Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stitching in a Losing Cause

Iowa football has finally ended for the year. There were no miracles to be had this time, as we saw in the last two bowl games they attended. I couldn't find the game on free TV, but ESPN streamed it live. Most of the time, the video was crystal clear. Sometimes, it was fuzzy and, toward the end of the game, the scripts for the car commercials, particularly Lexus, would cause my computer to freeze. I'd have to exit ESPN and the Internet and start up again. I missed an Oklahoma field goal, which, one could argue, is a good thing.

All the while I sat here, I cross-stitched. This project goes much faster than I expected. I think I shall put up my feet tomorrow afternoon, pop on some football and stitch some more.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Friday, December 30, 2011

The First Project of 2012

Sometimes I'm organized. I know that's hard to believe, but sometimes I am. I've picked out the next cross-stitching project.

It will be done on a light blue fabric. The photo I'm following shows the project stitched on 25-count cream colored fabric, stitched over two threads. I've never had luck being able to stitch on that kind of fabric so I've gone with a plain old 14-count cloth. I bought this chunk of blue a long time ago and it seems to be the perfect color for the design.

Once I picked out the pattern, I assembled the floss. I have 4 containers of DMC floss. I had, of the dozen colors needed for this, exactly three. Thank goodness after Christmas sales mean I can get floss for less but still, I thought I had every color from white through DMC's 3200 numbers. I'm wondering if I will find these "missing" colors when I start going through the pile of incomplete projects. That's going to be a resolution this year, to finish at least 2 of the projects that are in various stages of completion.

I spent Wednesday night winding the floss onto bobbins. This keeps the colors separated and neat. Winding thread onto the bobbins attracted the attention of the BBC who likes my lap when I come home from work. I managed to get all the new colors wound without her "help".

So, last night, I started. Iowa plays in the Insight Bowl tonight. this will be a good thing to do while keeping tabs on the football game. Plus, I might even, over the next few days, watch TV and stitch. I think the project will go quickly.

Beverage:  Black Raspberry tea


Gram's Cookies

My sister sent her usual Christmas box. Inside was her card and a large plastic bag of candy cookies. There are chocolate and peanut butter ones.

She does this every year. Our grandmother made these at Christmas. It takes marshmallows, almond bark in peanut butter and chocolate flavors, and peanuts. I think there is a version with chow mein noodles in it. Gram would show up with huge tins of these. Sometimes, it was all we ate the day after Christmas.

When Gram died, Sharyn took it upon herself to learn to make these. It's her way of preserving a family tradition. They are so sweet, you can't sit down and eat the whole bag. Well, possibly someone could, but I can't. It takes at least 3 sittings to polish off this amount.

I can't make them. I tried once and the technique is just beyond me. I opened up the box last night and memories of Christmas past floated by with the scent of cookies. Gram never had a Christmas tree. She did have, instead, a little ceramic lighted tree that sat on her fireplace mantel. I remember fires in the fireplace at Christmas but, eventually, she closed that off as it was drafty. All the presents sat on the hearth under this little green tree. She was something of a neatnik so the mess of wrapping paper and tags and ribbons and bows would irritate her. We had to put the wrapping immediately into a waste bag. I'm still not sure how "Santa" managed to place his gifts on the hearth when there were kids sleeping on cots in the living room, but he found a way.

Some things just mean Christmas. I think Sharyn made these the one year we celebrated my mother's 70th birthday. It was around Easter and we were all getting together for it. It was nice, but these are Christmas cookies and are, at least for me, forever associated with Christmas. Thanks sis.

Beverage: Black Raspberry tea



Amber and Phillip from Australia, gave me this canister set for Christmas. At first, I wasn't exactly sure what I would store in them. Would they only take up space?

Then, as I was putting things away after the holiday, I spotted the hot cereal Carole and David gave me for my birthday. Look! The cereal fits very nicely into the middle-sized container. Now, I just have to come up for a use for the big and little ones.

As I look at this photo, I see, in the background, my stash of muffin cups. I'll bet they would fit, very nicely in the small container. Or, I could put all the bottles of food coloring I have into this one. And, now that I'm thinking about it, the big container could store all those bags of chips I have which should be in cookies but haven't gotten there.

I know. I know. That means I'm organizing my pantry. Maybe this unseasonably warm weather has me thinking in absurd ways. Or maybe I just don't want to paw through a pile to find what I want.

Beverage: Black Raspberry tea


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Now to Be Rid of One

This is the front of the shirt Carole and David gave me for Christmas.

This event is Blizzard/World of Warcraft's "celebration" of Oktoberfest. Yes, it rather does glorify drinking. Mythology suggests dwarves are well-known for drink and the holiday has a lot of games and events that require drinking to complete. If actual drinking bothers you, and I have, in my guild, some recovering alcoholics who find this celebration to not be their 'cuppa', you can purchase "Synthebrew Goggles" which replicate the effects of being drunk but, when removed, remove the effects.

I have mixed feelings about the holiday. It's rather silly and I've gotten all the achievements associated with it. I don't really need to do it again. I also think it does send a bad message to children that drinking is fun. I know some parents prohibit their children from playing during Brewfest for this reason.

Yet, I did participate in the first annual Wheaton Ale Fest so I shouldn't be yelling too much about a manufactured holiday in a game. I find the shirt to be quite my taste in silly. Now that Pilchard has removed herself from it, I can wash it to get off the cat hair. It's short sleeve so it's going to be May before I can wear it.

I do have a rule that, for each new shirt I bring into the closet I have to remove a minimum of one that I don't wear. I'm thinking that I should amend that to 2 shirts. I have so many, far too many. I wish there was a clearinghouse to send them to for people who don't have much. I have this feeling that someone who has very little would be happy to have a clean tee shirt even if it celebrated a fake holiday.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's Try This One

My friend Amber, from Australia, sent me this tin of tea for Christmas. 

I should have taken a photo with something familiar so you can see the dainty size of each of these. There is about a quarter cup of loose leaf tea in each of 9 flavors. I decided, on Boxing Day, that I should make a cup.

First order of business was getting one, any one, to come out of the tin in which they are packed. Either they all wanted to fall out or none of them wanted to come out. Finally, I managed to get the Earl Grey out.

I think I've mentioned before that tea connoisseurs will use an amount of tea once only. They say more than one immersion in hot water cheapens the taste of subsequent cups. I can't imagine having the disposeable income that allows you to make one cup and then toss the tea leaves. Even someone like me who like her tea strong, meaning the leaves steep for several minutes, sees more than one cup from the bag or bunch of leaves used.

I have a cup-sized strainer. It fits nicely in the top of most of my mugs. Drop in the leaves and pour over the hot water. I have a mug I set the strainer into for the next time I want tea. After roughly 3-4 soakings, the leaves get added to the compost pile. Unfortunately, I had used the strainer over Christmas and it needed to be washed. Searching around, I found this one. It holds about a tablespoon of leaves. I filled it, heated the water, wrapped the chain around the cup's handle, poured in the water and the thing fell into the bottom of the cup. Oh well. Fish it out with a spoon.

Do I prefer loose leaf to bagged tea? I honestly don't have a preference. Bagged is certainly more convenient, particularly if I am running late but must make my morning tea to take to the office. Loose leaf  has more flavor. My cup of Earl Grey was wonderfully aromatic and flavorful.

I'll use this for a couple more steepings and then add the leaves to the compost pile. I'm looking forward to experiencing a lot of variety in my beverage of choice.

Thanks, Amber and Phillip.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea


It's Like a New Addition to the Wardrobe

The office Christmas dinner was the 17th. I like to get something new and Christmasy for this event. In the past, we've gone to some rather ritzy restaurants, where jacket and tie and sequins and velvet were the rule over Christmas. This year, we decided to go a bit more casual and chose Claim Jumper. I had never been there.

Now, I really can't afford new clothes. I have more than I really need now and my money is better spent being applied to other things. But the desire for something new at Christmas is very strong.

I was cleaning and chanced across a laundry basket that held a few items. I stumbled across some items that said "Dry Clean Only" on them. Dry Cleaning takes money, money I don't have. I remembered reading that some dry clean only items can be washed in the delicate cycle of a washing machine. I looked at the sweaters. I think the reason they were dry clean was all the trim on the front. If I turn them both inside out and put the setting on delicate, I should be able to wash them. I dug out my padded hangers for hanging them up in the bathroom to dry.

Viola. It's like I have two new sweaters. I found a jacket down in the pile that I also washed. This isn't for a lot of dry clean only items but I think, for these sweaters, it's perfect. I did go get a pair of brown twill pants to go with this sweater. I can use a pair of brown twill pants for work and they were on sale. I wore this with a red turtleneck.

I was overdressed.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea


Recovery From the Week Past

Last week was grueling. Monday, I went to Milwaukee to do a post inspection on a parking garage. Parking garages can be the most annoying things to inspect, what with levels going up and levels going down. Last Monday was cool but gorgeous. The view of Milwaukee from the top of the garage was superb.

The next three days were spent in Chicago. We have a huge job, the next phase of "Revive Wacker Drive". We're up to the last section to be torn down and replaced. This involved installation of equipment and inspections of sections of buildings from Monroe south. We did the 100 and 200 blocks last week.

Tuesday was gray. Even the Chicago River looks cold. The thermometer outside one of the banks said "45", but the wind made it seem like 25. Fortunately, we weren't outside very long, but we are in loading dock areas which aren't always the warmest places.

Inspecting buildings like these mean there is a lot of walking. The quickest route is often the stairs. Now, I'm supposed to be avoiding stairs if at all possible. It wasn't possible. Stairs go up to the loading dock. Stairs go down from the lobby to the first basement. I really detest parking garage ramps. Their angles downward are stressful on my knees right  now. And I loathe buildings that have a middle basement level, even if it was just one room, a pump room. There were usually stairwells that had to be inspected, too. It was just a lot of walking.

Wednesday, we had low hanging clouds, all day. I think Chicago's skyscrapers look so much more interesting when the clouds skirt around them or below their summits. This was the Sears, no, Willis Tower on Wednesday. It's always going to be the Sears Tower for those of us who are of a certain age. Yes, there is a sign out front that says "Willis" Tower but it will take years for the "Sears" moniker to fade from local vernacular.

Wacker Drive reconstruction is adjacent to the Tower now so on Thursday, we had to inspect its loading dock and a storage room. That really was it. The loading dock is huge, as you would imagine for a building this size, and trucks are coming and going constantly. It runs very efficiently. I would hate to be a driver who had to deliver down there, however. Low clearances and tight turns make the delivery system disconcerting, at best. No one ever thinks about how the office supplies get to them from the store. It involves one or two guys in a truck, trying to maneuver that truck to back into a loading dock and unload. Add a major street reconstruction and it's got to be a huge headache.

By Thursday, I was having some problems. My right knee is still achy from all the walking about and stair climbing I did. My hands hurt from holding the camera and tape recorder the same way for hours on end. I was allowed to leave the inspections early and the guys finished the few little things that needed to be done. I know that had I had the pain from November in my knees now, I wouldn't have been able to do a quarter of the walking I did. I need to monitor the right knee because I can see fluid accumulating there, as it did with the left. I found myself, a few times over the weekend, reaching for the cane, just to stand up. I need a few weeks of not being on my feet to recover.

As I walked back to the car on Thursday, here was the view north along the Chicago River.

It seemed like a really long walk back to the car, although it was 5 blocks total. A week later, as I sit in the warmth of my office, the past week seems a distant memory. It's such a double-edged sword. I need to be more active to lose weight to help the knees but too active and they start hurting and I run the risk of fluid build up. I probably overdid it last week, but I did enjoy being out and about, something I found hard to do this year past.

Beverage:  Earl Gray tea


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tea and Solitude

It's Christmas Day. All the presents are opened. I've spent a couple hours looking through my cross-stitch magazines for the next project, finding a couple others that I would like to do in the process. I washed all the dishes last night, cleaned off the kitchen counters. I can make muffins and this cheesecake recipe I want to try. I bought a pizza and I think that's going to be lunch.

There's a collection of small tins of loose leaf tea in a variety of flavors sent all the way from Amber in Australia. She also sent the three Christmasy tins at the upper right. Methinks she's hinting I could be more organized.

Two pair of socks, the World of Warcraft page-a-day calendar and the Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong CD are from my daughter and son-in-law. The CD contains one of my favorite songs, "Gone Fishin'". You listen to that and you can't help but smile.

Under Pilchard is a tee shirt from Jinx, courtesy of my daughter. It's a World of Warcraft shirt in honor of their game-created holiday "Brewfest". Of course, the cat has claimed it to lie on. April and Perry sent a Steak'n Shake gift card. Maybe I should try their breakfast menu. And Santa delivered these cookie bites and "M" stickers. I am pleased.

This marks another year of spending the holiday alone. The first time I had to do it was in 2007. Carole had moved to Seattle. Working retail, she got from 6 p.m. Christmas Eve to 5 a.m. the day after Christmas to spend with her family. Hardly enough time to celebrate let alone come home to Illinois. I was lonely that first year. It wasn't how I envisioned Christmas at all, being alone with my cats.

But my attitude has changed over the years. I played World of Warcraft yesterday, in between soaking dishes. Several WOW friends expressed sadness that I would be "alone" over the holiday. Technically, I'm not alone, but, to them, the cats don't count. I'm not unhappy. Not in the least little bit.

I have wonderful memories of spending holidays with my grandmother or grandfathers. I also have wonderful memories of Christmas Eve children's pageants at church and of the bag of goodies given out after the pageant. I hope Carole has wonderful memories of Christmas Eve church services and Christmases spent at her grandparents.

We emphasize that being "together" is paramount over this holiday. The big, noisy get together with family or friends is what Christmas is all about. "OMG! How can you be alone over Christmas?" I was asked. I never really thought about it before this year. It's what my life is like. I get up when I choose. I eat what I choose and if I don't want to cook (see the above referenced frozen pizza), I don't. I open my gifts from Santa and I do what I want when I want. I'm not in anyone's way nor they in mine. I don't have to fake happiness with some extended family member giving me rum for Christmas. I can look at Mija and say, "Well, we'll see if someone wants this." (No, I did not get rum for Christmas, this year.) There's not chaos in the kitchen, overeating nor putting up with Uncle Norbert's diatribe on whatever political item has his underwear in a knot. I don't have any of that.

What I do have is a sense of peace. I would have liked snow this year, but there is brilliant sunshine instead. I have the feeling that I am cared about, loved, even. We have forced onto people the idea that this holiday HAS to be about togetherness. I don't need that. I don't need to be around others to know what this holiday means. It's about happiness and I have found that today in a cup of tea and a few gifts.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Weekend Alarm Clock

On weekends, I turn off the alarm. Waking up to jazz on the radio is one of the best ways I know to greet the morning. BUT, on a morning when I just want to awaken to my own rhythm, the alarm goes off.

I live with cats. This is an important fact to remember because one of them gets rather annoyed if, when she wants to eat breakfast, she finds this.

Pilchard comes into the bedroom and meows in increasingly loud and angry tones. If I don't get up within 5 minutes of these complaints, she comes back and meows louder. Then, when I do get up and put a scoop in each dish, she walks over to them, sniffs them and walks away to sit some place where she can put her back to me. 

There is an aphorism that says, "You're nothing 'til you've been ignored by a cat." I would also suggest, "You're nothing until you've been yelled at by a cat whose food dishes are empty." 

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Friday, December 23, 2011

Birthday Meal

Whaddaya mean it's not my birthday? It can be my birthday if I want it to be. Or, if you prefer, it can be my "unbirthday". Either way, I am enjoying one of my birthday gifts from my daughter and son-in-law.

In the box of Christmas stuffs, there were those three packages that I didn't recognize at first as being birthday presents. They contained the following:

That's my favorite oatmeal, a different hot cereal, and pine-scented candles. As today is the start of a 4-day holiday for me, I felt a big bowl of hot cereal was a good way to get going in the morning. It's been a long week, my body is sore, and I can't find $14.85 in the checkbook to make it balance. I need something comforting. 

I was almost out of oatmeal, too, and actually dreading the trip to Whole Foods to get some. It's almost painful to walk in the store knowing I really can't shop there as I would like. It's just too expensive. I don't have to now. 

My first impressions of the hot cereal are that this will be fabulous in the winter. I can see eating this for all meals. It says it has raisins in it but those aren't plentiful. No matter. I have other dried fruits I can add. The cinnamon is very evident, almost too much. It's not as sweet as I would like so I added brown sugar to the mix before microwaving. It cooks up in the same amount of time as my usual oatmeal. 

I lit one of the candles and my house now smells like pine. This is a good way to start the day; hot cereal and the smell of pine. 

Beverage:  Grape Raspberry Juice


This Vexes Me #14

Why should bread vex me, you ask? This is the end of the loaf. I was going to make a peanut butter sandwich. I have 3 pieces of bread left in the bag. This is the 3rd loaf that has been like this. I never eat just one piece. I always have 2 because 90% of the time, I'm making a sandwich and I don't eat my sandwiches open face or one slice, folded in half. So why is there an odd number of slices in my loaf? That end piece either goes stale or molds or I just decide to have one piece of toast or a half-sandwich. It's not the end of the world, but it's vexing. 

By the way, this is really good bread. I love bread with sunflower seeds in it. 

Beverage: Grape Raspberry Juice


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For My Next Trick, I'll Learn to Read

Carole sent a box of goodies. It's got a few things that need to be shipped onward. So I was looking at tags to make sure those items get put into another box which goes out today. There were three packages which had no tags. I took the box apart, examined every package but could not find the tags that went with them.

After an exhaustive examination, it occurred to me why those three packages didn't have tags. D'oh. My only defense is that I was tired.

Beverage:  Gingerbread Spice tea


Monday, December 19, 2011

I Like This Spot

It's going to be a week of coming home late as a large project looms for us to do. I got home tonight and flipped on the living room light. Pilchard, immediately, claimed her spot under the lamp.

What will cats do when there are no more incandescent light bulbs?

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday, December 18, 2011


We've had our first measurable snow of the season. There was talk of how late that even might come. The latest date on record for the first snow is December 16th. At the rate we were NOT going into the thirties, there was the thought we might break that.

The first snow of 2011-2012 was on December 9th.

I can handle or, more appropriately, not handle this. I brushed off the Jeep and left everything else lie. 

We received another inch overnight Friday into Saturday. 

Again, I didn't handle it. It will be 90% gone by evening tonight, anyway. 

The weather people are saying 50-58 inches in my neck of the woods this winter. If we assume "winter" constitutes December through mid-March, that's about 106 days to spread this nearly 6 feet across. The Jeep and I can handle up to 4 inches without shoveling, although I should still shovel the driveway apron to prevent ice patches from forming. If 4 inches was the maximum we receive all winter, I can handle this. 

I took a deep breath, brushed off the Jeep, and headed out for my Saturday errands. This is the easy part. 

Beverage: Orange Juice


The Photography Conundrum

I have always liked taking photographs. I received my first camera when I was about age 13. My parents took photos prior to that but not in the quantity I would wind up taking them once I got my own camera. 

I took a photography course in college. It was taught by the art department and the unspoken requirements of the class were to learn to take 'artistic' photos. Even amongst artists, what constitutes "artistic" to one person won't be "artistic" to the next person. I wanted to learn how to take and use photos for illustrative purposes as I wanted to work on a newspaper or for a magazine and photos would be used to illustrate the prose. I felt what I was learning in this course did not apply at all to what I wanted to know. It did not go well. 

You've probably noticed that most of my posts have a photo or other illustrative item attached. The power of the visual is something I learned in college. A photo reinforces what you're talking about, particularly in the smaller items. While every news photographer yearns for "the one" photo which will always be talked about and repeatedly shown year after year, having an appropriate photo for my blog makes it look better. You will know what I'm discussing when I talk cookies, but you know better when there is a photo attached. Illustrative, that's my style. 

I carry a camera around all the time. We used to, when Carole was little, head out to watch trains and take photos of trains. The seeds for her love of photography were planted then. It was still a documentary style, this is the train we saw, but there were times when the photo had an 'artistic' quality to it. The camera I used then, a film single-lens reflex camera, sits on top of my filing cabinet. There's a light leak by the lens which needs to be fixed. Needless to say, that's way low on the priority list. 
I love this little camera I have now. It's great for me to take the spontaneous photos that I like blogging about. It's got more bells and whistles than I use. I stumble upon them occasionally. I just need a camera that takes photos. If the SLR above were fixed, when I have to go on drives, like the trek to Iowa on Friday, I'd grab it for the unexpected photo. As it is, my camera is always with me. 

And this brings up the conundrum or frustration all photographers, even those who aim a camera at something and push a button, face many times in their photography lives. I approached Fort Madison from the Illinois side. The Mississippi River was smooth as a mirror. Fort Madison was perfectly reflected in the surface. The sky was clear and the sun was at my back. It was the perfect photo. Even my little camera would have taken a photo that I would have wanted to blow up and frame. 

There was no place to pull over. There is a small turn out just before the railroad bridge over the river. I knew it was there as I've stopped there before. I couldn't find it. There were three cars behind me and there is no place for them to pass me, legally. I couldn't stop. I was also late for removing this equipment according to the time table I had given myself and I think that feeling of being late caused me to miss the turn out. No, matter. It's calm today. I'll just take photos on the way home. 

The wind picked up before I left Fort Madison. The river developed small waves. The mirror was gone. It was still beautiful. I knew of another spot to stop and take a few photos, the best of which is up above, but I lost the chance for a phenomenal photo. 

It happens to every photographer. Mother Nature, kids, cats, life, does not stop while you find a place to pull over so you can take its picture. Hawks were out in force on the drive to and from my home. On the way home, I decided, that if I saw one, I'd pull over and try to photograph it. The best photo would have been the two identical hawks sitting on the light pole. I didn't see them until I was right on them. At 70 mph, I wouldn't have been able to stop and turn around to go back. The Interstate is unforgiving with turn arounds. 

I have to do a bit more travel this upcoming week. My camera will be with me. Maybe I'll have a chance to take the photo. More likely, I'll wish I could stop but I'll have to keep going. 

Beverage:  Orange Juice


A Bit of Pride

This recent trip back to Iowa was to pick up equipment which had been on a job in Fort Madison since April. There was grave concern in the office that I wouldn't be able to get it. This was my job and I would have been upset if someone else had been told to go get these things. But I'm also aware that it has not been a good summer and fall for me walking, let alone hefting things into the Jeep. We need the equipment, however. We have a huge job upcoming and these machines need to be serviced and returned to our stock to go out again.

The boxes in which the equipment is stored are just awkward to move. They aren't all that heavy. One of them is called a "cheese box", because it resembles a wedge of cheese. That one had to be picked up first so it could go in the back seat. The painted steel is slick and I had to remove my gloves to actually pick it up.

Once I got the small end of the box in the back seat, I could "roll" the box up onto the seat and slide it over behind the driver's seat. This is necessary because the passenger seat has to be reclined all the way back for the other box to ride there.

The other box, made of the same kind of painted steel, is not heavy at all. The "cheese box" is heavier than this one. It's smaller, but the problem with it is the 4 foot by 1 foot solar panel affixed to the top. If getting the "cheese" box into the Jeep was awkward, this one is awkward x 2.

We all carry a tool bag. In this bag are the things that help us install, service or remove equipment. I have gloves, glue sticks, a torch, screwdrivers and a hammer, among other things. It was suggested that I could take the solar panel off the box and that would make it easier to move and stick in the car. Yes, yes it would IF I were smart enough to have an adjustable wrench in my tool bag. The solar panel is affixed with a nut and bolt combo, not large screws. Hence, getting it off the box wasn't going to happen.

This box was located outside a small engine repair shop. I took everything out of the box, slid it over to the Jeep and went inside the building to ask for another pair of hands to lift it. The gal at the front desk looked at me and said, "There's no one here to help." Now, I could see, through the doorway behind her, two guys way in the back of the machine shop, but, since she seemed to be dismissing me, it was the better part of valor to just say, "Okay, thanks." and leave.

I bent down, bent my knees and lifted. As I said, it's just awkward. It's not heavy. I got it into the Jeep but then couldn't get the door shut. I ran around to the passenger side, pushed, pulled, tugged and moved and then a guy came out of the back door of the building.

"Sandy said you needed help moving your equipment?" he said. 

I looked at him and said, "I did, but I managed to figure it out on my own. Thanks for checking on me, though." 

"You sure you don't need help?"

"No, I'm good. I got it." 

I ran back around to the passenger side, lifted and pushed just a bit and closed the door. On Monday, the guys are getting this stuff OUT of my car. I am not removing it. 

To answer your question, my knees were fine. Twice, I squatted to unlock the locks and my conscience yelled at me. "NO NO NO! Dr. Choi said no squatting!" I had no problems driving out there. That pain was non-existant. My right knee did hurt on the inside but that's gone now. My hands hurt quite a bit Friday and into Saturday morning, but they are better now too. I don't want to do this again until next spring, but I am quite proud of myself for being able to do this on my own. 

Beverage:  Orange Juice


Yes Please

I had to go to Iowa on Friday to pick up equipment. Gas in Chicagoland runs from $3.15 in the more outlying areas, to $3.59 in the city. It's always a case of, should I spend the gas to drive to a location with cheaper gas? Usually, it's not worth it.

But, I had to fill up to head back to Wheaton. Fill up at $3.05?

Yes, please.

Will it get below that $3.00 threshold?

Beverage:  Orange Juice


Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Mouse is Good

I bought my iMac back in 2007. That's a long time ago in computer years. It has served me very well. In another year or two, I am probably going to be forced to buy a new computer in order to keep up with the system requirements to play World of Warcraft. But until that happens, my computer and I are good friends.

In March or April of 2008 (I'll have to dig out the paperwork since I would have saved it.), I bought a gaming mouse. My original Apple mouse died and, because it was still under warranty, I was able to replace it free. The guy at the Apple store said, when I brought the dead mouse in, that Apple makes phenomenal products, but not gaming mice. He recommended I go to Fry's Electronics and ask one of their sales people which mouse they use. He recommended the Logitech mouse that I actually wound up getting, after looking at all of my options. It was expensive, but it was a great mouse. It was wireless, which, at the time, before I got a hub, I needed. It was rechargeable.

Lately, however, it's not been a great mouse. I know that rechargeable things don't last forever. It wasn't fully recharging or it would look fully recharged and then, when I'd go to use it, the charge would drop within the first 5 minutes, indicating that it wasn't charged at all. Then, the buttons wouldn't work and I'd find my WOW toon unable to move out of stuff that I shouldn't be standing in. I couldn't attack things or things that I'd target wouldn't stay targeted. It was getting incredibly frustrating to play. But, I can't afford a new mouse right now.

I dug out the old Apple mouse. After years of playing with a mouse designed for gaming, yeah, this isn't going to work. I started preparing myself to log on and just stay in the capital city, cleaning out the guild bank and learning to "play" the game's Auction House feature because my ability to do anything other than move via the keypad and click items was severely restricted. Enter my friends, specifically, Matt.

I was grousing to him about this stroke of bad luck. I had done a bit of research into gaming mice and was not real happy with the costs. Matt has a Mac and he asked a bunch of questions about my gaming style, what kind of mouse I used and why I was using a wireless mouse. Then he asked for my address. "What did you do?" "Nothing. I just want to send a Christmas card." And if I believe that, he has ocean-front property in Nebraska to sell me. I gave him my address and he said "Watch your door step and merry Christmas."

So, yesterday, we have a day full of rain. At times it was like god tipped over a bucket of water. Matt says the box is supposed to come. Oh...dear. I hope it comes later in the day and not earlier so it doesn't get soaked. I was delayed a bit in getting home but when I did, I found this. UPS had put my box in a nice plastic bag so it didn't get wet. I brought it inside and gave it a cat scan. 

Once I opened the box, Pilchard wasn't interested anymore. Mija was. The box is probably just a touch under cat size. I have not put it on the floor, yet to test my theory.

Here was the same mouse that I have known and loved these 4 years but WITH a cord. The dark black cord was to allow my hub to move closer to the edge of my desk so the mouse cord could reach. Oh man. No one has dusted back there in months! Setting up the new mouse required me to clean the back of the desk behind the computer. Yeah, some places I don't clean regularly.

Once that was done, I turned off the old mouse, plugged in the new mouse and, viola! It worked, first time, out of the box. I didn't need a degree in computer science to set it up.

It was great playing the game last night, moving, targeting, getting out of stuff and all those things you do when you play a computer game. I have the old mouse in its recharging cradle. Come Earth Day, I'll probably recycle it at the computer recycling place along with the very old printer I found in the basement. The Apple mouse that I have will go back in the box. It's no good for gaming but if something happened to this one, at least I could log into the computer and check email.

The kindness of my friends humbles me.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Friday, December 9, 2011

Milk Maids

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight maids a milking.

Now we switch gears in the song. From here to the end, the verses involve people. That can be harder to quantify in terms of costs. PNC says eight maids a milking will cost $58. They give nice rationales for these costs, but what they didn't include was the cost of a cow. The song clearly says the maids are 'milking'. They aren't just showing up in a nice dirndl and standing on your front stoop. They are there to work. But, we'll take PNC at their word. You'll need to hire these maid for 4 days so the total cost is $232.

What shall we substitute for maids milking? Let's look at the product, milk. Ah! Ice Cream! Of course. Go to Oberweis Dairy and check out their ice cream offerings. I buy their milk and ice cream year 'round and they will ship ice cream anywhere in the US. You get 4 quarts of ice cream for $31.99. If you order right now, get yourself a quart of their egg nog ice cream. It is luscious. Their vanilla is superb and goes perfect with warmed apple or pumpkin pie. I'd add a quart of chocolate peanut butter and a quart of chocolate. We'll need 8 flavors to represent the 8 maids so your second order could be cookies dough, apple strudel, butter pecan and their seasonal pumpkin flavor.

For the next day, give your true love a gift certificate to cover 8 flavors of Dairy Queen blizzards. Oh my, the possibilities are almost endless; turtle pecan cluster, chocolate extreme, M&M's, Snickers, Oreo, cookie dough, banana cream pie and strawberry cheesequake. A medium blizzard costs $5.00 so buying a DQ gift card for $40 covers all 8 blizzards.

On day 3, you'll want to send your true love a $40 gift card for Baskin Robbins. Suggest the following flavors: peanut butter, rocky road, pistachio almond, cherries jubilee, rainbow sherbet, and world class chocolate. Check to see if they have winter white chocolate, a seasonal flavor. They also advertise some regional flavors. I'd get black walnut myself.

Lastly, take a look at If they don't have it, it's probably not something you want to eat. You MUST get a container of Blue Moon. It comes in a pint for $3.99. Birthday cake comes in a case of 12 cups with the little wooden spoons for $12.99. A pint of Root Beer Float ice cream is $5.99. Amaretto almond is $6.99. A pint of cinnamon, which I could see with a scoop of vanilla on the top of apple pie is $6.39. For something a little different, get the lemon chiffon for $7.99 a quart. Add a pint of spumoni for $6.49. Lastly, get a quart of Superman for $6.99.

That's a lot of ice cream but your true love is worth it. You've spent $201.80. Like the cheesecakes, ice cream can be frozen. I have a quart of Oberweis Egg Nog ice cream in the freezer right now. Covered with hot fudge, whipped cream and a walnuts, it is a wonderfully decadent low cost dessert. Dessert nothing. I'm thinking that's supper on Saturday night.

Beverage: Gingerbread spice tea



On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven swans a swimming.

There's an aphorism that came to mind this week. I know I'm paraphrasing it here. "Be like the duck. Calm on top but paddling like the dickens underneath." It's kind of how I've been feeling. Lots of busy work to do. You know that kind of work. It's little things that HAVE to be done in order to accomplish the big thing. It's frustrating when you want to finish the big project, the one that says, "Look what I did", but you have to pay bills or do wash or clean the bathroom sink. Blogging has taken a back seat to other things that have needed to be done. It's now the ninth day of Christmas and I'm three days behind. Time for some catch up. I have certainly felt like the duck in the aphorism, all calm and collected but paddling like the dickens to keep afloat.

The seventh day of Christmas is the last one with birds. Beginning on day seven and continuing to day twelve, you'll need 35 swans for this particular line. Swans are expensive. The PNC list says they cost $6,300. I assume this is because swans are, for the most part, endangered or threatened. They aren't just something you can run to a farm and purchase. For five days of swans, you'll need to fork out a hefty $31,500 which, of course, doesn't account for something in which they can "swim", a home or food.

These 35 swans join the 12 partridges, 22 doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds and 36 geese in your true love's back yard. That's 171 birds. I'm pretty sure I don't have that many wild ones in my yard, even when the grackles show up in flocks.

So what would be a good substitute for swimming swans? I thought about 36 days at a beach-side resort but that would probably set you back more than the PNC 12 Days cost, but water gave me another idea. What about things that go into water?

Ah hot cocoa. This tin of organic coca costs $4.99 at Dominicks. Godiva has a set of 3 canisters, 1 dark and 2 milk chocolate, for $45.00. You also can't pass up Ghirardelli chocolate. They have a 4-pack which includes one each of white mocha, double chocolate, chocolate mocha and chocolate hazelnet, for $27.80. They also have a peppermint hot cocoa for $11.95. If your true love prefers coffee, send them a bag or two or 35 of their whole bean coffee. That will cost $18.00 for one bag.

I adore Cocoa Amore. It's kind of hard to find. I used to be able to get a sampler pack with 8 different flavors. Now, I can only find a 6 pack from C&C Creations for $37.75 with the following flavors; chocolate caramel, french vanilla, chocolate raspberry, chocolate supreme and white chocolate. That's okay because one of the 8 pack flavors was chocolate mint and I don't care for mint in my chocolate.

Unfortunately, chocolate is one of the world's most slave driven commodities. Some of the major chocolate producing countries count on the income they get from chocolate to oppress their citizens. Occasionally, an online petition shows up asking M&M's or Hershey's or Godiva or chocolate makers in Belgium and elsewhere to not buy cocoa beans from places such as the Ivory Coast. For a chocolate lover with a conscience, it can be really difficult to satisfy the craving and feel you have done right by those who do the manual labor. Equal Exchange has a lovely organic hot cocoa for $7.75 that is grown on small plantations where people are paid living wages and where they don't live in deplorable conditions. It can be hard to find but it's good cocoa.

That gives you 6 ideas for hot cocoa and one idea for coffee, but let's go farther. Dunkin Donuts has, I'm told, some of the best coffee on the planet. A bag of their standard coffee is $8.99. Standing in the coffee aisle at the supermarket can be daunting. So, just head over to Caribou Coffee for a bag of their Reindeer Blend, the seasonal coffee. A pound of that is $15.00. Or wander by Starbucks and get a pound of their Holiday Blend for $14.95.

We're done with coffee. I don't drink it so I have no idea what is or is not a great tasting coffee. What I do know is tea and there are a wealth of tea sites on the Internet where you can get great tea. My favorite is Blue Moon Tea Company. You'll want to get one of each of these: Assam (box $7.95), Scottish Blend (box $8.95), Ceylon (bag $7.95), Huckleberry (box $5.95), Brodies Famous Edinburgh's (box $10.95), Scottish Breakfast (Tin $8.95), Chocolate Cream Truffle (loose bag $7.95), Yorkshire Gold (box $11.95), Barry's Irish Breakfast (box $8.50) and Apple Pear Green (loose bag $10.95).

The next place to go is Celestial Seasonings. Most of these you can find on your grocer's shelf. Celestial Seasonings is famous for their naturally decaffeinated and herbal teas. These can be just right for a late night watching of "It's a Wonderful Life". Now is the time they have their holiday flavors out. Each box is $2.99, a veritable steal compared to other beverage costs. Pick up a box of gingerbread spice, sugar plum, candy cane, sugar cookie, nutcracker sweet, caffeine free herbal, cranberry apple, mandarin orange spice, sleepytime and a box of their fruit tea sampler.

Lastly, visit the Bigelow Tea web site. Bigelow is another brand that is ubiquitous on the grocery shelf, but they make very good tea. Plus, their teas usually come in a regular and decaffeinated version. You'll need a box of Constant Comment, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Chinese Oolong and Cinnamon Stick. If I am reading their web site correctly, you buy a selection that contains 6 boxes of the variety. That costs $17.75. The teas retail for $4.99. As long as you don't mind 6 boxes of one kind, the pack is the way to go.

That's 36 different drinks that mix with water. Totaling up the cost, you've spent $135.24 on cocoa; $56.94 on coffee; and $149.94 for tea by buying the individual Bigelow teas at the grocery. Total cost for swimming in beverages, $342.12.

Just a hint, if you're sending your true love 36 cheesecakes, adding something to drink with them is a good idea.

Beverage:  Gingerbread Spice tea


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Birds

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave me to, 6 geese a-laying. 

12 partridges, 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 35 calling birds and now 36 geese a laying? Your neighbors have petitioned the town council to have your backyard declared a nuisance. To get the 6 geese who you hope are laying, you'll need $162. But that doesn't count the cost of a coop where they can spend their time laying eggs or the feed to keep them happy enough to lay eggs. Just to get the birds for the last 6 days, you'll need $972. Let's see what other options we have.

In thinking about this gift, I contemplated a number of ideas. What occurred to me is these geese are laying eggs. That's a fairly good source of income or food. What can you make from eggs? Cheesecake! Now, just a warning, this is going to get expensive, probably more than you're willing to fork over, but you can modify the gift.

In theory, you need to send 6 cheesecakes for the next 6 days to your true love. I did the work so you don't have to. Cheesecakes freeze incredibly well, so your true love can just freeze your gift and have a cheesecake a month for the next 2 years.

Isn't this an incredible vision of eggs and cream cheese? This is the Scarlet O'Hara cheese cake from White chocolate and strawberries in a chocolate cookie crust. It will set you back $64.95 before shipping. This web site has Eggnog, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, Forbidden Fudge, Chocolate Raspberry and Mississippi Mud cheesecakes. Each one is $64.95. So, on day 6, you have spent $389.70 before shipping.

On day 7, head over to for 6 of their cheesecakes. They have white chocolate, praline, amaretto, raspberry swirl, creme brulee and strawberry swirl for $37.99 each. You'll spend $277.94 before shipping.

On day 8, visit and snap up strawberry topped, turtle, black forest, blueberry, cookies and cream and their 12 piece mini cheesecake sampler for $42.95 for the cakes and $44.95 for the sampler. That will set you back $259.70

On day 9, you should visit thecheesecakefactory, and get the following: white chocolate raspberry truffle ($46.95), Reese's Peanut Butter and chocolate ($52.50), pumpkin pecan ($47.95), Dutch apple caramel streusel ($46.95), key lime ($46.95) and fresh banana ($46.95). You'll spend $288.25.

On day 10, you'll go to They have white chocolate marble, chocolate hazelnut truffle, blueberry ripple, cherry swirl and black raspberry cheesecakes for $32.00 each. You'll also get a package of their cheesecake on a stick for $25.00. It's 4 pieces of cheesecake dipped and put on a stick. Total cost is $185.

Day 11 finds you shopping at three different places. Your first stop is They don't have a huge selection but you can get pumpkin pie and New York style cheesecakes for $29.95 each. Add their cheesecake party wheel which is 12 slices of several different varieties for $39.95. When you're done, go to and pick up their Christmas swirl cheesecake for $36.95 and their carrot cake cheesecake for $39.95. Then visit and pick up their cranberry chocolate cheesecake for $28.50. Day 11's costs are $208.25.

Lastly, you need to go to There you will get their double chocolate made with Ghiradelli chocoate, the Red Velvet and the blackberry sour cream cheesecakes for $40.00 each. Add an original plain and a chocolate chip cheesecake for $33.00 each and end with a Belgian chocolate hazelnut cheesecake for $52. Day 12's cheesecakes will cost $238.

Yes, that's 36 different cheesecakes. All totaled, you will spend $1,875 before shipping and tax.

Maybe you want to get 36 geese.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five gold rings. 

In the summer, I watched the price of gold daily, hourly, in an attempt to find just the right time to sell my gold jewelry. Today, this hour, gold is selling for $1,710 an ounce. That is down from when I sold my rings in August. It's still a lot of money. PNC calculated 5 gold rings at $645. I'm making the assumption these were plain gold bands, probably not 24 carat. As this is the day 5 gift, you'll need a total of 7 days worth of gold rings, 35 total. (At least it's better than birds.) That's a pricey $4,515 for 35 rings. Does your true love wear that much bling?
I have a better suggestion. Gold covered chocolate coins. They represent the gold and we haven't had chocolate yet.

I found a web site, Foiled Again, whose only commodity is chocolate coins. Talk about a niche market. I poked around. You can design your own top and bottom to the coins, and they do custom designs, in 7 different foil colors with dozens of designs. The chocolate is 100% Belgian chocolate. They also do casino chips in chocolate.

The best part is the coins are only 18 cents each. You can splurge here. Let's get your true love 5 coins, one for each ring. You'll need a grand total of 35 coins. That's going to set you back, before taxes and shipping, a whopping $6.30.

At that price, you can afford to find a gold ring and toss it in just for good measure.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Smells Exactly Like it Reads

Tonia gave me my birthday and Christmas presents this past weekend. One of the gifts was this candle.

I enjoy candles. I have to be careful, with my allergies, that I don't let the candle burn too long or I start coughing.

And when you are owned by cats, you need to watch where you place candles about your house. My girls don't seem to be interested in them. I let them sniff the candle before lighting. Once they have taken a whiff, they aren't interested. Hence, I can light a candle and know they won't go near it.

This candle is very interesting. Upon opening, it does smell like birthday cake, the sugary buttercream smell of a bakery made cake. There were sprinkles in the top. These are embedded in the wax. I lighted the candle and let it go for a couple hours. It was not an overpowering scent. In fact, I really didn't notice the scent unless I was right next to the candle. It could be a bit stronger so there was a light fragrance in the room, but I'll take this. The strong scents tend to be the ones that start me coughing.

I don't know where she got this, possibly Kohl's department store as she purchased other items for me there. I'm thinking tonight I need to find my fir-scented candles and get some holiday cheer going in the house.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Calling Birds

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, four calling birds. 

I'm not sure what constitutes a "calling" bird. The PNC Twelve Days of Christmas list says four calling birds will set you back $519.96. The birds must be the sort that sing when caged, finches perhaps. You need 9 days of calling birds times four birds a day which is 36 birds plus the 12 partridges, 22 turtle doves and 30 French hens. And don't forget the cost. $4,679.64 for 9 days of calling birds.

Instead, let's provide for the calling birds that live in the neighborhood. You'll need birdseed. I recommend "Four Seasons No-Waste" sold by Duncraft. Birds eat all of this. There is something for every bird in your yard; sunflower, cracked corn, peanuts and thistle. It does attract squirrels so you have to use it where you can keep the squirrels at bay. Five pounds of this costs $16.95. You'll want to get a lot so get four days worth.

Next, you need to provide extra food in the winter. The smaller birds, chickadees, for instance, need to eat their weight every day to maintain body warmth. The best thing in the world for them is suet. Suet comes in all sorts of flavors to attract all sorts of birds. Get the version to the left. It attracts the greatest variety of birds and provides the most calories for them over the winter, all year 'round, in fact. This large cake costs $12.95. You'll want to get 4 to send, alternating with the bird seed.

Lastly, for day 9, let's think about the bird seed. We're really interested in only feeding the birds, not the wildlife. You'll need a feeder, not just any feeder, mind you, but one that baffles the squirrels who, I swear, take classes in how to jump from a tree to the bird feeder. Let's go with this one. It's $29.95, fills from the top and has four feeder positions. The metal stand you see the cardinal perched on is a lever that closes when a squirrel lands on the feeder. It's weight triggered and the average songbird is too light to close the door.

So, for our four calling birds, we have 20 pounds of bird seed, $67.80; 4 suet cakes, $51.80; and a feeder at $29.95 for a total before taxes and shipping of $149.55. Even with taxes and shipping, you are way ahead of the costs of 4 calling birds, whatever birds those happen to be.

Plus, if you put the feeder where you can see it, you will derive much pleasure in watching who comes to your feeder. You cannot put a price on feeding the birds. Just imagine what a walk outside would be like if there were no bird songs.

Beverage: Edinburgh's Finest tea


Monday, December 5, 2011

More Birds

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens.

I'm behind in posting your alternative to the traditional twelve days of Christmas items. It was a busy weekend. But, here we are with day number three. Again, the sender is giving birds. I don't know the history of the traditional carol. There must have been something important about birds when the carol was written, that caused them to be featured so prominently. Perhaps the giving of birds was a way to show wealth. It would still be today because three French hens will set you back $150. Given on day three and continued for the next nine days, you'll need to come up with a total of 30 French hens which will set you back a total of $1,500.00. We'll just stick them in the back yard with the 12 partridges and the 24 turtle doves.

For an alternative, I went with the "French" idea. There are so many things one could give that represent France. I chose lavender. Lavender is well known as having a soothing ability. If you indulge in any aromatherapy, lavender is high on the list for its calming properties. Whether it's English or French lavender, in a month of hectic-ness, who wouldn't want something that's calming.

Let's start with some bath salts. You need to provide the time for your true love to indulge in a long bath, but these salts, made in the Provence region of France will be a good first step in de-stressing during this crazy holiday time. This jar of salts is $16.70 before tax.

Next, you need something to go with that bath. How about a hand-milled bar of lavender-scented soap? The soap is advertised as being 100% natural. I've often found that the scent from a soap is much more intense than from a shower gel or shampoo. It seems the crafting of the soap intensifies the scent. The nice thing about a bar of lavender-scented soap, you can use it in the shower, not just in the bath. This bar sells for $4.70 before tax.

Finally, let's give some lavender to last the day. Let's go with a bottle of Eau de Toilette. This is not cologne or perfume. In the intensity of scents, Eau de Toilette is the lightest with cologne in the middle and perfume being the most intense. Think about that when you go to give your true love a bottle of something. If they like the kind of fragrance that is there and then gone, consider Eau de Toilette. It provides just a hint of scent.

I used to have a bottle of English lavender cologne. It had a wonderful scent. I still have bottles of lavender air freshener. I will spray that in my closet or aim them at the sheets after changing the bedding. I think tucking myself into lavender-scented fresh sheets promotes a deep sleep. You can use an Eau de Toilette on your sheets too because it's much lighter in composition than a cologne or perfume. This bottle costs $24.30 before tax.

Now, you're going to need 10 days worth of items. You can find more lavender (and a lot more other scents) at this web site, Buy Provence. I suggest 3 bottles of bath salts, 3 bottles of Eau de Toilette and 4 bars of soap. That comes to a total of $141.80 before taxes. With taxes and shipping, you might be close to $200 which is about the same cost as one day's worth of French hens.

If given the choice between birds or lavender, I would rather have the lavender. The neighbors won't complain about that scent.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


I'm Not Sure About This

On Saturday, I drove into the city (Chicago) to see my friend Tonia. On the way home, I noticed this ad affixed to the elevated railway.

It grabs your attention, to be sure. 

It also bothers me. I understand they are playing on a stereotype and trying to upend it. But what if you don't like Asian food? I know a number of people whom I consider smart who do not care for Asian cuisine. One of the smartest people I know loves Italian food. 

I realize I'm probably analyzing this more than it needs to be. It's just that it makes me uncomfortable with the implication that you're not smart if you don't eat Asian cuisine because we all know Asian kids are smart. Will we ever get away from lumping people into stereotypes?

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Pretty Darn Good

I'm working in earnest on the last craft project for Christmas. While I started wrapping the ornaments on Saturday, I realized that is a time consuming job; to wrap, write out the card, stuff both in an envelope, address the envelope and affix the stickers. I need to get the craft project done first because it has to be shipped.

For some reason, the signal coming to my converter box for the TV was lousy. After trying 4 times to get a decent signal, I decided I was not destined to have football playing in the background while I sewed. Okay, fine. I'll just plug along without it.

Maybe that's a good thing. I did, on occasion, look up and watch what was going on during the games I had on, ostensibly for background noise. Without the TV on, I think I got more done in 4 hours of sewing than previously. I'm up to some minor hand sewing before going back to machine sewing.

I'm pretty proud of this. There's a pocket there. On purpose, I wanted the pocket to blend in with the design. It took some searching for the right place to cut the pocket and then some pinning and repinning to get it in the right position. But, it matched up perfectly.

With some applied work, I'll have this done and ready to ship by the weekend. I still have a couple of gifts to buy and then I am officially done, I think. There's always a nagging, "Whom did I forget?" in the back of my head until about January 1st. Then I can breathe easy and start thinking about next Christmas.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea



And so it begins.
I'm later than I wanted to be to get started but I have started. I didn't realize how many steps it takes to get an ornament and a card ready to be mailed. I have all the pieces now so once the last craft project is completed, I can devote my time to getting these wrapped and out the door. What's not visible is the "help", lying just off the photo to the left. She looked annoyed when I would set down the wrapping paper after cutting off another hunk, but she wouldn't move so it's her problem. 

Seeing all these on the table made me feel good. I don't have much to be buying gifts but I can craft. My craftiness and my pack rat self came together this year.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Friday, December 2, 2011

Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, two turtle doves. 

Here we are with day 2 of your alternative to the original twelve days of Christmas. On day two, we again find the author sending his love birds. You only have to do this 11 days but that's still 22 turtle doves. Pigeons don't count, even though they are in the same species.
From Wikipedia: Pigeons and doves constitute the bird family Columbidae within the order Columbiformes, which include some 300 species of near passerines. In general terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably. In ornithological practice, there is a tendency for "dove" to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones, but this is in no way consistently applied, and historically the common names for these birds involve a great deal of variation between the terms "dove" and "pigeon."
So get away from those birds waddling out by the fountain.

But, as we discussed yesterday, what is your beloved going to do on day 12 with 22 doves? He or she also has 12 partridges running around the back yard on day 12. Doves aren't the noisiest of birds, thank goodness, but the mess...well, let's not think about that.

So, you want to stay in the theme here. Might I suggest these Doves.

There are 5 different kinds of doves here. You send your true love 2 packages of each and then one package of the flavor he or she likes the best. The turtle doves cost $125 a day. That's (gets out the calculator) $1,375 for 11 days of birds. That doesn't factor in the cost of shelter, food and water, either.

A package of Dove bars can be found on sale for $5.00. Let's assume you have to pay full price which can be $6.99 per box. At $7.00 a box, for 11 days of Dove bars, you've spent $77 AND the box is recyclable. I think your true love will be happier, not to mention how chocolate raises one's serotonin levels which helps alleviate stress during this holiday. Plus, there is more than one dove bar in a box. If your true love is really sweet, perhaps they will share with you.

Turtle dove or Dove bar? I'm going to include the peanut butter bars on my next grocery list.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea


New Favorite

If it hasn't become apparent by now, I love pancakes. They are so easy to make and are incredibly versatile. One different ingredient can change the whole flavor. So, it was with interest that, last week, the blog "Angry Chicken" had a pumpkin pancake recipe that sounded quick and delicious. I have a really good one that uses oatmeal and diced apples, but the batter has to sit overnight. Yeah, that one doesn't get made very often. When I wake up and want pancakes, I want them within the next hour, not tomorrow.

I bought myself a can of pumpkin and then, looking for the vinegar, which the recipe calls for, found another can way in the back of the cupboard. Oh well. I need to make pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread.

The recipe went together quite easily although you are to mix the dry into the wet, not the other way around, as I did. The batter is thick so the pancakes don't spread all over the griddle while cooking.

The cook up nicely, tall and tender. There was a lot of batter so I wound up with a huge pile of pancakes.My cast iron griddle heats unevenly so I have to watch the cakes or one side will burn while the other gets done. I have never been able to figure out if that is a problem with the griddle or if it does not sit squarely on the burner.

These were so good. I warmed maple syrup before putting it over the cakes. The smell was heaven. And, I wound up with 5 packages of pancakes in the freezer for quick breakfasts or lunches or dinners since I'll eat breakfast fare any time of the day, for later.

If you like pancakes in a variety of flavors, check out the blog and then check out the recipe link in the blog. These were exceptionally good.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea