Sunday, January 20, 2008

We now PAWS for a visit with Man's Best Friend

At only $2 bucks to get into the Central Iowa Kennel Club's show this weekend at the fairgrounds it seemed like a fun (albeit perhaps, fragrant) place to come in out of the sub-zero cold and hang out for a while.

Fun, it was! Competition was taking place in a bunch of different rings where things seemed to be very serious but outside the ring I found a collection of fine-looking dogs, just about any kind you could possibly imagine.

This is Joe, the first guy I met at the show. At 19 month olds and a mere 150 pounds, I didn't have to bend over very far to take this picture. He wasn't competing, he was just having a look around, sniffing tails and maybe wondering why everyone else looked like they'd just come from a beauty parlour.

Like these little brothers. Seasoned professionals, no doubt.

The moment I walked near them with the camera they looked straight at me and froze in a pose. Cute as heck, they'd just had their hair done and with a final puff of hairspray, were ready to take their turn in the ring.

In the very next ring, in contrast to the fluffy cuteness of the little twins, the Mastiff's were on their best ring-behavior in front of the judges. This guy was my favorite. I love big dogs but this guy won my heart when he broke composure momentarily when he spotted a kernel of popcorn on the floor and dover down to grab it. Occasionally spirit overrides good manners. I like that in a guy.

Two rings down, the competitors were so tiny I can't imagine they'd make a decent sandwich but boy oh boy, do these little dogs have attitude.

They prance on their petite little paws like royalty and I swear this handler was asking the dog for permission to lead him out of the ring.

As I watched the various rings it was easy to tell which dogs are naturally just very smart. I'm sure it's also the result of careful training but these Aussie Shepherds were fascinating to watch. They took commands like soldiers, froze as if at attention and kept their eyes tightly fixed on their handlers despite all of the surrounding distractions.

If you ever watched that English woman.....Woodhouse, was it ???? about training dogs on public tv, you'll notice that she set the standard and apparently sensible shoes are still de rigueur in the dog show ring.

Grooming is a big part of the show.
All around the hall were dozens of grooming stands with shelves of sprays and creams and combs and dryers alongside kennels where lots of the dogs were snuggled up and resting until their turn in the ring. Much like the state fair when I watch the kids fussing over the final grooming touches of their sheep and steers, lots of the dogs were getting their finishing touches from groomers of all ages.

This little girl was surprised and shyly agreed when I asked her if she would be in the picture with her dog. I thought they were just so cute together.

This one might not have known I was taking his picture. I have never seen so much hair on a dog.

He is a Bouvier Des Flandres, a breed I'd never heard of but I understand they are historically cattle dogs. What a handsome guy! And I actually do think he could see me. Just like all the others, he turned and gave me his best side when I raised the camera up for the picture. I like him. He's big and snuggly looking, I could see myself reading a good book on a cold winters night with a dog like this sleeping at my feet.

I have no idea what kind of dog this is but she has to be the Farrah Fawcett/Joan Collins of the four-footed set. Just look at all those products in the background!!! When she looked up at me I swear I could hear her say to me "...don't hate me because I'm beautiful!" I walked away wondering if they ever take her hair down and let her out into the back yard for a good run and a few minutes to just get down with her very bad self.

Indeed, it was a day for fancy hairdo's.

For everyone.

And outside the exhibit hall on my way back to my car...............

An abundance of that yellow snow mom warned us about. Outside the ring??? Maybe that fancy pooch is just another one of the guys after all


Saturday, January 19, 2008

...and they give you FREE COOKIES

They finally let me donate blood again today. I've been a regular donor for years but unbeknownst to me, a beach vacation red-flagged me as a no-way donor for a full year since apparently the area of Mexico in which I traveled has more than it's share of mosquitoes. A year has passed and I saw a news clip last night about the critical need for blood, so I stopped in this afternoon and earned my stickers.

If you've never donated before, it is really easy. You do have to answer a bunch of health-related questions and take a little finger-prick test first, but if your iron level is good, you're not recovering from a 'bout of malaria and you haven't paid anyone for weird barnyard kinda sex in the last year or so, you're probably a shoo-in for a nice, relaxing half hour or so in a cozy chair with your feet up.

Well yes, of course there is a needle involved but I'm here to tell you, the people at the blood center are the BEST when it comes to needles. The absolute best. It's clean, it's safe, it's really easy and the very cool thing honestly, for-real could save someone's life.

If you've ever seen the effects that a blood transfusion has on someone who badly needs one, it is pretty darn amazing. When I needed one a few years back, I was sure glad someone had cared enough to take the time.

Such a deal.

Seriously, give them a call if you can.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do Not EVEN Ask......

The lost is.........uhm....... the lost are found.
Five brussel sprouts and one artichoke have been located.
Quite by accident and no, I'm not telling you where I found them.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

MISSING: Five Brussel Sprouts

Last night Donny asked me about my New Years Resolutions which prompted me to recall (this morning when the fog of last nights post-holiday Company party cleared) that I had already failed to follow-through on one of them: to try new varieties and eat more vegetables.

There is alot of year left.

So this morning I shopped. I bought an artichoke and a little bag of five fresh brussel sprouts. Yes, five. I am suspect of brussel sprouts. I strongly suspect that I don't like brussel sprouts. But last week on Simple Cooking or Simply Cooking or Look Cooking is Easy or whatever the heck that Saturday morning show is called, honestly I can't remember for sure.....I watched as the freshly-scrubbed and hip-looking Ana cut little brussel sprouts into quarters, spread them on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil and baked them in a 450-degree oven, swearing that the little shrinked-up sprout sections were, after a liberal sprinkle of sea salt, "sweet and delicious".

She didn't mean sugar-sweet, I knew what she meant. Lots of years ago my ex-husband and I were invited to a pots-and-pan party in the home of his boss. It was the kind of party where the host invited a big table full of couples and then proceeded to prepare an entire delicious meal, by way of the use of waterless cookware....promising us from the moment he first dumped the butter-beans into the pan with nothing more than 2 tablespoons of water...that everything would be sweet and delicious.

Butter beans. In a pan. With just water. Yyyyyyuk, right?

Ha!!!! NOTSOMUCH!!!!!!

The only reason we'd been invited at all to the party was because another couple had cancelled and the host was obligated to the pots-and-pans sales guy to provide a full table of deep-pocket friends and neighbors for the free meal. We had no money. I remember Dave's boss even making a point of asking him not to mention that we couldn't afford the pots-and-pans....just eat the meal, graciously decline the salesman's offer and slip out the side door as soon as someone else started to write up their order. We really didn't have much choice. It was the boss, after all.

The point is.............those darn beans were FABULOUS. It was the first (and the last, since we couldn't afford the pans) serving of butter beans that I'd ever eaten because they just look nasty to me and they honestly, truly, really were delicious.

Oh lord. Where was I.............butter beans, cookware.............oh yes. The beans were SWEET. Not sweet like they had sugar spooned over them but they were absolutely sweet, the waterless cookware and low temps having cooked the natural sugars in the beans out to make them noticeably sweet and.......yes, they were really really good. Who woulda guessed!!??

So fast-forward 30 years and it's conceivable to me that if I followed the directions of my happy Saturday morning cooking friends, the result just might be a mid-life love affair between me and a pan of five little brussel sprouts. I was game to give them a try. Thus the shopping trip.

The problem is, I'm a kitchen chef all dressed up in a ball gown of enthusiasm with no floor on which to dance. I can't find them. I can't find my five little brussel sprouts. I can't find my artichoke either. I have looked everywhere. I shopped for them at a favorite market, I watched the bag-girl tuck them into one of their paper bags with the cool little handle, I brought them home, I SWEAR to you I brought them home.

And they're gone. Gone. Vanished.
The bag is here. The little chocolate bar I bought to send to my friend with a birthday card is here. For the love of God people, does this EVER happen to anyone else?????


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Show Me Your Cubicle

In contrast to it's December neighbor and the New Years Eve reminder of 12-months passed, January is a clean-slate month, with New Years Day a glimpse from a high place overlooking the horizon where shapes of what lies ahead begin to come into focus. Some of the shapes are clear: a scheduled business trip or vacation, a milestone birthday, a new car to replace the one that started making suspicious (translate that: EXPENSIVE) noises just as you were starting to shop for the holidays. Others are vague shapes that start out looking like resolutions and goals, dreams, big plans, maybe even fears.

After years of resolving to be a kinder and gentler me, I am pleased to announce that I am, finally, kind as can be and gentle as hell, so I'm moving on to loftier goals in 2008. No, I'm not going to list them. But I thought I'd explain one of them to you as it presents a real dilemma for me: the compromising of my personal happiness and comfort to keep my boss happy.

To begin, I'd like you to meet my cubicle:

Well, technically not a cubicle. A very famous designer named Herman suggested it would be cool to make our office interesting with shapes that resemble something of a regulation Navy-drab grey cluster of screened honeycombs. This is the personal space to which I report each work day, unless I am on the road traveling. For ease of communication and lack of a better term, I'll call it my cube. (Although remember, it's not really a cube. I LIKE square, cube-y spaces and my space is anything BUT cube-y.)

My cube has funny shaped tables. Nothing fits on them squarely. The desk is shaped like a kidney bean, undoubtedly the result of a study somewhere which revealed that account reps sitting at kidney bean-shaped desks increase their annual sales volume by an average of 24%. While they might look really cool in a catalog, they're not very functional. But enough about my not liking my desk. The company paid tons of money for it and the matching file thingies and the industrial looking racks too and once the choice was made, I accepted the decision and that was the end of that.

Perhaps you noticed that my cube is "busy". I like that term. It's the one my neighbor used when she looked into my open one-car garage last summer and noticed the accumulated belongings of me and all three of my grown children. It was her nice way of saying, "wow, that's alot of stuff...."

She was right. And she'd be right about my cube. I have alot of stuff. My boss has mentioned to me that he doesn't like all the stuff in my cube so I thought it would be a good idea to give some thought to how I could change my cube it to make him happy.
I took a closer look.

It's hard to know what has to go and what can stay. I work for a company full of artists and am slightly perplexed when someone doesn't understand that working in a grey-drab world of Herman may feel modern and efficient to some people, but to me it's more than boring, it's like a big, annoying lid on my creativity. It lacks color, it lacks texture. Why on earth would someone like me want to come to work every day and sit in a colorless, texture-less cube??

Still I ponder. What goes?
My little stuffed penguin?? I think not. A co-worker gave that to me. I love it. He went out of his way to be nice to me. My fur and rhinestone framed picture?? I think not. I hosted two clients for three days last summer when they came to Des Moines to visit. I immortalized them earlier on my blog after all the fun we had. They made that frame for me as a thank-you gift. I LOVE that frame. When I'm on the phone with customers that are not happy with me, who are yelling at me, I look at that frame and remind myself of better moments.

In a grey-drab Herman world, the new beginnings of a living, breathing philodendron in a Propel bottle should be obvious. It's GREEN and I understand that sort of thing is really big right now. The DebbieBucks sign? Yeah? What about it?????

I use all these pens. ALL of them. Markers too. And the scissors. Yes, there is more than one pair. That's because people borrow mine all the time, so I need to have an extra. I use the handle of the paintbrush to stir my coffee. Clearly THAT can't go. And I use the little metal cocktail stirring shaped-like-a-hand thing to scratch my back. Duhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

I suppose the rubber band could go in a drawer.
What about this little picture?

No way it goes.

Last year I flew with one of our artists to work with people at a gallery in the San Francisco area. It was a short trip, we were busy all weekend and, as is usually the case, had little time to see the sights. On the way to the airport the morning we left, one of our new friends took time to show us around town, even stopping for pictures at Haight and Ashbury and on the sidewalk right in front of Jerry Garcia's old place---which was something akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca for the artist I was traveling with. It meant alot to us that he took the time. The picture is something we made to thank him for being so great. I meet lots of people like that. I like to think of them.

Stuffed owl?

It's from my last trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A little kid gave it to me when another artist and I were sitting at an outdoor restaurant, enjoying dinner with a gallery owner in the shadow of the Grand Teton mountains. It was a fabulous summer night that I like to remember.
The shells are from my trip to the Jersey shore. I worked and played there last year. I really love it there. The ceramic turtle has been with me for a long time. He sat on the dashboard of my van for years before some lady pulled out in front of me in traffic and totaled it. I bought him a long time ago because turtles are my favorite critter and they remind me that, just like the turtle, I have everything I really need to get along in life, right here under my own shell.

Photos of granddaughters and other favorite little people? They're a given.
Anyone who doesn't understand................probably doesn't have grandkids.

And behind all of those special things are work-related references that I use all the time.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
By now you're getting the idea that I like to be surrounded by things that evoke good memories and positive feelings. Such is this whimsical little card taped where I read it everyday, the work of a wonderful artist, Brian Andreas:
It reads:
If you hold onto the handle, she said
It's easier to maintain the illusion of control.
But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you
I like the way Brian thinks.
And there you have it : the rubber band goes.