Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Little Blondie"

I have written many times about the feral cats behind our house that we have spayed/neutered, and for which we provide food and shelter outside.  They are all well-behaved cats and they get along with each other quite well. When we first began caring for them, they were cautious and would back away from us when we opened the door. Now they recognize us when we open the door to feed them, and run toward us.  A couple of them will actually let us pet them.  I think they might be half tame.

We have a table that shelters the food dishes from the rain.  Sometimes the cats will jump up on the table and peer in at us.  They seem to be curious about what goes on in the house.  Yesterday, I took a photo of one of them looking in at us.  We call her "Little Blondie".


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Food Stamps for Pets

I just learned about this program this morning; it was on my Yahoo news page.  Pet Food Stamps is a donation-based program.  It was set up two weeks ago, out of New York City by a man named Marc Okon.  He says he has already received 12,000 applications.

To be clear, this program uses no government money.  It is based on donations.  To apply for assistance, you must be below the poverty level or receiving food stamps.  Recipients are sent pet food from a retailer, PetFoodDirect.

It seems to me this could help a lot of people who can't afford to keep their pets.  I'm not sure, but I assume you can't buy pet food with regular food stamps.

While I'm here, I thought I would mention another charity for animals:

We have a small colony of feral cats that came up from a ravine behind the houses in our neighborhood.  We started feeding them so now they all hang out in our yard and the yard next door.  Over the years we have trapped a dozen of them and taken them to be spayed/neutered.  The clinic where we took them in Cincinnati had a grant from PetSmart specifically for spaying or neutering feral cats.  We paid $15.00 per cat, and PetSmart paid the rest.

I appreciated the savings, so every time I go to PetSmart I put a dollar in their donation box.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nature vs. Nurture: Is There a "Chic" Gene?

One of my sisters once said to our mother:  "No matter how much money you may have you will never look rich."

My mother has lived in the same state all her life.  She was a child during the depression.  She never learned to be sophisticated.  She wasn't the type of woman to wear furs and diamonds.  She did make all of our clothes and they were beautiful and perfectly tailored.  For herself, she bought her own coats at the thrift store.

I grew up in the American Midwest.  Down to earth and practical, those were our values.  My dad was an authentic Geek.  He was a scientist and an engineer, complete with pocket protector and slide rule.

In my family, "geek" was more valued than "chic".  My sisters and I proved ourselves by studying hard and getting good grades.  Fashion, style and brand names were not on our radar.

I was first exposed to chic when I was in junior high.  My best friend's family had an elderly aunt living with them.  She had been a fashionable woman early in life, and had lived and worked in New York City.  My friend and I were fascinated with her closet.  She had beautiful clothes, hats and furs from another era.  I had never seen such clothing.  I got a small glimpse of another way of life.

When I was in college, I worked one summer at a private club in the Adirondacks.  All the guests at the club were from the East Coast.  Most of the college kids working there were from the East Coast, too.  My background as a "midwestern" girl was obvious.  They were all so much more worldly and sophisticated than I was.  They dressed differently and spoke differently.  Their slang was foreign to me.

Later in life, I moved to Philadelphia.  For the first time in my life I didn't live in the midwest.  I loved it!  People were interesting and cultured.  I made friends with a whole new type of woman.  They went to nice stores.  They got manicures and pedicures.  Their mothers had been chic, and had taught them how to be chic.  Not only that, but they were also NICE.  They accepted me and welcomed me into their circle.

Believe it or not, I was in my thirties before I ever had a manicure or pedicure.  My husband and I went to Boca Raton on a company trip.  Another wife with the group took me to the beauty salon in the Boca Raton Club, and suggested a French manicure.  I had never even heard of that before, but I loved it.

My women friends in Philadelphia get bi-weekly manicures and pedicures.  It's an established habit with them.  I go months between manicures, and only get pedicures when I'm going to the beach.  I just don't think about it that often.  I didn't grow up "chic" and I guess I will never develop it.  My mother thinks I am sophisticated, but my level of sophistication is only relative to hers.  I guess you can take the girl out of the midwest but you can never take the midwest out of the girl.

Best Actress!

Jennifer Lawrence won!  I was rooting for her.  She's normal and real.  She's a wonderful actress but doesn't take herself too seriously.  She's from Kentucky.  She was so good in "Silver Linings Playbook"; if you haven't seen it, you should.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Night in Hollywood

Tonight Hollywood hands out the Academy Awards.  A row of the Oscar statuettes stands awaiting their fate.  Who will take them home?

Tonight the "beautiful people" will gather on the Red Carpet, surrounded by fans and photographers.

Much will be said about what the ladies are wearing... or rather "who" they are wearing.  As in "who are you wearing tonight?".  Many of them are wearing multiple people.  "The dress by so-and-so, the shoes by "so-and-so", the bag by "so-and-so" and the jewelry by "so-and-so".  Most of it has to go back to the "so-and-sos" after the big night, but sometimes the stars get carried away and mistake it for a gift.  As Sharon Stone did one year; the designer took her to court and she had to give the dress back.  Or as Lindsay Lohan recently did; she had to give the dress back but she ripped it apart first.

In the middle of the photo are Angelina Jolie and Stacy Keibler.  Much was said last year about Stacy looking like an Oscar statuette herself.  Much was said also about Angelina's long leg slit.  I thought it look silly, the way she kept sticking her leg out.  It looked to me like she was trying all night to trip someone with that foot.

It always cracks me up when the actresses turn around to give everyone a good view of their back sides.  They all do it.

And they all get the same "I dare you" look on their faces when they do it.

There have been various people serving as hosts for the big Oscar show.  Billy Crystal was a long-time favorite.

This year, however, the Academy decided to appeal more to the younger generation, so they hired Seth MacFarlane for the hosting duties.  I think a lot of people over 40 will probably say "Seth who?".  In fact, that's exactly what my husband said.

Nine movies have been nominated for "Best Picture" this year.  I have seen only two of them, "Argo" and "Silver Linings Playbook".  I thoroughly enjoyed both of them, but I have to say "Silver Linings Playbook" was my favorite.

I didn't see "Django" because it was too violent (I did see a preview).  I didn't see "Zero Dark Thirty" because I see enough on the news.  I didn't see "Les Miserables" because it looked too depressing (I saw a lot of clips of Ann Hathaway).  Same with "Amour", too depressing (I heard).  I didn't see the other two because they were only shown in little indie theaters too far from us.

Actually, I'm not even sure I will be watching the Oscars tonight.  Masterpiece Contemporary on PBS is showing "Page "Eight" with Rachel Weisz and Bill Nighy!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The World of "Justified"

The FX show "Justified" takes place in Harlan, Kentucky.  Part of Appalachia, it's an area reputed to be full of coal miners and moonshiners.  It's located in the same state where I live, but it might as well be a different world.  I live in "Northern Kentucky" which in many ways is a suburb of Cincinnati.  The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport is close to where I live.  Many people who fly into the Cincinnati airport assume they are in Ohio, but they aren't. They are in Kentucky.  For many of them, that's probably the only time they ever visit Kentucky.

"Justified" is built around the character of Raylan Givens, who is a United States Marshal.  At one point in one of the episodes, when Raylan identifies himself as a U.S. Marshal, the other character says, "Do they still exist?".  Yes, they do.  The character Raylan was created by Elmore Leonard, a popular author in the United States.  These are the books that inspired the show:

U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens is played by Timothy Olyphant.  Prior to "Justified" he played Sheriff Seth Bullock in another popular FX series, "Deadwood" which took place in the Old Western United States.  This is Timothy Olyphant as Seth Bullock in "Deadwood".

This is Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens in "Justified":

Raylan is a modern day Marshal, but he looks like an old-fashioned cowboy, with his boots and his hat.    I read that Elmore Leonard wanted him to lose the hat because it looked "too western" but the actor likes the look and kept it.  I think fans of the show agree, and he has become known for his hat, both inside the world of the show and outside the world of the show. 

Elmore Leonard the author is known for his colorful characters and sharp, often humorous dialogue.  The show does a great job of reflecting this.  The characters are interesting and often complicated.  There are many "bad guys" but some of them also have an endearing side.  Take Boyd Crowder for example.  

Boyd worked alongside Raylan in the coal mines in their youth, so they go way back together.  After Raylan escaped Kentucky, Boyd stayed behind and became a white supremacist.  After blowing up a church with a black minister he went to jail.  He came out of jail a changed man and became a Bible-quoting pastor, gathering his own flock of believers.  After that he follows his father's footsteps to become a backwoods drug dealer.  When Raylan comes back to Harlan, he and Boyd strike up a complicated relationship, as old friends yet "outlaw vs. the law".  

The relationship between Raylan and Boyd is one of the highlights of the show:

One minute they are old buddies and the next minute they are threatening each other.  Walt Goggins, who plays Boyd is fascinating to watch.

There is "good Boyd":

Then there is "evil Boyd":

There are other interesting "bad guys" too: 

Wynn Duffy



Some of the good/bad characters are women.  There is Margo Martindale, who plays crime family matriarch, Mags. She won an Emmy for this role. 

Mags "adopts" 14-year old Loretta, after poisoning her father:

Raylan and Loretta

One of Mags' sons is played by Jeremy Davies, who also appeared in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Lost".  

Here he is in "Saving Private Ryan:

Here he is as Daniel Faraday, my favorite character in "Lost": 

And here he is as Dickie Bennett, in "Justified".  He won an Emmy for this role.   

As you may have noticed, Raylan Givens is a really good-looking guy.  He does have love interests in the show.  

First, there is Ava Crowder, who was married to Boyd Crowder's brother, that is until she shot him dead, supposedly in self-defense.  She and Raylan were an item in high school.  They get back together when he returns to Harlan.

When Raylan's boss finds out he's in a relationship with Ava, he tells him to "cut it out" because of her legal troubles.  Eventually, Ava lets her brother-in-law Boyd move in with her.  He needs a place to stay and she needs help paying the mortgage.  

Boyd and Ava

Eventually, Raylan ends up reuniting with his ex-wife, Winona:

Now Winona happens to be pregnant with Raylan's baby.  Some fans of the show have a "hate Winona" site.  They hate her because of the way she treats Raylan.  While he was away she cheated on him with their real estate agent, who is a real sleaze.  Then she married the sleaze.  Now she is divorcing the sleaze and wants to go back to Raylan.  She gets Raylan involved in helping the sleaze when he get into trouble with the local hoods.  She also steals money from the evidence room and makes him help her to put it back.  Winona is kind of a brat, but it seems he loves her. 

Raylan also comes back into contact with his father, Arlo.  There relationship is complicated too.  

Arlo is currently in jail, and Raylan comes to visit, but things don't go well between father and son. 

There are also the people Raylan works with, in the U.S. Marshal's office in Lexington.  Each one of them is an interesting character too, especially his boss Art, on the right.  Raylan and Art often have funny exchanges.  Art has called Rayan his "hillbilly whisperer".  I won't go into greater detail because this post is long enough already.  I just wanted to express how much I enjoy this show.  It's so well-written and the characters are so well cast.  It's in it's fourth season now.  I just discovered it during the third season.  My husband and I have obtained DVDs of the first and second season and are catching up.  I think it's one of the best things on cable. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another Decluttering Day

Well, I'm at it again!  Decluttering is never finished here.  I have worked on my closet, my kitchen, and my basement in the past.  Today it's my bathroom.  I have cabinets in there that look a bit like this (but not quite as pretty):

The drawers were overflowing with makeup, razors, creams, dental products, and nail products.  The cabinets below had been organized by plastic dividers to hold bottles of shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, mousse, etc.

The problem was, everything was so jumbled up that I couldn't tell what was what.  Sometimes I would buy duplicates of things I already had that were lost in the shuffle.

First, I took everything out.  There were bottles and jars and boxes all over the floor.  Then I gathered all the like things together.

The photo above is just an example.  I actually had about three times as much as shown here.  I lined all the bottles and jars up in the cabinets, with like products grouped together.  One row for shampoo, one row for leave-in conditioner, one row for deep conditioner, one row for hairspray, one row for detangler, and finally a row for mousse.  Oh, and another space for small, travel-sized products.

The problem is, every time I see a new product I try it.  So, I have a lot of half full bottles.  Now that I know what I have, I will probably never have to buy another one again.  They are pretty much all the same anyway, I have concluded.

Next I tackled makeup and cosmetics.  I have a lot of small plastic bins.  Now I have one for lipstick, one for foundation and blusher, one for eyeshadow and eyeliner, and one for mascara.  I will probably never have to buy any of that ever again either.  Except they tell you to replace mascara every six months or so, but I don't.  I usually only use it if I am dressing up.

I have one more side of the cabinets to go.  That one contains lotions, creams, first aid, cough medicine, and various potions for every thing from poison ivy to sunburns.  I have drawers in my closet for pain medicine, cold medicine, anti-acids, eyedrops, cough drops, etc.  I have a shoebox full of prescription medications, with a list I made showing what each one is for.

I have to be in the right mood to do all this decluttering and organizing.  Too many days, I wake up, look at it, and walk away feeling intimidated.  Today I was ready!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Retirement Comes Calling

My husband was just beginning to think about retirement, but it was still in the future.  Then, two weeks before Christmas retirement came upon us.  His employer called with this message:

Hello!  As of December 31st you will no longer have a job!

Two weeks before Christmas!  I was already preoccupied with holiday plans.  The gifts, the food, the decorating.  Suddenly we had to think about how to live without a paycheck and without health insurance.  We had to get insurance through Cobra, which replaces the employer provided insurance but the employer no longer pays for it.  He had some questions to ask his employer:

How do we sign up for Cobra?  How much will it cost?  How soon can it go into effect?

Of course, since it was the holidays, it was almost impossible to get answers.  Everyone was on vacation, either in fact or in their minds.

January was a blur for us.  We were still trying to get answers to our questions.  He was finding out about unemployment insurance.  I was scrambling to get information about Medicare.  We sat down and began looking seriously at our assets and our budget.  What could we eliminate?  We eliminated some unnecessary things and set up a spreadsheet to record our expenses.

We went to get advice on "diversifying our portfolio".  What savings plans, pensions, IRAs, etc.  do we have, and how can we make them last?

Is our retirement going to look like this:

Or is it going to look like this?

We're still working on it.  My husband is finding it difficult to have so much free time on his hands.  He misses traveling and being busy.

I think I'm going to need this book: