Monday, February 28, 2011

Slip Sliding Away

This morning, I awoke to a coating of ice. It looks pretty.
I've always marveled at how the drips are so evenly spaced. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's on trees or the deck railing or the edges of the Jeep. There is a definite pattern to the drips. They are always a certain distance apart. Must be some natural physics involved in that.

The ice turned the Jeep into an ice cube. At first glance, I figured it would take more than just a few minutes to get into the Jeep, let alone get enough ice off it to drive. But the driver's side door was shielded somewhat from the ice and I get that open right away. I could start the car and run the defrosters while I chipped away at the coating. The view from inside was not encouraging.
The north facing passenger window.
The windshield. I can take a scraper to the windshield, but I can't scrape the plastic windows.

In anticipation of this problem, since I was aware last night we were to get sleet and freezing rain, I boiled 2 cups of water in the microwave, as well as made a full teapot of hot water, taking out just enough for my morning tea. I poured a cup of hot water on the windshield and started work. It took about 10 minutes of scraping but I got the window somewhat cleared.
 The other cup went on the right side. Then, I refilled the measuring cup and poured 2 cups of hot water on the passenger window, which melted all the ice on that side. The city salt truck went by while I was outside scraping, so I knew the roads would be salted if a bit slippery. I was 10 minutes late to work but so was everyone else.

I'm on the fence about this. Do I prefer the scraping of the ice to this?
Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pity Party. Attending? One.

I've been in a funk all weekend. There was a wedding this weekend. I was kind of surprised when I was told, back in November, it was coming. Carole and David got a free trip to Las Vegas to be witnesses at the wedding. I'm sure there will be stories as well as copious amounts of photos.

I do wish the bride and groom well. I'm given to understand it's been more than a little interesting to have finally arrived at a Vegas wedding. If you've divorced and reached a point with someone of "do we or don't we", you certainly don't want to go through the divorce process again. So, I hope this wedding is what they want.

Yet, the whole idea sent me into something of a funk. I thought I'd get remarried first. I really did. I did all this emotional therapy to get to a place where I know who I am and what I want out of life. I've been reminded, on more than a few occasions, that nothing on the other side has changed significantly and I am so much better off living as a single. Plus, I am an introvert, as I've mentioned before, and I value, prize and demand alone time. It's me and two cats, which I've grown to accept, sort of.

But how I wouldn't love to share my space with another human, preferably a guy. How I would love to come home and have him cook supper, do wash, bring in the mail, shovel the snow, call the plumber. I have felt as if the last 10+ years have been an exercise in always being "on", wondering when the next problem will happen and having to face it alone. The dating service was an abject failure. I still think that, at some point, they decided that they wouldn't be able to match even half of what I'd like so they just sent all the guys who hadn't dated ever my direction, because I'd have something nice to say in addition to the "What were you smoking when you matched us?" comments.

So, at a time like this, I sit in my quiet living room and wish there was someone whose dirty socks were left on the bedroom floor. I sit feeling sorry for myself. Why me? I come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that guys my age aren't looking for independent women my age. They either want someone to take care of them (shudder) or they want an air-head who will be arm-candy (double shudder). And let's not even discuss the side of my ego that is critiquing my appearance. "Gray hair? Hello? Here's $10. Go get a box of dye."

I took Friday off. It was a smart move. Mike, in the office, is expecting his first child any day now and he will be gone for 2 weeks when that happens. I had one day held over from last year and it was quiet so now is the perfect time to use that up. I went grocery shopping and have spent the weekend cleaning. I've emptied the paper recycling bin twice. I paid all my bills and it's just "me" time although a big black cat has demanded my lap. She knows I just need to know that someone, even if they have four legs and a tail, cares.

The party ends when I get up tomorrow. There is no more pitying myself for what I don't have. Time to move on. Tonight, it will be hot cocoa with a shot of Goldschlager. Tomorrow, it's Cheerios with bananas and the start of a new week.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Open Completely

I've always had problems with tree roots in the sewer line from the house to the street. It's been at least 18 years ago when we added the clean out in the front so the plumber didn't have to drag his machine into the basement to rod out the line. At the time we did that, it would have cost a good $5,000 to replace the line from the clean out to where it joins the city sewer because the junction is in the middle of the street. It would have meant a permitting process to dig up and replace the street. Plus, my line enters the sewer at what would be considered 10:00 and that kind of attachment is prone to have problems with stuff getting hung up and blocking my line as well as stuff from my line not going into the city line straight.

Back in mid-January, I noticed water on the basement floor. I figured it was getting to be about time to clear the line. Roughly every 14-18 months, I'd have the plumber come out and clear the line. It was still cheaper than the replacement as it will take a lot of years of rodding to equal $5,000. I figured after I got my tax money, I would have it done. The line stopped draining last Monday. My tax refund came the previous Friday. Good timing.

Now, about the plumber. I have used one guy for the last 18-odd years. 14 months ago, when I last had the line rodded, he charged me $325 for what amounted to 15 minutes. I knew a guy who did plumbing for a living in Indiana and he said I'd gotten taken. "It should only cost, at the most, $70 to open a line. Anything more is a rip off." So, I have been watching for these coupon booklets I occasionally get in the mail. One happened to come last week. Leafing through it, I found a company that will rod out the line for $50. I called and they sent a guy out on Wednesday afternoon.

For $50, he opened the line but that's not really going to solve the problem. If I had $10,000, I could completely replace the line from the house to the street with a seamless pipe that would handle things once and for all, but that's not an option. What he discovered is that the line really hadn't been cleaned out to it's full diameter of 6 inches. He had opened it to 3 inches but that was slow going. It seems my former plumber just stuck a 1 inch rodder in and chewed the line open enough to get the water flowing. No wonder his guarantee was 3 months.

For $300, he would open the line up completely and give me a one year guarantee. That seemed like a very good deal. It took him 2 hours to do this. He said it seemed as if the line had never been fully cleared back to the house. When he did it, when he got to the junction of the interior and exterior lines, which are just outside the basement wall, I knew it. I know ground vibrations and these were vibrations. Scared the cats. But, it is completely done.

Now comes the maintenance. Because it's just me, I'm not sending enough volume of water through the line to flush out the debris that accumulates. Once a week, I should do a completely full load of wash or run the washing machine on a full cycle even if I don't have enough clothes to do it. I also need to fill up the tub and let it drain. Doing those will keep the line clear. I should have them out once a year for the $50 rodding, of course I should, but maybe $50 is a small price to pay for not having sewage in the basement.

He also told me to stop using Liquid Plumr on my slow drains. If you have had a plumber come to your house, you may have heard this. These acids slowly eat away at your pipes and cause failure over time. I always keep a bottle in the bathroom. The shower and sink drains can start to run slow and my ability to use a snake to dislodge a clog is zero. I have tried but I cannot get the snake through the "U" joint.

I hear you, plumbers. I acknowledge what you say and it makes sense. BUT, I am not paying you $150 for 5 minutes of work with a snake to free a clog when 3 ounces of Liquid Plumr when the drain starts running slow will keep it clear for 6 months. Sorry. I have a feeling that the more flushing of the lines that I do, will help keep the bathroom and kitchen lines clear without the need to use this.

Today, I have washed 2 rugs and a pile of bedding that were on the floor in the water. I also did a full load of pants. I look at the loads I have yet to do and I'll be all caught up with my wash by Wednesday. I guess I'll need to write myself a note to "flush lines" about mid-month.

Now comes the clean up. I have to stop by the store tomorrow and buy two big bottles of bleach to disinfect the floor. You know, it was a bit up front for me; thank goodness for the tax refund. But I feel more secure having had this done.

Beverage:  Hot Cocoa


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


My feet have been more cold this winter than usual. Yes, it has been quite an unusual winter with a blizzard and some extra cold days. You know that when your feet get cold, it can take awhile to warm them and the rest of you still feels cold. I've taken to wearing socks to bed to get them warm and keep them warm.

But what to do when gaming. I have the windows covered. I checked for drafts and I seem to have closed those obvious sources. As we all know, heat rises so the floor is always going to be cooler than the ceiling. Still, I'd like my feet to be comfortable when I play WOW.

Then I hit on it. A heating pad. Set to setting #2 out of 4, it keeps my feet warm or warms them up without a lot of excess energy usage. It's been perfect but I've run into a problem, a 10-pound problem.

What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine. 

Pilchard doesn't care but I have accidentally kicked Mija I don't know how many times because I don't know that she's confiscated the heating pad. She doesn't stay there through a night of gaming. She leaves after awhile and I can warm up my feet or keep them warm.

Oh the side effects of living with cats. 

Beverage:  Root beer


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 7 Comes With Movies

I spent last night just stitching. After cutting out the jacket, I had this need to spend time working on this project. It's funny how working on one project for one event causes me to want to work on another project for another event.

I fired up the DVD and put in "The Incredibles". That is a really good movie. I actually stopped stitching and just watched because I hadn't seen it in a couple years. I followed that with "Shrek".

What was doubly nice was that Pilchard climbed into the settee and fell asleep next to me. While I put my feet on the ottoman, I made room for Mija to be on it as well. Eventually, she left and went into the bedroom to sleep.

After an evening's worth of stitching, this is coming along very nicely.
Beverage:  China Black tea


Step 2-Cut It All Out

This past Saturday, I took another step in making an ensemble to wear to Carole and David's vows blessing ceremony.

On Wednesday of the blizzard, I called the Daily Herald and had them stop the papers. I couldn't get to any papers tossed into the yard and there was no driveway open so it seemed like a silly thing to have newspapers delivered. Still, I wanted to read about the storm I was currently shoveling from the drive so I asked Pam to save me her papers.

Last week, she asked if I still wanted them and did I want her to drop them off. That turned into a "Why don't you bring the fabric over and we'll cut out the jacket?" event.

I like to sew. I'm part of that generation where Home Economics for girls and Shop for boys was part of the curriculum in school. I learned to sew when I was 13 and it's a skill I have used quite a bit throughout my life. I made a lot of Carole's dresses when she was growing up. Pants have given me fits over the years. I love fabric stores and have 2 boxes of material I haven't turned into creations.

While I love to sew, I hate the pinning of the pattern. I'd almost pay someone to do that part so I could get right to the sewing part. Having a friend to talk with, plus her gigantic dining room table, would make this onerous part easier.

We measured the pieces and decided the jacket needed 3 more inches on the bottom. The pattern comes with 2 jacket lengths. I was not making the long version, which is a couple inches above my ankles. I was making waist length. But it was just a bit short for comfort and looks. So, what you see is me measuring and marking the pattern to add 3 inches to the bottom of the jacket. The hem on this is just a small "turned under and stitched" hem.

Once the pattern was altered, I spent about 10 minutes looking at the fabric and deciding exactly where the piece should be placed for the best lay of the design. Where did I want the flowers to land? We also had to consider matching the motif so it lay the same way on both the left and right sides.

I cut out the first piece, the right front of the jacket. This photo really doesn't do justice to the fabric. The shine picks up light and depending upon whether it's incandescent or natural, turns the background gold or cream. Of course, with a black tee shirt, it's hard to gauge how it will look in the final product, but I am so thrilled with this choice of material. It looks elegant and that's exactly how I need to look on my daughter's special day. (Just so you know, she vetoed jeans, even brand new jeans.)

Here are Pam's hands helping position the right back piece after cutting the left side. There is a center seam to the back and while we weren't looking to match the pattern, as you would with a plaid, we were trying to decide where to put the piece so the motifs were similar.

We talked. We laughed. She gave me Dr Pepper. When I do this at home, I have a table and a cutting board I can use. I also have inquisitive cats. It was not uncommon to have someone jump up on the table and plop themselves down in the middle of your project. Tissue paper and cat claws are not a good mix. Being able to do this without having to repeatedly move a cat was lovely.

Here I am, down to the next to last piece, the sleeves. They are plenty long, just as I like, with that small 5/8ths inch rolled hem. I didn't have to add any length there. The only trick was picking a section of fabric that was similar in design for both sleeves. 

There is a cut on the bias (meaning stretchy) neck facing left to do. I have extra fabric if I want to make something else. You can see here that the fabric has an equally elegant back. It's really just that muted hot pink with cream flowers. The green barely shows up on the back.

I will have to finish all the seams to prevent raveling but, mercifully, I picked a pattern with very few seams. I  haven't checked my thread stash to see if I have the correct cream colored thread to sew this. I need to make room on the kitchen table for the sewing machine. It's probably a day's work to create, which isn't long at all.

Another benefit to going to Pam's besides just the fun of chatting and laughing and the help and the Dr Pepper, was the memory trigger that she was going to loan me a cream colored purse for the wedding. She got it to go with her dress worn to her son's wedding. I knew I would have to get something more elegant for whatever I chose to wear but she's got the perfect thing.
It's the right size and it matches. I do need to get shoes as I don't have any in the right color but that's a small price to pay when I've saved a huge amount on the outfit and purse. 

It was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Now on to Step 3-Sewing. 

Beverage:  China Black tea


Friday, February 18, 2011

Jessie Does It Again!

Jessie and I are talking this morning, about life, about her just over a month-old son and his fussiness, about food, about crafting, and she thanks me for the Valentine. "I think you are one of the few people I know who still sends out so much actual mail - I think that's awesome," she says. I'm feeling guilty because I have so much mail left unwritten and unsent.

But then she says, " I saw a book once that was basically a journal where you wrote a letter and sent it to your friend then they wrote a letter in the journal and sent it back which seems cool because then you'd have it all in one place." What a neat idea. It took her but a few minutes and she had found a link to an article that discusses that concept. It's called a "Back-and-Forth" book. Two people take a blank journal and write letters to each other in the journal. The journal is mailed back and forth. You have a record, then, of your thoughts and feelings and lives over the course of the book. The author of the piece in the link said she has the book she did with a friend who is now deceased and it's one of her most prized possessions. I can see that once you fill up a book, whomever has to buy the next book gets to keep the old. What a treasure that would be.

So, I'm thinking I'm going to start this with at least one friend. She reads the blog so I'm sure she will know it's her. The first weekend in March, I will spend some time searching for the perfect journal to start this. It may work, it may be a complete bust, but I'd like to give it a try.

Thanks, Jessie, for the great idea.

Beverage:  China Black tea


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just a Bit of Silliness

Valentines' Day can leave me feeling depressed. I know I'm not alone in feeling depressed on this pseudo-holiday when it's all about treating a "significant other" to something extraordinarily romantic. I gave the cats extra treats when I got home, but it's hard to be alone on this date. I just keep telling myself that being alone with me is better than being alone with someone who doesn't care.

But I like to remember my friends at this time. I didn't have the funds to buy even the 99 cent cards for as many friends as I wanted to send cards to. So I hit on the idea of buying a package of children's valentines and sending those out.

By the time I actually did this, there wasn't a huge selection left. I found some pretty funny ones, however.
They are "3D" Oh boy! Plus, they were on sale. With postage, it cost me 50 cents per valentine this year.

The whole point was to remember friends and family with something completely "me". Yup, I would send silly valentines. I have to try next year to buy my package in early February when there is more of a selection. I really wanted those Valentines with the horrible puns, you know the ones.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


At this rate...

I won't have to shovel.

It never got below freezing last night. This is what the front walk looked like this morning.
That's half the depth it was when I shoveled after work yesterday. It's to be close to 60 today with a chance of rain. Then, it's to be nice and sunny until Monday. 

Yeah. Forget the shoveling. Thanks Mother Nature. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I've been thinking about pizza, mainly because you couldn't get to the house to deliver it. Secondly, I don't have the spare cash until my tax refund comes, to have delivery pizza.

I had the idea that I would try to make a deep-dish pizza. A lot of the recipes call for making a yeast dough, letting it rise and then rolling it out. Maybe some day I'll try that but I really didn't want to go through all those steps. So, I improvised.

I got 2 tubes of Pillsbury pizza dough. I buttered the sides and bottom of a springform pan and then laid the dough in the bottom of the pan. Because the dough is a large rectangle, I had to cut the excess off the sides. I put the other large rectangle perpendicular to the first one and used the cuttings of the overhanging dough to fill in small gaps in the bottom. Then, I turned down the edges as you see. The crust went into a 400ยบ oven for 15 minutes.

Once it came out, I filled it with my choice of ingredients. I bought Canadian bacon, which I cut into triangles, crumbled hickory smoked bacon, shredded cheddar and shredded Italian blend cheese. The pizza looked like this when I put it in the oven.

I baked it for 20 minutes. That seemed to be enough time to cook the dough thoroughly. It smelled so good. It looked wonderful when I removed it from the oven.

I removed the sides of the pan and the dough was cooked all the way around. I let it sit for a couple minutes before cutting. The resulting pieces were sturdy so you could pick up the piece and not have to eat it with a fork. I need to work on this as there was a lot of dough. I'd like to get half the amount of dough along the sides so there would be more room for ingredients but this was excellent for my first attempt. It was also very good as left overs for lunch today. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Apple Banana Cake

This is so good warm with Oberweise vanilla ice cream.
Shredded apples and mashed bananas create a very dense, moist cake with a wonderful flavor. I found the recipe online. 

This starts another theme, just so you know. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea



This is my favorite pair of socks except one is missing.
It's been missing for a few months now, how long, I can't really say. I'm not devastated as I have a lot of socks including a pile that needs mending. But I really liked this pair. 

I won't toss this because the last time I did that, I found the other sock 3 weeks later. It's gotta be here, right? 

I blame gnomes. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Two Weeks Ago

The view out the bedroom window was much different.

This morning, I saw this, looking out my bedroom window. The past few days have seen quite a bit of melting. Instead of snow being tracked into the house, it's mud. The wonderfully fresh smell, that says spring is coming, has been on the breeze.

I still have the front sidewalk to shovel. I did a bit on Sunday, moving the walk down another 10 feet. I did more tonight, when I got home. I'm still moving a foot of snow and this snow is heavier because it's wet from melting. I know I probably should clear the walk but really, when I'm still shoveling after two weeks, who cares. You can get to the mailbox and the front steps. That's what matters.

I let the girls come outside tonight, to get some fresh air. They didn't like coming out on Sunday, as they got dripped on from the roof. Today, they sniffed the air and sniffed around the front steps but quickly ran inside when a car passed by on the street. That was just enough excitement. They are both sound asleep now. 

There is a rumor we are to get a couple inches of snow on Sunday. That, I can handle. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


I Thought That's What I Saw

It was yesterday as I was leaving for work. Heading out the back door, I looked down the basement stairs and I will swear I saw the tell-tale signs of water. Now this did not surprise me. We have had a major, major melting event over the past week. The snow has retreated about a foot. I have had seepage problems for almost 15 years. It comes in where the floor meets the foundation or seeps up through faint cracks in the concrete floor. Almost 20 years ago, we spent some time caulking the gap between the floor and the wall and that kept the water out in those areas where that was done. But time has caused that caulking to shrink and crack so the water seeps in. If I could move stuff around in the basement, I could seal the floor. There are products which do that, but the major problem is moving things around. There's not a lot of room to move things.

I wasn't that surprised to see water, but it is disheartening. I have piles of laundry on the floor to do and water on the floor means I have to spend my time doing laundry instead of a load a day. The other problem is that I need the line rodded, but one can't find the exterior access cap because it's buried under 18 inches of snow. Plus, I'm waiting for my tax return money so I can pay for it. I can't do a giant load of water soaked clothing as the tree roots in the line back up water into the basement. Dealing with that is more of a problem than the seepage.

I thought about it all day yesterday. How was I going to handle this. I resolved just to do a load of wash as I can. If I do a load when I get home, wait for the water to go down, I can do a second load later in the evening. It will get done and it will be okay.

When I got home, I went to the basement and there was no water, none, zero, zip, zilch. There wasn't even evidence that water had been in the basement. I did a load of pants and moved a couple of piles off the floor. Okay, what did I see? Was my brain so expecting to see water that it put water where there was none? We got rain overnight last night. I did not look this morning. I am prepared for water. If it happens, it happens.

We are to get light rain today and near 60 degrees tomorrow. I should continue to shovel the front sidewalk, which I have not. It's still moving a foot of snow off the walk and I really am tired of shoveling. The potential for water seepage is great. My brain should tell me what is there and not what could be there. I really don't need to worry about things I don't have to.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Monday, February 14, 2011

I am told there is a holiday going on today.

Happy Valentine's Day to Faux and the humans who minister to his every whim, sort of, maybe, on occasion.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Friday, February 11, 2011

Single Guys and Grocery Stores

I had to run over to Dominicks after work yesterday as I was out of milk and the milk delivery on Thursday shattered in the cold. (Ahhhh. Cereal for breakfast this morning.) I might as well pick up a few more things.

I wanted strawberries. I've been craving strawberries lately, sliced and lightly kissed by sugar. I stood at the display looking over all the containers for firm, ripe berries of an even hue that didn't smell too much like strawberries. If there is a very distinct smell, they aren't long for this world and I don't always get to them right away. I will be eating these berries tomorrow at breakfast, so overripe is not good.

As I'm standing there, a guy walks up to the display and also starts looking over the containers. He gives me a smile and says, "I never know which container to take." I smiled back and said, "I always look at the bottom. If there is a berry that's soft, that's where you'll see it first." "Oh?" he replied. "I didn't know that. Thanks." I smiled, nodded and made my selection.

I get over to the milk case. Now a gallon of 2% is a good deal. A half-gallon costs as much as a gallon. But the problem is, I won't use a gallon over the course of a week. Next Thursday, I'll get my usual milk delivery and it's not supposed to be as cold so it won't freeze the milk. I don't want to have excess milk in the fridge. We all know it will go bad and that's wasteful. There were several different brands of milk. Which one do I want?

"Hello again," came this voice from my left. I turned and here was the strawberry guy. "Strawberries and milk for supper?"

"Um, no. I get milk delivered but it was too cold. It froze and shattered the bottle. I usually don't buy store milk because I'm picky."

"Milk delivery?"

"Yes. Oberweise delivers. Check them out online." I nodded and walked away.

Before you 'tsk tsk' at me, I am well aware that singles sites and advice columnists suggest going to the grocery. I remember, years ago, one up-scale chain even had "single's night" with events and promotions such as "Cooking for One". I'm not averse to meeting a single guy in a grocery store or the gas station or the post office. If it happens, it happens.

I moved on to my next stop. I think sliced polish sausage with noodles will be good this weekend. I haven't had it in awhile. It's quick and it makes enough for 3 meals. Do I want to try the sausage that's buy one get one free even though I've never heard of it or do I want to go with the tried and true Hillshire Farms which happens to be on sale? A guy from the meat counter was restocking the shelf and asked if he could help. I said I wasn't sure what I wanted and asked if the buy one was any good. He said it was an "okay" sausage and would be good mixed with things. I thanked him and he walked away.

"I'm rather partial to polish sausage myself." It was that voice. I turned and there was strawberry guy. I had already made my decision and it wasn't polish sausage. I didn't say anything. I just took my Light Turkey Sausage, managed a wan smile and walked away.

Mental recitation of grocery list. Strawberries. Check. Bananas. Check. Milk. Check. Sausage. Check. Walnuts. Nope. I am almost out of walnuts and I must have them for my oatmeal over the weekend. I head to the baking aisle and passed an endcap display of Cheetos. They were ridiculously priced. I have not had Cheetos in a couple years. I'll treat myself. On to the walnuts.

This required math, just a little, but math nonetheless. The 8 ounce bag was $3.69. The 16 ounce bag was $4.99. It took me a few seconds to realize the cost disparity there. Why would I buy 8 ounces of something that will keep, unlike milk, in a container for a few months, when I could get double for just a bit more? As I was reaching for the package I heard, "I prefer pecans myself."

Now, we have crossed the line into creepy, at least I think we have. In the grocery, I'm focused. I just want to get in and get out. The Dominicks where I usually shop is frequented by people I have had acquaintance with due to church or from when I worked at The Bookstore. It's rare, but I will run into someone I do know and we stand and chat. But, I go in with a list and I want to get this done and get out. I probably would not be a good target for "Singles Night at the Grocery", which sounds like a bad rom/com starring Jennifer Aniston or Meg Ryan. I searched my head for a comeback line and decided I was done with my shopping and I best just leave.

The Monday before the storm, when I was doing heavy duty grocery shopping, I attracted attention from a number of guys who you could tell were single. Leaning on their cart and slowing walking the aisles, they were looking at all the women not just the bread or juice. I got several winks, nods, smiles while shopping. It makes me feel that there is a huge sign over my head that says, "Desperate".

Perhaps I should have given this guy the benefit of the doubt. I don't know. It made me feel stalked and when I'm trying to decide 8 or 16 ounces of walnuts, that's not a good thing to feel.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest Tea


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Resolution Update

I was thinking about this last night as I sat down in the settee to read. I've been rather preoccupied with something external to the house. But I realized that I needed a public accounting of where I stood in following my resolutions. This is, admittedly, more for my benefit than yours although it allows you to see how much better you are for keeping your resolutions.

#1 Pay off one credit card.
     I am hopeful I can do this when I get my tax refund or make a dent in one that will allow it to be more easily paid off this year.

#2 Pay for everything with cash.
     When you have to do this and then it's the way you live for a month, it becomes a mindset. I'm rather proud of that mindset now. It causes me to analyze my expenditures in a way I wasn't before. I'm still going to get "Nightmare Before Christmas" but I don't look at things and think, "I can pay for that at the end of the month". The truth really is, "I'll be paying on that for 6 months" and that's not good money sense.

#3 Don't get down on myself.
     Almost impossible not to. If I can't find my glasses, I feel I'm stupid because I obviously put them in the wrong place. Silencing the internal critic with ice cream is not a good thing, either. This may be a bigger battle than paying bills.

#4 Read a magazine every two weeks.
     Well, I took a week and read 4 magazines so that counts double. I'm working on an old Discover magazine which is what triggered this post. I have chucked the "please renew" notices from a couple of my Scottish magazines. Oh that was hard, but it has to be done right now. I told myself it's for the greater good. To purloin Dickens, "The needs of the many (referencing my money) outweigh the needs of the few (a magazine renewal)."

#5 Read 6 books this year.
     I read "The Shattering" by Christine Golden. I have another on the nightstand. It should be a quick read as it's #2 in a series and I've read #1 and liked it.

#6 Tidy up and deal with one small pile per day.
     Not as efficient as I could be, but I have reduced some piles substantially. I'm also telling myself that cleaning a small area, dusting, sweeping, wiping down, is also part of this resolution. Every little bit improves the mood and moves me forward.

So, there's the tally. This is baby steps into changing habits. It will come but change will be slow.

Beverage:  Water


How About Going Back to 1908?

There's some news in the baseball blogosphere this morning. The Dodgers are asking fans to vote on their favorite retro uniform to be worn this season.
These are the choices. Wait? None of them say "LA Dodgers"? Of course not. The team started in Brooklyn and many fans are crying foul over the name being affixed to a team that left a storied history behind in the drive to maximize revenue. (The more things change the more they stay the same, right?) 

Back in 2007, the Dodgers did this and it was received with lukewarm enthusiasm. This year, fans are voting and the uniforms will be worn in conjunction with half-price food nights. Of course it's designed to boost attendance, spur revenues and get people talking about the team. The latter effect, talking about the team, is the intriguing part. 

The Dodgers are calling this "an homage" to the past. I haven't read any sportswriter yet who sees this in the rosy-hued tones the Dodgers management does. The best line is "If they want to honor the past, go back to Brooklyn." Ouch. 

It got me thinking about the Cubs. This idea of wearing 'throwback' uniforms crops up every now and then. I think the Cubs did it several years ago. There is a nostalgia to the old uniforms with the script lettering and small numbers, particularly with clubs such as the Cubs, who have been around for over 100 years. 

It's cute and garners interest but at the prices charged today, the average family can't afford to go to a game. Half-price food and nostalgia uniforms won't get me in the door when the cheapest seat I can get to a mid-week game is $32. Add in train tickets of $20 round trip from my house to the ballpark and food of around $25 and I'm close to $100 for a baseball game. It's not a bargain, 

I tell you what, Cubs, there is one bit of nostalgia that people want to see. Why don't you win, like they did in 1908? 

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


I am going to try this.

One of the news feeds on Yahoo this morning talked about this cake.

This is the famous Red Velvet Cake. I know this from my youth. One of my aunt's on my dad's side used to make it for family picnics. She made it in a 9 x 13 pan which would cause purists to gag. But it was easier to eat while sitting on the swing set at the park. I can't remember her name. I can see her face but her name eludes me.

Anyway, the author of the article states that while this cake was probably invented at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, it was adopted and perfected by "the South". The author stated that a friend of hers said there are 8 rules for making the perfect Red Velvet Cake.

1. The cake must have some cocoa, but not too much because it is not a chocolate cake.
2. The cake must have red food coloring; beet juice does not add the right kind of red. [BEET juice? I have seen recipes for this cake but I don't ever recall one that asked for beet juice. Wouldn't that leave a flavor?]
3. The cake must have cream cheese frosting. [I don't really care for cream cheese frosting, but, if I'm going to do this 'right', I best make it according to the recipe.]
4. There should be pecans. (This was news to me.) [News to me too because I've never seen photos of the cake with pecans on it.]
5. You must use high-quality ingredients, including White Lily flour, a Southern specialty flour.
6. Precise measurements and meticulous attention to detail are key for this cake; therefore, it must be made in small, easy-to handle, family-sized batches. (Mass-produced batter just doesn't cut it. Sorry, large-scale bakeries.)
7. You must use a hand-held electric mixer, not a stand mixer: Larger machines can over-mix the batter, which sometimes prevents the cake from rising properly.
8. Red velvet cake batter needs vegetable oil, not butter or shortening. Oil yields a very moist cake.
She went on to print a recipe. After reading this, of course I'm going to have to try it. 

Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes from Food Network
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
Garnish with chopped pecans, fresh raspberry or strawberry, or sprinkles.

I like that these are cupcakes which I can bring to the office. Yes, there will be photographs. 
Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


It can only go up, right?

This morning.

It's a brilliant blue sky, the kind of clarity you wish would happen in the summer. Lose the haze of city life and just be this clear, please?

With clear comes cold. There's no cloud cover to keep in the heat and all this snow just reflects heat back. There's a draft in the house, very small, but there nonetheless. I guess I can't keep all the winter chill out.

And today was milk delivery day. You still can't get to the front steps. Over the warmer weekend predicted, I'll deal with that. So, I moved the milk box off the front steps and next to the mailbox. I needed, in addition to the milk and water I always get, salted butter. Oberweis is having a sale on ice cream quarts, buy 3 get 1 free. There are some days where ice cream is the only thing that matters. Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Peanut Butter. It was so hard to choose.

I brought in the ice cream and water. I thought I had blown my hair dry but not completely. The walk around the house netted frozen hair. Back out with lunch and I started up the car and then went to get the butter and the milk. The milk had frozen in the glass jar and broken. It's been a couple years since I had this happen. The butter is fine. I just rinsed it off and stuck it in the freeze, but I'll have to go get milk. I am completely out. And, wouldn't you know, the things I want to eat require milk. So, I will make a quick trip to the grocery after work and get milk...

chocolate sauce, bananas, maraschino cherries, walnuts. Yup. I'm thinking it's a sundae night. What's more appropriate on a frigid winter evening than an ice cream sundae?

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Gift of Special Importance

After several years of exchanging gifts with everyone in the family, we went to a draw names gift exchange. With spouses, it was getting kind of out of hand for us. Usually, around Thanksgiving, someone would volunteer to toss everyone's name in the hat and you draw. The only rule was you weren't being assigned an immediate family member's name. Hence, I couldn't get Carole's name. Sometimes, that simply required assigning people names if the draws didn't go quite right. This year, I got my sister. But I decided to, finally, give everyone a present I have had in pieces for 5 years.

When my mother turned 70, we all got together to celebrate. We took her out for dinner and breakfast. After breakfast, she wanted a photo of all her kids and grandkids. We did a shortest to tallest photo but that didn't come out very well. Then someone hit on the idea of climbing the apple tree in the yard. This was the result.

I had 5x7's made for everyone and had them matted. That step sat in a bag in my home office for the next 4 years. In November, I finally finished my part of the project. I took vellum, printed everyone's birth date and glued the name and date onto the mat in line with their photo. This was then professionally framed in complimentary colored metal frames. They came out beautifully. 

Upon opening their packages, my siblings and nieces could not remember when the photo was taken. They remember it being taken but not when. 

In the 5 years since this was taken, we have acquired 3 great-grandchildren (a new one just this past Sunday), one on the way and 5 significant others. We're probably about due for another photo but getting everyone together is the problem. It's something to shoot for. I just shouldn't wait 5 years to get the result framed. 

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea



This is cold, even for me.

I usually don't get cold until the air temperature gets into the teens. When you grow up in it, you become acclimatized to it and then, working outdoors as often as I used to do, I just got used to being cold and dressing appropriately.

But dump that wind chill below zero and yes, even I get cold at these temperatures. It was -5 when I got up with a wind out of the west which brought the wind chill to a lovely -25 this morning. There has been a "Wind Chill Warning" out for Chicagoland since about 6 p.m. last night and it's to continue through tomorrow. I think it even looks cold today.
I remember that bitter cold often followed a blizzard so I wasn't surprised when it was announced this was coming. I still haven't completely shoveled off the front steps and now, the bottom snow layer will be frozen. But it's supposed to be in the 40's on Sunday so I'll get to that shoveling over the weekend.

In the meantime, I am so very happy I bought window insulator kits and covered the windows. This was the west office window around 10:30 last Tuesday evening.

My old windows are like sieves sometimes. I need to recaulk them this year. The plastic gave way in the back bedroom and I could feel this river of cold air. I had to duct tape it back down to the sill. Once I did that. the furnace quit running constantly.

I listened to it kick in last night as the temperature plummeted and thought about how much less gas I was using because I have the windows covered. It took a couple of weeks to get it done, but I am so very glad I did it. Occasionally, I run my hand around the windows just to feel nothing. I like that.

Beverage:  Scottish Blend tea


Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 6 and Feeding the Soul

Home from work and there was mail in the mailbox. It was all junk mail. Into the recycling can it goes. I find that refreshing. I tossed in a load of wash and made myself some English Breakfast tea. Once the tea was ready, I ensconced myself in the settee to stitch. I love it when my stitching gets interrupted by the need to scratch ears and a chin. Once Pilchard settled down, I got more done today.
I had to get up to hang up the wash and to make dinner but we sat for a good hour and a half, her and I. This was peace.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


The link to 153 photos.

One of my friends asked me to post the link to the Flickr collection of blizzard photos.
I'm happy to oblige. Click here.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Sometimes Life Makes Me Cry

Yesterday was a day for lists. There was the list of things I needed to get my taxes done. There was the small, but growing list of things I didn't get at the store or things I've run out of. There's the small list of people I should buy Valentine cards for. But the best list, and it was short, was of things that made me really happy.

Of course #1 on the list is shoveling out the drive and up to the mailbox. To start with this on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m....

 and awaken to this on Wednesday morning...

to finally arriving at this on Sunday, is #1 on the good things list.

But there are two more things that were so good yesterday. One of them involved the mystery box mentioned in yesterday's post.

I took the soggy box inside and set it on the floor. Instantly, it was surrounded and sniffed. There was a noise, best described as a "tinkle" as I shifted the box. I thought something inside had broken.

Now, I don't remember ordering anything lately, not a thing. I'm getting a tax refund this year so I'm going to indulge myself and get a collector's edition of "Nightmare Before Christmas", unless someone gives it to me for Valentine's Day. It's a great movie to cross-stitch to. But that has to wait until my refunds are direct deposited and, if you have tried to file you know the IRS is holding all filings until the 14th so they can verify that you didn't claim Fluffy or Fido, among other things. Plus, that's a fairly large box. So I was very curious as to what was inside of it.

Wouldn't you know it, I opened it upside down.
This was no help in figuring out what this was. I removed the item from the box and discovered it was a tea gift set. Here, Pilchard inspects it.
Now I'm really, really confused. I looked at the box label. That's my correct name and address but the return address is some company in Pennsylvania. Did I win a basket in a contest I don't remember entering?
In checking the label more closely, there was a phone number and I vaguely recognized the number. But, at my age, there are so many phone numbers of so many people stored in the great Rolodex that is your brain that your first cousin's phone number they had when they were 15 is, quite possibly, mixed up with your grandfather's phone number or maybe that's the phone number for the library. Who knows.

Digging further into the box, I came upon the packing slip. There, on the "Memo" line was the note, "Dear Deb. It's been a rough end of the year 2010 for you and not the greatest start to 2011. Here's hoping 2011 shapes up to be wonderful. Have a cup on us. Love Mary." That's when I recognized the phone number.

I sat down in the chair in the living room and looked at Mija chewing on the ribbon and burst into tears. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Of all the times I NEEDED a reminder that there are people who genuinely care, it was Sunday afternoon, after almost 2 hours of shoveling.
The basket contains a tea pot and the bag holder (That's what was making the noise as the holder hit the pot.), English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas and Honey Sticks. Now the Honey Sticks are something completely new to me. It's clover honey packages in plastic tubes you break open (getting some on your fingers in the process) and add to your tea. It's just the right amount.

There isn't a word for the warmth that I felt looking at this basket. Mary said it just seemed like the right thing to do for me right now. She was concerned about the tea choices as she drinks coffee or Lipton Iced in the summer. I love English Breakfast and Earl Grey is the perfect kind to go with reading. I took a shower, tossed those clothes down the chute and made myself a cup of tea with a pot for later. I pulled out my bone china cup, a Christmas present from Tonia some years ago. It seemed like the perfect cup to go with hot, fresh English Breakfast tea.

Thank you, Tom and Mary. What a wonderful gift to be discovered at the exact time I needed it.

Oh, item #3 on the good list? Gauss is resuming his For the Horde runs soon. I can't wait to be killed spectacularly over and over again as I defend Alliance cities. You bet I'll have a mug of hot tea sitting next to the computer.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Free at last!

Sunday morning and I'm seriously thinking the gods or Mother Nature hate me. It snowed overnight.
Pretty much any other time, I'd be ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Today, I was cursing. 

It wasn't just a light dusting either. It was 3 friggin' inches. To say I was a bit disheartened is something of an understatement. 

But, I pulled on my socks, my pants, my sweater, grabbed my shovels, which I've left on the deck, and trudged out to the street, after sweeping off the Jeep. The task at hand was to widen the entry so it would be easy for anyone to get into and out of my drive. 
Add a three inch coating of fresh, fluffy snow and the plow having gone by and this wasn't going to be a quick 30 minute task. 

Slice off a bit and break it into chunks while around me came the whirr of snowblowers being fired up yet again. Nope. No one came to blow out what had fallen overnight and I knew they certainly weren't going to come help finish off this last little bit. Sorry if I don't acknowledge you when you drive by and wave. Actually, I'm not sorry. I'm too tired to acknowledge you. 

It took roughly 40 minutes to reduce this wedge to something reasonable. I stood in the street shoveling and forced people to slow down and to look. Yes, I'm feeling a mite peckish but this was quite ridiculous that no one, not one neighbor, offered to help, even for an hour. The best I got was an "I hope I can get my blower working, but my back won't let me help." 

Once this was done, I aimed for the mailbox. I knew I had to get this shoveled or the mailman wasn't going to deliver. "Neither snow, nor rain, nor dark of night" doesn't work after a blizzard. If they can't get to your mailbox, they don't deliver. That took another 45 minutes because this was through the 4 foot drift that went into a 3 foot drift. 
The path is wide enough for one person to walk easily. I got over to the front walk, but I was fast running out of energy. I cleared around the mailbox and removed mail from Thursday. It was all junk mail. I simply tossed all of it in the recycling can as I came inside. 

Then, I opened the front door and shoveled off the top of the steps and the first step. While shoveling, I heard the snow hit something odd. Looking north of the steps, I found this in the snow up against the house. 
I have no clue how long it's been in the snow, no clue on when it was delivered. I haven't gone anywhere since getting home on Tuesday. Only once was the doorbell rung and that was Thursday evening when that neighbor wanted to charge me $80 to shovel my drive. I found it here.
The box was rather soggy and there was a slight rattle to it. I'll post tomorrow (Monday) what was inside. 

After one hour and 45 minutes, the drive was opened, a path carved to the mailbox and the top and first step of the front steps shoveled. I was beat.
The best part of all of this, tossing those clothes down the laundry chute.
It has snowed off and on all day now. The plow has gone by a dozen times tonight. I haven't looked to see how much more we got. Part of me is a bit scared to find out it might be more than 4 inches. But, 6 or under, I'm just driving through. 

I'm taking a day off from shoveling. Then, on Tuesday, I will go out the front and liberate the last 2 steps on the front and start the slow process of shoveling the sidewalk. I'm only going to work for a half hour every day. I missed 2 days of work so I have to work overtime to get things done. 

It has been quite the adventure. I'd rather not repeat it this year. 

The view from the street. Today's paper was delivered, much to my surprise.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea