Monday, November 23, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Well! Here it is, the holiday season, when everyone focuses on gifts and food and decorations and general good cheer. It's that time of year when we are grateful for what we have and are eager to share our bounty with others, all while partying down to the end of yet another year.

Unless, of course, you're a hypochondriac.  In which case, you spend this time of year much as you spent the first 11 months of it - anxiously scanning the Internet for more news that will confirm your suspicion that we are all going to die horribly and soon.

Yeah, put that in a carol and sing it, will ya?

So here is the latest round-up, for those of you less vigilant about our coming collective demise. First, yet another article from Slate about how bacteria are all becoming antibiotic resistant; in the not-so-distant future, apparently, a cut finger will spell gangrene and maybe even death (if you're one of those wimps too slow to opt for amputation). Merry Christmas! But be careful washing those wine glasses - they break easily and you could end up with a fatal injury.

There aren't any mosquitoes at the North Pole.
And here is something from NPR about one of my least-favorite creatures, the Asian tiger mosquito. Not only do these savage insects carry West Nile, malaria, and chikungunya; they also help transmit the Zika virus.  Luckily, Zika won't kill you; unluckily, it looks as though a pregnant woman, if bitten, has a bigger chance of giving birth to a baby suffering from microcephaly. In other words, mosquitoes can not only incapacitate you with joint pain for months and months, but also shrink your babies' brains in utero. Oh, but Happy New Year!

And, lest we forget, 15 cases of plague have been diagnosed in the United States this year, predominantly out West. This is because the bacterium that causes plague runs rampant in the rodent population out there. Maybe it is time to rethink my plans to drag the entire family out to southwestern Utah next summer?

So, there you have it - the catastrophic disease round-up for the 2015 holiday season. Enjoy your holidays and raise a glass to us hypochondriacs - we who cannot be happy without first reading up on everything poised to destroy our good cheer at a moment's notice.  Oh, and don't forget - there are some risks that accompany all that holiday drinking...

[Wreath image: Clipart Pal]
[Santa image: Clipart Panda]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flour And Sugar And Butter, Oh My!

What's up? Oh, nothing really. Just here to remind you to throw your name into the hat for a free copy of Just Mercy, an excellent non-fiction book about fighting for legal justice in the South. If you're interested, leave a comment on this blog post - I will pick a name on Saturday. Or maybe Sunday, if I'm too busy Saturday finishing up the last of the Bunko candy.

Hey, those peanut M&M's aren't going to eat themselves, you know.

Just the beginning....
The season of holiday baking has begun: today I helped Susie bake a batch of mini cranberry muffins to take to Activity Night, where they were sharing family holiday traditions.  Activity Night is a biweekly event she attends with a bunch of her LDS friends, because what better place is there for a Jewish/Catholic girl to be than at a Mormon youth group?

We take being ecumenical VERY seriously here.

Then Rachel decided she was bored and needed to bake mini peach pies to pass the time.  Who am I to deny her that pleasure, especially since she actually cleaned up her mess afterwards? I suppose it really IS the season of miracles.

My point being, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, and we are already awash in calories.  I need to order some new jeans to replace some that have worn out, but I am thinking maybe I should just wait until January to make sure I buy the right size. I'm nothing if not a realist these days.

Movie recommendations, anyone?  Anything you've seen lately that you really liked?

[Muffins image: FitWebMD]

Monday, November 16, 2015


You WANT to read this.
Just Mercy (the book I blogged about on Thursday) is now up for grabs, people.  Just throw your name in the hat, as it were, by commenting.  I will pick a winner on Saturday. This book, about a lawyer's untiring work for racial justice in the South, is definitely a worthwhile read, although now it has me panicked about David being in school in Alabama.  By some strange genetic throw of the dice, David - son of an Ashkenazi Jew and a father who is half Irish Catholic/half WASP - is dark-complected enough to look as though he hails from the Middle East somewhere. After reading this book (and after reading about Alabama's reaction to the sad events in Paris on Friday), it is all I can do not to pick up the phone and say to David, "DO NOT LEAVE CAMPUS FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER."  So far I have restrained myself. So far.

Theo is in the military, and I have never - for any reason - felt the need to warn him of danger, not even when he traveled to Morocco and to Jordan. Anna traveled to Colombia on her own, for heaven's sake, and I didn't blink an eye. So I don't think it's as though I am a helicopter parent hellbent on protecting her adult children. And, look, Michigan is being stupid, too. Hello? A terrorist can drive over from a neighboring state, you know.  What are you going to do - institute border controls with Indiana and Ohio?

I had to look up which states border Michigan - I guess I should watch who I am calling stupid, eh?

I traveled up to NY on Saturday to visit a former neighbor - the husband of the woman who witnessed my humiliation in Harris Teeter. She passed on 2 years ago, a year or so after they moved up there, but he is still around, as are their 2 daughters and their families, all up in the NY area.  So I got to see him and one of her daughters and even another former neighbor who drove down from Connecticut to join us. I ended up staying the night at the daughter's home, in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is WAY bigger than I realized.
You know, I grew up in NJ, frequently visited Manhattan, was steeped in Brooklyn lore (my father's family hailed from there), have read books about Brooklyn - all to the point that I didn't realize until Saturday that I had never actually SEEN BROOKLYN. So my poor host, who kindly volunteered to take me on a walking tour of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg sections on Sunday morning, had to put up with a slightly manic guest exclaiming at regular intervals, "OMG! I've never been here! Look at those rowhouses! The East River! I've never seen the East River! Is that Manhattan across the water? The Williamsburg Bridge! Francie crossed that!"

I could not shut up. It felt as though I had come home to a place I had never been before. Brooklyn!

And then I had to drive all the way back, relying on my phone's GPS, which went fine until the moment that I realized it had stopped working (that happens sometimes) and I went to tap it with my finger and knocked it clear across the car, where I couldn't reach it. I was on Staten Island at the time, another place I had never been before. Luckily, I was close enough to NJ for homing instinct to take over, so I managed to find the turnpike anyway. Whew.

Anyway, I'm tired - 5 hours of driving, 2 days in a row, seems to be an activity I am aging out of. Still, I am glad I went (Brooklyn!), as I had been meaning to make the visit for a while; and now that that's taken care of, I can stay home and focus on ignoring Christmas until December 19 or so.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brain Food

I'm still sick, in case you're wondering.  And the kids just finished off the Bunko leftovers. For dinner, I had to augment with some free subs from Harris Teeter.  Free, because we've racked up a lot of sub points by buying their subs.

How many times can I use the word "subs"?

These are my best friends right now.
I am still coughing, still feeling as though I will pass out when I forget and just run up the stairs.  Still sleeping on the couch so I don't disturb Larry. Still sucking on Ricola cough drops and praying I don't start throwing up the way Rachel did.

So, yeah, a fun week...

On the bright side, what with lying around on the couch most of Tuesday and Wednesday and today, I've gotten a lot of (non-Facebook) reading done. My brain had felt as though it were getting too thin, what with the steady Internet diet I feed it, so I procured 2 intelligent, non-fiction books (complete with paragraphs of more than 3 sentences apiece) and have been forcing myself to read them. One of the books (Just Mercy) is by a lawyer who has dedicated his career to defending death-row prisoners in the South.

Let us note here that, apparently, some people do worthwhile things with their lives. I'm guessing this guy wouldn't regard cleaning up the house for Bunko as the mark of a super-productive day.

This gentleman is a much better human being than moi.

The other book (Power, Faith, and Fantasy) is a history of America's involvement with the Middle East, all the way back to 1776. (Spoiler alert: NOTHING has changed.) I saw Theo reading it when he was home and realized he was getting way smarter than me; so I went to the library and got myself a copy.

Tell me: have books from major publishers always had numerous mistakes (punctuation, word usage, etc) in them? Or are editors just a dying breed these days?

When I'm finished with Just Mercy, I will sponsor a giveaway, in case any of you also feel the need to shore up the ol' brain cells a bit. It really is a good book, even if it does make me realize I am a pathetic loser with no meaningful goals in life. I mean, self-knowledge is healthy, right?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shades of Faust

"I'm home tomorrow," Larry announced last night, as he stood up and stretched after watching the debates with us.

"What, why?" I asked, seeing my peaceful plans of eating leftover Bunko candy while ignoring the children going right out the window.

"Veteran's Day, remember?" he said. "You should remember."

Larry won't sell his soul for this.
"Veteran's Day?" piped up Susie. (Yes, she was still awake at 11 - she had watched the debates with us, because civics. Or something like that.) "That means we get the free Bloomin' Onion, right?"

Larry made a face. "That's not necessary," he said.

"Why not?" asked Susie, disappointed.

"It's demeaning, waiting there for a free food hand-out - that's not what our military service was about!" he told her.

"But, Bloomin' Onions!" insisted Susie.

"Hey," I told Larry, who looked annoyed at our youngest's willingness to sell her dignity for a free treat. "This website says that World of Beers is offering a complimentary draught beer to veterans tomorrow."

Larry's frown disappeared as his face lit up. "Really?" he said. "Now that's cool!"

Apparently, every man does have his price.


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