An eclectic list of New Year’s resolutions

One of my favorite comic strips is “Pearls Before Swine” by Stephan Pastis.

I like it because it frequently involves word plays and puns, but not always. And I like word plays and puns. But on Dec. 29, one of the regular characters, Pig, is writing his “Goals for the coming year: Sleep in more. Remain fat.” In the fourth panel, he explains to another character, Goat, “It’s important to set realistic goals.”

I’m with him. Realistic goals are important when we go about setting our resolutions for the new year. If we set unrealistic goals, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.


Christmas cookie tradition took years in the making

Three weeks before Christmas, Marilyn and I spent all afternoon one day and all morning the next baking and icing 40 dozen Christmas cookies. I confess that Marilyn did the yeoman’s share of the baking part. She did the prep work and the cutting out; I just moved the cookie sheets to the oven and then to the table for cooling. But I did all the icing while she put on the sprinkles.

Did it ever occur to you to question why we eat cookies for Christmas? For many families, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas cookies. Why do kids leave cookies out for Santa? There are always plates of Christmas cookies at any holiday party. But why is it that cookies have come to be such an important symbol of Christmas?


Wonderful random, maybe goofy, thoughts

Are birds multi-lingual? Do chickadees speak junco? Do goldfinches speak sparrow? Do cardinals speak blue jay?

I was just wondering because what started out as a single chickadee on our bird feeder a couple of weeks ago has grown to a United Nations of chickadees, woodpeckers, finches (gold and purple), sparrows, mourning doves, cardinals, juncos and flickers. Do they communicate with each other? Do they spread the word that VanHarens have some good stuff out in the feeders, so you better get over there before it’s all gone? Just wondering.

Another thing. I’ve read that birds do not have taste receptors, so that if you want to keep the squirrels out of your feeders, all you have to do is add cayenne pepper to the birdseed. The squirrels don’t like pepper, so they’ll stay away. You can even buy peppered seed at some stores.


New home, new feathered friends

We’ve recently moved to a new home in a neighborhood completely across the city from where we’ve lived for the last 18 years. At our previous house, I fed the birds on a bunch of feeders suspended from the branches of the trees in our enclosed patio. I think the birds liked it there because it was protected from the cold north and west winds. We had many birds who visited the feeders every day, not to mention the squirrels and chipmunks who fed there everyday as well.

But then I had a little health situation that made it difficult for me to keep the feeders filled, so we lost our little feathered friends, and eventually we sold all the feeders at a series of garage sales in preparation for our move to the new house.


Memories are made of this

Stored in our basement are two pieces of original artwork. One is a pastel painting of my grandmother, Christine VanHaren, done many years ago by my cousin Larry VanHaren, a professional artist who lived in Dallas until he was struck and killed by a car.

I never met my grandmother because she died shortly before I was born, but I feel I know her when I look at that picture.

The other original is a crude oil painting of an old log cabin, its torn tarpaper siding nearly stripped away by the winds of many northern Wisconsin winters and the vandal woodpeckers whose search for wood-boring insects led them to its gables. My mother painted the picture in an art class at the Senior Citizens Center in Oconto Falls, and my dad framed it using rough-sawn barn boards salvaged when our old barn was torn down many years ago.


Spiders spin webs of intrigue

Do you ever get distracted during the homily in church? I try very hard to pay attention because I know that the priest is trying to dispense a message for my welfare, but we recently had a visiting priest whose message was somewhat less than compelling and I happened to notice that way up in the ornamental hanging lights in church there were some very intricate spider webs.

I decided right then that I would make it a point not to sit under those lights - who knows when one of those little buggers might decide to “eliminate.” And you know how hard those little spider spots are to get off!


What’s in a name? Did Juliet have it right?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Juliet says that in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.” She’s trying to rationalize her newfound infatuation with Romeo, a member of the Montague family, her family’s fiercest enemies.

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?/ ’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;/ Thou art thyself though, not a Montague./ What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,/ Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part/ Belonging to a man. What’s in a name?/ That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet./ So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,/ Retain that dear perfection which he owes/ Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;/ And for that name, which is no part of thee, Take all myself.”

So, she’s saying if Romeo had another name, he’d still be the hunk she’s fallen for, but he wouldn’t be an enemy. What’s in a name?


Advice for a Costco Casanova

You know about Costco, right? Big wholesale membership store with everything from gourmet food to TVs and tires.

I wonder if it’s ever occurred to anyone that a trip to Costco might make a great date adventure. If a guy had the guts to ask his girl for a date to Costco, just think how inexpensive (maybe “cheap” is the right word) that would be.

Instead of dinner and a movie, be creative, take her to Costco. It could be fun and inexpensive! Borrow your parents’ membership card and head out for a new dating experience.


Musings about cellphones

Does it surprise you when the news on TV these days has so many videos and photos of things that have just happened? It seems that nothing today goes undocumented or unphotographed because a large percentage of the population has smartphones, and unlike me, they know how to use them!

I read an article on the internet that said that 68 percent of adults in America now have smartphones. In 2011, the figure was 35 percent. And unlike me, many of the users walk around with their phones in their hands all the time. When something happens, they’re ready to photograph it or video it. More often than not, I forget to take my phone when I leave home, so I’m not likely to take video of some major disaster and sell it to NBC.


Republicans share area’s traditional values

To the editor:

Recently there has been a barrage of letters by those who hope to push our great country far to the left. Personally I believe that our country and state of Wisconsin need leaders who support our traditional values.

For the U.S. Congress, Mike Gallagher will do the best job of representing Wisconsin. Mike served seven years on active duty (deployed twice to Iraq) and earned the rank of Marine captain. He will be a voice for veterans and believes in reforming the VA.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson deserves to return to Washington as well. We can’t let Congress fall to the free-spending Democrats.


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