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April 2010

Friday RoundUp: Quick Edition

I'm flying out the door in a few minutes -- to a conference.  A gardening conference!  I can hardly wait to fill my brain with new information from Michigan State University on . . . integrated pest management, weather and plants, identifying woody ornamentals, and the latest on invasives here in Michigan! 

In the meantime, we can't open our front door for a while. . .

April 29 10 001 

A Mama Robin has decided to make my wreath. . . her new home!  Look what's inside. . .

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In blooming news this week, we have trillium!

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And my neighbor's lilac!

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The next best thing to having a lilac bush of your own. . . is having your neighbor's lilac spill over your fence!  You get the beauty and the scent --- but you don't feel right about cutting a bouquet to take inside. . .

I planted peas this morning (better late than never is my motto!).

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My yard is not at all cut out for a traditional vegetable garden, so I'm being creative in planning a container garden for edibles.  First in . . . peas!


Yesterday, Jenny and I went on some errands.  I take her in the car with me whenever I have quick errands to run.  She loves to ride in the car (LOVES) -- and I needed to go to some of her favorite spots. 

First up. . . the drive-up window at the bank. 

Jenny on errands apr 29 10 001

When Jenny was a little puppy, she discovered that the bank was The Place to Be --- because the drive-up tube comes back with dog treats for good puppies!  Now, Jenny sits in the front seat rather patiently -- but never taking her eyes off the place where the tube comes back. 

And then. . . when the Tube o' Treats arrives. . .

Jenny on errands apr 29 10 002

Oh, Happy Day!

Then, we went to Petco to pick up some food.

Jenny on errands apr 29 10 004 

This is a fun place, because Jenny can shop with me.  She usually comes home with a rawhide chew (or two) that she picks out herself!  (The friendly check-out people give out treats at the counter, too).  It was an exciting day for Jenny.


Have a great weekend!  It's a great time to play in the dirt. . .

Simple pleasures

Wanna Play?

Remember when you were a kid. . . and you found a new kid somewhere?  At school, in your neighborhood, in the park?  You could just walk up and ask, "Wanna play?"  And you could be friends.  Or you could join a group of kids already playing somewhere by asking, "Can I play, too?"  And they'd usually let you join in.  Friendship is pretty simple for kids -- at least, it is until puberty sets in.

But then, as you move away from the playground, it becomes a little more tricky to just. . . join in.  Or, at least, it was for me.   My family moved - right as I was beginning junior high school - and I lost all my childhood friends just as I was entering the Puberty Tunnel (where you enter as one person. . . and exit as someone else altogether).  While I ended up with plenty of "situational friends" (you know -- swim team friends, science class friends, lunch table friends), I didn't have a group of "best friends."

Holland with ann 002

In fact, that would sum up the rest of my life.  Plenty of "situational friends" . . . but no real core group of "best friends."  And I was fine with that.  I had groups of friends anywhere I went --  and I had Tom, and my Mom, and my sister for the Real Stuff.

But something happened when I got cancer.  Most of my "situational friends" (hockey moms, choir moms, gym pals, neighbors) . . .  weren't in my "situation."  They remained supportive --- from a distance.  Several "situational friends" even faded from my life entirely.  At first, I was upset by this, but then I came to understand that not everyone - and especially friends that are really just on the periphery of your life to begin with - is able to deal with someone with a heavy, dreaded disease.  So when I was in treatment, I hunkered down with my family.  We kept close.  I remained private.  It worked for me.

Holland with ann 006

Cancer changed me in a lot of ways, though.  I would never say that having cancer was a "gift" (I Hate It when people say that. . .), although it has certainly been a catalyst for me.  I see things differently; I act differently; I think differently now.  I'm much more apt to speak up, act out, take a bite, smile at strangers, and. . . ask people if they. . . "Wanna Play?"

And, somehow, I'm attracting people who do.

Holland with ann 008

I have more friends - real friends; not just "situational" - than I have ever had in my life before.  The funny thing. . . is that most of these friends didn't know me BEFORE I had cancer!  They didn't know me with my old hair.  Lots of my new friends are dealing with cancer or other issues themselves.  Somehow, we're drawn to each other.  We've become a "posse."  We support each other, we share stories, we laugh, we gossip, we cry.  Most of all though, we remind each other that. . . there's a lot of life to be lived for all of us!

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My post today includes photos of my friend, Ann.  Ann begins chemo treatments for her breast cancer tomorrow.  We spent a day together earlier this week in Holland -- shopping for cool jewelry and scarves for Ann; checking out the tulips; freezing in the gusty wind at Lake Michigan; visiting a knitting shop.  It was a glorious day.  And it all came to be. . . because I asked Ann if she wanted to play.  And she did.

Holland with ann 020

That's what friends are for!

Lots of Pieces in April

Some background music. . .

(I apologize that this video is not. . . good.  I want to include the song in my post, but all of the Three Dog Night performance videos on YouTube are not embed-able.  This is the best I can do. . .)

(You know, nothing takes me back to junior high school quicker than a little Three Dog Night!  Oh, how I remember playing "Old Fashioned Love Song" over and over and over again on my little record player. . .)

For the entire month of April, I knit squares. 

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Little, mitered squares. . . pieces. . .that all joined together to make. . . a bag.

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A huge bag, actually.  Huge.  It's sort of like a formal feed sack. . .

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Let's just say. . . it'll hold a lot of produce when I take it to the farmer's market!

This project - the Net Duffel Bag by Vivian Hoxbro from the Spring 2009 Interweave Knits - was fun to knit, and enough of a challenge to keep me thinking all through the month of April.  My Ravelry project entry includes all the details -- and a lot of hints, should you decide to try one for yourself.

Pieces of april 028 

I'm happy that all my "pieces of April" are collected into one bag!


Just a little reminder -- Vote for Kalamazoo Central High School in the "Commencement Challenge!"  Only two days left!

Make a Difference - But Act Quickly!

As I write this post, there are just under 3 days and 13 hours left in a special vote that would make a huge difference in my community.  Kalamazoo Central High School, the most diverse high school in Western Michigan, is one of six high schools in the country vying to win the "Commencement Challenge" --- to have President Obama speak at their commencement exercises later this spring.

This is not my kids' school. . . but I hope you'll join me in voting for K-Central.  Just click in.  Watch the video.  Vote "5."  And let's see what happens!  Voting ends at midnight on the 29th.

(PS -- If you're a Yankees fan. . . this is Derek Jeter's high school.  And if you're a high school basketball fan, K-Central just won the State Championship here in Michigan.)

Friday Roundup: Blooming Edition

Every day, there seems to be something new blooming in my garden.

Brunnera and hellebores. . .

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crabapple. . .

Blooms april 22 008

fothergilla. . .

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Bradford pear. . .

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euphorbia. . .

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tulip. . .

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Lovely time of year!


Purchase of the Week #1:

My best gardening pal, Sandie, and I took a road-trip to one of our favorite West Michigan nurseries today.  I couldn't resist this planter!

Tea cup planter 001 

I'm not sure what I'll plant in here, yet, but I'm thinking. . . maybe an assortment of tea-making herbs!


Purchase of the Week #2:

Look what I found at Eddie Bauer this week:

EB Vest 007 

I love this vest!  It's 55%linen/45% cotton; it looks great dressed up or down - with long sleeves, short sleeves, or no sleeves.  It has a tie belt -- and even looks good tied in front.

EB Vest 005 

I know I'll wear it a lot.  Hmmmmmm.  Maybe I should go back and pick up the green one, too. . .


In the Guilty-Pleasures category. . . I enjoyed watching the finale of Project Runway last night.  I was excited that the Nice Guy won!  (He's been my favorite all along. . .)



Trillium watch:

Getting close to bloom-time.

Blooms april 22 011 


Have a terrific weekend!  Continue to celebrate Earth Day. . .


An EARTHY Anniversary

Today is Earth Day.  In fact, it is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day!  Let's begin the celebration with one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs. . .

I remember the very first Earth Day --- way back in 1970.  I had just turned 11, and I was very tuned in to the new environmental movement (only, back then, it was really a "fight pollution" movement).   I remember being absolutely stymied that rivers could catch fire; I remember working with my fifth grade class to write letters asking city leaders to install trash bins in parks and on downtown streets; I remember ad campaigns like "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute!"

and the Native American sadly paddling his canoe through a polluted river. 

Earth Day was a Big Deal to me then -- and it's still a day I celebrate.

This year, one of my personal goals is to "do whatever I can to reduce my carbon footprint."  I thought I would use this day to show you 10 things I'm doing to forward that goal -- and to try to convince you to join me!  Small actions can make a big difference . . . over time. . . and if enough people join the effort.

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1.  I use re-usable bags whenever I shop.  When I first started doing this - a few years ago - my family thought I was a bit crazy.  But not anymore!  I always keep a bunch of bags in my car, so I have them with me whenever I'm out shopping.  Although I do have several store-brand bags from different shops, these are my all-time favorites!  They are GREAT for a full load of groceries.  If you like to sew, here's a site that offers FREE patterns to make your own re-usable bags.  And, if you knit, there are many great market bag patterns on Ravelry.

Earth day 008

2.  I use the cold water setting for all my laundry.  I used to think that my clothes wouldn't be as clean or soft if I used cold water, but I tried it, and I don't notice a difference at all.  According to TheDailyGreen, 90% of washing machine energy goes into heating the water.  So . . . if you don't heat the water. . . you use less energy.

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3.  I pay attention to the types of cleaning products I use.  Whenever possible, I use cleaning products that are non-toxic.  (I like the Method brand of products.)  I also use washable and re-usable towels, mop covers and, rags; and I avoid paper towels and one-use wipe products.

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Earth day 004

4.  I use CFL light bulbs and rechargeable batteries. . . most of the time.  When we do use regular batteries in our house, we recycle them.  We just put our used batteries in a designated box, and then recycle when the box gets full.  Same with used CFL bulbs -- we save them, and then recycle them at our local Lowe's store.

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5.  I drink tap water and take it along with me in a reusable water bottle.  Sure, purchased bottled water is convenient.  But it isn't good for the environment, and it isn't any healthier for you than tap water.  It's expensive, wasteful, and draws attention away from public systems. 

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6.  I recycle.  I've been recycling since my kids were very, very small.  We're fortunate to have curbside recycling in our community, so it's hassle-free.  We also have a bottle-deposit law in effect here in Michigan, so we recycle our bottles separately.  We shred documents and paper --- which I recycle in my compost bin.  I've already talked about recycling batteries and CFL bulbs.  I re-use plastic bags (for packing materials), wrapping paper and gift bags; I give unwanted-but-still-usable items to Goodwill and other charitable organizations.  It's easy to recycle -- once you make the commitment to keep things out of your trash can!

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7.  And speaking of keeping things out of the trash. . . I am the Queen of Compost!  I keep a small compost bin under my kitchen sink (lined with biodegradable liners -- made of cornstarch), and add food scraps, coffee filters, tea bags, peelings, etc. (but never meat).  When the small bin gets full, I take it outside and empty it into my big compost bin.  My garden is happy; my trash can is light.

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8.  I plan my driving carefully -- by grouping my errands and taking as few trips as possible.  I also try not to sit and wait anywhere with my car idling, because that's a huge gas drain. 

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9.  I "eat local."  I'm paying attention to where my food comes from, and I'm supporting local growers.  I frequent my local farmer's market and the local produce section of my grocery store.  I pay attention to what's currently in season when I'm planning my menus.  And - I'm growing my own food, too!  My yard is not set up very well for hard-core vegetable gardening (too shady and hilly), but this year, I'm growing vegetables in containers (more on that in posts to follow).  This book - The Bountiful Container - is an excellent resource if you're interested in growing your own food - but you don't have the space for a "real" garden.

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10.  I am learning to live with weeds!  Improper fertilization and lawn pesticide use causes surface and groundwater contamination.  I don't need a golf-course-perfect lawn.  I do need clean, safe drinking water.  Learn the proper, safe ways to keep your lawn looking good -- without contributing to water problems.

Happy Earth Day!  Don't it always seem to go. . . that you don't know what you've got til it's gone!

Hey! Hey! We're the Monkees!

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, you can find me in a high-impact aerobic dance class taught by Killer Kathe.  Now, Kathe is no Young-Think-in-Spandex; she is, though, THE Poster Child for Fitness-Over-50.  Kathe is in her early 50s, she's fit, she's active, she's creative, and she's a little bit crazy (actually, once the endorphins kick in, she's a LOT crazy).  It's a very fun class - a full hour of high impact cardio complete with jumps, spins, and kicks.

The rest of the people in my class are an eclectic mix.  Mostly, it's women - about my age, but there are a surprising number of men.  Lots of my classmates are retired; some work in health care-related fields, so have flexible hours; but a lot of us are stay-at-home-moms who just never quite found full time employment as our kids grew up.  We've all been dancing together for a long time, so we tend to be a pretty fit group.  We have fun together, we care about each other, and we laugh a lot -- AFTER working up quite a sweat.

Today, during the cool down portion of the class, Kathe had us do something she does every now and again.  She had us all line up at the back of the room to do the "Monkee Walk."  Now, I know that many of you who read this blog will know EXACTLY what that is. . .  but, just in case you don't, here's a quick tutorial:

(Hint: The "Monkee walk" happens at :05 of the video clip.)

Anyway, Kathe has us do this every once in a while, and we all know what she wants us to do.  Today, though, one of my fellow class members - Beth - turned to me afterward and said, "I don't think that's really how monkeys walk, do you?"

My jaw dropped.  She had never heard of the Monkees.  She thought it was the "monkey walk."  She is 35.

We're the young generation. . .and we've got something to say!!!!!


Soundtrack today. . .

Ever since he was a young boy. . .  he played the silver ball. . .

Pinball at the zoo 027

Tom is many things.  Chemist.  Fisherman.  Runner.  Beer snob.  Hockey fan.  Curler.  Sudoku master.  Frisbee player.  Foodie.  Writer.  Father. 

But before he was any of those things. . . he was a Pinball Wizard!  Apparently, as a boy, he saved all his money (from paper routes and his allowance and lawn mowing) to play pinball.  And, well, some things never fade away.  So, last Saturday, I took him to Pinball at the Zoo -- a pinball convention held right here in Kalamazoo.*  (We had to sift ourselves through the patrons of the Antique Show and those of the Exotic Reptile Show being held in the same venue!)

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It was heaven for Tom -- and for all the other Pinball Geeks (most of them men. . . of a certain age).

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(That's the Pinball Wizard, himself, there -- 2nd from the right -- wearing a brown ball cap.)

Now, we haven't been to an event in a long, long time that required a wristband. . .

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but this wristband entitled us to play any pinball game in the show -- because all the games were set for free play.  It was amusing for me to watch the guys -- all jockeying for their shot at the games.  They were trying to be polite; they were taking turns; it was a very civilized kind of playtime.  But.  You could see it in their eyes.  Must.  Touch. The. Flippers.  Now!!!!

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Some of the machines were very "old school."

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There were several vendors selling parts and pieces and bulbs and springs, and there was plenty of repairing and fine-tuning going on.

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I'm always amazed by "The Women of Pinball". . .

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(Analyzing this topic - in tandem with with it's video game cousin - seems like it might be the perfect cultural studies/English/gamer-girl's ticket to graduate school. . .)

Saving the best for last, Tom got to try out a Brand New Pinball Game!!!  This one did NOT feature big-busted woman. . . but it did appeal to another part of a man's brain with . . . Big Guns.  The game was called Big Buck Hunter Pro, and even I must admit, it was pretty darn entertaining!  Pinball games have come a lot way over the years.

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Tom especially loved the multi-ball action on this game! 

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It was a great afternoon -- even if I don't play pinball.  It was fun to watch Tom.  He. . . sure plays a mean pinball!

*In Kalamazoo, the term ". . .at the Zoo" is horribly overused.  I guess it can't be helped, when the name of your community is so, well, obviously suited to clever linkages and naming opportunities.  I mean, we have "This at that Zoo," "That at the Zoo," "Whatever at the Zoo," . . . you name it, it happens "in the Zoo."

Because the Day is Slipping Away

I had other plans for a post today.  But the day is slipping away.  And Kool Kat started something.  So I'm going to copy her.

A Meme:

  1. Do you like bleu cheese?  I do!
  2. Have you ever smoked? Just a bit; in college - mostly in social situations where I wanted to look cooler than I felt.
  3. Do you own a gun?  No.
  4. Favorite type of food?  I can't even begin to answer this one.  I like food as a broad category, and can't really narrow it down to a "type."
  5. Favorite type of music?  Can't answer this one, either.  Maybe that's why my iPod has over 3,000 songs. . .
  6. What do you think of hot dogs?  I like grilled hot dogs with just plain mustard and dill pickle relish. 
  7. Favorite Christmas movie?  Love Actually.
  8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?  Coffee with cream.
  9. Can you do push ups?  You bet I can!  I did 25 this morning!
  10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?  I wear my wedding/anniversary ring every day, but my favorite piece ever is was a handmade blown-glass heart (thanks, Tom) on a gold chain.  I still feel terrible that I lost it.
  11. Favorite hobby?  Knitting, gardening, reading, photography.
  12. Do you have A.D.D.?  No.
  13. Do you wear glasses/contacts?  Contacts. . . and cheaters.
  14. Middle name?  Ann.
  15. Name three thoughts at this exact moment:  I really should complete my presentation for tomorrow; I need to spray paint some buckets; I wish Brian's car was ready to be picked up so I didn't have to drive him to school in the morning.
  16. Name three drinks you regularly drink:  Tea, coffee, wine, water.  (I can count; but I can't limit my drinks to three.)
  17. Current worry?  Will the Red Wings ever get their act together this season?
  18. Current hate right now?  Leaders thinking only for the short-term, with no regard for long-term solutions.
  19. Favorite place to be?  Anywhere - with the people I love.
  20. How did you bring in the new year?  At home with Tom.
  21. Someplace you’d like to go?  Paris, Nova Scotia, Sweden, Italy, back to Belize.
  22. Name three people who will complete this.
  23. Do you own slippers?  Yep.
  24. What color shirt are you wearing?  Burgundy.
  25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?  I'm not sure I have ever tried that.
  26. Can you whistle?  Yes, but I'm not as good as my Dad!
  27. Where are you now?  In my home office.
  28. Would you be a pirate?  No.  I'm neat and I like order, plus I'm pretty law-abiding.  But I'd like to learn pirate songs.  And maybe drink rum.
  29. What songs do you sing in the shower?  I talk to myself in the shower, but I don't sing there.
  30. Favorite girl’s name?  Kelly.  (Tom wouldn't go for it, and Erin is glad.)
  31. Favorite boy’s name?  Michael.  (If we'd used that one, it would've sounded too much like "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" when combined with our last name.  Couldn't have that, now!)
  32. What is in your pocket right now?  Nothing.
  33. Last thing that made you laugh?  Something Erin said on the phone a while ago.  
  34. What vehicle do you drive?  2005 Subaru Forester.
  35. Worst injury you’ve ever had?  Once I had a couple of stitches in my finger, but other than that, I haven't had any injuries.  I have, though, had cancer.  Does that count?
  36. Do you love where you live?  I do!  I love Michigan.
  37. How many TVs do you have in your house?  Three.
  38. How many computers do you have in your house?  Two.  One is really,really ancient. . . and the other is nearing the end of it's life. 
  39. If you changed your job, what would it be?  I would be a garden designer!
  40. If you had three wishes what would they be?  To squeeze all I can out of every day; to do what I can to make a difference in the world; and for Good Things to happen for the people I love.
Back to my regular posting tomorrow!

Friday Round Up: Tech Edition

Earlier this week, Norma blogged about her laptop mishap.  Seems she had several things to load into her car, and forgot that her laptop was still . . . well, not packed.  She inadvertently drove over her computer, as it lay in the driveway - waiting to be loaded into the car.  It could happen to anyone. 

I wish it could happen to me.

Computer 001 

In fact, what I would like to do - Very Much - is to take my computer and throw it in the driveway.  No.  That is not strong enough.  I would like to hurl my computer with all of my strength into the pavement of my driveway.  (There.  Better.)  And then, I'd like to drive over it -- back and forth.  Many Times.  And I would laugh while doing it.  Maniacally.

Yes.  I'm having computer problems.  They've been . . . festering. . . for quite some time.  But now, I'm at that point where Something is Seriously Wrong.  The computer is old now -- probably 4 years -- so it is time to replace it.  Past time, actually.  But just the thought of setting up a new system is enough to make me queasy.  (iTunes alone makes me shudder in fear. . .)

I'm getting signals, though, that the end is near.   I'm taking drastic action.  I've already backed up my entire hard drive (wow -does THAT take a lot of time!), and this weekend I'll have Tom and Brian sync their iPods -- in case we're out of the music business for a while. 

And I've started to shop for a new computer.

I'm liking this one.  Any suggestions?  (Please don't suggest a Mac.  I know.  I know.  But at this stage, I'm just thinking it will be easier for me if I stick with the tried-and-true PC.)  I'm ready to make the switch to a laptop, but I'd actually prefer a desktop model with a big screen -- especially if it could double as an HDTV with DVR! (What I'd really like is such a desktop AND a small laptop. . .)

So.  If I disappear for a few days, send up a smoke signal.  It will mean that my computer died before I could replace it.  Either that. . . or I ran over it out in the driveway.


This comic appeared in our paper the other day.

Zits comic 

This is SO my life!  I haven't seen anything else that captures Life With an 18-Year-Old Son quite so well as this particular comic.


Last Friday I showed you a picture of what I was hoping was trillium, appearing in my garden.  Well.  Here's an update:

Trillium apr 16 001 

Definitely trillium!


Looking for a quick way to do some good? 

Stamp out hunger 

The US Postal Service is holding their annual Stamp Out Hunger canned food drive to benefit local food banks on Saturday, May 8.  All you need to do is set out a bag of healthy canned goods for letter carriers to pick up with your mail.  Click here for more information.


And, finally, some mind candy for Friday. 

Spring poem 

Enjoy the weekend!