Saturday, July 26, 2008

Water + Baking Powder = Double Gas Mileage?

I'll tell you right now: Car talk is not something I am known for. I leave it to my sons. However, *paying* for gas is another matter which is why this particular news item caught my attention.

Why aren't we all doing this? It seemed so simple and inexpensive that I suspected a scam. So I went there to see what they had to say.

If you want more info,do a search with "water baking powder gas", there is plenty more info on the internet, and by searching "gas saver" on YouTube a whole crop of DIY videos will crop up showing you how it works and how to convert your engine.
And then there are blogs dedicated to the same idea.

Soooo, I am very interested in knowing if any of you readers and lurkers may have any first hand information on this process. Do any of you use it or know someone who does? Would you please ask around to find out if this really works and/or if there are any serious down sides.
If not, for a small investment, we are onto a good thing here!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

America before Pearl Harbor

A friend sent me this series of pictures describing life in America before Pearl Harbor at the time when color photography became widely available. Even though I know much has changed, I still found it somewhat startling to realize all the social and economic shifts that have taken place in a couple of generations.

After looking at these pictures, I realize how difficult it is to imagine the world in which my grandchildren will be seniors themselves. Certainly very different. Better? Maybe, but I have my doubts . . .

Click on the "America before Pearl Harbor" set. To see the caption, click on the upper right hand corner of the picture or you can click on the small screen for a slide show without captions.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Only in a Woman's Garage . . .

Who else would hang fresh lavender next to tools?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why I Grow Lavender

1947. The war is over yet some schism separates my parents. On July 1st, her children in tow, my mother embarks on an endless train ride out of Brussels. A day later, at the train station of Saint Rémy de Provence, we are met by a horse and cart to continue the journey to a small stone cottage, "Le Mas du Diable", the House of the Devil. I am not scared because Maman is quite firm: there is neither god, nor devil. Outside the village, we are in a landscape unchanged since tormented Vincent painted it, and it is glorious.

I am utterly enchanted by the warm sun, the light on the hills, the tournesols in their brilliant golden yellows. Great swatches of violet blue flowers all around us exude an indescribable perfume. I breathe mouth open trying to keep it inside my body. Maman closes her eyes and inhales deeply, "Lavender", she murmurs. "Are we staying here?" I want to know. Maman looks at me thoughtfully, "Yes, all summer". I am 8 and all summer is forever.

All summer I run free through the pinèdes, watch out for snakes and scorpions, see gypsies in painted carts. In Les Beaux, at the edge of a cliff, a violent gust of mistral suddenly lifts me. Maman grabs me and then hugs me tightly. We buy tiny santons.

All summer wonderful food appears on my plate: olives, smooth green and wrinkled brown, goat cheeses, baguette made from corn meal (wheat is still so expensive), figs, melons, ratatouille and grilled sardines. To our syrop de cassis, Maman adds water, to hers white wine and calls it kir.
All summer there is fresh lavender on the table, and lavender inside our pillows so we'll sleep well. We wear short shorts and espadrilles, and turn as brown as baguettes.

All summer, in an irrigation basin in the midst of lavender fields, naked, I practice diving and swimming. Bees are buzzing and ciccadas singing in the heady scented heat. Eyes closed, sun on my belly, cool water on my back, I float. I am a small Ophelia in nirvana. Then one day, the fields are full of people cutting flowers. Maman explains about soaps and perfumes. I am stunned.

All summer letters have come from Papa, a few at first then more. "When is he coming?" "You'll see Papa soon, in Brussels". I am stunned again, but most of all heartbroken to be torn from paradise. Maman tells me I should love Papa more.

In gray Brussels, arm in arm, they take me to the swimming pool so I can display my new prowess. Maman said it was like the irrigation basin only bigger. Not true. Not true. It is an immense indoor echoing place, full of noisy people, smelling horribly of chlorine. "I want to go back to St Rémy!" I wail. Papa says, "C'mon, swim!". Later, so I'll sleep well, Maman puts lavender in my pillow . I cry deep into it. Then sleep.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dancing with the Universe

If this doesn't make you want to smile and dance, I feel very sad for you.
Thank you , Eleni, for sharing it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Melissa Touch

Melissa of the inspired room celebrates her first year anniversary as a blogger this week. She marvels at having attracted such a following but those of us who have followed her advice are not a bit surprised.

I dithered for weeks wondering about altering the faux finish of my living room and dining walls. Should I go lighter? Darker? Sage? Rosy? Nothing seemed right. I especially didn't want to have to re-paint all the other walls and the hall.

After listening to my uncertainties, she pointed out the obvious: use the same color as on the other walls! It took me a moment or two to re-adjust to this simplest of solution and then I went with it. Actually is a nice rich cream, not rosy as on the picture.

Now that it is done, I am very pleased with the "new" look of the rooms; the space seems more open and brighter. Best of all, it was a very easy and inexpensive transformation.

As an added bonus, I "de-concealed" the content of the china cabinet.

I opted for re-organization instead. It is visually more interesting and it adds brightness, too. The backdrop is a an old sheet, I 'll have to remedy that soon!

Happy anniversary, Melissa, and we look forward to many more!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Storyteller

The finished picture has more vibrant colors than I am able to get here. I used Prismacolor pencils on Bristol 500 board.

The storyteller was an elderly Iñupiat Eskimo who lived above the Arctic Circle in the fishing community of Kotzebue, Alaska. As a young person she had lived a traditional nomadic life from winter camp to fishing camp and back. In winter especially, storytelling and singing were the only form of entertainment. There is a wealth of stories involving hunter and hunted which illustrates the mutual dependence of the people and their quarries. I took a snapshot of her as she was deep into her long transformation tale. This is the gist of it:

It was winter, Grandmother was alone in her camp while her hungry family was looking for food. The bear wandered in; he, too, was hungry. Grandmother held him at bay while making a clever bargain with him: he could kill her and eat her but, in exchange, once she was within him she would drive him to her people so they in turn could kill him/her and be fed. Hence the "transformation" label. Though the story seems a bit gory to us, it was told with a lot of humor and witty repartees as both the bear and Grandmother thought they had gotten the best from the other.

The motif in the background comes from a transformation carving I bought from a local artist.

Friday, July 4, 2008

One Last Time . . .

Chicago, July 4th, 1963. Jack Kennedy is president and I have recently arrived from England with the father of my new March baby. Somewhere in the old photo album there is a picture of us by lake Michigan in Chicago with our new American friends, Fred and Jan. We know nothing of the 4th of July barbequeing tradition. While Fred teaches my husband the fine arts of lighting the coals and later grilling the meat, Jan and I get out the potato chips and sip Coca Cola. Out come the buns, bright yellow mustard, mayo (from a jar!), pickles, onions and ketchup. I learn to mix ground beef with dry onion soup and to shape acceptable patties. To my Belgian eyes and palate, it all seems very unpromising, but I have just lived three years in England and this can't be worse. If it is, I brought potato salad made with real mayonnaise. The lucky baby is safe with Gerber applesauce and a bottle packed in our newly acquired Styrofoam cooler from Woolworth.

The men probably talk physics, it's their field, and my friend and I play with the baby and chat. I still have problems with American English which are compounded by my ignorance and sometimes fear of the culture. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire movies have not prepared me for the dangerous reality of living in the University of Chicago area. We are rarely out after dark but today there are many families around us going through the same motions. "Ready!" announces the head chef and we gather around to put together the perfect hamburger. I sink my teeth in my lightly toasted round bun and bite. Not bad. Pretty good, actually. Washed down with cold Coke and intersperced with the potato salad, I quite like it.

Suddenly, at a nearby table where the radio has been on all along, the volume goes up and everyone drops their food and stands. Bewildered, I hoist my baby on my hip and rise. All around us people are clutching at their chest. Fred explains that the game is about to begin. What game? "Anthem," whispers my husband. Ah, yes. It's the American "The Queen" except the Brits don't hold their hand to their heart and they do it in theaters. I learn that day that sports and the Star-Spangled Banner go hand in hand in the US, and I will accept it as another unfathomable cultural rite. I stand respectfully, holding my American born baby.

Later as he is sleeping in a basket, we watch fireworks over the lake, and then my first 4th is over. It was to be the one and only, but life took an unexpected turn and today marks my last 4th as a card-carrying alien. Though not yet sworn in, I passed the citizenship test. Later this summer, I will pledge allegiance with my hand on my heart. And for the future of my first American child, his siblings and their own children, come November, I will cast my first vote. Happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008






Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What Is My Favorite Color?

Welcome to my first online video!
The musical choices are limited but I liked this cheerful "latin" flavored tune.

Blue? Green? Teal or aqua? I seem to have plenty of it around the house, whatever it is. . .
Do colors tell something about people?
And do you know that green and blue are the same word in Vietnamese?

Thank you, Jill, for inspiring me to try!