Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here is the finished cross-stitch all framed. I washed the fabric which removed most finger oils, dirt and the marks from the hoop. I got the frame a week ago at Michaels, on sale. I'm pleased with the result.

Now to wrap it and ship it to the recipient who doesn't know that it's coming to them.

I'm thinking of trying this Postal Service Priority Mail offer they have been advertising heavily on TV. Supposedly, anything I can fit into one of their Priority Mail boxes can be shipped for a low price. Plus, they will drop off the boxes at the house. That would be great since I don't have a lot of boxes stored anymore. I just decided because we get so many at the office, if I needed one for shipping, I could use something from there. Getting the bulk of the gifts shipped this week would be a huge load off my mind.

On to the next project.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


It's Sunday evening. Do you know where your cat is?

Pilchard? Check. Right where she's been since I brought this basket up from the basement on Friday afternoon.

Mija? "Helping" me put away my pants. Eventually, she jumped out of the drawer and I could push the drawer in.

I really need to put the towels and sheets away because I need the laundry basket. But I hate to disturb her sleeping place.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Gasp! I Almost Forgot!

Happy St. Andrews Day!

This is the day we remember, or some of us try to remember, to celebrate our Scottish heritage.

I had completely forgotten about it until I got an email from the Illinois St. Andrew Society. Oh yeah! That's today.

I gotta start writing this stuff on a calendar.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Sunday, November 28, 2010

28 on the 28th

Today is Carole's "Golden Birthday". I didn't know about this moniker until I was talking with a friend this week. Your "Golden Birthday" is the day you and the date are the same number.

It's been quite a year for her. She got engaged in January, broke that off in March, moved from Seattle to Connecticut in May, promoted to supervisor of the jewelry department at the Penney's where she works in June and engaged and married in October. Today, she's spending the day at the Bills-Steelers football game in Buffalo where she and David have friends. That's a good way to spend your golden birthday, bundled up against the cold in Buffalo, New York. I forgot to ask, when I talked to her this morning, if she'd brought a hat. "You might find us, mom. We're in the end zone and I'll be wearing my red coat."

Happy birthday, sweetie. I hope year 28 isn't quite as stressful as year 27 was but I hope it's just as exciting.

Beverage: Orange Cranberry Juice


Maybe a New Phone is in Order.

I must apologize to anyone I've hung up on recently. This cordless phone has been a part of this household for over 10 years. That's a long time for a piece of equipment by today's standards. Lately, over the last month or so, it's become very annoying.

I had to turn off the ringer on this phone because it became increasingly louder even though I was turning it down. I can hear the phone in the kitchen from any room in the house (one of the blessings of a small house) so the ringer isn't really necessary. A few of the buttons aren't as sensitive as they used to be, notably, the 1 and the 9, but pushing them harder makes them work.

The problem that has developed is the phone's inability to retain a charge so it's actually working. It sits to my left in the office. I have already "hung up" on Charly who was understanding about the phone. I answer it and I don't hear anything so I think I've missed the call and it's gone to voice mail. So, I hang up when they are saying, "Hello? Deb? Deb?" I cleaned the charging contacts at the base of the phone and in the phone rest but that doesn't seem to have fixed the problem. It seems to "pop" out of charging easily and not because a cat walks behind it and knocks it out of the cradle. Yes, Rascal and Betsy used to do that regularly. Mija and Pilchard aren't interested in sitting on the printer as those two were.

It could be something simple like a new battery. I'm going to try that route this week. If that doesn't cure it then I will probably need a new phone by the end of the year. It's so aggravating to be anticipating a call, hear the kitchen phone, grab this one, answer and...silence, or that annoying beep that says the thing isn't charged. If you call me and I "hang up" on you, please give me 5 minutes to yell at the phone, reposition it and calm down. I don't mean to be rude, unless you're a solicitor and then I'll be as rude as my DNA allows.

Beverage: Orange Cranberry Juice


Yes. This Makes Me a Nerd.

Several years ago for Christmas, Jon gave me this plaque. It hangs proudly in the hallway of my home.It's one of my favorite things. As I have discovered with the online game I play, World of Warcraft, it's also very apropos.

Dragons are a feature of pretty much any mythical story. "Beowulf", the first epic poem of the Anglo Saxons, tells about the hero battling a dragon. We have come to realize that "dragons" were real to these people, although what the dragon would have been is up for debate. It's not that much of a mental leap to have a previously unknown animal be labeled a "dragon" when it makes off with Uncle George and you can't stop it. Every civilization seems to have had a dragon of some sort.

In World of Warcraft, some dragons are friendly but most would rather kill you first and ask questions later. My guild had lots of fun running around the world killing the "world dragons", 4 green or greenish blue dragons that started out hard to kill, but as we got better armor and better skills, became something of a laugh. But they were dragons and if we saw them in their dragon haunts, the cry went up "Emeriss is in Duskwood!" and we'd mobilize to go kill a dragon.

World of Warcraft is set to what's called "expand" again on December 7th. The game has been changed in anticipation of this event. The dragon you see above is the reason why. According to lore, and Warcraft has deep lore roots, having started as a stand alone game for PlayStation and that ilk, Deathwing tried to take over but was defeated and sealed underground beneath the sea. On November 23rd, the 6th anniversary of World of Warcraft, he broke through his prison and changed the world. Places I'd known and loved were destroyed and changed. It's been fun to run around and see what's changed and what hasn't.

Deathwing is very much a part of the game scape beyond just altering the landscape. There is a chance to encounter him. Randomly, he shows up in one of the zones in the game and "destroys" it. I was running around with my best in-game friend, Bill. We had just tamed a beetle for him as a hunter pet, which, if you don't play the game, makes no sense, but bear with me here. We're riding back to the main town and my display goes blood red. Seriously. The sand, the mountains, the animals, everything. I thought, at first, there was something really wrong with the computer. I don't know what I would do if that happened, which is yet an other reminder that I need to make CD's of these thousands of WOW screen shots and movies and move them off my computer to make room for the game.

Anyway, the world around us erupted in flame and I briefly saw the tail end of an enormous dragon.
You die and you have to run back to your body. Plus, your gear has been battered so you need to go repair once the event is over. You also get an achievement, which is in-game recognition of something unique. That's my lowly dwarf hunter lying dead on the red sand. A guild member said the sky turns gray as Deathwing approaches but honestly, if you're going to tame beetles, you're not looking at the sky.

Beyond the fact that I play an online game whose target audience is male between the ages of 18 and 35, Bill and I agreed we are definitely "nerds" or "geeks" or "neeks" or "gerds", whatever appellation fits. I sat at my computer watching, with my mouth hanging open and then we spent the next 2 hours bragging to anyone we know that we'd been "toasted by Deathwing". And, pointing this out before you do, I am now bragging on my blog. Yup, that's me there, crunchy and good with ketchup.

Silly dragon. I didn't have far to run to get back to my body and my repair bill was a paltry 62 silver. I pay more after a few minutes of beating on skeletons in Icecrown Citadel. But, I got the Deathwing achievement which is very rare. So far, only one other person I know of in the guild has been roasted.

So, my advice is, "Don't stand in the fire but in this case, enjoy it."

Beverage: Orange Cranberry Juice


Saturday, November 27, 2010

It Can Now Officially Be the Christmas Season

I don't have a tree up. I am debating if I want to drag the bin up from the basement and set it up. I am debating if I want to put up lights, too, or just go back to no decorations other than the wreath on the door.

We had a family tradition born out of the fact that the Grinch was on TV usually within a couple days of Thanksgiving. It wasn't officially Christmas until we had watched the Grinch.

So, yesterday, Black Friday, I did dishes and wash and worked on some cross-stitch and watched the Grinch. It can now officially be the Christmas season. Some traditions are worth preserving.

Beverage: China Black tea


It's Mine Now.

A four day weekend is a good time to get caught up on the wash you may put aside during the week because you need underwear or pants. I did a load of bedding and towels. I didn't get it folded and put away immediately and Pilchard found the basket. At this point, if the item doesn't have black fur on it, I haven't used it in over a year.

Beverage: China Black tea


A Case for Social Networking

It's easy to bash Facebook, even though many of us use it. It doesn't seem as if a week or month passes when Facebook isn't accused of violating their own stated privacy statement by allowing personal information to be data-mined. Advertisers love it because clicking a "Like" gives them access to a huge database of names and email addresses. As much as you click out of the ads on the right side of the window, more pop up. It gets overwhelming.

And there is the following, posted by my mother about the middle of the month.

This seems to be a common theme, the lack of respect in the online world. I see it every time I play World of Warcraft. Guild members decry the lack of decorum in the "Trade Channel", the channel where you can offer your ability to make potions or request the services of someone who knows blacksmithing, as examples. Trade Chat is routinely offered up as the epitome of the "Penny Arcade Theory" where one person + the anonymity of the Internet = a total jerk. I'm rephrasing this to delete the expletives.

I have, on occasion, hidden comments on Facebook from certain people because I've felt the post was designed to be offensive, period, not to express a view for discussion. Some people have decided the need to self-edit isn't necessary on these pages. Facebook can be prompted to remove patently offensive material and we have tools that allow us to opt out.

Still, it's easy to point to this as an example of the breakdown of society in general. Folks, I remember when the 1960's were held up as an example of society descending into decay. I'm also willing to bet the Great Depression, Jazz Music, the Civil War, heck, our own revolution were, at their time, used as symbols of the society of that day falling into ruin.

Is there are point to my musing? Yesterday was my birthday. I received 2 cards yesterday in the mail, just 2. On Facebook, I received 21 wishes and one more today. One of the cards received was from my mother and she also posted to Facebook, so I'll remove her from the tally. That's 20 singular wishes I probably wouldn't have received had my birth date not been posted on my profile. That post resulted in a phone call from my youngest brother, Dan. "Hey! I seen [sic] on Facebook that today is your birthday. I didn't know. So, I'm just calling to say, 'Happy Birthday!'" I would faint dead away if Dan ever remembered to send a card, but he can send wishes on Facebook.

I am probably more in touch with him, with my nieces and my daughter, than I would be if we had to rely on phone calls and letters. I still write letters on occasion, not as much as I used to, and I still send cards, again, not as much as I used to. I have, however, jumped into the digital age and rely on the Internet to deliver wishes and comments and communications. "You can't hold a good wish in your hand," is a rationale for sending cards and letters and I do understand that. I treasure cards and letters received. But I also understand that in this age, digital is "where it's at", to grab a catch phrase from the 1960's and drag it forward.

So, I'm ever so grateful for the 22 people who chose to wish me happy birthday digitally. It's still a conscious choice, to sit down and type, "Happy Birthday, Deb." You might or might not have known if it wasn't for Facebook.

Beverage: China Black tea


Friday, November 26, 2010

Yes, it is my birthday.

I was born at 10:45 in the morning so it doesn't take long for the "new" age to kick in. As I type this, I have officially started yet another year. It hasn't always been a good year passed, but I can't say it was dull.

I don't remember when I learned it, but I have, as long as I can remember, been proud to share my birthday with Charles Schultz. Charlie Brown and his friends and family were so much a part of my life growing up. I remember the first time the Christmas special aired. It might seem antiquated in animation or theme but it is indelibly part of this season we find ourselves in. Mental Floss has an interesting article about Charles Schultz today.

I also share this birth date with Tina Turner, Eugene Ionesco, Robert Goulet, Shawn Kemp, Bill W. (founder of Alcoholics Anonymous), Bruno Hauptman (of "Lindbergh Baby" fame), Bruce Paltrow (Blythe Danner's late husband), Rich Little and Eric Severeid, among other people. Some of my readers won't recognize most of those names. A few of us have enough "water over the dam", so to speak, to know who they are.

Now, to toast myself with a beer and to see what I have in the freezer for dinner.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


No cake for you!

Thanksgiving dinner was, as I mentioned on Tuesday, pork chops with orange rice and lightly buttered peas and carrots. I used up the rest of the packages of those frozen veggies. They are on the grocery list.

The chops were the thick kind I enjoy so I cooked them a bit longer than the 40 minutes it says. The result was a wonderfully tender chop that broke apart with my fork. I didn't need a knife to cut it. Perfection.

About 8:30 p.m., I had a desire for warm tapioca pudding. You all know that's one of my favorite desserts. So, I trundle off into the kitchen and get the tapioca soaking. I use Bob's Red Mill small pearl tapioca. It has to soak in water for 30 minutes before you start the cooking process.

Tapioca? Check. Water? Check. That's soaking. Now to gather the other ingredients. Sugar? Check. Vanilla? Check. Eggs? Eggs? Oh no. The egg container is completely empty. There isn't an egg to be found in my house other than the symbolic stuff on my face.

Scrounging through my purse, cleaning out receipts later, I discover I have $5. But I joined Dominicks email savers "club" and I was supposed to get free eggs. The coupon for those is no where to be found on their web site. Had I realized I was out last week, I could have ordered eggs from Oberweis Dairy when I ordered other things. I had entertained thoughts of egg nog muffins and cheesecake, apple cake, apple muffins, chocolate chip muffins and french toast, although to do that, I need bread.

In theory, I can afford a dozen eggs, but it seems like such a waste of gas to run to the store for eggs when I'm not going out for anything else. Fortunately, I don't need eggs to make this crock pot chicken recipe I'm eyeing or to make my morning oatmeal. I make do without a lot of things. Eggs are just one more item.

Payday is next week and you can be sure eggs are on top of the list.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


No smell.

Perhaps you know of studies linking PVC's, polyvinylchlorides, to all sorts of suspected health problems. Perhaps you also know about the move to boycott Target until they removed from sale all the items that contained PVC. My search seems to put this movement as starting in 2006 in a very limited fashion, although I didn't hear about it until early this year. There was an article in October listing a few things still for sale at Target which contained PVCs.

I have a shower curtain with the pattern of brightly colored fish. "Some day" I will finish making the bathroom an undersea paradise with fish swimming on the walls. It's close but it isn't there. The shower curtain is part of the decor.

I use a plastic liner. I know. I know. I could go to Gaiam.com and get a natural shower curtain that I just toss in the wash. This would, in the long run, be more cost effective. But, at $58, it's a bit pricey for me. And, frankly, when I think, "Oh I could get a natural curtain I could just wash, is when I can just add a new liner to the Target list.

In the past, I have dreaded buying a new liner and I've put it off until I couldn't stand the old one or it might be a health hazard. The smell when you open that package and hang up the new liner always got to me. I'd be coughing and sneezing within the hour.

But, last weekend, I could put it off no longer. The old liner was brittle and had cracked in one spot letting water run onto the bathroom floor. I knew about the Target boycott and was dreading buying an inexpensive liner that still contained PVC's. I'm sure that's what caused my reaction. For $5.99, I got the one shown above. The print on the package says "No PVC's". My nose will be the judge of that.

I was very surprised and quite happy when I opened the package (outside on the deck, mind you, to dissipate the anticipated fumes) and there was no plastic smell. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. The whole package also appears to be recyclable as that placard slips out of a pocket on the package and it's paper. Now, I didn't look at sizes so this curtain isn't as wide as the other one but it's long, wonderfully long. That's always been a complaint, that shower curtain liners weren't long enough. They rested on the top of the tub which lets water seep under them and onto the floor. This one goes a good 3 inches below the rim. No water on my floor now.

I've had no problems with smell. I like that I can walk into my bathroom and not have a coughing fit. I'm sensitive enough as it is right now. I don't need extra olfactory assaults.

We'll see how long this liner lasts. With it being smaller in width than previous liners, there's no folding in on itself and the whole thing air dries. I like that. For $5.99, I can't beat the price either.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Ayre tight and clear as glahsss...Please roll your "r's".

There was no snow yesterday when I awoke. Whether we even got the predicted flurries is debatable. But the onset of winter has me looking to make the house warmer. One of those ways is to cover the windows.

Now, this being an old house, when we first moved in, we had storm windows. Ah the "joys" of putting the storms on around Thanksgiving or earlier. Storm windows are a limited technology. If warped, as a few of ours became, they didn't fit right and still allowed cold air to enter the house in copious amounts. Enter the wonderful world of TV advertising.

Remember the Scottish guy who demonstrated "Window Insulator Kits"? You know the tag line, "Air tight (thump, thump) and clear as glass." He flicked the plastic twice to demonstrate the seal.

We bought some and, what do you know, they worked. So, every year, in early November, we started watching the sales and when the kits went on sale, we bought some. We always had leftover double-sided tape and sometimes cutting thin plastic film to fit over a window properly was an exercise in frustration, but the end result is worth it. Ace Hardware started making their own kits which the guy in Ace said were 30% smaller than 3M's kits. "Don't believe the packaging when it says it will cover 3 windows. It won't," he told me. Actually, on my size windows, it will. And Ace brand was 15% cheaper than 3M.

Last week, on my Target run, I bought the Duck brand kit you see above. I found some leftover film and had covered the south windows. This kit covered the east window in my bedroom, one of the east windows in the living room, both office windows and the west window in the extra room. I need one more small kit to cover the other east window and the north window in the living room. Then, I will be good.

Do they actually work? I think so. My office windows are notoriously leaking even with repeated caulking. There can be a breeze in the winter which makes doing anything on the computer at night an exercise in one-handed typing while you warm the other. There isn't a breeze in here now. Proof will, of course, be when I get my February heating bill and perhaps I'm kidding myself when I say it feels warmer and I don't think the furnace is coming on as much. So, this coming weekend's task is to get another small kit and finish the job. Plus, I should replace the furnace filter and get salt for the front steps. Then I'm good to go for this winter. Bring it on!

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time to get creative.

When did Target replace their metal carts with these big plastic ones and are these made from recycled products?

I ask because I wandered over to Target on Saturday. I have a budget and I've become fairly good at sticking to it. The list included a trip to Michael's craft store, Target, Dominicks and Ace Hardware. I got Michael's done. Target was done and that came in more than I anticipated so there was no trip to Dominicks for groceries or to the hardware store for a new leaf rake.

The Target trip was very productive. I'm back on decent allergy medication and that makes a world of difference in how I feel and how I sleep. I have to consistently remember to take it and not think, "Oh I didn't cough as much. I don't need it." LIES! I'll never get ahead of the allergy curve if I don't take the stuff daily. That shiny bottle of cough syrup doesn't need to be opened if I take the pill at night like I'm supposed to.

There was a new shower curtain to purchase and window insulator plastic. The cats needed fresh litter. It all adds up. When I got home, I realized I had just enough money to get gas to drive to Davenport and back on Tuesday for a job. That is cutting it tight, but that's life, for me.

It does mean I have to get creative with the food I have in the cupboard over the Thanksgiving holiday ahead. We have the Rockwellian image of the family clustered around the table which groans with food. That's not everyone's reality. For some, a soup kitchen's food line is all the hot meal they will get. For others, Thanksgiving is a peanut butter sandwich consumed on their 30 minute lunch break. Remember, a lot of people work holidays and weekends just because it's their job.

For some, Thanksgiving is a time to be with friends or family, laughing, joking, watching TV, just being. For others, it's a time to endure bad jokes and snide remarks and wish they could be anywhere but with these people called "family".

And, for some, like me, it's a time to just be. Everything I got at Target, with the exception of those awful crackers, was an item off a previous list. It was important to purchase these things now and not push them off again. That it's required my Thanksgiving to a bit of an exercise in creativity is not the issue. I have pork chops to cook. I can make pork chops with orange rice. I can make a variety of chicken dishes. I can't make the Golden Stuffed Iowa Chops or the "Apple Cider Glazed Chicken with Maple Pecan Rice". I don't have shredded cheddar nor do I have apple cider.

What I do have is a balanced checkbook, a non-overdrawn account, two cats who love me, a warm home, a working car and a job. Many people don't have any of this. That I have $3.16 in the checkbook is not an issue. I am happy. There is always the wish that I could have a bit more so I maybe could get cheddar, cereal, bread, apple cider, pasta and frozen veggies, but I am happy and that's what counts.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


My mother was cleaning.

Mom has been going through stored boxes lately. The next visit will have boxes of things for me to look through and decide if I wish to save the contents. But she sent a letter and inside was this.

I think this is the earliest example of my writing. It's got to be from around 3rd grade since it's not in cursive and I don't think I learned cursive handwriting until 3rd grade. It's also possible it's from 2nd grade.

I don't remember the context for this poem. What were we studying at the time? Was this a unit on poetry so we were asked to create our own. Was it a unit on the desert and we were asked to create something about the desert? I don't remember.

What is striking is that this survives at all. Several years ago, mom handed us box with stuff she'd saved from our grade school years. There was a lot from my sister and youngest brother, but very little from the brother closest to my age or from me. I have a "hand-print" turkey from Kindergarten I need to frame and there may be a couple other art pieces but that's about it. Mom didn't know why she didn't save more when Steve and I were in school.

I'm thrilled that written material survives, not just a hand-print turkey. I've always wanted to be a writer when I "grew up". Whether I have "grown up" or not is debatable but here is proof that I've been writing since I could hold a pencil and make the words. Thanks mom.

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Monday, November 22, 2010

It could be snow.

It's actually rather warm rain for an end of November storm. We have flood and tornado warnings out as this line passes over us. I'd like to go home but it's raining really hard and this will be gone in a few minutes, I'll just hang tight and wait for it to pass. I know Pilchard is cowering under something, unfortunately. Once this is past, we get the month-appropriate weather, clear with temperatures in the 40's. Ah yes. Life in the Midwest.

Beverage: Water


Sunday, November 21, 2010

For the Comfort of the Cats, Naturally

On this overcast Sunday, one of the things I wanted to do was laundry. I am okay. I have enough clothing but it never hurts to do a load to stay on top of it. There is, however, a 17 pound impediment.

Since I returned from Connecticut and let her sleep on the clothes pulled from my suitcase, she's been doing that with the every day dirty clothes. I have a laundry chute and I usually toss everything down the chute. But I let a small pile develop and, the next thing I know, it's her nest. If St. Francis cut the arm off his robe so as not to disturb a sleeping cat, how can I toss all the clothes down the chute, except, of course, if I were to have someone pay me a visit?

I think some of this is because it has my scent on it and that is comforting. I think another part is that it's warm where the clothes are. That part of the floor is near the furnace and there are a number of pipes for heat running under this section. Another thing is that the pile is in my home office and this puts her close to me. She can monitor my comings and goings and she doesn't have to move. Whatever the cat reasoning is, it's fine with me. I know exactly where she is, can reach down and provide ear scratches when I go get more tea and she's happy.

Mija, on the other hand, prefers to sleep on my bathrobe. This is fine, until morning when I want to wear it. Well, I think I want to wear it. Maybe I can do without it.

Beverage: Lapsang Souchong tea


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Payment on a bet.

Back in September, Iowa beat Penn State soundly. My son-in-law is a Penn State fan. He was warned that, in marrying my daughter, he was getting a mother-in-law who bets on the outcome of football AND basketball games. I never bet money. I bet food. When I was in Connecticut to visit, he paid up.

The mug you see has the face of the Cheshire cat from "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll. When the mug was new, the cat was blue. You added a hot beverage to the mug and the cat disappeared, leaving only the smile. I have another mug just like this. I use it to hold the tea strainer for leaf tea. I'm thrilled. I now have one mug to drink out of and one mug that holds the loose tea I'm using to make tea.

What David didn't know is that the Cheshire cat holds a special significance for me. In order to get my BA in English, I had to write a senior paper. It had to be a minimum of 20 pages and cite at least 5 sources. Our last semester of college included "Senior Seminar", a class which looked at how to write a research paper as well as examined modes of literary criticism. I wrote my senior thesis on language in Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Lookingglass and What She Found There", which is the story's correct title.

Back then, we had to provide 5 copies in the library for English department staff and other English majors to read. You had to "defend" your paper from questions from the department staff. They did not shoot you what would be termed "low-ball" questions. They looked for flaws in your thesis. You had to say why you chose that topic and why you chose your sources. It was a nerve-wracking experience. Underclassmen were encouraged to read the papers and prepare questions so that's why you needed more than one copy in the library.

Usually, you took one copy to the copy department and paid to have your paper copied. I used carbon paper and typed all the copies I put in the library to be read. I remember a lot of late nights at the kitchen table pounding away on a manual typewriter. Somewhere in the basement is the finished product. I kind of miss that, the construction of a thesis, the research, the study, the crafting of the finished product.

Thank you David, for making good on the bet and for accidentally reminding me of a rather fun time in my life. Every time I drink from the mug, it will bring back warm memories.

Beverage: Lapsang Souchong tea


Now what to do?

So the football season effectively ended for Iowa today with their loss to Ohio State. Oh we'll still go to a bowl game. Bowls know the Hawkeye faithful will follow the team pretty much anywhere in the post-season. All that is left is Minnesota and the season is history.

I finished a gnome and have started on the Hawkeye project to the left. It's been fun to sit and cross-stitch, to go through the many magazines and leaflets I've accumulated over the decades and think, "Oh x would like this!" and then wonder how I could get it done. In spite of the number of "what the..." moments my Hawkeyes provided me, the time to sit is probably the most important. I'm not real fond of pro football but I may start watching that or I should see if the DVD player works and I can watch movies while stitching.

Mija and Pilchard beat a quick retreat out of the living room with Iowa's 2nd quarter interception of Ohio State. This has been a learning season for them. I didn't watch basketball last year so a whole year went by without my cheering maniacally. It's something they have to get used to. They chose to go take a nap, only coming to check on me when I went into the kitchen to wash dishes during commercials or half-time.

I have quite a few things to do tomorrow, but I think I will make room for more stitching.

Beverage: Lapsang Souchong tea


So you don't have to.

These have been advertised for several months in my Cooking Light magazine. I have tried to find them every time I go to the grocery but they didn't carry them. I went to Target today and, as I was headed to the checkout, there they were. $2.79 for a box.

Don't waste your money. Seriously. There is cheddar on the crackers to be sure, but if, like me, you like the taste of cheese, these are not the crackers you want to get. In fact, you'd be better off buying a plain or wheat cracker and a chunk of cheddar if you want cheddar crackers.

I decided, half-way through, that these weren't getting any better so I put them out for the wildlife.

You're welcome. Save your $2.79 for milk or eggs and flower or a really nice farmer cheddar.

Beverage: Hot apple cider



I don't know when the signs came down but the street north of me is all fixed. It's a very nice drive although still lacking in sidewalks. As with most road construction projects, it's very nice, now that it's over.

Beverage: China Black tea


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do I HAVE to clean here?

I took a photo off the wall of the living room in order to scan it. Carole got me involved in Farktography, which is a weekly online photo contest. There is an upcoming contest which I feel this particular photo exemplifies.

When I removed it from the wall, I found the residue you see there. Obviously, some spider had made a home behind this photo and had a small repast before either expiring or moving on. I dusted off the wall and rehung the photo once I'd scanned it.

But it got me thinking. How many of my readers remove the photos on the wall and dust behind them? I dust frames, even clean the glass on the photos once or twice a year. But take them down and dust behind them? No.

I looked around my house. I have a lot of things hanging on the wall. I'm fond of displaying things and the walls are festooned with photos, knick-knacks and art. I could take it all down and methodically clean behind it, but that's not exactly something I want to do. Still, thinking about what could possibly be behind some of these photos has me considering devoting a morning to deep dusting. This is something I could do during Saturday's football game. I wouldn't have to leave the living room, although, if the Hawkeyes play badly, I might want to leave the living room.

Beverage: Hot Apple Cider


All gone

I noticed, over the weekend, that this diffuser had run out. I have no idea when the scent was exhausted. It could have been over the late fall when the windows were open and I wouldn't have noticed. I remember, around Labor Day, there was still, roughly, a quarter of an inch left in the bottle.

I felt kind of sad tossing it. I have enjoyed the scent of pine from this. Unlike a candle which can trigger my allergies, this did not. It diffused the scent gently into the air, which, given its name, "Reed Diffuser", is what it's supposed to do.

I took it apart, tossed the marbles and put the rest in the recycling. The reeds probably should have gone into the yard waste recycling, but the glass bottle and red plastic cap seemed to be things which could be recycled.

I'd grown so accustomed to seeing this sitting on the organ in the living room that it is conspicuous by its absence. A quick look through Yankee Candle shows I could get a Balsam and Cedar oil refill. Well, yes, I could, but there are a lot of things I could get before an oil refill.

It was fun to have in the house and I promise I'll use the next one someone gives me right away. Time to light up some candles.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


There are some things one simply MUST have.

After spending an afternoon on a job site and then driving back home in a light drizzle (Wait! Was that a snowflake?), I decided I did not want to cook when I got home. Instead, I would stop some place. In this day and age, that "some place" could be anything from asiago cheese bread sandwiches to ziti in a marinara sauce with sausage.

As I drove west, I considered all my options. Stopping here would get me x and x and x. Stopping there would get me y and y and y. Dessert. I have earned dessert. Who has dessert and what do they have?

Portillos. Bingo. A Chicagoland institution with good food.

Now I wasn't sure if I wanted a polish but chocolate cake, yes, please. I did wind up getting a polish with mustard, fries and a Coke. I can't go into Portillos without getting a piece of chocolate cake. I just can't. It's sweet and moist and the frosting certainly tastes more homemade than other places who mass produce food. Yup. When in Portillos, order the chocolate cake.

Good end to a long day.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You know you're in Chicago when...

you are trying to get to a job site and the Congress Parkway goes from 4 lanes to 1 by State Street and there is no warning. Congress is one of the main arterials into the downtown. The Eisenhower, Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways all have feeder ramps onto Congress. To the left is the State Street business district. To the right is Roosevelt, Columbia and Robert Morris Colleges who share space and provide student amenities just south of Congress. To the east is Michigan Avenue.

You can see the plating on the roadway ahead of me. I don't know what they are doing but it's the same thing at the intersection of Congress and State and, at 10:00 on a Wednesday morning, it took me 35 minutes to move through this area. Fortunately, I had allowed extra time to get to the job site and was only 10 minutes early.

You really can't get there from here so don't bother.

Beverage: Hot Cider tea


Happy birthday a month early.

Everyone who reads the blog knows a hair cut is way down on the list of things I'll spend my minuscule leftover funds on. As of October 30th, I had not had a haircut in over a year.

While spending some time with my dear friend, Tonia, she offered to pay for a haircut with her stylist as my birthday present. At first, I turned her down, but knowing that I was headed to Connecticut in a week made me accept. I was also worried that she went to a stylist who charged an arm, a week's pay and half your car payment to look at you disapprovingly and whisper loudly, "I'm sorry, Tonia, I can't do much." Tonia has gorgeous thick black hair I have long admired.

I really didn't know what I wanted done with it. That's also a part I hate about a cut. You sit down and the gal says, "So, what are we going to do with it?" I guess you pay for expertise so I shouldn't expect a $10 cut to come with suggestions, but I have no idea what to do. I wash it and let it go. I don't have time to spend moussing and blow drying. That's not what I want to do in the morning. Therefore, it's kind of a non-issue, not getting my hair cut. At least with long hair, I know what to do with it.

This is the length it was when I walked into the shop on Saturday, October 30th. It was a good 4 inches below my shoulders. I think the last time it was this long, I was probably 15 years younger. You can see, those last 4 inches are tan. That's all that remained of my February 2009 dye job, the last time I dyed my hair brown. That color refused to leech out.

I would wear my hair down and then, when I got home, put it up into a pony tail or simply pull it back. I used to have layers but those had pretty much given up being layers. I cut my own bangs and do a fairly decent job of it.

I discussed how I usually wear my hair and how I care for it. The gal listened and made suggestions. Then she washed it. "One thing you need to do is go to Sally Beauty Supply and ask for the 'gray hair shampoo'," she said. She showed me the shampoo she was using. It was royal purple, with a capital "p" and slightly iridescent. She said purple shampoo is formulated for gray hair to remove the yellow tinge that develops. It's got to be purple however. I immediately thought of the little old ladies who use bluing in their hair to remove unsightly colors. I made a quip about 'blue hair' and the gal rolled her eyes. "If you want blue hair, I'll give you blue hair but don't even think about that stuff you get in the color section."

So I sat down and watched, as best I can when my eyesight isn't very good. Without my glasses I can see shapes and colors but fine definition is completely lost. I just know that she was cutting off a lot of hair. It was falling over the cover-up and onto the floor. In the end, however, I got a fantastic cut.
You can see some tan still on the ends which will come off if I can afford another cut in, say, 6 months. The gray color just shone and my task this coming weekend is to find purple shampoo. I don't have to use it all the time, but every 2-3 weeks is optimum. She gave me layers that won't look crappy if I have to wait even another year between cuts.

The best part was it didn't cost Tonia a lot of money. In fact, she was less than the gal I used to go to. I have to drive 45 minutes to get to this shop and, until I develop a relationship, I would need to go with Tonia. But I certainly would drive here again if I knew I'd get the same thing or even something a little more daring. I can still pull the hair back if it gets annoying.

Has anyone noticed a difference? I work with guys. They might notice if I came in with it 2 inches long, but otherwise, no. Carole didn't see it long so she had no frame of reference for the shorter cut. It doesn't matter to me if anyone noticed. I noticed and I noticed that it's the best cut I've had in awhile. I'm happy with it. She also said I don't need to wash it daily. In fact, I can go a couple of days without washing it. I did last weekend and it still looked really good.

So, this was a fantastic birthday present for me and I am so grateful it could be done before I left for Carole's. I was messing with the hair over the weekend. If I tuck it here, blow dry it here and add just a bit of mousse, I get this dynamite curl that will look really nice at the office Christmas party in December. Remind me of that when I stand in front of the mirror and wonder what I'm going to do with my hair.

Beverage: Hot Cider tea


I can see this!

The Leonid meteor shower is going on now. It "starts" tonight, as if you can correograph a natural event. The peak for the meteors is in the pre-dawn hours of 3-5 a.m. Saturday morning.

Saturday! Huzzah! I have often complained that Mother Nature doesn't "schedule" these kinds of events when I can watch. No way can I get up at 3 on a week day and expect to be even reasonably functional at work.

I have fond memories of sky watching with my dad when we lived on the farm. There were a few occasions when he got me up and we sat on the front porch watching meteors. I don't remember a lot of sky streaks. I do remember one morning being really cold and thinking "This is not fun."

The best time was a hot August evening, around midnight, driving west with a very sleepy Carole to watch the Persaids. We found a graveyard way out west, parked, spread a blanket on the hood of the car, slathered on the bug spray and lay back. I don't remember the year but I remember the streaks of light across the sky. I think we saw, roughly, 10-15 per hour in the 2 hours we watched. It was well worth the tiredness the next day.

I'm already considering where I want to go. I should take a brief siesta before getting up at 2:30 and driving some place west. I might not have to go as far west as I think. There might be reasonably dark areas within a half hour's drive. A mug of hot tea, a couple of muffins, warm clothes and a blanket stretched across the hood of the Jeep. I could do this.

Now where did I put that glow in the dark sky chart and I wonder if my camera can capture any part of a darkened night sky?

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bestest Breakfasts

While the image to the left may not be that appealing to you, I swear, it's heaven to me. My old regret is that I did not photograph Thursday's breakfast.

This, dear friends, is "Oatmeal a'la Perry". He makes it two ways, on the stove top or in the crock pot. He uses Quaker Steel-Cut. Then, depending upon whim, he will add dried fruit, nuts, almond milk, brown sugar or molasses. Cinnamon and nutmeg permeated the house on Thursday morning. What a warm and inviting smell to awaken to. And, knowing it was oatmeal made it even better. I actually didn't stop for lunch until about 1:30 p.m. on the way to Connecticut. Plus, this nourishing oatmeal, served up Tuesday morning, sustained me through the break down of the car. I had Altoids in my car and a little something from David and beer, but oatmeal kept me going.

Steel-cut oats are different from the stuff you buy with the Quaker name slapped on them.
In North America, oatmeal can be sold as steel-cut, Scottish, Irish, rolled oats, old-fashioned oatmeal and even oatmeal flour. Steel-cut oats are just that, the whole oat minced by steel knives. Steel-cut is also referred to as "Irish oatmeal". What we know as rolled oats is the grain steamed and then flattened by rollers. In some cases, this flattened piece is then cut. This is the more common oatmeal variant that people think of when they think "oatmeal". (source article here)

I prefer Scottish oats. I have mentioned before that I buy my oatmeal from Bob's Red Mill which is sold at Whole Foods. It produces a creamier texture because the oats are ground coarse rather than cut.

Any way you serve it, oatmeal is an exceptionally good way to start a day. I don't find those "add water" packages to be as rib-sticking. Plus, I think there's too much that's not good for you in those packages. I don't eat oatmeal during the week as the way I make it doesn't lend itself to quick breakfasts when you get out of bed late. It's still Cheerios. But, as winter approaches, you cannot beat oatmeal on a frosty weekend morning.

Thanks, Perry, for comfort and deliciousness.

Beverage: Water


It was not a cat-less vacation.

Lest you think I was "sans" cat for my week away, this was not the case. Stop number one and number three were in Youngstown, Ohio, where April and Perry live. They are allowed to maintain a home for the comfort and convenience of Clark (shown left) and Carly (shown right). Both are rescue cats. Clark is about 10 years old and Carly is about 3. Carly came last year after another cat they had, named Jenny, passed away.

Both are reasonably social cats. Carly has really soft fur and she's gray with flecks of tan. It reminded me of my late Penney. Clark is a lovely half striped half white with coarser fur but no fear about anyone new. He enjoys leaping into their games to find out what's going on on top of the table.

And then there is Faux. Faux is Carole's Maine Coon. When I got there and entered the house, he was looking at me from the entry to the basement. I said, "Hi Faux." and wonder of wonders, he came running. I am always amazed that I can be away from him for months, a year even, and he remembers me.

I slept on a mattress in the living room because I didn't fit on the sofa. It was warm and cozy and I slept like a rock. It also didn't hurt that I had a foot warmer. He loves that blanket. It's been in the family for years. Carole's original cat, Half-Pint, used it as her blanket. Faux has taken it over.

Whenever we returned from some place, we knew where to find Faux, curled up on the blanket. Carole quipped, "You want grandma (who?) to stay so you can sleep on the mattress on the blanket."

So, in addition to it being a delightful visit with my daughter and son-in-law, I had fun with Faux. I think any vacation is a success when there is a cat wanting ear scratches.

Beverage: water


There and back again.

As you can imagine, I own a large number of cat books. Some are cartoons, some are stories and some are "how-to care for" books. In several of the "how-to" books, a cat owner is reminded that cats prefer routine. Anything that upsets the routine they have come to enjoy, upsets them and that's when you get behavior problems. One of the things that upsets them is travel, your travel.

It is suggested that, a couple days before you leave, you put out a suitcase so they can see that you are planning something. Gradually fill it up over those two days. This will plant the idea that you are going somewhere. Supposedly, separation is lessened by doing this.

So, before I left for Connecticut, I plopped the suitcase on the floor in the living room. Pilchard took to it right away. Mija took her time but eventually decided to investigate. These girls haven't given me problems when I leave so I probably could skip this step. It ensured that when I got to Connecticut, Faux would want to smell my suitcase.

There was one "incident", if you can call it that. It makes for a great story. Pam arrived to feed them. I always give them kitty treats in the morning before work and in the evening after work. (Yes, they have me trained.) I left the packages on the kitchen table. Pam picked one up and heard something hitting the floor. She looked at the bag in hand and discovered someone had chewed through the bottom. I suspect it might be Mija but I have no proof. Since I've been home, both have been up on the kitchen table in violation of "house" rules. They do get down quickly when I tell them to.

I mentioned how I broke into tears when I picked Mija up last week upon returning home. She came when I called and was purring up a storm when I scooped her up for a cuddle. I enjoyed my visit and my trip, but I also enjoy coming home. I think most people would say that. The girls were happy to see me and I let them out onto the deck while I unpacked the car.

Now that she's figured out the deck railings, Pilchard enjoys walking along them or lying on them. Mija simply enjoys coming outside, sniffing the air, walking around the deck, sitting for a bit and then going back inside. Things are back to normal. Mija's taking turns with Pilchard sleeping on the ottoman. It's a case of whomever gets there first gets it. As I emptied my suitcase, just tossing things onto the floor, Pilchard claimed the pile as hers. Some things were clean. I did a load of wash Sunday night at Carole's. But it all got mixed together, thanks to a nesting cat.

One of the more amusing things about being gone is being "yelled" at by a big black cat. Once she realized I wasn't going anywhere, she took to following me around the house while meowing. If you don't own a pet, you'll probably think it's silly, but you can tell "tone" in a pet's vocalizations. In this case, Pilchard's voice was not happy. The meow was rather pointed. I am convinced she was yelling at me for leaving them. She has calmed down although once or twice a day I hear it. She will come into the office at night, sit down behind the office chair and meow. When I swivel to pet her, she will move out of reach and sit down. Cats have personalities and I'm being reminded that I irritated the big black cat.

On the other hand, both have been lap cats of late, as if to say, "If we spend some time cuddling in your lap, will you promise not to leave us again?" Well, I can't promise that. I can only promise that there will be ear scratches and cuddles and treats and the rare can of tuna.

Home is where the cats are.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Monday, November 15, 2010

October 23, 2010

Carole married David Michael Buckwalter on Saturday, October 23, 2010. This post is late because David didn't have the photos right away.

As you can see, David is active Navy. He's coming off a year of medical leave and their future was, and still is, a bit up in the air. There's training involved and new orders and military rules about where loved ones can and can't be moved. After much deliberation, they decided to get married so Carole would be considered a dependent. Supposedly, this makes things a bit easier.

Admittedly, you'd like to be in attendance when your child does something like this, but I understand the whys. The Justice of the Peace came to the house and Jason, David's best friend, was the witness. No word on where Faux was during this; probably in the basement as he's not fond of people he doesn't know.

Having spent a few days with them, they love each other. He's a good guy and cares for and about my daughter in the way a mom wants. I probably would have spent the 10 minutes or so of the ceremony dabbing my eyes. With my allergies, tears lead to coughing, which is not a good thing at a wedding.

My friend, Pam's words are very apropos here. She said, "You spend 21 years raising them to be intelligent, independent people and damn it, they go off and do just that." Here's to my daughter and son-in-law.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea