Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal

Welcome to Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal, a blog written by the newspaper's staff at A2 Journal, a new, weekly, community newspaper covering Ann Arbor. This blog is a place for members of the newspaper's staff to write their thoughts, observations, opinions and other informative pieces they put together while covering the rich history, interesting people, institutions and traditions that make Ann Arbor such a unique community.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jan. 31 -- Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

Well, it's the last day of January.

And I started it by reading "The Detroit Free Press," something I'd done faithfully for many years -- until they decided to cut delivery days out here, and that royally pissed me off.

So, I canceled my subscription.

Yup, moi, a newspaper person, added to the red line of another paper I really enjoyed reading -- except on the days that they were offering delivery to me out here in the boonies.

I loved the Monday paper because it was smaller than other week day editions, but it had columnists and good sports stories I enjoyed. They inspired me to get out there and report my own stories for the week.

So, here's how I ended up getting the paper again. I was at a dog show a couple weeks ago, and there was a guy selling subs to the FreeP. He made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

So I decided to take pity on the guy and resubscribe.

So, Thursday's paper came in the morning and since I'd gotten out of the habit of walking to the end of my driveway to fetch it, I'd forgotten it would be there.

Until I was leaving to cover a story and it was in the middle of my driveway, so I had to stop my van to pick it up to keep from running it over.

Not the best reintroduction to the paper. If you recall, it was cold outside Thursday, and I was forced to get out of my warm van to pick it up.

My former paper delivery person was terrific. On snowy days, he'd drive up my driveway and toss it on my porch. I didn't even need to put on shoes to grab it. Or, if for some reason he was late delivering it, I'd find it close to my door.

I made sure he knew how much I appreciated his efforts with big fat tips with every reup of my subscription.

And yes, I'll admit it, since the AA News no longer arrives daily and I don't see my byline in it anymore, I pretty much forget to rescue the paper on Thursdays from my paper box -- that's now plastered with a cheesy-looking Ann Arbor.com sticker.

As much as I used to love the AA News and writing for the paper, what poses as a newspaper now is a rehash of what's already been online, and I frequently check the Web site to see what's there, so there's really no point in my having a paper version.

I've read everything that interests me on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before it arrives on Thursday.

And, on Sunday's it amuses me for about 10 minutes. Again, there's a lot of the same old, same old stuff; my Sunday morning shower gives me more satisfaction.

And this is said with no disrespect to my friends who are still working there. I'm glad they have jobs and are all over the Internet.

But for the first time since last March when the FreeP stopped delivering out here seven days a week, I sat down with a cup of coffee and my Sunday paper.

Two more cups of coffee, and more than an hour later, I finished reading all the stuff that grabbed my attention.

And before I placed it in the recycle bin, I smiled.

This was the best Sunday newspaper reading I'd had in a long time. I found all sorts of interesting stuff to pursue about Michigan Olympic athletes and books and when the Bud Shootout is.

Ok, so maybe I spent a lot of time with the sports section.

But there was an interesting piece about JD Salinger, who died recently, and how mediums and psychics are popular in a bad economy.

And a lot of other stuff, too.

I made note that all state candidates need to file for office by May 11 and that we are about to have a $14.3 trillion national debt.

But what this morning brought back was just how much I'd missed a good Sunday newspaper.

One that I hadn't read previously online.

I read all kinds of sports stories and national stories and profiles and features.

Some whacky stuff, too.

Like a story about it being squirrel rut season. Who knew that this was the zenith of squirrel mating season and that's why the seed-stealing little rodents were so vocal and active now.

So, here's to Sunday and the Sunday Free Press, which got my morning off to a delightful start.

And, thank you contract salesperson at a dog show at Novi, who talked me into buying it again.

In retrospect, I should have tipped the guy.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jan. 30 - Lisa's Musings From (Betty's Kitchen) and Every Day Life




Call this the debut of Betty and Lisa.

Or, perhaps, Lisa and Betty; you can take your pick.

But today was the first of many Saturday cooking forays as I work my way through Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 10th edition (purchased from Borders) using as many local ingredients from local farmers' markets as possible.

The day began with a very cold trip to the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, which yielded eggs from Our Family Farm of Manchester and apples from Alex Nemeth & Son Orchard of Ypsilanti.

It also included a trip to Briarwood Mall where I purchased my first set of sharp knives.

And, since I’m trying to eliminate as many chemicals from my cooking, a new set of pots and pans – ones that don’t have the non-stick area crisscrossed with a ton of scratches. They’re really cool with see-through lids so you can actually see what you’re cooking.

Then a final stop at Polly’s Market in Chelsea for the basics.

Most Saturdays, my friend, Nancy Jennings, brings her dog, Banjo, to my house to play with my pups. Usually, she gets dragged out on assignment with me before we settle in to watch Food Network or really bad Lifetime TV movies in the afternoon, so she’s a part of this Betty and Lisa (or Lisa and Betty, if you will) experiment as well.

And, we decided to start this project with something easy. To build our confidence.

First up, potato, bacon and egg scramble (page 222) if you’re interested.

It’s got eggs, small red potatoes, green onions, milk, salt, pepper, butter and bacon in it.

Now I'll admit it, I'm not a big fan of onions, but this is all about trying new things and making friends with stuff I usually won't eat. But it didn't taste onion-y.

In fact, it was pretty darn good. And was made from REAL food, not processed, prepackaged food stuff screaming with nutritional claims.

In other words, this meal had no advertising budget.

And, I’d give it four out of four stars.

An Iron Chef judge probably would have knocked the plating, but, neither Nancy nor I profess to be chefs.

Or even good cooks, but we sure laughed a lot while we chopped and mixed and cooked.

This food was almost as much fun to prepare as it was to eat.

For dessert, we made apple crisp from local Winesap and Ida Red apples. This one had brown sugar, flour, old-fashioned oats, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg in it.

Oh, and it was topped with cream. (Page 196).

Yum. Yum. Yum.

Not that I’m any type of food expert, but if you plan to make this dessert, I’d highly recommend peeling the apples before putting them in the dish and cooking them.

I’d give it three out of four stars, but only because the apple peels detracted from the overall texture.

I'd say we were two for two in our first try. And suitably impressed with our debut effort.

Well, except for all the dishes we dirtied. But I guess that’s part of making stuff that doesn’t come in a box with names like Stouffer’s or Lean Cuisine or Swanson’s.

Total cost for today’s recipes: $21.05, and I have leftovers for Sunday.

Could I have done this cheaper by buying products not made in Michigan?

Absolutely.

But I feel good about buying the main ingredients for these dishes from local farmers, and when they heard about my Betty and Lisa project, they thought it was a pretty cool one, too.

Simple food that anyone can cook made with locally grown food.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

Today, Nancy and I ate real food, and it sure tasted terrific.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Jan. 29, Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

My cousin was in town the other day and he didn't tell me he was going to be here.

Humph ...

He appeared at Kensington Court with Michigan International Speedway officials and sponsors for the NASCAR races this summer.

My cousin's AJ Allmendinger, a NASCAR driver, who pilots the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports. Yes, NASCAR fans (and non-NASCAR fans), he drives for "The King."

He's from California, but lives in North Carolina now -- like many NASCAR drivers.

AJ was an open-wheel Champ Car Series driver before he was whisked into "real" race car driving.

Once he made the switch, I started paying attention to his career, which has consisted of finishing 36th in the points in 2008 and 24th last year.

OK, not so good, but it was an improvement.

Yes, I admit it, I'm a NASCAR fan. There really are a lot of us out there.

And I root for Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and of course, AJ.

AJ and I have chatted at MIS in previous years and he's a little full of himself on his Web site saying, "You can't get enough of the Dinger."

But, he's 28 years old.

In a story about AJ's appearance in Ann Arbor, my stomping grounds, he was quoted as saying, "I wish the cameras would focus more on the guys racing 10th and back, it's chaos back there."

Well, there's a way to avoid that choas, and get your sponsor more air time, AJ, get to the front of the pack, in say, first through ninth place.

Just kidding, there, cuz.

He really is a good driver, but there's a pretty steep learning curve in NASCAR.

AJ six races in Champ Cars, the first American to win one of these races in this league, and the other drivers will tell you AJ's a good guy and a talented driver.

His day will come.

Perhaps at Daytona next month.

Yes, NASCAR fans, it's time to start counting down the days, the start of the 2010 season is right around the corner.

Gentlemen, (oh, and when Danica arrives on the scene in the Nationwide Series, Ladies) start your engines.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jan. 28 - Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life and on a new project

I'm this (-) close to launching a new series on this blog.

And another one in all the Heritage papers.

Like I don't have enough to do -- trying to keep up with everything that's going on in Ann Arbor.

What can I say? I'm a glutton.

But I like a new challenge.

The problem with the new blog series is that it's winter, and not very conducive to my plans, so making it work is going to be challenging. But more on that in a minute.

The newspaper series is coming together and I hope it will launch in March, if not before. So stay tuned.

As for the blog series, I've almost finished reading "Julie and Julia," by Julie Powell, who works her way through Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking" attempting to concoct all kinds of interesting food.

Now, French food is fine once in a while, but it's not my favorite.

For one thing, it involves a LOT of calories, something I'm trying to keep in check.

But her adventures in French cuisine got me thinking.

I liked the idea because it involved trying new food and learning to cook and I'm not very good at either of those things.

So, I decided to put my own twist on Powell's idea.

I live alone, and it's just not very fun to cook for one.

But, on most Saturdays I have a friend come to visit and we usually cook, (and I use that term loosely), something that involves tossing together ingredients.

We're both dieting, trying to eat better, and have decided this growing season that we'd split the cost of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share to get fresh, naturally grown produce from a local farmer.

I'm not a big fan of things green so since I want to eat more of them, I need ways to disguise the taste of a lot of them.

So I can choke them down, and hopefully, learn to actually like them.

On the fruit side, I'm pretty good -- it's sweet. But not so much so if it's green.

I'm pretty much a peas, carrots, potatoes, corn and an occasional artichoke, sort of veggie person.

But the CSA includes beans and beets and fennel and leeks and peppers and many more kinds of veggies. I intend to find ways to cook with all of them.

But I'm going to start this experiment in locally grown stuff a little earlier than planned.

Before the CSA kicks in.

And I've decided to use Betty Crocker as my guide.

You probably have some version of one of her namesake cookbooks on a shelf.

I have several, they've been collecting dust since I moved here, so today, I decided to buy the new 10th Edition "with 50 years of experience from America's Most Trusted Kitchens."

It has lots of photos and instructions.

So, beginning Saturday, my friend and I will cook our way through Betty Crocker's cookbook, choosing recipes that have wide appeal, which can be cooked using primarily locally grown foods and/or foods grown in Michigan.

It won't happen every Saturday since I'll be showing my dog on some Saturdays each month, but I'll do my best to cook something from Betty on the other Saturdays.

As I said, it's winter, not a great time to begin this foray, so I'll choose recipes with primary ingredients that come from either the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market or are grown in Michigan.

And, some might just have to be organic when the first two rules can't be applied.

But first, an Early morning trip to the farmer's market (with cookbook in hand) to see what I can find there to begin this adventure in learning to cook whatever locally-grown food I can find.

A la Cuisine!

Or some semblance thereof.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Results of our recent online polls

Below are the results from our Web polls.
Do you think the Ann Arbor Airport should be expanded
Yes: 61 percent
No: 39 percent

How should schools address budget constraints
Reduce staff salaries: 32 percent
Pay to Play: 28 percent
Offer more online classes: 22 percent
Cut extracurricular activities: 18 percent

What do your New Year's resolutions involve
Physical fitness: 55 percent
Family: 27 percent
Career: 11 percent
Education: 7 percent

How do you plan to spend New Year's Eve
With family at home: 64 percent
Watching a New Year's Eve program on TV: 18 percent
At a party: 12 percent
At the bar: 6 percent

What's your Christmas wish
Cure for cancer: 37 percent
Health and happiness: 27 percent
World peace: 24 percent
An end to poverty: 13 percent

Have your scaled back your holiday shopping by
50 percent or more: 59 percent
None: 19 percent
25 percent or less: 15 percent
10 percent or less: 7 percent

Which types of Web sites do you frequent the most
News: 66 percent
Sports: 18 percent
Entertainment: 8 percent
Shopping: 8 percent

What do you like to watch on television
Dramas: 34 percent
News: 29 percent
Reality shows: 20 percent
Sitcoms: 18 percent

What are you thankful for
Family and friends: 57 percent
Employment: 30 percent
Good health: 11 percent
Community: 2 percent

Any surprises?

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Jan. 27 -- Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

I was watching Oprah today because she had on one of my new favorite authors Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food) to talk about his favorite topic.

And mine.

Food.

I'm having a lot of fun and learning a lot while reading his books -- all part of the Great Diet of 2010.

And, yes, I do plan to review them soon for A2 Journal when I'm done reading them.

A lot of what he says really makes sense. Especially for someone trying to eat better.

He sums up his ideas with seven words. Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

But what was even better, and I'm sure I just haven't gotten to it yet in my reading, is that each one of us has the opportunity to vote three times a day. With our forks.

The power. I'm just heady with it.

So with those words, the light bulb went off in my little noggin. He's right.

I chose what I eat. I pay for what I eat and since I'm eating less, it's important that what crosses my lips is good for me.

And tastes good, too.

Real food that doesn't have a huge advertising budget. Or boast that it's healthy.

All of us have a vote in beginning a healthy food revolution by refusing to buy the cheap stuff that's filled with chemicals and preservatives.

We have the ability to know where our food comes from by buying from local farmers whenever possible, and when in the grocery store, by sticking to the outside of the store and avoiding the inside aisles where most of the unhealthy stuff is.

He recommends not eating anything that your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, or has more than five ingredients.

Have you looked past the calorie counts of some products and tried reading the ingredients?

Oh yeah, and if a third-grader can't pronounce any of them, Pollan says, don't buy it.

For those of you old enough to remember "Silent Spring," by Rachael Carson, Pollan is doing something similar.

But different.

He's not trying to scare the bejeebers out of us like Carson did.

I wouldn't eat peanut butter, fish, lettuce, or hot dogs for a long, long time after reading that book.

And Pollan isn't trying to be trendy using cute terms like "Locovore," (at least not in what I've read so far) or suggesting we eat some moss, twig, and bark only "diet."

In fact, he says it's OK to eat junk food if you're willing to make it from scratch but once you've made fried chicken or french fries or a cake from scratch, you won't want to do it very often.

But what Pollan has done is make me really think about all those preservatives and chemicals that I've regularly been putting in my body.

Because when it comes down to it, my dogs eat better than I do.

I don't feed them kibble from a bag that's packed with grains and preservatives and chemicals. They eat a raw diet complimented with fresh vegetables and fruit.

Although I admit, there are days when I wish there was human kibble that I could just dump in a bowl that had all the stuff I needed to sustain me.

So here's to eating real food, and not "food products" as Pollan calls them.

Look out vegetable and fruit aisle, here I come.

And this time it won't be just for the dogs.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jan. 26 - Lisa's Musings (From Crisler Arena) and Every Day Life

It's good to be a Wolverine.

Yes, even in a one-point loss to MSU in basketball tonight.

Crisler was rockin'. The crowd supportive.

And LOUD. For Crisler.

Even though they had a chance in the last seconds of the game and weren't able to convert a game winning basket, I'm proud of the boys. They kept MSU in check.

They hustled.

They rebounded.

They really weren't outplayed.

The Wolverines showed they had guts and the crowd showed them that we were behind them.

In Maize. Lots and lots of maize.

I'm a huge fan of Beilein. He's a class act and a good coach. And he's working with young players.

And in the end, we almost knocked off No. 5 MSU.

One lousy point.

Coulda. Woulda. Shouda.

Rats.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Lisa's Musings (from the Farm Bureau meeting) and Every Day Life












I passed up a fun opportunity today because I chickened out at the last minute.

Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that when I get an idea I like, it takes a lot of convincing to change my mind.

And, in retrospect, I wish I'd gone with my gut this morning and just done it.

Some of you probably know that I was chosen as the 2009 Washtenaw County Farm Bureau Ag Communicator of the Year and I was surprised with not only a lovely plaque, but also a CROWN.

AND a sash.

I have a whole year of my reign and this morning I decided to proudly wear my crown and sash to the Farm Bureau's legislative breakfast this morning.

I put them on and drove to The Grand Traverse Pie Company poised to make a grand entrance at the meeting.

In the parking lot, I changed my mind.

I thought people in the restaurant might, well, look at me funny if I wore my tiara -- even though I'm very proud of it.

And I thought people might think it was stupid that I wore it.

So I didn't.

And I'm really regretting it.

Especially when several farmers at the meeting asked me where my tiara was. They'd been at the awards meeting when I was knocked for a loop by my surprise gifts.

So I spent the afternoon brooding about what could have been.

I know it would have put smiles on the faces of everyone there.

On a gloomy winter Monday morning.

And, besides, it's so ME; I'm just kicking myself.

How often does an almost 52-year-old woman have the opportunity to wear a crown?

I cover story after story and see the current Miss Washtenaw wearing her crown or sash. I'm just as worthy.

Besides, I could care less what a bunch of politicians and would-be politicians think about me.

I'm the press. They need to impress me. Not the other way around. Besides, the ones I knew who were there would have appreciated it. After all these years, they know me well enough to laugh along with me -- instead of at me.

But, what I think it came down to was I didn't want to embarrass the farming community. A group of people I profoundly respect and who thought enough of me and the stories I've written about them to name me their Ag Communicator of the Year.

But, the year is young and there will be other opportunities -- maybe when I attend the Farm Bureau's kickoff membership meeting on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Farm Council Grounds.

Yeah, that's it.

I'll proudly wear it there, in a happy return to the place where it was first placed on my head.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jan. 24 -- Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

While working on one of my other jobs on this soggy Sunday, I came across a Top 10 List that I had to share.

(In case any one's interested, in addition to being a reporter for A2 Journal, I'm the editor of an international cat magazine called "I Love Cats" and I also sell advertising for a chain of national magazines.)

So, according to this survey, this recession is causing folks to put off having children.

Instead, they are getting pets.

In my book, getting a pet isn't a bad plan. There are a lot more of them in shelters, casualties of said current recession.

And, there are lots of advantages to pet-owning that don't apply to child-raising.

So, here's the list of Top 10 pets compiled by a company trying to sell people pet insurance.

The Top 10 Most Popular Child Substitutes are:

1. Dog

2. Cat

3. Rabbit

4. Guinea Pig

5. Rat

6. Hamster

7. Mouse

8. Gerbil

9. Reptile

10. Bird

I've owned many dogs and grew up with a cat.

Rabbits are cute and are gaining in popularity. I used to raise a breed called Holland Lops that I actually showed at rabbit shows across the country.

As a kid, I had gerbils -- they bite -- and guinea pigs -- they're fun.

I even had mice with pinto markings, when I was much shorter in the tooth. But, they had a tendency to escape from their expensive cages with the exercise wheels, which sent my mom into a panic because my dad was not a mouse fan.

Plus, they made lots of little mice. Constantly. And liked to run in their wheels at night, which I was pretty used to, but which drove my parents nuts.

Today, my dogs take care of the wild mice that make the mistake of seeking refuge inside my house. And, I admit it, I am an accomplice to mouse murder. Like my dad, I really don't want them running loose in the house pooping everywhere and chewing wires.

Who says we don't grow up to be our parents?

But rats? I think not.

Reptiles are, for the most part, kinda boring. Or maybe it was just the ones I had. A few turtles, horned toads and small lizards when I was younger.

I also had an ant colony in one of those plastic houses that allowed you to watch them at work.

All of them were OK.

I'm not a fan of snakes. Even the garter variety that live on my property, which make me jump and jerk my feet up when I spy one while on the lawn tractor.

I've contemplated getting a bird, but they are just so messy and again, there was my history with a myna bird in the house when I was a kid. He learned all kinds of bad words that he'd utter at very inappropriate times.

I wouldn't want my bird repeating some of the stuff I've been known to say at times -- especially while I was on the phone interviewing someone.

I'm content to watch the wild ones outside where they belong fighting the squirrels and chipmunks for the expensive seed I buy them. I can still call them my birds, right?

Since I've owned almost every one of these pets at one point or another during my lifetime, and chose not to have kids, perhaps I'm just an animal lover.

One who didn't need the recession to change my mind about wanting to have kids in the first place.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jan. 23 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I got a new TV today.

Well, not a new TV, but one that's new to me.

And its screen is probably twice the size of the one I was watching.

It's so wide that I can read the fine print on the bottom from the dining room while typing on my laptop that sits on the kitchen table.

I didn't realize how small the screen on the old, (also given to me), TV was, until this afternoon.

When the new one was switched on for the first time.

I guess it's like ignoring ugly wallpaper in the house. You're just so used to seeing it, you don't notice it any more.

Did I mention I have a LOT of ugly wallpaper in this house?

But back to the "new" TV.

For some reason, everyone offers me their old TV's, and I accept them.

In fact, I think I'm one of the few people on earth who has never bought a new TV.

Ever.

Ironically, though, with all the new TV's I've been given in my lifetime, I only have one hooked up at a time.

And it's in the living room.

I'm also probably one of the few people in the country who doesn't have a TV in my bedroom.

Instead of watching TV before I go to sleep, I read.

And, I think that's a good thing.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Jan. 22-Lisa's Musings (from the dog show) and Every Day Life

Up at 6:15 a.m.

Today, I had the last laugh.

Driver, my Toller puppy, had just curled himself around my head and settled in for a few more hours sleep when ... it was time to get up for his first real AKC dog show.

My friend arrived at 7:30 a.m. and it was off to Novi to the Rock Financial Showplace.

Had a terrific judge who loved all over my little guy, which, of course, sent him into a tail-wagging, face-licking frenzy.

He left the ring with not one or two or even three, but four ribbons. Including Best of Breed.

OK, I must admit, he was the ONLY Toller showing, but still. He could have been excused. Or something.

Hours later, we headed into a special sporting group ring for all the Best of Breed Puppies in the group. There were 16 of them. And, we were supposed to have the same judge as the morning, but there was a change and we ended up with another judge.

One who wasn't quite as amused by Driver's licking and wiggling. Come on, lady, he's a PUPPY.

Go with it.

But, he was a good boy otherwise.

From there we headed to the big, big, big, Sporting Group ring (big in size and big in numbers of dogs) to compete against all the other Best of Breed dogs in the group.

You know, the ones who have been doing this forever.

And, are trained to stand and eat food.

Driver's in the learning stages.

He's a PUPPY.

And is at a disadvantage because he's got me on the end of the leash.

Not a professional handler who knows what they are doing and has done it a million times.

Both Driver and I are new to this conformation stuff. He more so than me, but, at best, I'm a novice.

I'm a performance person -- agility, obedience, that sort of thing.

Not so good at stand, look pretty and eat food.

But, when it got to be our turn. We were ready ... he was positioned properly, looking very handsome and Toller-ish until the judge from the morning opened her mouth to talk to him AGAIN.

Wiggle, tail wag. wiggle-wiggle, lots of tail wagging.

What's an owner supposed to do?

Super nice judge laughs, kisses him on the head, says wonderful things about him and admits the error in her ways.

Again.

And no, we didn't place in the huge group of trained dogs. All of which stood there and did everything right.

But who had the most fun in the ring?

My 11-month-old puppy. The judge even came up to me later and said how much she enjoyed (and had fun) judging my puppy.

Fun. Isn't this what showing dogs are supposed to be about?

And ya win some and ya lose some.

But in the end, they are just dog shows.

And they are supposed to be fun.

Both Driver and I have a lot of that today.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Briarwood to host Hope for Haiti fundraiser

The Salvation Army of Washtenaw County has asked that we share this news release with our readers. Because of the timeliness of it, it has to be online, rather than print.

The Salvation Army of Washtenaw County (TSA-WC) has teamed up with Briarwood Mall to raise funds, disperse information and enlist volunteers to assist in providing relief for those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. The Hope for Haiti fundraiser takes place at Briarwood Mall on Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23.

Washtenaw County residents can gather information on The Salvation Army’s approach to disaster relief and how the organization has learned the best way to provide aid from past disaster efforts.

Children can decorate T-shirts and play in TSA-WC’s new red kettle bounce house that will be in front of Build-A-Bear in the Von Maur Corridor. A wide variety of musical performances will take place in front of Von Maur from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. $10 wristbands will be available at Guest Services and the red kettle bounce house for anyone wishing to participate in the activities.

The best way to support The Salvation Army’s efforts to help Haiti is to donate by:

Giving by phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769)
Texting the word “HAITI” to 52000 to automatically give $10 to The Salvation Army’s relief efforts
Giving online at www.salvationarmyusa.org

For more information about the Hope for Haiti fundraiser, contact TSA-WC at 734-668-8353 or visit www.sawashtenaw.org or www.shopbriarwood.com.

The Salvation Army (TSA), an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church dedicated to serving people in need without discrimination. Operating in Washtenaw County for more than 100 years, the non-profit addresses the physical and spiritual needs of the area through various programs and service centers located in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Essential services provided by TSA of Washtenaw County include a food pantry, soup kitchen, clothing, an emergency family shelter, transitional housing and counseling for veterans, character building for youth, camp programs, emergency and disaster relief, utility assistance and eviction prevention.

You can become a fan of TSA-WC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@sawashtenaw).

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Jan. 21 -- Lisa's Musings (from a day off) and Every Day Life

I'm taking today (and tomorrow) off.

I don't take day's off very often. And, in writing this, I guess, technically, I'm working.

But writing is such a part of my Every Day Life, that I really don't consider it "work."

The original plan for today was to show my puppy in Novi. But yesterday, things started unraveling.

The friend who had planned to go with me was having a really busy week and seemed relieved when I said I was considering a change of plans for my day off.

In fact, she was downright happy not to make the trip.

Besides, I was the only one entered in my breed today, so the only real competition my puppy would face was in the Sporting Group and he's so not ready to stand and pay attention to me while all the dogs in the group are judged individually.

He's only 11 months old, after all. And I'm not sure there's enough good food on the planet or games to play (that wouldn't disrupt the other dogs in the ring), to keep him occupied for that long.

Then, there was the guilt of dumping a ton of stories on my editor on Sunday, which she kinda groaned about when I mentioned it yesterday.

So, I've changed my plans for today, which began at 8 a.m., when my puppy decided to start licking me in the face because the sun was up.

He didn't understand that this was my day off and I should be allowed to sleep until 8:30 or even 9 a.m.

Ah, but the joke will be on him tomorrow morning, when we are up EARLY, (for us anyway), because we have a 10 a.m. sharp show time and need to drive to Novi in the morning.

A friend took the day off to go with us, so, when she arrives here at 7:30 a.m., she'll be surprised to find me ready to go.

Usually when she arrives in the morning to do stuff, it's a good half-hour before I'm ready to move.

Driver will have been fed, walked, and in his "house" in the van ready to go riding. Sandwiches will have been made, coffee will already be in a carraffe, cold drinks in a cooler ... you get the idea.

So far on my day off, I've read a 150-page new book between last night and this morning. Which will be fodder, literally, for an upcoming post.

I am headed out to gas up the van -- even though it has half a tank -- just in case.

Get more money -- even though I know I have plenty for one day at a dog show.

And get my van washed. Only to drive it on roads that will just get it re-coated in what I like to call Michigan Protective Coating -- road salt and sand. Especially in the winter.

I'm not a big van washing person. I'm just very, very careful not to brush up against it when I open the doors.

And, when I get home from my errands, I'll surprise my editor with a few of the stories that I'd planned to dump on her Sunday.

All in all, I think this is going to be a great day off.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jan. 20 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

No photos -- due to the graphic nature of my topic of the day.

Today's topic is road kill. Specifically squirrel road kill.

Not sure what's up with these seed-stealing, nut-gathering little critters, but they've had a lot of bad luck on the roadways this week.

I counted no less than 10 squished squirrels between my house in Sylvan Township and the office in Saline today.

I noted they were fatter than I usually see at this time of year. Maybe that's it.

And perhaps I should be keeping that fact to myself because if Washington gets wind of it, there's likely to be a new bill to appropriate funding for a new department of fat squirrels. Or something.

Usually, I notice more dead carcasses on the rural roadways on the weekends, and I chalk it up to heavy animal partying on Friday and Saturday nights.

So, I'm not sure what accounts for this Wednesday squirrel squish-fest.

And, where are the birds of prey?

Usually, squirrel and chipmunk are the first to be cleaned up -- apparently, they are tastier than possum or raccoon to road-kill eating predators.

So you might say something's fishy out on the western side of the county.

But I can promise you, I'm not volunteering to get to the bottom of it.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jan. 19 -- Lisa's Musings from The Road Commission and Every Day Life



Today's topic is the Road Commission.

Now, before you groan, I'm excited about covering this board.

Really.

Who doesn't have an opinion about roads?

And, who among you doesn't travel on ones under the jurisdiction of the Road Commission just about every day?

My grandfather was one of the original Road Commissioners, so there's some family history here, too.

And his photo hung on a wall in the former Road Commission building. Before they moved to Zeeb Road.

I was told that when people walked by his portrait on the wall, his eyes followed them, all seeing and knowing, like one of those scary movies.

In another life, when I was a stringer for the AA News, I lobbied to cover this board -- but was only able to do so if an issue involved one of my many Western Washtenaw towns.

Like the Foster Road Bridge, or the Dexter Bridge or the E. Delhi Bridge.

But now, I get to cover roads (and bridges) throughout the county.

And I'm pretty excited about it.

So, I thought I'd give you my Top Three Reasons for Wanting to Cover the Road Commission for all of the Heritage papers.

Reason No. 3. I'm interested in all things road and bridge. Who isn't?

Reason No 2. The meetings don't last very long. So far, the first two I've covered have lasted an hour (or less) and during that short time, there have been a bunch of interesting topics for stories.

You have to understand a reporter's mindset. If you're going to sit through a meeting, you want to make it worth your while, and come back with several stories to write.

And No. 1. They meet at 1 p.m. twice a month. So, I don't have to get up early or stay up late to cover them.

For those three reasons alone, I really like covering the Road Commission.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan. 18 -- Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life




This is show week for my puppy, Driver and I.

His first and last American Kennel Club dog shows as a conformation puppy. Oh, he'll continue his show career, but this week is the only time he'll be able to do so in the puppy class.

Once he hits a year old, he'll move into an adult class and more will be expected of him. Better attention to me. Better manners. He'll be expected to conduct himself as a young man.

So, I plan to take advantage of his puppydom this week.

I've included photos of his show predecessor -- Widgeon, who was a real showman. Whether his little legs were taking him over jumps in agility ring or he was standing and eating food in the breed ring.

In fact, little Driver has quite a legacy to live up to, and it will be interesting to see if he enjoys the show ring as much as Widgeon did.

Driver's been groomed -- his feet have been tidied up, the hair on his ears shaped and tonight will be bath time.

I'm embarrassed to say that this will be Driver's first bath. Sure, he's gone swimming in the lake and chased the hose getting drenched in the yard and waded in a kiddie pool.

But this will be his first, in the tub, covered in doggy shampoo, real bath.

Now Tollers are a water-moving breed, but their enthusiasm for bath water isn't as keen.

Or, at least this has been the case with Widgeon and older brother, Ryan. Perhaps Driver will be different.

I'll find out in a few hours and perhaps he'll be the exception to the Toller bathing rule.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, the bathroom door closed, the throw rugs rolled up and lots of towels on hand.

Wish me luck.

Both with the bath and in the show ring later this week.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jan. 17 -- Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life






I don't know what you do on Sundays but one of my "farm" chores is watering my plants.

And mine are a very hardy bunch.

You see, I'm pretty tough on plants. I don't mean to be, but ...

There are a couple of important house plant rules in this house.

1. You get water once a week.

2. I give you fertilizer a couple times a year when I remember.

3. The rest is up to you.

4. And, if you don't thrive, you're history.

I don't like icky looking house plants, so if you lose your luster, there are others out there that can withstand my plant brutality.

And, I'm fair. I tell them this when they are carefully placed on my plant rack.

In a south window. Overlooking the bird feeders.

And the squirrels, which are currently loudly arguing over which of them will be the first to penetrate the "squirrel-proof feeders" this morning.

But, back to the plants.

If you notice, there are two double begonia hanging baskets included in this line-up of African violets, a couple cactus-family species and a gorgeous amaryllis.

I am VERY proud of these ($5 each) SPRING purchases from the Chelsea Farmer's Market. They spent the spring and summer on my three-season porch and survived.

Many don't.

I can kill plants with the best of them. Doesn't matter how much I've paid for them over the years -- and I'd hate to add up that amount.

But, unlike purchases of the past, they survived the fall with still lovely looking leaves.

I was shocked.

When the first cold snap arrived and they were sprayed with snow and still thrived; I decided these two plants really wanted to live.

So inside they came.

And although the photos don't do them justice, they have hung in there. No flowers, of course, but their leaves are vibrant greens.

Sure, they shed a leaf or four every week, but ... they are pretty happy.

And so am I.

So I challenge you this spring when you make your choice of hanging baskets, don't give up on them at the end of summer.

Sometimes they'll surprise you.

And bring a smile to your face -- in January, on a gray, foggy Sunday like today.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jan. 16 -- Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life and the AA Farmer's Market







Today's musings involve trying new things.

Both canine and human.

From three different venues.

First up, the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Where I bought my puppy Hannewald Lamb Dehydrated Lamb Liver from Judi Hannewald of Stockbridge.

She's a delightful person and sells equally well liked lamb products. And how do I know this? Because person after person purchased her products while raving about the quality.

I'm hoping Driver, otherwise known as Redwyn's Hard Drive, will really like these treats, since I'm showing him for the first time this week at an AKC show. As a 9-12 month old puppy dog at a four-day show in Novi at the Rock Financial Showplace.

I've tried baking my own liver, but not only was it smelly, but also he really didn't like it that much.

For me was Thomas Organic Creamery Organic Yogurt. The blueberry variety.

Mark Angelini offered samples and it was by far, the BEST yogurt I've ever tasted.

And, let me tell you, the Great Diet of 2010 has me taste testing the many different yogurt flavors out there.

In addition, I bought a container of frozen spaghetti sauce from Pasta e Pasta. I'd tasted it before and it's yum-yum-yummy.

Well, except for the mushrooms, but I'm pretty good at removing them.

From there, I made a stop at Great Harvest Bread Company for a taste of their terrific bread. A sign outside the door offering six free whole wheat rolls if you bought a soup mix was a bargain too tempting to pass up.

So, I bought a chicken noodle soup mix. You know, one of those bags of pretty dehydrated ingredients. Just add leftover chicken and broth.

Voila. Amazingly tasty soup when I got home from my adventures.

And last, but certainly not least, while covering the annual Saline Historical Society antique show, apple pie.

I was told over and over that people who didn't like antiques went to the show just to have a piece of the apple pie baked by the Saline Area Scouts.

Yes, I know. But, come one, one taste isn't going to ruin all the progress I've made and turn me into a pie-eating contest participant.

I'm not a big fan of pie, but it was pretty darn good. For a pie.

I'd say it was a pretty darn fun Saturday.

Living in this area offers people so many different tastes; I highly recommend giving them something new a try. You might find that you like it.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Jan. 15 - Lisa's Musings from (a Young Fives Program) and Every Day Life








Have you ever wanted to go to work in your jammies on a cold day?

I get to do this a lot, actually.

After being smartly dressed with a jacket (and funky socks)when covering an event, interviewing people or attending a meeting, the moment I arrive home, I immediately get comfy.

In fact, I write my best stories this way.

How about having a chance to spend a morning hiding out in a tent and reading?

Or being read to?

These lucky five year olds and their teachers got to do all of these things today at the First United Methodist Cooperative Nursery during a special Young Fives program.

After taking a field trip to the Ann Arbor District Library where they were able to pick out age-appropriate books, they arrived at the church today dressed for comfort, warmth and a day of celebrating everything warm -- including making hats, hanging out under quilts, and sipping hot chocolate.

How cool is that?

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jan. 14 - Lisa's Musings on (The Great Diet of 2010) Every Day Life

People have been asking, so I thought I'd update you on my progress in the Great Diet of 2010.

Begun on Dec. 20, it's been almost a month and I've got to tell you, it hasn't been that bad.

I haven't jumped off my roof, grabbed an entire bag of chips or cookies, or eaten a quart of ice cream.

This Just Say No thing -- I can do this.

Of course, it helps to be a rather determined creature when it comes to mind over feeding time as I eye the upcoming dog show season and shorts this summer for agility trials.

I haven't starved myself -- I've been sticking to 1,000-1,4000 calories.

For the most part.

A few days I've gone over by a bit, but ... I've discovered a bunch of crunchy and, my downfall, sweet foods, which I actually like and can nibble for those types of cravings.

So I have four words for anyone dieting -- Lean Cuisine on sale.

I bought a dozen of them a couple weeks ago so, when I don't have time to prepare a good low-cal meal, I'm not foraging for something quick but non-nutritious. There are all sorts of these prepackaged low calorie meals. And they're rather tasty.

So, how much weight have I lost?

With no scale, I haven't a clue.

I'm judging my progress by how many more pairs of pants I can squeeze my body into and actually wear comfortably.

I started with exactly two pairs -- one BRIGHT orange, another dark gray that I could wear for any length of time without wanting to unbutton the top button and let my tummy hang out.

The acid test comes at Ann Arbor City Council meetings, sitting in those horribly uncomfortable pew-like benches. I'm up to six pairs at this point with more to try on. But I haven't needed to do so thus far.

So I think I'm doing pretty well.

Thanks for asking.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jan. 13 - Lisa's Musings (on cows) From Every Day Life






I'm an admitted cow fan.

And I know there are lots of you bovine fanciers out there as well.





Are you there, Jana?

She's the new editor of the Manchester Enterprise who has cows on the wall at her desk in the office.

If these paintings tickle your cow-loving fancy, take a look at them in person at the Ann Arbor Art Center gallery.

I was there today interviewing four artists who sell their work there.

The A2 Journal spotlights an artist every Thursday, along with a vendor from the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market.

Both appear on the calendar page, so be sure to check them out.

I'm hoping to get an interview with this artist to discover his personal fascination with one of my favorite farm animals.

Speaking of farming, I've written extensively about the local industry and was named the 2009 Ag Communicator of the Year by the fine folks at the Washtenaw County Farm Bureau.

And I have a sash AND a crown to prove it.

But trust me, I'm not resting on last year's laurels.

I plan to write even more about local farmers this year, and I'm looking forward to getting started on what I hope will be a series of stories that will take a look at many crops grown locally for the table and the feed trough.

Probably even some that these cows enjoy.

With that, I'll bid an adieu for today with a moo.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jan. 12 -- Lisa's Musings on American Idol and Every Day Life

A lot of people have a love-fest with American Idol.

I don't have an opinion about it because, quite frankly, I've never watched it.

Usually, I'm covering meetings on Tuesday nights, but since I'm home, I thought I'd take a look and see what all the buzz is about.

I hadn't watched reality shows until I happened upon the first season of "Survivor."

And I guess like eating potato chips, once you break open the bag, you can't watch just one.

So began my downfall.

I like "Dancing with the Stars," then I stumbled upon "So You Think You Can Dance."

There's been "Top Chef" and "Iron Chef."

"Millionaire Matchmaker."

"Make Me a Super Model."

An absolute free fall to "Tabitha's Salon Takeover," and in my friends' opinions, my worst guilty pleasure to date "The Bachelor."

Which I've given a different name "The (rhymes with witches)."

It's a truly evil commentary on catty woman, but I can't help myself. It's like watching a train wreck. You know it's going to happen, but you can't take your eyes off it.

Everyone knows that out of all the seasons, only a few of the couples have lasted longer than five minutes after the end of the show; some not even that long.

My friends can't believe that I waste my time watching it and truth me told, neither can I.

And because I cover so many Monday night meetings, I usually only see a few episodes, but now with my new DVR, I've set it to record them all.

But before you think less of me because of my terrible TV viewing choices, even I need down time when I can empty my brain of everything logical, ethical, intelligent and politically correct.

"The Bachelor" provides me with all these opportunities.

And more.

But back to "American Idol."

It's just started, and I'm ready to flip around to find something else. But I'll see the first two hours through to the end because you never know, maybe I'll add this one to my ever-growing list of mindless TV viewing.

I can sing better than the first few contestants and I joke that my dogs have been known to howl at me when I attempt to sing.

Maybe "Idol" grows on you like a Plantar's Wart, but all I'm feeling is a headache coming on, so I you'll need to excuse me while I take two aspirin and turn down the sound.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Jan. 11 -- Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

It's Monday.

Does your mail include a mitt full of circulars?

Along with a few bills, some letters, junk mail, and a book that a publisher wants me to review, are the Dreaded Monday Circulars.

Is it just me or is there something about that slick paper that makes it ... well, just that?

Slick.

Monday after Monday, I try to wrap those inserts around whatever else I've gotten, but the "innards" always wind up on the ground.

Guaranteed.

I've tried different ways to grasp them, I've juggled the other mail on top. On the bottom. Even in a different hand.

But because these circulars are different sizes, weights, and varying degrees of slickness -- one of them always falls out.

Plop.

Today, in the fresh snow.

Grrr...

And the worst part is, as soon as I get inside, they are deposited directly in the recycle bin.

But since I decided to write about them today, I took a look.

There's coupons from Redplum.com that promises $30 in savings. But that would mean I'd need to find something that I actually wanted to purchase from what was advertised.

On the cover is a coupon for Happy's Pizza. I've never even HEARD of Happy's Pizza, and I'd have to go to a Website to find out if there's even one near my house.

Flip page.

Ad for Dish Network. I already have Dish Network.

Next comes grocery store coupons. Now, I'll clip and save money with the best of them. Ah .. look, 75 cents off one of my new favorite Great Diet of 2010 products -- 100-calorie treats. This time from Keebler.

So, let's review, 20 pages, one worthwhile coupon. I'll save 75 cents.

Big whoop.

Next.

A circular from ACO Hardware -- a local store I do frequent. But I don't need anything from the hardware store, despite four pages of offerings.

Kroger has an insert, but I live in Sylvan Township, west of Chelsea, and the closest Kroger is in Ann Arbor.

It would take an amazing number of items that I REALLY needed on sale with coupons to justify the gas and time to shop there.

Not happening.

Then there's Proactiv refining mask. I don't even know what a refining mask is. Nor do I care. Maybe I'm missing out on something good, but I don't want to waste my money to find out.

Jet's Pizza has a coupon, but I get a pizza from this local restaurant almost every Thursday. In fact, I'm approaching pizza No. 100 from them.

I know the price by heart, and as a frequent customer, no coupon needed.

I asked about these circulars at the post office one day, but was told that some people really like them.

And no, there isn't a magic "Do Not Mail List" that will stop them from arriving.

Every Monday. Without fail.

So, like garbage pick-up on Wednesdays and a trip to the recycling bin on Saturdays, I guess these circulars are just part of every day life.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jan. 10 - Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life






Today's topic is clothing.

Because I was out and about today taking photos -- wearing many, many layers of it.

In fact, I was dressed like a miniature snow woman, to protect my back.

See, that's me. In the window.

I was taking photos of some of the restaurants that are participating in Ann Arbor Restaurant Week from Jan. 17-22, which is your chance to try out one of 26 downtown restaurants for a $12 lunch or $25 dinner per person.

Check out www.annarborrestaurantweek.com for the complete list. And, reservations are highly recommended as some of the spots book quickly.

But I digress.

As we all bundle up to beat Michigan's sometimes harsh winter cold, I think it's important to do so in style.

Or try.

Did I mention taking a close look at my reflection in the window? Smile.

What you didn't see were U-M college students in shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts on State Street tossing around a football. In the snow.

Or basketball fans heading toward Crisler Arena without hats or gloves.

Did anyone happen to check the temperature before they headed outside -- it wasn't exactly balmy out there.

Or perhaps I'm just getting old.

Older and wiser than when I was a U-M student?

I don't remember ever heading anywhere in the winter without dressing for the cold.

But they say the mind is the first thing to go.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jan. 9 - Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life

I've spent the last couple days suffering.

Not only from back pain but also from buyer's remorse.

With my back spasms a foggy painful memory, I'm now faced with a long-term commitment to technology that I thought was a good idea two weeks ago.

Now I'm not so sure.

However, if I act quickly, I can still change my mind, save myself $60 a month for the next 24 months and $100, plus tax, shipping and handling. Yeah, there might be some penalties to deal with. I'll have to read the fine print in the contract.

So here's what I did.

At the end of December, I decided that I wanted the ability to file live to the A2 Journal Website from all the Ann Arbor meetings that I cover.

In order to do that, I purchased an air card.

This week, armed with my new technology, I headed out to both the Ann Arbor City Council and Planning Commission meetings with it.

What did I do with my connection to the World Wide Web?

Not file to the A2 Journal Website.

Just trying to pay attention to what was going on at the meetings and to write a story at the same time, proved too much for my little brain to process.

Add to that figuring out the steps to file the story to the Web -- it was too much to process all at one time.

My brain was already full with information.

When there were lulls in the action, I blogged, checked e-mail, surfed the Web for football scores, checked more e-mail.

You get the picture.

I used the air card for everything OTHER than the reason for which I purchased it.

Plus, using it meant lugging my laptop to a meeting -- along with my camera, my briefcase, and of course, my travel mug of coffee.

By day two, I felt like a frustrated mover, loading all this stuff in my van, then unloading it to go to the meeting, then loading it up again when the meeting was over, then unpacking it again when I got back home.

That's a lot of packing and unpacking.

I admit it, I'm old school. I LIKE my legal pad and favorite Sarasa pens in all sorts of colors with ink that glides onto the page. I like composing my lead in my head en route home, so when I walk through the door, I can let the dogs out in their fenced yard for a short run, sit down and start typing.

There are other reporters and on-line publications that make it their mission to get you the news as it's happening. That's not me and it's not what A2 Journal is all about.

I need to concentrate on what A2 Journal does best. We are a weekly community newspaper filled with human-interest stories. And that's what readers tell me they enjoy the most about this new publication.

Each day I hear how much people love what we're doing, and they feel as though Ann Arbor finally has a community newspaper.

I can't be at every meeting, and I can't be at every event -- there are too many of them and only one of me.

But I will cover as many as is humanly possible each week. And have a blast doing it.

I don't need an air card to do that.

Having one was cool for a few days -- but it's not something that I need to write the stories that readers look forward to reading each week.

So, I think I've made my decision.

Sorry ATT, you'll be getting a small box back from me this week.

And my coverage won't suffer one bit.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Jan. 8 -- Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life

Some odds and ends from this week.

While driving on Jackson Blvd to an assignment, I came upon a car that was advertising a company called "Crash Research" on the side.

Now I don't know what you'd have done in this situation, but I really didn't want to become a statistic in this research, so I dropped way back behind it and followed at a safe distance.

A couple times a year, the left side of my back will spend a good 12 or so hours spasming.

It's always the same muscle and I can usually pinpoint the cause as being something stupid that I've done, although I try very hard to avoid repeat occurrences.

The only culprit I can come up with for yesterday's episode that started late Thursday afternoon, lasted all night, and finally came to a slow, but welcomed end, early this afternoon, was that I hauled my laptop and camera around with me to several meetings this week.

If you've never had muscle spasms, consider yourself very, very fortunate.

This recent episode of stabbing pain hit every 30 seconds -- I timed them -- and if you were listening carefully numerous strings of very unladylike words spewed from my mouth as I grabbed the muscle and tried to twist and physically rip it out of my back.

Once the excruciating pain had subsided, I'm reminded that periodically, since I'm not capable of doing it myself, my body forces me to vegetate with a heating pad on my back not moving unless absolutely necessary.

For you see, the slightest movement, including a dog just jumping on the bed, starts the cycle of pain all over again.

They're really charming, let me tell you.

Modern pharmaceuticals are the only answer, and even then, if you don't catch them before they really get rolling, it seems to take forever to break that Ground Hog Day pain cycle.

Plus, I learned the hard way, if you don't have enough food in your stomach, those drugs you took to knock out the pain -- they come right back up again. And believe me, when your back is spasming, and the slightest movement sets the waves of pain back into motion, the last thing you want to add to the mix is barfing.

So, it's been a rough 24 hours, but I was able to drift in and out of a drug-induced immobile haze watching the shows I'd recorded on the new DVR this week, and figured out I could skip forward through all the commercials, which was really cool.

The problem was today, when I was finally able to find a comfortable sitting position so I could write some stories for the paper, I'd periodically nod off from the painkillers in my system with my fingers resting on the keyboard.

Throughout all of this, my dogs have had to deal with my temporary disability. Ryan, the older one, has experienced it before, and knows to just stay clear of me.

I am not his happy mommy, ready to toss a ball or fetch a bone at a moment's notice.

But my altered behavior scared Driver, the puppy, who'd never seen me in this state.

He's a Mommy's Boy, always in my lap or underfoot and when I'd tell him no and push him away when he wanted to jump on my lap in the LaZBoy, his reaction was one of confusion.

He finally left the room and hid in one of the spare bedrooms.

When I went to check on him (he's always in the same room as I am and usually under my feet), he ran away from me.

And, it's taken him most of today to return to his usual spot and forgive me.

By Saturday, all will be back to normal, and I might even be able to go out in the snow and play some retrieving games with them.

So remind me, what do dogs do on their day off?

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jan. 7 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life




Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow -- paper snowflakes that is.

Dr. Snowflake, aka Dr. Thomas Clark, picked a perfect day to teach a large group of people how to make his amazing signature paper art.

I was not one of them, however. It's dangerous to attempt to take photos, conduct interviews and use sharp objects at the same time.

Remember what you were told as a kid: Don't run with scissors.

The author of 11 Snowflake books graciously assisted about 50 would-be and veteran snowflake makers during a two-hour workshop at U-M Hospital today while the real deal fell steadily outside.

The secret, he said, is in folding the paper, and participants left the '20-somethingth' annual workshop with several designs in hand.

The workshop was presented through a terrific program called Gifts of Art, which, among other things, brings numerous rotating art displays to the hospital to cheer up both patients and visitors alike.

Gifts of Art has also published an incredible coloring book that's given to patients as well. And, nope, before you ask, it's not for sale because it was put together through grant funding that prohibits its commercial sale.

If you missed the workshop, it usually takes place in January, but you can check out the extensive display of Dr. Snowflake's most recent work inside the hospital.

It's worth a trip to the hospital and the $5 valet parking fee to see what can be created by folding and cutting paper.

Copies of several of the delightful Dr. Snowflake's books with pictures of his beautiful and intricate snowflake books depicting topics from Christmas motifs to Shakespeare's sonnets to Biblical themes are available for sale at the hospital's gift shops for $20.

I know because I purchased one titled "A Twinkling on the Roof, a Visit from St. Nicholas in Snowflakes" while I was there because I want to give this snowflake making a try.

It will be another art project I plan to try in 2010, in the privacy of my home, of course.

But I'll bravely share the results of my artistic side sometime soon.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jan. 6 -- Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life




If a photo is worth 1,000 words, then two photos must be worth 2,000 words?

Not sure about this because math is not my strong suit, but I'll let you be the judge.

These glorious Amaryllis come from two different local stores.

The brilliant orange one comes from Ann Arbor Downtown Home and Garden. Although the photo might not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mark Hodesh is, indeed, the Amaryllis King, trust me on this one, in person, this is an amazing example of deep rich orange.

And I am a HUGE fan of orange.

Not only are the flowers amazing in person, there's another flower stalk to come.

And, although it didn't bloom in time for Christmas, I take responsibility for not purchasing it early enough to coincide with the holidays.

Note to self -- as soon as Mark makes his announcement that the amaryllis have arrived this year, stop by his store. It's not like I'm not in Ann Arbor almost every day.

The red-and-white one comes from the new Walmart in Pittsfield Township. I couldn't resist at $5 when I went to check it out shortly after it opened.

In its prime, the Walmart blooms were lovely, but the intensity of their color never reached the fullness of my Home and Garden one.

On what's been an otherwise gray winter day in Michigan, (and as we wait to see if the first real snow of the winter arrives tomorrow), I thought I'd share a little floral cheer.

Happy Amaryllis Wednesday, everyone.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jan. 5 - Lisa's Musings from the Ann Arbor Planning Commisison

Another January night. Another meeting.

Actually, today was a daily double. Two meetings. One perfectly suited to my internal clock -- a 1 p.m. meeting at the Washtenaw County Road Commission. I haven't been there in a long time, but I'm already liking these meetings.

Individual comfortable chairs, a convenient plug for the laptop -- did I mention it happens at 1 p.m.?

And, this one lasted less than an hour.

Tonight, I'm back in these totally uncomfortable, feels like I'm in church without the preaching bench in the Ann Arbor City Council Chambers for two public hearings.

The first involves a gas station with a cute name -- Gallup One Stop; the other a controversial multiple-family housing development called The Moravian, which has been kicking around for a couple of years. It's gone through all kinds of changes, so we'll see if this one goes anywhere.

About 30 people here, I suspect most of them to speak on The Moravian project.

Day Two of my meeting month from hell. But at least I got smart this time and brought a power cord, so I'll have power for the entire meeting.

And can surf the Web OR actually pay attention to what's going on.

I have a feeling it might be a 50-50 proposition.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Jan. 4 - Lisa's Musings from the Ann Arbor Council Meeting

Welcome to the first night of my January meeting month from hell.

With a wonderous week off for the holidays, I've stayed up late as part of my training regime.

I've figured out how to program the new DVR and activated the aircard.

I had a terrific bowl of beef and barley soup, and I'm armed with a perfectly portioned, calorie-counted baggie of high energy nuts, fruits and twigs -- otherwise known as Lisa's version of trail mix.

It's all part of my pre-game ritual.

For something new and different, I brought my laptop and new aircard to the Ann Arbor City Council meeting tonight, which is supposed to begin in seven minutes. There are four council members to be found in the chambers. I suspect the rest are in the council version of the bat cave readying themselves for the first meeting of 2010.

These things never start on time; which annoys the hell out of me.

And today was no different. It's now 8:22 and they have yet to vote on anything; but I do now know how snow plowing operations work in the city.

There have been 30 incidents of deer-car interactions in Ann Arbor ... shall I go on?

The life of a reporter is sometimes very dull.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jan. 3 - Lisa's musings on Every Day Life



When I was a little kid, I didn't like dolls.

Instead, I liked little stuffed animals -- preferably life-like woodland creatures. Steiff, of course.

And my mother would take me into FAO Schwartz in New York City to shop for my newest squirrel or chipmunk or mouse.

Today, I visited the Museum on Main Street for a story about a doll and toy train collection. I wasn't all that excited about seeing the dolls, because even as a "big kid," I still don't like them.

But I do find model trains fascinating. And this set-up did not disappoint.

However, I WAS intrigued by the gloriously built doll house. And as I stood there, checking out all the miniature furnishings, it reminded me of the stuffed animal version of a "doll house," my mom had bought all of my Steiff stuffed animals.

It was a tree house shape, actually, complete with rough wood exterior and three rustic floors decorated with an equally woodsy decor.

I spent hours playing with my stuffed animals, seating them for tea on the little chairs around a round table. Putting them to bed, placing them in the balcony, dressing them in little stuffed animal-sized clothing.

And I think they would have loved this elaborate house, which even had working lights.

Check it out for yourself from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 24.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jan. 2 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

If you want to be successful on the first day of a diet become a reporter and write a column about it for the local paper.

Since I spent part of New Year's Day at a brunch where a good number of the people there had read about the Great Diet of 2010, I got lots of support.

I'm not sure if they agreed I had, indeed, gotten fat -- after all, many of them have known me for years -- or if they were being helpful. I want to believe that they'd been in my boat because everyone had terrific suggestions for me.

And, let me tell you, there were more than a few eyes roving toward my plate after I had gone through the buffet line.

I even had offers to smack food out of my hand if I was seen eating something I shouldn't.

Now these are true friends.

Only real friends are brave enough to offer to take food out of a dieting person's hand. Someone could get bitten that way.

And, I'm pleased to report that the first official (two) days of this new adventure haven't been so bad. Sure, I was tempted to head upstairs at the brunch to check out the dessert table, but I didn't.

Even though I "saved" calories for a taste of a sweet treat. I mean, come on, Paul Cousins had made his famous tart. How could I not want a mouthful (or four) of that?

The good news was, by the time I'd finished my very small plate of food, I was told that the tart was gone. Without that temptation, and with a full tummy, it was almost easy to pass on dessert.

So here's a few things I've learned in the early stages of the Great Diet of 2010.

A diet diary is a handy tool and when combined with a comprehensive calorie counter, you really think about everything that crosses your lips.

Eat sitting down, you feel full faster.

Don't deprive yourself of a taste of something that you really, really want to eat. Moderation, moderation, moderation, not starvation.

Spreading out those smaller meals and supplementing them with two healthy snacks kills the constantly grumbling stomach.

Water is a good thing.

Finding recipes for healthy, low calorie foods is fun; and finding out that they actually taste pretty good is even better.

But you're not going to find me doing counter top push-ups while I'm cooking; telephone thigh trimmers while I'm talking to you on the phone, or squats while I'm brushing my teeth.

There's a time for exercising and there's a time for doing other things.

Never the twain shall meet.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Jan. 1, 2010 -- Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

After "retiring" as a sportswriter, there's one day out of the year I do not work.

This it is.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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