Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Families Matter

It's almost Thanksgiving and that means dinner with the family at Mom's house for us. This year we get to bring the squash, and I've got a bottle of a newly discovered beverage to also contribute to the bounty: sparkling blueberry juice (non-alcoholic). I found this treat at Trader Joe's outside Philly on a recent after-work shopping adventure.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloweenies

Medusa and the Man Turned to Stone

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Online Games - Relaxation Time!

Pastiche Family Portal - Online MagazineAfter enduring 3 days of gawd-awful rain (we got over 9 inches here in SOPA) I need to play some games. Here are some of my favorite online diversions (all rated for family play)

Lee's Game Pages

Memory Game - my version of the classic (aka Concentration)

Bella Momma - Oma's Favorite Jigsaw Puzzle

Bubble Wrap Madness

Exploratorium Step Re-Mixer - Make Your Own Music and Movie!

Dot Sound Mixer - Play with Sounds and Colored Dots

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Music for Everyone - No More Litter

Yahoo keeps me informed of the obscure, the new, the mind-numbing content that's out there - and out there on the web. Blogs, web sites, news features, photos - I just love the little tidbits that the Yahoo editors send me daily. Today they sent me two that made me LOLROTF: Midnight Ukulele Disco and CitiKitty.. Both make me feel like, well, DANCING!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

For the Love of Chocolate!!!

Okay, it's a well-documented fact that I love dark chocolate more than any other treat on this planet. In fact, I have been a chocolate devotee since toddler days - and that's more than a half century ago. Lee attacks Mr. Chocolate Bunny's ears right from the start The picture says it all ... one hit, she's hooked. *NExxxxxt*

Well, as I was just surfin along the other day I discovered a most supremely decadent way to serve and enjoy my passion -with fruit- a Chocolate Fountain. Check it out, this company is right around the corner from me in SOPA and I didn't know cuz I have been avoiding the Chamber meetings for a few months - what a mistake THAT little vaca was on my part: Elite Chocolate Fountain. WOOO HOOOO! Just a bit of the web page copy

"Experience an exciting and delicious way to indulge your guests with the smooth creamy taste of chocolate while it cascades down a specially made fountain. Imagine the reaction of your guests when they see this attractive centerpiece and smell the rich creamy aroma of chocolate"

... is enough to make me positively choco-nutso. Yo, Elite peeps, save me a cuppa the good stuff, PLEASE! Pretty Please! I guess I'll hafta get myself to a Berks County Chamber soiree soon so I can sample the goods, er I mean preview the service.

In summary, it sure as hell beats M&Ms, but the price is close to 1,000 times more than my old friends who DON'T melt in my hand ...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Good-bye to Dad (Fred) .1

It doesn't matter who my father was;
it matters who I remember he was.
- Anne Sexton

May 2005

It's been almost a year since I said a final good-bye to my father. Fred Hansen died at home May 15, 2004 surrounded by his family including his wife and 6 children. At his request, he was cremated and recognized as a WWII US Navy veteran. Against his request, we held a memorial service to say good-bye to Fred, and to honor his life. I wrote the following piece to read at the service; I share it with you now in honor of the first anniversary of the celebration of my Dad's life.


My childhood memories of my father, Fred Hansen, are older than those of any of his other children. As his first born, I experienced a different side of my father and mother than did my 5 siblings. Many of my earliest memories of Daddy, and some from later life were of everyday experiences with my father; ordinary things only known about by him and me. Today, as we remember Frederick Hansen’s life, I want to share some of my personal memories of my Dad with all of you.

My father was not always a curmudgeonly old man … he was playful, inventive, tireless and funny. He wasn't always a grouchy old guy in a wheelchair who couldn’t remember what day or year it was. He was an electronics engineer during the first years of the US space program, then later a professional safety inspector for the nuclear power industry. He attended MIT and Northeastern University – both considered among the finest engineering and management schools in the Boston area. He read voraciously, and learned much of what he knew by reading. He learned and shared his knowledge with anyone who needed it, or anyone he thought might benefit.

My dad designed additions to our home. He repaired and rebuilt everything from a doll carriage to a sports car and he fixed or rebuilt dozens of appliances. Along the way, he taught his 6 children the many practical skills he acquired – sometimes against our wills - as his work crew and project helpers. Dad was always showing us by example how to accomplish the task at hand, whether it was insulating the attic and the crawlspace, rescuing a wild rabbit from the kitchen cabinet, or pulling wires through the walls of a huge Victorian farmhouse. He loved his camp in Northern New Hampshire, and spent many hours there with his buddies and with all of us. In later years he enlisted my brothers to help him repair the old 1-room cabin.

My dad was a true engineer – he dreamed up inventions and ideas and ingenious solutions, but he didn’t always complete what he lovingly sketched out on paper. He was a highly creative person, but not with paint or clay. Instead, he designed rock walls, landscapes, play areas, kitchens, workshops and cool contraptions - stuff like a soap box racer that could seat 4 kids AND had a huge bell to warn everyone that the Hansen kids were playing in the street again.

He taught us all to hunt and fish, and also how to clean and cook and eat our game. For all the years my father hunted I never knew him to bag a deer – I suspect he found the prize too beautiful to shoot, although he hunted and tracked them alone and with friends and with Snuffy, our beagle for many years.

Fred had very few life rules, but they were tough: don’t talk back, don’t lie to anyone, respect your elders, and don’t back down if you’re in the right. Always look someone in the eye and tell the truth. And no matter what, NEVER refer to your mother as “she” but always as Mum or mother. Respect for women was high priority, and mothers got the highest respect of all under Fred's rules.

And I remember another memory of my father, with regard to my mother: my father said to me more than one time over the course of my adult lifetime that he knew my mother was the only woman for him. He said she was the only woman he ever met who could argue any point with him, from politics to religion, and hold her own. He had the utmost respect for her intelligence, and was not afraid to admit that he believed Patsy was one of the few people he ever met who was smarter than him.

Because Fred was a hard act to follow, I spent 50 years looking for a man who was very much like my Father in all the good ways, and finally got it right when I met Doug. I was very happy that my father was able to attend our wedding in 2002, and I know that he genuinely loved Doug as a cherished son-in-law. He was proud of Doug’s work and he gave Doug his hearty approval when asked for permission to marry. Dad remarked later on many times that he thought our wedding and the garden party afterward were one of the nicest he had ever attended – we thought so too, and were happy to have him and our mothers with us that day along with friends, family and neighbors. He was also very vocal about my younger sisters choice of husbands – he once said to me he could not have made better choices for them had he made the arrangements himself.

My father liked to cook – but as his children we sometimes dreaded his ventures into the kitchen because he was so uninhibited there. One time he was cooking a huge pot of spaghetti sauce and there were lots of little round green things floating on the top. When I asked him what they were, he explained matter-of-factly that he always put the leftover veggies and meat from the fridge into the sauce, then he's hide them by pureeing the whole mixture in the blender before serving it to his sometimes fussy-eaters children.

My dad was a creative problem solver by nature. He shared his solutions with us as the need arose. Some of the simple tricks he used and perhaps invented include:

1. Using a diaper or towel to strap a small child into a chair or high chair before those appliances came equipped with safety straps.
2. Bending the stick on a lollypop to prevent accidental choking if the child fell with the pop inserted.
3. Nailing window stops into the upper floor windows so the window wouldn’t open large enough for a child to climb out on the roof or fall and be injured. (I learned only in the past year that I may have inspired that invention when as a small child living in a third floor apartment I believed I could fly just like my hero, Superman.)
4. Cutting a hole in the plastic lid of his coffee so he could sip it with the lid on while driving; there are dozens of variations on this idea in use around the world now.
5. Denting a soda or beer can to identify it as your beverage at a party. He also promoted inscribing your name with a Sharpie on beverage containers for the same reason.
6. Playing "Hands UP" with small children when you close the car doors to prevent any pinched fingers.

My father loved his foreign 2-seater cars. He wasn’t a sports nut or gambler, and he only played golf on occasion – but he loved riding around with the top down and zipping along the back roads of New England on day trips with Mom or at road rallies. When I was 15, he taught me to drive in his red MG. More than once I was his elected car-repair assistant - at least until my brothers were old enough to step in as apprentice mechanics. I remember helping to bleed the brakes on the Ford in Holliston before I was 10, and pulling the engine valves on the MG when I was 13 or so. Later, my sister Lauren took Fred’s yellow TR7 over some highway hurdles in Germany on the AutoBahn.

Dad loved to travel, and his work included plenty of opportunities to indulge his passion. He was a Navy veteran from WWII, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. His career after the Navy was into the new field of electronics; later he moved to nuclear power and his job took him all over the USA and Canada, and into Europe. He (and the family) spent 2 years working in Europe from a home base in Germany. Dad and Mum traveled on vacation from the Caribbean to Alaska and they visited hundreds of places in between. They lived for short periods in Indiana and Illinois before Dad's retirement to Pennsylvania.

My father was a stoic individual outwardly, but a soft sentimentalist and a loner privately. In our last real conversation, only weeks before his passing, he expressed his concern for my mother - he was worried about her having adequate funds after he died. He made it clear that he knew his time was close. I reassured him that he had nothing to fear, that we knew he had done all he could to provide for his family and his wife in his lifetime. Mom was taking care of the finances herself - she's an accountant after all - and she was also looking after his affairs diligently and fairly. He knew I didn’t throw any BS, and he was okay with things after that. He told me not to cry, and even smiled at Doug and me as we talked about our engineering business – the business he encouraged us to start up. And, he understood completely when I said he was "back to himself" that day, when he pointed to Doug’s face and said “what’s that” indicating a slight double chin – and to my 5-to-10 extra midsection pounds. He said to me, “How do you know I'm 'myself' - because I’m a wise guy?”. Yes, that, and because he could tell me the name of the old movie on the television that night, and the plot of the story, and the name of every actor in the film.

Yes, he was a wise guy – and a wise man – and he was my father. He was also Daddy to Chris, Mark, Dana, Lauren and Lisa. and Papa/Grandpa to a baker’s dozen of our offspring.

Fred was a good man. He did his best. That's all that we can ask of ourselves and our family members.

Fred, my Dad also was ...

Silently Sorrowful
Stony-faced when Angry
Sometimes pigheaded, always opinionated, and vocal
Fiercely independent
Loving and tender

… and Fred Hansen was my Dad.

He had pet names for all his children, especially me. I loved him and I miss him. I still remember the special names he gave me - names that he would ask me to recite all together, even when I was 50 years old:

Lee Martha - Chicken Pie - Apple Dumpling - Baby Girl - Nutsy - Princess - Hansen

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ring Bearer Ready for Action!

My brother Mark and his lady Robin were married April 2, 2005.
Digger Dan, Mark's sweet black lab/pitbull mix was the official ring bearer, and as you can see she was very happy to be a part of the ceremonies:

Click Digger's photo to view more wedding snapshots ...

Monday, March 28, 2005

EB, White Rabbit Visits Unannounced

They just keep showing up. Critters, that is. In our suburban Pennsylvania back yard.

On Saturday, a big white rabbit found our bird feeding station and garden. It's interesting that on the day before Easter, Mr. EB, White Rabbit showed up at our back door - presumably to munch down anything that looked green. He gave a quick kiss to Misty the cat, (who was brave although started by this species she's never encountered) then cleaned up all the bird seed we'd scattered on the walkway for our small feathered friends. (No, this is NOT our pet rabbit - he really DID just show up in the back yard on the day before Easter!)

Our visit from Mr. EB is quite a contrast compared to last week's nature-guest! but it's not the first time we've had critters appear.

Last spring, Bambi in a red bandana paid a visit to our neighbors. She frolicked for hours with their dogs, then disappeared as mysteriously as she had appeared. We figure she must be living with friends if she was wearing that stylish necktie - hopefully it kept her from becoming a trusting target or a traffic problem.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Marshmallow Peeps & Chocolate Bunnies

It's almost Marshmallow Peeps and Chocolate Bunnies season.

The best thing I know to do with chocolate rabbits is to eat 'em.
Peeps, on the other hand, make headline news because they offer far more creative options. Parties get organized around Peeps activities: Relay Races, Eating Contests, Peeps Crafts, Peeps Games, BURNING of the Peeps Ceremonies, Peeps Jewelry-making ... more later.

LEE GOING RIGHT FOR THE EARS IN 1952There are probably thousands of creative ways to consume a chocolate rabbit. I confess I always go back to my original instinctive method: bite off the ears FIRST - as this photo of one of my first indulgences clearly captured for the record. It's just because I love chocolate - dark chocolate most of all - and no chocolate bunny stands a chance of non-maiming or survival longer than a day in my house.

Peeps always survived my childhood Easter baskets. As a candy they were cute (and mute) and soft and sweet, but they weren't chocolate. So, Peeps became my friends, my toys, my long-after-its-over souvenirs/reminders of more fleeting Easter treats and toys. At times they became weapons of defense against 3 younger brothers.

Peeps marshmallow candies (still made with love by Just Born of Bethlehem, PA) inspire all types of creativity: there are hundreds of ways you can enjoy Peeps with or without eating them. And of course, the Peeps yellow chick is a sponsor of the Easter Seals Society.

All About PEEPS by Just Born

Peeps Official Web Site

Absurd & Inspiring Peeps Links

Biker Peeps
3 Little Peeps Iron On Transfer
Voyage of the Peep-O-Nauts (NASA)
Marshmallow Peeps in Outer Space Game
Peeps Strength Tests
Peeps Heat/Cold Extreme Tests
Peep Research - don't miss the step-by-step surgical separation of conjoined Purple Peeps

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Good-Bye Little Friend

Yesterday I lost a true friend. She was tiny, she was furry, and she was feisty. She was ten years old but looked like a kitten and still acted like one until about a month ago.

When Ebony started turning down eggs at breakfast and chicken at dinner time, we were certain that she wasn't feeling well.

Ebony was a high-energy constantly-eating small black cat; when she almost suddenly got quiet and lost her appetite we got concerned. After a couple trips to the vet, the X-rays and bloodwork indicated that her time was limited. Despite the vets' counsel, we had no idea she would go so fast. I guess cancer in animals is more insidious even than in humans. She was a fighter - right to the end.

I met Ebony almost 5 years ago. For the first 6 months, she was untrusting, jealous, and quite openly hostile whenever I got near her or spent time in her home. She knew I was her rival for the primary affections of the man of the house (now my husband). When Doug and I were first dating, Ebony was openly suspicious. She would growl if I walked or sat near her; she glared at me whenever we happened to come face to face. She would not let me touch her without growling. And forget about holding this cat - that was something NOBODY could do without a good scratch. But then she learned that I was different - I love cats, even cranky cats - and I was having severe cat-withdrawal at the time, so her aloofness just made me more determined to win her respect and affection.

By the time Doug and I were married in 2002, Ebony and I had become good friends. I fed her and brushed her and talked to her. I knew where and when she would accept affection (while eating ONLY) and how to talk to her (like a person of course) and call her for supper. I knew she loved to climb trees, and called her "Ripper" because she loved to sharpen her claws on my oriental carpet every morning. Ebony was in reality a tiny black cat, but she was a big dog in spirit and behavior. She would follow me around the yard and sit patiently watching over me as I worked in the gardens. When we shoveled snow or raked the leaves, Ebony would sit quietly nearby or climb upon a high perch, just to keep a watchful eye on her family. She loved to perch above the ground, and would climb ladders, trees, staging and rock walls to find the right spot from which to survey her domain and take a nap.

Whenever our cars drove into the yard, she would come running to greet us and walk us up to the back door. When I went to the mailbox, she would follow me up the lane and back to the house, "talking" to me all the way. (I'm convinced she had some Siamese in her background from the way she vocalized and from her facial features. She also had the temperment of a high-strung purebred - and the intelligence.)

Ebony had 1 litter of 5 kittens, then was spayed. Two of Ebony's youngsters still live with us: a son, Sparky, and a daughter, Misty. The two offspring were very aware Ebony was ill this past week. Misty kept bringing tiny leather mouse toys and leaving them near Ebony's bed at night. If Ebony moved to another spot, so moved the mouse. Sparky was taken aback by the change; he was confused that his hunting and guardian teacher was suddenly sleeping and unresponsive to his attempts to play. She smelled different to him ... not that we could notice, but he noticed a change in her scent, and kept investigating her bed when she was away from it, trying to confirm it was still her although the scent was different. He knew; Misty knew; and they were respectful to her to the end.

Ebony died at 3:30pm March 19. She was buried March 21 under the magnolia tree in our yard - a tree whose trunk she loved to race up and down. She lies next to Smokey, the female queen cat who lived here before her. We will miss her terribly and we will never forget her. She's waiting for us and playing in the sunshine at the other side of the Rainbow Bridge with Smokey, Snuffy, Pita, Beauregard and Pretty, keeping our family members company.

RIP Ripper. More about Ebony, the Little Black Cat.

National Pet Memorial Day