Friday, July 31, 2009

And for Reading on This Side of the Pond

Been a few hectic (and nerve racking) days around here.  Just normal “stuff” which as escalated a bit, but enough to make life a little bit more than you want to go through.  Especially all at one time.  But boring to the rest of the world…..

So anyway…..

My name came up on the queue for the library to let me check out Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich.

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If you have never read the series, shame on you!  You have missed some great reads.  But here I am, feeling a little lot down in the dumps and I pick the book up from the library (I’ll eventually have my own copy, I reread her books.) and start in reading immediately.  Three hours later I finish and my sides hurt from laughing.  Almost fell off the bed laughing at times.  Who wouldn’t laugh about trying to catch the bail-skipping flasher at the funeral home, tazer incident?  And that’s just one of the many laughs throughout the book.

Feeling much better now for all the laughs, I can’t recommend this book too much.  Or the whole series in general.  So if you haven’t ever read the books, go out and meet Stephanie, Lula, Grandma, Joe and Ranger (boy, would I like to meet the last two) and you’ll be laughing too.  Knew someone who was reading one of her books in the emergency room while awaiting treatment and the nurses took the book away from her because she would start laughing and it would make her hurt more.  They are that good.

 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Reading Anglophile

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m an Anglophile.  Yep, I like Great Britain and would consider living in a country which would refer to me as a “Yank” (I don’t go north of the Mason-Dixon line often) and serves tea hot and not on ice.  Love Brit humor….drier, makes you think about it more and less crotch grabbing than American humor.

So the top of my latest reading are two books set in Britain.  Both of which I loved.

The first, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Yes, ZOMBIES!  Billed as being written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (doesn’t that name just scream Brit?) it actually works.  All the time I’m reading the book I kept picturing scenes in my mind from the mini-series with Colin Firth.  You read along, almost word-for-word from the original book and then, oops, there’s a zombie or ninja or Elizabeth’s abilities to kill zombies.  And it works so well.  You buy into the fact there has been a plague about 50 years earlier which turns people into zombies and off you go.

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Definitely a good summer read.  And if you don’t look at cauliflower differently after the “autumn zombie hunt” I’ll chop your head off.

My second good read recently is The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson.  This is the first book in what is suppose to be a series and the premise of the series is really good.  Two brothers, both barristers, have offices on the 200 block of Baker Street.  Part of their lease is they are suppose to collect and file letters sent to Sherlock Holmes (221 Baker Street).  Unfortunately, they get caught up in one of the letters which is 20 years old.  And it all goes downhill from there.  Or uphill if you like, since this is a good read.

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And with the temps here in the 90’s with humidity to match, it is refreshing to go back to Jolly Olde England (although a lot of Letters happens in L.A.)  I remember back to the 4th of July I was in London, huddled under a wool blanket I was so cold.  I need a spot of tea now….on ice!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not My Car

Sunday, I tiptoed out the door to the store before anyone but the dog and cats were up.  It was a beautiful morning.  Still cool, light breeze.  Had my little grocery store tote bag in hand to carry my groceries back it.  (Hint:  to save money at the store, carry a small tote bag to bring your stuff home in.)

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Put my brain on auto-pilot.  Ok, I admit, it had never been engaged as of yet.  My Sunday started with my poor, old Mr. Coffee burping my coffee, complete with grounds, all over the kitchen counter and onto the floor.  If it is Ms. Coffee, she would have never done that to me.  I had emerged from my room, expecting my first cup of coffee to watch the first of the Tour de France with and had to clean up.  Not a good start.  At least I wasn’t trying to get ready for work.

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So, off I flip flop my way to the store.  Get my exercise in so I can come home and not feel guilty about sausage, biscuits and eggs for breakfast……before my nap.

Getting to the back entrance for the complex was a surprising sight.

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It didn’t belong up on the back of another vehicle.  It belonged pulling up to some Hollywood premier, flashing lights, woman in ankle length furs and platinum blonde hair, in diamonds, climbing out of the back.

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I’m not a car person.  As long as it gets me from point A to point B, I don’t care.  But I do have to admit this was a nice looking ride. Wonder what it would look like with a bike rack on the back?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Marching Band Starts Soon

I quickly learned from the first year of marching band, if you get your volunteering in sewing, then you can say you’ve done your bit and not have to actually be out at every game, competition, etc. helping, you can sit back and enjoy.  I’m all for sitting back and enjoying.

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So what is this tangly mess of whatever?  These are hatbands.  To go inside the hats so they don’t move around while they march.  My directions were….

1.  Take the 57 inch wide thin foam and cut it into 3 7/8 (why not 4 inches?) strips.

2.  Take the velcro and sew it along one of the more ‘foamy’ sides.

3.  Take the velcroed strip and cut it into 5 1/2 inch pieces. 

Each strip makes 10 ‘bands’.  And the band goes through about 300 a year.  So yesterday I got cranking and me and my poor old Singer (who gets so befuddled at some of the things I try and make it do) sewed 22 strips.

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Texter, the marching band member, actually ‘VOLUNTEERED’ to help.  Did I mention I had to cut the velcro in half also?  She marked the velcro down the middle so I could at least pretend I was cutting it in half.  Then, after I marked where the strips were to be cut, she cut them in half for me.  She also fetched and carried tea and moved the finished, pre-cut strips out of my way.

Today, more of the same.  I want to get them all out of the way.  Because I know there is more sewing coming.

Luckily, I am no where near being in charge of this whole ‘sewing for the band’ thing.  I just take orders well.  The woman who is in charge is a fantastic seamstress…..she does wedding dresses, etc on the side in addition to being a full-time working outside the home mom of 2 kids.   And has a sewing room I would kill someone for.   Her hubby is a prop designer/builder for the band too.  Too many brains in that family.

Need coffee now…….

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Betty Crocker Lives!

A friend from work, who is a wonderful seamstress, was ‘tinkering’ around with a pattern of her own design, and made this dress, sending it home with me for Savvy to wear.

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When I pulled it out, she just slipped in on over her jeans and swimsuit top (we will not mention how pale she is and how, yet again, she got sunburned at the beach).

The dress has ‘wings’  for sleeves and she was loving it.  Made her feel all 50’s.  As it was she was fixing dinner and the dress looked like one of those old-fashioned aprons.

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Being camera shy (lol), she posed a’la 40’s and 50’s domestic diva style.  She really just needed heels and no jeans legs showing to really complete the picture.

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This is her ‘oh, my, a washing machine which really washes my clothes for me!’ look.

Fun was had with the dress and my friend got a kick out of the pictures and how much we were enjoying it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Renaissance Women

During my one day off for the next few days (Friday, July 10) I watched the Tour de France, engaged in some ‘arty’ stuff, managed a few loads of laundry, a trip to the library and store, and some writing.

In the middle of all of this activity, which was actually very calming for me (lots going on in life), an epiphany came to me.  People talk about some men in the past and in the present, calling the Renaissance Men, meaning they are interested in all areas of life…arts, science, creating, inventing.  And marvel at their accomplishments.

It struck me as you never hear of Renaissance women and it came to be really quickly as I am reading through some of blogs I follow…..we are all Renaissance women!

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There are a couple of men whose blogs I follow, but 95% have to be women.  And the amazing thing is we ‘do it all’.  Most of us run households, take care of selves, partners or spouses, some with children, work – both in and out of the home, garden, read, create art, experiment with new ideas, cook, teach, write, support others in the web-world in a selfless manner….just to mention a few of the things we manage to do, usually all of it on a daily basis.

And we have done this throughout history.  So before there were Renaissance Men there where Renaissance Mothers and Women.  Today I am a Renaissance Woman and I salute my fellow Renaissance Women out there.

Now where did I leave my corset?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Artwork Created

Friday (July 10) I was off work and did some ‘art’ which I have not done in a while.

The Piccadilly notebook, a quasi-Moleskine from Borders, I had already used a white pen on and created the trees.

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I also found a ‘brag’ book which had white paper inserts into which to insert your pictures with a small cutout square in the middle to frame your work.  Though they were too plain, so I have covered them in gesso and then layered paint on them.  My idea is to take pictures I made of flowers over the years and put them in there.

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Here are a couple of pictures from my ‘regular’ journal and one I am doing just drawing and doodling and zentangling in.  For some reason I really like vines and leaves.  Wonder what that means?

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The two page spread is not complete as of yet.  I will probably work on it while watching the TDF.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What I Discovered in the Bathtub

Scared now?  Too much information already?  It did scare the girls a little because you really shouldn’t heard laughter coming from the bathroom where you know your mother is suppose to be taking a bath.

Went to shave my legs the other day and was ‘lathering’ up and had to start feeling my leg up and down.  Something wasn’t right!  My calf was…….tight!  There was a muscle there!  There was some definition other than cellulite there.  You mean those hills on the bike did this?

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Scared the girls even more when I hop out, wrapped in a towel and run in and tell them….”Feel my leg!”  Luckily they have learned to humor me at times.

Now if I could pedal with my butt or stomach?

On the other hand, or rather both hands, I noticed something.  I looked down and I have two-toned hands.  My fingers are light and the backs of my hands are much darker.  First thought, weird disease.  Second thought….when you ride you bike what happens with your hands? 

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Yep….my fingers, curled around the handlebars are not near as tanned as the top of my hands.  But it looks a little odd.

So I have ridden in the rain, replaced a pedal and tire on the bike, put the chain back on the bike when it fell off, and now my legs, which are not like Lance’s (he shaves his legs too), are getting there too and I have a biker’s tan on my hands.

This biking stuff is fun……

By the way, at almost 800 miles in less than 2 years of walking and cycling.  I’ll hit my 1000 miles by November easily.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chocolate Bacon Popsicles

 

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This is a local, little hole in the wall place which creates the best, original flavors in pops.  OD (to be called Savvy from now on, that’s what she is know by her friends) and friends really like going there and sample.  Locopops generally has 4-5 cream based pops and 4-5 water based pops on their more permanent list.  Then every day they are 4-5 of each new and different flavors.

Green Tea, Lemon Sage Cream, Boysenberry Thyme, and….

Chocolate Bacon!

Six of us stood there last week and all except one (the vegetarian) were all really curious, but just couldn’t do it.  We bought our first selection (mine was Mexican Chocolate), licked each others pop (not for those who have sharing or health issues between friends).  The girls then went for a second round.  The Boysenberry Thyme….bright maroon and good, but very strong flavored, has been renamed the “Vampire Popsicle”.  Savvy likes it because with no preservatives and other “stuff”, she doesn’t have to worry about Red Dye 40.

Savvy couldn’t stand it.  She bought a Chocolate Bacon to take home.  Her reason was if she had to throw up, she would be at home.  We also got a beef pup-pop for Noel.  They offer chicken pup-pops too so you don’t have to share your popsicle with your dog.  And the sticks on their pup-pops is a large pretzel stick, so they do look like popsicles, but are completely eatable by the dog.

We got home and a little later out came the Chocolate Bacon popsicle. 

First, we all had to sit around in a circle and stare at it for a minute.  Texter was clued it on what was going on.

Second, it was pulled out of it’s little plastic sleeve and sniffed.  Nothing there.

Then, Savvy, Texter and I looked at each other to see who was going to be the first one.  Noel was sitting there staring at the pop.  She would have had no problem eating it.

Since Savvy was  the one who bought it, she took the first little bite.  Texter and I watched to see if we needed to move to let her run to the bathroom.  When she had no adverse effects, Texter and I both took a nibble.

Verdict…..the sweet and salty does work….but it’s just wrong.  It actually tastes pretty good and has a different aftertaste.  Not an unpleasant one though.  You can taste the undertone of bacon if you look for it.  If you did not know what was in it, you could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what you were tasting. But it’s just one of those things you know it’s not really illegal, but is probably not morally right and you aren’t really sure if you should be doing it or not.

My feeling…..I am glad I can now say I tried it.  But my chocolate should not have pork products in it and my BLT will not be covered in chocolate.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Illumination

Move over Dan Brown (who hasn’t read his books?) because I just spent about 24 hours not being able to put a book down.

The Illumination

Written by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori this is a forget about jumping in the pool or running on the beach read.  What’s in the necklace?  Why is everyone after it?  Leaning on Hebrew ancient history, a DaVinci Code spanning from Iraq, to New York, to Rome, to Jerusalem in a fast paced chase scene.

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Now I need to go find an evil eye protection. After I rest up some from the chase.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Balcony Updated

About two months ago, my balcony looked like this….

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And now, less than two months later, my balcony looks like this….

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The two cherry tomatoes are over six feet tall.  I have had to make some tie-ups strung up to the roof to tie them off.  Once them start coming in they will overwhelm me.

My two dwarf tomatoes I’m not too impressed with.  They really haven’t done much so far.  They are about 3 feet tall and a couple of small bunches of blooms, but no fruit being set.

Basil has made it threw a couple of major pruning's.   The other night a bunch went into the chicken I was roasting along with some rosemary.  Lemon balm has come through fine and dandy also.

The morning glories are looking “gloriful” .  It’s neat to walk to the balcony in the morming and there are all the purple flowers. 

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My moonflowers haven’t bloomed yet.  Or maybe I can’t stay up late enough to see them?

Two of my orchids are getting ready to rebloom.  Bought another ‘already bloomed’ and it’s putting out another pup.  Did find the discount shelf at a local gardening shop when they put all their bloomed orchids at a great discount.  Hmmmm…..sent the girls there for my birthday?

The balcony is looking so good.  Noel likes to come out here in the morning and lay on the quilts on the glider for a nap in the sun before it gets too hot.

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Unfortunately, with my schedule most of my sitting is done just for a few minutes at night.  i do have to check it out every day though.  With the heat, I have to water just about every day.  But the outcome – tomatoes!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

No-Knead Bread Results

I am not the fastest to pick up on an idea.  Actually, I am probably the last person to find out about an idea or technique.  Which is one reason why I depend on reading other people’s blogs to be sure I am at least partially in the loop of what’s going on.

Another thing I was late in coming to was ‘artisan’ breads.  Now that is not entirely my fault. I first found out there was something other than Wonder Bread (nothing wrong with it, especially for a fresh bologna sandwich with real tomatoes) when I was in high school and went on a school trip to Italy.  Crunchy rolls and breads!

I was in my early 20’s before I discovered la Madeleine in Dallas.  This was worth a trip across town, with the traffic, the side streets to get there and have a croque-monsieur sandwich (trust the French to make a great ham and cheese sandwich).  Buy a loaf or 2 of bread to take home.  Not to mention the tons of pastries.  This was not the local grocery store with the icing which could last until the next century on a chocolate or yellow cake.

I tried and tried.  But I have never gotten the knack of kneading dough.  I have a bread machine.  Just didn’t come up with the results I wanted.

And then…….

NO-KNEAD BREAD!!!!!

Actually, what got me going was the YouTube video on how to make it with Mark Bittman of the NY Times.  Of course, if you search YouTube you can find a ton of others who have made it.

And the results….

DSCN0141 This is the dough after sitting about 12 hours.  I mixed it up about 9pm the night before, let the oven (electric) warm slightly, turned it off, covered by bowl with plastic wrap and let it set.

The next morning, about 11am, I turned it out.  My problem was it was not quite as firm as his appeared to be, although it did look good, but still a little runny.  I let it rise again for about 2 hours.

Now I am a poor chef.  I do not have a cast iron dutch oven.  But will cheerfully accept one if anyone needs to get rid of one.  So I use my el-cheapo metal dutch ovens I make pasta in and threw the dough in a pre-heated pan in a 475 degree oven and put the lid on it.

Thirty minutes later I took the lid off and let it cook for about 20 more minutes.  And the finished loaf….

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Crunchy crust, good taste, and super easy.  The downside, OD walked around glaring at me because her mouth was still sore from her teeth being removed and couldn’t eat it.

So for this bread…time…yes, you do have to plan it out because I think you need the full fermentation time.  Cost…I think about 50 cents.  Three cups of flour plus a little is the most costly ingredient.  Pleasure and taste…..fantastic!

 

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

“Hon’, those ain’t no red beans!”

There are hundreds of vegetables out there I do not know about or have never tasted or refuse to eat.  The refuse to eat go into “miscellaneous” veggies.  They include squash, zucchini (except bread), eggplant, cauliflower (raw I’ll eat), broccoli (raw here too).

I’ve grown a lot of different veggies over the years and having friends which come from other areas of the country, it is interesting to find some of the regional differences. 

Peas are one of them.  The girls and I love sugar snap peas in the spring and enjoy snacking on them raw.  English peas, or green peas, also a veggie which has a really short growing season here as it takes more cold than we get in the spring, I have to have to build ‘bird nests’ with my mashed potatoes when I have meatloaf.  But down here, south of the Mason-Dixon line, peas means something different from the rest of the country.

Peas down here means ‘field’ peas – crowder, purple hull, black eyes – gold Ole’ Southern field peas.

So when I was at the farmer’s market and waiting for them to weight out and hand me my beans (green snap one of course) and peas, here comes a couple wandering up.

The woman leans over and goes “What are those red beans?”

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It could a couple of seconds for those of us standing around to realize what she meant.

I turned to her and told her they were “field or Southern peas”.

“Oh, we’re from up North.  Do you just cook them?” she asked.

Three people scramble over themselves to show her you needed to shell the peas first, then cook them.  The conversation then veered off to what you like to do while shelling peas or snapping beans.  (My favorite is watching TV.)

The woman shakes her head and turns away “sounds like too much work” she says.  The rest of us step up to get some more peas.  After all, throw a little ham or bacon in there, cook them up, served with fresh corn and tomatoes and it’s out of sight. A pan of cornbread helps out too.

 

Monday, July 06, 2009

Trip to Farmer’s Market on the Bike

(from Saturday, June 27)

How many vegetables could a bike basket carry if a bike basket could carry vegetables?

Saturday morning the girls were sleeping in and I decided to try out our little local farmer’s market here rather than the bigger one in Raleigh.  Thought the only way to get it to grow is to use it.  It’s less than 5 miles away and before it got too hot, I hopped on the Blue Bomber and headed out.

(I’m sorry but 85 degrees at 9:30am with 85% humidity isn’t the best bicycling weather – for me.  Give me cold over hot and I’ll be fine.)

Got to the market and about 8 vendors were set up.  Couple of local bee keepers (bought a pint), one with ice cream (gasp – passed it up), couple of baked goods tables (once again passed it by) and about 3 having veggies.

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Stopped by the little old man and woman and got ‘East Texas Field Peas’, snap beans and two pints of blueberries.  The other small vendor just had squash (don’t eat) and cantaloupe (wasn’t hungry for).

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The third vendor had quite a bit variety.  I did pass on the eggplant and yellow straight neck squash and zucchini.  Instead, white corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and peaches.

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So how much did my bicycle baskets hold?

1 bakers dozen of white corn (unshucked)

3 huge bell peppers

2 cucumbers

2 baskets of peaches (about 10)

2 pints of blue berries

3 tomatoes

1 pound (a heavy pound as the man said) of snap beans and peas

1 pint of honey

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Loaded everything back up and off I went home.  As I was biking through the steamy morning I tried to tell myself I was pedaling back from the market in Provence or Tuscany.  Almost worked.

Saturday night I fixed all the veggies with some BBQ chicken and deviled eggs.  A fresh bread I had baked earlier in the day.  Leftovers for the next couple of days.  Unfortunately, next weekend is cancelled since there will be 4th of July festivities in the downtown area.  So I will have to wait 2 weeks before I can go again.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

It’s Started

Yes, as I write, Levi Leipheimer just took over the 1st place in the opening stage of the Tour de France!  Twenty-three days (2 rest days in there) of my men in spandex.  Lance went out early and did a very creditable finish, but was knocked out of 1st place.  But as long as Levi or Lance win the whole thing, I don’t care.

Off to be glued to the TV.  Time trial races will last for several hours as all 100 plus guys go 1 at a time.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Uni-clothes

When did clothes merge?  Did I miss something somewhere? 

“Back in my day…..” smacking toothless lips together…. “you had church clothes, school clothes and play clothes.”

Yep.  I see those nodding heads of people over a certain age.  You know what I’m talking about.  You remember what happened when you wanted to wear that new church dress out to play in and show off to your friends.  That was when you were snatched bald and told to go change clothes.

Church clothes were the dressy clothes.  These were the ones you wore to church on Sunday morning.  And if you had to go to someone’s house right after church, you couldn’t play because you “were in church clothes!”

School clothes were the new ones you got in August to start school in.  You got replenished at Christmas.  You could wear school clothes to Sunday evening services and to Wednesday night potlucks.  You wore them to friend’s birthday parties.  But the minute you came home from school you had to change out of school clothes into…….

Play clothes.  These were the ‘old’ school clothes your mom didn’t mind if you got them dirty.  You never worn play clothes to church, even during vacation bible school.

However, at some point they have all merged.  You can no longer tell someone what to wear to an event by going ‘church’, ‘school’, ‘play’.  And nowhere was more evident than at graduation last week.

There were people who were in their church clothes.  Complete with hats.  Those 2 piece, polyester suits for women and a 2 piece suit for men.  Full makeup, hair done, jewelry on.  This was an ‘event’.

Then there were those, like myself, who wore school clothes.  I was in a skirt and knit top and strappy sandals.  Men wore slacks and dress shirt.

And then there were those who stopped their yard work and showed up for the graduation ceremony.  Denim shorts, Capri's, t-shirts and flip flops.  Even Texter dressed up for her sister’s graduation.  Granted it looked more like disco Friday night, but she did dress up.

I do like the fact in some ways the lines have been blurred between how you dress for certain things.  I can go to church in the summer without putting on hose, for example.  But there was a certain mental ease when you could label what you needed to wear with one word and everyone knew what you were talking about.

So, I’m sitting here in my play clothes, washing my school clothes and wondering what I would do if I needed church clothes.