Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Love My Oreck

I find it helps to verbalize one's gratitude. I find that sincerity grows each time I say, "I appreciate that..." or "I am grateful that...". Usually I am grateful . In fact, 99.999999% of the time, I am really truly honestly being grateful.

Sometimes though when it comes to my house, I am searching for the things that I can say with certainty I really do appreciate.

Today, I will share with you one thing that I have known for sometime, but feel compelled to publicly acknowledge.

I like the fact that when I plug in my vacuum cleaner, I can clean every square inch of my first floor without having to unplug and re-plug the vacuum into another outlet.  I can clean our living room, entry way, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and three bedrooms in one shot.

And with the Oreck, I can transition from rug to hardwood floor to the ugly retro linoleum in the kitchen without changing a thing.  It just glides from one surface to another.

Is this starting to sound like an infomercial? Well, it's not supposed to. But, for just 4 EZ payments, you too could have an Oreck...

Just kidding, I actually do like the vacuum we chose at Target and this one came with a small hand held one with attachments. This smaller one is our "basement" vacuum.  It works just as well and could probably perform the same feat as the main floor one...hitting the entire floor in one shot. I have yet to try thought as I still have the dark scary laundry room corners that I just can't reach or don't want to try to reach every time I plan to vacuum.  Maybe in a couple years I will be ready for that.

Then I will have more to choose to be grateful for.

Oh, and did you know that Mr. Oreck is from a town near Duluth?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eight Little Words

Once in awhile I read Mary Hunt's advice in her weekly (maybe daily?) article published in our local paper titled Everyday Cheapskate. Often I find her advice on money and habits of thinking about money very helpful. This one captured my attention. She claims, "The secret for living below your means: Buy what you need; want what you have."

And those, my friends, are the eight little words to live by.

I repeat: Buy what you need; want what you have.

She goes on, "We need to take back control of our thoughts and actions from the culture around us, which works so hard to manipulate our actions. Recognize when you're being manipulated into buying something you don't really need. What's driving your decision? Can you really afford it? Do you even want it?"

One way I see the impact from "the culture around us" is to pay attention to the feelings I have as I leave the shopping mall, which is a rare occurrence because of soon-to-be-described feelings.  I can sometimes take on a feeling of dissatisfaction or saddness about the closet I am going home to upon leaving a shopping trip.  I trace back the feeling to a thought and can usually see that the thought behind the feeling is one like, "In order to be beautiful, I need to have an outfit that fits the trend of this month. Look, it's even on sale." Or, "In order to be a 'hip' looking mom, I need to have such and such to pull it off." Even a more fundamental thought, "I ought to be a 'hip' mom."  Thankfully, I am fairly tuned in to the pulls of advertising and marketing that lure my thoughts and spending to successfully accomplish their purpose.  I am also the first to admit that the retail world isn't all evil. Everyone has to market themselves well to earn money. I understand that. However, I think it is worthwhile to really recognize the artificial environment created in order to obtain business. It just helps to admit what you see and do a quick check, a few seconds of reflection. Mary's questions above are a start.

I have come to see that a period of waiting, even a few days can clarify my real intentions for a purchase or help me better answer the questions once I am back in my normal environment.

Okay.  Let me think about an actual temptation I deal with. I have these.
I want these. (I sneaked paparazzi style into my neighbor's yard and zoomed to capture a shot of these roses over her neighbor's fence.)
These pictures don't quite make the point, but you get the idea. I would love the larger blooms, the fragrance, the beauty of my neighbor's roses over my puny, non-fragrant current ones in the back yard.  Does this mean I take out the ones I have, purchase a new plant and patiently watch it grow to what I really desire? I'm not sure.  Even having the means to do such does not mean I have to do it.

I think I will have to wait and see. Ask myself the tough questions. And answer truthfully. Yikes. I may never have anything new ever ever ever again. Help!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Mix of Culture, Art and Play

We recently went on an outing...all the way to Eagan to visit the Caponi Art Park and Learning Center.  Mr. Caponi, an Italian immigrant, artist and professor, lives here and has created a space for exploration and learning.  It is kind of surreal to be picnicking in what is really someone's back yard, but cool at the same time. The grounds are just open to plopping down wherever you want and eating, playing, resting, etc. We ate and played on the grounds together, then explored the sculptures all over the property. I found the park to be perfect for kids...not so huge that you lose them, but big enough so they can run off and check the scenery out for themselves. It also provided for the opportunity to appreciate sculpture. "What are sculptures?", I was asked on our way there. Wait. You've seen sculptures before. Right?  How many times have we been to the MIA (another free and open to the public destination)? Anyway, I think this trip solidified it for them.  The park also invites artists and performers in for entertainment. Family Fun Tuesdays continue throughout the summer. A place to check out!

Here are the girls with the artist and park resident, Mr. Caponi, whom we met cruising around on his golf cart.
Here's Kate in front of his house. See, you really get close to their private life. It's really not so private. Interesting.
There are hills to enjoy...
And paths to explore...
What's this one all about?
"Hey, its Count Olaf's eye!" declares my daughter.
"And this one shows the remains of the volcano eruption in Pompeii. Remember, we learned about that in school."  Gotta love the classical education.
And my favorite...the snake. Yes, I said the snake. I know, I have a major dis-like for the animal. But, this built into the hill sculpture captured my attention. In a good way.

I just love bringing the girls to new places and watching the wonder, the play, the imagination, the joy. Summer outings are the best!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

To Honor Our Country's Birthday

The promised flag story written by my Great Uncle Gerald Heaney.

My Special Flag

The war in Europe was over. The Russians decided that they should have a victory parade in Prague. Not to be outdone, the Americans decided to have a victory parade in Pilsen. The American High Command decided that the 2nd Ranger Battalion should lead the parade. The problem was we didn't have a flag. Our Commander Officer, Colonel Arnold, ordered me to find a flag - not an easy assignment. No American unit wanted to give us a flag, so my only alternative was to have one made. I searched the city for someone who would sew a flag, but no one had the cloth.

Sergeant Yates and I went into Prague to find someone. We drove up and down those streets with no success. Years of war and rationing had taken their toll. Finally, we found a seamstress shop operated by two ladies who were honored to sew the flag. Working all that day and night, they completed the flag by the time we returned the next day. They refused to take money for their work.

It was a glorious flag. We carried it proudly in the victory parade and were the envy of all other units.

When the parade was over and we returned to the bivouac area, I retrieved the flag from the men who carried it, folded it properly, placed it in my foot locker, and brought it home.

I have flown the flag on many occasions and have told its history to many groups. That flag is my most precious possession. It is a constant reminder to me of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many of my friends and fellow soldiers in the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

And, here are some fun facts about July 4 from the US Census Bureau.  Happy Independence Day!

The Fourth of July 2010

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million

In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.

309.6 million
The nation's estimated population on this July Fourth.


$3.0 million

In 2009, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($2.5 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.


Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2009. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $333,882 worth.

$301.5 million

Annual dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation's manufacturers, according to the latest published economic census data.


$209 million

The value of fireworks imported from China in 2009, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($217 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $42.9 million in 2009, with the United Arab Emirates purchasing more than any other country ($14.5 million).

$331.4 million

The value of U.S. manufacturers' shipments of fireworks and pyrotechnics (including flares, igniters, etc.) in 2007.

Patriotic-Sounding Place Names


Number of places nationwide with "liberty" in their name. The most populous one as of July 1, 2008, is Liberty, Mo. (30,568). Iowa, with four, has more of these places than any other state: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty.
  • Thirty places have "eagle" in their name -- after the majestic bird that serves as our national symbol. (Places include cities, towns, villages and census-designated places.) The most populous such place is Eagle Pass, Texas, with 26,668 residents.
  • Eleven places have "independence" in their name. The most populous of these is Independence, Mo., with 110,440 residents.
  • Five places adopted the name "freedom." Freedom, Calif., with 6,000 residents, has the largest population among these. (This population total is as of the 2000 Census; no population estimate is available for Freedom because it is a census designated place.)
  • There is one place named "patriot" -- Patriot, Ind., with a population of 189.
  • And what could be more fitting than spending the Fourth of July in a place called "America"? There are five such places in the country, with the most populous being American Fork, Utah, population 27,064.

Early Presidential Last Names


Ranking of the frequency of the surname of our first president, George Washington, among all last names tabulated in the 2000 Census. Other early presidential names that appear on the list, along with their ranking, were Adams (39), Jefferson (594), Madison (1,209) and Monroe (567).

The British are Coming!

$93.2 billion

Dollar value of trade last year between the United States and the United Kingdom, making the British, our adversary in 1776, our sixth-leading trading partner today.

Fourth of July Cookouts

More than 1 in 4

The chance that the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to 18.9 million hogs and pigs on March 1, 2010. This represents more than one-fourth of the nation's total. North Carolina (9.1 million) and Minnesota (7.2 million) were the runners-up.

6.5 billion pounds

Total production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2008. Chances are good that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for about one-sixth of the nation's total production. And if the beef did not come from Texas, it very well may have come from Nebraska (4.6 billion pounds) or Kansas (3.9 billion pounds).


Number of states in which the value of broiler chicken production was $1 billion or greater between December 2007 and November 2008. There is a good chance that one of these states -- Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi or Texas -- is the source of your barbecued chicken.

About 1 in 3

The odds that your side dish of baked beans originated from North Dakota, which produced 34 percent of the nation's dry, edible beans in 2009. Another popular Fourth of July side dish is corn on the cob. Florida, California, Georgia, Washington and New York together accounted for 66 percent of the fresh market sweet corn produced nationally in 2009.

Please Pass the Potato Salad

Potato salad and potato chips are popular food items at Fourth of July barbecues. Half of the nation's spuds were produced in Idaho or Washington state in 2009.

More than three-fourths

Amount of the nation's head lettuce production in 2009 that came from California. This lettuce may end up in your salad or on your burger.

7 in 10

The chances that the fresh tomatoes in your salad came from Florida or California, which combined accounted for 70 percent of U.S. fresh market tomato production last year. The ketchup on your burger or hot dog probably came from California, which accounted for 95 percent of processed tomato production in 2009.


The state that led the nation in watermelon production last year (818 million pounds). Other leading producers of this popular fruit included California, Georgia and Texas, each with more than 500 million pounds.

76 million

Number of Americans who said they have taken part in a barbecue during the previous year. It's probably safe to assume a lot of these events took place on Independence Day.

Bubbling Wizard's Brew

Well I got the inevitable summer time question the other day. "I'm bored. What can I do?"  I steered bored daughter to Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do and said, "Pick out a project. Go for it."

So, she chose this one.
 She got all excited and collected the necessary items. "Just one problem, mom. I don't know where we keep the vinegar." Right here," I say, "under the kitchen sink." It was next to the gin bottle filled with dish soap, also on her list.
What happened next was pure magic - all three joining in to watch the brew bubble, spill and swirl. As you can see, they soon discovered that adding more baking soda, then adding more baking soda yielded more bubbling and spilling. Notice the teamwork with Wizard #2 holding the book so Wizard #1 can easily read the instructions?  All their idea. I was only on hand to snap some pictures. I happened to be very distracted during this time while watching American tennis pro Andy Roddick go down in flames in the round of 16 at Wimbeldon. Darn. I really wanted him to make it to the finals and repeat the showdown with Federer, who left England for home early too as it turns out. So, maybe next year I'll get my showdown.

But, back to the teamwork. I practically expected the girls to circle up, put their hands in the middle, raise them high and shout "Go Team!"  They are known to do this while eating popsicles. It's really cute to watch the six kids of the hub do it altogether.
As I continue to watch Roddick die a slow death, I start to hear from the dining room, "We're mad scientists." "Yeah, let's be the kids from Nanny McFee."  And, "Let's blow up Saturn."  And, "Let's be those robbers who steal....."

Wait. What was going on in there?

Let's just say the imagination ran wild and we had swirling, giggling, and stories becoming more bizarre with each stir of the spoon.
Did I mention it's good to have a rimmed baking sheet for this project?  Well, they come in handy. Good thing I got one for Christmas or we'd have bits of Saturn all over the floor.

I wonder what will happen the next time I hear, "I'm bored. What can I do?"