Visiting My “Best Friend Forever”

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I drove down to southern Minnesota this weekend to see my BFF “G”. Her birthday was last month  and we hadn’t celebrated it yet.

I would have been happy to celebrate on her birthday weekend, but she and her husband were off renewing their wedding vows in celebration of the marriage having survived a home renovation. It was touch-and-go there, for a while.

“G” and I met at The Amish Ovens in St. Charles for lunch. First I parked in the Amish Store lot, then I moved over to a spot by the restaurant and saw it was for handicapped drivers only. So I moved to another spot, and then saw it was just for buggies. Oops, that was unexpected.

Buggy parking.

Buggy parking.

I finally found an appropriate parking spot and met “G” inside. We lunched, and then went into St. Charles to shop at a local antique store.

I found a couple of chain necklaces that I plan on disassembling and using the bits and bobs to make earrings. I also found a basket that will work well to hold extra toilet tissue in the guest bath, a tiny aqua colored salt and pepper shaker set, and three fluffy pillows for the love seat.

We were just leaving the antique store when “G”‘s husband, “M”, pulled up to the curb. He was bringing a desk and a few other things for resale.

“M” showed me a little wall cabinet he was bringing in to sell. I thought it was very cute, so I offered to buy it from him. He said he wanted $200 for it. I clapped him on the back and said, “No thanks”.

He counter-offered with the suggestion that I cook dinner later, while wearing a thong. I clapped him on the back and said, “No thanks”.

I don’t know if I was more averse to the thong or the cooking. Kind of a toss-up.

“M” laughed and gave me the wall cabinet for free, my favorite price.

I’m going to do some work on the cabinet (someday) and then I’ll post photos. Don’t tell “G”, but it will involve paint. “G” hates to see any natural wood painted. Me, I’m loving the paint.

“G” and I spent the rest of the visit doing what we always do. Talking. We discussed relationships and child-rearing (neither of us have any actual experience) and the training of pets (lots of experience). At some point, we got around to decorating discussions, art critiques, and laments about the mind-numbing repetitiveness of housework.

We compared aches and pains (I won for sheer variety) and, since we had time, we solved the world’s problems. If only the powers-that-be would just listen to us!

It was a lovely visit, and I look forward to the next one. Love you, GF (girlfriend)!

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this at Chic on a Shoestring.




New Digs for No.2 Sis

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I went to No.1 Sis’s for Easter dinner, along with her son, Dude, her grandson, Ryan, and Ryan’s 6 month old daughter, among many others. Dude was joking that he hadn’t seen Ryan for so long he could hardly remember him.

Dude said, “What’s your name again…um, Bryan”? I told him that that was right, his nephew’s name is Bryan, with a silent “B”.

I got to see my sister’s great-granddaughter for the first time. She wouldn’t let anyone but Mama hold her though. I remember, Bryan-with-a silent-B was exactly the same way as a baby.

I haven’t been writing much about my cottage lately, but that’s only because I haven’t been working on my cottage lately. I’ve been spending a lot of time with No.2 Sis.

She lost her husband a couple of months ago (a sweet man who is missed, terribly) and she decided to move out of their rambling, four-level house. She found a darling one-level townhouse on her first day of looking around and she put in an offer right away.

The new townhouse looks like this, except it's not on a beach, and it's sandwiched between other townhouses. But otherwise, just like this.

The new townhouse looks like this, except it’s not on a beach, and it’s sandwiched between other townhouses. But otherwise, just like this. Kind of.

Sis wants to do some renovations on the townhouse, so I’ve been helping her shop for hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, counter-tops, tiling and paint. Then we had to look for furniture to fit her petite frame, instead of the furniture that fit her burly husband.

Why is it so much more fun to shop for No.2 Sis than to shop for myself? Money. It’s all about the money. I get the thrill of shopping without having to pay the bills.

After the shopping has come the painting, and the wallpaper stripping. And the packing. And the marking of items for a garage sale. And the setting up of the internet.

I love it. I can feel like I’ve accomplished something, and yet I don’t have to clean up the paint brushes, or vacuum up the shredded wallpaper. I’m an excellent starter. I’d rather delegate the finishing to someone else.

After No.2 Sis gets settled into her new townhouse, I’ll be back at work on my little cottage. Until then, I’ll have fun spending Sis’s money!

Stay tuned…



The Fear of Flying

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I was surfing the Amazon website looking for free or cheap Kindle books (being frugal) and I came across “My First Airplane Trip” (not an affiliate link). I burst out laughing and ordered it immediately.

It reminded me of a presentation I gave to the third grade class my BFF “L”‘s twin sons attended. The class was studying wind turbines. Since I work in the jet engine testing field, and many jet engines are turbines, “L” prevailed upon me to give the class a speech.

jet engine

It started off well enough. I asked the kids how many of them had been on a plane, and most of them had. I told them that jet turbine engines are like two wind turbines with a super-powered car engine between them.

If a car engine has some sort of problem, you can pull over to the side of the road and call for help. But if a jet engine has a problem while you’re 30,000 feet in the air, you can’t just pull over and call a tow truck.

The children started looking a little alarmed, so I hurried to reassure them that engines are regularly taken off the planes and tested to make sure they’re safe. That’s where I come in. I help design the equipment needed for testing oil pressure, fuel flow, air flow, vibration, and a host of other details.

Then there are other tests for extreme conditions. To test for extreme cold, the engines are run in a sealed, temperature-controlled building, or sometimes they’re tested outdoors at facilities located near the Arctic circle.

To test for flight-worthiness in storms, thousands of gallons of water are sprayed at a running engine.

To test for lightning strikes….

A wide-eyed child raised his hand. “Lightning can strike a plane”? Oh sure, but planes are built for that.

“Does the lightning strike the people too”? No, the passengers are totally safe, I reassured him.

This was not going as smoothly as I had hoped.

Sometimes the plane might hit a flock of birds, so the engine is tested by shooting dead chickens through it. Another hand goes up. “Are the birds okay?” I asked if she meant the chickens. “No, the birds that the plane hits”. I looked into her worried face. Um…well…uh, no, I’m sorry. The birds die.

I probably should have stopped there, but I had one more test to tell them about. It’s called the “blade-off” test and it shows what happens when one of the turbine blades breaks and gets sucked through the engine. Of course, it destroys the engine, but the goal is to keep the damage contained so that the body of the airplane isn’t compromised.

That part of the speech came with a video that I thought was really cool. It showed a running engine, then a  turbine blade broke, the engine started to wobble, and shrapnel flew about. Then the engine burst into flames and gushed thick, black smoke.

This is where the teacher decided that the class had taken up enough of my time.

Needless to say, “My First Airplane Trip” didn’t have any cool behind the scenes stories like that, nor any awesome video clips. Even so, it’s probably a much better introduction to flying than my presentation.

My guess is that none of those third graders are going to be begging to fly anytime soon.

Stay tuned…


252, and Googly Eyes

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I’ve told you my Mom taught me to ask things their names, and they will tell you. That’s why my car is named Gypsy Blue.

I first experimented with this technique on my houseplants. I had three plants, and I asked the first one its name. Mabel was the answer. I asked the second plant its name. Maybelle was the reply. I asked the third one. Maybelline. Come on guys, you’re just f*cking with me! I never knew houseplants had a sense of humor.

I thought of this while I was bagging my only current houseplant for the compost heap. It’s a very large, old, nearly leafless Golden Pothos that’s been very sickly for a long time. Frankly, I never asked it its name. I didn’t want to be the butt of its jokes.

How houseplants should look.

How houseplants should look.

I’m continuing to declutter and trying to focus on allowing new abundance into my life. I read an article on this blog, MindBodyGreen, that was inspirational. Out with the old, in with the new. I think that includes dying houseplants.

I packed up a donation box from the Studio, added a large lampshade to it, and bagged the plant for compost. That’s 3 more bags/boxes, which brings my count to 252.

I celebrated my success by ordering googly eyes (doesn’t everyone?) from Amazon. I think they would have improved the cards I made last weekend.

Stampin' Up Time to Celebrate

Stampin’ Up Time to Celebrate

Stampin' Up Cheerful Critters

Stampin’ Up Cheerful Critters


As God as my witness, I will never go without googly eyes again <shakes fist in air>!!!

Stay tuned…



New Year’s Goals Update

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One of my co-workers was a guest at my Stampin’ Up party. She followed me into the kitchen as I went to get her a drink, and immediately zoned in on the kitchen counter. “Why do you have a Mr. Potato Head on your counter”?

I replied, “Why? Where do you keep your Mr. Potato Head?”

Mr. Potato Head

I bought Mr. Potato Head for an art project I had in mind. So far, I haven’t tried to get it out of my mind and onto paper. Not getting things done reminds me that I need to assess my progress on my New Year’s goals. Sigh.


1. Cut credit card debt by half.

Well, the biopsies on Thelma cost $1800 after insurance paid their share. And Gypsy Blue needs front and rear brakes, to the tune of $800. So far this goal has been what they call an epic fail.

2. Continue decluttering and blogging.

I’ve been continuing to declutter and blog, but not at the pace I’d like. I have to give myself a passing grade on this one, and continue to try to improve.

3. Continue to cook, and eat well.

This has been hit and miss. If I cook on the weekend, I eat pretty well during the week. If I don’t cook, I’m much more likely to eat like crap for most of the week. I need to do more menu planning to make sure I have an idea of what I want to cook, and have the ingredients purchased before the weekend.

4. Take a photography course.

Not yet.

5. Take a tech writing course.

Not yet.

6. Learn Tai Chi.

I signed up for a Tai Chi class. I paid for a Tai Chi class. I did not attend a single Tai Chi class. Another epic fail.

Three-and-a-half months into the year, and still a loooooong way to go!

Stay tuned…

249, Part 2

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I got up early this morning and thought to myself, “Whoa! What the f*ck am I doing up so early on a Saturday morning”?

Then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to get my weekend maintenance done early Saturday instead of late Sunday? I’d have the rest of the weekend to do whatever I wanted without feeling guilty”!


Dining room: 8 minutes to pick up, clear the table, and fold up the extra chairs and table. I forgot to put the folding chairs and table back in the garage, though. Have I mentioned that I’m easily distracted?

Kitchen: 24 minutes to unload and load the dishwasher, clear the counters and wipe the counters down. It also includes the time to take out the recycling and the trash. It doesn’t include the time I took to shower after the trash spilled and splashed some unknown liquid all over my legs. Ew.

Living room: 10 minutes to pick up and to switch out a couple of vignettes. The mossy balls came from Amazon and the mossy bunny came from the thrift store.

mossy balls

The Native American drum came from No.8 Sis. Isn’t it cool?

drum vignette closeup

I still need to fix those wonky pictures.

drum vignette

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this post on Chic on a Shoestring.

Keep America Beautiful


April is Keep America Beautiful month. I got an early start on it on Sunday. I ran around with a cute hat on all day while lunching and shopping with No.2 sis and No.8 Sis.

When I got home, I took the hat off and had dinner. Then I took the garbage to the curb. And I took the recycling to the curb. And I looked in the mirror when I got back in the house and saw this.

Laurel keeping America beautiful.

So THAT’S why the neighbors were giving me the side-eyed looks.

When I was in my twenties I dated a cute guy who’s name shall remain unspoken. Let’s just call him E.D. As Christmas approached, he started asking me my ring size, and whether I preferred rubies or sapphires.

I bought him several nice gifts and had them beautifully wrapped and waiting under the tree when he came over on Christmas Eve. E.D. came over with….nothing. Absolutely nothing. No card, no gift, just totally empty-handed.

I pushed him back out the door and told him not to come back until he’d bought me a gift.

He came back an hour later and tried to hand me a shopping bag from a local department store. Hell, no! Wrap it, buddy! He had to use my wrapping paper, of course.

E.D. unwrapped the lovely gifts I’d bought him, and was appropriately appreciative.

I unwrapped the presents I’d strong-armed him into buying me. The first package was a “gift-box” of fuzzy knee-high socks, the sort of socks I hadn’t worn since high school.

The second present was a plaque that said, “Keep America beautiful. Clean your room”.

So romantic. Surprisingly, we eventually found it best to go our separate ways.

Years later, I entered a Valentine’s Day radio contest for the Biggest Wanker Boyfriend. I told them the story of E.D. and I won a beautiful bouquet of flowers for having the biggest wanker for a boyfriend. It was the nicest thing E.D. ever gave me.

Stay tuned…

p.s. The Saturday Stampin’ Up party was a smashing success!

p.p.s. I shared this at Cozy Little House, and at Chic on a Shoestring.