Monday, March 28, 2011

It would take me a month to prepare.

While reading through the blogs to the right, I noted the Craft blog had an article for a pinhole camera. Carole and David are avid photographers. I've linked to and used some of Carole's photos in the blog. I posted the link to the pinhole camera on David's Facebook page and then went back to check some of the other links mentioned.

It turns out there is a Worldwide Pinhole Camera Day upcoming on Sunday, April 24th. It's a day to take your pinhole camera out into the world and take photos with it.

What a novel idea. You take a light-tight container, poke a pin-sized hole in one end, add photo sensitive paper and then expose the paper for a long period of time and see what you get. While I wouldn't make the Hasselblad camera the initial link had, I did find this one.
Now that's the kind of crazy camera I would make. I'm tempted, very tempted to give this idea a try. My photos are documentary in nature. When called upon to do something "arty", I don't do well and I certainly don't have photo processing software on my computer to add or remove things. What I took is what you see, although I do crop photos to make them less memory intensive. 

I have a bit less than a month to consider whether I'll participate in this. Easter Sunday is April 24th. That could lend itself to some interesting photographs. 

Beverage:  Hot Apple Cider tea


Did You Know...

Chicago elected their first new mayor in 20+ years.
The Packers won the Super Bowl.
Japan had a horrible earthquake and tsunami.

If my entire accumulation of news was from the newspaper, I would have just had sensory overload. What is one to do when moving one's arm generates excruciating pain? Well, I spent some of the awake time on Friday and then most of Saturday afternoon reading through the stack of newspapers in the living room.

It was a jumble of days and weeks, not consecutive, except for the last 2 weeks. I got behind with the blizzard and never really caught up. I'd read a couple one day and then go 3 more days before picking up a paper to read. It was actually very interesting to plow through the stack as I had January papers where Rahm Emanuel was kicked off the Chicago mayor ballot and then the ones after he was reinstated. The diverse opinions are amusing. 

I didn't leave the house this weekend after coming back from the doctor, so I am behind by 4 papers, Friday to today. I'll sit down and read those tonight. Then I will be all caught up for 12 hours. Sometimes, I think that I would be better served by discontinuing the paper. A paper was missed 2 weeks ago and, when I let them know, they went into overdrive to make sure it does not happen as it did last year. Pam saved her papers from the blizzard as I canceled delivery from Thursday through Monday of that week, since I couldn't reach the drive anyway. She would happily save papers for me if I wanted to cancel my subscription. But, for me, a newspaper makes me feel connected to the news in a way the Internet doesn't. I'm probably showing my age with that statement. I like the feel of a newspaper. I like poring over the print. I like reading about my community. I like the comics. It's not the same with a computer. I guess that's what keeps me paying for a subscription. 

Plus, Pilchard doesn't demand my lap when I'm reading at the computer. You can't put a price on a lap cat. 

Beverage:  Hot Apple Cider tea


Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Have No Clue

I was sweeping in the kitchen yesterday. I'm trying not to do wide, grand motions with my arm until I know what's wrong with it. Sweeping could be done in short and simple movements, the kind that don't require moving every single muscle.

I heard the distinctive sound of the broom catching something under the stove. This came out.
It's a broken piece of crockery, fairly heavy for its size. I don't know what it's from. 

I got down on my hands and knees and looked at the floor, lest something had been knocked off the table and I didn't know it. Nothing. I swept under the fridge, expecting to find additional pieces but all I found were dried peas, dust and 3 twist ties which had probably been playthings until they went under the fridge. I've looked through the cupboards and I can't find anything that's broken. I'm clueless. 

It makes me a bit nervous that something was broken and I can't find it. But unless the girls are much smarter than I give them credit for and they managed to clean up whatever it was they broke, this may be something from ages ago that just happened to get dragged from under the stove. 

Kind of makes me wonder what else might be under there. 

Beverage:  China Black tea


All Is Right With The World

The bunny has returned to the spot on the north side of the house.
I have missed him/her. He/she hasn't been around all winter. Given the life span of wild rabbits, I can't be certain this is the one I have watched for a couple years now. It's just good to see a rabbit on the north side of the house. 

Beverage: China Black tea


One Day of Sewing

One afternoon of sewing resulted in this.

It started with tailor's tacks on the darts on the front. Some people use chalk or erasable pencils. I've not found those other methods work any better than good old reliable tailor's tacks. 

The fabric irons very nicely. The back of it is gorgeous, too, which was a selling point when I bought it.

The only real problem is its propensity to unravel. I had two choices in dealing with this, other than leaving it alone and that really wasn't a choice as eventually, the seams would unravel to the stitching.  I could do what's called a "princess seam". First you stitch the wrong sides together in a 1/4 inch seam. Then you fold the fabric over and stitch again the remainder of the 5/8 inch seam. It's more labor intensive but it completely encases the seam and the ends. The problem with this material is the bulk. Folding over again on the seam makes for a lot of fabric in the seam. I tried a scrap and didn't like how it looked on the outside.

So, my other option was zigzag sewing the ends. I like how that worked. It's still kind of time consuming because any edge that is not a hem needs to be zigzagged. Then I go along and trim the frayed edges. 
I'm very pleased with how well this sews. I had a moment of panic as I started because I couldn't remember how to wind a bobbin and I didn't have a bobbin with cream colored thread in it. Thankfully, the instruction manual is in the sewing chest. "Oh yeah! That's right." 

I also had some problems with the initial zigzag attempts but discovered the top thread was just not working right. I replaced it with a lighter weight thread and have had no problems since. I've used up one small spool of cream colored thread and am working with a very pale pink color now. The edge stitching, shown above is cream as it's coming out of the bobbin. I even found a small spool of the green of the dress. It probably won't be enough to sew the dress with, but it might be enough to get started. 

For the most part, the girls hopped up on the table once, to see what I was doing and then left me alone. Pilchard tried to interrupt things but 4 kitty treats convinced her to move along.
Musical accompaniment to the sewing was Joshua Bell, Voice of the Violin; John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman; Old Blind Dogs, Four on the Floor; and a classical compilation entitled Classical Cats that I've had for years. 

Sleeves and hem are all that are left to do. I think I need to have Pam help me with the hem to make sure it's even. I'm still unsure about the closure at the neck. I think I need to make the dress and see the whole outfit to decide what I should put there. I have it pinned shut for the photo. I have probably 2 more hours of work and it's done. I'm really pleased with how quickly it went together considering I have not sewn in a couple of years. 

Carole had her dress fitting on Thursday and just needs the straps adjusted. I was sent a photo but, no, I'm not posting it. Suffice it to say she looked beautiful. In less than 2 months, this whole event will be a memory. Time has passed so quickly from November when we first walked into that dress shop and she started trying on dresses. 

Beverage:  China Black tea


But It's MY Chair

I spent today cleaning and sorting and resting my shoulder. It was sunny outside, if blustery. I spent some time at the computer but would wander away to do another load of dishes or to add some addresses I found in this pile to my right to my address book. When I came back to the office, I found this.

First of all, the chair has been warmed by me sitting in it. Secondly, the chair stays warm because of the bright spring sunshine. Third, this is her way of reminding me that cats rule my house and I am beholden to their whims. I love how a "black" cat isn't really black, but a mix of brown and black when the sunshine reflects off her fur. 

Instead of getting the chair all to herself, this tactic means I scoop her up and we cuddle; well, I cuddle. She meows and tries to get away. "Ewwwww," I can hear her say. "She's loving me again. I should pretend to not like this." I did get one set of claws clipped in spite of objections. 

After doing this for 4 times, she finally decided the best place to lie was in the settee in the living room and left. I'd be willing to bet you she doesn't sit in this chair when I'm not home and she could have all the sunshine in the world to soak up. 

Later, I ran a raid with my guild. We took a break and I went to refresh the hot cocoa. I came back to my chair and...

I scooped her up for cuddles and she meowed to get down. Mija will sit in the chair when I've not used it. I've come home to find her in the chair. If I had the funds to buy each of them a chair and situate it where it would get sunshine you do know where they would prefer to sit. I am flattered that they just want to be near me, but, it's MY chair. 

Beverage:  hot cocoa


And It Really Hurts

It's been something of a rotten 48 hours.

Last year, if you remember, I injured my right shoulder. My doctor did x-rays even though he knew they wouldn't show anything, but insurance companies won't approve the MRI that will show something without the x-ray that won't. He gave me a muscle relaxant and said, if the pills didn't make the pain go away, I should come back.

Well, the pills were wonderful. I have been pretty much pain free since June of last year. But, for the last 2 weeks, the pain has crept back. Thursday, I could barely move the arm upon waking without excruciating pain. As I got going, however, a hot shower, aspirin and Ben-Gay made it tolerable and it even disappeared about noon. It came roaring back at 2:00 Friday morning.

I could not get comfortable to sleep. I tried everything. I had taken aspirin when I went to bed at 11:30 so taking more was out of the question. I tried Ben-Gay. I tried the aspirin cream I have. I nuked this wrap I have which is filled with lavender and put it over the shoulder. Nothing worked. I don't know if I just got so exhausted I would have slept anyway, but I finally fell asleep at 3:45 a.m. That lasted until 5:50. I knew there was no way I could go to work when I couldn't raise my arm. The clinic opened at 8 a.m. but I did seriously think of ER. One of the angels on my shoulder whispered, "They are there to help you." The hot shower I took at 7, took away the pain for all of 5 minutes. I got an appointment with my doctor's wife, who is also a doctor, for 11 a.m. and tried to rest. My nap was 90 minutes long, although somewhat fretful.

Her diagnosis is that whatever I did, probably years ago, had never completely healed. Shoveling the snow from the blizzard aggravated the problem. Although I took great pains not to tire myself out and to shovel "correctly", the sheer amount of snow was just not good. It's taken awhile for the problem to resurface. She referred me to an orthopedic doctor. I can't get in until April 6th but I do know right where this doctor is located. In the meantime, I have those lovely ivory-colored pills you see above. I take one a day and they do take away the pain.

I slept soundly last night for the first time all week. The shoulder has been bothering me since last weekend, but I was able to sleep for at least 4-5 hours at a time. Last night's sleep was almost 10 hours and was filled with some rather interesting dreams.

Last year, Dr. Burandt suggested it was a deep muscle tear. That is still a possibility. It is also possible it's the rotator cuff. My dad had the "Tommy John" surgery when I was in college after he tore one. It doesn't seem to be "frozen", meaning I can't lift it, because I could do much more today.

This happened to me back in August of 2006. I remember because Carole was home and I did go to ER that time and told her I could drive myself at 3:30 in the morning. The ER doctor felt I had accidentally overextended the arm, gave me a shot and sent me home. I had some physical therapy to build up the muscles and I seemed to be all better. It is kind of discouraging to have this flare up again. I'm hoping whatever is wrong is fixable and not the onset of arthritis or something chronic that is merely managed. If it is something that is simply managed, I will figure out how to manage it and go on.

It is times like this that I loathe being single. Having someone in the house with me in the wee hours of Friday to voice my fears to and wrestle with the "should I or shouldn't I go to ER" would have made things not feel so overwhelming. Plus, driving was an adventure when I have a stick shift vehicle. I just gritted my teeth and did it.

Now I wait. The 10 days between now and the orthopedic appointment will disappear. I'm good right now and I hope to be better. I have a lot of work upcoming so having to be out because of a shoulder injury is not good. Then again, is there ever a time when an illness or injury is convenient?

Beverage:  Hot Cocoa


Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Hate This.

The photo doesn't show it and I took over a dozen with this one being the best, but I really hate it when I have a good hair day going and no one sees it. The past two days have had good hair days and I've been in the office all day.

I need a haircut but I'm going to tough it out until the first weekend in May. Then I'll get it cut and it will be perfect for Carole and David's ceremony. I will have to cut my bangs this weekend as they are getting into my eyes.

Beverage:  tea


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, Lines 155-161

I have been "working" on this post for over a month now. Each attempt distilled what I wanted to say even more. I would delete it and start again. I think I'll finally have the words exactly right this time.

Everyone knows I play World of Warcraft, the hugely popular online role playing game. I've been doing this since fall of 2006. I've met a lot of people, some nice, some not so nice, some in the middle. I've run a guild, a loose group of like-minded people, since December of 2007. I would say I have 20 people who have been with me for a long time. We've probably had 30 or so people who have passed through but what I offer with Spectacular Death is not for everyone and they have left; some nicely, some not so nicely and some in the middle.

While the anonymity of the Internet can cause the coarseness of humanity to show through, I run my guild and try to comport myself as I would want to be treated if I ran into these people in real life. It can be easy to have the snappy, snippy, sarcastic come back because you won't probably ever be standing in line at the grocery behind them. I just can't be that kind of a person.

So it was with great surprise that I and my guild became the target in late December of someone with an axe to grind. It started with a character whose name was exactly the same as mine with the exception of a "Two" added at the end. As you can chose your name, and my original spelling was already taken so I had to add letters to my original word, this was clearly designed to confuse people.

Then, the person joined one of the chat channels in the game that I have openly said I don't frequent and started advertising for people to join an all-Filipino guild to "combat the bigotry and hatefulness found in Spectacular Death". I didn't know about this recruiting tactic until I started getting private messages from other people in the game who know me wondering what I was doing. After this, posts started appearing on the public forum of the server on which I play telling people my guild and I were "bigoted and hateful towards Filipinos".

I tried, under the guise of a little used character, to find out exactly what what the person's beef with me or my guild was, but they would not talk to me. Others also tried, but got nowhere. For over 2 weeks, this was a nightly occurrence and I spent a great deal of game time explaining to people I had no idea what this person was complaining about. My enjoyment of the game was slipping away rapidly.

I have officers in the guild, people who have volunteered their time to help with the mechanics of running something with 277 names in it. Their counsel was to ignore it. Most of the time, the few people who take pot shots at me or my guild are ignored. But it became clear I was being specifically targeted as this person would log off when I logged on or would disappear when I was in the same town where they were soliciting members. When I left town, he or she would start up again.

Now, I have no problems with someone making an all-Filipino guild. More power to them, if they can succeed. But I do have a problem with my guild being denigrated for something we would not do in order to get attention. I have a code of conduct for players in my guild. It is absolute and I have kicked people from the guild who violate provisions in the code. It can be distilled to "Respect others. Period." Being bigoted or hateful toward an ethnic group would violate the code. I have people of Asian descent in my guild and they wondered where this person got the idea we were bigoted.

And Blizzard/Activison, the company that owns World of Warcraft, also takes a dim view of bigotry and open hatefulness. You have the option of "reporting" someone for actions which violate the Terms of Service or the End User License Agreement which everyone must accept to play the game. Harassment, hate speech, threats of violence are taken seriously and can garner you a permanent ban from the game. I know of people who were banned for any of those items.

At first, I laughed things off. But, as the weeks went by and the forum posts and yelling in the game continued, it began to get to me. "You must be strong. He can't see that it bothers you," my second in command told me. That's all well and good, but it's ruining my play time when all I do is deal with the comments from others about what was said. I was reporting the posts on the forum, telling the moderators that, while he's entitled to make a guild the way he wants, he's not entitled to belittle my guild in the process of making his. I dreaded logging on. I found the stress of playing, wondering what he was saying when I wasn't in a major town, overwhelming.

At the end of February, a casual friend talked to me about these incidents. He wanted to know why it bothered me. I had come to find out that over 55 people had been reporting this guy every time he showed up in town. When he chose to be on late at night, people stood around him and openly yelled at him in game. "People have your back," my friend said, "Why did this get to you? Answer that and you'll know how to handle the next event."

I really couldn't answer it until one day while surfing the web. I don't remember why these lines from Othello were quoted but this says what I couldn't.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing.
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been a slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
That's it.

I have worked very hard, since creating the guild, to have us be seen as a good group of good people. We are well-known for doing silly, wacky and crazy things, for trying to engage the entire server in events, for being nice and helpful. One person threatened to upend this.

"But they are just words," I hear you say. When people don't know who you are, words are all they have to go on. Even in a fake environment, people believe what they read running in chat channels on their screen. There are a good 11,000+ people on the server. I can't know all of them and they can't know me. If they only play from midnight to 6 a.m., chances are very good, I've never crossed paths with them at all, in nearly 4 years of playing. Of course it stands to reason they will "believe", in whatever capacity that is, what someone tells them, particularly if that someone seems very insistent on it. This is an attempt to rob me of my good name, to sully my reputation, as unfounded and baseless as it was, and that's what bothered me to my core.

I'm happy to say, thanks to the outpouring of support from those people who have crossed paths with me and my guild, the person saying these things has been banned from playing. I sometimes wish I knew who it was. Was it someone who I kicked? Was it someone who left in a huff? Was it someone who was jealous of us? Or was it just someone who drew a name out of a hat and decided to harass us? Was there a kernel of truth in what he or she was saying? Did someone from my guild make an inappropriate statement which was then blown completely out of proportion? I'll never know and I'm okay with that.

A month later, I can log on and be the silly guild leader everyone knows and not have to watch my back. I have learned that I have done what I set out to do, create a guild that is respected for who we are and whom people are not afraid to stand up for. If this were to happen again, I would probably feel the same upset feelings. This guild is very important to me and I protect it like a mother hen. But I also know that I can relax and if someone wants to claim we're bigots, they are going to have to prove it.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 14. Back-to-Back Stitching

I'm entering a week where I'll have to put in overtime because I have a project due at the end of the month. I'm so close to having it done but it's a lot of busy work and can be tedious. The overtime is good for the bottom line but it does cut into the time I would spend doing things at home. Plus, I come home rather mentally tired.

So today, I decided to finish that last leaf at the upper right. This side of the piece is officially done as far as the leaf stitching. There's the outlining left to do but I'm not going to do that until the leaves are all stitched.

I have 14 leaves of varying sizes left to do and I'm finished with leaves. It's probably 7-10 "days" of stitching left. Depending upon the size of the leaf, I can do 2 or 3 a sitting.

I'm quite pleased with how this has developed. I hope the recipient likes it, too.

Beverage:  Apple Cider tea



They may be hard to see, but on Saturday, there was this incessant honking over my house as the geese that do migrate began returning to their nesting places. This kind of look like itty bitty ants covering the sky. I couldn't see them in the viewfinder of the camera either so I just kind of aimed in the direction of the honking and depressed the shutter. 

We all came outside for about an hour, to just sit on the deck or, in the girls' case, smell the smells left over from the winter. It was such a lovely afternoon and I had been cleaning and working through piles since about 10 a.m., so a break had been earned. 

I need to scrub the top of the deck and restain it this year. I'd also like more flowers than just the three geraniums I have overwintering in the house. That might just be spring talking when you feel energized with the thought of a new year of warmth, having been cooped up through a snowy winter. 

I received a catalogue in the mail last week that has me itching to garden again. Gardener's Supply has some great ideas for the deck.
These are great and would be wonderful on my deck. I sat on the top step breathing in the fresh spring air and feeling the warm sun on my face. I looked around and could just see peppers over there and a line of flower pots over here. I love growing peppers in a pot on the deck. There is nothing like a fresh picked pepper. I eat the red, orange or yellow ones raw and they are much sweeter when they are yours than picked from the bin at the grocery. 

Of course it comes down to not having funds to purchase the things I saw in this catalogue. But I am inspired, right now, to at least consider putting more flowers on the deck this year and actually getting out and enjoying them. Trusting Pilchard to stay on the deck is an issue but I could always just be outside while they watched from the windows. Mija's pretty good about not straying. 

Last year at this time, I really didn't care. Flowers were something I liked but I didn't have the energy to deal with them. This year, I'm remembering that sitting on the deck surrounded by plants brought me peace and happiness. I need to recapture that. 

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Please Don't Faint

The preparations for sewing the jacket I'm wearing to Carole and David's vow blessing ceremony included clearing off the living room table. I had deposited items that I wanted to address but which were not crucial to life, such as bills. I have trained myself so bills go in one specific place, period, and immediately upon receipt. I don't even open them. They go rightthere and I always know what I have to pay.

Letters, cards, interesting bits, well, they get piled. I don't have a filing system. I have a "piling system". Oh yes, the thing I want should be in this pile here. On the table were letters from Christmas cards, Valentine cards, "thinking of you" cards, letters received in the past month, a really old one from December and one from January. That friend told me she was moving two blocks north. I don't think I have that address. Wonder if she did?

So part of the clean up of the table was to NOT just move the pile into the office but to go through each and every piece of paper and do something with it. I have enough stamps. Patt and Terry sent me note card-sized stationary for Christmas. I have no excuse other than my inertia and, on Saturday, I was overcoming that.

Two parcels with baby gifts were wrapped, labeled and made ready for shipping today. I hand wrote 8 letters, applied my stickers and stamps and made a pile next to my purse on the kitchen table. Have to take my purse in the morning so I have no excuse not to grab the stack.

On purpose, today, I did not pack a lunch, which forced me to leave the office in search of foodstuffs. That allowed me to swing by the post office and drop everything into the mail. Therefore, some of you could see an honest to gosh letter by Wednesday. I know you will be shocked. I hope, ultimately, you will be amused and maybe even happy to receive it. I'm feeling so good about clearing off that table, I'm looking at the table in the office and thinking, I should look through this stuff. Some people might even get 2, count 'em, 2 letters because I find something from you I know I didn't answer.

On the down side, I'm running out of stickers. I'll have to watch for Hobby Lobby's 50% off sale and see if I can squeeze a $10 sticker purchase out of the budget.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Day 13 and this wasn't what I was going to do.

The weekend was to be a time of productivity. I spent Saturday cleaning the piles off the table in the living room, dealing with all the papers and things I had just dropped there. I found a place that sells power cords for my sewing machine. I got one and, thankfully, it's the cheaper of the two available. I just needed to clean off the table so I could set everything up and get sewing. You know how it is with these kinds of projects. Setting this up meant I had to clear off the ironing board, which mean I needed to clean the litter boxes and make a path to the ironing board. I really need a new ironing board cover, too, but that will have to wait. A towel over the top works just fine.

I get all set up on Sunday. We had some first day of spring thunderstorms roll through. The lights flickered a bit and I think that one sound was hail. I sat down to have a lunch of sliced strawberries and a croissant and Pilchard reminded me of one thing. She hates thunderstorms. My lap was the preferred place to ride this out. Well, that's okay, I guess, while I'm shoveling strawberries into my mouth but I really wanted to sew. There was a lull about 1. I went to start dishes because I can multi-task; sew a little, wash dishes, sew some more. I got my work space all ready and ...
she was having none of it. I attempted to pick her up and she extended her claws which I knew would tear the tissue. Okay, let's find something else to do until she decides she doesn't want to sit on things anymore. I know, I'll work on the cross-stitch. The minute I sat down, Pilchard was in my lap. She was just exceptionally clingy yesterday. Oh well, there are worse things than to have a cat want your lap. 

Instead of sewing on the jacket, I worked on the cross-stitch. Two more leaves were finished and I had a happy cat. I thought I was done with this side but I'm not. There is one more leaf to do at the top. It's coming along nicely even it I have to stop and provide ear scratches.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Officially Arrives in Two Days

...but I'm seeing it here now.
This guy has been singing in the trees around the house. He seemed completely unconcerned about the cats allowed out to sniff the spring breeze when I got home yesterday. This morning, he allowed me to snap his photo as he sang in the bush near the Jeep. The robin took off as I approached. 
Day lilies are sprouting next to the house, behind the air conditioner. I really need to buy a rake to rake off debris. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Lost in a Good Book Indeed

On Wednesday, I had to help Brian from our Louisville office at a job in the area. Essentially, I ferry him around, help him set up his equipment, chat with clients and then sit. With jobs like these, the sitting is mainly what you do. It helps to pass the time if you bring something else to do. I looked over my available items and decided not to bring the cross-stitch. I'd probably lose one of the colors or the fabric would get dirty or something would go wrong. I decided not to bring a stack of magazine. I didn't want to have to keep track of the ones I'd finished. I grabbed the book that's been sitting on the dresser. Compact, easy to carry and easy to be interrupted when Brian needed my help, it was the perfect item.

I got half-way through it during the 4.5 hours we did testing for this client. When I finally got home, I read for another 2 hours before I needed to log onto the game and see how the guild was doing. I logged off early and went back to the book. By Wednesday night, I had read 3/4ths of it.

I couldn't wait to get home last night and finish it. I was under a deadline because I had a big guild event planned that I'd been working towards since the middle of February. I was running it so I had to be online, but I wanted to finish this book.

I did it. I closed the cover with 20 minutes to spare.

This is a really good book. If you've not read the first book in this series, The Eyre Affair, that's okay. He does enough plot rehashing that you get the important parts of that book brought up in this one.

Oh my, is this a page turner. If you aren't familiar with Fforde's books, this is a series featuring a heroic named Thursday Next. Fforde describes this series thusly,
Thursday Next is a detective who works for Jurisfiction, the policing agency that works inside fiction. The books are set in an odd alternative world, and blends SF, Fantasy, Literature, Horror, and a bit of romance. The series supposes that all the people inside books have real lives when they are not being read, and get up to all sorts of mischief. 
You have to like fantasy, clever writing, convoluted plots that don't always have an ending and British humor, although the latter is not as much on display as it is with Terry Pratchett.  

I loved The Eyre Affair and picked up this second book a few years ago. Obviously, I couldn't put it down. If I hadn't had to work Thursday, I would have read the whole thing in a day. I love the idea that literary characters have lives when they aren't being read. Miss Havisham figures large in this book. Jumping from book to book is common place and England is a country run by a huge corporation where personal freedom is fine so long as it's within certain parameters. Dodos and neanderthals and mammoths are common as is time travel. It's a great read and you don't have to know about literature or have read Dickens to get a kick out of the people and places in the book. Oh look! There's the Cheshire Cat and he's in charge of a huge library. 

So, I am tempted to get the next book, The Well of Lost Plots, because I want to find out how Thursday is getting on. When I closed the cover on the story, she was living in a lovely seaside resort in a manuscript that hadn't been published. Dare I venture into a bookstore for the next one? They all call to me from the shelves, "Buy me! Buy me! I've got illustrations. I've got history. I've got romance and adventure." It gets so hard to not walk out with a couple more than I came in for.

This makes book #3 this year. Now to pick the next one which will sit on my dresser for a couple months until I have need of some stationary reading. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend Tea


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Austrian Bakery Again

Chocolate cake.

Three layers of chocolate cake with a chocolate filling, a chocolate-flavored whipped cream and a chocolate ganache topping. It was good, but not as good as the white chocolate raspberry torte from Wednesday. The non-pariel covered truffle was good. I ate that last.

I decided to take some things home with me. Cookies. A pound of Austrian butter cookies. The ones with the white tips are white chocolate. The ones with the chocolate circles on them are listed as caramel peanut butter. They would be better described as chocolate peanut butter. The caramel flavor was just barely hinted.

I should mention this excursion was last Friday, March 11. I figured I'd have the cookies for raiding over the weekend. They were incredibly good and oh, so rich. I ate about 10 of them on Friday night and could not eat any more. There's a good 2 dozen of these in the box. I finished the last of them Monday after work. Oh my. I am very glad this bakery isn't within my easy driving distance.

The best thing I brought home, however, was a loaf of bread. This is sunflower bread. Not only is the top studded with sunflowers but there must have been at least 2 cups of seeds throughout the bread. I probably should have had him slice it for me. I opted to do it myself and either I'm very weak or my bread knife is in dire need of sharpening because it was just hard to slice off a chunk. But I was reminded by a friend that this isn't a mass produced mound of dough and, as such, it's not meant to be slice thin enough for the toaster. It wouldn't have fit anyway, given the size.

And it made me sad that this bakery isn't within easy driving distance. Maybe it's not true, but I think this is healthier than the stuff I buy off the shelf at Dominicks. No way can I stuff a piece of ham and a slice of cheese between two pieces of this but I wasn't eating it in a sandwich. I warmed it with a little butter and jam and that was phenomenal. It would probably cost $10 if I found it in the mainstream grocery. In this little bakery on Clark Street, it was $4.95. I finished the loaf Tuesday evening and now am thinking I need to give Jon $5 when he heads down there again with orders to bring back a loaf of something.

Bread. The staff of life.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Jessie's Fault

Jessie posts to Facebook that she's really craving strawberries on the day I am planning a grocery run.

Somehow, these found their way into my basket, right next to the slice of chocolate cake. Strawberries right now are kind of soft, particularly the ones on the bottom of the box. But they are better than a bag of chips, that's for sure.


Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 12-Stitching While I Wait

I had to take the car in yesterday to have the brackets holding the exhaust system welded back on. I knew it would take some time so I needed to bring something to do while I waited. I thought about the stack of magazines. I thought about the book that sits on the dresser. Then I decided the stitching took priority. I'd like to get this done so it can be framed for the recipient. It was the perfect thing to do while I waited. 

My friend, Doo, quipped to my Facebook post about getting the brackets done, "What? You don't use coat hangers like everyone else?" I quipped back, "Well, the only hangers I have are plastic and I keep having a problem with heat..." My mechanic thought that was pretty funny. He said he had better coat hangers they would use. 

It took a good 2 hours to do the welding. I was able to get 5 leaves and two partial leaves done. This is the end of this side of leaves. Once I finish these two partials, I'll turn the piece and start stitching the other direction. 

And the Jeep? Well now I can actually sneak up on people again. You don't hear me coming or going. 

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 11 Stitching

After a delightful day driving into and back out of the city, I came home and finished another leaf.

There was a momentary panic as I couldn't find color number 2. I had finished the darkest color. I had just used color number 2 on the leaf I did Monday but it wasn't in my bag. Oh dear. Half-Pint used to grab the skeins and run off with them. If I was missing a color, I had to look in her known hiding places. Some colors I've never found. I'll make some tea and come back to the spot in the settee where I've been sitting to stitch.

With tea in hand, I returned and there was the skein. It must have fallen out when I pulled out the dark color and I just didn't notice. These two aren't interested in making off with my floss so I really don't worry, but there's always a first time.

I'm thinking I'll move the hoop tomorrow. I could stitch the next two leaves and then move the hoop, but there are only 5 leaves left in this line so I might as well move the hoop now. The next leaf up will be up against the side of the hoop anyway.

It's looking better and better with each addition.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Two Days Removed

Remember the shot in yesterday's blog post that had the Sears (Willis) Tower and the building next to it, which I learned is called the "311" building for its address? Well, I had to go back into the city again this morning. Wee bit different weather.

Isn't that an amazing sky? Spring is coming. 

I drove north along Lake Shore Drive and got this shot across from Lincoln Park. It's almost the same location where I took the southbound one on Wednesday. 

Nevermind that there is a breeze out of the north northwest that makes the air temperature hover around the upper 30's. It's in the mid-40's. I sometimes miss my college days when deciding not to attend English class was a choice. It would not have been a choice to ditch work, park the car and walk along the lake, as much as I would have liked to. This is the area where those cars were photographed being stuck during the Groundhog Day blizzard. You've seen the photo. I'm not reposting it here. I don't want to be depressing when the sun is shining so brightly. 

Beverage:  Water


Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Guess I'm Easy to Buy For

A tally of recent gifts.

My mother sent me a light-weight canvas bag for Christmas. It's not just any bag, mind you, it's got cats on it!

See? Christmas cats, no less. It's a very sturdy bag and I've used it twice already. I keep it with my other bags. 

For Christmas, my niece, Christina, gave me a mug. It came in a humorous box. She left the box with my mom in the event I managed to get to Iowa at Christmas. As that didn't happen, mom shipped the box to me in January. 
It's a great mug. It's 15 ounces which is about an hour's worth of sipping. The inside is black so it retains heat, plus, this is a heavy mug. It doesn't tip over easily. Stellar design on the front, too, I might add. 
And Valentine's Day brought a lovely couple of gifts from my daughter and son-in-law. The first gift was socks. You can see they are not just any kind of socks. They are very important socks. 
I had actually been looking through my socks as I wash them. Some have reached the point where darning or sewing shut the holes just won't do anything for the sock. These come at just the right time for me to critically ask, "Can this sock be saved?" 

Lastly, she sent a gift card for one of my favorite places. I went there at lunch today. 

I handed the gift card to the gal behind the register, who knows me by sight. "Ooooh, Who gave you a gift card?" "My daughter," I said, beaming. "Well, she certainly knows what you like, doesn't she?"

Yeah, actually, she does. If you read the blog, you know what I like and what makes me happy. I guess that makes me easy to buy for. I'll take it. 

Bverage:  Dr Pepper


Now THIS is Food

A friend of mine has termed my posts this year, "The year of food". I admit that I've had a lot but we all need food to survive. Might as well tell you about things that I like.

I wouldn't describe myself as a "foodie". I like certain things and can't stand other things. Some of those other things, like onions, I understand the value of using in food. That doesn't mean I have to like them.

I also don't know food beyond what I like. I can't tell you if this honey baked ham has different curing spices than that honey baked ham. I can tell some flavors, but I'm not a student of food. Is this meringue dry and tasteless? Is this one soggy? I might be able to tell the difference but I'm more about do I like it.

I needed to help Jon on this job he has in the city. I helped get the job up and going, some 4 years ago, but he got it and it's been a solid money-maker for us. It's also right off of Clark Street in Chicago. If you drive Clark north from the Lincoln Park Zoo, you will pass some very intriguing shops and eateries. Jon found one a block away from his job.

This is an amazing place. As is typical Chicago, it's a hole in the wall, with eating counters facing the windows and tables and chair packed across the floor for maximum occupancy. Three TVs tuned to different channels provided the daytime highlights. There are no public restrooms but Starbucks is just north of this place, if you need to go. The decor is plain, but you aren't going there to gawk at TV or the yellow walls. You are going there for the food.

Loose leaf tea! Be still my heart! I had Assam this time. I am pretty sure I have some loose leaf Assam up in the cupboard but I don't have room for it on the shelf where I store the tea I'm currently drinking.

And see that strainer? I have to get me one of those. It was thin and long, made of a very fine mesh. What I absolutely loved was that the rim was plastic. I have a cup-size mesh strainer but the rim is metal. If I let the tea steep, the edge gets too hot to comfortably remove. I have actually taken to using the tongs (chicken catchers, in my household) to remove it from the cup. This was great. I guess I need to head off to a tea store and take a look.

Jon ordered chicken salad on a croissant. I had a ham and cheese panini. It was just ham and swiss cheese and I could have mayo or mustard on it. I always feel so badly when I have to say, "No mayo, no tomato, no onion" but I don't like that stuff.

Look at this! It was huge and it was so very good. The yellow stuff oozing out is mustard. It might have been one notch better with a German mustard but this was a top notch sandwich.

But, a sandwich is just an excuse for why you're really there; dessert and sweets. There were two large cases of cookies, cakes, pies and desserts. There were two shelves full of breads of all sorts. Jon said, when we walked by the place to reach a location we needed to visit, that we were eating here and I would be amazed by the food. I should have taken that as a clue to go get my debit card so I could bring stuff home.

For dessert, Jon had this.
It was called the "Opera" torte. The tan filling had just a hint of coffee. That's vanilla and chocolate layers frosted with chocolate ganache. He said it was very good, but was not his favorite. Now, he's been eating here for years, since discovering this place and has eaten through about half of the offerings in the case. He ranked this a "7" on the 1-10 scale.

I had this.
Chocolate cake with white chocolate mousse center topped with white chocolate whipped cream. There was a layer of raspberry jam on the chocolate cake. Incredible. It melted in my mouth. The raspberry was just enough, as if it was the "Fred" to the white chocolate's "Ginger". It was the perfect dance of flavor. The whole meal was less than $20 for the 2 of us.

So, Jon wants me to come down with him on Friday to help install equipment. You can bet I'm remembering the debit card when we go to lunch.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea



We often gripe about having to drive into the city. It's often not a pleasant trip. I've done it for so long that it's pretty much a mindless drive. I turn on WDCB and head east.

But yesterday was quite the scenic day. It made me glad that I always have my little camera on me and reminded me of why I love living here.

We had drizzle all morning. The combination of a large body of water to the east and warmer air created an impressive fog bank. You get kind of used to seeing the skyscrapers of the skyline obliterated on cloudy days. It wasn't until I got into the downtown that I realized this was a different kind of cloudy.
I forget the name of the building in the forefront. That's the Sears, oops, Willis, Tower in the background. The clouds and fog seem to wrap themselves, like a shawl, around the buildings. Almost anything of 10+ stories had fog wisps above the 10th floor. 

Jon and I headed to this job he's had for the past 4 years. My photos going northbound on Lake Shore Drive are blurry and not very good. I think the combination of the gray and the drizzle just didn't lend themselves to through the windshield photography. My little camera has proven itself great for doing what I need it to do when I need it to do it. It's just that if I'm driving, I can't compensate for water on the windshield. 

Heading southbound on Lake Shore Drive after lunch, it was a different story. The drizzle had ended but the fog remained. It was so cool. Lake Shore Drive's "technical" speed limit is 45 but I don't know anyone who drives that. I could drive 50-55 while shooting photos and not get honked at. 

I really like this photo.
The north end of Michigan Avenue with the Hancock Center is just barely visible. I was across from the Lincoln Park Zoo when I took it, for those who know their Chicago. It's almost like they are ghosts of buildings, suggestions. They did become more visible as you got closer. The fog was still heavy but you could see the top of the Hancock in between cloud drifts. 

I think, however, this is the best photo to come from the drive. 
This is Lake Point Tower. It's a condo building that sits the farthest east off the near north side. Just south of it is the point where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. To the east of it is the lake and, what is wholly obscured here, Navy Pier. Lake Michigan is to my left, just concrete barriers away. This section of Lake Shore Drive is about as close as you'll get to the lake. 

I love how this is almost a black, white and gray photo. The only color is the red from the taillights of the car ahead of me and the almost imperceptible green traffic lights. I love how the fog cuts the building off, making it ghostly and completely removes the park and buildings that are Navy Pier to the east. Lake Point Tower sits almost defiantly east of the Drive. 

It was damp and cold doing what I had to do, but when I get photos like this, accidentally, really, it makes the drive in worth it. I know I have quoted this poem by Carl Sandberg before.
The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on. 
Yes, this was his inspiration.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And Another One Comes

I get today's mail and here's a card with "Legal Notice" stamped on the front. I open it to reveal

This is not the one about Fifth Third stacking overdraft fees. This is about Bank of America, MBNA or FIA Card Services credit cards. I had a Bank of American credit card during the years in question and wow, that's 8 years they are claiming. I do remember getting my rate jacked up when the stamp fell off my payment and it had to be returned to me. That month, the payment was late. I paid it, but it was about 5 days late. I guess I better check out this web site and see what they are proposing as a settlement. Unfortunately, I don't remember the month or year this happened, some time in 2009, I think. 

But this causes me to wonder. With the banking crisis that precipitated the recession, how many more of these kinds of postcards am I going to get? What other malfeasance is going to come out in 3-4 years that will net consumers money in the end? Yes, it's very good that this was caught, although BoA is, of course, not admitting they did anything wrong. It's too much to ask, I guess, that an institution treat people as it expects us to treat them, fairly. I don't know if more regulation is needed but I do know that while getting a lump sum later is all well and good, I'd rather have my money the first time and not lining someone's pocket. 

Beverage:  Orange juice