Giving Thanks

Bert has only recently decided the grandchildren are okay. He no longer shows fear; he no longer shows his nervous side. Now he is relaxed and constantly right in the middle of all the commotion. Ernie, on the other hand, is steadfastly in hiding.

This Thanksgiving, Bert remained in our presence every moment. He was underfoot, played nicely with his toys, and meowed a lot as if participating in the conversation all around him. He polished off a plateful of turkey while we all did the same.

When our condo returned to the usual quiet, Bert took to his bed. Our bed, that is. He has not moved in hours!

One very thankful cat!

Take My Queen, Please

He is not a bad player, statistically speaking; his current rating is 1277. He is far from Grandmaster, but a strong opponent for me. (My current rating is  1343.) As of this writing, he has played 1,752 games on chess.com alone. I was thinking hard and struggling with every move.

Then in chess speak, he said to me “Take my Queen, please.”

Bye bye, Black Queen.

BOOK REVIEW: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

by Chris Bohjalian

The image of young children being escorted from their school past a blood bath of innocents came immediately to mind when I saw the title of this book. Those were the instructions given to the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 after the massacre by one deranged maniacal teenager. Those otherwise gentle words made me understand that this book would play out a cataclysmic event even before I opened its cover.

The story is told by Emily Shepard, a 16-year-old high school student in Northeast Kingdom in Vermont. Both of her parents work at a nuclear power plant at Cape Abernaki where her father is the chief administrator and her mother a communications specialist. A nuclear meltdown occurs and Emily’s parents are blamed. During the turmoil that follows, Emily is the target of the fear and the chaos that ensued. Her parents were dead, but the wrath of the community fell not only upon them but upon her, as well.

Emily tells of her flight, her fright, her homelessness, her entanglements, her desperate quest for survival. Her words are honest and direct, her emotions are raw and palpable. At 16, Emily’s life had been a struggle – with her parents, her teachers, even her friends. After the nuclear accident, those struggles could not hold a candle to what lay ahead.

Bonus:  This was an audiobook read by the author’s daughter Grace Brewer. She did a magnificent job. Following the epilogue, the author, Chris Bohjalian, and his daughter Grace are interviewed, giving a little insight into the writing and the telling of this story.

A must-read.

BOOK REVIEW: Orphan Train

Orphan Train

by Christina Baker Kline

A bond forms between two people, an unlikely duo. Molly is a 17-year-old troubled teenager living, existing really, in a foster home. When Molly is caught stealing a book from the public library, she is directed to perform community service. She is introduced to Vivian, a 91 year-old woman living alone in a large house. It is Molly’s task to help Vivian clean out her attic.

Born Niamh in Ireland, she emigrated to the United States as a young child. Fire took the lives of her family and in 1929, at age 9, Vivian had then been placed on an orphan train from New York bound for Minnesota. Taken in by the first family that would have her, Niamh’s name was changed to Dorothy. Later still, she took the name Vivian. She bounced from home to home and grew up much faster than her young years. In each home, she worked to care for others while there was no one to care for her.

Going through her many boxes of personal history has Vivian recalling events in her life, many of them painful, many kept secret. As they work together, poring through boxes full of memories, Molly comes to understand how she can help Vivian find some of the missing pieces of her long life.

Orphan Train is a piece of American history that tugs at the heartstrings. The characters are well drawn, quirky yet lovable, and the story is beautifully told. I see a movie in its future.

Burn, Baby Burn

I sit too much! I work at my computer most of the day, play at the computer most of the night, I watch movies, I sit and crochet. I have to make a conscious effort to get up and move about.

Now I have the DeskCycle. It sits under my desk, or wherever I put it) and I can pedal away whenever I sit – while I work, play, watch movies, crochet…

Can I have that piggy portion now?

Sugru to the Rescue

Sugru is a clay-like rubber substance that cures with exposure to air. It is easily molded by hand and adheres to most porous and nonporous surfaces. It is touted to fix anything. Their website also offers suggestions not only for fixes, but for creation of problem-solving gizmos and doodads.

Sugru comes in a variety of colors. Two or more colors can be mixed to form even more colors.

I put Sugru to the test. I had two items that needed fixing.

The first is a microphone holder that is affixed to the side of my karaoke machine. The plastic holder had cracked and was rendered incapable of doing its job. A little Sugru was molded and rubbed to cover the crack. Left to dry for the recommended 24 hours, the microphone now has a secure place to be.

The second is a paper towel holder I have had for probably 30 years. It is free-standing. Many years ago, whatever secured the dowel to the base had snapped. Although the dowel continued to stand upright, it wobbled, and I was never able to find a suitable fix. I have also never found a replacement that I liked as much, so I have been living with the wobbly thing all these years. Wobble no more! Sugru to the rescue.

Sugru is easy to work with. Repairs are fun! Just call me Mrs. Fix-It!

Centrifugal Brain Works

What can I do with Sugru? My brain is spinning with excitement. There has to be a project just waiting for me to attack.

I learned about Sugru on facebook today. It was just one of “13 household inventions you didn’t know existed.” Frankly, the other 12 items were of no interest to me whatsoever, but Sugru grabbed my attention.

Sugru is like Playdoh and plumber’s putty and Brylcreem all rolled into one, but better. It is moldable by hand, adheres to just about anything, and after some curing time it sets and becomes permanent (although removable, if need be). The inventor (developer, manufacturer, marketer, promoter – whatever) says it can fix anything. And just like Brylcreem, a little dab’ll do ya. So you work with small amounts of the clay-like substance and create. It is available in assorted colors, too.

But create what?

Grips for crochet hooks?  (for arthritic hands or just for comfort)

Grips for eating utensils?  (for tremor or arthritis (which I do not have – knock wood!)

Forget the grips. What else?

When the centrifuge in my brain stops spinning, the creative juices will start flowing. Stay tuned.