Saturday, October 30, 2010

Something for me.

This morning was bill paying time. I seem to be missing the phone bill but I'll bet it's in the pile to my right. I have paid everything else and have enough for a bit of travel this upcoming week. I even, and I hope you're sitting down, added 2 creditors to my online bill payers. For some reason, I got enough ahead on my electric bill that October's amount was $1.47. My water bill was the same way. I only owe $4.45 this month. It kind of seemed silly to send a check for each amount so I paid them online. Me! I did it!

So, I have a bit extra and I can order that one item for one more special person on my Christmas list. Plus, I can order my annual Campbell's Christmas ornament. Of all the things I did last year, this is one thing I squeezed out of the budget. This year, it's easier to justify the purchase.

I've been doing this since 1980. I have one big plastic storage bin that is nothing but Campbell's ornaments. I might be missing a year that has broken, I'll have to check. But I have not missed getting an ornament since 1980.

It used to be that you had to send 2 soup labels plus a nominal amount, something like $3.95. I don't remember when they dropped the label requirement, but the price hasn't gone up all that much. I paid $6.95 for this year's. I don't live in Michigan, so I don't have to pay tax on the purchase.

The blue of this year's ornament is quite distinctive. They have had clear glass, white glass, red glass, gold glass and I think there's a green glass one in the collection. I have enough that my whole tree could be Campbell's Soup ornaments.

I don't actively collect much anymore. I used to go out of my way to get the small hand bells you see at tourist locations. If one strikes me as unusual, I will get it, but I don't go out of my way to add to the collection. But, this ornament is one thing I do actively get, every year, without fail. Ordered today, it should be here in time to adorn the tree in December.

If you are interested in getting one of your own, you can find it here at I'm actually eyeing the reusable bags. I have a few but it seems like it's never enough for those days that I do my monster shopping. Then again, it's getting close to Christmas and birthday time and people will be wanting suggestions. Reusable bags would be a great idea, not that I'm hinting.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Thursday, October 28, 2010

...and they call the wind 'Maria'.

These were the clouds that greeted me upon leaving work Tuesday. The cloud formations were quite interesting during the day as one of the most powerful storm fronts moved across the area. I guess there were reports of tornados or micro bursts. The office and the house lost power.

It started about 3:30 in the morning. I probably would have slept through the wind and initial rain had it not been for the fact that Pilchard does not like this kind of weather. She started yeowling, which caused Mija to go see what was up. Pilchard then took out her angst by chasing Mija back into the bedroom. The shortest distance between the south window sill and the doorway is across the bed which really woke me up. It took about 15 minutes to calm them down and we did go back to sleep. Most of the heavy rain came through between 8:15 and 10:00, when I was at the office. I would liked to have been home, but we are busy.

On Tuesday, I was supposed to go to Fort Madison, Iowa to pick up our equipment off a job there. It's been one of our longest jobs, slated to end in September 2009. But with the front coming through and projected wind gusts of up to 60 mph, I decided to stay in Wheaton. Even though my wipers are working, I didn't really want to drive in horizontal rain.

Wednesday dawned clear but the wind was still very strong. I had to go get the equipment, so off I went. I did not have any problems. If I slid in behind a semi, he acted as a wind break. It was when it was just me out on the road that I noticed the gusts.

The Mississippi River at Fort Madison was churning with the wind.
It was quite dramatic.

There are sticks and some branches up to 3 inches in diameter in the yard, but I didn't lose anything more. I was thinking I needed to remove the leaves from the deck but that was taken care of. Not all the trees had changed color so there are still trees with leaves on them.

The wind has died down and the temperatures have fallen into late fall normal. Geraniums are in the house for good now and I need to put the hose away. Time to look for window insulator kits too. The wind of Tuesday and Wednesday reminds me to get that done in November.

Beverage: China Black tea


Time to move the hoop.

It's time to move the hoop from the middle of the design to the bottom. I should be able to get his legs and the flowers under him done this weekend.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Monday, October 25, 2010

A good hour's worth of stitching

One complete hat and most of a face. Then I had to stop to hang up wash and cook supper. Tomorrow, the rest of the face and the beard, at least. Then, think I have to reposition the hoop so I can finish the bottom.

Beverage: Apple Cider Tea


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A weekend of stitching.

Got a bit more accomplished over the weekend, no thanks to Iowa and rather stupid coaching. It's fun and relaxing and Pilchard likes me sitting so she can sit next to me.

It's coming out nice, too.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Saturday, October 23, 2010

When the frost is on the pumpkin...

It was the first scraping frost of the season. I brought the three surviving geraniums in Thursday night. I think that's it for this year, although it's supposed to be nice until Thursday. Rather than try to remember to bring them in, I'll just do it now.

I couldn't remember where the scraper was. That was fun feeling the panic rising until I looked in the glove box and there it was. I need to pull the broom from the back to under the rear seat, for the inevitable snow coming in a month or 6 weeks.

It did warm up beautifully but fall is just hitting its stride. It's football, pumpkin carving and baking weather. Time to find the sweaters and the jackets and the gloves. Time to get that window unstuck and find the window insulator kit left overs which have enough plastic to cover a couple of windows before I have to buy more. I feel a bit more energized. It seems as if the allergies are subsiding and that's a good thing. I really need to buy a rake.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Year Ago.

I realized Wednesday night, as I was balancing my checkbook, or trying to, (I shouldn't do that when I'm tired.) that it's been one year since the "Great Financial Meltdown of 2009". One year ago, 5th 3rd botched a deposit and my house of financial cards collapsed. I struggled last night to find a $3.63 error. Thursday morning, that error mushroomed into a $14.43 error. In going back, I found a subtraction error. I still can't find 3 cents and that kind of bothers me. It starts with 3 cents that you can't find and will, eventually, balloon into more substantial dollars because you've just ignored it.

I thought I might do an Excel spreadsheet that would, in large type, let me see all the subtraction I've done. Maybe that would help me find it. But I can't figure out how to automate the process and, if I'm going to wind up typing everything, heck, I'll use the in-computer calculator. It's probably a copying error on my part, but I can't find it right now, mainly, I think, because I know what the numbers should say and that's what I read instead of what's there. I'll come at this again over the weekend and see if I can find it.

What have I learned in a year of living without? First of all, my capacity to do without is huge. When you can't afford things, you learn very quickly what is and is not a necessity of modern life. There are things I should fix such as the kitchen overhead light which has ceased to work and I don't think it's bulb related. But, I can get a cheap floor lamp and plug it in next to the kitchen phone. Combined with the over-the-sink light, I'll be able to see. I think fixing the kitchen light is going to mean a rewiring of that fixture, which would involve going into the attic for access. This is not just "replace the bulb". This is replace the wiring and I just don't have money for that.

Secondly, everything gets analyzed from a "do I really NEED this" standpoint. In some cases, it's things I would like to have. Those are very few. Most of the time, I don't NEED what I think I need or I can get along, just fine, thank you very much, with something less expensive. It sometimes takes some digging to find that item but find it I do and it works.

Third, I am not very good with numbers and understanding finances. I still make costly mistakes, mistakes I probably shouldn't make, but that leads to item number four, I've learned more about finances than I ever really wanted to learn. It's been forced upon me. My head still swims after a couple of articles, but I do read up on financial information, almost daily and that knowledge has helped me. I should have one card paid off in a couple months. Although it has taken a full year to do it, that's money I can apply elsewhere now.

Fifth, the capacity for a financial institution to drag you through the mud or elevate you to almost star-status is dictated by the kind of people who are at the front line, customer service. I still go around and around with a couple of credit cards because I don't have the money to pay what they demand. I send them a little something every month and then endure the phone calls and the incessant demands and the comments. It always ends with me saying, "Well, we are at an impasse. I will keep on keeping on. I just wish someone at your company understood what people like me are up against." Then I wish them a good day and hang up. There's no further reason for me to talk to them. I know what I can pay and they either want that or they don't. Nothing much changes from month to month. If I have more, I'll send it their way. It is what it is.

Chase has been nothing short of golden for me. I love the simplicity of their on-line statement. I have, and I know some of you will faint, begun paying some bills electronically. I vowed I would never, ever do that because I need to write the check to make it more real. But, I have discovered that it's easy to set up and do. Maybe, once things are more stable, I'll be doing that all the time. Maybe not. But I can do it, have done it and it's easy for me to do. That makes a world of difference.

Sixth, the capacity for friends and people I don't know for kindness is beyond my wildest wishes. It's hard for me to just accept, without reciprocity, kindness. I guess that comes from my grandmother. My mother tells the story of a friend of my grandmother's dropping off food one time when my grandmother was battling almost pneumonia. She was under a doctor's orders to stay in bed. Instead, she got up and made this lady brownies because she couldn't accept the food dropped off without reciprocating.

It's hard for me to do this, too, just accept the gift and not feel that I owe someone something other than just my conversation and time. But there is no possible way I can take people to dinner regularly. I'm worried about Christmas, what will I have to spend, and my desire to give a gift to someone because I want to, not because they expect something. Yet limited resources means limited ability to give anything.

The anonymous Target cards are incredible gifts. I have stopped wondering who sent them; no, really, I have. The kindness and generosity shown to me helps me endure the nights when one credit card calls, gets my standard answer, and then calls 3 more times with increasing hostility, as if demanding in louder and broader tones is going to change my response. I think, for whomever sent those my way, knowing that I am so very, very, very grateful for this kindness is thanks enough.

As I look ahead to the next year, I have closed all 5th 3rd accounts and wouldn't recommend them to my worst enemy. I've been reading about increasing my contributions to my IRA and wondering if it would be in my best interest to take the money I will gain from paying off one card and stick it in my IRA or if that would be best added to the next card targeted to be paid off. The fact that I'm even thinking this has to be a date you circle on the calendar. My recovery is in baby steps, some days one forward and two backwards, but baby steps. It took me 7 years to recover from the divorce. It will probably take me that long to recover from this. I have no illusions now. I no longer have the "I can charge this because I can pay for it later" mentality. I charge gas and that's it and, even then, if I know I have the money in my checking account, I will use my debit card for gas. I'd rather have it paid for than have it revolve.

A new me? I suppose, but it's a new me that still walks gingerly. There are still too many mistakes and land mines for me to stride ahead comfortably. I'm trying. I'm learning. It's just a slow process.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Morning Laugh.

Go to this link,

Just do it.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


This will be interesting.

Sometimes, my news feed gives me interesting items. The topic to the left caught my eye this morning. A "dress" sculpture representing all 50 states? This pique's my interest.

I followed the link to the artist's blog. While a bit sparse, it has a link to her web site which details more of her art.

I find this concept intriguing and have a link at the right to keep tabs on the dress project. It's going to be interesting to see what she chooses as a medium for other states. Illinois was represented by a red dress formed from red dresses found in thrift stores. Her dress from Iowa, shown below, is made from native prairie grasses at the Wickiup Nature Center in Toddville.

Wish I'd thought of this.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blueberry muffins.

There's just something about the smell of muffins baking on a chilly fall evening. I bought a couple containers of fresh blueberries because I couldn't remember how much this particular recipe called for and why would I think to write that down on the grocery list.

This recipe, unlike a lot of the ones I have, actually makes what the recipe says it will. I mentioned last year that I seem to, invariably, come up with 1.5 times the batter the recipe says I'll get. Technically, that's not a "problem", per se, but I do wonder if that means I'm doing too much beating of the batter.

Sugar crusted blueberry muffins just waiting to be added to the Three Grain Pear, Fruited Bran and Chocolate Chip muffins baked and frozen. As I have another cup of blueberries, once I get the dishes done, again, I can make Lemon Blueberry Cornbread muffins. I still have apple muffins to use up the apples I bought. I may have to stop after that as I'm running out of freezer space.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


One flower done.

Working at this on Tuesday and Wednesday and I have one daisy done. Of course, I've made muffins, two kinds, while stitching.

One of the things I noticed with the light colored thread, it would, occasionally, get very dark, almost black, in color. I looked at the thread. I looked at the hoop. I couldn't figure it out.

Then it dawned on me. I have a black, long-haired cat living with me. So, while I pick out as much as I can, I can't get all the hair out. The recipient will need to understand that. Perhaps, they won't even notice. It's just Pilchard's way of saying this is a joint project.

Beverage: China Black tea


Are they really friends?

I know this is an odd photo to attach to a post about friendship, but bear with me.

Jessie posted a musing in her blog about the nature of friendship. She realized that the people she calls friends have usually been accumulated via church or work. She felt she was missing friends but was unsure how to find them.

I've been stewing on this topic since she made her comments. It's a gutsy comment to say you don't feel you have enough friends. The ones you do have can feel "Well, I guess I don't matter". I have to say I sort of felt that way after reading her post. But, like I said, I've taken some time to stew about this.

I am not an overtly friendly person by nature. I'm an introvert and we are energized by being away from people. I don't like walking into a situation where I know no one and have to make contact with people. I would rather stand at the wall or over by the punch and people watch. If you come up to me and engage me in conversation, I'll listen and talk and we'll find things we can talk about. But force me to do it and it's excruciatingly difficult.

The friends I have took me awhile to make. I have no friends from grade school, middle school or high school. I thought about going back to my class reunion this past August but, the idea of walking solo into that room of people, many of whom have never left the small-town insular life, filled me with dread. I like to think I am beyond initial judgments. I like to think I give people a chance to show they have a boatload of issues and I should run away. I like to think I've grown up from the small-town everyone's business is my business mentality. Yes, I didn't give these people a chance to prove me wrong, which is my fault. I just couldn't get past the judgmental attitude some of my former classmates had. Oh well, I have 5 years to get myself to the point of wanting to go to the next reunion.

The close friends I have, the ones who know everything, to whom I bare my soul, were made later in life. Our bonds were forged through some painful, some happy, some peaceful and some angry periods in our lives. We just happened to be walking the same road at the same time. There are quite a few I trust to be there, even with simple words of encouragement, when my life appears to be filled with potholes. And this takes me to the photo at the top of the post.

That's Gauss. He plays World of Warcraft as I do. He plays a "tauren", which is an upright walking cow, or, to be anatomically correct, bull since he plays a male character. His character is of the opposite "faction" than my little dwarf. His character is also much better geared than mine.

Our "friendship", if you will developed over a period of months. He runs, on weekends, an event where his faction tries to kill the leaders of my faction. I try to put together a group to stop him. He likes to keep tabs on the number of tries and his successes have been 87 while his failures have been 12. Of those 12, I know I led at least 5 of them, maybe half. I love to try to stop him. It's just a lot of fun for me.

It was after a particularly rewarding stop that he contacted me. We got to talking and I realized that he was well award of my little guild and what we are trying to do within this big, broad game. Since that time, he's been a cheerleader for us, a thorn in our sides, a helpful ear when I'm frustrated and simply what I would call a friend. He has his own blog, the link is to the right, and I'm always very flattered when he posts something about me in his blog. Last weekend was this little comment about my attempts to stop his weekend raids.

I've never met him. I've talked to him a few times on the voice over Internet program I have, but he lives in Toronto, Canada and that's not a place I'm liable to go soon. We may never, ever meet. How can someone like that be counted as a friend?

I have a lot of people like that, people whom I've met through this game. While you can play solo and never talk to another person, I find myself more gregarious when I have the anonymity of the computer screen in front of me. I've met a few of the people I play with, but most are, at best, a face on Facebook or simply a voice rather than a real person. Yet, I call them friends.

I think of my ancestors, traveling from Scotland or Germany on boats, at sea for what was probably 3 months at a time. Chances are they met people who became friends for the duration of the voyage. I don't see those friendships as anything less than what I have established through the Internet, just a different medium. There may have been comments of "I'll stay in touch" as the boat docked and they went into different lines to be processed. Maybe some stayed in touch. I would suspect most friendships forged on the sea dissolved on land simply because there was no social network to find someone who went to the left while you were told to go to the right.

Do I want more friends? Absolutely. I would love to have friends to craft with, play games with, go to movies with, explore the Chicagoland area with, figure out how to fix each others' homes with. I think life conspires against me because joining a group with a like interest generally means dues and I don't have extra money for anything like that. The dating service was supposed to be a way to meet guys, not necessarily for matrimony, but for friendship. You all know how that turned out.

I don't wish to make any of my current friends uncomfortable with the amount of time you can devote to me. That's not the point. This is not a pity post either. If you know me, you know my stance on pity. I merely say that I wish there were more of you in my life. I know exactly where Jessie's root point dwells. I know the feeling. I'd just like someone or a handful of someones to hang out with. They don't have to be tauren. I'd hang out with an orc or, gasp, a human.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


A bit of relief, perhaps.

Ugh. This is ragweed, the bane of breathers in the fall. It the only thing I dislike about fall. It has been dry and my allergies have been in overtime. I sleep so soundly that getting up in the morning is difficult.

Over the past weekend, my eyes were bright red and horribly itchy. I woke up on Sunday with the right eye crusted shut, not a good thing. I know what this is, allergy eyes compounding this syndrome I have where the oil glands in my eyelids get plugged and don't produce as much oil as is necessary to keep the eye lubricated. I have to get a hot as I can stand washcloth and put it over my eyes to open up the pores. Then add an eye drop for dry eyes and I'm good. Of course, a warm compress over my eyes will also put me to sleep.

I used to take Zyrtec, but seem to have developed a resistance to it. My doctor gave me Allegra-D, but at $35 a month for that, I can't afford it. I bought Target brand antihistamine. That seems to work but I have to remember to take it every night before bed. As tired and run-down as I've been feeling, remembering isn't very good. I have Ricola cough drops and I bought some new eye drops, having found the note from the eye doctor on what he recommended. I used them for the first time last night, Soothe brand. After an initial sting, which the packaging said could happen, they lived up to their name. This morning, my eyes didn't feel so itchy. Once in the morning and once at night combined with the allergy pill and I can see myself turning a corner on feeling better in a few days. After 2 days of eye drops and allergy pills, I had more energy last night after work than I'd had in the previous 4 days.

The other problem is, given the age of my house and the problems I've had with water in the basement, I'm sure there are allergens in the house. I have little to no energy to devote to cleaning. I've done what I have to. I made chocolate chip muffins last night which lifts my spirits.

When I try to tough it out, that's when I get into trouble. I need the chilly weather to come. A good hard freeze would be handy right now. Yes, that is the harbinger of winter and snow and cold, but when you're coughing, sneezing and have itchy, red eyes, that's what you want.

Beverage: China Black tea


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The things you see in the city.

Jon and I went into the city today for a meeting and then to walk the next section of Wacker Driver which is going to be redone. I worked the first Wacker Driver reconstruction project which had us on the job for around 2 years due to the spread out nature of the project. This next section, from Randolph to Monroe, has been put out for bid and we've been asked to supply a proposal for what we do. Big projects like this really should be seen, although a lot of companies rely on Google Earth or other map software to provide a map in the specs. To get a better handle on the scope of this project, Jon and I walked it, taking notes. On the way back to the car we passed this place. As we have a friend named "Perry", I had to take a photo.

We ate lunch at a PotBelly. Had we seen this before we went there, of course we could have commented on Perry's food. PotBelly was okay but it took a long time for them to make my sandwich. How hard can it be to make one of their "Clubbie" sandwiches without tomato and light on the ranch dressing? Jon had finished his potato chips by the time I got my sandwich.

As Perry's Deli is close to Wacker Drive,( just west of the corner of Randolph and Franklin, for my Chicago readers) if we get the job, I certainly will try this out. Hey Perry? What sandwich do you recommend?

Beverage: Blackberry Sage tea


Monday, October 18, 2010

Approximately 4 hours later...

This is coming along nicely. I worked for an hour on it tonight while dishes soaked. Adding new colors tomorrow.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage tea


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back to something relaxing.

With the ability to "watch" Iowa football comes the need to have something to do during the game. Some people can curl up in their sofas and just watch a sporting event on TV. I can't do that. I have to be doing something else. I keep an awareness of what's going on when the other team has the ball and I do watch when Iowa has the ball, but I find it more enjoyable to have something else in front of me while the game is on.

So, prior to the game, I decided to take a look at all my cross-stitch projects. I have 2 drawers in my dressing table filled with ideas, thread and fabric. I have a box containing years of magazines with ideas and charts I've picked up over the years. I have several unfinished projects in freezer bags. Surely I could find something to do while I watch the game.

I did find, in September, a chart that will go with a humorous book I found for someone for Christmas. I had the perfect color of fabric and all the colors of thread needed. Once I'd read Saturday's paper, I settled down to stitch.

It's quite relaxing. I very much enjoy doing this. In fact, I think I'll get off the computer and continue working on this. There must be something I can "watch" on TV. The only problem I have is a 17-pound cat who demands my lap on occasion. She gets in the way.

Beverage: fruit juice


Iowa 38 Michigan 28

Yes, it is the return of Big 10 football. Two weeks ago, my Hawkeyes kicked off the season with a rousing romp of Penn State. Michigan was going to be a harder game, played in Ann Arbor for starters. It was to be televised.

Now, I haven't watched TV since Iowa played Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. That's been a good 10 months without TV. Other than needing to dust the thing, I haven't noticed.

But with Iowa a favorite to be at the top of the heap at the end of the season, the potential for them to be televised is very high. The only way I'll get to see them is via the TV which brings me to the "Can I make this work" situation. I had tried once, back in the spring, when helicopters flying overhead alerted me to the possibility that something was amiss on the train tracks north of the house. I couldn't get the TV to show anything but snow.

At 2 p.m., I started looking at this set up. All the cords were plugged into whatever place they had to go. Pilchard likes to sit behind the entertainment center, mainly because I can't get her back there, so I thought perhaps she had knocked something loose. That didn't seem to be the case. I turned on the digital box and the TV, nothing.

After spending a good 20 minutes pushing buttons and turning things on and off, I decided to see if I still had the instruction manual. I did. That's something of a miracle. I started reading what to do and
ta da! TV. Seems I have to run the digital tuner through channel 3 instead of channel 4 where everything else, like the DVD and the PS2 go through. I can't figure out how to turn off the closed captioning. I find it annoying. But, as often as I watch TV, I can ignore it.

So huzzah, hooray, and other such cheers! I figured this out and could watch the whole game on TV. The cats are not very happy about that, as I tend to cheer and they are not used to that. Pilchard loved that I was sitting in the settee and climbed into my lap on several occasions for ear scratches. She did not like the cheer for the first interception and leaped off, leaving a rather long scratch on my leg. Oh well. I'll consider it the price for being able to watch the game.

Beverage: fruit juice


Friday, October 15, 2010

A new favorite.

I love to cook but, since it's just me, I don't try new recipes from the thousands I have. This one was in a September Wednesday cooking supplement in the Daily Herald, the newspaper I probably should let go of but can't seem to go cold-turkey from.

I love fall, as we all know, and this time of year is when I get the urge the most to cook. The abundance of fall fruits and vegetables gets me revved up in the kitchen. Botanically speaking, a squash is a fruit, not a vegetable, for it is the fruit, with seeds, of a flower. We have classified it as a vegetable because it is not sweet and we generally associate sweetness with our fruits. Whether fruit or vegetable, butternut squash is good.

This soup is now my favorite butternut squash soup, bar none. I am not fond of onions so I left those out. I didn't have Granny Smith apples. I had some apples from visiting my mother. The aroma of cooking squash and then cooking squash and apples together was intoxicating. This is the smell of fall.

I thought I could get by with using a hand mixer to combine the ingredients but that didn't work. So, I had to get out my 30+ year old blender and puree the mixture. You need to puree it. Just trust me on this. It is so very smooth and it finishes the combination of flavors.

After I heat the soup, I drizzle the top with honey, about 1/2 teaspoon per bowl, and mix that in, not thoroughly, but just enough that it's mixed in. Some spoonfuls get the sweetness of honey, some do not and that juxtaposition of flavors is, for me, wonderful. This makes a huge amount. I have two pint containers in the freezer and a container in the fridge for this weekend, not to mention the three meals I got out of the soup before I froze it.

I'm considering making the recipe with different apples to see how the apple variety affects the taste. I didn't have ginger root so I used the powdered spice. I think I would like to increase that to see if I can bring out more of the ginger flavor. This recipe has so much potential.

I can see myself on a snowy December evening, curled up in the settee with a cat, a mug of tea, this soup and a hunk of bread. Now that's a meal.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Monday, October 11, 2010


Miss diva has had her wings clipped.

She and Mija went out onto the deck about 3. They wandered around and sat down next to the house. Neither one seemed interested in leaving the deck. Mija actually came back in the house. Pilchard stayed outside and jumped up onto the deck railing again.

About 20 minutes after she was outside, I heard a noise. It seemed to be that of a cat getting off the deck. I went outside. No sign of Pilchard. Mindful of last week's "I'm right here", I searched the house. No luck. After a 7 minutes search and no sign of the cat, I started to get worried. Then I heard it.

Chickadees on the north side of the house seemed unusually animated. There must have been 3 or 4 birds, all chirping, "Chick-a-dee-dee-dee". I went to the location and there she was, on the north side of the house.

"What do you think you're doing, young lady? You get back in the house right now," I yelled. She knew she was in trouble. She took off with me in hot pursuit behind her. "Now! Get in the house!"

Once she was inside, I slammed the back door, scaring Mija. I pointed at Pilchard and said, "You are so grounded."

Now, let's remove the obvious that she completely understands what I was saying. She did avoid me for about and hour but wanted wear scratches after that. I relented after making her wait until I was finished typing an email. Fortunately, we are at the end of the time of year when life on the deck is the usual. Her not going outside isn't really going to put a crimp in her style. She stood by the back door a couple of times and meowed and, when that didn't work, came into the office and looked up at the screened window and meowed. I just said, "Nope. You're grounded. You blew it."

I guess the moral of the story is big black cats will lull you into a false sense of security and, both of them do run when I raise my voice.

Beverage: water


It sounds weird to say this.

Congratulations to my wonderful daughter who is engaged to David Buckwalter.

I will have a son-in-law which makes me a mother-in-law. I don't know how to do that role.

Beverage: China Black tea


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh to be a cat...

on a Sunday afternoon in October.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Monorail cat

I decided to read papers outside on Saturday. I wanted to feel the sunshine on my limbs and face and revel in the warmth of a surprisingly summer-like October day. Plus, as I'm a couple weeks behind, I have accumulated a stack and I didn't have far to walk to toss the read papers into the recycling bin.

I made some tea and went outside. Mija and Pilchard came outside too. Mija didn't stay for very long. If I moved, she would bolt back inside and, ultimately, decided she didn't want to be outside. Pilchard, on the other hand, decided that the outside was wonderful and she wanted to be out in it.

She had never, prior to yesterday, expressed any interest in getting on the deck railing. She's gone through the slats to get off the deck, but never seemed to be interested in jumping up. That has obviously changed.

Pilchard had a ball yesterday. She walked around the north side and then walked around the south side. The south side took her up to the open window in the office which has a screen covering it. She sat down and meowed until I removed the screen and she could come in. She explored the deck floor and would look at the back yard, even going down the steps. But the minute I yelled, "Pilchard! Get back on the deck!", she would turn around and come inside the house, sitting in the open doorway.

Eventually, she decided the best place to be was on the railing. She stayed there for over an hour, just watching the leaves fall off the trees and the birds fly overhead.

I only had one time when I was worried. A squirrel came up onto the deck to drink water from my pseudo birdbath and Pilchard spotted it. She was on the first step of the deck before I could get to the back door. When told to come back on the deck, she turned and came back into the house. Today, they are both asleep in the living room. Perhaps all that fresh air from yesterday has them tired out.

It's great to see them expand their world view while still remembering that they are indoor cats. I'm particularly thrilled with the coming when called. Who says cats can't be trained?

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


A perfect weekend for catching up.

This is kind of beyond "Indian summer". The weather has been glorious. I have taken the opportunity to do things around the house I have put off.
  1. I pruned branches from the volunteer trees next to the deck. I filled another container to go out on Thursday. Yard waste will be collected through mid-December. I might get these trees taken down by then, one can a week.
  2. I cleaned up debris from the old compost pile way in the back. Zeke, who mows my lawn, dismantled that a couple years ago and piled the stuff next to the air conditioner. I have had other things to toss besides that, but I decided I needed to get rid of as much of it as possible. I have one piece that didn't fit in the can.
  3. All the floors were swept which yielded dust bunnies the size of armadillos. I keep forgetting that a big black cat means big chunks of fur everywhere and that fur collects dust.
  4. The kitchen was cleaned on Saturday so I could, on Sunday, bake. So far, I have made 3 Grain Pear and Fruited Bran muffins and 2 loaves of Butterscotch Banana bread. I have to wash the muffin tins again so I can continue to bake. It's fall and that's when I really enjoy baking.
  5. The bed has been stripped and the mattress turned. I still need to figure out how to go get Jessie's mattress. I probably should just rent the appropriate size vehicle.
  6. I read 95% of the newspapers I had piled in the living room. I need to try this recipe for butternut apple soup that was in a Wednesday cooking section.
  7. And I washed every single rug in the living room. That's a chore because they tend to unbalance the washing machine. But, I tell you, the girls love clean rugs. Pilchard has been attacking a couple of them since I put them down. I love being able to drape them over the deck railing and allowing them to air dry.
The house is thrown open and the gentle breeze certainly helps with my allergies. As much as I love fall, my allergies do not. I'm worse now than in the spring. This unseasonably warm weather has helped me get a handle on the allergies so when it turns cold and damp, I might not be so miserable. Part of me thinks I should take a "mental health" day tomorrow, but that would look really bad.

It's been a wonderfully productive weekend. I need a few of those.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


There's still service here.

For all the maligning of the United States Postal Service, there are times when they still surprise with service beyond what you expect.

I sent a box to a friend last week. In the process, I bought some stamps. We used to "collect" stamps when Carole was young, not as a formal stamp collection, but as memories. She doesn't want what we saved so I am free to use them for letters. As they are older, I am currently working through some 34¢ stamps which need an additional 10¢ to be useful. This is helpful when you're on a stringent budget. A sheet of 10¢ is much cheaper than a sheet of 44¢.

I mailed the box, paid for the stamps and I could have sworn, I grabbed them and put them in my purse. But, around 10 p.m., when I was preparing for the next day, I realized they were nowhere to be found. That could mean only one thing. I'd left them at the post office. I couldn't imagine how I could go and claim them other than show up with the receipt and say, "I left them here." I did not relish that. Imagine my surprise when, the next day, I got this in the mail.
In reality, it would be easy to trace whose stamps they are by finding the box. Still, they didn't have to do this and I had, pretty much, written off this sheet.

That's service and I'm grateful.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Friday, October 8, 2010

Poking around

If you pay any sort of attention to the panels to the right, you'll note I have removed some blogs from my reading list. Interests change or they had run their course or were on hiatus. So I removed them.

I'm looking for new blogs to occupy my time and am entertaining suggestions.

I like humor. I like language. I like cats and I like chocolate. I don't need another WOW-blog. I like Terry Pratchett and Scotland, crafts and gardening. Computers and technology are less exciting unless the blog is written with "the rest of us" in mind.

Got something you think I should be reading? Post it in the comments and I'll take a look.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


So good.

I am recommending this to all my chocolate loving friends. This bar is so good.

I get it at Dominicks but if you have a Safeway near you, you should be able to get it.

It's so smooth and creamy. The mix of white chocolate and blueberries is just right so you aren't overpowered by either flavor.

It was $2.69 for this bar.

Heaven, just heaven. It doesn't replace M&M's with peanuts as my all time favorite chocolate item, but it's close.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Wouldn't you know it?

The wipers are fixed. I needed a new motor. I also got an oil change and the blinkers on the left side fixed. The car is now winterized and ready for whatever snow and cold the woolly bear predicts.

The weather is gorgeous and predicted to stay that way for awhile. There might be storms on Monday but they are currently being called "isolated". I have no need for the wipers except in the mornings now when the temperatures drop and dew collects on the window. I don't have to get a dish towel and wipe it off.

So, wouldn't you know it, I get the wipers fixed and we have incredibly beautiful weather. I did decide, that if it's going to be this good, I'm going topless. This might be the last nice spate of weather so there is no reason not to. It's chilly in the morning to be sure, but I toss on an oversize shirt or a light-weight jacket and off I go. The hardest part is getting up early so I can towel off the dew on the inside of the Jeep. That can take 10 minutes to do depending upon the amount of dew that has collected inside. I don't wipe off the entire interior, just the front seats, the stick shift, the inside of the front windshield and the steering wheel.

I'm giving some consideration to a country drive this weekend to get punkins and maybe more apples. As nice as it's going to be, I like the idea of just being out in it. I am already planning to sit on the deck and get caught up on the newspapers I have in a pile in the living room. This way, the girls can come outside too, although they don't stay outside long.

It's days like this, as I'm backing out of the drive, when I feel the urge to just put the Jeep in gear and take off. Crisp mornings with warm afternoons? Yeah, this is my kind of weather.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Thursday, October 7, 2010

And the prediction is...?

I took the garbage and recycling out yesterday after coming home from work. I found this, a woolly bear caterpillar, on the ground. Yes, he (or is it a she? How does one 'sex' caterpillars or does one?) is curled into a ball, but you can see that roughly half of him is brown and the other half is black.

Woolly bears are the larva of Isabella Tiger moth. At this time of year, when you see them, they are in the process of moving to a sheltered location to spin their cocoons to wait out the winter before become the moth in the spring. They can, very often, be almost everywhere. Folklore developed over the centuries giving these little guys the ability to predict the severity of the winter weather. This isn't altogether untrue because the more of them you see and the more they are moving, it means they know cold weather is coming and they are taking shelter for the winter.

Growing up, my grandfather always said the size of the black area indicated the severity of the winter. The more black there was, the harder the winter. Some folks say the number of segments of each color (There are 13 total.) indicate how long the harsh weather will last as opposed to the mild weather.

Some folks say the thickness of the hairs on the worm's body indicate winter severity. Thick hairs equal harsh while thin hairs equal mild. And others said that if the woolly bear is traveling north, it will be a mild winter. If he's traveling south, batten down the hatches. There's nothing to say what happens if you see him curled in a ball. Did he just give up?

So, in looking at this little guy, my forecast for winter is that we'll get snow and cold and then, about April, we will get rain as the temperatures warm up. How's that for precise science? The Old Farmer's Almanac gives the winter forecast for my region, #6, thus:
Winter will be colder than normal, with the coldest periods in late December, mid- and late January, and mid- and late February. Snowfall and precipitation will be near or slightly above normal in New York and below normal elsewhere. The snowiest periods will be in mid-December, January, and mid-February.
According to Esther Lutz, East Central Illinois Master Naturalist, woolly bears have an accuracy rate of 80-85%. (The rest of her article on these little guys is very interesting.) I think that's pretty good, for a bug.

Beverage: Water


Absolutely, totally 100% Legit.

Occasionally, stuff comes through the fax machine that, well, makes us all laugh.

I guess this scam must still work.

If I even believed this guy was related to Charles Taylor and that there was money stored in a bank account, I think there are laws about helping people with ill-gotten gains transfer money around the world. I know of Charles Taylor of Liberia. If I remember correctly, he devastated the economy of that nation and is under arrest for war crimes. Helping him would probably land you in very hot water.

The other thing that strikes me is "I am currently in a refugee camp here in Tanzania..." That's some refugee camp that has a fax machine which can call US numbers.

So, we all got a laugh and I knew I had to share with my readers. The letter is now in the recycling bin.

Beverage: China Black tea


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Makes my mouth happy.

These turnovers are really good. You get them at Arby's and they have been gone for over a year. They were a limited time offering when they first appeared but I'd go to Arby's just to get one. I had to get garbage stickers today and Arby's is next to the hardware store. I didn't realize the turnovers were back until I walked in. (sigh) I really cannot afford to eat there even once a week but...but...chocolate turnovers.

No, I don't care about the nutritional information, thank you very much.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


We don't like these, mom!

Weekend mornings are a time to sleep in, usually. But last Saturday and Sunday, I was not allowed to.

When I adopted the girls, they came with a big bag of cat food and several containers of kitty litter. These had been purchased at Meijer, a warehouse Target/Wal-Mart-ish store, for those of you who don't know the name. I don't shop there because there isn't one near me. So, they had to adapt to the litter I use and to different cat food. I found a couple brands of litter and a couple different types of cat food that they enjoy.

Two weeks ago, I needed litter so I went to Target as they had several brands on sale. I got Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Clumping Litter. You can see it kind of looks like very fine wood chips. It's supposed to be corn fibers and baking soda to cut down on odor and to be a softer footing for the cat.

The girls hate it.

I have 3 litter boxes. It is recommended you have one box per cat and a spare. When I had 5 cats, I had 6 boxes. With just the 2 of them, I have 3 boxes. Two boxes contained this stuff and the other contained what was left of the Fresh Step litter I usually buy. The Fresh Step was "over used" while the Arm and Hammer was barely used. Perhaps they need to get used to it but it's clear to me they don't like it.

I don't like cleaning it. The corn fibers are bigger than the Fresh Step stuff and I find that I might as well use a shovel because the slotted litter scoop I use catches everything. We are back to Fresh Step which was on sale at Dominicks over the weekend. Plus, Fresh Step has a "members reward program" and I get points for buying this product. I have several sets of points to enter into my total. I might be able to get something free for the girls. Points and free cat stuff isn't an overriding reason to stick with a brand. I will buy Arm and Hammer's litter that looks like Fresh Step if it's on sale. The girls have spoken and we all know I like to make my cats happy.

The next issue was the food. We were low on food last week but I had limited resources. There were coupons in the paper for Friskies. Dominicks had it on sale. The $5.99 bag was reduced to $3.99 and I had a $1.00 off coupon. So, for $2.99, I got a bag of cat food.

It was not appreciated.

Maybe it was the texture. These are more oddly-shaped pieces and, perhaps, they don't like that. Maybe it's the taste. How am I to know if the stuff tastes good? I just know that I bought the bag on Wednesday because we were completely out and they looked at me Wednesday night as if I had gone crazy. They nibbled because they were hungry but, if you have never been "yelled at" by a cat, you don't understand what Pilchard did Saturday morning to awaken me.

Mija was lying on top of me, purring up a storm. Pilchard came into the bedroom, stood by the bed and meowed. It was the tone of the meow. She was not happy. Both dishes still had food in them but I freshened it. She looked at the bowl and then looked up at me and meowed. Okay, that message is clear. My grocery run on Saturday included new litter and new cat food. I got the big bag of Purina Indoor Cat food. They do like this.

But, I've already spent money on the litter and cat food that they don't like. I don't want to just toss the stuff. The one bag of litter is going in the car for winter. You should carry a bag, if you live in northern climes, because putting litter under a spinning wheel allows you to get out of being stuck. I mixed the last of the corn litter into the Fresh Step and we'll just phase that out of use. I also mixed the food they like with the food they dislike and they are happily eating all of it.

Am I nuts for going to these lengths to make the girls happy? Maybe, but they provide so much peace and enjoyment to me, the least I can do is make them happy.

Beverage: Apple Cider Tea


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yet another "hmmmm"

In case you're wondering, it's still pretty much intact in my compost pile. I have it nearly covered with fruit and vegetable detritus but you can tell it's a bag. Maybe "compostable" is used in the loosest of terms. Sure it's compostable if left to sit for 100 years, but that's not efficient as far as I'm concerned.

Beverage: Dr Pepper



I got home on Saturday with a car full of groceries. I counted 14 sacks although Dominicks could do a better job of training their baggers to put more than a couple items in a brown paper bag.

In order to facilitate the emptying of my car, I left the back door open. These two will go out onto the deck for a bit but they run inside when I head into the house. I saw them both on the deck and I saw them both run inside but Mija came back out for a bit until I was actually done unloading.

I closed the back door and realized I didn't see the big, black cat. Pilchard? She wasn't in her 'hiding place' behind the TV. Pilchard? She wasn't sitting on the basement steps? PilCHARD? Now, I'm getting a bit worried that she went outside and squirmed through the deck slats and was under the deck. PILCHARD! No sign of her outside. Now I'm really worried. Where the heck is that...

"I'm right here. I see you you. What do you want?"

Beverage: China Black tea


Monday, October 4, 2010

Cats don't eat this.

So I'm a pushover. Mija has quickly learned, if she follows me into the kitchen and meows, I might let her have something of what I'm making.

Unlike my former felines, these two are picky. They won't eat just anything I have. And, many times, Mija will take a bite and decide it wasn't what she was expecting. Yet she still wants to smell it even if she's decided previously that she hates it.

I went grocery shopping over the weekend. I was out of everything. At Whole Foods, where I bought meat to last me into next month, they had loaves of this cinnamon bread next to the check-out. It's a favorite impulse purchase point. Put something enticing at the register and people will probably snap it up. Well, it looked good and smelled wonderful so why not?

After coming home and putting everything away, I sat down to work on my finances and brought a couple slices of the bread, with tea, into the office. Of course she wanted to see what I had. I think her left ear says it all. She sniffed, gave me a look that would curdle milk and left. If Pilchard sees that Mija gets to sniff something, she's right on Mija's tail to have a whiff. Pilchard didn't even smell it. One look and she went back to lying on the settee.

The bread was incredibly good, by the way.

Beverage: Water


This vexes me. #8


You know this kind. This is the kind where it's in a sealed package and the ONLY, ONLY way to get it open is to cut it. If, heaven forbid, you have purchased the wrong item, you have irreparably damaged the packaging. And if you are not careful, the opened edges are razor sharp and will cut you.

It matters not that the entire thing can be recycled. I think this is an egregious example of packaging gone wrong. You can see how I had to mangle this package to remove the camcorder battery. All the time I'm doing this, I'm hoping that I got the right battery for the office camcorder.

I'd like to know if batteries really are shoplifted in such quantity that they need to be this over packaged.

Beverage: water


Another recommendation.

I love this stuff. It's more, much more, expensive than the Kraft mac and cheese, but honestly, it is so much better.

I bought a box years ago. I saw it in Whole Foods and I like the taste of white cheddar. We called it "farmer cheese" because farmers often made this kind of cheddar and didn't have the orange additive. It's got a different flavor than orange cheddar.

Homemade mac and cheese is a much loved comfort food. I make mine with Velveeta which is probably as far from "organic" cheese as you can get. But it melts evenly and, when cool, doesn't solidify into a stringy mass as I find real cheddar can.

This box cooks up the same as the Kraft kind but you mix the cheese sauce in a mixing cup and add it to the cooked pasta. I also add peas and, brace yourself, diced Spam. What can I say? I like Spam. With these things added, it makes a hearty and comforting meal that reheats wonderfully the next day.

Unless you eat the entire pot full over the course of the evening.

Beverage: Blackberry sage tea


May be the TMI post.

Doesn't look very interesting or appetizing, does it? It's a skin scrub I received from my friend, Melody. She made it. It's used coffee grounds and baby oil and probably other stuff that I've forgotten. She listed the ingredients the year she gave several of us this for Christmas. She said it was the most delicious exfoliant she'd ever used, plus, it was all natural.

I've had this for a couple years. I put it under the bathroom sink, intending to use it once I had finished with the exfoliant currently in the tub.

Well, as things usually go, it got shoved behind things under the sink. In the summer, I did a clean out of everything in the bathroom and tossed a bunch of things that were way beyond expiration dates, the ear cleaning solution for Penney who went over the Rainbow Bridge in 2007, is a for instance. I found this and moved it to the front of the cupboard intending to give it a try.

It's time to perform the female ritual of leg shaving. I remember reading that although guys shave more often unless they are bearded, women shave more surface area. I find it helps to rub the gams with exfoliant before taking a razor to the skin. There is less chance I am going to nick or cut myself. I usually use this, but at $20, it seems kind of extravagant, particularly when I'm trying to save money any way I can.

I had a small container of lavender scented exfoliant that I used up and then I dug into the coffee grounds. It was a bit solidified, after being under the sink for a couple years. I added a bit of water to it to make the consistency easier for spreading.

Whew! It did smell like coffee. And was it gritty! It felt almost like rubbing sand on my skin. But the result was absolutely wonderful, soft, smooth skin.

This leads to the fact that it's Clinique Bonus Time, the time when I can get a bunch of sampler-size freebies by buying Clinique skin care or make-up items. I was looking through my stash and I actually don't need anything this go round of Bonus Time. Plus, this stuff is expensive. I used up the facial moisturizer they make that I like, but I bought some at Target that is proving to be just as nice for, well, this means math so give me a second.

9/47 = n/100, I think is the formula.

Doing the math says that the new stuff is 19% of the price of the old. I can live with that. In fact, I can live with all my skin care being 19% of the price of what I currently use. That extra change in my pocket means I am closer to being back on my feet. That those feet would be nicely exfoliated is an extra bonus.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage Tea