Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Officially Summer

Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait.

I may have Ben & Jerry's in the freezer but this means summer.

Beverage: Water


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Food

My house smells wonderful right now. I'm making baked chicken breasts that have been marinating in Italian dressing. In a bit, I'm going to toss some shredded mozzarella on them for the last few minutes before eating. I have rice to go along with and am steaming some broccoli. It will make a lot so I have meals for the next few days. This, as we know, is important to someone who is pinching pennies. Leftovers means less money spent on what could be less healthy food.

I'm not sure if it was Jessie who asked or someone in my World of Warcraft guild. The subject of summer food came up and I mentioned I was going to make "cottage fries". They didn't know what those were. I have to admit that I didn't know what they were either until I was watching a cooking show eons ago. We always called them "fried potatoes" when I was growing up.

You take your potatoes, peel them and slice them. They shouldn't be paper thin. I'm told a mandolin gives you precisely cut slices every time. I think that kind of takes the romance out of slicing potatoes. I do have a super sharp Cutco paring knife I use. If I could afford to get another, I would. I love it and it cuts everything quickly. I am very good about not cutting myself while doing this. I don't remember the last time I added a chink of Deb to the meal.

Once the potatoes are sliced, they go into a frying pan. I used to add about 4 teaspoons of butter, cut into slices and dropped around the layers. Now, I put a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, heat it on medium, and add the potatoes. I also add garlic salt and one teaspoon of butter. I like the flavor that mixture gives. These were yukon gold potatoes which have a delightful flavor on their own.

Now, you have your potatoes in the hot oil. Here's where it really becomes personal choice. I don't saute them, i.e. keep them moving. I let them sort of sit there because I like about half of them to become really crisp and browned. So, I watch and stir about every 5-7 minutes, letting some just sit and brown on the bottom of the pan. I do this for roughly 30 minutes.

You can eat cottage fries as they are, as an accompaniment to steak or hamburger. That's how they were served when I was young. My dad, who spent some time as a short-order cook, knew just how to make some of them crispy and the others cooked through but not soggy. I like to use the cottage fries as a part of a meal. While they are cooking, I slice smoked sausage into 1/2 inch slices.

After 30 minutes, I add the sliced sausage and frozen peas to the potatoes.
I put a lid on the pan and cook the whole thing for another 15 minutes, turning the heat down to low. I like the look of the dish but I am all about color, whether it's the wall in my house, the flowers in my Hawaiian shirts or the food on my plate. You can see the browned potato slices here.

After 15 minutes, the meal is warmed through, the potatoes are soft and the peas are cooked. I usually take the lid off the dish and let accumulated water steam off. This crisps up the potatoes nicely.

This made enough for me to eat hearty and have a container full for a lunch this coming week. I like to think these kinds of meals are the ones you remember the most, the simple repast, served with a mug of tea and a cat who seems to think what you're eating is something she wants.

Plus, it just looks good on a plate.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Time to Get Better

Back in January, while emptying the car, I slipped. In "catching" myself, I heard a pop and there was pain in my right shoulder. I iced the shoulder, took some ibuprophen and took it easy. I was sore for about a week and a half, but my shoulder seemed to be fine.

Well, off and on over the next few months, I would have pain in the shoulder. I would either ice it or rest on a heating pad. It always seemed to go away. If I were a Barbie doll, I would describe the pain as being in that universal joint where her arm attaches to her shoulder.

Over Memorial Day, I was picking up kitty litter off the grocery shelf and putting it in my cart and there was a very painful twinge in my shoulder. Now, I know all about using your knees to lift and I was using both hands but the pain almost took my breath away. For the whole weekend, I favored my right arm, sleeping with a heating pad, taking ibuprophen and massaging Ben Gay into the arm. By the Wednesday after Memorial Day, the shoulder didn't hurt anymore.

Then, this past weekend was the Illinois St. Andrew Society's Highland Games. I loaded up the Jeep with my tent and all my stuff, unloaded it at the games, loaded it onto a cart to be ferried to the clan area, unloaded the cart, set everything up, took it down, loaded it back into the Jeep and then unloaded the Jeep into the house. By Sunday evening, I was very sore. Monday, I applied Ben Gay and took ibuprophen. This time, the ache and pain didn't go away. I guess it's time to deal with it.

The thing is, I know I should have gone to see the doctor earlier, but when you have very little money, it comes down to gas to get to work or doctor. I chose the gas. My doctor is very good about not wagging his finger at me. I have lost 15 pounds, probably not just from the stress of worrying about money but also because I'm eating better. He listened to my tale and then did a range of motion with my right arm. The only time it hurt was bending the arm unnaturally backwards. "It doesn't bend that way!" I said. He laughed. I've really never had a problem with the range of motion of my arm. It just hurts.

He believes the muscle is inflamed. He doesn't believe I tore anything or, if I did, it was such a small tear, it healed on its own. I have been given an anti-inflammatory to take for 30 days. I have to take it in the morning and with food. I will have to go grocery shopping today as I am out of cereal. I took the first one today and have a noticeable easing of the pain in the shoulder. I'm still sore in more than one spot, but this is very encouraging. I had to have an x-ray even thought an x-ray isn't going to show anything. My doctor said insurance companies won't authorize an MRI even though they know muscles won't show up on x-rays. But, he is hopeful that a weekend of the drug will ease my symptoms and I'll be all better after one month on it.

He did tell me not to be "overdoing" it. Hmmmm, I bet I can't get my insurance to pay for a month's vacation by a pool somewhere.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Wee bit o' weather.

It takes a bit to make me nervous with regards to the weather. Growing up on a farm in northeastern Iowa, I have experienced all sorts of weather from a blizzard that had us without power and snowed in for 4 days to a tornado that blew out the windows in the living room which sent glass flying all over the place cutting my sister in two places which resulted in stitches. I like to think I have a calm head when the weather gets rough.

Last night, I do confess to a bit of unease as this line of storms came through. I was cooking dinner and heard the rumble of thunder. I knew we were to get storms and, due to the recent repeated waves of rain, it barely registers a look out the window anymore. This was different. It was calm, dead calm. If you've lived in the Midwest or "tornado alley", you know this calm. So, I decided this perhaps merited a bit more attention.

The first line came through around 5:10, knocking out power for about 3 minutes. When you're cooking on an electric stove, this is a bit problematic. Oh well. That wave was followed, in 10 minutes, by another, much stronger, much more electrical wave. The sheer amount of lightning and thunder around the area was almost double of previous storms. That's when I noticed Pilchard doesn't like thunder storms.

She meowed and wanted my lap. Then, with a crack and boom of lightning followed by thunder, she would take off. No amount of trying to sound soothing, "It's okay ladies. Mom's here." and ear scratches made her feel comfortable.

And then, when the tornado sirens went off, well, you can see where she went. Even under the settee was not comforting enough. She finally went under the cedar chest in the office and stayed there until I sat down to eat dinner.

Mija, on the other hand, while nervous, seemed comforted by my occasional ear scratches and my presence.

I opened the back door and looked at the clouds when the sirens went off. I didn't see anything and, in checking the radar online, the warning was for east of me. This is the first time the girls have experienced the siren here. It's 3 blocks from the house so it can be heard, clearly. It is disconcerting.

Without the lightning and thunder, last night's rain would have been wonderful to experience. The air temperature was warm and the rain was warm. I would have loved to sit on the deck with a mug of tea and just get drenched. But, with all the lightning around, that's not a real smart thing to do.

Today is glorious. It is a reminder that rain brings brilliant days. If we weren't expecting rain again over the weekend, I'd put the top down. Welcome to summer.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What If I offer $75 and a couple dozen cookies?

$75M mansion near Orlando selling 'as is'

WINDERMERE, Fla. – The brochure promises a "monument to unparalleled success."

The 90,000-square-foot home for sale outside Orlando has 23 bathrooms, 13 bedrooms, 10 kitchens and three pools. All that and more for $75 million "as is."

The catch? It's not finished.

Nicknamed "Versailles" by owner and timeshare tycoon David Siegel, the mansion hit the market recently as the largest home for sale in the United States. Construction was halted last year to save money in a recession that proved particularly hard on Siegel's industry.

The home also has a 20-car garage, a bowling alley, an indoor-roller rink, a movie theater, a video arcade, a fitness center, a baseball field and two tennis courts.

But the mansion's interior has no carpet, tile or interior walls. (Seen on Yahoo News feed.)

I'm not sure I'd want to live in Orlando and the property taxes on this monstrosity are probably more than my yearly income, but let's play "what if". I am now in possession of this beast of a building and have the wherewithal to pay the property taxes. Of course this also assumes I have some income to make the place livable. What to do?

This room is intriguing. No dimensions are available but let's make this the library. I've always wanted to have a library. I'd like a plaster (dry wall/sheet rock nowdays I think unless there are competent plasterers out there) ceiling painted a sky blue and then clouds, birds and a rainbow in the corner are painted on it. I'm also assuming opposite these windows are walls where floor to ceiling bookcases would be installed. And then I can get one of those "library ladders"! You know what I'm talking about; the one anchored to a track at the top and you just roll it around to climb to the top of the bookcases to get your book. I've always wanted to actually use those. They get reserved for "trained" library personnel. Mine would have 'no-slip' treads so all of you could come over and try it. It would lock in place but be easily rolled. Yes, we would hop on and another would push us around the library walls. Don't tell me you haven't wanted to do that after seeing it done in a movie.

Because I am allergic to formaldehyde and it's found in most building materials, insulation is going to be more expensive because I can't have any that will leech formaldehyde into the air. Fortunately, sheet rock and US made drywall don't leech that chemical. Neither do wood floors. I'd be looking into bamboo floors. From a "Green Building Materials" web site, "The best manufacturers now use formaldehyde-free adhesives and finishes that exceed European standards for safety and can prove it. These are water-based, solvent-free and do not off-gass toxic chemicals. They may cost slightly more but they are better for your health. This may not be easy to determine by smelling a sample of bamboo, even if it is freshly sawn. You have to know your sources." Or I'd be interested in recycling wood flooring from homes being demolished. Often the flooring is still good and, once sanded and sealed, is perfect.

I think, don't you, that a library looks better with wood floors and area rugs, overstuffed chairs and a couple of writing desks, ottomans and side tables with lamps, a couple of floor lamps and sconces. Oh! I must have adjustable sconces in my library.

To the left is an unfinished roller rink. I don't roller skate. I was never very good at it; couldn't get the hang of it. My mother was a very good skater. I remember watching her with envy when she chaperoned church roller skating events. She could skate backwards and in small circles. I could barely stand up. Hence, this part of the "house" is going to remain unfinished until I figure out what to do with it.

I'll need a kitchen and a bath and 3 bedrooms. I need a home office where the computer sits and that room should have a system for up to a dozen computers at once. That way, I can have a lot of my friends from my WOW guild come stay with me. They can camp in the unfinished part and use the bathroom in the finished part. Given how big this house is, we could conduct hiking expeditions to the far side.

But, back to reality. Who NEEDS 90,000 square feet to live in? No one. Some of the comments to the piece involved carving the place up and using it for people who had lost their homes. That sounds like a marvelous idea.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Another step.

I have a new bank. Finally, after doing so much research my head seemed to spin, I opened a new savings and checking account at Chase Bank. They have a branch in the Dominicks grocery store where I do a lot of shopping. Plus, both the grocery branch and a brick and mortar building are within 2 blocks of the office.

They were very nice and helpful and answered all my questions. I explained my situation and what I needed. The selling point on Chase was "funds availability". I have always had problems with 5th 3rd holding my paycheck or expense check or any other direct deposited monies for at least 24-48 hours. Expense checks would be held for 5 days. The guy at Chase just sort of blinked at me and then said, "Um...we don't do that. Once you've had a test deposit go through, we know that account depositing your money and it's available that day. The only time it might be held is when it's a 5-6 figure number."

They also will help me balance my checkbook. I received a paper statement yesterday regarding my savings account. On the back was a very clear, step-by-step explanation on how to make your account agree with the statement. It even says, "If you find you cannot make this agree, please come into one of our branches where a friendly account representative can assist you."

I was shown online bill paying last week and I'm really impressed with that. I may, eventually, go that route for all my bills. When you pay a bill, it's automatically deducted from your account. I like that because then my check register matches my account. I may decide to online pay most of my bills, but we'll see. Carole will testify that I resisted a debit card for years. Now, I can't imagine not having one.

Chase was, maybe still is, having a promotion where you get a card in the mail that will reward you with $100 for setting up a new checking account with them. I got the card AFTER I set up my account. I figured I'd get a run around about including this $100. Nope. The guy took the card, typed in the numbers and I got the $100.

He also changed my debit card to one that is going to work better for me. The most popular card rewards you for gas, fast food, groceries and coffee, up to 3% back straight into your checking account, assuming you spend $500 a month on those items. I don't spend that much. Even if I have to put gas in the Jeep AND buy groceries, it's never over $500 a month. So, the new debit card will give me 1% back on everything I buy. As I'm facing car repairs soon, that will be a chunk of change.

I have my writing earnings deposited directly into my new savings account. That showed up over the weekend. It was very nice to see and made me feel that I was actually a published author.

So, another step on the road back to not feeling as if the world is collapsing in on me. I was able to send Carole some money for flowers for the front of her house and I loaned Rodney $20 for gas. I have not been able to do this in at least 6 months. I don't have much but being able to do this makes me feel richer than ever.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Friday, June 18, 2010

Second year in a row.

I'm rather glad I made the decision on Tuesday to stay home and not go to the Illinois St. Andrew Society's Highland Games today. There is a music event tonight and they like to have clans set up on Friday and be at their tents from 4 to 7 p.m. About a third of the clans actually do that.

The weather forecast was for hot and humid conditions with a large threat of rain in the afternoon, similar to last year. Jon had to go cover a shot at a quarry and said 70 mph winds were predicted about the time the shot was to go off. Fortunately, the quarry superintendent pushed the shot up because he has weather radar and noticed a rather icky (technical term there) line of storms coming from Iowa marching east.

I had to go to the post office and the bank before coming home. At 3 p.m., I noticed the sky was growing dark and turbulent. I made the decision to leave the office early. Post office? Check. Bank? Check. Drive home and get comfortable and the storm came through at 3:54 p.m.

I would have still been at the office; we get done at 4; and I would have stayed there and not driven home. Even with working wipers, there's no reason to head into the teeth of a gale.

When it rains sideways, there really isn't anywhere you can go in one of those exhibition-type tents that a cube with a top on it. It would not have been a good start to the weekend.

It's just raining right now, a steady rain. It looks like another 30 minutes of rain and then it clears up. Supper is the rest of the pint of Ben & Jerry's Cheesecake Brownie ice cream. I'll get donuts tomorrow for myself and Peter and Mary from Clan Wallace who will be next to me. Other than some warmth, it's supposed to be a nice day tomorrow.

For the Society's sake, I'm glad the storms rumbled through now. People will still come for the music tonight. Although I feel badly for not being there, this year, it was the right decision.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Is nothing sacred?

I don't currently have any in the house, but yes, I do eat them when I happen to notice them on sale.

What's next, a Spam recall?

Beverage: V8


Thursday, June 17, 2010

32 years

It wasn't until I was paying bills after work that I realized exactly what today is. It would have been my 32nd wedding anniversary.

When I got married, I was certain it was a forever event. I had helped my parents with their 25th wedding anniversary and had participated in 50th anniversaries including that of my former in-laws. I was certain we would celebrate 25 years. Carole would be in college and we could plan a cruise or a trip somewhere. Sometimes, the thought of being with the same person for the rest of my life irked me, especially where there were the inevitable tussles over silly things, but I always thought we'd fix whatever was broken and move on.

Well, life has a way of dousing expectations. As 20 years approached and it was clear we weren't going to celebrate that happily, I mentioned how sad I was to my therapist. I mentioned how I couldn't believe how things had changed. She have me a rather funny look and asked if I was the same person at age 41 as I was when I was 15. I laughed at the slightly ridiculous question. Why did I think that, just because I got married, life wasn't going to change and, therefore, me along with it? Oooh good question.

32 years ago, I was starry-eyed, hanging up my wedding dress on the door of the upstairs room in my parent's house and preparing to leave for a driving trip around Lake Superior. We didn't have a late dance. We had a buffet dinner and sat around with family and friends on my parent's front porch until it was time to leave. The aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, siblings, long-time friends and short time met-in-college friends filled my parent's house with joy and happiness. The whole world was open to us and I think, had we totaled up the years of marriage then, it would have been over 1,000. You kept going through thick and thin, bitter and sweet.

Sometimes the walk together doesn't work out as you planned. It was not easy to say it was over, but I did and I've moved on. It hasn't always been the happiest of solo walks but I've done it and it is what it is. Still, 32 years. What would we have done to celebrate? Probably what we did for 18 of those years we were together, gone out to eat.

Beverage: Tropic 50 orange drink


You. Are. No. Help.

I am simply trying to get organized for the Highland Games. The weather is to be bad tomorrow so I am not going to go set up tomorrow afternoon. Plus, there's some work stuff that has me in the office organizing, something I do really well.

I brought up the bins which contain the stuff I need for my table. I popped the top on the blue one and started emptying it to make sure I have everything.

It was almost instantaneous. She knew exactly when I had removed just enough that she could lie down and rest her chin on the side of the bin to survey the world. I did remove her but the timer went off on my pasta so I had to get that and she jumped back in. I emptied the other bin and left the top off of it but Mija is not interested.

It's been over an hour and Pilchard is sound asleep in the bin. I could have sworn there's an ancient proverb that begins, "Wake not the sleeping cat..." I don't need the things in there until tomorrow. By then the novelty should have worn off.

Beverage: Tropic-50 orange drink


Is this a vex or just hysterical?

I needed shampoo and I had a rebate for Finesse. It happened to be on sale so I got a bottle. Now I have to send in the sales receipt which means I need an envelope. Time to open a new box.

You can see some perforations on the front in the glare of the camera flash. The side has an "easy to open" tear strip. Okay, I took ahold of the part where the arrow was and gently tugged.


I swear. I was gentle. I didn't grab it and rip like a tiger into a gazelle. I just gently tugged. I had the distinct feeling this wasn't going to go very well. So, I put the tab back and started taking photos because everyone needs to laugh.

Well maybe if I work this strip around the side to the front, it will unzip quickly.

Or maybe it won't.

I continued to try to use the "easy open tear strip", but it became increasingly obvious that "easy open" means one thing to me and something else to the manufacturers of this box of envelopes.

After a good 10 minutes of ripping...

I can send in the $3.00 rebate on my Finesse shampoo. This probably explains why this box was $.99.

Beverage: Tropic-50 orange drink


Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I love these kinds of summer mornings where the fog hangs about the landscape. First of all, it makes everything look so different. Secondly, it muffles the sound. Third, you can smell the earth, deeply. And lastly, I like to breathe in the water droplets of fog. It has a cleansing feeling. I like to go for walks in the fog or just sit on the deck with a cup of tea. I know people hate it because of the whole lack of visibility but I could enjoy a foggy morning once every couple weeks.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting ready

I picked up the kilted skirt and the sash from the dry cleaners tonight. The 24th Annual Illinois St. Andrew Society's Highland Games are this weekend. If we aren't busy at the office, and indications are that things are slowing down, I might leave at noon on Friday and set up, staying through the 3 hours of open time Friday evening. If we are busy, then I won't go until Saturday morning.

New this year are tent inspections by the Oakbrook Fire Department. After what happened last year, and you can read about that here, I can see why they are going to go around and make sure your tent is anchored into the ground. The thing is, my tent was anchored. It never went anywhere. It was simply smashed by the wind.

Clan Thompson Society bought me a new tent. It's a few feet smaller than the tent I had but that few feet translates into pounds lighter. The other tent's container had wheels to help you move it. This tent, I can actually pick up and move without wondering if I'm going to pull something.

Tonight, the weather is predicted to be hot on Friday, which, if that holds, is another reason not to set up, since I don't want what happened last year to happen this year. Saturday is predicted to be clear, sunny and mid-80's. There's always a breeze at the Oakbrook Polo Grounds so it will stay somewhat cool, but I should consider a bag of ice and some water and juice to keep myself hydrated.

If you are in the Chicagoland area and are looking for something to do, I'll be in the above kilt at the Clan Thom(p)son Society tent. I'm next to Clan Wallace. I'll have extra chairs and maybe a good view of the athletic field. Stop by.

Beverage: Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale


Friday, June 11, 2010

I wonder if these are any good.

This sign has been up for over a week now. At this point, you have to wonder if they aren't leaving it up just so people will come into the restaurant.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Maybe it's just me.

Perhaps it's because social media is just that, "social", that I found myself cringing this morning while reading Facebook updates. You all know how much I love language and the turn of a phrase. I also consider myself to be an above average speller. There is absolutely no way I could spell half of the words asked of the National Spelling Bee contestants even though I do know what at least three quarters of them mean.

The basic premise behind Facebook, a means to keep in touch with people, encourages the reduction of a life to a few phrases. I can do that, but I can't do it with the truncated language that seems to be in use.

I remember the "write how you talk" movement and I shudder. Good communication is vital. I get incredibly frustrated if you cannot tell me what I need to know. You get frustrated when I can't adequately explain what I need to know to you so you can reciprocate with the information I seek.

And, let's face it, spelling is not the most fun subject to learn or teach. Hand a student a list of words and tell them they have to memorize this list and be able to parrot it back on Friday. I remember those lists both in my grade school life and in Carole's life. Who decides what's on the list? I remember them being tied to whatever they were reading; desk, chair, school, street, etc. I'm sure there is a guideline learned in college teaching courses about how many syllables a word should be for a first grader to learn it.

I'm trying, as I read the posts and updates, to be charitable and assume the writer doesn't like to spell and struggles with reading and is not just lazy or sloppy. "Rediculous". I know it sounds as if it should be spelled this way, but it's not. And I actually complained to a friend about a post where the writer, a college educated woman, said the initial post was "interesting and full of incite". ARG! Perhaps I should "incite" people to use more "insight" into their posts?

I do hear-by give you permission to correct, in the comments, the spelling errors I may make in this blog. I edit myself, oh do I edit myself, but I can read something as correct even when it is not. Plus, I am not above learning. If I cease to learn, I cease to live. That is another post.

I'm going to Panera for lunch today. I need a chocolate croissant to settle my nerves.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


He regrets the offer of help.

We were out of a few things at the office so, first thing this morning, I went to Office Depot. They open at 8 and I was their first customer of the day. Some of you who know me, can probably guess, by the title of the post, what happened. There was no one in the store except me and 3 employees.

I walked in and an employee asked, "Can I help you ma'am?" I handed him the post-it with the list and said, "Sure. Go get all of those things. I'll wait right here." He looked at the list which consisted of tabbed file folders, large bubble mailers, CD jewel cases, water, and toner for the printer, and then at me. I gave him my best, "I'm waiting look" and he stood there, more than a little embarrassed. Yes, I relished this moment. No, it's not nice to pull such a practical joke on a store employee, but, come on, he asked.

After a hugely uncomfortable, for him, minute, I said, "What aisles, please?" He visibly sighed and told me all the aisles where I could find things. I didn't buy water. I had purchased 4 cases of water at the grocery on May 26th and we still have 3 cases left. But, I got everything else.

Yes, it made my day.

Beverage: English Breakfast Tea


Thursday, June 10, 2010

July 4th is going to be very long

I guess we have a hockey team in the Chicago area that just won something really big. I've never been a hockey fan. I've never been really impressed by hockey. I might enjoy it more if someone took me to a game and explained what was going on. I know you have to get this black disc into the other team's goal and they get to try to stop you. Rodney Dangerfield once said, "I was so disappointed last night. I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out." I'm happy for the Chicago Blackhawks.

I didn't really pay that much attention to the games. I knew of the team's drive to the Stanley Cup but, beyond that, I know they have a guy named Toews only because he sang the 7th Inning Stretch at the Cubs game I went to in 2008. I haven't the faintest idea how to pronounce his last name.

Last night, the guild decided to take down a big blue dragon. Very few people attempt this because the final phase of the fight is just annoying. You probably have to die a couple of times before you get the mechanics of the fight down. We grabbed 10 people, including one person who technically shouldn't have gone, and did it. I could hear, as our event started, my next-door neighbor yelling, "Go! Go! Go! Get it in! NOOOOOO!" which I took to mean a scoring opportunity by the Blackhawks had been thwarted. I heard nothing after that.

Roughly 2 hours later, there was the sound of firecrackers. When the Bears won the Super Bowl, the noise in the street was incredible. When the White Sox won the World Series, the noise was loud, not as much as when the Bears won, but very noticeable. I heard firecrackers but, now that school is out and it's summer, it's not uncommon to hear the random firecrackers at night. I have a few people from the Chicagoland area in my guild. None of them knew if the Blackhawks had won. We did surmise, based on the noise of firecrackers, they had.

Suddenly, I heard the cats fighting. Pilchard was going after Mija. They were taking pot shots at each other in the living room. Then Mija took off into the bedroom, turning around to fight Pilchard in the hall before dashing across the bed and up onto the window sill where she sat, growling and hissing. This continued off and on for the next half hour. I'm convinced they were spooked by the firecrackers they could hear through the open windows. Once that noise died down and I gave them treats, they calmed down and we all went to bed.

All I can think of is if this is what it's like for a sports team winning, the weekend of July 4th is going to be a bear.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


This is something of a 'no-brainer'.

M&M/Mars is having this contest to find the best M&M. Of course I would vote and, of course, I would vote for yellow; M&M's with peanuts. The contest runs through July 15th and, every day, there is a chance to win a prize, that's assuming you remember to vote. If you're on Facebook, you've seen my empassioned pleas for people to vote for yellow.

I have no M&M's in the office. They are all gone. I think a trip to the grocery is in order.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Yet another writing sale.

This is another sale to I read this one over and it reads far better than the one on flying. I think I was so excited they were looking for submissions that I didn't take the same amount of time to write and proofread as I did on this article. Or, they got wise and did some editing. I'm not above having someone edit my work. I need it. I used to edit a quarterly publication and encountered so many, many people who were poor writers and felt their material was above editing. I have very little patience with such people. Tact isn't always one of my strong suits.

But anyway, I'm thrilled to have yet another article published. This makes $30 I've received since this program started. That's almost a tank of gas. I'm happy.

Breakfast Topic: A new recipe for anachronisms

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to

My guild runs all content. In doing this, we frequently find ourselves in Burning Crusade raids. Last night, for instance, we downed Lady Vashj. I got another couple of handfuls of Badges of Justice, essentially worthless currency even for someone who hangs onto things for nostalgia. We had a couple of level 70+ players in the group, new players who are leveling as fast as they can to 80. They asked what they do with these badges. We old hands laughed and said, "Not much." Beyond buying gems from the Isle of Quel'Danas to level my jewelcrafter's skills, there's nothing my level 80 finds interesting in BC badge gear. We talked about the changes in Wrath badge gear and how we wished for something to spend our accumulations on.

This led to a discussion of the patterns that had just dropped and how they aren't relevant to anyone other than a newly minted 70. How nice it would be to find a use for all these patterns, recipes, schematics, etc., in addition to simply leveling a profession.

I am an alchemist, and I've often thought it would be neat to combine some of the potions I know to make better potions. Combine rage and healing potions to make a potion for warriors that heals them over time, based on the amount of rage they generate during combat ... a spellpower and fire potion combo for fire mages or warlocks using fire spells ... a tracking and invisibility combo for hunters or druids or rogues ... Take it one step further and allow all sorts of combinations where on occasion, you get something you weren't expecting: a third eye, an extra arm, laser gaze, 3x growth. I'm a former dungeon master from Dungeons & Dragons; I know all about "side effects."

There must be thousands of things in the game that could be combined in new ways to make them useful again as we progress to 85. What are your suggestions?

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gadget Lust

I'm not really a gadget person. I not really jokingly tell the computer gurus at work that I'm a guinea pig for testing upgrades to our software. If I can't figure it out, you're in trouble because the average client isn't going to figure it out either. Do you really want 11,729 phone calls on this?

But I found something I want.


I come from a generation where photos and negatives documented life. Yes, I can scan the photos but the negatives. What to do with those other than stick them in a box and put off dealing with them for another year. The scanner function on my home printer isn't working right. The computer says it can't find it. Even if it was working, it can't scan slides or negatives. This nifty little item seems to do it all.

The only problem, aside from my not having $100 to get it, is that it's at Walmart.

Sure, I would take an iPad or the new iPhone if offered, but I'm in serious gadget lust over this baby.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things you find in the yard.

In clearing the weeds, I found a few items clearly dragged into the brush by the raccoons who consider my garbage the equivalent of Old Country Buffet. This was a bread wrapper. This used to be around a bar of chocolate. I think this was from Taco Bell from a trip to Iowa. There's a stray cap off a bottle of beer that somehow missed the recycling can, and a very faded empty Dr Pepper can.

Remember October's raccoon on the roof? I found the small green ball I used to pelt him until he decided it was merely annoying and just watched me. I tossed that into the house and Mija immediately chased it somewhere into the living room. I also found this.

Did I pelt that raccoon with this or is this a long neglected item? I picked it up and it crumbled which says to me that it's been in the weeds for many seasons. Interesting, however, that the plastic has deteriorated. I was tempted to set it in a spot and just let the elements work on it to see how long before it collapsed into pieces.

Carole would probably consider this a candidate for the Farktography contest she always enters. I just find it an interesting item. Are current wiffleballs more sturdy or will they all fall apart like this if left outside for at least one winter?

Beverage: Dr Pepper


I'm thinking it's dead.

The tree is in the back yard. It's always been something of a nuisance. We often cut it back when we first lived here. But, I let it go. Other than the leaves in the fall, it really didn't bother anyone.

I noticed dead leaves on it last fall but figured it was just that particular branch. It started to leaf out in the spring, but this is what it currently looks like. I don't know what kind of tree this is but I'm pretty sure this means the tree is dying. It's not near the house so that a high wind would snap anything off and send it crashing through the roof. I probably could, with some friends, actually take it down without involving a tree service, as it's not that big. I do have a Rubbermaid large yard storage container below it that we'd have to watch out for, but I'll bet we could take it down ourselves. I certainly don't have the money to pay someone to do it. There are a few branches with green leaves on them, but I suspect whatever is killing the tree will get to those eventually.

Yet dead trees are a haven for birds and provide insect eaters with an abundance of food. Maybe part of the tree could be taken down and the rest left? Or maybe the tree's having an "off" year and will be back in full bloom next year? It doesn't provide that much shade to the west side of the house so if I took it down, I wouldn't miss much. Options. Options.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'll pay for it in the morning.

It's a gorgeous day, if you dismiss the random showers. Those have been akin to someone upending a bucket of water over the area. The temperatures are moderate. We could use a bit more sun than clouds but the view looking up is quite spectacular.

So, I decided to do a task I have avoided. I liberated the air conditioning unit from the throes of weeds and cut back some of the trash trees that have sprung up around the house.
The AC unit will probably work a bit more efficiently, now that you can see it.

This is the resulting pile of brush that now needs to be bagged and put out to the curb.

I need to get yard waste bags and then stickers to haul it out. This is more yard work than I've done since the kids were here. I am so going to feel this in the morning.

Beverage: China Black tea


Saturday, June 5, 2010


It's about time.
But I've found out that his show has been on WYCC, channel 20, a public station run by the City Colleges of Chicago. I don't know how long. If you have not watched this show, Red would say, "Good for you." I say, "Your life is incomplete."

Now, to figure out how to get tickets. I may need new brakes and new wipers but this is Red Green.

Beverage: Grape Pomegranate juice


Maybe I need a new one.

If you're a long-time blog reader, you know I've been teased about my "ancient" purse. I used to have 4 or 5 purses which I changed out based on outfit, weather, season, event. But, when I started working, the constant moving of a life from one bag to another became hugely frustrating. I'd learn where everything was and then change purses. You men have NO CLUE.

I was working at a book store and this woman came in with the best purse I had seen. The front zipped open to reveal places for money and credit cards, checkbook and pen. The back of it was just a pouch where she kept a comb, lipstick, coin purse and other items. The whole thing was about 3 inches thick. I wanted one.

I never found one. Instead, I got the brown leather purse everyone teases me about now.

Well, over Memorial Day, I noticed the gaping hole you see to the right. The stitching has come apart. I looked around the purse and there are a few more places where the stitching is slowly coming undone. After 10 odd years, it might be time for a new purse. I could take it to Paul's Shoe Service in downtown Glen Ellyn and he'd probably fix it for me. But I wonder if the cost of fixing the purse might not be the same as buying new on sale? The other thing is, if I get a new purse, I have to learn where everything is again. Again, you men have NO CLUE.

What to do, what to do? I can't afford a new purse right now, anyway, but I also can't afford to get this one fixed right now. Maybe in another week that will happen, but not now. Plus, if I take the purse in, I have nothing to replace it with while it's getting fixed. A plastic bag just doesn't cut it.

Beverage: grape pomegranate juice


Funny the things you get attached to.

When Jon, from the office, was moving to a smaller place, he couldn't take everything with him. He gave an office chair to the office and said chair has been used by several people. I was going to pitch one of those floor lamps that gives off "natural" daylight. I needed a floor lamp so I took it.

Now, I don't know if it's really the sunlight spectrum. I just know that I have it here in the office next to the computer. It does brighten up the room and is great for gaming, particularly at night.

The only thing is, if the bulb breaks, you can't run to the store for another, at least, I haven't been able to find them at a store selling light bulbs.

In theory, if nothing happens to the bulb, they will last years. In practice, when a spider drops down from the ceiling into your field of vision while you are sitting at the computer, the chances of you jumping up and knocking over the floor lamp to your left are quite large. This is the second time I have knocked the lamp over. The first time, I was cleaning and bumped it. I tried to catch it but failed.

The bulbs are $20 and then you add shipping. I ordered it online last Saturday and it was here yesterday. The lamp is fully functional again. I missed it. I missed that bright white light it gives off. I don't know if it improves my mood, I'm moody with or without light, but I do think it brightens this room. Because it sits next to the office windows, at night, the light illuminates part of the deck. I think that's been responsible for keeping critters off the deck and scaring the cats, although these two don't hang out at the back door like Rascal did.

Now, to not knock it over...

Beverage: grape pomegranate juice


Friday, June 4, 2010

I almost missed it.

Do you see what is today? I had NO IDEA that was today. Admittedly, I did not flip my Simpsons calendar until I got home and, by then, I knew this was a very important day and was prepared to celebrate accordingly.

It's not important because it's the last quarter of the moon, although I have been reminded that some planetary wonderment is afoot this week. You should be able to see Mars and Jupiter near the star Regulus, which is part of Leo the Lion. Uranus, which can only be seen with binoculars, also is close to these planets, in our view, directly behind and slightly to the right of Jupiter. Venus is the bright evening star, what you probably wish upon and then realize it's not twinkling. If you look to the southwest, you should also see Saturn. The other planets, including Pluto, are morning stars, visible within an hour of sunrise. Jupiter doesn't rise until around 2 a.m but it is visible to the naked eye at that hour.

It's not important because it's Angelina Jolie's birthday. I wish her happy birthday but she's not a friend and, honestly, I don't care if she and her brood were spotted in the south of France, the south Bronx or south of the equator.

It's sort of important that it's Anthony Braxton's birthday. He's a musician who has resisted the urge to categorize his music. He was influenced by John Coltrane and Paul Desmond but has also composed music with avant-garde-ist John Cage. There are some in the music world who say what he plays is not jazz at all. Indeed, Braxton himself calls it "creative music". He's released well over 100 albums including opera and free-form as well as jazz standards.

That leaves the very important "Donut Day". I almost missed this. If it had not been for a post by Carole's boyfriend, David, that lead me to wonder what he was talking about, I would have blithely gone about my business today and never appropriately celebrated.

Hence, after work, I made a bee-line for Dunkin'.
One medium tea and a chocolate glazed later, I am appropriately celebrating this important holiday. But there is a caveat to this. When you get your donut at 4:30 p.m., it's not the freshest in the world. Maybe I should have gotten the chocolate covered with sprinkles.

Still, it was free with the purchase of hot water and a tea bag.

Now, when is Chocolate Chip Cookie Day?

Beverage: DD tea


Oh wow! They read the blog

I get packages from a couple of friends. I am not expecting packages from friends. Inside the packages are...


Lots and lots of stickers.

Charly went to Hallmark and must have taken stickers from almost every spinner on their sticker tree. Patt went to the Dollar Store, I bet, and picked up the 296 packets. I was so excited. They read the blog. They know I mused about being close to out.

Yes folks. It's the little things that make me deliriously happy. Now I have to write letters and send cards.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast Tea


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Another Submission Published.

A couple weeks ago, I received word that two more ideas I had for the Breakfast Topic on had been accepted for publication. Here is the article, in its entirety.

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to

Many things are eagerly anticipated with the release of Cataclysm: guild achievements, level 85, Deathwing. Little has been discussed about flying mounts in all of Azeroth. It is just a snippet in the trailer, but I do remember its getting a huge cheer. Gone will be the days of flying into Southshore and then riding (I mean, really -- once we can fly, who is going to ride?) north to battle the Abominable Greench. You'll fly -- and yes, I know, Alliance won't be using Southshore, but that's a different topic. We will be flying up and out of Stormwind, heading south into Searing Gorge to Blackrock Mountain and a new instance with Nefarian, and we will be using our own mounts. Can't get that one piece of ore on the side of a hill? Fly up and get it. Need to help a low-level guild member outside Jintha'Alor? Fly there from Aerie Peak or Revantusk Village. You'll be able to scout where those nasty Devilsaurs are in Un'Goro without getting stomped on (not that it matters to a level 85).

So once you can fly anywhere in Azeroth, where are you going first? If you are Alliance, I would wager 85% of you are going to the airport above Ironforge. There is a gryphon master at the north end of that area. He always waves when you fly over on your way to Menethil. I'm thinking that will become an active flight point, but I suspect most of you will fly up there on your own, simply because now you can. A few of you will probably go to the fishing hut above Stormwind.

Me? That's not the first place I'm going. I have long wanted to get to one particular spot on the map. I've tried getting there a few times, particularly during the Lunar Festival because there's an elder near this spot. The gryphon flies over it and I so desperately want to get off, right there. No, I'm not telling.

Where are you going to go first? Anyplace in particular, or do you think you will just hop on your flying mount and savor the wind in your face as you fly anywhere?

I read over this and I there are things I would change, improper grammar and usage and I have the direction out of Stormwind city to Searing Gorge wrong. published the article exactly as I submitted it. I would have benefitted from judicious editing and I wouldn't have minded a bit. What I found interesting is that several of my friends who read knew, without looking at the by-line, that this was mine. I didn't realize I had a "style". I guess I do.

It's another $10 from this writing program. I have 3 other articles awaiting a verdict, whether they will be published or not. There have not been many ideas lately, to which I could write. Small steps, baby steps. Who knows.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Wondering about the paper.

I get the Daily Herald. I have gotten this newspaper for years, over a decade, I believe. They do more local coverage than the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun-Times. Lately, however, I have wondered if it's worth it.

Newspapers and magazines are fighting for their very survival in a media-saturated world. I can get my news from any source now, colored just the way my ideology leans. I certainly don't NEED a newspaper. I can hear the local news on the radio in the morning, the very local news from WDCB, College of Du Page. I get a news feed through AT&T/Yahoo, who provides my Internet service. There are millions of ways to get the news I want or need. The newspaper is not my only option.

I bring this up because delivery of my paper has been inconsistent. When Carole was coming, I let the papers pile up in order to clean the house. I sat down over Memorial Day and read a half month's worth of newspapers. Oh I know the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup. I know about the oil spill and the earthquake off Vanuatu. I know about the controversy surrounding President Obama's decision not to lay a Memorial Day wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. Personally, I think there should be a contest. High school aged kids write a 500 word essay on why the president should come to their Memorial Day remembrances. Every state submits one essay and the president decides on May 1st, which observance he attends. I honestly don't think many kids realize why we have Memorial Day. Send the President to their hometown, to speak in their hot and stuffy gymnasium about the sacrifices men and women made so we have a Memorial Day. Maybe you can't stand that year's flavor of president, but you will remember him talking about Memorial Day.

I'm sorry, I'll get down off my soap box. Got a bit side-tracked there.

As I was reading through my newspapers, I noticed I didn't have all of them. At first, I thought maybe I'd read them, but the randomness of the days missing told me I never got the paper in the first place. Then, on Wednesday, May 26th, there was no paper. I totaled up the missing papers; almost a full week. Why am I paying $43 every 8 weeks when I'm getting 7 weeks worth of papers?

I emailed the Daily Herald. It's a thankless job, delivering papers. I remember helping a friend deliver the Cedar Rapids Gazette and collect for the delivery. She had to pay, up front, for the papers and then collect. She got to keep a certain amount, but that was cut when people did not pay. If she quit delivering their papers, they would complain. The paper would give them a credit, which came out of her earnings. So, that misty, foggy, damp and dreary night, she handed me a list of people and I marked down who did and didn't pay her. I did that with her for three pay periods which helped convince the Gazette that some people were deadbeats. Some people would get extra service because, when she came to collect, they gave her a tip. I don't remember the lady who gave us a bag of cookies because she knew we had to walk all over town.

I don't know how it is now. I get a bill. There is a spot for "carrier tip". Even in my cash strapped life, I try to tack on a dollar or two. I know delivering the paper means going on in all weather, in your own car, in the wee hours. It's a thankless job and probably pays just enough to cover your car expenses and a bit more. It's probably not something you could earn a livelihood at, support a family. I guess I think, if everyone on the delivery person's route tacked on a dollar every other bill, they would get a nice chunk of change.

I'm changing that policy now. The Daily Herald was most apologetic about the missing papers. I've been credited 2 weeks for the inconvenience. But yesterday, there was no paper again. I'm thinking it's been more Wednesday's papers than any other day; never Sunday. Wednesday's paper contains the food ads. Is there something about that particular paper that is important? There aren't coupons, just a food section. I don't know. I had to go to the web site today and click on "Missed yesterday's paper". I don't want to have to do this every week or 10 days. It's not value to me.

I like the newspaper. I grew up in a time when newspapers still had clout and relevance. It could be argued they do not now. I like the feel of a newspaper. The ability to read more in-depth than on the Internet. I also like the freebies that come in the paper. I was very low on cereal and wondering how I could scrape up some funds.
A Sunday paper arrived at just the right time. I used the coupon for Chex and got a box of Rice Chex, not the honey nut which was free. Trix, well, "Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids". They were amusing but not in a "must have a box" way.

So, we shall see. I probably wouldn't miss not getting a newspaper and my budget would certainly enjoy being $43 richer every other month. Still, I think a little bit of me would pass away without a newspaper.

What would I wash windows with?

Beverage: Grape Pomegranate Juice


Thinking about roots.

It's getting close to the Illinois St. Andrew Society's Highland Games, June 18-19, at the Oakbrook Polo Grounds. I'll have a brand spanking new tent to set up. If the weather looks even remotely dicey on Friday, I won't go. The memories of last year are still fresh.

As I mentioned, I visited my old hometown last week when I went to Decorah on business. I stopped by my dad's grave and told him everything that has been going on. After that, I walked among the headstones in one of the older parts of the cemetery looking for relatives.

We know where my grandparents, Archie and Eltha, are buried. We know where my grandfather's parents, Lawrence and Minnie, are buried. We know where Lawrence's father, Andrew, is probably buried, but we don't know where his mother, Anna, is buried. Andrew came to America with his uncle, Matthew, and aunt, Jean. We know where Matthew and Jean are buried.

I should have brought along the hand drawn map I received several years ago when I was doing more digging into the Thompsons than I do now. But I honestly didn't think I'd have the time to stop so the idea of bringing along my genealogy materials whooshed through my head like a stiff breeze. When I walked through the older section of the cemetery, I had a vague remembrance of where Anna's grave might be but no clear image. I didn't find Anna but I found another Jean and Janet.

My camera died after taking these two photos. I need to come back and photograph the stones from all angles. In the top photo, I think the small marker on the right side had a name that began with "M". There was, I believe, a Margaret. Again, without the stacks of information I have, I couldn't remember.

These markers are exciting to find. My mom and I have talked about meeting at the cemetery some weekend day with cameras and paper and pencil, to decipher the aging stones and document their location in the cemetery. I took a look at the Google earth view in the hopes that we could use that to mark where everyone rests. It's not the clearest. Still, it's better than nothing and, 5 years ago, we couldn't do that so we will make it work.

Jean, the top marker, was born in Scotland and came over on the boat, the British Bark Sterling. Janet was born shortly after the family arrived in Northeast Iowa.

Time is not a friend to headstones. I wasn't sure if I could scrape that orange stuff off or it I should leave it. I would like to do something that the names and dates will still be visible for years to come. I guess the first step is contacting the cemetery association to see what is and is not allowed. Then, what would it cost to clean these and do some preservation work.

My father rests to the left of the building in the background. He's got a wonderful view of a cornfield and it's peaceful.

Beverage: V8