Motivation?

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Gentle Reader,

The Sir is laying here, on his (extra-large, posture-pedic) bed, taking his mid-afternoon nap (not to be confused with his early afternoon nap, late afternoon nap, or pre-dinner nap…), it’s still hot, but thankfully not so horrifically so anymore.  And nobody is returning the phone calls I so desperately need them to return.

I’ve just had lunch.  Is it so wrong for a 33 year old to take a book and go have “quiet time” in her room like back in school?  (And by “school” I mean “Lifesavers School”…)

I would say I’d take a nap, but my upstairs neighbors clearly have other plans-their washer and dryer have been going (NOISILY) since approximately 10:00 last night, their bird (shudder…I think public leash laws should apply equally to all animals, do they make leashes for birds?  How about nice locked boxes?) is VERY UNHAPPY about something (I know the feeling), and then they are either opening a bowling alley up there or are practicing their croquet game.

So-to all you doubters who thought I wouldn’t be able to find something to be concerned about after the relentless heat?  TAKE THAT!  My list of first world problems is long, long, long.

In other news, one of my favoritest blogs ever, BooMama, is having a diptacular tomorrow.  This is where everybody posts their favorite dip recipes.  IT IS GLORIOUS!  (Because you know what this weekend is, right?  Right?  I am beyond excited.  Mack Brown, please don’t disappoint me.  And let’s try and come out with a bit more passion this year than we did in last year’s Rice game, okay?  I mean, honestly.)  So since I have NO IDEA how to work the technology (I am taking FOUR online courses this semester…pray for me, and pray for the poor guys at the IT line at the school…) I will not be posting, but I WILL be enjoying.  Plus, I don’t have any original dip recipes.  I’m a Velveeta-Rotel-Owens Sausage dip girl.  If I get REALLY crazy, before I dish it into little dishes for everybody (I LOVE having little dip dishes…)  (First world.) I put a little scoop of sour cream, and a little scoop of guac in the bottom, and then ladle over the cheese goo.  Around Dallas, we call that a “Bob Armstrong”, after a longtime restaurant’s recipe.  Someone else can tell that story.  My friend A had an excellent idea for a bloody mary dip, and maybe, just maybe, she can get all creative tonight, and post her recipe over on the Boo Mama blog.  (A-do you have your own blog?  If not, if you know how to post it, email me the recipe, I’ll do a post, and you can conference call me thru the linking process…)

Anyway, I think some “quiet time” is in order for this toddler right now, so I’m going to take my book, and read quietly for an hour before returning to “work”.  I’m reading Dave Cullen’s EXCELLENT book (oh heck, how do I properly format this?  Please don’t judge me, all I know how to do is quotation marks…I was taught better…) called “Columbine”.  It’s about, oddly enough, Columbine, and I’m finding the reading and storytelling truly exceptional.  Highly recommend.

Good Afternoon,

Wordie

An Open Letter to Our Pest Control Guy and The Scorpions,

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Dear Pest Control Guy and The Scorpions,

Not these Scorpions, you guys keep on rockin’.  Any song that mentions Gorky Park is okay by me.

Okay, scorpions, first of all, you are supposed to be giant.  And black.  And there is to be ominous music playing in the background whenever you appear.  And I think you are supposed to hiss.  What I do know is that you are not supposed to be small-ish, and BLEND IN WITH THE FLOOR, SCARING ME TO DEATH.  Let’s work on this, okay?

Now, Pest Control Dude, we’ve tried it your way.  The “legal” way.  And since your last visit, we have seen two of the above mentioned harbingers of death PLUS a spider the size of Delaware.  THIS.  IS.  NOT.  GOING.  TO.  WORK.  I realize that it is unusual for a pest control guy to have a daily stop at a customer’s house, but clearly your monthly treatments are not enough.  We’re early risers here at The Ranch, so we can be your first stop of the day.  Eventually The Boys will stop knocking you over at the door, but until then, just know it’s their form of greeting.  They aren’t fans of the various National Geographic-type critters that have invaded our home, either.

Next, let’s address the chemicals of death that you use.  Those aren’t working, either.  DDT is an underrated substance.  And Agent Orange just didn’t have a very good publicist.  Basically, what I’m saying here is if it is legal (or only recently banned) in Chechnya, we’re fine with it here, too.  Just let us know, and we’ll leave the house for a few minutes to let the fumes dissipate.

See you tomorrow morning,

Wordie

Have I written this post before?

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Gentle Reader,

I am afraid that my tiny brain is still oatmeal after this latest Lifesavers mission.  I have a ton of work to do, but I honestly have zero energy.  So instead, I’ll talk about food.  (The irony of writing a food post about one food while ANOTHER TYPE of food simmers on my stove is not at all lost on me.)  (I didn’t photograph what I am currently cooking, and it’s frankly entirely too simple and I prefer to keep my bean and kale soup a bit of a mystery.  Plus, ask an Italian mama.  I make mine with store brand bacon.  The knowledge of which would probably cause her quite a bit of distress.)  Have I blogged about risotto before?  If so, please quietly let me believe I have not.

Today, the dreaded risotto.  (At least, I thought there was no way I could make it, until I tried it.  So easy.)  I made my risotto pictured below with frozen peas, but think of the risotto as a blank canvas.  Shrimp, asparagus, heck-carrots?  The world is your oyster.  (I doubt that oyster would go in risotto…but alongside????  Oh yes ma’am.)  I tried a butternut squash one time, and while others love it, I just don’t get it.  But if you do want to do a squash or gourd type addition, please be sure that you cook (I roast them if the temperature ever gets below 300 degrees outside.) it first.  If you throw chunks of raw butternut in there while the risotto cooks?  It will never ever never get done.

So first thing, you take your risotto pan and put a bit of the light olive oil in the bottom of it (higher smoke point).  And a pat of butter (flavor).

You wil note that this is not an actual risotto pan, because the sides aren’t sloped.  My risotto pan died in Lifesavers School and I’ve been too busy paying other bills to purchase another one.  But it’s a shallow pan with a large opening.  This is key because it will help the evaporation and turn our risotto into creamy goodness.

Chop some onion.

Because you forgot to get shallots at the store.  (Note-shallots are NOT THE SAME THING as scallions.  Go ahead.  Google if you don’t believe me.)

Throw that into the pan, along with the dry risotto.  (Arborio rice, Caranoli rice, and then this was a new one that I found at the store, and my it was tasty except I have no more and don’t remember the name.)

Turn on your stove and stir till the onions start to burn (if you are preparing this on my state-of-the-art modern kitchen appliance) or the rice turns a light golden brown (if you are preparing this on a stove not sponsored by America’s Charcoal Industry.).

Meanwhile-you’re going to want to start this step earlier in your preparation-take a sauce pan, put some white wine in it (no clue how much.  Maybe half a bottle?  I use whatever white wine I happen to have left over on those days that we don’t finish the bottle.) and plenty of chicken broth.  (You can use red wine and beef broth if you’re going to use mushrooms or something earthy, but I warn you, the red wine will turn your risotto a FUNKY shade of brown/red that I just don’t like to see on my plate.  Beef broth and white wine is fine for mushrooms, too.  Chicken broth is fine for mushrooms, too.)  Put the pan on the stove, turn the burner on.

You want to keep this at a slow simmer while you are cooking your risotto.

After the risotto is charred or golden brown, you start adding the broth/wine one ladle full at a time.  Add, then stir.  When that’s almost evaporated, add another.  Keep doing so.  You don’t have to stir it ALL the time, particularly in the early stages, but you need to stir it VERY frequently.  And after the early stages, you need to stir nearly constantly.  Something about releasing starches to turn this into creamy goodness.  Keep refreshing the broth/wine mixture as needed to have enough liquid.

There is an old myth that you must use a wooden spoon to stir risotto.  Who am I to argue?

Eventually, it will start to look done.  You can start taste testing at this point.  (Yay!)

When it’s done (I like a done-er risotto than the Italian version.  I’m not Italian so this is not a betrayal of my heritage.  The real Italian version has a “bite” to it in the middle of the rice kernel.), you can add your peas.

Stir.  I like to give them a few minutes to get done, though cookbooks swear they are done when they are stirred in.  After that, a pat of butter for creaminess.

And then we add…the cheese…grated parm.

Stir, TURN OFF THE HEAT (don’t ask me how I know this), dish up, and enjoy!

Have a groovy day,

Wordie

This one sprang from a friend’s Facebook status

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Gentle Reader,

Earlier this evening, my friend J posted some pictures of cupcakes that her daughter, G, had made.  These are not the first cupcakes G has made, and I know this not only because J has posted other photos of G’s baked treats, (I’m jealous) but because the cupcakes looked so well done, G had to have practiced on plenty of prior batches.  And I’m not talking about Funfetti, either.  (Though, there is a place for the Funfetti and the accompanying frosting in the pantheon of baked goodies.)  (No, I never eat icing with a spoon, why do you ask?)  (Aside-toasting a waffle, and then immediately spreading it with-and this is key-the prefab chocolate Duncan Hines frosting, not the fresh homemade kind, is the BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.)

J, forgive me, because it’s important to say G’s name, otherwise this post makes no sense.  (I know-that assumes A LOT.  Namely that any of my posts make sense.)  So J’s daughter’s name is Grace.  And that’s a subject that has been weighing on my mind lately.  (The concept, not the fact that J’s daughter is named Grace.  As far as I’m concerned, Grace’s nom du choix is J’s arena, not mine.)  In this Lifesavers Mission (which I’m pretty convinced will NEVER END), in watching the political drama unfold (I had to take Drudge Report off as my home page.  It was making me nervous and twitchy.  The Futon Critic is much better.  I care deeply about his news.), and in some other areas of my life (self employment leads to insane “how do I pay rent this month? how do I pay my other bills this month?  how long can I tolerate this toothache knowing that the dentist, who I trust very deeply and who has nothing but my best interest at heart, will tell me I need a root canal, for which I cannot pay?  I can’t go to the doctor, despite my white cell count, because I’ve got to reorder business cards this month, so that’s the disposable income this month.” worries), I have begun to see very clearly both the need for Grace (I’m so not trying to be preachy, and if you disagree with my thoughts, I still love you.) and how difficult it is to find it, and more importantly, show it.

As a Southern gal, from an EARLY age, we are trained to be gracious hostesses.  And guests.  I like to keep a box of thank you notes and stamps in my glove box, so I can go ahead and write the thank you note while it’s still fresh, be it for lunch, a dinner party, or a special occasion invite.  The art of welcoming people in your home, sharing your meal with them, sharing your soul, this is the very central image of Christianity.  Think about it-the Last Supper.  (Please don’t go all DaVinci code on me.  Just think about the event.)  Jesus sharing his meal with his friends and confidantes, sharing (quite literally) his body and blood.  All He had to give.  I sincerely doubt Jesus had three different silver sets from which to choose, and he probably didn’t have opinions on “conversational flow” or seating arrangements, but when I have people over (which is very much my most favorite way to be social, ever, I love it, because I am a homebody) the way I show Grace in this instance is by preparing good food, loving talking to everybody, and making sure that everybody is having a good time.  I LOVE IT.  I sincerely hope that this is doing a little bit to show Grace.  (And for my non-Catholic reader(s), I understand you feel differently about the nature of the sharing that occurred at the Last Supper, and that’s okay, too.  We can show Grace, whichever version we believe.)

In my line of work, we ALL need Grace.  It isn’t an easy line of work, it attracts people with whom it is sometimes difficult to work, or even communicate, and my clients generally haven’t spent much time thinking about Grace, or anything else nice, for that matter.  And, at the end of the day, decisions made by a Lifesavers Authority are BIG for my client.  Lasting consequences.  So everybody involved in my line of work needs Grace,  to do the right thing.  If you feel led, please pray for Grace for everybody connected with this Lifesavers Mission.  We all REALLY need it.

I don’t know how to define Grace.  I feel its presence, I know when the angels on my shoulder say I should show it (I don’t always listen to them, and for that I am sorry.), and I know that without it, this world would be very lonely, indeed.  I think Grace is probably what you make it to be.

My Papa Jack requested one song at his funeral.  “Amazing Grace”-ALL THE VERSES.  (I got some of my neuroses from him, and he hated how churches skip over verses.  It bothers me, too.  A lot.)  And so that’s what we sang.  In a little country church, accompanied by an upright piano played by the volunteer choir director, who was also directing the church choir.  It was the most beautiful sound I have heard.  And I have been lucky enough to hear a lot of wonderful sounds.  The Dallas Symphony, the Dallas Opera, church bells all over Europe, freshly tuned hand bells, and “Silent Night”, sung at Midnight, by the members of our HUGE congregation, holding hands.  None tops the blessing of hearing that sound on that unexpected and excruciating day.  And one line stays with me always.  “…And Grace will lead me Home.”

Indeed.

Please try and show one act of Grace today, Gentle Reader.

Goodnight,

Wordie

I’m pretty sure this sets records for uninspired.

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Gentle Reader,

EDITED TO ADD:  Please don’t tell my Southern relatives, PARTICULARLY my Gamma and Papa Jack (which would be extremely difficult since they have both gone to their great reward),  but I got my “maternal” and “paternal” mixed up.  Gamma and Papa Jack are my MATERNAL grandmother and grandfather.  They were BIG on family history and family tree (the whole “roots and wings” thing), and would be mortified that their highly and expensively educated granddaughter got something like that mixed up.

The Lifesavers Mission continues.  The insomnia continues.  The infernal heat continues.  I still miss My Boy.

Now that we’ve covered literally everything that has been going on in my life since last time we spoke, I figured I’d tell you about the last thing I cooked (literally) that didn’t come from a bag and contain the instructions “add two tablespoons of water and cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes”.  I miss cooking.

Summertime to me means fresh peas, and fresh sliced tomatoes.  For dinner.  Or lunch.  Or anytime really.  The summer is short, so it’s important to get all of it in you can.  (I know, I know, spring peas…but we’re talking about field peas, black-eyed peas, purple-hull peas, and cream peas…and those don’t happen until the summer.)  My Papa Jack (paternal grandfather) knew everybody in the town.  This sounds more impressive than it actually is-the town is tiny.  He was the funeral director, EVERYBODY was going to cross his path at some time or another.  🙂  As it was a small town in south Georgia, there was a LOT of agriculture, and plenty of people with large gardens next to what used to be their farmland but is now owned by some large agricultural conglomerate.  (“Was”?  I’m sorry, former English teachers, apparently your brilliance was pearls before swine.)

Tonight’s aside:  Pepperidge Farm Mint Brussels Cookies?  HOW HAVE I MISSED THESE FOR SO LONG????  33 years of my life have passed, and frankly, I feel cheated.  I’m going to spend some quality time with these babies.  (Nope, not endorsed or paid by the Pepperidge Farm people at all.  They accidentally jumped into my cart at Tom Thumb the other night.)

So-gardens, etc.  As anybody who has ever planted five acres of varied vegetables and fruit will tell you, eventually, those plants grow and bear their fruit (or veg, whatev) and then, since you live in a small town and all your neighbors have their own five acre gardens, you have to DO SOMETHING with said fruit and veg.  So those that live in town and don’t have giant gardens make out like bandits.  And people knew that my Papa Jack would never turn down an offer of veg or fruit.  So every summer, I spent shelling peas or snapping pole beans into an old milk pan on the back porch of my grandparents’ house.  I can still feel it, smell it, and see it.  My hands especially.  Purple hull peas?  Called that for a reason.

Anyway, the other day, I picked up some (thank you, God) pre-shelled purple hulls from a little farm stand out near the ranch and cooked them.  I’ll tell you how I fix peas, but, as I’ve stated before, please experiment!!!!!  I didn’t take photos along the way because really, it’s too simple.

So you start out by chopping an onion very finely (that’s because I don’t like big chunks of onion-if you do, chop as finely or coarsely as you like).  Put a tiny bit of olive oil in your pot, throw the onions in.  Start sauteeing.  Next, to keep it healthy, I put half a pack of bacon in my peas.  (NOT that “bacon” product that is for vegetarians…gross!)  (And I’m not sure how I feel about turkey bacon.  Except I know my feelings are not warm and fuzzy.)  (If you feel led, you can use center-cut bacon, to keep it a tiny bit healthy.)  Put the bacon in with the onion (that’s why just a little olive oil, b/c the bacon will also contribute deliciousness…) and sautee (or, really, if you want to get technical, we’re not doing a sautee here, we’re sweating the stuff…but that’s an advanced term) them around for a little while.  You don’t want browning, you want the bacon to render a bit, and the onions to get a little bit soft.

After that, throw the peas (that you have rinsed and picked over for rocks and what my Gamma-paternal grandmother-would call “stung” peas…which means the withered ones or the ones that some insect-type creature has obviously gotten to first) into the pot and put plenty of water in there.  You do not steam summer peas.  You boil them, in lots of water.  Peas take a LOT of water, so be prepared to add more after the initial starts to boil off.  If you are anti-bacon, don’t tell me, and then this would be where you would use broth of some sort to contribute flavor instead of the water.  Vegetable broth for you veg types, and I’ve used beef broth (just once, for a friend who keeps quasi-kosher) with some degree of success.  Be careful if doing this.  Peas really do take a lot of water, so if you were to use broth for all of the water you’ll need, you’d end up with some salty peas.  So, switch out.

After the peas have had a chance to cook for awhile (half an hour if you have the cranky stove I do that does either extremely-low simmer or strong rolling boil-nothing in between.  Longer if you have a stove that will do a “medium”.) then you taste for seasoning.  It is important to wait to salt the peas until this stage, because salting them too early causes tough peas (beans, too).  So, taste for seasoning, salt and pepper as needed.  And here’s where you can get fancy, or not, as you please.  I enjoy a good sprinkling of the green tabasco sauce on my beans at this stage.  Or, you can wait…and then after the beans are done cooking (they will be very tender…only you can decide how “juicy” you like your beans.  If you like a soupier bean, more water then….if not, then less…), first you take out the bacon (it’ll be soggy and gross by then, and we’re done extracting the flavor by then) and then you can sprinkle on some either malt vinegar or some pepper vinegar.  The vinegar is important-it gives the peas a bite that otherwise they might not have.  My mama would tell you that everything needs a sprinkle of sugar, I’ve never used a sprinkle of sugar in my peas, so, you be the judge.  And here’s a picture of the end product, boiling away on my state-of-the-art-stove.

This is summer to me.

Be sure to serve with plenty of sliced tomatoes with salt (regular table salt, not that fancy stuff!)-

Goodnight,

Wordie

I’m sure this is preparing me for parenthood…

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Gentle Reader,

I am unable to sleep.  (See, Lifesavers Exam Takers?  Being a Real Lifesavers Rabble Rouser also COMPLETELY JACKS YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE, TOO!!!)  This mission is really and fully in my head now.  Other lifesavers clients call, and I have to think long and hard about exactly what their mission is.

So I think that for a post, I’ll let you know that I am really missing My Boy.  There is something magical about Labradors (I think I’ve said this before?  You do know we like Labradors here at the World’s Smallest Apartment, right?  Like, a bunch?  Okay, then.) and how they always “greet” you at the door, no matter how nicely they were napping before you decided to come home.  The Boy now takes time to stretch a little before he knocks me down in a flurry of “Ohmygoshyoucamebackandyou’rethesmartestpersonontheplanetcanIhavesomekibblenow?” love and excitement.  He used to stretch afterward, but I think now, he’s decided he can trust me.  Plus, I know to scratch his sides while he’s stretching, and I am pretty sure what with all the dramatic groaning that The Boy does (seriously, it’s his funniest habit) he likes that.  And I can use a little of that right now.  But he is getting a LOT more attention and love right now with the parentals at The Ranch, not to mention the cat (with whom he has begun to forge a tenuous detente) and his brother.  That’s what’s best for him while this Lifesavers Mission is going on.

Speaking of, I will be unable to make Dean Long’s Memorial Service.  This Mission, if you can believe it, will still be going on by then.  Please, please, will one of my reader(s?), hug his family for me?  I’m going to write them a nice card in a few weeks (speaking from experience here, I really appreciate it when people send cards a bit later, after the initial shock wears off and life starts to go on) but my arms hurt because I can’t hug them.  I do think he’d be proud that he helped in such a large part, to make my participation in this mission possible.  I hope he’s proud.  I am still humbled and grateful to have known the man, learned from the man, and to have MOVED TO FLIPPIN INDIANA because of the man.  I’ve made a lot of decisions based on feel.  Based on faith.  And nothing else.  Indiana was the best one of those.

Also, almost 1,500 times, someone has clicked on over to this ole blog.  I can’t imagine why.  But wow!  And thank you.  I hope you find my words entertaining.  Mostly.  I try not to delve into the deep mysteries of life, mostly because I don’t know much about those.  I am accepting suggestions for things to write about-all the time.  So if you’re driving down the road, and you think of something and you think, “You know, I’d really like to know what Wordie thinks about ______?”  Please feel free to give me an email or a comment.  I probably have thoughts.  And I’m probably DYING to share them with someone.

Now it’s time to do some work.

Good morning,

Wordie

The Lord God Made Them All

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Gentle Reader,

So last night, the parentals and I went (with some good friends at the ranch) to a Casino Night Benefit and Silent Auction benefitting the Humane Society.  I assume it was the Humane Society of Henderson County, but the signage was sketchy on the details.  The people running the thing seemed honest enough, and our friends were table sponsors, so we’re pretty sure that our money went to some kind of worthy cause.  After all, it is Henderson County and the people there are beyond nice and honest and friendly.

After enjoying several glasses of wine and margaritas, I decided it was time to introduce my mama, the Woman Who Taught Me How To Shop Amen, to the Ways of the Silent Auction.  My friend A and I perfected our system for winning silent auctions in lifesavers school.  Mostly it involved alcohol.  And us consuming enough of it that numbers didn’t make so much sense anymore.  If there is anything I like better than shopping, it’s COMPETITIVE SHOPPING.  So mom and I (mostly I) started writing our names and bids on things.

We discovered several things:

1.  The people of Henderson County are really nice.  Once one person bid on something, it was like, off limits or something.  Clearly, A and I need to make some kind of instructional video for the good folk of Henderson County.  I, I mean, “We” won every lot on which we bid, except for a cheeseboard which I bid on because it was cheap, though it went with NOTHING in my home decor.  But doesn’t everybody NEED a paisley glass cheeseboard with matching cheese knife?

2.  The only items that really received serious bidding action were sports related memorabilia.  Which is interesting because there were a LOT of women there, and Father’s Day has long past.  They did have an autographed photograph of the one famous fight that Nolan Ryan got into on the mound.  Dad had to explain it was famous to me, so I’m sorta thinking that “famous” is a pretty strong word.  There was also a photograph of Tom Landry talking on the sidelines to a much-younger Roger Staubach, both of whom are near-deities in our world, so that would have been worth thousands to me had the benefit had hard liquor.  (Those margaritas didn’t count.)

3.  People don’t bid as high at the Humane Society Auction as they do at the WLC Lifesavers School auction.  I think that the reason for this is because of the absence of hard liquor.  (A, let’s be sure to include a section on that in our instructional video.)

4.  Everybody had a fantastic time, and lots of money was raised for the Humane Society.  Which is the ultimate point.  Except, I did win THIS:

Monkeys

Forgive me.  We have established my lack of relation to Ansel Adams.  And the iPhone camera suffers from a similar genetic fate.

Anyway, got my “Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil” monkey statue, (which I am accumulating quite a collection of-when my Lifesavers practice grows big enough for like, real office space, the collection will move there.  Fitting.), and that’s what really matters.  I had several “spotters” walking by throughout the night (another section in our video, A) to make sure that my, I mean “our”, bid was still the highest.  There was no need, except for some mild excitement when some unidentified woman in a Hawaiian shirt STOPPED AND LOOKED LONG AND HARD AT  MY MONKEYS.  But she didn’t bid.  I’m pretty sure that my mom thwacking her in the head with her purse was an accident.  (Oh, I kid.)

Anyway, the point of all of this, if there ever was one (seriously in doubt…) was to love your animals.  And help your local shelter-whichever national organization it happens to belong to.  (Especically if it belongs to the SPCA…if we go out and adopt all of their animals, they’ll stop airing those commercials with those sad songs and the terrible pictures which make me cry, despite changing the channels because I know that still, somewhere, there is a sweet little doe-eyed puppy not being petted as is his constitutional right.)  We love our critters, as has been repeatedly demonstrated on this blog, even when they are trying hard to be unlovable.  If you lack a menagerie of your own, I encourage you to go check out your local shelter (see SPCA analysis above) and either adopt, or if actually belonging to an animal isn’t right for you at this point in your life, consider volunteering.  Just petting the critters helps both them and you.  And will help me stop crying at television commercials.  Thanks in advance.

Goodnight,

Wordie

PS-there might be sporadic blogging this week, there is a big Lifesavers thing going on this week…so, go to your shelter and pet the critters instead.  And Andy, keep practicing by reading old posts.