Peripheral sprinkles

Write your name at the top and number your paper from one to ten. Handwriting will count on this spelling test.

  1. peripheral
  2. silhouette
  3. pastiche
  4. squirrel
  5. kitchen
  6. blue jay
  7. sweetgum seed pod
  8. fritillary
  9. toroid
  10. vet
Bonus words: business ethics, Ricola

I challenge you to pronounce "business ethics" with a Ricola cough drop in your mouth. Say it again, three times fast!

Spell check will not like two Ts, or two Rs, or two Ls in fritillary. If I ever captain a pirate ship, I will name her The Gulf Fritillary. Robert Kurson's Pirate Hunters is proving interesting, but not as spell-binding as his 2004 Shadow Divers.

When we check out the sources and data in a story, are we vetting it like a Corvette or like a veterinarian. The stories are going to be peripheral, but for the life of me I could not spell paraferal for the minutes. Contemplating paraprofessional felines got me through a long stretch of the meeting. If you can't get your pet an appointment with the vet would you be interested in seeing the paraferal?

As a kid I could not spell "kitchen" or "squirrel". Those two evil words kept me from being a sparkly gold stellar speller award winner. This week we are studying compound words, and struggling with bluejay, sweet gum, and seedpod. No matter which way I merge or split, I am wrong.

And shouldn't a pastiche be an savory, crusty French stuffed egg dish? But, no, that was the opera within the opera in the bel canto style. Please don't make me write an essay question or use this word in a sentence!

Silhouette is next to camouflage on my personal spelling nemesis list. And we must not forget the donuts. We will not diverge on the road not taken when the asiago bagel caught fire in the toaster and made me late for work.

My granddaughter can sit up now and play with the Fisher-Price donut ring Rock-a-Stack, just like every kid born since 1960. Some things stay the same, thank heaven!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Ant anxiety disorder

Panic self-assessment levels are high. I'm having horrible nightmares set in Sixties suburbia with walkout basements, feelings of hopelessness and paralysis, loss of appetite, blurred vision, and inability to solve Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles. I even had a flashback to junior high English class with Miss Madsen. I'm losing my grip on Greek root words and confusing etymology with entomology!

This is the first time I've ever had a kitchen ant invasion in my whole grown-up life. When I had the maintenance guy fixed the screen on the kitchen window so I could open it once in awhile, somehow he provoked the ants. It's not my fault!!! Why do they hate me???

The ants started doodling around on the windowsill carrying teeny banners. I can't read the banners without a magnifying glass. [Yes, the ants are real.]

The ants mostly stay on the windowsill, but this is absolutely unacceptable. When my Grandma Halma had ants in her kitchen, she was put in The Manor. The ants were marching to and from a congealed OJ spill on her counter. I don't want to be in The Manor quite yet. They serve icky canned mixed vegetables at The Manor.

Terro Liquid Ant Killer's package says proper use may take up to two weeks for complete ant control. An all-out cleaning attack on my kitchen has not turned back the tide.

Resist! Resist! Is that what the banners proclaim? The package instructions tell me, "Resist the temptation to interfere when the ants come in droves--your patience will pay off as you watch your ant infestation dwindle and then disappear." I'm starting to hear voices! Resist the temptation! Don't interfere with the droves!

And forgetting that ants were called emmets is messing with my crossword performance level...

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


When squirrels have drones

The squirrel is on the railing of the balcony just under the new birdfeeder monitoring my reaction. It is probably a grandchild of the squirrel that finally defeated and destroyed last winter's birdfeeder.

The young squirrel wants to know just how ballistic I will go. Is our upcoming struggle WWIII? A three-ring circus? Perhaps a departmental conflict/communication style assessment?

Gail Collins of the New York Times has me concerned that this young squirrel might receive an unregulated hobby drone for Christmas. 

In her op-ed, "Dreading Those Drones" of October 30, 2015 she writes:

Now it’s true that squirrels knock out power lines and nobody’s talking about regulating them. But squirrels don’t get in the way of passenger planes. 

My squirrel nemesis of last year.
Gail Collins did not mention the possibility of squirrels in bras in Home Depot in her column, but you just can't make this stuff up:

What if this had been a squirrel?

I had been contemplating a return to wire sculpture with hardware, door keys and rusty zipper pulls. But I HAD NOT got so far into my artistic plan as to enlist squirrels to collect 3D collage material in exchange for unlimited access to bird feed.

Yes, it looks suspicious that I wrote on my departmental Secret Santa preference questionnaire that I liked Chex Mix, black coffee, butterflies, insects, postage stamps, rocks, and old door keys. It's just that uncompliant streak in my nature to push back at organized ho-ho-hoing.

And while Dave Barry, Molly Ivins, and Bart Simpson have all expressed the notion that you just can't make this stuff up, to my knowledge I'm the only person who has ever received this occupational title in a performance review:


Which stuff? THAT stuff!

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Ice-breaker at Tone Deaf Anonymous

Yesterday I hosted another educator workshop. Hosting is easy compared to presenting the program. I bring the mini muffins and seedless grapes, and make the first pot of coffee.

[Hint #1--If you make the coffee too strong or too weak, workshop participants will ask if they can make the next pot.]

We opened the workshop with a fiendishly difficult ice-breaker. Each participant had drawn the name of a very familiar song from a bag. We were to walk around the room humming our song until we found all the other folks humming the same song.

Each new hummer I met completely knocked my tune out of my head. I was struggling to hang onto Jingle Bells, and to sort it out from Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle, Row Row Row Your Boat, London Bridge, and Mary Had a Little Lamb. When I finally found a young park ranger struggling with jingling all the way, we almost hugged in relief!

Early childhood curriculum guides are full of ideas like, "Sing this rhyme about tying shoes to the tune of I've Been Working On the Railroad," or "Use the tune of Frere Jacques for this little ditty about washing your hands after you flush." Remember, deer need food, water, shelter, and space. And there's a reason why we all aren't improv jazz musicians.

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous, Rudolph? 


© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


Frozen pumpkin crescents

At the first sign of our belated fall, I went on a cooking binge. I made ground turkey and black bean taco filling in the crockpot to freeze. Then potato soup with a couple little turnips for tang, mushrooms for earthiness, and celery because Grandma said so. Most of that went into the freezer, too. A gardener's gift prompted a big batch of eggplants stuffed with lentils and almonds, but I was running out of Rubbermaid storage containers. The two dozen eggrolls had to be frozen in Ziplock bags, and the parmesan chicken casserole got shoved to the way-way back.

All good. Ready for the blizzard of '88.

But now I'm gutting the pumpkins left from autumnal decor for a work event. I need the seeds for an upcoming family nature craft session, and also crescents of pumpkin shell, Peter Peter. So far four 13-gallon bags of pumpkin shell crescents are wedged into the freezer. Three more pumpkins are out in the waiting room filling out paperwork before surgery.

So, if you are looking for Poppin' Fresh pumpkin crescents, you have reached the wrong site. If you want to wish the Pillsbury Doughboy a welcome-to-AARP happy birthday, check here.


© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder


DIY Penicillin

Brought the sealed buckets of soap berries, Eve's necklace seed pods, bur oak acorns, and seed pods from the outdoor storage for the family craft fun. The last bucket from the closet was unlabeled. Pinecones? Magnolia seed grenades? What would be inside?


Halloween was yesterday. So what's up with this? Fuzzy tofu? Sprouted geodesic domes? Gnome parkas? Spore Wars? DO NOT inhale!

I was so scared I didn't even whip out my camera. That's a bad sign.

What does one do with a big dang tub-o'-mold? Can I put it in the organic waste collection? Hazardous waste? Don't make me call the EPA! AND don't make me do Science Fair!


The library got a cool new kids book, Fungi, by Judy Wearing. It has the right amount of information for a child doing a report, and way more than I can fathom in a single sitting. Great photos, but too many of the text boxes are black on a dark background--jazzy but unreadable.

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder