This 'n' That

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

During a recent attempt to clean off my computer desk, thereby finding my laptop, I ran across a catalog I’d forgotten I had.


It’s called Signals and describes itself as selling “gifts that inform, enlighten and entertain”. Seriously? Does it really say that? It not only says so on the cover. It proves it with some of the items it sells.
Here’s a good example: the company sells a T-shirt that says: “Engineer – Solving problems you didn’t know you had in ways you can’t understand”. I barely understood the T-shirt!
Now consider this shirt. It proclaims: “Chocolate comes from cocoa, which comes from a tree. A tree is a plant. Therefore, cocoa counts as a vegetable.” That certainly makes sense to me –maybe I’m more intellectual that I thought?
This next T-shirt is slightly weird but it does have a snappy ending. It reads: “Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup”. It’s definitely weird – but still interesting, right?
For all you dog lovers, consider buying another item, a doormat that proclaims: “Ring the doorbell and let me sing you the song of my people”.
It’s kind of out in left field until you think about it or visualize it – I warned you that Signals is an intellectual catalog, remember?
I don’t want to leave cat lovers out so, if you’re a friend of felines, this one’s for you. The picture on another T-shirt is of a totally blissed-out, relaxed cat curled up across an open book above the caption: “To a cat, all things belong to cats”.
Briefly coming back down to what I laughingly think of as the real world, here’s a shirt that gets right to the point. The older you are, the funnier it gets. It reads: “I’m old. I’m tired. Get off my lawn.” That says it all and sure does sum it up nicely.
If you’re a fan of those beef-jerky commercials featuring Bigfoot, you’ll probably relate to this T-shirt message: “Bigfoot saw me – but nobody believes him”.
There’s one shirt that really appealed to my sense of humor because it points out the peculiarity of the English language. It proclaims: “Hyphenated. Non-hyphenated. That’s irony!”  Here’s the perfect shirt for people who overrate themselves: “If I were wrong, don’t you think I’d know?!” Truthfully, no, they wouldn’t. It would never occur to them.
For the rest of us, who know when we’ve reached our absolute limit – a limit that varies daily depending on our stress levels – this last shirt is the one to order. It announces pathetically: “I can’t adult today. Please don’t make me adult.”
Amen to that.

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

Have you been seeing early signs of spring? When I noticed what seemed to be a green haze on some of our neighborhood trees in mid January, I put it down to wishful thinking. Much too early to be real, I told myself.
About a week or so later, I was out in our backyard, cleaning up small branches after one of those very windy days we’ve been having for the past several weeks. As I bent over to pick them up, I found myself staring at several spring weeds scattered throughout our lawn. You might have noticed them in your yard, too – they have little yellow flowers and, usually in March, they spring up all over the place.
But I saw them in late January. What’s up with that, I wondered.
We’re now in mid February. There’s clover – oxalis – coming up everywhere, in our lawn, in the flower beds and among the potted plants.
I think it’s official. Spring has sprung several weeks early this year. Someone should inform the groundhog that he missed his prediction of six more weeks of winter by more than a month.
I’m no gardening expert. Far from it. But I find myself with this strong urge to go to one – or possibly several – of our local plant centers.
It’s time to pick out bright flowers, colorful foliage plants and maybe a tree – or two. Gotta load up that shopping cart with vegetable plants too; peppers, tomatoes, okra – oh, just go buy a couple of everything.
Don’t forget the fire-ant exterminator. Everywhere I go, I see bigger and bigger ant mounds. Just be sure that whatever you buy is safe around kids and pets. And no, although tempting, you should not use flamethrowers, TNT or anything else high-powered like that.
Most important, I believe, is to circle around the ant nest with your ant killer of choice. It’s sort of like building an extra barrier for those nasty little insects that escape the direct hit on their mounds of dirt. Fire ants are true survivors. You have to surround their wagons and attack!
Don’t forget to prune your rose bushes. The traditional date to do this is February 14.
However, roses don’t have a clue which day is Valentine’s Day. I always figure that, if I leave the chore until then, that is the one day I can guarantee it will rain heavily. Trust me on this. It’s part of Murphy’s Law.
So, if you didn’t grab your pruning shears and start thinning your roses yesterday and so missed Valentine’s Day, just pick a nice, sunny mild day on which get started. Don’t forget to wear gloves. Roses are beautiful but, like fire ants, they can inflict painful injuries.
As long as you’re outside working, this is a fine time to clean up all the leaves that fell on your lawn and flowerbeds during our short-lived winter. Think of it as easier than shoveling snow. Those poor folks who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line have got it way harder than we have.
Normally, these are my March chores but this year I hope to have them finished before Mardi Gras. Then it’s “let the good times roll”.

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

Last week’s column was about ever-chirpy squirrels; this one is being written on Thursday, February 2, so we’re moving on from squirrels to a less gregarious rodent as this is officially Groundhog Day.
This is the date when tradition says that, if the groundhog pops up out of his burrow and sees his shadow, there’ll be six more weeks of winter.
Heaven forbid. One day of temperatures below 40 degrees is unthinkable to me.
So what happened on Thursday? What was the furry weather forecaster predicting?
That all depends on which groundhog you consulted. And there are quite a few of them out there, as I discovered when I looked them up on the internet.
The most famous one, I believe, lives below a mound called Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania and goes by the name Punxsutawney Phil. On Thursday, Phil came up for air in Punxsutawney at about 7:30am, apparently saw his shadow and promptly bolted back into his burrow. It seems he is a bit of a wuss about shadows. His prediction therefore: six more weeks of winter.
However, his competitor, Staten Island Chuck – who is not to be confused with an inexpensive wine called Two Buck Chuck – must be made of sterner stuff because he did not retreat hastily to his lair having seen his shadow. That particular furry prognosticator said spring is just around the corner.
Meanwhile another Chuck – Buckeye Chuck of Ohio – came out of hibernation just long enough to scare himself when he cast a shadow, causing him to zip back into his cozy hole in the ground.
So what happened here in Texas on Groundhog Day? Huh? I’m not sure if we even have groundhogs in the lone-star state, let alone winter.
However, as is often said, everything in Texas is bigger. Accordingly, we don’t predict our winters with a groundhog. We consult an alligator named Big Al, who is 14 feet long and weighs 1,000lb.
Seriously? Serious as a heart attack. Big Al doesn’t waste his time looking for his shadow. He uses a much more scientifically sound method. He depends on fried chicken.
I’m not making this up. I don’t have that much imagination.
According to gator-rescuer and naturalist Gary Saurage, alligators are genetically designed to be unable to eat until there’s no chance of a winter freeze. It seems their bodies can’t digest food until warm weather is a sure thing.
Texas’ weather-prediction science, therefore, is simple. If Big Al eats his KFC, spring is on the way. This year, he passed on his nuggets, thereby agreeing with Punxsutawney Phil in predicting six more weeks of winter.
My question is who has the task of waking up a huge sleeping gator and poking at him with a bucket of fried wings? That’s a job that should come with really good health benefits. For the feeder, not for Big Al.
We really know how to do things in a big way here in Texas. Pass that bucket, please, and don’t wake the gator.

Photo from Punxsutawney Phil/Facebook/MGN

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

My husband and I have managed to teach the squirrels at our favorite park a trick. We’re very proud of how quickly they learned it, although I have to admit they might have known how to perform it all along and just needed to wait for us to learn it ourselves.
Whatever the case, one day as we were walking through the park, doling out the day’s ration of pecans, I casually wondered aloud whether we could teach them to catch a pecan in their paws if we dropped it to them.
They already knew how to come when called and to sit up and wait for us to drop a nut on the ground. How much more difficult could it be to persuade them to reach up with their paws and catch one?
It turned out to be quite easy. Within a few days most of these furry residents of the park were extending their paws and most were becoming pretty good at catching their treats without dropping them. We were amazed at their prowess.
A few days later, one of the squirrels decided it was time to show us a trick they had figured out all by themselves. I have to admit I wish I had a video of that moment. I think it would have gone viral on YouTube.
Here’s how it went. I was bending over my furry little friend, pecan in the fingers of my right hand and holding a zip-top plastic bag in the left hand. The squirrel was sitting up, reaching out for his reward when apparently he thought: “Why settle for one pecan when this human has an entire bagful available?”
And that’s when it got interesting. The sneaky little critter turned toward the bag and seized it with both paws, sinking his sharp little claws in for a better grip.
Surprised, I gently pulled back on the bag, saying as calmly as possible: “No, no. Give me those pecans!”
Then I tugged on the bag, hoping my furry little friend would let go.
No way. In fact, he took a firmer hold with his front paws, swung his furry little backside up and gained a better grip by sinking his back claws into the bag as well.
I lifted the bag in an effort to gently dislodge the little rodent’s grip.
That was my YouTube moment. As I raised the bag, the crafty critter hung on for dear life, leaving me standing there stunned with what looked like a furry purse hanging from my fingers.   The battle was on.
I remember having an instant mental image of just how ridiculous the squirrel and I both must look. I have to tell you that it’s not easy to dislodge a squirrel when you are laughing that hard. We eventually came to an agreement that, if he let go, he’d receive another nut as a reward.
All’s well that ends well – until we discovered that some of the others had also figured out this trick. Now I have to be careful to keep the bag of nuts raised up too high for them to grab.
And that’s how the squirrels taught us a new trick. I don’t think we learn as quickly as they do. But we’re getting there.

Photo – bajiroo.com

            Nicky De Lange

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

The big thrill of 2017 in our household – so far, anyway – is the purchase of an upright freezer.
OK, it’s obvious that my husband and I are easily thrilled but, to fully understand our excitement over buying a type of machine that’s been around for quite a few decades, let me explain.
Several years ago, we decided to buy a new refrigerator. The one we owned had not been all that satisfactory, so we decided to go for a different brand and style. We went from a side-by-side type to a regular fridge with a small freezer drawer at the bottom.
Because this meant we’d need more storage space for frozen items, we planned to buy a small freezer for the garage. When I asked a friend what she recommended, she asked if our old fridge still worked. I said it did, except for its icemaker.
That’s when she shared a great idea. She suggested putting the side-by-side in our garage and using it for our new freezer compartment’s overflow.
We thought it over briefly and out it went into the garage, where we never keep a car. For years, this worked out beautifully. Then came the day when the fridge stopped working. We had a repairman come out. All efforts to resuscitate it failed. Our old “ice box” went to refrigerator heaven.
We decided that, with just two of us now living at home, we didn’t need a stand-alone freezer anyway. We would just make do with what we had.
For the next couple of years, we spent one day a week jamming foods requiring freezing temperatures into that very small space that already held an icemaker. The remaining space held frozen dinners, pint-sized ice-cream containers and a few hamburger patties.
The weekly trip to the grocery store was a real challenge. How many frozen dinners could
we cram in and still have enough space for more than one pint of Blue Bell ice cream?
How quickly could we eat those dinners to make room for a frozen cake? Where would the frozen veggies go?
This was quite a kerfuffle so, right after new year, we went straight out and bought a lovely frost-free upright freezer with adjustable shelves. We love it.
As a bonus, I finally figured out why I was always having a meltdown in the frozen-foods section at the grocery store. It was the sheer stress of figuring out just how much I could be sure would fit in our garage freezer compartment.
Now that I have a lot more space, I don’t come home and waste time figuring out how to stuff frozen items into the space available and still manage to close the door.
Better yet, if a frozen item we often use goes on sale, I can stock up on it. No worries. No nervous breakdowns.
It’s the best thing we’ve bought since we purchased our iPhones two years ago. What will they think up next?