Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This vexes me - #4.

I reached for my brand new, well, 2.5 month old robe to toss it on in the morning chill today and noticed a hole in the arm sleeve. The stitching has come undone from the junction they call a seam. This is the 4th hole I've found in sleeves over this weekend as I spent time getting laundry caught up because I wasn't going out in "that".

What is it with manufacturers? I have 2 sweaters, a shirt and now my robe that have holes in the sleeve seams? Yes I can fix them and I can do a danged better job than what it appears they did in the first place, but that's not the point. The point is, I shouldn't have to fix these in the first place. I took a look at the robe's sleeve seam and it was less than one quarter what it should have been. I am going to have to stitch the entire seam to make sure it doesn't unravel anywhere else. This is NOT what I was taught in home ec so many, many years ago.

If I were to take the robe to JC Penney where I got it, I would be told that because the robe has been worn and washed, they could not take it back. And, realistically, even if they did take it back, what would they do with it? Would they send it back to the clothing company and demand better stitching? Hardly. It's just going to get landfilled. They aren't going to bother asking for care because care is going to mean more man-hours to make the piece which means it will cost more and no one makes a profit if it does sell.

This is also not an indictment of overseas goods, although the label says the robe was assembled in China. Regardless of where the robe was made, it was made badly and that can happen whether the robe was assembled in China or in Kansas. It's about maximizing the product for the most buck. It's about a lack of care in what goes out the door.

I am resigned to pulling out my needles and thread and my sewing machine and fixing these holes. This is an age-old argument. I'm sure that when the cave man figured out a wheel and then added more production to his wheel-making, his customers complained that the craftsmanship was missing. It would take a huge, monumental shift in consumer attitude for anything to change.

At least I know what I'll be doing while I watch the football game on January 5th.

Beverage: Assam Tea


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Welcome to winter, part 2.

Shoes from all the times this past week I have gone to the mailbox to get the mail.

They get snow covered soles so I take them off on the front rug. There they stay until such time as I go looking for a pair and find them here. Then, I decide they should all be put away.

In another week, I'll need to wash the rug due to the salt I spread on the front steps being dragged in.

This goes on until mid-March, maybe longer if there is snow later in the season.

Yes, that is a fair number of shoes. The ones in the foreground, my very first pair of Clarks shoes, is in need of a polish.

My boots never wind up here. They are always left in the kitchen. The rug can't absorb the snow that gets on them and it soaks through. This rug's backing has long since deteriorated and fallen off. When there aren't shoes on the rug, it's a prime target for attacking cats. I can tell when there has been toy play during the day while I'm gone. The rug is balled up against the front door. Spread it out and it gets attacked again.

I've had the rug for years. Sometimes the best toys are, quite literally, under your feet.

Beverage: Hot cocoa



Perhaps at no other time of the year do we have rituals that are almost unyielding. From November 20th to January 2nd, we must consume certain foods, go certain places, do certain things at certain times. These rituals give your life structure and are integral to our sense of self and our personal well being.

Why so philosophical? If you have been allowed to share your life with a cat or a few cats, you quickly discover cats need ritual. They, unlike dogs, do not adapt well to changes in routine. Something as simple as moving a piece of furniture can disrupt a cat's life to where you'll see behavior changes. Mine adapted very well to moving the papasan chair to the back room and bringing up the Christmas tree.

Weekends, we have a ritual. Pilchard gets a major combing. This is an hour long affair, shorter if she gets antsy. I can, generally, remove a good handful of loose fur while she purrs up a storm, lies down, gets up, comes up to the comb and rubs her chin on it. When she starts chewing on the comb or bats at it, we are done. She is absolutely gorgeous afterwards; glossy, gleaming, satin-like; and I love to cuddle her, which, of course is not appreciated as she's very much an "I'll cuddle when I want to" cat.

A number of you have asked just how big is she? She seems to know when I want to do a size comparison with something you'll recognize. Both of them, actually, have figured out the noise of the digital camera and then make a conscious decision whether to cooperate or be more "catty" than usual. I was able to get Pilchard to stay long enough for this photo.
I don't know if this gives you a relative size. I tried measuring her but she refused to lie down and stay. This is 16 pounds of cat and it's muscle, not a belly. This was last Sunday and we had done our ritual combing about an hour before this was taken. Photos just will not do this cat's fur justice. She gleams. She's beautiful after a combing.

I haven't really established a ritual with Mija yet. She comes into the kitchen every time I go there, except when I leave for work. She sleeps with me and insists upon being in the bathroom when I shower. On those mornings when we can sleep in, she allows herself to be pulled under the covers for some cuddle time.

Rituals give our lives stability. I find I am every bit the creature of habit that my cats are.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snowbunny loves him?

He or she is back. We're in the middle of a huge snowstorm and there he or she sits, just outside the north window. I admit to being tempted to finding something to cover the spot just to make it more hospitable. But he or she is a wild animal and should be able to survive on his or her own. And do I really want to encourage rabbits to live in the yard? They eat things, tender things, like early lettuce and broccoli and flowers. It could be interesting, however, if this is a female. It could be kind of like that bird's nest in the corner of the front porch.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

I made this card for the front of my WOW guild's web site.

Merry Christmas.
Beverage: China Black Tea


But, realistically, I'd rather have snow.

Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
--Robert Frost, selected lines from "Birches"

Day 2 of an ice storm. Chicagoland generally doesn't get this kind of weather. As far north as we are, the temperature line usually falls south, through central and southern Illinois. This time, the huge amount of moisture lies right on the freezing line and we have wavered between pelleted snow and rain with sleet and ice thrown in for good measure.

Last night was ice. Several times, as I got up from my computer to go get tea, I could see, in the street light north of me, the power lines glistening, almost appearing draped with silver. This kind of ice will bring power lines down, if it gets heavy enough. I am currently fortunate to still have power.

It's a sleet rain mix at 1 p.m. Ice coats everything. I have heard the garbage trucks hurriedly working. I know they don't want to be out any later than they have to on Christmas Eve and this added ice has got to make driving hazardous. Traffic on the street is slim, at best. This is not a time to go for a drive to look around. I'm fairly certain, had I had to work, we would have been called off.

Yet, it's beautiful. Everything is outlined, as if an artist was given crayons only in variations of white. I've spent a lot of time just gazing out the office window into the back yard, wishing the camera could adequately capture what I see. As long as I don't have to go anywhere, this is a serene and beautiful sight. If I had to be some place, I'd rather have 2 feet of snow. I can drive in that.
Beverage: China Black Tea


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Raiding Supplies.

The weather on this Wednesday afternoon before Christmas has turned nasty. It was rainy, drizzly, this morning. That became ice which is now sleet and pelleted snow. We were let go early today and I swung by the grocery to pick up a few things. As this kind of weather is to continue through Christmas, I am not going anywhere anymore and, therefore, must have a few things to get by.

There's going to be lots of time to read, scratch ears, sleep, scratch ears, play WOW over the back of a lap requiring feline.

In order to play World of Warcraft, some things are necessary:
  • A fully charged mouse.
  • Water in the tea kettle for tea.
  • Portable food that can be eaten while one is flying from place to place.
But when we take on a big dungeon, such as this past Sunday's attempt to down the big purple dragon, you need an extra pick me up. For such things as this, alcohol is usually the beverage to get through the mashing of buttons and the yelling at the screen when the dragon eats you.

I went to the basement, where there is a stash of alcohol, most of it of the liqueur variety, purchased because a recipe required 2 tablespoons of cherry brandy, and then never consumed again. I had one bottle of Sauvingon Blanc. This would be a good raiding wine. I poured myself a glass and went to raid leaving the bottle on the counter.

We downed the dragon. This was a first for my little guild. We have worked very hard to get this dragon down. After dividing up the loot, I decided I had earned another glass of wine.
I poured myself a glass full and noticed these things floating on the top. Closer examination proved them to be fruit flies, at least a dozen, on the top of my wine. I looked in the bottle and the interior of the bottle was filled with fruit flies. Dozens were floating on the top of the wine itself while more were just flying around the inside of the bottle.

Horribly disgusted, I put the cork on the bottle, made myself some tea, and went back to raiding.

I'm at a loss. I have had no fruit flies in the kitchen for several weeks, since I had one banana go bad in early November. Where did they come from and why were they in my wine? On Monday, seeing all of them dead, I poured the whole bottle down the drain. In addition to the whole "gross-out" factor, it was good wine. I would have enjoyed the whole bottle, not in one sitting, mind you, but over the next week.

So, as I strode purposefully through the grocery this afternoon, I added to my cart, bite size Tostitos and shredded cheddar, pears and apples, pretzels, pizza and then went to the alcohol section. To get me through raiding, I have Guinness and a bottle of Asti with which I will toast Christmas on Friday.

I see, looking out my home office window, that we're getting more snow now than sleet. I'm still not going anywhere for the next 3 days. I don't need to. I have cat food and the means to make brownies. What more could I want?

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Christmas Recycling

Pam took me to dinner last Thursday. It was a birthday dinner. Yes, this is several weeks AFTER the fact, but busy lives and heavy colds prevent immediate birthday celebrations.

We went to IHOP. Three words: Egg Nog Pancakes.

I presented her with a Christmas present. "You didn't have to," she exclaimed. Of course I didn't, but I did because I wanted to.

After dinner, we trotted over to the Barnes and Noble Bookstore so she could get some of the books on her son's and his wife's Christmas lists.

After 15 years in that location, this Barnes and Noble is closing effective December 31st. I spent hours in that store making lists, buying the occasional book or magazine. It was so hard to stand in a book store where everything was 50% off and not try to figure out how to spend some money. Books...Look at all the books! The only thing that saved me is that I just don't have disposable income in any form right now. The fact that I must have 4 to 5 dozen unread books at home never entered my mind.

I decided the best course of action was to look for Discworld books and then be glad when I have read the ones they have for sale. As it turned out, they had 3 I have not read. I almost bought them, but I can't. I can't spend money I don't physically have right now. Until this financial crunch is eased, I can't spend money on any extras.

Pam saw me standing in front of Terry Pratchett's books and asked what I was looking at. I explained and she said, "I need to get you a Christmas present. Pick one." She started laughing at my rather startled look. "No, I'm serious. This is perfect. You'll get something you really want." So, I picked one of the books I don't have.

Once in the car, she apologized for not wrapping the book. Then she said, "Wait. Where's the paper from my gift?" Unfortunately, the item I got her was just a wee bit smaller than the paperback book she gave me. The end "wrapping" result is, however, quite funny.

If you're a "certain" age, you save wrapping paper. Don't look at me as if you don't. You possibly save the bows, too. If the paper came off the gift nicely, you saved it to be reused. We recycled before that's what it was called. It was just what was done. You were being wise. We gathered all the paper which could not be reused after unwrapping gifts, stuffed it in brown paper bags and, at the first chance to go to the burn barrel, Dad burned it. He never burned it in the furnace. That just wasn't done. I honestly don't know why but it went to the burn barrel. I remember reading some article saying never burn your Christmas paper in your fireplace as the printing inks can release toxic fumes when burned. That wasn't a factor in my youth.

So here's to friends, pancakes and the ultimate in recycling. I saved the bow for use on something else and put the wrapping paper in my recycling bin. I'm ever so grateful that the recycling takes this kind of paper now. I don't have much but it makes me feel good to recycle it. If only I could have a burn barrel, however.

By the way, this is the book I picked.

Beverage: My last bag of English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another small success

For some reason, Pilchard has been a little [insert expletive of your choice]. She went out of her way to torment Mija over the weekend.

Mija loves to follow me into the kitchen on the outside chance I'm getting something to eat of which she can snare a bit. As she trots into the kitchen, Pilchard will rush her from wherever she's hiding. A round of hissing, angry meows, spitting and growling follows. It got so bad that Pilchard had Mija cornered behind the garbage can in the kitchen. I tossed Pilchard into kitty time out where she stayed for a good 20 minutes.

Kitty time out, however, does change Pilchard's attitude for awhile. When allowed out of the bathroom, she followed me around and meowed for attention. I refused to scratch ears. I sat down to sort through some piles and she came and sat by my feet, meowing. I looked down at her, picked her up and held her and told her, like she understands, that I am not tolerating this behavior.

Later in the evening, as I was playing WOW, she wanted in my lap. This is a new behavior, started about a week to 10 days ago. She jumps into the chair to my right and puts her left paw on my leg while she meows. I raise my arms and she climbs into my lap and settles down. She generally stays for an hour but last night, stayed for 90 minutes.

Toward the end of that 90 minutes, I decided I needed to attempt a claw clip. I was successful. I can only do one paw at a time and I do have to restrain her for the last one. But she let me clip 4 of the 5 nails before wanting to leave. She came back later and I was able to do both front paws last night. Tonight, I go for the back ones.

This is a major event to celebrate. I praised her for letting me clip her nails. Now, if I can get the charge attacking stopped, I'll be really happy.

Beverage: Lady Gray tea


Snowfall by Ruth and Claude Thornhill

Gently drift down

'neath my window

Cov'ring trees
Misty light
Velvet breeze
'round my doorstep.


Cov'ring trees
Misty lights
Velvet breezes
'round my doorstep


Drift down
Drift down
Drift down


The best recording of this song is by Manhattan Transfer on their Christmas album. If you don't have it, go get it. You won't regret adding this CD to your collection.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Monday, December 21, 2009

Bugs would have worn a jacket.

Seen out the north living room window on Sunday morning. Nope. Neither of them noticed. I went to Target at 10 a.m. and when I returned 90 minutes later, it was still there. Beverage: Assam Tea


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Now This is News!


Meteorologists predict the chances of having a white Christmas in the Chicagoland area are 42%. There is even a long-term forecast for a Christmas Eve dusting of a couple inches.

It's a week out. Let's see just how accurate they really are. I'll be here at Christmas, curled up in bed with Mija and a good book for sure. Pilchard will be under the tree next to the heating vent. All will be quiet.

My neighbors put out luminaria along the sidewalks up and down the block for Christmas Eve. If it does snow, it will be a very beautiful scene; all these lighted bags along the sidewalks and a snowfall.

I need to find the tripod so I can take some photos.

Beverage: Water


What the...?

I was sound asleep last night when I was startled away by growling and hissing. I have no idea what they were both doing in the basement. There's nothing down there for them. The litter boxes remain upstairs for the time being. I could hear them "arguing" with one another. But the growling quit and I rolled over.

Just as I was drifting off to sleep, there came the angry, very angry sounds of a cat fight in my basement. Before I could fully awaken, up the stairs they came, through the kitchen and living room, down the hall and Mija lands on my legs while running away from Pilchard. They were angry. She hit the floor after landing on me and there were hisses and yeowling and growling and meowing.

I've had altercations before, but nothing like this. I don't understand why this is happening either. Are they vying for my attentions? I try to be equitable in distributing affection. Is Mija egging Pilchard on or is Pilchard just plain going after Mija?

After yelling at both of them, Mija settled down for a bit. I noticed she has a small scratch on her nose. Pilchard is so hard to settle down to clip nails but I'm going to have to do the kitty burrito and get those feet clipped, angry cat or no angry cat.

But I can't have this. I need to go to Iowa for an overnight and I don't want to be worrying that my cats are beating each other up. This morning, when I got up and they ran into each other in the hall, the ears went back, the fur raised and they hissed and growled as if they were seeing each other for the first time.

/sigh I love each of them equally. I love Mija for being a noisy, affectionate cat who has taken to following me about the house. I love Pilchard for being a huge bundle of fur who is stand off-ish but, when she wants to cuddle, the look on her face is priceless.

I don't love cat fights, however, and particularly at 1:15 in the morning.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I am a weiner!

World of Warcraft the online game celebrated its 5th anniversary on November 23rd. Players in game received a limited edition pet, a small purple baby dragon who attempts to breath fire and spits only smoke. Not the cutest pet in the game, but its attempts to breathe fire are quite humorous.

There is an online blog, www.wow.com, which covers, in-depth, this game. Since discovering the blog some 2 years ago, I've read it religiously, checking back sometimes 3 and 4 times a day, particularly when there is something upcoming, like the anniversary. They held drawings for a week for a variety of things they were given to, in turn, give away to readers. One of those items is the book you see above.

I won it.

I was quite surprised when I received an email notifying me of the win. All I had to do was post a comment to an entry and a name was drawn from those comments. I'm fairly certain my comment was along the lines of, "Oooh a book I can add to the stack." It was a purely random drawing, not based on my wittiness. I simply got a comment posted before the deadline.

The book came today and yes, I put it on the stack, the top of the stack, mind you, but on the stack, nonetheless. No, it's not autographed, which would have been really nice, but hey, it's free. It will show up eventually as being my current read.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


What about the 'Fruit Bowl'?

I was randomly surfing the web, as I'm wont to do when working on a spreadsheet with lots of numbers. Eventually, all numbers turn to mush before my eyes and with my dyslexia, I can't trust myself not to transpose, remove or otherwise mangle them. So, I pop out of the spreadsheet and go poke around in some of the news readers I follow.

I stumbled across a listing of college football bowl games and what the bowls are giving the players of the participating teams. The NCAA allows up to $500 worth of gifting to EACH player and some of the bowls are lavish with their packages. Iowa and Georgia Tech players will receive from the Orange Bowl: Gift suite including iPods, iPod accessories, flat-screen TV, home theater system, mountain bike and luggage, Tourneau watch, OGIO backpack and a hat. So, if you are a member of a perennial college football powerhouse, you just have to survive four years of standing on the sidelines and you'll have a goodly chunk of your Christmas shopping done thanks to the bowl game.

Something about this smells, but that's not what I'm blogging about. There was a list of the various bowls and that's what really struck my eye.

New Mexico Bowl
St. Petersburg Bowl
New Orleans Bowl
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
Poinsettia Bowl
Hawaii Bowl
Little Caesar's Bowl
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Emerald Bowl
Music City Bowl
Independence Bowl
Eagle Bank Bowl
Champs Sports Bowl
Humanitarian Bowl
Holiday Bowl
Armed Forces Bowl
Sun Bowl
Texas Bowl
Insight Bowl
Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Outback Bowl
Capital One Bowl
Gator Bowl
International Bowl
Papa John's Bowl
Liberty Bowl
Alamo Bowl

and the ones those of us who have been around for "a few" New Year's Days remember; Rose, Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls. I'll also mention the BCS Championship Game although that's not a Bowl game. Two bowls have disappeared, the Motor City Bowl, which was held in Detroit and the Astrobluebonnet Bowl which was held in the Astrodome in Houston.

The sheer number means a lot of teams get a shot at some glamour. Beginning on Saturday, cable sports channels will have college football until your eyes bleed, ending on January 7th with the BCS Championship Game.

And yet, the "Chick-Fil-A" Bowl? The "Papa John's" Bowl? Sorry. I guess it's my age showing. New Mexico, New Orleans, Music City, Alamo Bowls highlight a specific area or city of the US and I don't have a problem with those. I just have a problem with a particular corporate entity creating a bowl for itself.

Oh well, no one asked me and I won't be glued to my TV or even have it on for any bowl other than the Orange. Hence, I won't get exposed to the advertising overkill that is bound to happen when you're watching the Captial One Bowl.

This does remind me that I need to get my Orange Bowl tee shirt when I travel to Iowa next week.

Beverage: Coke


Sunday, December 13, 2009

This vexes me. #2.

It's winter now and time for skin to dry out. That means the back of my shoulders where my upper arms attach, my lower back and tush, my elbows and my legs join my hands in feeling like sandpaper on occasion.

My absolute favorite lotion is what's called Vaseline Total Moisture Conditioning. Bah humbug. It's Vaseline Intensive Care-yellow bottle. I remember when it first came out and my mother brought some home. Moisturized, removed the dried out feeling my hands had and wasn't greasy. I've had other, less expensive, hand lotions in my years, but I always go back to that yellow bottle because I like how it works.

I always have a spare bottle under the sink. When that bottle is opened, I watch the sales and buy another that I never run out of it. It's what I use on my hands. Oh sure, I've used other stuff and it's felt nice, but I go back to that yellow bottle. I'm currently finishing a bottle of mango mandarin from Bath and Body works. That goes on all the body parts except the hands. When I'm done spreading it around, I go get Vaseline yellow for my hands.

And that leads to what vexes me.

I like to buy the bottles with the pump dispensers. The premeasured amount that the pump dispenses is often just enough. Or a couple of pumps are needed for those extra dry days such as the ones where I'm baking a lot and wash my hands frequently. You get the lotion down to the bottom half inch of the bottle and the dispenser can't pick it up anymore. So you rap the bottle on the counter, moving it this way and that in an effort to redistribute the lotion so the dispenser works. That technique might result in 3 or 4 more pumps but you're back to nothing again. You know there's lotion in the bottle because you can feel the weight when you pick it up.

With flip lids, you can turn the bottle upside down and have access to the lotion. With a dispenser, you can't. I'm down to the last half inch in a bottle and have taken off the dispenser so I can get the last of the lotion out. I whap it smartly on my palm and have lotion flying all over the place as it dislodges and falls in clumps out of the opening. I always get more than I really "need" although I'll spread that excess about to dry body parts.

I understand the whole mechanics of why you can't have the tube end of a dispenser all the way in the bottom. You need some leeway for the lotion to enter the tube and be sucked to the top. Still, I wish there was a way the pump actually got all the lotion in the bottom. Then I wouldn't worry that, in rapping the bottle on the palm of my hand, I was going to get lotion sprayed all over me and the sink.

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Enough for an army.

The office Christmas party was last night. For us, it's a reasonably elegant meal out at a local eatery where most of us probably couldn't afford except on very rare occasions. We are not getting Christmas bonuses this year, in light of the economy. But offices were encouraged to continue their Christmas parties.

We went to The Capitol Grill in nearby Lombard, adjacent to Yorktown Mall. We went there last year and had a phenomenal dinner with superb service from a very, very knowledgeable wait staff. The boss was sick, really sick, and couldn't attend. AND, as happened in 2007, we went to eat at the start of what turned out to be a major snowstorm.

This year, the boss was well and the snow had come and gone. The food was, again, incredible and our waitress, very knowledgeable and personable but not in the "HI! I'm Judy! I'll be your server!" fashion. You don't know whether to tell them to halve the dose or double it.

One of the "highlights" of the evening was when she took our order. Everything is a'la carte, so you mix and match your salads with your entree with your sides. The sides are huge, so we ordered a couple of several different ones and passed them around.

She started with the boss' wife and then asked me for my order. Then we mentioned the sides and Jon piped up to order those and his meal. Then his girlfriend ordered. Next was Mike and his wife. Our server trotted off to the kitchen. At that point, we realized the boss had not ordered. She had completely forgotten him when she got sidetracked taking the sides order down. We had a hearty laugh just as she returned, more than a little embarrassed to say, "Hmm, I probably should take the boss' order, right?"

I had a chocolate martini to start. I asked if they could make it with vanilla vodka and the bartender almost apologetically asked if Grey Goose vodka was acceptable. I guess so? That was followed by appetizers of shrimp cocktail and prosciutto wrapped mozzarella. I had a spinach salad with warm dressing and applewood smoked bacon. My entree was seared citrus salmon which I had with mashed potatoes. It was served on a bed of sliced asparagus but I'm not an asparagus fan. I had a white zinfandel to accompany the entree. This was followed by hot Earl Grey tea and a quarter of what you see below.

This is one of the biggest pieces of chocolate cake I have ever seen. The waiter handed the plate to me and, seeing my eyes grow wide with astonishment said, "If that's not a big enough piece, we can have the chef cut a bigger one." As much of a choco-holic as I am, I could not finish it and brought it home to eat today. I've been picking at it all day.

It's a very, very moist cake with milk chocolate frosting and chopped and whole hazelnuts in the batter and on the side.

There was enough food for an army. We wound up spending $25 less than last year with the same amount of people.

It's always a good time when we do this and we were grateful that corporate didn't tell us to shelve the Christmas party this year. We would have wound up doing something else, maybe pot luck or going for pizza. But an elegant dinner in a fine restaurant at this time of year makes you feel a bit more valued.

Sure I'll share. Let me get you a fork.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Oh the adventures of a life lived with cats.

These are one of my favorite shoes. Purchased last year at JC Penney, they have gone everywhere and are so comfortable. I had them on Wednesday when I went out to get the mail as the storm was starting again. There was snow on them, so I parked them on one of the living room rugs.

This morning, I was going to put in the mailbox the few Christmas cards that don't need a letter of some sort. Insert left foot, just fine. Insert right foot, wha?

I have no clue who "put" that there. I'm using the word "put" lightly because what I think is a more likely scenario is someone was playing with the toy, tossing it in the air as cats are want to do, and the toy landed in the shoe.

This is the toy. We have had this for years. I can't remember if this was originally one of Shakespeare's or if it was purchased after he passed away. It was catnip infused at one time. It's just something to be tossed into the air and chased about the living room.

Still, it's gratifying to see the toys I do have getting use.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Put me on your 'Do Not Call' List.

This is a head's up message.

Do not call me on Tuesday evening, January 5th. I am unavailable ALL evening. I won't be answering the phone so don't bother even trying.

Unless it's an emergency, well, then, yes call, but you'll have to call my cell phone too. That I'll at least check. Otherwise, I won't check messages until half-time and then again at the end of the game.

Iowa-Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Welcome to winter!

So it's 8:38 a.m. and I'm sitting at home. The right around freezing precipitation of last night froze my Jeep's doors shut. No problem. I'll just make hot water, pour that over the doors and it will thaw them enough for me to get one open.

It has been awhile since I watched water freeze on contact with the car. I think, for this to be effective, I need hot water all over the car. Um...yeah.

I've had the doors freeze but I've always been able to open at least one of them with the hot water method. Not today.

Welcome to winter, Deb! Oh boy, 10 days technically of fall left and I've been frozen out once already. Thank goodness we're slow.

Beverage: Well, I would say tea but I poured it on my car doors.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I know you're all curious.

The storm sideswiped Chicagoland, although you just have to drive 30 miles west of here to get into the foot of snow from the main storm as it traveled through Iowa and made a right turn into Wisconsin and then a left turn in Michigan.

It started yesterday as snow. We were sent home at 2:15 because of the advancing storm. At 3:06 p.m., it started snowing.

It was beautiful in the dark of the street lights, coming down very hard. I went out on the deck with some tea for about 20 minutes around 6:30. But it was starting to turn into that "wintry mix" the weather people talk about. That's the sleet, rain, snow mix, when it's 33-34 and can't decide exactly what it wants to do. Mike, from the office's wife asks, "Why do they call it a 'wintry mix'? That sounds like a coffee from Starbucks."

It became full sleet about 8:30 and sounded like sand hitting the house. That turned into a steady drizzle overnight changing back into snow in the morning. You can see by my footprints that it's really slushy.

We had snow this morning. Then it quit and now it's snowing again. The wind is slowly picking up as the temps are dropping. We were sent home again because once this storm passes and the winds come, the dropping temperatures are going to freeze this. Roads were still wet when we left this afternoon. I came home and shoveled the front walk.

There is an inch of water saturated snow under two inches of crusty snow. Now, we're supposed to get 3 inches on top of this. If you didn't get things shoveled before this, it's going to be really hard when it's over.

The thing about these kinds of storms, it gets really dark early because it's so overcast. And I have to weigh the merits of good snow photos with water getting on the camera.

Depending upon just how bad it is tomorrow, I have the authority to cancel work if I think it's just too dangerous for the guys to drive to the office in or if I can't get out of my drive due to a drift. That's what happened last year twice. The snow received was followed by high winds. I spent part of the day I was home from work making a path to the street. Even a Jeep with 4-wheel drive can't navigate some drifts. They are too deep.

My mother and I were remembering this kind of weather in the 1960's. She said these kinds of blizzards aren't anything new. If you live in the midwest, this is a fact of life. What's different now is that there was ample warning that this was going to be bad. She said the warnings started on Sunday so there was time to go get supplies and be prepared. When I was growing up on the farm, we might have had 6 hours notice.

We remembered the winter, I'm thinking it was January of 1968, when the power was out for 5 days straight. We would save all our newspapers from mid-November on and, periodically, while watching Ed Sullivan and Bonanza, spend time balling up all the pages and putting the balls in boxes. Then, when the power would go out and the electric auger which kept coal supplied to the furnace wouldn't work, we'd take a box of newspaper balls to the furnace to keep the coal lighted.

See, coal burns at a hotter temperature than wood. Although we had a couple cords of wood in the basement to get the furnace going in the morning, the coal would either compact or get so full of ash that the new shovels you tossed in wouldn't ignite. Move the ash around, stir the coal still glowing and then toss in a box of newspaper balls with the next couple of shovels full and, in roughly 10 minutes, you have a roaring fire again. If the coal was too far gone, you'd add several sticks of wood just to get it going again. No, it's not the most efficient heat, but it's exceptionally warm and toasty in the winter.

The half inch that's fallen is light and powdery. I might go out later and sweep it off the front steps and the deck. Mmmmmm I think I'll make some hot cocoa.

Beverage: Coke


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The tree is still standing.

No ornaments on it.

Sunday night after assembly.

Finished with lights and ornament. Only about 5 are breakable so if it comes toppling over, I'm not out a lot.

With the lights lit in a darkened livingroom.

Beverage: Coke


Some assembly required.

It starts with a plastic bin that's big and awkward to pull up the stairs from the basement. I hauled it up before going shopping on Sunday and left it in the living room so they could sniff and not be afraid of it. As you can see, Pilchard claimed it as her own.

Increasingly, they aren't afraid of the new things I drag out. While they were a bit afraid with all the noise I made dragging this thing upstairs, they were very interested in it once it was in the living room.

I popped the top and started in assembling the tree. Branches have these small color and letter coded tags, some of which have faded to the point that I'm not sure which color they really are. I guess I should get maybe nail polish or something so when I take the tree down, I can mark the branches for next year.

It went well. I got about a third of the way through and the "supervisor" decided to check the work.
Half-Pint would do this. Faux did this so it must be something with the feeling of the branches. She stretched out and snuggled right down into the bin. Of course that meant trying to get the branches I needed from under or around her.

Eventually, just sitting on the branches got boring and she hopped out, right at the time I put the tree
skirt under the tree. Of course, this needs an investigation.

Where was Mija during all of this, you wonder. She was lying on the rug in front of the living room door just watching. They are doing much better about being in the same room together. Yeah, there's still hissing and growling, but the anger exhibited when they first got here seems to have disappeared. In fact, they have started to chase each other through the house, which is what I was told they did for play.

It reminds me of Shakespeare and Penney. It was okay for him to chase her through the house, in fact, she encouraged it. But when she turned the tables and chased him, we got the hissing and complaining. He would even come over to me and meow as if to say, "Mooom. She's picking on me." To see this makes me happy because I know this means a good settling in has occurred.

But once Pilchard left the bin to go under the tree and watch me finish, Mija decided to check out the bin.

By this time, I've removed almost all the branches I need. She lay down for a bit and then jumped out, having decided just lying there was boring.

It takes the better part of 3 hours to get the tree up. When they discovered this was all I was going to do, they got bored and just plopped down to watch. When I finished, I put the presents I have wrapped and the ones from Carole, under the tree. Pilchard has discovered that there is a gap at the back of the tree where it meets the wall and she can lie down there next to a vent, warm and toasty. Plus, she can see Mija as she walks through the living room. It provides a great position from which to charge. Indeed, I had to break up a hissing, meowing, growling, spitting event Sunday night.

Just doing this and hanging the wreath on the door makes the house feel more festive than it has in years.

Beverage: Coke


One of my daughter's Christmas photos.

Yes, she has my sense of humor.

Beverage: china Black tea


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Almost done

JC Penney had their "Friends and Family" holiday sale today. I get the associate discount on pretty much everything in the store.

I'm noticing that stores seem to be interested in the lack of spending by consumers. Penney's had great deals today and with my discount, I feel I got exceptional value for what I bought.

All but 3 people are done, unless someone I'm not expecting sends me something. Two of the people left are a couple and I discovered what I want to get them goes on sale on Wednesday; the store is calling it "Mid-week Madness".

I came home with my purchases and proceeded to wrap them. Some are going to be shipped. Some are going to be delivered to Iowa. Some are for people around here. Some get ribbons and bows while some do not.

The bow/ribbon box, which I have had for going on 15+ years was just the right size. Who cares if there's something in the box. I'll just move stuff around until I'm comfortable and plop down. Mom won't mind. She wasn't in the way because I had removed the bag of Christmas bows. And she wasn't interested in sitting on the wrapping paper this time. I think because there was a box. Boxes trump everything else.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea



In cleaning to bring the tree upstairs, I found the missing space heater.

Target had these for awhile. I don't know if they still do. $9.99 for a heater that heats just a small space.

I had one at work and two here at home. The heating elements died in one at work and one here and I couldn't lay my hands on the other one. I thought it was downstairs.

It was under a couple of boxes.

Now, my home office is toasty warm. I could use another that would stay in the bathroom for these chilly mornings.

Finding this makes the soreness from moving a lot of stuff to get to the tree worth it.

Beverage: Water


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why do I still have this?

I moved this out of the way so I can drag the tree box upstairs tomorrow.

Yes, this is the box my Mac came in. If you've never seen an iMac, that is what it looks like on the box. I could use a memory upgrade so my game runs smoother, but, otherwise, I love it.

But is there any reason to keep the box?

Beverage: Assam tea


Ready for the tree.

I got the wreath out of the basement and hung it on the door. It was a mite dusty as I haven't hung it on the door since Christmas 2006. Carole and I created this wreath in 2003, I think, after deciding the wreath we'd had for the last 15-odd years was looking way too long in the tooth.

After that was done, I moved the papasan chair to the back room and dusted the floor where the tree will sit. That's "natural" de-icer you see in the photo. I get it at the pet store. It's supposed to be much kinder on the environment and on the paws of one's pets, not that mine go out at all, but when it gets dragged in. I used all but about an inch last year so got another container if it when it went on sale at the end of March. It always sits by the front door, even in July.

I dusted the insect carcasses off the bin containing the tree and moved it to where I can drag it upstairs tomorrow. It's heavy and I'm feeling tired today for some reason. I didn't want to lug it up the basement stairs and into the living room today. Pilchard is a mite confubbled as I moved the table she sits on. Both know I'm up to something but aren't sure what.

I have a postcard for Friends and Family day at Penneys tomorrow so I think I will go and see if I can check off most of the people left on my list. Then I will really feel that I have accomplished something.

Beverage: Assam tea


Friday, December 4, 2009

Gonna need 4 wheel drive I think.

Or maybe not...
First measurable snow in Wheaton overnight last night. It was all gone by noon. I know other places got inches so this seems like powdered sugar on gingerbread cake compared to them.

Still, I had brush snow off the windshield to drive away.

I have been reminded that a year ago at this time, we were shoveling. I had to do some digging in my photo archives but this is true. We got our first of several snows November 30th into December 1st. We wound up closing the office four times in December due to heavy snow and or high winds which brought blowing and drifting. I can get to the office. 4-wheel drive low to get out of the drive and 4-wheel drive high on the streets to get to the office.

One of those office cancellations I missed because my phone was charging and I had turned it off. I missed the boss' call to not go in. I drove in and wondered where everyone was. I changed the message on the answering machine and came home.

It seemed quite a bit "like Christmas" last year with all the snow. I like to look at it. I don't even mind driving in it for awhile. I love to go for night walks in a heavy snowfall. I love to hear how it muffles sound. A heavy snowfall has a sound, but you have to just stand in it to hear it. Plus, there is a singular beauty to the snow falling through the glow of a streetlight.

I'd be willing to wager, however, because of the cold, wet and dreary October we had, snow will be scarce this winter. That's sad for one of the best things to do is curl up in the papasan chair with a mug of hot cocoa and watch the snow fall.

Hot cocoa. Think I'll make some right now.

Beverage: Almost gone English Teatime


Thursday, December 3, 2009

This is so cool.

I have a list of things to blog about but I was reading my Mental Floss blog post today and this item had a reference to it. Concrete canvas.

Off the web site, this is how it's described:

Concrete Canvas Shelters are rapidly deployable hardened shelters that require only water and air for construction. The 25sqm variant can be deployed by 2 people without any training in under an hour and is ready to use in only 24 hours.

The cloth is draped over a framework, watered and pressed into shape and, in 24 hours, you have a structure read for use. It can be delivered and assembled sterile. It's durable and fire-proof. The web site shows many applications for its use.

I haven't heard of anyone around here using it but I can see great application within the construction industry for long-term projects, such as expansion of facilities where you're going to be at one location for years. I was just at a meeting last night with a hospital that is renovating and expanding. One of the complaints from the next door neighbor is that there are two shipping containers at the back corner of the property and they are unsightly. But, these containers hold materials needed for the renovation of the operating rooms which is an ongoing project slated to finish in 2012. Those containers will be there until the hospital receives approval to use the new rooms. If the hospital had built an undulating building using this canvas, it could be painted in camouflage colors to be less intrusive to the eye than two orange shipping containers. The home owner in question would still have something to complain about, but this could have been a solution.

I find this fascinating.

Beverage: Water


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mom Beams

If you check out the side section of "Blogs I Read", you notice my daughter's. She just finished the NaNoWriMo, the contest where you are, during the month of November, challenged to write 50,000. I've thought of doing it, but that's as far as it's gotten. I am writing a rather long story and should get back to Chapter 7, but I tend to write only when the mood hits me.

So, I'm proud of her for completing that. If/when she posts the story she wrote, you can be sure there will be a link here.

No, I'm proud for a different reason.

Art has always been a part of our lives. I have a minor in art and some of my drawings hang in the house. Carole was taken to the Art Institute of Chicago, regularly, over the course of her life at home. All our rooms in the house are painted with color. White may be a color but, to me, it represents sterility when all rooms in a house are white or beige or ivory.

It comes as no surprise to me that she has taken up photography. She has an excellent eye and her photos can be quite stunning. She was out yesterday in a balmy start to December and some of the photos are here.

I did think that I wished I'd had my camera today as the city glimmered in the weak sunlight of a December morning. I had to do a download and there are days like this, where the panorama of Chicago is breath taking that I could live no place else. By the time I was finished and headed out of town, the skyline was partially obscured by low clouds in advance of an approaching storm. We are to get rain turning into snow tonight. I have to be out in it, which is not pleasant, but the main yuck isn't to come until around midnight. I will be safely in bed with a cat by then.

Anyway, I do hope you'll take a moment and look at her photos. Yes, mom is quite proud.

Beverage: Assam Tea


Forgive me, Martha.

I don't know if my stylist, Martha, reads my blog as much as others do. I'm asking her forgiveness now so, if she does read the blog, she'll know and won't "tsk, tsk" at me quite so much.

I just don't have the cash for a hair cut. I had hoped to get my bangs cut but I can't even pay for that right now. My bangs, however, were driving me nuts.

I took a scissors to them . It's just the part over my eyebrows and, as fast as my hair seems to grow, if I wait another 3 weeks, maybe I can get a complete hair cut.

I've been blowing my hair dry lately so I'm not walking out of the house with an ear infection AND a wet head. That seems, to me, to be not the smartest thing to do. So, this morning, the bands didn't look too bad.

Sometimes you do what you have to do. Maybe I should let it grow out so there's more to work with the next time I go in?

Beverage: Assam tea


Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Day one of "Let's try to get better".

Item #1: Ear drops are terribly hard to put in yourself and make sure you get them in correctly. I have "curved" ear canals, too, I've been told.

Item #2: For some reason, this round of the infection has me dizzy. I'm hoping this is a "worse before it gets better" thing. I found myself unsure of my walking or standing several times this morning. It wasn't a falling down dizzy thing, just a momentary "Um..." As long as I'm sitting down and not moving fast, I'm okay.

Item #3: The Ceftin I'm taking tastes like chalk, or crushed limestone, or river sand or...well, you get the idea. Dissolves on impact with any part of my mouth and not even my morning Cheerios could get the taste out right away. Twice a day for 10 days. The label doesn't say I CAN'T have alcohol with this... >.>

Item #4: Way too soundly sleeping. Maybe that's not a bad thing but I may have to have a back-up plan. I slept through the radio coming on this morning. Probably something similar to #2 where I get worse until the meds really kick in.

Item #5: Cats know when you're not feeling well. Still, if she would just NOT purr when I'm trying to fall asleep or I need to find someone who can do a tune up because that is one seriously LOUD motor.

Beverage: Assam tea


Monday, November 30, 2009

Allergy to Penicillin Sucks

There is no way to sugar-coat that. Sorry.

My ear infection or whatever it is, is back. I saw the doctor in early November. My regular doctor wasn't available so I happened to luck out and get an appointment with his wife. There was lots of fluid in my ears so I was put on an antibiotic and given a new script for my allergy meds, patted on the head and sent on my way. I took the antibiotic the full 10 days, as I was supposed to, and I take the allergy meds every night as they make me sleepy. After 10 days, I felt very well.

The ear pain returned on Friday.

It's a dull ache all day that is mitigated with aspirin, but that only masks the symptoms. I need this gone. Hence, another visit to the doctor and this time, it was my regular one. The fluid is back but my sinuses are clear. It's just my right ear this time. I awoke over the weekend with a stabbing pain on the right back side of my head which chased a stabbing pain in my right ear. Then, it would settle down to this dull ache. My doctor doesn't know if the pain is related to the pressure on the ear drum from the fluid or the pressure of the swollen ear canal. No wax so it's not that.

I have ear drops now. Those weren't that expensive, but I'm allergic to penicillin and cannot take any of those derived drugs. This means I have to take the designer antibiotics which don't have the lovely $5 charge for the co-pay and almost no generics. $45.00 later, I have a 10-day supply. Just out of curiosity, I called around and my charge for the same amount would have been the same at the 3 other pharmacies I checked. It's the nature of my insurance, I guess.

This better work. If I'm not better in 10 days, I'm to call my doctor and I'll get a steroid to reduce the swelling in my ear. If, for whatever reason, that doesn't work, it's off to an ENT. I keep thinking, when I hear that, that I'm going to see one of those tree creatures from LOTR. I do have to admit that last night, as I was falling asleep with my ear throbbing, my mind wandered to Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, and that ear thingee Khan put in Chekov's ear. (And I saw that involuntary shudder you just did.)

Ah popular culture. Helps to define exactly how I'm feeling.

Beverage: Coke


Bank Holiday!

Happy St. Andrew's Day!

From Wikipedia...

St. Andrew's Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on 30 November.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew's Day is Scotland's official national day. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated St. Andrew's Day as an official bank holiday. Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.[1].

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea (duh)


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Everyone gets something.

Thanks Carole! It's just my size!

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


A good birthday

I was in that state between fully asleep and vaguely awake at 8 a.m. when I heard footfalls on the front steps. Then the doorbell rang. Mija launched herself off the bed and streaked into the closet to hide. It was FedEx delivering the boxes of birthday and Christmas packages from Carole. I knew they were coming so when no one beat on the door to get me to come answer it and I heard the sound of a truck pulling away, I could figure out what that was. I rolled out of bed about 15 minutes later and brought the two boxes into the house. I have the Christmas presents for family stacked off to the side. I am going to try to head to Iowa for part of the holiday. That left my birthday presents.

It's been a nice birthday this year. It started on November 22nd with a visit to my friend Tonia, who lives in Chicago.
She gave me a big gift bag filled with items but they are both birthday and Christmas. It was a glorious day. We went to brunch, stopped at a new coffee shop and got beverages and spent several hours just talking.

The celebration continued on November 24th with the receipt of this card.
This card is important because Pam sent it and Pam almost never sends card. It's pretty bad, too. You open it up and it plays the chicken dance. The cats were amused until they determined it could not be eaten.

On my birthday, I went to my friend Bob's for Thanksgiving dinner. Marvelous meal.
It was a crappy day, cold and blustery with intermittent showers. But the food was exceptional, the company funny and enlightening and we watched a wee bit of football before watching a couple episodes of "Mythbusters". Then I came home with a meal's worth of leftovers. It was a clear sky and you could see the stars sprinkled about the heavens. In the city, it's not always possible to see stars due to light pollution.

Today sort of marks the end of the birthday celebrations as there shouldn't be more cards in the mail after this, although my sister is never on time. I could get a birthday card in the middle of next month, but that does make it funny.

I'm very gratified that people read the blog. This year's presents represent that.
OVEN MITTS! The cat ones are from Tonia. The apple ones are from Carole. The bone china cup is from Tonia so I can drink my tea "in style", she said.

April and Perry gave me the 'Takahoma Card' from Steak 'n Shake. Ohboyohboyohboy! They have this wonderful white chocolate shake during the holidays. Or I could get the limited edition egg nog shake. Man, too many choices.

Patt, whose card is at the upper right, gave me a gift certificate to Target. "Get something for yourself," she said. Yes ma'am. A 2-liter of Dr. Pepper, a frozen pizza and a box of ice cream sandwiches, were included with kitty litter, cat food, pasta, brown sugar, eggs and drop cloths on a roll.

The last two days have been beautiful with clear blue skies and bright sun. I got paid so I can now sit down and get things maybe caught up or at least not teetering over some huge pit. And there was more money in the check than I expected. That is the best birthday present of all.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to the best kid on the planet.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Friday, November 27, 2009


Back in October, I was buying Christmas presents, one of which was a star to send to a friend overseas. I chanced upon this ornament. I haven't really looked for Scottish-themed ornaments but this would catch my eye. AND, it was on sale for $14.00. That might seem like a lot but it's heavy glass.

Therein lies the dilemma.

For the first time since Carole moved to Washington in 2007, I feel as if I want the Christmas tree up. That's an afternoon's activity but I feel as if I kind of need some decoration this year. It's been such a lousy end to fall that I could use some sparkle, something festive.

I have no idea how the new felines will react.
As you can see, Carole and I have experience with feline "help" in setting up the Christmas tree. I can't have a real one because I'm allergic to all the chemicals used to preserve a tree for transport from the grower to the lot. If I could find an organic grower, I maybe would get an organic tree. I never, ever had a lot-purchased tree when growing up. It was what we did the Saturday after Thanksgiving, drive to the tree farm and cut our own tree. Then we'd get it home and my parents would spend an hour trying to decide which which side looked best in the corner of the living room. My tree is several years old but it suits me. I do miss that fresh cut pine smell so friends send me pine scented candles. Balsam & Cedar, Mistletoe, Sparkling Pine and Christmas Wreath from Yankee Candle are my favorites.

So, what to do. I have a number of ornaments that are tradition to put on the tree. Many of them are breakable. Do I chance it in the event that these two are too big to make the climb, unlike Faux who was only 6 months old when his first Christmas rolled around? Or do I just cover the tree in non-breakable ornaments this year and see how we do? I think the tree had been up 4 days before I came home to this:
Faux knew. I couldn't find him for about 10 minutes until after I had righted the tree and rehung all the ornaments.

As I compose this, they are asleep and just adorable.
I could set the tree up and not decorate it just to see what happens. It's always an adventure when you have cats.

Beverage: Hot cocoa