I realize I’m late to the party, but suddenly I’m taken with Sudoku. That’s the number-placement puzzle that has occurred in various newspapers for years and challenges readers to “insert numbers one to nine into a grid consisting of nine squares subdivided further into nine smaller squares in such a way that every number appears once in each horizontal line, vertical line, and square,” this according to Wikipedia.
Years ago I was given an electronic Sudoku and tried my luck. But she didn’t cooperate. I am more a crossword/Jumble person than a numbers person. Still I know several fanatics.
So when our local newspaper started printing one star versions of the game, I opted in. (One star stands for easy; five stars stand for really difficult.) And found I could do it. So now I wait for the one stars to reinforce how the game is played at least at a basic level. Two stars will be next.
Last night, the paper published a five star; with nothing better to do, I attempted it. Naturally, it was what one calls a “learning experience,” but I did come away with some interesting understand. It seems what makes a puzzle more difficult isn’t the number of squares that are pre-filled. It’s the numbers in the squares themselves. Last night’s puzzle had only one 2 filled in; which means that this number is the challenge.
At least I think so at this point. Tonight I’m returning to one stars to continue my education.
Over the years, I’ve mentioned a charming book titled The Art of Doing Nothing by Veronique Vienne. Once again it’s caught my eye, in particular the chapter about napping.
The first paragraph reads: “If you’ve got too much to do, take a nap – just a ten minute nap. As ludicrous as it seems, dropping off the edge of consciousness is often the best way to steal the extra time you need to meet crushing deadlines.”
Or decompress. Or catch a breath. Or realign priorities.
I’ve been a napping devotee all my life. When my children were little, I often napped when they did. Once they reached school age, I snoozed before they came home. By adulthood, I was a pro at setting a mental clock for how long the nap would take. And, years later, when I broke my leg and hobbled to work on crutches, I spent my lunch hour sound asleep on the floor of an empty office. These days my couch and I bond most afternoons for about an hour.
The chapter on napping ends with a recipe for a “gourmet” nap. It includes soft light, no shoes, a warm cover, and a meditation to help you practice. I highly recommend the process. In fact, I highly recommend you purchase the book.
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Today is Wednesday, when I have my weekly piano lesson with J. But for personal reasons, I’m not going this afternoon. Instead of spending time at her piano, I’m sitting in front of mine.
I started taking lessons in 2003, one year before I started blogging. The lessons were a completely new experience born of curiosity about the piano that came with our new house and the idea that one’s brain is better for taking on different challenges over the years. The blogging was a way of retaining the writing skills I’d acquired and relied on from a young age.
They are both solitary activities, as are many of my other interests: reading, craft projects, gardening, puttering. Of all these, piano is the most challenging partly because I never took lessons as a child and partly because aging issues – such as stiffness and memory blips – are working against any natural talent.
It’s taken years to learn what some of J’s younger students seem to master quickly. In fact, most of her current students were probably not born when I had that first lesson. Since then I’ve wandered my way through a variety of adult-oriented lesson books, used my scale book until it’s falling apart, and acquired quite a collection of all kinds of music.
Sometimes I consider quitting and just noodling at the piano on my own. But I know my practice would dwindle and my hard-won knowledge would rust. So I pay for a block of weekly lessons that’s long enough to make the mood pass.
Because, in the end, it’s been worth it.
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I haven’t seen a copy myself, but I’ve heard the Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a doozy of a winter for 2019-2020. And today was its debut. I ventured forth to meet friends for coffee and to compare notes on the roads we all took to get there.
The snow was beautiful, but the roads were ugly icy. At retirement age, we all find the snow less to our liking than when we were young. With this in mind, I’m forsaking the Farmers’ Almanac altogether and returning to books about snow that I read to my own children years ago.
There was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Anna’s Wish by Bruno Hachler, Blizzard by John Rocco, and several books by different authors all sharing the title Snow. And, of course, there’s Frosty the Snowman.
I’m hoping these books are an antidote to almanac predictions.
See more 10 Minutes in category Changing Scene
Today is Monday, November 11. It is also Veterans Day; but unlike other national holidays that have been moved arbitrarily to Monday for a long weekend’s sake, this holiday falls on November 11 no matter what day of the week that is. I like that.
To clear some misconceptions, the US Department of Defense provided an online fact sheet about the holiday. First, there is no apostrophe in the name of the day. According to the DOD, “This holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans – so no apostrophe needed.” I don’t like that.
Rather, I think either apostrophe is appropriate and far more personal than what the DOD believes.
Veterans Day and Memorial Day are not the same. The former honors all people who served in the military in war or in peace. It’s a day to say “Thank you” for their service. The latter honors those military who gave their lives for their country, either in battle or from wounds suffered on the battlefield.
Originally Veterans Day was called Armistice Day, because it recognized the end of World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. That conflict has been called the “war to end all wars,” but obviously it wasn’t. It’s one hundred years later, and we’re still sending men and women off to fight.
Which means Veterans Day will be around for a long time to come.
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Earl and I are avid jigsaw puzzlers. We really like 500 pieces with Americana themes: old cars, farm life, the town square, the country store. I haven’t kept track of the number we’ve done, but we probably average 30 to 40 a year.
This week’s puzzle was an extra challenge. I’m the border expert, and I could not find all the pieces. Earl puts the buildings together, drawing on his real estate experience no doubt. The middle of this puzzle showed a big, red barn; so he pulled all the red pieces together and started.
Two days later, we were both struggling to complete our self-appointed tasks. The border wasn’t finished, and there were holes in the barn. But no more red. This is the part where we crawl around the floor looking for errant pieces, check our pockets in case one fell in, and generally find what’s missing.
Not today. We finished, but there were 20 missing pieces. What makes this unusual is that the puzzle came to us wrapped in cellophane directly from the manufacturer. Not having all the pieces certainly increased the challenge, but it also increased our frustration.
We took photos of the puzzle, and I plan to write the company for a refund. When the box says there are 500 pieces, 480 simply isn’t close enough.
See more 10 Minutes in category Annoyances, Me/Family
I have an acute case of gypsy feet right now. This isn’t a new malady; in fact, I’ve used the term for years to describe what others see as a dreaded experience.
I love to move. Really.
And I’ve done it 34 times. No, my parents weren’t in the military. They weren’t on the lam either. My mother was a single parent long before it was common; and, if she got a better job offer, we moved. If an even better one came along, we moved again. I went to five grade schools and two high schools.
By the time I left home for good, moving was routine. Part of the charm was the chance to decorate a new apartment or house or condo. And for almost fifty years I moved at least every two to three years on average. That is a lot of empty boxes from the supermarket!
But since moving to St. Joseph, Michigan, in 2000, I’ve tended to stay put for longer. Today is the ten year anniversary of when we moved into our current home. It feels strange.
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When we moved into our current home, dark cabinets and dark countertops were in style. Today lighter colors are preferred. I know the cycle will repeat, but for the time being our kitchen is light-challenged in more ways than one.
We live in a square-shaped building containing four square-shaped condos. each occupying one quarter of the area. The kitchens and laundry rooms are pushed to the middle and share common walls so that the living spaces and bedrooms get as much natural light as possible.
Having cherry cabinets and dark countertops, along with no windows, makes our kitchen dark. Think some men’s club with mahogany accessories. Of course, we have lights: under the counters, over the counters, and in the vaulted ceiling. But Earl wants to install Velux tubes, which act like periscopes and bring in natural light. It’s a product that requires cutting a hole in the roof and extending a round tube to a hole in the ceiling.
I’m not for it, because improper installation can lead to leaks. Besides the covered hole in the ceiling would look wonky. Our next idea was to install pendant lights, perhaps over the bar. But I have issues with that too. They could create a visual barrier that makes the home feel smaller. Finally, our handyman and a neighbor both swear by the brighter lights he installed for her where the old ones once were.
So Earl and I visited M last night to see if they might do the trick. We compared her cabinets (lighter than ours), her floor (white ceramic to our dark wood), and her countertop (soft speckled tan to our glittery black). It made me think we might as well wait for the trends to return in our direction.
It wasn’t a lost cause, however; we both liked the appetizers and cocktails.
See more 10 Minutes in category Dining/Food, Me/Family
Knots are annoying. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a fishing line, a silver necklace, a shoelace, a ball of yarn, a length of thread, a watering hose, or the hair on your head.
But the worst kind of knots are those you can’t see. In fact, maybe you never even thought of the aches and pains in your body as knots. Go to Google® and put in “knots in the body,“ and 68 million results show up for the back, neck, stomach, head, and the bottom of the feet. You can learn about what they mean, why they’re painful, even if they’re good or bad.
Personally, this is too much information for me. I’m commenting only because this afternoon at 2:30, I shall visit my knot specialist who will handle this for me. A one hour massage is all it takes.
See more 10 Minutes in category Annoyances, Me/Family
Weather-wise everything has been strange this year. Copious Spring rains caused farmers to plant their crops later than usual. A mild summer, with more rain, brought more challenges. In my world, the roses were unhappy; the coneflowers were late, and the geraniums didn’t ever really take hold.
All small potatoes compared to those whose livelihood depends on various crops.
Traditionally, full Fall foliage (Try saying that five times quickly.) arrives around the third week of October. But as we entered November, it looked as if the trees might shed their leaves without any colorful display whatsoever.
In the tradition of this year’s weather weirdness, however, the past few days have seen glorious color and milder temperatures. So I took advantage of this to finish shutting down my flower beds, store the myriad of pots, and cover the patio furniture.
I am just in time, as snow is predicted for tonight.
See more 10 Minutes in category Flora/Fauna