Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hometown Baghdad

This is a side of Iraq we don't see on the news. It's a blog and series of videos about a group of 20-somethings surviving in Baghdad. Check it out at Here's one of the videos...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm It!

I didn't make it to the safe zone in time. Dorky Dad has tagged me. His reason was "because he's curious." Well, he'll probably think I'm curious by the end. If I had to be tagged though, I like this one. I need to list seven songs I've been enjoying. But wait, just seven? I am a Mac person and have a hefty iTunes folder. In fact I recently bought an external hard drive to store said music among other things. How will I narrow it down? I'll try.

1. "Flathead" by The Fratellis. I have to admit I was sucked in by the iPod TV ad. Love the video too. It's fun to see something different. Have been playing this album quite a bit over the past week.

2. "I Cried Like A Silly Boy" by Devotchka. Heard this group described as "Eastern Block Indie Rock" which I think fits. I think it sounds like Roy Orbison feeling Bulgarian in Mexico. Most of the other tracks on this album have a strong mariachi sound to them. It's fun.

3. "In A Sentimental Mood" by John Coltrane. Out of the Jazz category I'd have to pick this one. Makes me want to pour a glass of wine and melt.

4. "Oelle como espíritu adolescente" by the Mandragora Tango Orchestra. I am so excited! I had no clue this was a local group! Hubby, I have a suggestion for a date night. And if you don't recognize the song title, it's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and it makes a beautiful tango arrangement.

5. "Black Coffee In Bed" by Squeeze. I used to have this album back in the day and this was one of my favorites. I was surprised to find the video on You Tube. I think the song has a much longer shelf life than that video. Ah, 1982, the year I graduated from High School.

6. "Cucurrucucu Paloma" by Caetano Veloso. He's a superstar in Brazil. I have no clue what he's singing but his voice carries me away. It has something to do with a bird.

7. "Diamond Day" by Vashti Bunyan. She's been a folk music icon in the UK since the late 60's but I just recently discovered her music. It's sweet and simple.

I'm going to slip in this last one too because I've listened to this more than the others in the past few days. It's the first little song I've learned on the new concertina. It's really bad but thought I'd share with you anyways. "Oro" by balou.

I'm going to break the rules a bit and say if you're reading this and want to be tagged, you're it!
Let us know in the comments if you choose to be tagged. If you don't want to be tagged, welcome to the safe zone.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Høre Norsk (Learn Norwegian)

I've been wanting to learn a second language for a long time and since I've decided I will visit Norway one of these days, Norwegian (Norsk) is going to be my second language. Strange though it may be, here's my thought process; since a number of my relatives originated from Norway, I believe my Norwegian instincts will kick in and I'll pick up the language quickly. You know, like how German Shepherds have an instinct for herding everything around them. You're all thinking "Is she serious?" No. Yes. Well maybe a little. Although it's not a controlled scientific study unless I have someone of non-Norwegian descent learning the language with me. Hubby is 100% English according to their family tree. Hey hubby! Want to perform a scientific experiment?

I went shopping on and the euroTalk interactive CD entitled "Learn Norwegian" arrived in the mail last week. The CD is impressing me so far. It's a combination of images with words, games and two different people pronouncing the words. I can also record my voice speaking the words and it replays with my recording followed by the proper pronunciation. At least one part of my instinct theory has been proven wrong. My tongue does not have the instinct for performing short rolling r's which is needed for some of the words I'm learning. Maybe my tongue is more German than Norwegian. I'll keep practicing.

"Takk" is Norsk for "thank you." "Tusen Takk" is "thank you very much." I mentioned the program uses images to aid in word recognition - here are the images they felt best described thank you and thank you very much...

I wonder what the pictures for "a good bank robber" and "a great bank robber" will be? I think there also may be a reason for the tongue depressor graphic behind the words. A graphic jab at my disabled tongue perhaps? I'll keep you up to date on my progress. Now, hvor er banken (where is the bank)?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ingrid returns!

My Ingrid is home! She was at her sister's out east for 2 months but now she is back! I missed her. I met Ingrid nine years ago when she came to one of my garage sales and she tried on clothes behind a pickup in the back of our pole barn. We talked for an hour.

She is an artist and creates wonderful, unique pottery in her barn-studio. Not long after that garage sale I began working for her sanding pottery. We got to know each other while chatting over clay dust. I don't think I ever received money from her but rather I worked in exchange for pottery. It's a true joy to be in her studio when Ingrid opens up a kiln to reveal her newly glazed creations. It's like Christmas and Ingrid is filled with child-like excitement every time.

Her art isn't limited to her pottery. She's also talented in drawing, painting, photography, fiber arts, and cuisine. You just can't help but be inspired by her creativity. She is a great friend that has helped open my eyes to art and how it exists in every corner of our lives. I am indebted to her forever for that gift.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Strange Sketch #2

Believe it or not, this does have a back story to it but it's just easier to send you to the source at Dorky Dad's blog about lobster lingerie.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fate, Sexual Predator and An Old Bag


Isn't it strange how fate works? I've been looking around on the internet for quite some time researching the concertina world. I've often visited the website of a musical instrument store in a nearby town. Fate led me there again last night while perusing the cyber world. I had never been to their bulletin board page and decided to click the link. On March 31st, a musician that teaches concertina in Chicago is holding a workshop just down the road. It's a 3 1/2 hour intensive Anglo concertina workshop and it said they will "have us playing tunes by the end." I'm not sure if they took into consideration a nine-fingered 40-something-girl with a 1 week old concertina attending the class when that statement was made. Regardless, I was on the phone with the owner of the shop at 8:56 a.m. and I am signed up! Isn't fate cool?

I found out today that a former co-worker was arrested for sexually abusing a minor. He is 65, she is 13 and there are more girls coming forward. It makes me sick to my stomach. It also didn't surprise me. He had this surface niceness about him but those gut instincts were right. He had a candy coated shell covering a twisted, evil soul. If he is truly guilty, there is no punishment on this earth that could ever equal the damage he has caused. My thoughts are with the girls and their families.

An Altoid scented sigh of relief was released by me in the office of our accountant as I set the yellow plastic bag of paperwork in a chair. I could hardly see him peeking over the stacks of manila folders on his desk. We've been taking our taxes to Ed for over 10 years. He's an old school accountant. No e-filing here. He still fills out our forms in long hand. He works his magic every year and we get nice returns that almost pay for our outrageously high Wisconsin property tax.

I have always used a bright yellow plastic bag with a CAT (Caterpillar) logo on the side to transport our paperwork to Ed. I didn't think I was going to fit it all in this year but I managed with only a couple of puncture wounds to the bag. We'll see how good Ed is at repacking! One year I walked in the door to hear the comment "Hear comes the Johnson* bag." To which I replied "Oh thanks! I'm an old bag now?" I made my accountant blush. Hopefully the bag will survive for next years trip to town.

*Johnson is an alias. I still like my anonymity.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

So happy I could jig!

It's on the way from Massachusetts! Should be arriving Monday or Tuesday! I'm so happy I could jig! What is it you ask? It's my next adventure. The fulfillment of a 2 year flame that hasn't burned out. The cause of my family and friends reply, "That's different." The reason my hubbie will need to stock up on earplugs.

Here it comes....

Are you ready?....

Ta daaaa!!!

It's that concertina thing. It's not quite the dream concertina I had initially hoped for but I'll start out with this baby.

Clipped Haiku

by balou

which one should I use
the good clip or beater clip
endless decisions

Friday, March 16, 2007

Big Sis' Birthday

Isn't she lovely? She was probably about this age when I was born. The photo Mom loaned me didn't have a date on the back so I'm not positive. Sister-N and I are 11 years apart. That meant when I was in elementary school, she was dating handsome high school boys and then going off to school and then to a new job.

She is my "water" sister because so many of my special memories with her seem to involve water. She taught me how to swim. I can remember hanging on for dear life until finally being convinced she would not let me sink. And all of the sudden I was floating on my back! Not long after she had me dog paddling like a pro. She also taught me how to water ski. The first time was at a cabin owned by a couple she babysat for. I don't believe I actually skied that time but it was my first try. Then there were the visits to her apartment with the wonderful beach out the back door. Making stinky snail shell necklaces, building sand castles and getting sunburn. She and her husband have lived on a lake all but a few years and their kids grew up like little fishes.

I wish the lake wasn't frozen and it was a warm sunny evening so we could cruise around the lake with a bottle of wine. Happy birthday sis & thanks for the love of the lake!

Cyber Cruising with Lifecruiser

Just in time for a much needed vacation, I'll be cyber-cruising with the gang over at Lifecruiser. Stop in. Today we board the ship in Sweden with Lifecruiser then it's off to Norway with my friend RennyBA and TorAa. More stops in Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA, Italy, Dominican Republic, Australia and one mystery destination! This is my first cruise so I'm learning the ropes, swabbing the decks and making espresso. I think there will be a lot of parties, smart talking and drinking involved. I've already danced with the very handsome Prince Carl Phillip of Sweden in the swankiest bar in Stockholm, Cafe´ Opera. Life could only be better if it were sans-cyber cyber-cruising.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rico Graduates! Hurrah!

"Super Shepherd" by Ken Bailey. Visit his wonderful artwork at
We visited his studio near the market in Seattle in December and I purchased this print.

Rico the wonder dog graduated from Obedience Level I tonight. No cap and gown were worn but many treats were given and barks were shared. We were all "tested" on sit, down, stand, stay, walking with a loose leash and come - then the dogs had to do these things too. ;)

In case you're new, Rico is our 10 month old German Shepherd. He first went to puppy class and now we just completed Level I Obedience. He is a very high energy dog and is quite a handful. When we first started classes he barked the entire time. The only time he didn't bark is when my hand was frantically shoving treats in his pie hole to shut him up. Thank goodness the instructor gave handouts because I hardly heard a thing the first two classes. Rico was so overjoyed with being with other dogs, he would totally ignore any attempts at obeying a command. He preferred to test my grip while he lunged to the end of the leash to play with the other dogs. My arms ached by the end of the first few classes.

I had thought maybe waiting for a while before the next round of classes would be a good idea. Maybe he would settle down a bit more and we could "home school" him in the meantime. But tonight he did something he hadn't done in all the classes. The instructor held Rico, I walked about 30 feet away and turned to look at him. I then did a little dance and song number called "Rico Come." It involves a high squeaky excited call, stomping of the feet, clapping the hands and zero pride. Lo and behold, he did it. Not running at the other dogs but right to me! And not just once, he did this twice. The second time I hid in the bathroom and called for him. Right to me again! It was then I realized he had made a lot of progress since those first few noisy and embarrasing classes. So, in two weeks we start Level II Obedience classes. To celebrate, Rico pooped in my van on the way home.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pretty Please?

Here it is, 11:00 pm but because of last nights "spring ahead" an hour, it should feel like 10:00 pm but right now I feel like it's 2:00 am. My inner clock always gets goofed up with the time change. Don't you wish they'd just get rid of Daylight Savings Time?

Hey GW! Can't you do some loopholey, flibbity-flabbity, wiggle-yer-nosey sort of thing with the rules and denounce Daylight Savings Time in the entire US? Maybe you can put a P.S. in fine print on the bottom of Scooter Libby's pardon? Pretty please GW? If you do, maybe I'll vote Republican in the next election. (Ow. My fingers burned a little when I typed that.)

Girls, Girls, Girls

Be sure to check out Actonbell's posts highlighting important women on her blog Tempest in a Teapot. It is Women's History Month after all.

on a side note...

This was on
PostSecret this week. They update every Sunday. I loved this one. (read ALL the text)

Planting seeds with Tick-Tock

I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday and a young girl of about 7 or 8 came up behind me with her purchase. She was holding a plastic toy alligator. I said "Oooo. That looks like a scary alligator." She held it up and said, "Look, it has a dime in it's mouth." I grinned and asked her if she knew the story about Peter Pan and the crocodile named "Tick-Tock" that had swallowed a clock. Her reply was "No, I haven't seen that one." I was saddened that her first interpretation of the word "story" was that of a video rather than a book. I hopefully put a seed in her by telling her she should ask her Mom or Dad to take her to the library and find a book about Peter Pan and Tick-Tock. Maybe she'll read the book before the more convenient DVD gets popped into the player. Are children's imaginations being muted by feeding them the visual images before they have a chance to create their own vision from words?

Thursday, March 08, 2007


An obvious lack of words this week on "born a girl." I have been swamped with work. As a self-employed graphic designer that's a good thing. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and I question my decision of going off on my own. It was nice when someone else took care of the paperwork, the sales calls, the money and the majority of the headaches. I would show up for work at 8 and leave at 5. There's a lot of pros and cons to working on my own.

Without the internet, I think I'd go stir crazy. In the beginning, I missed the human contact immensely. I pestered my friends by calling them probably much too often at first. I then discovered a couple of online communities of graphic designers and now feel like I have some co-workers. Designers are notoriously insecure about their own work and skills so it's important to have someone to bounce ideas off of and ask questions of.

At the old job I would print something out and on the way back from the printer stop at a cube and say "Does this look really crappy or just sort of crappy?" Poor Miss T sat next to the printer so she got the brunt of it. I would repay her by performing puppet shows with my desk toys for her over the wall of her cubicle. I miss the co-workers but overall, I wouldn't trade what and where I do for anything. For now anyways. ;)

I worked most of the night last night and am running on fumes. Sometimes this puts the creativity in high gear with me. I was full of good ideas this afternoon and while waiting for a CD to burn and a large file to print, I did a bit of doodling. From the sometimes strange and overtired brain of balou...

On the fridge

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Born in '32, figure it out

We celebrated my Mom's 75th birthday today. All the siblings & a few of their kids met up in St. Cloud, MN for lunch with Mom and Stepdad. We spent a couple of hours talking, eating and admiring her new shiny presents. It was a short, but nice celebration.

Mom turned 50 the year I graduated from high school. That's the age she is and always will be to me in my brain. It still throws me for a loop when I have to stop and realize that she can't do all the things she used to. I've told her this before and she says in some ways, she still feels 25. If only our bodies listened to our brains!

One of my favorite "Mom-ism's" is her answer to the question, "How old are you?" Her stock reply is "Born in '32, figure it out." So here's some interesting tidbits about the year my Mother was born and we all know it was 1932. ;)

in 1932...
  • Amelia Earhart is first woman to fly Atlantic solo.
  • Charles A. Lindbergh's baby son kidnapped, killed.
  • A first class stamp cost $.02.
  • Herbert Hoover was the president.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in November.
  • Unemployment reported at 24%.
  • The Kentucky Derby champion was "Burgoo King."
  • Earthquake kills 70,000 in Kansu, China.
  • Jazz composer Duke Ellington writes "It Don't Mean a Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing."
  • Jack Benny's radio show premieres.
  • Yankees win the 29th World Series.
  • Electric-eye enables typesetting machine to scan print without operator.
  • Radio City Music Hall opens in Manhattan.
  • Others born in '32: Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, Ted Kennedy, Debbie Reynolds, Jim Nabors, Della Reese, Peter O'Toole, Mel Tillis, Patsy Cline, Robert Reed (Brady Bunch Dad), Little Richard

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Open Wide

I had my bi-annual dental appointment last week. A couple of years ago my previous dentist semi-retired so I decided to switch to a closer dentist, Dr. "BCT".

At my first cleaning appointment in this office, the hygienist cleaned my teeth and gave me the "you must floss more often" speech while my eyes were tearing up from the picking and poking at my gums. That was my fault. I hadn't been to the dentist in over a year so the cleaning was particularly painful. She told me Dr. "BCT" was busy and asked if I wouldn't mind if Dr. "SH" would perform the exam this time. She also informed me Dr. "SH" was new to this office and since there was nothing hurting or questionable from the x-rays, I agreed.

Dr. "SH" came in, a young guy and obviously new to the profession as well as the office. He asked how I was doing in a timid voice and proceeded to put his hands in my mouth to examine the choppers. As soon as his hands touched my chin, my eyes darted to him then to the hygienist and my forehead formed it's "What the Hell?" creases. You see, Dr. "SH" stands for Dr. Shaky Hands. His hands were trembling in my mouth and dear God he had pointy metal poky things in there! I was startled, frozen in fear and silently decided at the first painful poke I was going to unclasp my death gripped fingers from the arm of the chair and pull his hands out of my mouth myself. Lucky for him he just looked around for a few seconds and was gone. After he left I told the hygienist that I did not want to see him again and to make sure I only see Dr. "BCT" in the future and explained why.

In case you're wondering, Dr. "BCT" stands for...

About 10 years ago, right before Christmas, I broke the crown on my front tooth tearing open a bag of dog food with my mouth. Hey, I was in a hurry, on my way to a Christmas party and frustrated with the mighty sealing powers of the dog food baggers. My regular dentist was closed and after making a few calls, I found one dentists office that would help me out.

I arrived and the hygienist brought me into the exam room. She proceeded to explain they were having their office Christmas party and apologetically told me the Dr. may smell of beer but assured me he has had only one. I think she had more than one at this point but I was desperate, in a good mood and just wanted some glue for my tooth.

In walks the dentist, Santa cap on his head, a big smile and a hilariously obnoxious blinking Christmas tie hence the name
Dr. "Blinking Christmas Tie." After a few jokes about opening dog food bags with my teeth and how funny my smile looked with that goofy stub under my crown sticking out, he put a couple dabs of glue on the crown and got me back into a socially acceptable holiday smile. Why I didn't switch dentists right then and there is still a mystery to me but I have now found my way back there again as a regular patient.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Beware of Snow Blindness

More snow today. This little guy in
my window box can attest to that.