Sunday, November 29, 2015

Giving Thanks

We had our Thanksgiving dinner.
Gary joined us.   I had some spare Christmas crackers from last year, so, as it feels like Christmas, we pulled them.
It is always fun reading out the silly jokes and wearing paper hats.
I think Lauren's was a bit big.

I cooked enough for an army, but then I usually do.
I find it very difficult to cook for smaller numbers.  Nothing goes to waste though.  I sent Gary home with another dinner and the leftovers are now all gone.

Yesterday we went to the Christmas craft fair and, to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed.
There wasn't quite as much variety as we have seen in recent years.
But, it is one of our traditions, so after two turns round the fair we bought a couple of things, then had our cappuccino (way too sweet) and went to buy a Christmas tree.
We got a beauty.
We go to the same store every year.  They seem to have the best trees.

We brought it home on the roof of the car and Philip got it into the tree stand.
I gave it water and tree food and we allowed it to rest over night.
Today, Sunday, Philip and Lauren have been busy putting, what seems like, a million lights on it.
Tomorrow I will begin the task of decorating it.......if I can find room between the lights.
We have finished our outdoor display and actually lit it all for the first time last night.
It does look good.
While we were doing it, one of our neighbours came past walking his dog. He stopped to chat and said that he looks forward to our garden display every year and really enjoys it.
How cool was that?  Such a nice thing to say.
We saw a car stop outside our house last night and the people were looking at our Christmas display.
We've never noticed that before.
We have gone, even more, overboard this year.  We have the front and the side of the house decorated, numerous lighted sleighs, Santas, reindeer, Christmas trees, ermmmmmmmmm oh a lighted mailbox with Snoopy on top. It opens and Woodstock pops out........and quite a few more.
Philip even bought one of the new projector thingies which projects swirling snowflakes over the walls of the house.  It even changes colours.  He got it for $19.99 in the sales.

I will take some photos ......of course.

TommyJones wore my Christmas hat.
He didn't think much of it I think.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Decked out

Do you like my Christmas hat?
It is just a dear little one.

Lauren is off school this week as it is Thanksgiving tomorrow.
I have mentioned this before, but it really is a big deal over here.  For families it is bigger than Christmas.
People will travel right across this huge country to be together on Thanksgiving Day and have the equivalent of one of our Christmas Dinners.
People really, really stress out about it.  Hosting Thanksgiving Day is something of a nightmare....or so it would seem.
Anyway,  here in the Banks household, we do have a Thanksgiving dinner, although ours does have roast potatoes and yorkshire puds.
They don't do those here.
We don't have turkey, as that is our Christmas meal, we usually have roast pork (not me I am a veggie....I have Quorn).  This year, Donna and Lauren's first experience of Thanksgiving, Donna expressed a desire to have roast lamb.
Ye gods.....trying to buy lamb is like trying to find hen's teeth here.
We eventually found some and we are now having roast pork and roast lamb (which was bloody expensive).
Gary will be here too for dinner and I doubt he has ever tasted lamb.  It will be interesting to see what he makes of it.

Lauren has been helping (bossing me about) with the Christmas decorations indoors.  I like to get some (most) of them up before Thanksgiving as we put up so many it takes ages.
So, we have made quite a good start.
The Christmas Craft & Gift Fair is on at the favourite.  We shall probably go on Saturday and then afterwards we will buy our Christmas tree.
Lauren has already put up our artificial one in the basement and tinselled everything that stands still long enough.
I love the gift fair but I am always sad afterwards as it over and I won't go for another year.

And finally............a certain young man has changed his facebook status to declare that he is now in a 'relationship' with a certain person in this house.........uh oh indeed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

It's Herererererererrerre.

Well Donna got her wish at last.
She has been a bit miffed because, up until now, the weather here has been rather mild.  Well, for us it has been mild.
We were warned days ago that this snow storm was coming.
The amount of snow varied every time we heard the news. They said it would begin in Milwaukee at 9pm last night.
At 8pm we were at Walmart shopping for big coats and snow boots.
We got Lauren both coat and boots but could only find boots for Donna.  When we came out of Walmart the sky seemed clear......not a snowflake in sight.
Donna was very miffed.
"Just like England",  she remarked, " they keep telling us we will be getting tons of snow, but we rarely get any.".
Philip and I exchanged glances.
That doesn't really ever happen here.
We got home and at almost exactly 9pm, she was looking out the window, when she squealed, "it's snowing!"
And so it was.   And so it did.  And so it still was when we got up in the morning.  And so it continued all day.
The good part is that the temperatures are not brutally cold yet.  So, if you wanted to, you could go out in it.
We didn't though.  We stayed in, well most of us stayed in, one of us went out on a date !!!   One of us went to the cinema with a young man.  His mum, dad and sister went too, which was lovely.  He did seem very grown up and had a very deep voice.
Oh we go.

Meanwhile, chez Banks......

the excited one was clearing the snow off of her car.   She then shovelled the paths with Philip.   She said she really enjoyed doing it.  I mumbled something about asking her in February if she was still enjoying it, but I don't think she heard me.

Elsie had discovered the snow.  This was her first glimpse at Milwaukee snow, it won't be her last, and she found it fascinating.  Neither she, nor TommyJones showed any inclination to go out in it.

And finally..................

This is, apparently, The Snow Fairy...............he looks vaguely familiar to me...............

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Good parenting.

In a bid to cheer myself up after the events of Friday, we went to Mayfair Mall (home of the 'real' Father Christmas).
He was there !!!!
There was a notice asking people to refrain (there's a word you don't see very often over here) from taking photos with their 'personal devices' (ooooh Matron !).
So, I whipped up stairs to the balcony overlooking the grotto, peered through my 'personal device' and was rewarded with this scene.
Some kind souls had taken their kids to have their photo taken with Santa and they were dressed as Santa's elves.
Bliss and joy.  Good fortune obviously does favour the brave and I got some brilliant photos.
I can't help but chuckle at how distressed those children will be with their parents in years to come when these photos are wheeled out every Christmas.
I bet they will have them made into Christmas cards too, so every nan, grandad, aunt and uncle will have their own personal copies to torment them with.
Good show parents, well done.

We did a bit of Christmas shopping.
I am content with Christmas 'looking', to be honest, but Philip does like to buy new Christmas stuff and I sometimes have to drag him out of the stores.
I never thought I would find someone who enjoys all things Christmas as much, or even more, than I do.
My Christmas pudding and cake arrived from Amazon.
It all looks fine.  Just a small boring cake which I shall tart up quite a bit.  Maybe next time I will make my own again but it has been quite nice not to have to do it.
Hopefully, next time I will be able to go to England and get the ingredients as I usually do.
I have found I can get mincemeat so I have decided to make the mince pies.
Philip's team at work won't be getting their little Christmas cakes this year.

Here are some I made earlier.
I have been making these for friends and Philip's colleagues for some years now.
They are a lot of work, and they always say they like them.
But do they really?
I have often wondered if they really eat them?
Americans have no tradition of Christmas cake and they make fun of the American style fruitcake which is hard, dry and contains no alcohol, marzipan or icing.
There are a also a couple of Indians and a Russian on Philip's team.
Every year after spending literally hours, making and decorating these little cakes, a little part of me
wonders if they find their way to the bin or the dog more often than they are enjoyed by people.
I shall never know really.
Well, I might get an idea this year.  I wonder if any of the people accustomed to receiving one of these little delicacies will express sadness over not getting one this year?
If no one says anything then I will know not to waste my time any more.
I will let you know.

I love it when the Amazon stuff starts arriving.  So do the cats.  It means there are boxes and we all know how much they love boxes.  Even a tiddly little box is worth squeezing into but Tootsie didn't have to squeeze too much.

TommyJones had something of a dilemma this morning.
I had made them a cat nip toy.  They all love it.   TommyJones wanted it but Lily had it.
What to do?
He erred on the side of caution and decided to try to look pathetic thus appealing to her better nature.
Well, that didn't work.
At least he knows not to try to take it away from her....not Lily......don't even point.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Murdered to Death

We had been looking forward to seeing Cudahy High School's play "Murdered to Death".
We went yesterday evening.
It was excellent.
Philip, Lauren, Gary and myself set off on a very chilly evening.  Donna didn't come as she had lots of homework to do.
She missed a good evening's entertainment.
Lauren was interested in seeing how another school puts on a production.

I have to admit, they were not as organized as Lauren's school, but only in the finer details.
There was no one to greet us on our arrival, no pictures of the cast and no one to show you where to go.
We found the ticket office and then made our way into the theatre.
This was posher than Lauren's school and had way comfier seats.

The kids, I call them this but, in all honesty they are adults, did really well.  The guy who played the butler must have been 6 feet 4in if he was a day.
We were very impressed.  Those youngsters had so many lines to learn and so many props to handle. I was really amazed at how effortlessly they coped.
A comedy play is probably one of the most difficult ones to do and they were super.
This play is a spoof Agatha Christie type murder mystery and apart from one wobbly British accent that wandered around from Italian to Ukrainian, they didn't miss a step.

We all thoroughly enjoyed it and at $6 a ticket it was a bargain too.
Well done Cudahy High School.

In the afternoon there had been the terrible news of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
I got very upset by this, to the point of turning off the news as I couldn't take it any more.

After we came home from the play I looked on facebook.
I suppose it was because I was upset but I got so ticked off by people saying we should all pray for the people of Paris.
I couldn't help but imagine the people who died there, praying for their god to save them.  Well, he didn't.  Why didn't he?
I just don't get it.  I suppose the next thing we will hear is people saying how blessed they were to have survived, even with life changing injuries.
Wouldn't they have been more blessed if it hadn't happened in the first place?
Anyway, in a fit of pique I posted a status announcing my annoyance at all the emphasis put on prayers that were, obviously, not being heard or acted upon.
I went to bed.
I woke up in the night worried.  Bugger.  I have people of all persuasions on my friend's list and I was pretty sure my status would have rubbed more than a few up the wrong way.  I had visions of those of a religious bent (oooh Matron) taking issue with me only to have those who are complete atheists having a pop back at them.
I decided I had better delete it.  I didn't want another bloody conflict.
So, I came downstairs and took a peek.
Wow....there were comments and there were differing opinions ....but no one was being nasty.
They have were having a somewhat reasonable discussion.
How bloody unusual is that on facebook?
That being the case I left my status as it was.  In the morning I checked and the discussion had continued but it was still civilized and reasoned.
I am impressed.  What good mates I have got.

But, while we are on the subject I am now fed up with seeing people changing their profile pictures to include the French flag.
What good is that going to do?  I think it is ridiculous.  If it could help the injured or the bereaved families then all well and good.
But this does nothing.  Facebook is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch with those people you don't see very often but when something like this happens it turns many of them into sheep.
One person changes their profile picture and then many more follow.
There were other atrocities that also took place yesterday.  Let's try to find a way to stop this slaughter of the innocents.
Changing your profile picture on facebook won't do it.

This guy sums it up rather well I think.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Winter 'drawers' on.

The weather, although bright and sunny, had turned decidedly cooler.
I have had to break the ice in the bird bath now for two days.
It was frozen right over.
I see there may be our first snowfall on Thursday.  I will not grumble as we have done bloody well so far.
Some years we are already knee deep in snow by this time in November.
I can't help thinking we will pay for this milder weather later on.

The weekend was good.
Saturday we went out, supposedly, window shopping.  But, Philip bought another reindeer.
That must be 3 new reindeer so far this year.
We will have lots of reindeer poop to clear up :)
I have lost count of how many we have now.  I know we have two or three sleighs.
Oh will all look lovely.
I am hoping we won't need to buy any new lights for the house this year.  We bought a lot of new LED ones last year but you never know how they will be until you try them out again.
Our winters are hard on lights.

Sunday Philip felt poorly so he stayed in.   He had a couple of good nurses though.  Lily and TommyJones helped keep him company while Donna, Lauren and myself popped out for a minute. Lauren had to watch another film for her course at school.
It was 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Oh I did feel sorry for her.  That must be one of the slowest, most boring films of all time........and long too.
She stuck it out though, but moaned a bit after.

Today I ordered some Christmas bits from Amazon.
I love Amazon.
I got a Christmas pudding and a small Christmas cake.  I also ordered some Rose's lime marmalade.
I will probably make a few mince pies.
I am trying not to do too much but I am slowly giving in.

Meanwhile here is a picture of TommyJones in his party frock.

He liked it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ground Control to Major Tom

Yes I had another "Major Tom" moment.
Donna picked me up from work after she finished college, and on our way home we saw this chap siting in the street.
Now, some of you may not realise but cats are not allowed out, by law, in Wisconsin.
So, if you do see a cat outside, it is generally either lost or feral.
A feral cat is one that lives wild and will run away from people.
We stopped the car and I approached this cat.
Immediately I could see that he had been shaved so I was pretty sure he wasn't feral.
I spoke to him and he meowed back to me.
Oh dear......lost kitty.  So, I picked him up and brought him home.
We whizzed him through the house into Donna's room so the other cats didn't see him.
We had a brief crisis when he was looking under the bed and growling.  On inspection we found Tootsie sitting under there, refusing to come out because she wanted to see who the new bloke was.
A few quick prods later she was heading, reluctantly, out the door.
This cat was lovely.
He was very big, had been totally shaved (suggesting he might be a persian, as they get easily matted) and he had huge feet.
He had been very recently shaved as there were a couple of marks from the clippers on his neck.
So, someone should be very upset that he is missing , we thought.

I posted  his photo on our neighbourhood page on facebook.  I phoned as many cat groomers as I could find to see if they had recently shaved a cat of this description.  I checked lost and found on Craigslist.  I placed an ad in the 'found' column on Craigslist and lastly I placed an ad on a lost pets page.
No luck.
I was mildly panicking as the last thing I need right now is another cat.
We are at cat capacity.   Most of ours have now accepted the newcomers but Looby Loo still has a bit of a problem with Tommy Jones.
Elsie doesn't like other cats at all so they all just ignore her.  I didn't feel like starting a whole new introduction process with this one, no matter how cute he was.
Plus, he must belong to someone.
Finally, the neighbourhood page paid off.
Someone recognised him as her neighbour's cat.  Then several people also confirmed they knew him.
We found out where he lived and after a couple of awkward moments trying to get him in a cat carrier, we took him home.
The lady told us his name is Taz and he is something of an escape artist.
It was a great relief to hand him over and now if we see him outside we will know who he is and where to take him.
Phew.......that was a close one, but if ever any of my cats got outside I would want someone to pick them up.  This is the second time I have taken a cat in and found its owner.  The other one was Baxter and that poor thing was starving.
It was so lovely when his dad came to get him.

On the bus going to the mall, a guy behind me leaned forward, showed me his phone and asked if I could tell him what time he had phoned the chemist as he didn't have his glasses with him.
I had to find mine first, but then I told him 9.44.
He then thanked me, using a British accent.  Now, this is something that a few people do.  I am sure they think it is is not.
It infuriates me.  It is not appealing to mimic, badly, someone's accent.
Anyway, I just smiled and looked out the window.......but,  'you are not going to leave it there'..I thought.
Sure enough, he leaned forward again and asked if I came from London.  I actually do, although a lot of people here think that everyone who is British must come from London.
He again launched into his British accent to tell me how he loves all things British particularly the music.  Had I been to Wembley stadium...etc etc.
I must admit, his British accent wasn't bad.  He also did a fair Liverpool accent too.  By now I had forgiven him.
He then told me he is a guitarist in a band called Bad Habit.  A Milwaukee band that plays the festivals in the summer.  I looked at him and he did look the part.
He was wearing a bandana and looked a bit haggard, a very typical musician.
After a dodgy start, he turned out to be quite a nice guy and even shook my hand when he got off the bus.  I was going to put it all down to my 'idiot magnet' but he didn't deserve the title 'idiot' really.
It was a bit of a weird day altogether.
As I walked through the mall, people kept talking to me.  It got to the point where I was getting worried.
I found a mirror and inspected my image just to make sure I had gone out with pie all down me.  Fortunately I hadn't.

Oh and finally.........I've got a bad foot.  I have got Planter Fasciitis and it bloody hurts.
I did it coming downstairs a few days ago.  I am having to wear a splint at night.  I think it will take some time to heal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Washed Out

Well after weeks of glorious sunshine and mild temperatures.......we came to Halloween.
We got up Saturday morning to pouring rain and high winds.
It did not stop all day and all night.
I felt so sorry for the kids.   We had a few brave souls who showed up looking wet and bedraggled, but nowhere near the numbers we usually get.
Their lovely costumes were covered by thick winter coats.
We had spent around $15 on a huge bag of sweets.  We still have most of them but I am sure Philip and Lauren will have a good go at tidying them away.
Lauren still went out with her friends in the evening but she wasn't out late.  Donna met up with her friends in the bar for a karaoke night, which she loves.
Sunday........ The weather had returned to absolutely lovely.
The sun shone, the wind had dropped and it was rather warm.
We had just that one pants day and it had to be Halloween.
But then Donna was really, really poorly.
She came down with a bug that knocked the stuffing out of her.  She was ill all day and all night.
Monday morning she was unable to go to college, the first time she had missed a class.
Fortunately, it was the first one of the new term and they were just going over what was going to be involved this time.
If they miss any time they have to make it up.
She was able to go this morning, Tuesday, but I bet she will be exhausted when she gets home.

I shall have to start Christmas shopping in earnest soon.
I have been buying bits and pieces throughout the year but nothing major.
I have missed my England trip.  I usually stock up on lots of Christmas goodies that we can't get here.
Sainsburys, Asda, Tesco.....they will all have their Christmas specials now.  We don't get that over here.
There are no 'special Christmas foods' mince pies, cakes, puddings, sweets and biscuits.
There is no Christmas aisle in the supermarkets.
There are plenty of Thanksgiving things.....well mostly pumpkin pies, sweet potatoes and turkey, but although Christmas gifts are popping up in the stores, Christmas food is non existent.
We do have a good shop called World Market, which generally carries some British stuff, but it is limited and very expensive.
We had a look in there a week or so ago.  They had some of their stuff out......well I hope it was only some as there wasn't much.
We bought a tin of Quality Street for $20.
I am not making a Christmas fruitcake this year.  Mostly because it is hard to find the right ingredients, but also because Donna and Lauren don't eat it anyway.
If I can find one in World Market ....I might buy that.  They did have Christmas puds but they were way too  much, and again, only Philip eats it.
I will make mince pies, if I can't buy some.
Oh I love England at Christmas.

Lastly.  I do love sitting at my kitchen window and watching the wildlife.
Lately the crows have been driving our cats crazy.   I like crows.  They are such clever birds and always look like they are up to no good.

Took this photo the other day of a few of them at the bird feeder.
I know a group is called a 'Murder of Crows'.
That seems a bit harsh to me.
I think our lot are more of a 'Disorderly Conduct of Crows'.