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


Gray watch - month 5 - almost there

Yesterday was month #5 since I started letting the hair go gray. You can see, from this late evening photo, that it's pretty much there. What you can't see are the streaks of tan that represent the remnants of Nice 'n Easy #118 from February. I'll have to get a friend to take a side view.

My stylist said it would be all gone by Christmas. I sort of didn't believe her, but she was right. What I really need is a haircut, but at $40, I simply can't afford that right now. My bangs are driving me nuts so I'm sorely tempted to trim them just to get them off my face. Somewhere, and I don't remember where it was, I saw a video on how to home trim bangs when you can't make it to a stylist.

It's going to be interesting, the reaction when I go home around Christmas, but this is who I am and I have gray hair. By the way, that's my favorite sweater in the photo. I don't remember where I got it but it's incredibly soft and it looks good. I'd love to have 3 or 4 more in this material in different colors.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper



This is hugely important...

Mija let me clip her claws today!

She did not struggle. She sat in my lap while I told her she was a good girl and she let me clip all of the front ones. They were monstrous hooks, too. She was getting caught on the blankets on the bed. When I picked her up, she would get hooked on my clothes. Some of them looked like "C's".

Pilchard, however, is not so obliging. I have managed to clip 4 claws before she gets upset and has to get down. She needs both front and back clipped.

So, once we were done with the clipping, Mija got some kitty treats. All I have to do to get her into the kitchen is shake the container.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happiness Is...

...a purring cat curled up next to you in bed when you awaken.

Now, if I could just get her to NOT purr at 3 a.m.

Beverage: China Black tea


Saturday, November 21, 2009

How much will you give me?

I happened to find a can in the back of the cupboard. Given that there's a punkin shortage, this might be worth more than the $1.69 I paid for it.

But pumpkin pecan bread sounds wonderful. I haven't made those pumpkin cheesecake bars in ages. And, I could make a whole pie just for me.

Decisions decisions.

Beverage: Cranberry grape juice


As long as you're in the sunshine...

This was yesterday, actually, in Evanston, Illinois. I was on a job site and could set up my equipment and just read until they were ready for me.

It was glorious. The sky looks washed out here because I'm shooting into the sunlight. The temperatures rose into the mid-50's and, although there was a breeze, it was intermittent. Once the sun descended behind the building to the right, the temperatures dropped, plummeted, into the 40's. I was overdressed for the sun and under dressed for the shade.

But, I'll take these days when there is a nip in the air and the breeze smells so fresh. They are like miniature blessings, although I do love the winter and snow.

It was similar to yesterday today; the perfect day for Iowa to finish the Big 10 season. It was not the most well-run game they have played all season. The problems which manifested themselves in the Northwestern game continued unchecked through this game. Still, they went out on a positive note:

Iowa 12 Minnesota 0

But it could have been so much better.

Now, we wait to see which bowl wants them. Bowl officials like to invite the Hawkeyes because the fans follow them in very large quantities to whatever game the Hawkeyes have been invited to. Even in a year when belt-tightening is the norm, Hawkeye fans will descend en masse into the area of the bowl and provide a well-needed boost to the local economy.

The question becomes, what will I do with my Saturdays, now that football is over. Wait, wait! Basketball is just around the corner.

Beverage: Lady Grey Tea


One of these things is not like the other...

The socks on the left were given to me by my daughter for my xth birthday. (A lady never reveals her age, so there.) The socks on the right were given to me by Niles at the same time. When I opened the packages, everyone in the room, including Carole and Niles, thought they were the same pair. They are nice, sturdy socks. The pair on the right had a hole develop at that toe seam and were one of the pairs I fixed way back in May.

For almost 3 years, I've thought these were the same pattern. Today, as I was balling my socks for the drawer, I happened to pick up this combination and actually look at them. If I disregard the wear on the left pair, it dawned on me. The cats on the right pair have pink eyes. Oh good heavens. I never noticed that before.

So this begs the question, how many times did I wear this particular combination totally oblivious to the fact these were two different patterns?

There's an old joke...Mom looks at her grade school child heading off to school. "Honey? Do you know you're wearing a blue sock and a black sock?" Her son looks at his feet and then at his mother. "That's funny. I have another pair just like these in the drawer."

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Happy Birthday

April turned 40 last Saturday. It's been a tough year for her and Perry with him losing a job, finding a job, only to have the project on which he was working yanked from under him last month. Plus, they lost cat Jenny in the late spring. They have added Carli to their family but Perry is still without gainful employment. I'll believe the recession is over when my friends are back at work.

Hence, the whole idea of a birthday "party" was almost anathema to April. I believe it's at such time that you need to celebrate something and a birthday is perfect, especially a milestone birthday. It doesn't have to be lavish. It should just be a time to get together with friends, have pot luck and play games.

And open boxes into which has been stuffed a rather large...

April said it popped out of the box as it was supposed to. Of course, having seen Perry's in September, she knew what the large box contained.

I also sent her favorites: caramels and red and black licorice bites. I know she has dental work going on and can't eat these right now, but they will be waiting to be consumed when the temporary crown becomes permanent.

Pilchard and Mija, for some reason, didn't play with the string. Rather, they started chewing on it. As it's really not good for cats to ingest curling ribbon, I wound up putting the balloon up where they couldn't get it. Out of sight, out of mind.

So, Happy Birthday, April. Even in a bad economy, birthdays give us reason to celebrate the person and an excuse to have cake and ice cream.

Beverage: Assam Tea


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This is hysterical.

The world of World of Warcraft is rife with cultural references. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is lovingly ripped off with quests such as "It's only a flesh wound". You can get Blue Suede Shoes as a reward. If you are doing a quest chain where you have to kill monkeys for an item to drop, you'll often get an empty barrel or a hefty barrel, obvious references to Donkey Kong. I could list hundreds more, but you get the idea.

It's now the holiday season where people are wondering what to get that special someone. Over the past 2 years, Blizzard, the creators of WOW, have enlisted the aid of celebrities to plug WOW via TV commercials. The very first one to make a WOW commercial was Mr. T. I am not making that up. Blizzard's artists created an avatar for Mr. T, complete with mount.

At the time, once you created your character, you couldn't change anything about it. If you decided, at level 20, that you didn't like being a dwarf female, there wasn't anything you could do about it. You had to start a new character. There was no way to get the "night elf mohawk" that had been created for Mr. T's commercial.

Now, you can change hairstyles, genders, races (I could become night elf.), and even factions. I play Alliance. I could become Horde. Males of some races can get a mohawk, in various colors.

On Friday the 13th, this commercial was released. In the commercial, at the end, the announcer clearly says, "Get WOW and get your night elf mohawk grenade." What the...?

Monday, the Night Elf Mohawk was unleashed upon WOW. Above, you see what my character looks like having been "mohawked".

You go to a specific place and speak with the Mr. T character and he gives you the grenade you see to the left in one of my bags. Then, you run around the world tossing it at people to get the above result. The "head" lasts one hour. The grenade lasts one day. It has five charges and you can get another one when you use up those charges. You can only carry one at a time. Don't want to be "T'd"? There is a small icon at the upper right of your screen. Right click it and the head goes away.

This kind of silliness is one of the reasons I play this game. There is a teenager in my guild who thinks this is the stupidest idea ever. He was complaining left and right last night because he kept getting hit by a grenade. We had to remind him that participation is entirely voluntary and you can dismiss the head change at any time. This is purely for amusement, doesn't change any fighting you might do, other than reduce your party to fits of laughter, and is a direct cultural reference that almost everyone knows.

I like these kinds of things. When you get to my level, you can often run out of things to do, other than amass large quantities of fake gold. I can always keep myself amused but this is one thing that makes the game fun. I like the silly. "I pity the fool" that doesn't.
P.S. Dear Blizzard, I'll do almost anything to get a mount like Mr. T's. Love, Gimmlette.

Beverage: Assam tea


Sunday, November 15, 2009

You better watch out...

One of the things I'm known for is shopping for Christmas presents all year 'round. If I see something in May that I think someone on my list might like, I have no qualms about picking it up. In my closet is a box containing all sorts of things I've picked up over the years.

About this time, every year I get all the little things out of the box, spread them out and take a look. Then, I make a list of who I think would like what. As Carole's birthday is at the end of the month, this coincides with the "What did she say she wanted" phase of accumulating presents.

Now that she's in Puyallup, I really don't want to ship two boxes so Christmas presents should be purchased and shipped with the birthday presents. Plus, because her birthday is the last possible day Thanksgiving can fall on, shipping Christmas presents means she has something festive with which to decorate her apartment.

I generally lose the carefully prepared list I made of who could get what and wind up making another list at work of who still doesn't have anything wrapped, at least, that I can remember. It's that list that becomes the shopping list. The second week in December, when I've finished everything and am preparing to ship, I find the first list and that sound you hear is a rather loud, "D'oh!" Yes, I try to be done, fini, over with, ended with all shopping by the second week in December because 90% of the time, I have to ship everything and I'm not paying Express Mail Next Day for either UPS or USPS.

This year, I decided to go through that box, assign, wrap and tag every stinkin' thing in it. Occasionally, my mother reads my blog so, "Merry Christmas, Mom! That's your gift."

But, wonder of wonders, I had enough accumulated to get half my list done. Pilchard had to, on occasion, "supervise" the wrapping process which meant I went off and did something else for a half hour until she got tired of sitting on the paper. I have 2 items that are not wrapped but I have to purchase something to go with them.

And I started a new roll of wrapping paper. Why is this noteworthy? Well, in an article many, many years ago about how to "unclutter" your life, wrapping paper was brought up as being a contributor to lots of clutter. Think about it. Many people have four or five rolls of Christmas wrapping paper. You have one for the >10 year-olds, a roll for the teens, a roll for your daughter and her boyfriend, a roll for mom, maybe one for people at the office. Every year, you use 15% of that roll to wrap gifts and every year the roll goes back in the closet to be knocked over when you're looking for the roll of birthday paper.

Use one roll, for everyone. For the past two years, I've been wrapping gifts in a green paper with yellow stars on it. I used that up this year. I buy paper I like to look at. The above is from And it's also noteworthy in that it has lines printed on the back for cutting guides.

Oh! Whoever thought that up should get a quadruple raise, as far as I'm concerned. I first saw it on Hallmark brand wrapping paper many years ago. Gone are the mismatched edges, the too short edges, the diagonals and the torn sections where you didn't quite cut right. Easy to cut. Just follow the lines.

I know what some of you are thinking and the answer is, "No. I won't skip you this year." I realize that even if you limit yourself to $10 per person, if you have 20 people on your list, that's $200 total, not including shipping fees. At a time when my finances stink, how in the world can I think of spending any sort of money beyond survival. Two words:

It's Christmas.

Beverage: Cranberry Grape Juice


Now what?

If you are perceptive and, because you're reading my blog I'm inclined to believe your powers of comprehension and your intelligence rank at the epitome of humanity (How's that for a loquacious pat on the back?), you have noticed an addition to the right side panels located toward the bottom.

I have joined the bazillions who are on Facebook.

I was intending to be a hold-out. Sometimes, there's more cache in being the lone person NOT following the lemmings over the cliff.

But Perry promised to send me an email a day until I joined, or maybe that was implied, and Carole would mention all these tidbits she knew. How did she know that? "Well, I saw it on their Facebook page, mom. You should get a page."

Forthwith, I have a page. I was quite astounded by who showed up from my address book as also having a page. It was quite interesting.

So I'm there.

Now what?

Beverage: China Black Tea


Sunday Morning

I found a way to be even more of a help. Mom won't mind.

Beverage: Milk


Saturday, November 14, 2009

At least I got it to work.

Jon came over in late September and helped get the TV with the digital box set up properly. I've never had an outside antenna so watching some stations has always been on the whims of the analog gods. We finally got a set of rabbit ears and taped them in the north window when the signal was strong. That brought in all the stations we needed.

Along comes the digital revolution and, as with any revolution, some of us get left behind.

My co-worker, Luke, gave everyone a Best Buy gift card at Christmas. I needed that digital tuner box thingee so I trotted down to Best Buy with my gov'mint rebate check and my gift card and spent exactly $3.87 for a digital box. I brought it home, set it next to the TV and it stayed there.

Enter football season and the miraculous win over Penn State. Methinks my Hawkeyes are going to be on TV more this year. It would be nice to see them. But I knew that in late October of last year, the TV signal disappeared and almost every channel was snow. I also knew that the cats had knocked connections off the back of the TV in the past. I looked and the signal booster for the TV was lying on the ground. I have no idea where this goes.

Jon came over and set everything up. But I couldn't get channels 2 and 7; CBS and ABC respectively. He felt, if I could move the antenna into the northeast window, that would pull the signal in from those two stations. I simply needed a coax cable.

Off to Radio Shack I went and got a 12' coax cable. I screwed it into the port on the back of the digital box, stretched it behind the plants, grabbed the signal booster and went to plug it into the cable. It wouldn't go. I was trying to plug a male end into a male end. I unscrewed the other plug and looked at it. Same thing. I had a coax cable with two male ends. Jon said to just go to Radio Shack and get another cable.

Looking online, I found that there are adaptors that will change the ends of cables. As Iowa was playing Ohio State on ABC today, I decided this was the game I would watch. I trotted off to Radio Shack and purchased the connector you see above. I have beautiful digital quality on my TV and I get every station I could want and a few more. Worked like a charm.

Now if only the Hawkeyes had worked that well.

Iowa 24 Ohio State 27

But it took overtime to get the win. Still, there were so many missed opportunities; 5 dropped passes, 3 interceptions and one missed field goal. Ohio State is going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year's Day. For sure Iowa will be in a bowl game, but the Rose Bowl would have been extremely nice. We did have one bright spot, a 99-yard kick off return for a touchdown that brought us back into the game. That hadn't happened since 2003.

Now we just wait. We were ranked #15 in the country. I would imagine, with this loss, we will drop into the top 25. Still, it's been the best season ever, in terms of wins, for Iowa football. One more game versus Minnesota for "Floyd of Rosedale".

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


But I is helping.

I decided to clean in the living room and wrap Carole's birthday and Christmas presents so the box can be shipped next week and be there in time for her birthday.

What is it about open spaces on flat surfaces where you want to wrap gifts?

Beverage: cranberry grape juice


Thursday, November 12, 2009

For your reading pleasure...
"When the Frost is on the Punkin"

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best, 5
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here— 10
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock— 15
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill; 20
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps 25
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me— 30
I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

This is one of my favorites. It's by James Whitcomb Riley who lived from 1853 to 1916.

I had to actually scrape this morning. This is the first day. I couldn't find the scraper. I normally keep it just under the back seat. It was there but had been shoved way under the seat. Made me late for work, not that, with the current lack of work, there was any work to be done, but I still felt guilty.

So far, this November has been mild. I'm bracing for the cold and snow to descend upon us in another week or two. I count the future year to be lucky when there is snow on my birthday. I'm hoping, just so you know. I would really like a year of luck.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finances According to Luck

The bank has done all that they will do.

They feel they are being more than generous when, clearly, I screwed up. Because I have no proof that they mishandled my deposit, they are refunding only a small portion of the overdraft fees charged to my account.

I spent part of Monday evening looking at other banks in the area. The one bank that seemed to have a perfect fit for me has no branches within a 30 minute drive of me. They are more a Chicago bank and not a suburban bank.

I called a couple banks who were next on the list but it would take at least a week to get new accounts up and running because, you know, they have to put a hold on your money to make sure any checks clear. I can see if it's from "John Doe", but when it's from "XYZ Financial Institution", that 5 day clear thing is male bovine excrement. I can't wait 5 days to have access to my money. I have to pay bills now. I can only pay a very small portion of them, too. It's just how it is. Some places are understanding. Others are not and tell me whatever account I'm calling about is "on hold" until I make it right. Fine.

I keep waiting for the proverbial "other shoe to drop".

I have a wee bit of cash on which I can live for the rest of the month. I got cat food yesterday, a new brand that they are eating. It's too far for me to go to Meijer and get the brand Val had for them. I'm not a fan of those gigantic stores anyway. If they continue to eat this as well as they currently are, I'll see if I can get a bigger bag, which is more cost effective.

And, I'm feeding my Lucky Cat.
This is a traditional Japanese good luck charm. You'll see ceramic or porcelain statues at the entrance to all shops in Japan. This is a small bank. We got it in the Japanese section of World Showcase at Epcot Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida many years ago.

The tradition is that the white cat brings in wealth. There are other colors representing other places where luck is wished, such as health, family and love. The "rule" is you feed the Lucky Cat your spare change once a week, not counting how much you put in the bank. The cat then multiplies the coinage over the next week. When the bank is full, you empty 75% of it, always leaving some as "seed" money.

The only problem with this bank is that the bottom hole from which you remove the coins, is too small to accommodate quarters. So, I have a separate bank that Carole and I made when times were tough. The quarters go into that along with the 75% of the bank when it's full. You are never to count the coins because that supposedly chased the luck away. I don't count them until the separate bank is almost too heavy to carry. I've turned in $150 and $110 in change and bills in the over 15 years we've had the lucky cat. Yes, I had change and I fed it last night.

I know it seems ridiculously silly to put any faith in a superstition. I would like my luck to change. Instead of me always having to throw money at something to fix it, why can't the money come to me so I don't feel like the next sound I hear is a major appliance breaking down? That's where the stress is, the feeling totally and completely helpless to change anything about my situation. I wrote my letters to the Better Business Bureau and to the Illinois Attorney General. I know nothing will come of these. The only thing I'm doing is filing a notice that I feel deceived.

I'm out of bread so I have to run to the store tomorrow. I also need garbage stickers. There will be chances for change to feed the cat. Life is what it is. I can only go forward from this point and hope that my luck changes.

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


A Little Alfredo Sauce Makes all the Difference.

I have just finished another helping of the the pasta sausage and peas thing I tossed together Sunday evening. I got a container of Butoni Light Alfredo Sauce. I know, for purists, "Light" Alfredo Sauce is missing the point, but it's reasonably decent and, let's face it, since I can't actually make Alfredo Sauce, I can buy a lighter version for myself. I don't NEED all the fat and calories of real.

One heaping tablespoon swirled amongst the serving and nuke for 2 minutes. Oh, is it good. Add a couple of muffins and a couple 3 cookies along with a 10 ounce bottle of grape juice and I have a decent lunch. I will need to make the meatloaf tonight.

Perry sent me a link to the following recipe from Giada De Laurentis' Food Network show.

Tagliatelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage and Ricotta Cheese


  • 1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle pasta (or other wide, long pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pound frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes if dry or according to package directions if fresh. Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into bite-sized bits. When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the peas to the pan and, using the back of the wooden spoon, smash the peas. Turn off the heat. Add the ricotta cheese along with the cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding the pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup additions, if needed, to make the pasta moist. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the basil, Pecorino Romano cheese, and salt. Toss gently to coat and serve immediately.

Now I ask you. What did peas ever do to you to deserve to be smashed?

I'm all out of sausage now. I'll have to try this the next time I have some in the house. Add a full-bodied red wine, a tossed salad with poppyseed dressing and a slice of cheesecake and there's a meal you could serve to impress anyone.

And it wouldn't take Alfredo Sauce, lightened or otherwise, to make it good.

Beverage: Grape Juice


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday in the Kitchen with Deb

When the cooking bug bites, it's best to scratch where it itches or itch where it scratches or get out the mixing bowls, I'm gonna run outta room today.

It started with yesterday's muffins. It was a new poppyseed muffin recipe and it turned out very good. It made a lot and they are now frozen to be grabbed when I'm late for work. I've always had a problem with muffins making more than the recipe says they will. That's technically not a "problem", per se, except I wonder if I'm doing something wrong when the recipe says, "Makes 12" and I have 16. I think I finally have the "Mix just until blended" understood, after several score years of baking.

The only thing that frustrates me is the lack of the small 2 - 3 cup bowls like the metal bowl you see. Cereal bowls just aren't the same for mixing in small quantities. You need to beat the eggs and add the milk to the beaten eggs before adding alternately with the flour. A cereal bowl sloshes the beaten egg milk mixture over the sides because the sides are sloped. In a mixing bowl, the sides are vertical. That mix you just made isn't going anywhere unless you get really rambunctious with your whisk.

This morning, I had a hankering for pancakes. That's another item I can freeze after I've had the two I want for breakfast. So, I wandered over to the cookbook shelves, yes, there are two of them, not counting the stack on top of the bookshelf and all the little flyers shoved on top of the cookbooks AND the box in the office with all the recipes I want to try, and I pulled out this book.
I'm a sucker for cookbooks. I have far too many of them. I love to cook, but it's just me and unless I'm absolutely positive it can be frozen to eat later or will make tasty lunches and suppers for the next couple of days, I don't want to cook and have food left over. I just tossed something that was white and green and fuzzy and had integrated itself with the plastic container in which it was stored.

I don't remember where I got this cookbook. The copyright is 1939 and the side is tabbed with regions of the country with distinctive cuisines. New England, Pennsylvania Dutch, Mississippi Valley, Southwestern, Wisconsin, are some of the tab names. It reflects a time, the end of the Great Depression, where making do with what you had or could get was how you lived. Yes, I have a Joy of Cooking, a Betty Crocker Cookbook, a Fanny Farmer Cookbook and dozens in between, but I thought, "Let's see what pancake recipes are in this."

I found several sections but this page was what I wound up making, the recipe at the bottom and adding whole wheat flour to the pancakes.
They came out very well. I also added a tablespoon of maple syrup to the batter which I'll need to remember as that was superb.

As I had butter softening for cookies to be made later I had to get my big Jewel Tea mixing bowl down. This is the "Autumn Leaf" pattern.

I collected this actively for a long time and have a small collection of pieces. This large mixing bowl is fairly heavy and it's kept up on the top shelf to be brought down when I'm out of bowls.

Tonight, I made a pasta, sausage and pea combo which is good but would definately benefit from a light covering of Alfredo Sauce. I can't make that. Some things, I've just given up on. I will stop by Dominicks tomorrow and pick up a container of it. I made enough pasta sausage that I will have that for at least 3 meals.

I am thinking about meatloaf. I haven't made meatloaf in ages. I have a great recipe for Italian Meatloaf. It has a layer of shredded mozzarella in the middle. I could make that, carve it into quarters and freeze it. Right now I'm not going anywhere for Thanksgiving. I could have meatloaf and sweet potato dressing and a salad and something chocolate for dessert. I could. I could seriously do that. I'm out of cracker crumbs however, to use as binding for the meatloaf.

Alfredo sauce and saltines now on the list. Might as well pick up some bananas and another box of Cheerios while I'm there. I could make those chocolate banana muffins! I haven't had those in ages. Or banana bread or use up this can of organic pumpkin or get some apples and make sauce or...

I stop for the day when there's no usable counter space. Tomorrow, I have to do dishes again.

Beverage: Grape Juice


Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Laugh and a Half, but maybe you had to be there.

Most of the readers of this blog are fellow gamers. But there are a few who have no idea about this game. The introduction is for you. Everyone else can skip to the bottom two photos.

This is my character, Gimmlette, in the online game, World of Warcraft. She is a dwarf hunter class. That's my Core Hound, Huckleberry. There are several of this kind of pet in the game, modeled after the mythical Cerberus, guardian of Hell. Huck is from a place called Molten Core, where it's lava and fire and rock. One of his attack abilities is to breath fire. I got him because he's unique. Not very many people have a Core Hound as a pet. He's named Huckleberry because, well, extra rations of gruel if you can figure out why.

I've been playing since October of 2006. It's fun. It's what I do to relax. At the time this photo was taken, my character was at level 70. There have been two expansions, or additions, to the game since I started. The first took characters to level 70. The second, which came out a year ago, took characters to level 80, which is where Gimmlette is.

When I log into the game now, I have almost no challenges in terms of following what's called a "quest chain". One person will give you a challenge which, most of the time, leads to another challenge and so on. I have reached the stage where what I do is run "daily quests". As the name implies, they can be done every day for gold or something else. The pretend gold and pretend "Emblems of Triumph", for instance, can be redeemed for better armor or other things.

I come on and run 2 dailies in the capital city. Then in fly to a place called the "Argent Tournament Grounds" and pick up 7 more daily quests. They rotate among a selection. Some times, you can get the same quest several days in a row. That happened with the daily cooking quest. Ask me, some time, about meatloaf.

One of the daily quests from the tourney is to rescue a dwarf and 4 of his compatriots from this area just west of the grounds.
You are also to "off" 15 of the mobs holding his friends in cages. That's where I was on Friday when it got, well, interesting.

You see the small squares. Those are cages containing people who need rescuing. Mean baddies roam around this area and you have to kill them because they have the keys to open the cages. It's not just you doing this, however. You're also "enjoying" the company of any number of people who all have the same quest. Finding a live mob to kill can get difficult sometimes.

I was running around, with Huck, killing bad people, getting keys and opening cages. Another hunter showed up and tried to "steal" one of the mobs that I had targeted to kill. If you shoot or otherwise engage a mob before another person does, you get credit for that mob. There are people in this game who think nothing of running around tagging other people's mobs just to be mean. That's called "griefing" and is, technically, not allowed.

I don't know if that's what this person was doing. They had missed a couple of times to get a mob I had targeted. They ran to the right in the photo, near the edge of the area and attempted to hit another mob I had targeted. They missed again. So, to stop auto attacking, they did a maneuver called "Disengage". The hunter flies backwards. It's very useful if you get too close to use your bow or your gun.

Now you're all intelligent readers. You can probably see exactly where this is going. The other hunter didn't. He hit his "Disengage" and misjudged how close he was to the edge. All I have to say is, "It's a long way down." Your pet will disappear if you get a certain distance away from it. As I was laughing, his pet wolf disappeared.

Of course I've done it, not here, but in other places in the game. In fact, we've often talked about having all the hunters at the edge of a high cliff and the, on the count of 3, Disengaging over the cliff. The name of the guild is Spectacular Death for a reason. It would make an awesome recruiting statement.

I never got the person's name. I wish I had. I was going to send them an in-game letter telling them we'd decided to make them and honorary member of SD. That was just priceless. Fortunately, you're never obliterated in the game. You can run back and claim your body, assuming you can find it.

This area borders on a sea. I don't know if he would have hit the water from this ledge or if there is still land below. I just know that I was laughing so hard, I had to stop doing my quests for a bit.

Beverage: Robert the Bruce Scottish-style Ale


Major step

Just standing on the stairs, mom.

Yup, that's Mija on the basement stairs. It started at the beginning of October when I left the basement door open when I went to do laundry. Pilchard decided to see from where this noise was coming and came down the stairs. Of course, there are thousands of places to go in a basement and I wound up having to leave the basement door open and hope she would come upstairs when her curiosity was filled.

Since then, both have come downstairs, poked around and come back upstairs within 30 to 40 minutes of when I leave. In fact, today has been a test of sorts. I did a load of whites this morning and left the door open. Pilchard went back upstairs before I did, at half-time, when I was hanging up the wash and tossing the rugs into the machine. Mija went downstairs while I was mixing the muffins but came back up once I left the kitchen. Neither has been downstairs since.

This is good because the open basement door allows those musty basement smells to dissipate. Plus, in the winter, it seems to equalize the temperature in the house. I'm going to leave it open tonight and just see how we do. If there are no crashes in the night and no one has a face covered in cobwebs in the morning, I would say I can leave the basement door open, period.

And, I discovered, I'm going to need to buy cat food.

Val gave me what I think was a 20 pound bag, I honestly didn't look. It was big and took up lots of floor space in the kitchen. After two full months and one week of twice daily feedings, this is what I have left. The container will probably be empty by the end of the week. Fortunately, dry cat food I can afford.

Beverage: Blackberry tea


Gorgeous day for football.../facepalm

This was Saturday afternoon. Not a cloud in the sky. A very light and gentle breeze from the west/northwest. Temperatures up to 75! In November! You could not ask for a better afternoon in which to play football. It was exactly like the above in Iowa City. It's one of those days where, if it hadn't been a 4.5 hour drive to my mom's, I might have hopped in the car and driven there, just to be.

It's the kind of day where I can wash bathroom rugs during halftime and put them out on the
deck to dry. It's going to get only into the upper 60's tonight so I can leave these out all night if they aren't dry and know they will dry tomorrow. It's not supposed to be as warm but it's supposed to be clear. I have 3 more rugs to wash tomorrow so all the deck railings will have rugs on them. They will smell so nice when they are brought inside.

Plus, it's the day where I throw open the house, turn off the heat and let that breeze run through. It's probably the last time to do that.

Cat bodies can't get out the windows, open about 3 inches, although noses have been by the opening to get a whiff of fresh fall air. I did have one of the office windows wide open. Val said they are scared to go outside so I figured I wasn't tempting fate until...

a tailless squirrel came up onto the deck just to snoop around. Pilchard was sitting on the sill, saw it and started toward it. She got as far as the railing just outside the window before I grabbed her and pulled her inside. After the football game, I went out to sit on the front porch and admire the view.
I left the storm door open while I just sat for a half hour. I periodically called Pilchard's name. She was inside, lying on the table. She never moved. I called for Mija, who came running to see what I wanted. She took a look at me outside, turned around and ran back to the bedroom. I'm okay with them being house cats.

Oh yeah, that football game. (sigh) Iowa 10 Northwestern 17. Northwestern deserved to win. The last two games, Iowa has played sloppy, almost as if everyone is only there 80-85% and is counting on everyone else to bring their 100% game. They lucked out in that Michigan State and Indiana only played for 3 or 3.75 quarters. Luck, skill, talent, voodoo, you name it ran out today.

This is good, however. They were beaten by a 5-4 team and they did not look like the #4 ranked team in the nation. If they stay in the top 15, I will be surprised. Next weekend is Ohio State and if they play in Columbus as they played today in Iowa City, Ohio State 48, Iowa 10. You read it here first.

So, I made poppyseed muffins and am thinking about baking more cookies. I ate all the muffins I had frozen so I needed to make more. Those days when I sleep through the alarm and Mija decides all she will so is lie on me and purr, muffins are the perfect grab and go breakfast.

I'm going to sleep with the windows open tonight. It will be the last hurrah for open window sleeping for 2009. Tomorrow, I should rake the yard and perhaps and, if I feel motivated enough, I shall go buy a rake and do that, even if all I do is rake the leaves into a pile.

I might also grab that book Carole sent me a link to, about luck, and sit on the deck and read. Many possibilities for the last warm weekend of fall.

Beverage: Blackberry tea


Friday, November 6, 2009

The Evil Eye

I am trying to be optimistic about this whole financial mess.

I had to go back to the bank yesterday because the promised phone call regarding the exorbitant fees tacked onto my account had not materialized and I gave them an extra day. Plus, when I went to log onto my account online, I was denied. That was frustration and a half.

The screen said to create a new password. Okay, that I can accept. I attempted to do that and was told to call a toll free number. Call the toll free number and get the English or Spanish option. Then get "Enter your account number or your Social Security number." I entered my account number and got a repeat of the sentence. I did this for 15 minutes, hanging up and trying again with either the account number or my Social Security number.

In frustration, I found another toll free number and called that. I did get through to an operator that time. I explain I was having problems and could she transfer me or was there another number I could call. She informed me I had to call the previous number. I explained I'd been doing this for 15 minutes. I understood she couldn't help me but could she send my call somewhere else or give me another number. No. I had to call the original number. Again I explained the problem and when she told me yet again, that I had to call the original number, I asked to speak to a supervisor. She told me to call the first number and hung up on me. No, I didn't get her name because I was, at this point, nearly in tears.

So, yesterday, armed with times and a list of everything I have done, I went back to the bank and talked to the man who, it turns out, is at the top of the food chain at this branch. I told him exactly what I did, what number I called and what happened. He called the same number I did and got the same voice prompt. "Oh well, you have to dial..." I forget what number it is, to get out of that circle. It's not explained. There is zero explanation on the phone system.

I told him that's horrible customer service. As a customer, I wouldn't know to push that number because that's NOT what the message says.
He knows because he works there.

He looked at my account. He had to do a great deal of manipulation of the account numbers to get into the screen that shows my accounts. I have a temporary number until this mess gets sorted out, but he got in and wrote everything down for me.

That's when he noticed the Mastercard account, the one they screwed up on the online payment for, had been closed. I received no notice that this was going to happen. He said that's against the law, first of all and secondly, I should have received a letter AND a phone call from a live person. So, he showed me the protest email he was sending.

Then there is the matter of the fees attached to my checking account. I came, yesterday, with the letters telling me I needed to make the account positive, you know, the ones I didn't get until 4 days AFTER I was supposed to fix this. He looked them over and admitted the letters were confusing because they are system generated and not in chronological order. I should have received a phone call from a live person. I've only received these calls that tell me to go online, which I couldn't, to see what the problem was. Again, he showed me the protest email he was sending up the food chain.

Unfortunately, the review of my account could take "5 to 7 business days" and I protested last Thursday. I told him I have been unable to pay any bills because I have no idea how much money is in my account. I will have to call other credit card companies and explain the problem so additional fees won't get attached to those accounts. So, far, that has gone well. It takes longer than expected to get through the explanations so I have missed a couple cards that are on the east coast. Fortunately, I don't have much so it's not a stack. It's just embarrassing to have to explain this every single time. Mr. manager said he would ask that a decision be expedited.

So, here we come to the weekend. I have a check from liquid funds that I could deposit or start a new account. I really don't want the hassle of a new account, but this is beyond ridiculous. I am to write up all the problems I have had with how this bank's online system works, how their phone system works and that ridiculous hang up on Wednesday. Mr. manager assures me he will see that it gets passed up to those who deal with customer service. I'm also thinking I should send a copy to the Better Business Bureau, my congressman, my senator and the Illinois Attorney General. The latter's office takes a very dim view of this kind of thing.

I was remembering when I refinanced my mortgage and got a debit card. I put it aside and didn't use it. At the time, we were getting paper payroll and expense checks. Those expense checks were what I lived on.

Now, everything is electronic. My paycheck and expense checks are direct deposit. The only thing I see is the email saying the expense check has been deposited and the statement from my paycheck. I never see anything that requires me to go to the bank. Am I better off this way?

I'm thinking, for me, I need to have X number of dollars at the beginning of the week and that's all I have to live on. It's too easy to swipe the debit card at Caribou Coffee or Flips Italian Beef or Carol's Garden Restaurant. I'm thinking, for the time being, I need to go back to the old ledger form of financial accounting. Everything I buy or any check I write, needs to be entered into some sort of ledger so I can account for every penny. Perhaps I got lax. Perhaps I got too trusting although I do look at my accounts at least 4 times a month online. I match up all receipts but, for me, maybe that's not enough.

I don't know. I just know I can't go through this again and I need to have concrete specific proof that I didn't spend more than I took in so if this were to happen again, I can come back and say, "I did not screw up. You did."

I need pie. After work, I'm going over to Dominicks and getting a pie, a whole pie, and I'm going to take a long time to eat it.

Beverage: China Black Tea