkill.  And it shouldn't be pink ever.  Unless you cook it with beets.
  • Beef does not have to taste like shoe leather.  Oh, it also doesn't need to cut like shoe leather.
  • Seafood may be cooked in pans other than cast iron.  It also tastes very good.
To be fair, Pearl did have two things she did well:  soup and mac n cheese - and I'm not talking that crappy glow-in-the dark mac n cheese, but the real homemade stuff.  And her split pea and bean soups were amazing!

My brother and I told her a few years ago that her cooking sucked.  Her reply, "well you kids survived."  True statement, Pearl.  Another true statement - I was skinny growing up.

Pearl of Wisdom 2:  Recycling.  I often hated that mom would dust the house with some Pledge and dad's old underwear, or whatever other cloth she had that was no longer in use for its original purpose.  Now I find myself salvaging stuff I didn't think I would.  Hey, reuse and recycle.  I do draw the line at underwear.  I use old washcloths, dishcloths, towels, etc.

Pearl of Wisdom 3:  Gardening.  Truth be told, Pearl can garden. She has a wonderfully green thumb.  And she likes it.  She helped me when I still lived in Alden and we had these amazing flower gardens.  I hope to have her help me down here in Franklinville.  

I will confess this - my brother and I had a good laugh one day when we saw a bunch of sticks planted in a row.  I think Pearl saw them laying on the ground and thought she should plant them and trees would sprout up.  They didn't grow, in case you were wondering.  I find myself laughing because Jamie and I planted some hummingbird plants that are actually sticks.  I keep thinking that I see buds on the sticks.  Alas, I don't think so.  I'm giving them another week or so.

Pearl of Wisdom 4: Laughing.  Life is too damn short to be so serious all the time.  Laugh!  Mostly at yourself. Sometimes at others if they do something really stupid.  Usually at your husband.

Pearl of Wisdom 5:  Multitasking.  Pearl is nothing if not efficient.  In fact, she used to mow the lawn topless.  That may be the norm in Europe, but in Marilla, not so much.  Her reasoning?  I don't want tan lines, there are no neighbors (and there weren't), the sun is out and the grass needs to get cut.  Why not mow the lawn and tan?

Now, I am not a proponent of tanning so I can't say that I agree with that, but can you argue with her logic?  I should point out that Pearl also taught me to love my body and myself.  Topless?  It's only boobs.  Everyone has seen boobs so who cares?  If you are comfortable, it doesn't much matter what others think.  

Thank you, Pearl, for such valuable life lessons.  You are a blessing!  Happy Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Take Five - Spring Edition

Well, do I dare say that spring may be here.  I am confident-ish.

1.  I need tires: And I think I can get away with regular tires, not snow tires.  I figure if I keep my snow brush and ice scraper in the car at all times, a late snow emergency should be averted.  I think I can safely put regular tires on the car.  I think.....

2.  Sinus or Allergies?: Last week I wrote about Ebola Betty.  I thought I had an illness contracted from Betty on my flight out to California.  Then I thought it might be some weird sinus infection.  Then a colleague suggested it might be allergies.  I have never had allergies and I know you can develop them as an adult.  Woo hoo.  Allergies and adult acne.  Am I 12 years old?  On another note, a friend recommended a neti pot. If you have not tried this, it's gross, but effective.  I think I may have cured what ails me.

3.  Flowers: Damn that flipping chipmunk and its family.  We do have daffodils growing alongside the barn, and they are lovely harbingers of spring, but the tulip bulbs I planted closer to the house did not yield blooms.  I think it's the damn chipmunk family.  Jamie did put chipmunk traps (they're mouse traps but since our goal is chipmunks, they're chipmunk traps on our farm) out.  We'll see.

4.  Barn cats: Evidently we have a barn cat.  We wondered how long it would be before someone dropped a cat off because I can guarantee we didn't get a cat.  I do not care for cats (fine witch I am). We have nice huge barns that would be prime drop off ground for some uncaring individual. I told Jamie not to feed it.  It needs to earn its keep.  Besides, I suspect our dogs would eat it as an appetizer if they found it or we tried to tame it.  I will say that cats are self-sufficient and self-reliant.  Dogs, not so much.

5.  Air the House!: Opening windows is wonderful!  Let the fresh air in the winter-stenched house.  Cool breeze blowing things about.  It doesn't get any better.

As a note, I overheard someone say that we are expected to get one of the hottest summers yet.  I will start meditating now so that I don't start killing people in July.  Oh, I am not a heat person.  Neither is Jamie.  We joke that we will eventually winter in Buffalo and summer in Nunavut.  Different strokes.....

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Take Five

Take Five - Travel Edition Continued

I have been doing my share of traveling lately and I am tired.  I just want to relax.  The semester ends in a few weeks and then summer starts even though "summer" the season won't even get here because spring won't ever come.

1.  Ebola Betty - stay the hell home!  This is an open message to the woman who was on my Jet Blue flight from Boston to LAX on Monday.  You were coughing and hacking up a lung and in the loo every ten minutes.  If you are that sick, stay the hell home!  Why?  Because now I am sick.  I wanted to have a good weekend not spend it recovering from your illness.  Damn you, Ebola Betty!

2.  Love it or List it - Jet Blue is great because they have individualized televisions - yes, I know most do now, but Jet Blue led the pack.  I watched a Love it or List it marathon on HGTV.  When I hear this, "We don't have enough space in our house.  We need a larger house."  I want to scream, "Clean your shit up!"  Honestly, most of the problem is clutter.  Put the damn toys away, put your clothes away, purge shit you don't need.  CLEAN UP!

3.  Cities in the Desert - does anyone else find it odd that we build cities in the desert (Palm Springs, Las Vegas) and then wonder why we struggle with a water shortage?  Hmmmm.

4.  Vending Machines - I am not the biggest fan of vending machines because they usually contain crappy snacks and unhealthy soda pop.  This vending machine, however, is genius.  Can I get one for my house?

5.  Signs that shouldn't be - When I stay in a hotel, I don't expect to see the following signs.  I'm surprised there wasn't a bedbug warning.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Take Five

I am rather surprised at myself.  I've been doing this every week since I said I would.  That never happens.

What's interesting this week?  What did I learn?  I have five items below that show that God/Goddess really does want us to be happy.

1.  Sangria is God's/Goddess' love on Earth.  I was in NYC with our AAF students from Thursday through last night and I had Sangria a couple of days.  There is nothing like sipping this wonderful "juice" on a beautiful day.  I think it it God's way of showing his love (or Goddess' way of showing her love - take your pick).

2.  Daffodil's are a reminder that winter does end....eventually.  I saw plenty of daffodils and tulips in NYC.  It was when I saw daffodils when I got home last night that I was really happy.  I was even happier this morning when my husband put a couple of daffodils in a glass with water and put them on the nightstand.  What a sight to wake up to.

3.  Hot dogs on the grill are worth coming home to.  I love the smell of street food when I travel.  NYC has some wonderful street food.  It also has some wonderful non-street food (if you can't find something unique and wonderful to eat in NYC, go to McDonald's and shut your pie hole).  The street food made me want hot dogs today.  I had to dress them with some of our homemade sauerkraut.  Delicious.  Other foods I usually want when I come home from a trip - pizza, fresh fruit, milk, salad.  Not in that order and not always, but often enough to mention it.

4.  Dogs are a girl's best friend.  I miss my husband when I am away, but I think I miss my dogs more.  I think my husband knows that and isn't surprised or hurt. I suspect he misses the dogs when he's away also.

5. Getting your car back when you land is awesome.  I love the subway in NYC.  I think I love the efficiency of it and the cheapness.  I also love that you can people watch.  It's like Broadway, but underground and unscripted and kinda smelly.  Fun to be had.  But....there is nothing like getting off the plane and taking the shuttle to long-term parking, remembering where you parked in section 19, remembering what car is yours (this is for the family who were in the shuttle with me who didn't know where they parked or even which vehicle was theirs.  Nice.), loading up, turning the key and hitting the road.  Next step is to follow the damn directions when you go to pay with your credit card.  Those damn machines are particular.  The ticket has to go in a certain way and your credit card had to go in a certain way.  Really?  Technology being what it is we can't figure this shit out so that it reads it no matter what way you stick it in?  Hmmmm.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Take Five: Twist

I was reading The Buffalo News as I always do and there was an article suggesting that you make meaningful purchases when you travel.   Instead of a t-shirt - or worse, a t-shirt that reads, "someone I know went to Siberia and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" - why not get art or something for your home that you will remember and will remind you of your trip.

Thanks, Buffalo News, but I've been doing that for years.  In fact, Jamie and I often do that now when we travel.  We have artifacts all over the house that speak to our travels, either together or separately.

Take Five this week chooses five locations either I have visited alone, with friends, family, students, or Jamie.

West Virginia: What a way to start a list.  My sister and I took my mother to Charleston, WV for her 70th birthday as a girls' weekend.  Since Pam lives in Charlotte and we live in Western New York, we thought Charleston would be a reasonable meeting point.  The crafters in WV are pretty extraordinary. I fell in love with many potters/ceramicists.  This is an example of one piece I purchased.  It is displayed on the shelves in our living room among the National Geographic magazines.  That's expensive real estate in my house!

Canada's Maritime Provinces: After I finished my masters degree, I went on a bike trip in Nova Scotia with a group of complete strangers. One of our stops featured wonderful glass.  I had to purchase a piece and have them ship it home.  I love fish and the colors on this fish just make me smile and remind me of biking from Halifax down the east coast to the southern tip.  On a separate trip, Jamie was introduced to my crazy Newfie cousins.  He loved it.  On the Ferry ride from Newfoundland to Maine, we hit some "turbulence."  While I didn't see my lunch a second time, I felt like crap the entire trip.  Jamie found a nice glass bowl that we display on our mantel.  He wanted me to get up to see it.  I think he thought that might help my seasickness.  Not really.  It just cemented the fact that I don't have any sea legs.  Both beautiful pieces.

China: I went to China with St. Bonaventure's MBA and IMC programs.  I got many nice things while over there.  Two are displayed below - Mah Jong tile set and silk woven artwork.

Africa: I have been lucky enough to travel to Uganda, Africa with SBU and Embrace It Africa.  I enjoy many of the pieces I have in my home and office that remind me of my time there.  I have a photo of a traditional African drum that was crafted by a local crafter.  I also have a painting that I had framed once I got home.  It depicts three women.  Very interesting pieces and all have a story.

Assisi, Italy: Thank you, SBU, for allowing Jamie and me to go on a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy.  It was incredibly moving, relaxing and rejuvenating all in one trip.  We thoroughly enjoyed many of the pieces we got while there.  So much artwork reminds us of our time there.  We have it displayed in the living room, bedroom and kitchen.

Our bowl.  It took us ages to decide on a bowl and the colors.  All were so beautiful.
This print reminds us of the hillside homes
and olive trees.

Imagine my surprise to find a witch
attached to a broom made from a
traditional tree/reed.

These are just five places I've been.  There are many more.  Perhaps a future Take Five will focus on other locations.

Have a wonderful week.  Remember to file your taxes by Wednesday!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Take Five - Easter Edition

It's Easter in Franklinville.  It looks like Christmas.  Mother Nature, you are a bitch.

Number 1: Suspect:  Spring is never, ever, ever going to get here.  EVER! I know that isn't possible because climate change hasn't had that drastic an impact. I understand how weather and seasons work.  I know all about science.   It just feels as though we will never see spring.  NEVER!  I have had a couple of signs.  Snow is melting (and then it showed up again today as you can see below).  We have also seen our small spring flowers poke up.  I am sure they immediately regretted it and said some bad flower words and died.

As noted on Facebook and Twitter:  "Hey, Mother Nature....knock it the f... off!"

There is hope. Spring may still be there after the snow melts.

Number 2:  Becoming: Jamie and I are becoming homesteaders.  We tapped one maple tree in the backyard this year and made syrup.  It was easy, but tedious and kinda time-consuming (for him - I watched).  We did get some amazing syrup out of it.  We had it on pancakes this morning. Yum.  We also bought two mushroom kits and are growing our own shrooms.  We have button and oyster.  Below you will see the oyster mushrooms peeking out.  I bet those shrooms are happier than the little blue flowers relegated to the outdoors.

Oyster mushrooms.  Can't wait for risotto and other assorted goodies.

Number 3: Realization:  Bigger is not always better.  Really.  I don't think I've convinced Jamie of that, but I believe it.  We had this monstrous (and ugly) bedframe in our bedroom.  We also bought mattresses as part of the Franklinville High School Band fundraiser. (A mattress fundraiser with high schools - I can't make that sound normal.)  I asked Jamie if we could remove the bedframe.  We did and the orange room (which will soon be yellow) looks so much better.  SO MUCH BETTER!  You can move around now.  I'll take pictures after the room is painted.

Number 4: Embraced:  Spring cleaning is awesome!  Really.  The actual cleaning sucks, but the feeling afterward is amazing.  I cleaned the house on Friday from top to bottom (or nearly so).  I am struggling with a cold so I had to take more frequent breaks than normal, but to be able to throw open the windows and let fresh air in is amazing!  The house feels wonderful and it's nice to be able to read and type in a clean home.  Not that it was that bad before.  I can't believe I just typed that sentence.  Jamie and I have been so busy lately our house was a pig sty.  In fact, I think pigs may have said, "Hell no, where's the barn."

Number 5: Retro Suggestion:  Home Economics class is a must.  Before I get all sorts of haters who think I am trying to take away the rights of women, let me explain.  I don't think that home-ec should be for women only.  I think men should take it too.  I was reminded of home-ec this weekend when I shortened curtains in the orange room.  They were much too long so I hauled out my mom's old Singer sewing machine and made the alterations.  I still remember how to do this.  I thought of that while I sat sewing with my foot full-throttle on the pedal.  I then remembered that I learned to cook in home-ec.  Another class everyone should take - shop.  I don't care if it's auto shop or whatever other shop there is (wood, steel, rubber, I don't know).  Everyone needs to learn how to use tools and make at least minor repairs.  It would have been awesome if I learned my share of plumbing, electrical and drywall work.  I wouldn't still be waiting for a flipping second floor loo.