Weekly Photo Challenge: Through


These photos I took at Timoleague Abbey in Ireland are perfect for this week’s theme of “through.” When I approached the abbey from the outside, what impressed me most was how the windows framed the headstones of the graveyard inside the ruin. With many windows and many holes in the ruined walls, Timoleague was a perfect frame for photographing the abbey and the surrounding countryside. If some of these photos look familiar, it’s because I used them previously for the photo theme “windows.”

Dave seen through the frame of Timoleague.

Looking through the window of Timoleague Abbey.

Bay outside of Timoleague Abbey, through a hole in the ruined wall.

My first impression of the abbey: a Celtic Cross viewed through the window from outside.

© Huffygirl 2012

Related link: Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows from the inside out

My transformation to the dark side is complete


Public Broadcasting Service

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, it has happened. I’ve turned to the dark side. I’ve become the person I never wanted to be – a digital, HD-subscribing, lazy, shiftless TV watcher with not one, but four TVs. I never intended for this to happen. What have I become?

It started so insidiously. Long ago, when I first met my husband, I didn’t even know about the dark side. Sure I had watched TV as a kid, but I didn’t inhale.  We only had two channels anyway, and programming stopped after the late movie, turning the screen to static or test patterns, so it was easy to stay on the good side of the force. Once I started dating my husband, we were too busy being in love, making our own granola and polishing our wire-rimmed glasses  to spend much time watching TV. I was not allowed to have a TV in my dorm room, and he did not have a TV in his apartment, so soon we even forgot what shows were on the now three TV channels.

When we got married, my in-laws offered us a choice of a gift – a brand new color TV, or something else of our choosing of equivalent value. Of course we chose “something else” – what did we need a TV for when we were so in love? Besides, we were busy recycling, washing our hemp clothing and listening to the music of “Hair” on our state of the art phonograph. Still, my in-laws thought we might be out of touch without a TV, for God’s sake, so they gave us an old black and white one that a neighbor had thrown out on the curb. The on-off switch was broken, as was one of the rabbit ears, so if we did watch it we had to plug/unplug it to turn it off and on. We kept it in the spare room and dragged it out once or twice a year.

Now fast forward a few years to the arrival of those sneaky demons, otherwise known as children.  We wanted to catch some educational programming for them, so we succumbed to order cable. By then it was nearly impossible to pick up anything over the airwaves with our one rabbit ear anyway. Now we had about 36 channels, including a new one that was all about sports – ES something or other. Still, we severely regulated TV in our house. The kids could not turn the TV on, as they weren’t allowed to touch the plug (still no on-off knob), and we stuck to mostly PBS and edifying shows. But, parental fatigue was a strong temptress. Tired out from being up all night with kids? Flop down in front of the TV. Cranky baby that won’t go to sleep? Johnny Carson.

Fast forward to our kid’s teen years. “Gee Mom and Dad, none of our friends have to watch an old black and white TV with no on/off switch.” So we caved and bought a state of the art used color TV. We had gone from Kansas to Oz.

With our kids leading the way, little by little we succumbed to upgrades. Our oldest son moved home and brought two TVs. Sure one of them was a state of the art 1987 and the channel changer did not work, but hey the color was great. And so it went until we arrived at the place we are today: four TVs, fancy cable, and now, finally, HD. Sure, I still forget about the HD channels and can’t remember the numbers anyway, but by gosh, the potential is there. I’m becoming the person I never thought I’d be.

© Huffygirl 2012

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Would you like a massage with your sushi?


Octopus vulgaris

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, so I don’t like sushi. All right, I’ve said it. I know I’ve now opened myself up to a   rousing round of flack from sushi lovers everywhere about the virtues of sushi, the health benefits of eating fish, and what’s wrong with me that I don’t like sushi. I’m ready for the onslaught.

But I don’t like it. First, sushi is mostly fish. Raw fish. I don’t like fish. It’s either fishy or bland. And I’m of the school of thought that any food that is worth eating should be tasty without undergoing extensive manipulation and alteration. I can slap a piece of chicken on the grill, and it’s delicious as is. I don’t have to batter it, fry it, chop it up, mix it with other things, slather it in butter, or massage it.

That’s right, I said massage it. I heard a disturbing report on the news today of an acclaimed, expensive sushi experience. In the process of describing the superiority of the sushi at this restaurant compared to others, the documentarian described what makes this sushi special: the octopi receives extensive massaging before serving. Turns out most sushi restaurants just don’t massage their octopi enough. “Tragically undermassaged” it seems. I’m as shocked to hear this as you are, but really, it’s true. At least an hour of massaging is about right , and anything less is just inferior and lazy.

And the price of this well-massaged sushi meal? About $300. All I can say is, if I’m shelling out $300 for a meal, it better be food that’s cooked, and I better be the one getting the pre-meal massage!

Related link: Cameras follow world’s greatest sushi chef (npr.org)

© Huffygirl 2012

It’s Pi Day!


Today’s the day that math nerds and pie lovers look forward to each year: 3-14, otherwise known as Pi Day. It’s the day when the nerdy smart kids in geometry class get to show off how they’ve memorized pi to the nth decimal place, and pie lovers have an excuse to bake and eat pies.

Best husband is the pie man in our house. Sure, I can make pies too, but why should I when I have the foremost living pie expert right here to do it for me? Besides, just last week I made the same recipe of blueberry pie, and mine turned out runny, compared to his pie creations. I may have even heard a complaint or two, yet, in no time at all the pie was gone, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

Dave’s Blueberry Pie

Crust for a 9-inch double crust pie

3 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained (or fresh frozen blueberries)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup packed light brown sugar

5 tablespoons flour

Margarine or butter, about 1 tablespoon, to dot top of filling

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the crust and the margarine. Set aside. Make your favorite pie crust. Roll out half of the crust and place in a 9 inch pie pan. Add the filling. Dot filling with margarine. Roll out and place the top crust. Trim edges, fold top and bottom crust edges under and together,   and make slashes in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 minutes. Crust should be lightly browned.

Enjoy your pie and have a great Pi Day!

© Huffygirl 2012

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Save a life: Learn CPR


The universal AED sign, developed by the Inter...Today I’m taking a break from my usual satirical rants to talk about something serious.

This week I completed what was probably my 15th CPR certificate renewal class. For the last 3o-something years or so, I’ve taken BLS (basic life support) every two years, which includes CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). I have to take this class for my job, but I’d like to think that I would do it anyway.

I took my first CPR class in a Red Cross babysitting class in eighth grade. Back then, CPR was pretty new. There were a lot of rules of how to do it right and the class seemed pretty scary to a 12-year-old. We practiced on Resusi Annie, a life-sized model of a girl, who wore a blue track suit. The story was that Annie had died in a drowning accident, and her parents invented the CPR practice mannequin so people would know how to save drowning victims and prevent further tragedies. I never knew if this story was true, as we didn’t have Wikipedia back then.

Since then, CPR has come a long way. We now practice on mannequins that just have heads and chests – no arms or legs, no track suits. The CPR manual has gone from an inch-thick, technical manual, to 68 pages with color illustrations. The emphasis now is on doing CPR the best you can, and bringing an AED (automated external defibrillator) to the victim as soon as possible. We know now what we didn’t know 40-something years ago, that most cardiac arrest (unless caused by trauma) is caused by a bad heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, aka v-fib. The AED works by stopping the heart with a shock. When the heart restarts, hopefully it will restart in a normal rhythm. CPR helps keep oxygen circulating in the victim’s body until this happens.

In 2001, AEDs were starting to appear in many public buildings, but were still pretty new. I was a senior in my bachelor of nursing program. My project adviser was a physician on campus who questioned the feasibility of  installing AEDs in campus buildings. She was concerned about safety, liability and cost. For my project, I did an extensive report on why it was a good idea to have AEDs in campus buildings, and explored cost, training, safety and liability issues. She liked my report so much that she asked me to present it to the campus safety committee. The committee took my recommendations and  installed AEDs in campus buildings. There they sat for years, ready to go, but as far as  I know, like most AEDs , were unused. About ten years later, the university president emeritus had a heart attack while speaking at a campus event. Bystanders performed CPR, used the AED and revived him. My mom called me later that day and said “You saved the university president!”

Now AEDs are in most public buildings in the USA, including stadiums, airports, offices, museums, and grocery stores. Have you noticed them? Most of the time they are in a wall case, with a red or green sign like the one above stating  “AED here.” When you remove the AED from the case, an alarm is activated which sends more help, so in no time at all you’ll have other people there to help you with CPR.

What would you do if someone collapsed  at home or in a public building? Would you know how to help?  Save a life – learn CPR.

(Community CPR classes are offered through the Red Cross, hospitals, schools and community centers.)

© Huffygirl 2012

Bounty For All


aafad 245/365 too late ...

Why should football players have all the fun? Sure, they’re highly paid professionals, who’ve worked hard to get where they are today, yet still like to have a little “fun” in the process. But don’t you deserve to have “fun” too? After all, you’re a professional, accomplished business person. Probably not as highly paid as those NFL guys, but that’s about to change. Because now there’s Bounty Office.

Bounty Office lets you join in the same kind of good-natured workplace “fun” that NFL players enjoy every day. Bounty Office increases workplace productivity and office camaraderie by motivating workers to stay competitive and edgy in the workplace. Using financial incentives and other means, Bounty Office keeps workers sharp, not just from 9-5, but in the parking lot too. And on the way out to their cars. And in the restroom.

Best of all, you can start Bounty Office today at no cost to your company. Bounty Office is  an employee-financed incentive program. Once you form your Bounty Office “team,” coworkers buy-in to the incentive program, then start reaping the benefits. Bounty Office provides software to help you manage funds, track rewards, and plan future incentive programs.

Choose the level of Bounty Office that’s right for you. Small offices or those with older workers may want to start with Bounty Light. Bounty Light rewards workers for such things as cutting someone off at the copy machine, pushing past others at the time clock, and being first out of the parking lot at the end of the work day. Not enough challenge? Then try Bounty Goals. With Bounty Goals, your employees will work hard to “beat” out others for promotions, “battle” over vacant office space, and “throw down” for the last cup of coffee. Still not enough of a challenge? Then try Bounty Pro*. Bounty Pro challenges workers to bring their physicality and full-court press to each work day. Yes, once you sign up for Bounty Pro, you get to use words like physicality at the office every day, just like those other pros. With Bounty Pro, your workers will be watching their backs, and their rewards, 24/7. Workers will stay  alert, focused and on their toes with Bounty Pro.

Don’t be left out. Choose your participation level, then sign up for Bounty Office today.

*Offices using Bounty Pro are required to provide proof of full employee health insurance benefits at sign up.

(Disclaimer: This is a satire piece. Huffygirl does not mean to suggest that such bounty programs actually exist, because that would be wrong. Horribly wrong.)

© Huffygirl 2012

Save a dying art: sew your own throw pillows


Do not be alarmed. You have not accidentally stumbled onto Pinterest. Huffygirl’s Blog is not turning into a DIY site. This is temporary.

Last week I managed to clean and organize my sewing room enough to, well, unearth the sewing machine. After slogging through a pile awaiting  alterations, where I discovered that if it sits there long enough, you can just give it away because it’s no longer in style, or no longer fits, I decided to take some time out for something fun. For a little bit of time and money  (around $8.00 each) I made throw pillows to match the new colors in the sewing/guest/computer room. Here’s how to do it. You’ll need fabric (half a yard for a 14 inch pillow,) thread, pillow forms in whatever size you want, and a sewing machine. You can also recover  a throw pillow you already have instead of using a pillow form.

1. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise. You will be cutting through two layers of fabric at once. Mark the fabric with chalk or a pencil - one inch wider around than your pillow form. My pillows were 14 inches square, so I marked and cut a 15 inch square.

2. With right sides together, pin your fabric on three sides, and about one-two inches on each corner of the fourth side.  You’ll sew the rest of the fourth side later. Sew a 5/8″ seam around.

3. With the fabric still wrong-side out, put your pillow form inside to test the fit. If it is too loose, pin the seams to fit, remove the pillow and sew around again until you have a very snug fit. Leaving the fit too loose will make the pillow look sloppy.  Trim the seams to about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Fold over and iron the open edge so you’ll have a finished edge to sew up later.

5. Turn the pillow cover right side out. Use a pencil eraser end to push out the corners. Iron the fabric, then insert your pillow form. You’ll have to fold or squish it a little to get it in.  Fit the pillow form into the corners for a nice smooth fit.

6. Pin the remaining opening, and sew it closed  by hand, sliding the needle and thread under the folded edge so the stitches will barely show.

7. You are done! Start using your new pillows.

© Huffygirl 2012

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Indulge


A few years ago my husband and I took an indulgent get-away weekend in Chicago to celebrate a milestone birthday. Usually we are practical people who stay at Best Westerns, where we lug our bags ourselves up the back stairs from the parking garage, and eat breakfast from a cooler we brought from home. But this weekend was about celebration and indulgence. So we stayed at the Chicago Intercontinental Hotel, an exorbitantly lush historic building, restored to its original grandeur of when it was the luxurious Medinah Men’s Club,  with opulent ballrooms, a four-story foyer and a famously appointed Olympic sized swimming pool.

We, the people who usually spend our vacations slogging around on bikes until we’re sweaty and dirty, exploring out of the way shops and beaches and eating at local taverns and diners, allowed ourselves to be indulged. We let doormen hail us cabs and ate all our meals in restaurants. We shopped at Ann Taylor, the real one, not the Loft. We watched “Wicked” from pretty good seats; we slept in and stayed out late.

We had so much fun that we didn’t take time out to take photos, but did catch a few of the amazing swimming pool room. Considered an engineering feat when built in 1929, it is the only part that remains of the elaborate exercise facility once housed there. The pool room features Neptune’s fountain, hand-painted mosaic tiles, and stained glass windows. An elaborately tiled tiered seating area remains where spectators once gathered to watch the famous and not so famous in swimming competitions. The photos do not do it justice: you’ll just have to indulge yourself  and visit there to experience the true beauty of the building. (Or at least visit the website here!)

Tiered seating area

Overview of fountain and pool room

Close-up of Neptune's Fountain

© Huffygirl 2012