Category Archives: Life ‘n’ Stuff

Super Sweet Vanilla Butter Cookies (Beta Version)

I needed some cookies yesterday. Yes, needed. The grandkids were here and you absolutely need cookies when the grandkids come over. So anyway, instead of using one of the gazillion cookie recipes I have I decided to just throw some typical cookie ingredients together. (Inventing is fun and satisfying.) They turned out to be possibly the most awesome cookies ever. (With one little flaw that had nothing to do with taste)

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

I mixed all that stuff together in the usual manner (I know; I’m terrible at writing recipes.) spooned lumps of cookie dough onto cookie sheets and baked at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes. As I said, they were awesome! Everybody loved them, especially the husband. They were very sweet so if you like less sweet cookies you might want to cut the sugar to just one cup. The problem? They spread out and turned out to be extremely thin. I would post a picture but they’re all gone. So, how do I make them thicker without changing the taste or texture?

Back to the Everyday

I like holidays and vacations; I think most of us do; but sometimes I think one of the best things about major holidays and vacations is that they make us appreciate our routine, everyday lives. Much as I love the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year season, it’s a relief and a pleasure to get back to normal and enjoy just an ordinary day. It’s cold and gloomy outside but I don’t mind. I did what little shopping I had to do yesterday and I have nowhere to go today.

Speaking of “normal”, my weird cat is back to her normal level of weirdness (I know you were all beside yourselves worrying about that, right?) – eating six times an hour as long as there’s food in the dish and yowling like she’s dying whenever her humans are out of her sight. [sigh] Why do the prettiest ones always have personality issues? Actually, she doesn’t really yowl every time we’re out of her sight, just randomly at times, most often at 3:00 AM.

One Day After Yesterday

The Earth circles the sun continuously, with no starting point and no end point but we humans, who so love to measure things, decided to divide time into years and decided that each year would start approximately ten days after the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. Of course, other humans have used different systems to measure the years, starting the year on different days.

Today is just one day after yesterday. Like every other day of the year, it has no meaning except the meaning we decide to give it. The idea of a “new beginning” is appealing – useful even. So today we begin again. We make big important resolutions and small, perhaps even silly ones.

I don’t formally make resolutions. I don’t get very excited about the new year. This is just the day I get to start a new calendar. But even I can’t entirely keep from thinking about “what I’m going to do this year,” what I want to accomplish, what I want to do differently. And it’s always pretty much the same – eat less, exercise more, spend more time outdoors, read more, sew more, clean out closets, get rid of some junk. Will I actually do those things? Probably not any more than I did last year but it’s good to think about it. But not too much. After all, today is still just one day after yesterday.

There Is No “Privilege”

Pardon me for getting serious for a moment. Adam Savage posted a link to this lengthy whine about “male nerd privilege” on Twitter. I have to confess, I tried, I really did, but I only managed to read about half of it before I decided, “I can’t take this nonsense anymore.” I am so very, very tired of “my suffering is worse than your suffering” screeds.

Listen boys and girls, suffering is always individual and very personal and is not necessarily proportional to the sufferers actual situation and the injustices suffered. What one person can easily shake off might be a deeply personal and hurtful attack to another and telling someone that “your suffering is nothing compared to mine” is just as hurtful as actual bullying.

Sadly, even with all our technology and sophistication, underneath it all we are still just educated apes. (Who was it who said that?) We form hierarchies and if we try to take away the hierarchies and make everyone equal we just form different hierarchies. We have alpha males and alpha females and the alphas and non alphas behave almost exactly like alphas and non alphas among our ape ancestors. More than 100 years of feminism and more than 200 years of democracy has not changed that and one thousand more years will still not likely change it very much. I don’t think that means we should just accept our ape nature though. We, as individuals, can behave like the higher beings we like to believe we are.

And we can start by holding our heads up and not whining quite so much no matter what our position in the hierarchy. We can show sympathy to other people who are suffering instead of belittling their feelings. We can refuse to play the game that keeps some people down while protecting those at the top.

And here’s one more thing. Each of us can choose not to suffer, not to be victims. To say, “just grow a thicker skin” sounds like exactly the opposite of what I said above. A lot of people would say it’s “blaming the victim” but it’s a fact that bullies pick on people who are the most fun to pick on so you can definitely help yourself by being less fun to pick on.

Bullies should definitely be severely punished when caught but punishing bullies will make other bullies more subtle and clever and harder to catch. It’s like fighting cockroaches and terrorists – there will always be more and you can’t ever stop fighting them. But the best way to help victims is to help them be tougher and the best help may come from other victims saying, “I understand; I feel your pain,” instead of, “Ha! you think you suffer? You don’t know suffering.”

The Day After

We had a pleasant little Christmas, as usual. Nothing exceptional to report but I might have things to say about some of my gifts later on. Right now I am in “What now?” mode. I’ve been “getting ready” for Christmas and thinking about Christmas for the last month and now all that’s done; it’s over and now it’s time to… what?

The Christmas tree looks a little sad and purposeless now, as it always does the day after Christmas. I want to take it down and put all the stuff away but at the same time I’m reluctant. It’s only one day after Christmas. When I was a kid we always left the Christmas tree up until New Year’s Day so part of me feels like that’s the way it’s supposed to be but another part of me is impatient to get it out of the way. I had planned to take it down Sunday but I might do it tomorrow.

The house if full of food, fantastic, delicious food but I’m tired of eating. Right now I feel like I might not want to eat again for two or three days. But we have all this food… I made the Sweet Potato Cheesecake. It’s really really good but, I ate a piece, one of my sons ate a piece, my daughter-in-law, ate a piece; they went home and didn’t take any of it with them, and now nobody else wants any except me. I still have over half of it left. To eat. All by myself. It’s good but I really don’t want to eat it all by myself. And I’m really afraid it’s going to dry out before I get around to it and I’ll have to throw some away. There’s also apple pie and fruitcake and cookies and ham and some other stuff.

Anyway… a couple of things about the sweet potato cheesecake, in case anyone out there wants to try it. I made it in a spring-form pan instead of a 9″ X 13″ pan. I used a 9 inch, as recommended even though I thought that seemed too small. (I have a set of 3) I was right. It was almost too small. I think the 10 inch size would have worked better. I used two medium sweet potatoes (peeled, diced and microwaved) not canned. (My immediate reaction when I saw the recipe called for canned was something like this: “Canned? Really? Is there even such a thing? Oh yeah, I think maybe I’ve seen that. Ewww.) Also, I don’t know (if I ever make it again) if I will put marshmallows on top again. I’m not terribly fond of marshmallows. They’re okay if they melt, like when I put them on baked sweet potatoes and heat them in the oven for a few minutes, but I toasted these under the broiler, as recommended and they didn’t melt hardly at all. So, I might do something different. If I make it again.

Gift Wrap

Someone on Facebook expressed a strong dislike for wrapping Christmas presents. That surprised me a little bit. I know it shouldn’t. It’s obvious that not everyone would but it just never occurred to me that some people might not enjoy it. I’m not very good at it but it’s about the third or fourth most fun thing about Christmas. So, what about you? Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between?

I also wanted to mention, but never got around to it, that gift wrap is becoming more attractive again. I mentioned the gift wrap ugliness/attractiveness cycle during some previous holiday season. For a decade almost all of the gift wrap you can find is ugly and then it starts getting more attractive until one year you look around and think, “Wow, there’s some really pretty gift wrap this year!” and then it starts to decline again. Last year I managed to find some that was not totally hideous and this year, a few rolls that I actually like. I like the new double sided rolls, or at least I like the idea. I only found one that I liked both sides of. (I know, I know! Shut up.)

I might need to buy more. I’m almost done with wrapping gifts and almost out of gift wrap and wondering if I have enough or if I will have to go buy more and end up with nearly a full roll to start next year.

Thanksgiving Week This ‘n’ That

I’m not in the mood for the Internet. Actually, it’s not that I’m not in the mood for the Internet at all; it’s just that I’m more in the mood for other things, mostly sewing and reading. And then there’s Thanksgiving and the day after, the infamous Black Friday. Today I need to go to the store and I’m in a bit of a panic about what to get and about remembering everything I need for the whole week so I won’t have to go back out on the day before Thanksgiving, or worse, the day after. Although, the grocery stores shouldn’t be too bad on Black Friday? Also, I’ve noticed in previous years when we drove past Walmart later in the afternoon on Black Friday that the parking lot is almost deserted so I guess all the craziness happens early in the morning then everyone goes home and passes out or something.

Anyway, I’m not saying no blogging this week but maybe not every day. I will definitely – well, I will try to – find a nice music video for Mid-Week Music Break and I will try to come up with some quotes for Friday. I bookmarked several articles that I wanted to rant or preach about but I don’t know if I will ever get around to those. But maybe. I am being a lame blogger. Sorry. Here are a few links.

11 Unsettling World Mysteries – Well, they are interesting but they don’t really “unsettle” me. I’m not even sure I believe all of them even happened, particularly #’s 1 and 7.

And how about some recipes? (My online recipe collecting is getting totally out of hand)

French toast stuffed with Philadelphia Bacon Cream Cheese Spread

Family Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole – That name seems rather odd. Since when are sweet potatoes not family friendly?

Another sweet potato recipe. This one has cranberries.

Cheddar Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs

Salted Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This ‘n’ That

It’s cold. It is gorram awful horrible effing freaking fraking damn cold. Should I have used commas? My brain is frozen. It’s 10 degrees outside… no wait, 13. Fahrenheit. Inside it’s up to… wait… 70 now. Really? It feels more like 40. Five degrees warmer than it was an hour ago but I’m not feeling it. I’m feeling… cold. Have I mentioned that it is cold?

I got a new phone yesterday. Samsung Galaxy S5. Not too different from my old one, which was also a Samsung. A little bigger, has a nicer camera but I haven’t used that yet. There’s just one thing. So far. Yesterday I put the apps I use most on my home screen – just four, I think, except I can’t remember now what one of them was – and a nice wallpaper, but when I looked at it this morning my apps were gone and there were a couple of new Google icons and the upper half of the screen had a different wallpaper. I hate you AT&T. Damn fraking, intrusive, control-freak corporation! Leave my effing phone alone! It’s mine!

While I’m bitching about stuff, can anyone recommend a good hand lotion? I did have a tube of some kind of gardenia scented “body cream” I bought at Walmart. It smelled nice but that was all I could say for it so when it ran out I bought a huge pump bottle (because huge bottles were all it came in) of Nivea lotion. Oh, I forget which one and I’m not going to go look. It has almond oil in it so I thought that meant it would smell good. It does not. It also does not do what lotion is supposed to do, which is make my skin be not dry and sandpapery.

And I’m cold. Did I mention that it’s cold this morning? Awful, horrible, effing, freaking, fraking…

Scary People

Last night’s episode of Criminal Minds was far from being the creepiest ever but it could be pretty scary for anyone who’s active in social media. The killer, whom the media dubbed The Selfie Killer, targeted people who posted selfies online, in particular those who displayed a certain arrogance or vanity.

If you’re paranoid you might be tempted to stop posting online. I know people who are afraid of social media anyway, for this reason. You could also lock your doors and windows and never leave your house but do you want to live like that? There have always been and will always be scary, crazy people in the world but the media, merely by informing us of their existence, tends to exaggerate in our minds the likelihood of ever coming into contact with these people. Sure, it’s possible and one must be reasonably cautious, but the majority of the people in the world will live their entire lives without ever coming into contact with or being affected in any way by a serial killer and it is no more reasonable to avoid all social media than it is to lock yourself in your house and never go out.

The best defense against crimes motivated by envy or revenge is to adhere to what has been the standard of behavior since long before the Internet existed. Be courteous, be humble, (not self-effacing because that’s annoying and always comes across as fake) do not make fun of or harshly criticize people, not even nameless people such as “anyone who likes Twilight or “people who don’t know the difference between your and you’re (I know… that’s really really hard) and only post pictures that you would be proud to show your grandmother. (Oh, and never, ever tell people on the Internet where you live.)

Yes, I know, I know… “freedom.” But I think we were actually more free when our concept of freedom did not include the freedom to be mean to each other. I never claim to be perfect or above anyone else. Believe me I know the temptation to give people a piece of my mind, to tell people how stupid they are, to preach at people (I guess that’s what I’m doing right now, isn’t it?) and it’s so easy to do on the Internet. But wouldn’t the world be a nicer, maybe even a bit safer, place if everyone (or at least most people) would just be nice?

This ‘n’ That

Winter is here. Yes, I know, I know. It won’t be officially winter for more than a month, but when it’s below freezing when I get up in the morning – or even below 45°F – it’s winter!

I don’t know if there’s a name for this particular universal law of life but there should be: If you state anywhere on the Internet that you plan to finish a project by a certain date you will not finished it by that date. I did not finish it by the next day and I did not finish it by the middle of this week. So I’m not going to say that I only have to sew the buttons on and I will definitely finish it today. No, I did not say that, will not say that.

Yikes! It’s November. I need to start Christmas shopping already. I have lots of time even for online shopping but I usually start in October, “just in case” something is back ordered or out of stock for the rest of the year and I have to think of something else. I have bought one gift so far and I have two more ideas. That’s it. And there are also two birthdays in our family in December. People, plan ahead. Don’t have babies in December. Or the first week of January.

I can’t remember if I’ve linked to this or not. Found it in my bookmarks. 25 Strange Superstitions From Around the World. It amuses me that Tuesday, not Friday, the 13th is unlucky in Spain and the number 4 is unlucky in China.

[sigh] I have way too many bookmarks. But I will get around to visiting all those sites again eventually. I will! Stop laughing.

I Want My Extra Hour

I like Daylight Saving Time but it has come to an end, as it does every year. Every fall you hear people saying that we will get an extra hour of sleep because we turn the clocks back. Well, it doesn’t work that way for me. I always wake up between 6:00 and 6:30. Sunday morning I woke up just before 6:30, like normal, except it wasn’t 6:30; it was 5:30. I was fine all day, didn’t feel tired because I had woke up at what felt like the normal time. I didn’t feel any need to go to bed “early” so I went to bed at the correct time to get used to Standard Time. No problem. Except, all day yesterday I really felt like I had missed an hour of sleep. I usually cannot sleep in so, yeah, I missed an hour of sleep instead of getting an extra hour.

This ‘n’ That

Comment spam has been really horrendous lately. I used to get, usually, no more than 20 a day. Since last Saturday it’s been 300 – 500 a day! The first time comment moderation is stopping it all but I still have to take the time to delete all of them.

Someone once said that spammers should be crucified along side the highways. Right now that seems like a pretty good idea. But then I think, why litter the countryside with so much garbage. Let’s just publish their real names and addresses. But then I think, no I have a better idea. Let’s make them pay. Literally. Someone needs to come up with a system to automatically charge spammers by the minute, with the proceeds going to the website owner, minus a small percentage to maintain the system. Five cents for each minute until the spam comment is deleted, even if it is held in the moderation queue for that time. I would be wealthy!

* * *

As you probably know there will be a partial solar eclipse late this afternoon. So of course it’s raining today. They do say that the clouds might clear out in time for the eclipse and I bought some eclipse shades so I’m ready just in case. I tried them out yesterday. These things are really dark. Put them on and you can’t see anything at all except a dim orange disk in the sky.

* * *

A new creepy high tech way to power high tech devices. Actually the article calls the devices “theoretical” and the inventor said she did it “to provoke the thought about how far will we go to in order to ‘feed’ our addiction in the world of declining resources.” Okay, yeah, whatever. Maybe I read too much science fiction (Come on, that’s not really possible.) but it seems like a reasonable idea. Not that I would ever use one of them myself.

* * *

I do like one of these 10 British Flavors Americans Will Never Widely Appreciate and there are a couple of others I would try. I went though an Earl Gray Tea phase for a several years, actually starting before Captain Picard made it popular. I still like it okay but not as much as I used to. Kedgeree doesn’t sound too bad except maybe the egg, though I could probably tolerate that part of it. I have always wanted to try Marmite just out of curiosity though I’m sure that I would hate it. But the one I really want to try is Irn-Bru – “sort of citrusy with a hint of ginger that leaves a long lingering finish”. That actually sounds very good.

* * *

I think most of these Forgotten Words should probably remain forgotten but I really like tardigradous – “Slow-paced; moving or stepping slowly.” It reminds me of one of my favorite animals.

Calories Don’t Make Sense

Dear Fiber One,

Regarding your “90 Calorie Brownies”: First of all let’s get our terminology straight. That is not a brownie. It is a soft cookie. Actual brownies are about twice as thick. The main point I would like to make, however…

WTF?! 90 calories? In that tiny little thing? How the heck did you manage to stuff 90 calories into a little cookie? (Yes, it’s a cookie, like I said, not a brownie.) And you put it on the box in great big letters as if it was a good thing. Wow. That’s some really audacious marketing.

Also, how do you expect a person to eat just one small cookie? Or even just one brownie if they were actual brownies, which they’re not. So two of these things would be 180 calories. That’s getting to be a bit much for a little snack. Might as well eat ice cream. Or real brownies. (I know, I know… fiber. So I’ll make it a banana split) And if you eat the whole box, which is what a normal person would do, (Thank goodness I’m not normal.) that would be 540 calories. Yeah, I’m definitely eating ice cream instead. I wonder how much fiber there is in a pint (okay, half a pint) of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

Thank Goodness It’s Monday?

It was sort of a sucky weekend. There was no Big Bad thing that happened, just several small and medium bad things that felt hugely bad for some reason. I guess it actually started the middle of last week with the antique indigo stretch denim that I didn’t get. I did search to see if I could find it anywhere else. I couldn’t but even if I had found some the same color on another website there wouldn’t have been any way to be sure it was the exact same thing. The denim I missed out on had 35% stretch. Most online fabric retailers don’t tell you the amount of stretch and in my experience “stretch” denim is usually not actually very stretchy at all. Maybe 5%?

Anyway, as I said, I did order some of the light blue stretch denim. (20% stretch) It was supposed to arrive via US Mail on Saturday. But Friday, as I was headed out to go buy groceries, I noticed that our mailbox had fallen down. There used to be a huge problem with mailbox vandalism in our area so we made a super vandalism resistant mailbox. It totally worked for vandalism prevention but it weighed well over 100 pounds so I couldn’t put it back up by myself. We decided to buy a new, lighter weight but still sturdy mailbox to replace the old Superbox but didn’t have time to put it up until Saturday afternoon so we didn’t get any mail Friday or Saturday. This is not a big deal. I wouldn’t have got around to doing anything with the denim for several days or possibly a week or two anyway but still… I was expecting it on Saturday.

Saturday I went to a local quilt show. That should be fun, right? Well, it was nice. I did enjoy seeing all the gorgeous quilts. But there were two things that partially spoiled it for me. First of all, it seemed like I was the only person there who didn’t know anyone else and I felt alone, left out, and a little like I didn’t belong there. There was one woman there who started a conversation with me but she saw someone she knew and abandoned me mid-sentence. I can understand that. I really can. When you see a friend in a public place you don’t want to let her get away without talking to her, but still, it sort of made me feel like I was still that little girl who was only good enough to talk to if there was no one else around.

The other thing… I’ll be honest, a big reason why I even went to the quilt show was that a local quilt shop that I’ve been to a couple of times said on their Facebook page that if you stop by their booth at the show you could get a 25% off coupon for their store. 25% off? That’s huge! Well, I stopped by their booth and I didn’t see any coupons. The person attending the booth was talking to someone and I didn’t want to interrupt so I walked around a bit more and came back and she was still talking. I hung around for a bit and finally gave up and left without a coupon. It’s just as well. I certainly don’t need any more quilting cotton and yet I’ll probably buy some from eQuilter pretty soon because they have several fabrics that I’m finding particularly irresistible right now. But you see, this was a multi-level disappointment. Thursday I went to visit my brother for a while and I refrained from going to the the quilt shop over there in his town because I knew I was going to get a 25% off coupon from this quilt shop over here. And I like the selection of fabrics at Sager Creek Quilts better. (I don’t like their website and have never ordered from it because their images are too small and I can hardly see what I’m getting.)

The people who work at the local quilt shop are all very nice and one lady in particular is especially friendly and always seems so happy to see me, it makes it a pleasure to go there. Without the coupon as an excuse though, I probably won’t go there at least until next spring. Sager Creek Quilts, while they have a better fabric selection, the guy who is usually working there when I go there (I think he is the owner or is married to the owner) is sort of dour and reserved. Not really unfriendly but not fun and makes me a little uncomfortable to try to talk to him so it’s usually all business when I go there. It’s almost an hour and a half away so I probably won’t go there again anytime soon either.

Finally, to top off this less than fun weekend, my granddaughter was sick yesterday. She was supposed to have her 1st birthday party. I wasn’t excited about the party itself. There would have been a bunch of people there I didn’t know or barely know but I’m disappointed for her sake and sorry she’s not feeling well.

So that was my weekend. I’m actually glad it’s Monday but I’m a little nervous, wondering what else can happen.

Dreaming

Okay, I do have something to say about that after all.

Yesterday I linked to this article, 10 Interesting Facts About Lucid Dreaming, and a commenter, Ken, said he was surprised that I didn’t have anything personal to say about the subject. Actually, I bookmarked that article a long time ago with the intention of saying something about it but I could never think of more than a short paragraph, a couple of sentences at most, and I thought, “No one likes dream posts anyway,” so I finally decided to just link to it. But…

I do usually, at some point in my dreams, realize that I am dreaming. When I was a kid I learned to wake myself up when I was having a bad dream but I have never controlled what was happening in my dreams. Most of my dreams now days are pretty cool – like my own personal sci-fi movies. I once had about a dozen or so Klingons over for dinner but most are more original and really weird and I often wake up wondering, “How did my silly brain manage to come up with that?”

Besides the “sci-fi” dreams I sometimes dream about houses, usually like we are looking at a house to move into. The last time we did that in real life was almost 19 years ago but we spent six months at it and it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago so maybe that’s why it has stuck with me. It has been a while since I had one of those but I actually had one last night. This one was a little different. Someone wanted us to “house-sit” for them while they were away and the house was huge and luxurious and had awesome closets. One was so big it even had a clothes conveyor. The whole dream was mostly about the closets, which makes sense because lately I have been desperately wishing for bigger closets.

A couple of things about my dreams that might or might not be a little odd: 1, I almost always dream in color. I don’t think that’s so strange because of I’ve heard a lot of other people say they dream in color but I used to hear and read that “most people” don’t. 2, I often see and read words in my dreams, usually on signs or product labels but sometimes books. I have read a number of times that one way you can tell if you’re dreaming is that words are all jumbled and unreadable but that’s not true for me. Sometimes they start out sort of indistinct somehow but I can stare at them and make them clear enough to read.

Random Thoughts, Observations, and Complaints

To whom it may concern: When you are turning, please move all the way over into the turn lane. (if there is one) Don’t slow down to two miles per hour with two wheels in the turn lane and two in the regular traffic lane. We can make an exception for 18 wheelers but anyone with four wheels or fewer… no excuses.

Dear Mother Nature: Are you drunk? Have you been doing drugs? It’s October! Not that I really mind 85°F. I’m a warm weather kind of person. I just worry that you might try to make up for all this nice weather a couple of months from now with several weeks of -10° and a foot of snow, or worse, half an inch of ice. Please don’t do that.

Chocolate flavored cereal is always a little disappointing to me. It seems like an awesome idea but it’s never quite good enough. That said, Fiber One 80 Calorie Chocolate cereal is not bad and 80 calories per serving? That’s almost kinda like a little miracle. (This is not an advertisement. If it had been an advertisement I would have used the word “awesome” again.)

October? OMG! It’s October! I need to start the online Christmas shopping already or at least start thinking about what to get everyone. (And there’s a very important birthday in the family in less than two weeks!)

Speaking of early Christmas shopping, Lowe’s had their Christmas decorations out already in September! Way, way too early. At least wait until after Halloween. Halloween decorations are nice too.

Though I haven’t mentioned it lately, I have been sewing. I’m actually working on several things. I usually never work on multiple projects at the same time. It just makes me feel more like I’m not getting things done. Anyway, I might get around to showing off something tomorrow. Or Friday. Or someday.

The Curious Brain

Interesting article about curiosity and learning.

The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,”

I think it’s interesting that they also found that the brain’s reward system is involved in curiosity and learning. My immediate thought: “Well, I could have told them that!” Finding out stuff feels awesome. People who don’t seem to be curious about anything puzzle me. I always wonder what’s going on in their heads if they have no curiosity. What do they think about if they’re not wondering how things work or why things are the way they are? Their lives must be so dull and sad.

What makes some people curious and others not? Everyone is born curious but as we grow up we are gradually conditioned to be less curious. Most parents encourage curiosity, up to a point, in very young children but I think there are probably very few parents who actively lead their children in satisfying their natural curiosity. Busy parents often give short answers that really mean, “Don’t bother me right now.” As children get older and peer pressure kicks in the number of things about which it is acceptable to be curious is greatly reduced and open displays of curiosity are considered “uncool”. Even among adults, people who are openly curious are considered a bit weird.

Lucky is the child who grows up observing his or her parents being curious. Just as the children of people who read books grow up to be readers of books, the children of curious parents retain their early childhood curiosity into adulthood. A few of these children grow up to be scientists and inventors. Many more simply grow up to be adults who continue to find wonder in the world and are rarely bored.

On Being Positive

Here’s an excellent, thoughtful post on choosing to be happy. I sort of want to disagree with it but I can’t, not completely at least. Too often, exhortations to “look on the bright side” sound like “Don’t bother me with your feelings.” Maybe there would be fewer sad and lonely people in the world if there were more people willing to just shut up and listen for five minutes.

There is a quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln – “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Of course, it is likely that he never said it and I hope he didn’t because it would bother me to think that he said that. Did he think slaves could just “make up their minds” to be happy or did he not think of them as “folks”?

Anyway, I think it’s more complicated than simply, “Can you choose to be happy or is it out of your control?” Everyone has both sadness and happiness in their lives. At any given moment in your life you have little or no control over how you are feeling at that moment. And it’s not necessarily a good thing to suppress sadness or other negative feelings. To try to do so will probably make you a sadder person overall.

In your life as a whole, however, I think it is possible, at least to a certain degree, to choose to be a happier person, not by “bottling up” unhappy feelings and forcing happiness but by savoring the happy moments that come naturally in your life and being more aware of opportunities for happiness – to “stop and smell the roses” as the old saying goes. My personal philosophy is, “The secret to lifelong happiness is to learn to love weeds.” (literal and figurative “weeds”) There are billions of things in the world that have potential to make you happy and most people don’t even notice them.

Perspective

I am a somewhat “matchy-matchy” person. (though I hate that term, “matchy-matchy”. It makes it sound like a bad thing.) It’s not about how other people see me. Even when I’m at home, with no one else here to see me, wearing sloppy sweat pants and a ragged t-shirt and fuzzy house socks (my standard wintertime attire) it all has to be color coordinated. (I have relaxed a bit about the socks in the past year.)

Yesterday morning I needed two grocery items and decided to go to the Dollar General five miles away instead of to one of the grocery stores in town 12 miles away. I had on a black and white paisley dress. I had been wearing my single strap Birkenstocks around the house but I don’t like to drive in sandals. Normally I would have worn black shoes with this dress (since it’s after Labor Day so obviously I can’t wear white shoes) but I thought, “If I wear the black shoes I’ll have to transfer everything in my purse to my black purse and I’m only going to Dollar General.” So I wore brown shoes with my black and white dress. I felt uncomfortable about it but I did it.

At Dollar General, as I was in my car about to back out, I noticed a woman walking across the parking lot. She was wearing denim shorts and a loose red t-shirt. She appeared to be in her 60’s. Overall, she was heavy but not grossly huge. But she had boobies the size of basketballs and they were on the loose, swinging free and lively, swinging and bouncing in a disgustingly mesmerizing dance, back and forth, up and down, across her chest. And I thought, “And I was worried about wearing the wrong color shoes? I really need to get some perspective.” But denim shorts and a red t-shirt… those definitely go together. I’ll have to give her that.

Unhelpfulness

Have you ever had a day when you had nothing at all to write about on your blog and then life hands you something?

Yesterday I saw a recipe on Facebook for some kind of fiesta bean casserole that looked pretty good but like most bean recipes it calls for canned beans. I like to use dry beans because canned beans are horrendously high in sodium and they don’t taste as good. I don’t even know why I bothered to say anything. It’s no trouble to substitute cooked dry beans. I always just guess how much to use and I’ve never had any problem doing that. But I guess it bugged me just a little that all bean recipes say to use a can of beans, so I politely suggested that it would be helpful to include the equivalent measure of dry beans for those who would prefer them.

So this morning I checked Facebook and two people had responded to my comment, telling me that low sodium canned beans are widely available. Wow! Really? Who would have thought?! Seriously, how freaking stupid would you have to be to not know that there is a such thing as low sodium canned beans? Is there anyone in the developed world who does not know this already? Besides which, that’s not what I asked. Actually, I didn’t ask anything; I made a suggestion. I did not ask for an alternative to regular canned beans. I have an alternative already. I asked for a measurement. (Or rather, suggested that a measurement be given) But anyway, I ask for a measurement, they give me an alternative. People do this all the time! If you’re going to answer a question, answer the question that was actually asked not a related question that you came up with out of your own head. (or some other part of your body) And most of all, don’t insult people by telling them something that everyone already knows!

As for the beans – are “low sodium” beans really low in sodium? I haven’t checked beans specifically but I know “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” canned soups are not low sodium at all. The regular soups may have 33% or more of the “Daily Value” of sodium per serving while the reduced sodium soup has 20%. (I happen to have a can of reduced sodium tomato soup. I checked the label) That’s still quite high when you consider that the official “serving” is only about half what a normal adult would eat and add to that the sodium in the crackers you’re going to eat with the soup and all the other sodium you will consume from various sources in a day. Personally, I do not have to limit sodium in my diet but it just seems like a good idea, at my age, to cut down when I can.