Dear Rob Lowe;

I recently finished listening to your Stories I Only Tell My Friends audio book. I downloaded it from Audible about a year ago to listen to on a long car ride after hearing (and sobbing) as you read from your other book, Love Life, about sending your son off to college. I know the feeling.

If I could travel into the past and tell my younger self that I was going to read/listen to a book written by Rob Lowe, that younger self would laugh and say, “You have got to be kidding! Rob Lowe? That scumbag?”

That younger self was quite judgmental and unforgiving. That younger self had only seen you in a couple of films and wrote you off as just another pretty-boy actor. At one point that younger self grew up and realized that people make mistakes.

I first saw you on an episode of Brothers and Sisters and tuned in for more episodes. Then I saw you on Parks and Recreation and realized you could be really funny. It was not until I binge watched The West Wing that I realized I liked your acting. A lot.

So, back to your book. For the most part I found it highly entertaining and interesting. I really loved the first half of the book, especially your yearly years — before LA. But I also liked the early LA years, and the part about filming the Outsiders. The last half of the book, however, was too name-droppy for me. At one point in the book you chastised the common man/woman for objectifying you, then you write about your exploits with several women and drop famous names right and left. Now who’s objectifying?

The other problem I had with the second half of the book — more like the last quarter of the book, is that you glossed over the video-tape scandal (even made excuses, blaming the person who let the under-age woman into the club). Until I read that in your book, I’d decided you’d learned your lesson, grown up and I was on my way to becoming a fan of your acting/writing.

I am not so sure now. I still might read Love Life because of the way you so beautifully wrote of your emotions about sending your son off to college. I’ll still watch you in films and on TV, but I guess I feel a little cheated that you did not really own up to some of your mistakes. You are so brutally honest in most of the book, but when it comes to your real fuck-ups, I am not sure you were so honest.

Categories: People, Reading | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Photos of people I don’t know #4 — Grade 2, 1911, Columbia School (Elgin, Illinois)

I don’t know any of these children. I thought that possibly my Uncle Don was among the group, but he was born in 1910, so it could not have been his 2nd grade class, although he may or may not have attended Columbia Grade School in Elgin.

I will post this on the You Know You’re from Elgin if… Facebook group. Maybe someone’s grand or great grandparent is in the photo.

Class photo of about 30 children

Categories: Photographs, Series | Tags: | 1 Comment

Photos of people I don’t know #3 — children, most of whom are not looking at the camera

I know none of these children. I wonder if there were birds flying around the room or something. Only about 3 of them are actually looking at the camera. Or maybe this is the silly shot and the serious one has been lost.

A group of chkdren all looking in different directions

Categories: Series | Tags: | 6 Comments

Photos of people I don’t know #2 — a cat on a fence post

Photo of a cat sitting on a fence post.

Not a person, but I don’t know the cat in this photo so it counts. This was also in the bag of photos from Aunt Corrine.

Even 1915, the year this postcard photo was sent, people took photos of their cats.

The sender wrote this on the back:

From: 117 Hinsdale Pl.
Elgin, Ill.

To: Mrs. W. C. Youngs, Elgin, Ill. R.F.D #2

Dear Mrs. Youngs,

This is a rather funny picture, but I thought you might like one. It is “Nellie” if you can’t tell otherwise. How are you all? This is dandy weather.

With Best Wishes,
Irene Nelson.

 

Categories: Pets, Series | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Photos of people I don’t know — First in a series — People with Horses

My Aunt Corrine gave me a plastic bag full of old photos of my Uncle Don’s* family. I found one photo that I am sure is him but everyone else is a stranger to me. I know nothing (except what I discovered today on FamilySearch.org) about his family.

Anyway, because I cannot bear to dispose of the photos I figured I would blog about some of them.

The bag contains a number of photos of people with horses, but this is the photo with the largest number of people and horses. They seemed proud of their horses. And hats. Everyone but the woman is wearing a hat.

People with horses

*Uncle Don, you may recall, is where the odd spelling of my name came from.

Categories: Series | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Nemesis no more

In the world of birding a nemesis bird is a bird that a birder has gone to some (often great) lengths to see but has had no luck. While I am an incidental birder at best, and probably have no right to call any bird my nemesis bird, I did go to some lengths to see a painted bunting on a number of occasions, yet when an opportunity arose to drive 45 minutes to see one a few years ago, I did not go.

The painted bunting is probably the most colorful bird the United States has to offer. I was so taken with this bird that I considered using its name as my online name but thought it might be a little too suggestive so chose cedar waxwing instead.

A number of springs ago I arranged a vacation for my family and another family to stay on Tybee Island near Savannah in Georgia so I could see a painted bunting — something the island is known for. Even though I went to the places painted buntings usually hang out a couple of times that week, I never saw one. In fact, the folks there said that they’d not seen one that year.

There was a painted bunting sighting in Annapolis a few years ago, as reported on a birding list I subscribe to. I considered trying to see the bird, but shyness won out. One Saturday I had a conversation with a woman at a rugby game whose son was on the opposing team from Andrew’s team and she mentioned that she had a painted bunting at her feeder in Annapolis (I must have had binoculars with me). It turned out it was the same bird that was mentioned on the list and she invited me to visit the next week for coffee to see the bird for myself. I said I might and we exchanged telephone numbers, but I didn’t go.

Whenever we visited Florida I’d keep the painted bunting on my mind whenever we were in a natural area. The two times I visited Mississippi I thought I might be able to catch a glimpse of one — but no luck.

We always visit Merrritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Playalinda Beach when we visit Dean’s sister, Diane, who lives in Orlando, Florida. This year we headed to Vero Beach / wetlands first, but it began raining and we didn’t see too many birds on our brief, wet walk. I suggested we drive up to Merritt Island, have lunch, then go birding there. After lunch at Sonny’s BBQ we stopped at the Merritt Island NWR Visitor’s center. I immediately checked the log to see if a painted bunting had been seen (one had — right at the visitor’s center). I went outside and saw a man with a camera who was saying to his female companion something about how the female looked so different from the male. I knew, then, I was going to see a painted bunting. I asked him if he was talking about a painted bunting, explaining that it was my nemesis bird. He moved away from the railing so I could get a good look. There in the bushes was a blue, red, green and yellow bird. The man with the camera said, “Nemesis no more” and moved on to let me enjoy my ex-nemesis bird in solitude.

Dean took a photo for me, I took a few more, Diane even took a photo.

As I turned around to leave, two other very excited people were walking towards the feeder saying, “Painted bunting! It is a painted bunting!” I smiled, knowingly. at them, knowing exactly how they felt.

Categories: Birds, Travel | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

Mr. Tumnus and me

4 black and white images of me holding Mr. Tumnus

Mr. Tumnus and me.

Back, a very long time ago, I enjoyed shopping at K-mart. Our family would drive to the K-mart either on the East side of Elgin, or another local K-mart — perhaps one in Meadowdale, if there was one there. Anyway, my memories of shopping with my parents at K-mart are all pleasant. We’d usually stop at the deli and pick up a sub-sandwich. I liked the ham they put in their sandwiches, and remember the bread being tasty. I even liked the raw onions and processed orange cheese they put in the sandwiches.

I didn’t often buy anything with my own money on these shopping trips, but remember one purchase when I was in my late teens. I remember walking along one of the main aisles — the area where they kept their seasonal specials — and stopping, mouth in an “o” shape, eyes wide, possibly making an ahhhhhhhh! sound of pure joy. I saw a display full of 16 or so inch bronze-colored ceramic fauns at the low, low price of $20. It may not have been a blue-light special, but it was something I could not live without. I picked one up, hugged it and placed it gently in our shopping cart.

“It’s Mr. Tumnus!” I announced to my family. “From Narnia. And I am buying him!”

Because my parents knew about my obsession with The Chronicles of Narnia, they did not try to talk me out of buying the statue. And I don’t know if it was then and there that my dad came up with his nickname for the statue, but I can just imagine him telling the check-out clerk that his daughter just had to have Mr. Numbnuts. (I do remember Dad calling the statue “Mr. Numbnuts” when he was helping us pack up my Elgin apartment for the move to Pittsburgh.)

Mr. Tumnus traveled with me from my parents house to my first apartment, to Pittsburgh, to two houses in Alexandria, then finally to his last home, Bethesda. He stood in the gardens of several of those homes, but  because he was not made out of weatherproof material, he eventually disintegrated into a white powder. He was too far gone by the time we moved to Bethesda to stand next to the gas lamppost in our front yard.

For years I looked for a similar, more weatherproof, version of Mr. Tumnus, but never found one I could afford or one that looked like my Mr. Tumnus. I no longer plan to replace Mr. Tumnus — that obsession has gone, but I cannot help looking for Mr. Tumnus when we visit garden stores or pass places that carry statues.

I thought I’d never see him again until I opened an old book I found at my mom’s a few years ago and found a photo booth set of photos of me and Mr. Tumnus. (Likely taken at K-mart the day I found him.) He’s over there, to your left — with a long-haired pig-tailed youngster that used to be me.

 

Categories: Memories, Obsessions, Things | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

When I opened my eyes I couldn’t believe what I saw!

I was sitting in a moderately crowded church and realized I could not easily open my eyes. I was finally able to slightly open one eye and looked around at the rest of the attendees. Everyone appeared to be sleeping, some with their heads rolled to the side or resting on the back of the pew. Suddenly everyone opened their eyes and sat up straight as the pastor walked up the aisle to the pulpit.

During the service I deduced what happened. Each Sunday the pastor wanted quiet in the church before ascending the pulpit. The only way he could accomplish that was to drug the congregation with a quick-acting quick-recovery sleep-inducing vapor. What the vapor was, how it was introduced to the congregation and if it were dangerous were the questions still on my mind when I confronted the pastor after the service.

“I refused to be drugged in a church,” I announced to the pastor.

“You are welcome to not be drugged in a church,” replied the pastor, “but not in my church.”

I knew I needed to let others know about this, but I didn’t know how do do so without causing a riot. The first thing I needed to find out was what the drug was and how it was introduced into the air. I also knew I needed an ally.

I assumed that since the pastor was a good man, he would not want to harm anyone, but perhaps he’d not thought about unborn children and the effects of the drug on them. I approached a woman I knew was pregnant and whispered to her what I knew. She became outraged and said she’d meet me in the fellowship hall after talking to the pastor.

I then noticed my son, who was responsible for ringing the tower bell before the service, and asked him what he knew about the vapor. He admitted that he was instructed to push a button just before the bell began to toll. He also told me the name of the drug that was released into the sanctuary when the button was pushed. I wrote it down, planning on Googling it later.

I then began talking to other people in the fellowship hall — many of whom were not in the sanctuary. It seemed many people knew about the drugging and opted, since the pastor was otherwise a good man, just to stay out of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings.

I still needed to know where the vapor entered the sanctuary, so went back into the sanctuary just before a second service was about to begin. That is when I noticed the brass decorations on either end of the pews — what I’d always thought to be speakers. I got close to one and heard a hissing sound. Holding my breath I ran up the aisle to escape being drugged for a second time that morning, of course I couldn’t run very fast and my lungs were bursting. I escaped just in time.

I never saw the pregnant woman again, but talked more to some of the women in the fellowship hall.

Then I woke up.

Categories: Dreams | Tags: , | 6 Comments

To Indigo Bunting on the occasion of her birthday

in 2006 I discovered a group of people who wrote snippets about other people they knew using the number of words they’d been on Earth. I thought it sounded like fun and began my own 365 blog. The very first person to comment on my work went by the nickname “Indigo Bunting”. For those of you who are not familiar with common bird names, an indigo bunting is a beautiful blue bird (often mistaken for a bluebird).

Indigo Bunting said there were a couple of reasons she was interested in my posts. One was that she’d lived in my hometown in the 1980s. Another was that she knew two other women who spelled their name the same way I did. A third was that she once lived in a town a couple towns over from where I know live. I was in awe of her way with words and immediately began reading her 365 from the beginning. The way she shaped her sentences and phrases taught me a thing or two about short-writing.

Eventually many of the core group of the original 365 group started new blogs and we followed each other to those. Indigo Bunting is slightly less prolific on her own blog than she is in commenting on other people’s blog posts. I don’t know how she does it — nearly every time I read someone’s blog post, Indigo has already been there and written the perfect comment.

Her blog is so well written — usually humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always highly readable.

Not only is Indigo a remarkable writer, she is also a birder, an editor, a skater (ice and roller), a fly fisher person, and expert on fly fishing, a lover of roller derby and she can still turn cartwheels like a kid.

Happy Birthday Indigo Bunting! Best wishes for the coming year. Live long and write lots of blog posts.

 

Categories: Birds, Blogging, Events, People | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast for an icy afternoon

I finally made my rounds of the folks whose blogs I read and saw a couple of posts about food. Apparently Mali suggested we post a favorite recipe or two and IB did just that. I have some recipes here and there, but I’ll post my favorite pot roast recipe here. It is not a foodie kinda meal, but it is warming on a day full of snow and ice like today. What I like best about this meal is that you make it early and leave it in the oven for 3 to 5 hours.

I don’t know how I first found out about the Pioneer Woman, but I’d already cooked many of her meals, bought her cookbook and seen her at a distance at the National Book Festival when I caught her on television making a pot roast. I don’t watch morning television, but I happened to be watching it the day she was on one of the morning network shows. She has since gotten her own television program — that I have yet to see.

I follow the directions exactly — except I use a cast iron Dutch oven to cook it in.

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast Recipe

Ingredients

1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 whole Onions
6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste
1 cup Red Wine (optional, You Can Use Beef Broth Instead)
2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

Preparation Instructions

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.
Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.
When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

I serve this with mashed potatoes, but noodles would be good too. Tonight I am adding a turnip to the mashed potatoes just because I have one that needs to be used.

The original recipe is here with photos and detailed directions. You can also print a PDF of it here.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments