Tuesday, February 28, 2012


This is Niles and Jenn's RSVP card for their wedding. If you've ever done Mad Libs, you'll recognize this. I thought I'd ask for some inspired responses.

Of course I'm going. I wouldn't miss this in the world. Now, under number attending, I need a mathematical formula where the product is 1. I don't have a whole lot of room there. I could just do 1,999 -1,998, but I'm sure someone has a great suggestion.

Next, I need an emotion. I don't want the usual emotions either. "Delighted"? Only if that means I removed a light somewhere. "Honored"? Well, yes. I am honored and humbled that they want me to attend. It does mean a great deal to me. After the emotion, I need an adjective and a noun. I can probably come up with those so the sentence seems to make sense but really doesn't. You know, like I talk early in the morning before the tea kicks in.

As for what song the DJ doesn't play, there isn't enough paper on the planet to list all of those. I wonder if they are creating a list of songs to play at the wedding. That would be rather funny. I should come up with something really obscure.

Notice I don't have to send this back until April 23rd, but I'm going to send it within the week. I'm afraid if I wait any longer, I will forget and that is not a good thing when I'm looking forward to this. I'm kind of sad I can't fill out the bottom. I'm either tracking the exotic lemur in Madagascar or polishing my prized widget signed by Dizzy Dean. Widget polishing has saved my sanity.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Still Sealed

I bought 5 jars of this Ghirardelli Chocolate sauce for Carole's wedding last year. We only used a total of 1 whole jar although 2 were opened. So, I brought 3 back. Big deal. It's hot fudge.

Well, I really shouldn't be having hot fudge on everything in order to use these up. It took probably 4 months to use up one jar. I had to have Mike open this one because I just can't do it anymore. I need to find one of those circles, Mike calls them 'bologna slices' because that's what they look like to him, that help you open jars. I don't like bringing them into the office although the guys will make a big deal out of opening my jars.

After Mike opened this, I noticed the "best by" date on the lid had passed. Hmmmm. It should still be good. I can't toss all this hot fudge. The jar was sealed. It made that pop sound when he opened it. I don't have enough ice cream in my fridge to eat all of this, nor do I want Ghirardelli hot fudge every dinner until this jar is gone. AND...I have another jar in the basement.

Methinks I'll need to get creative.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Monday, February 27, 2012

A Project Down the Road

I have boxes and file folders and envelopes of craft ideas. "This would be so cool," I say and tear something out of a magazine and add it to yet another pile. Here's something I've always wanted to try.

This is a counted cross-stitch insert with a mug. You cross-stitch the insert and then snap it into the mug. The whole thing is water proof and dishwasher safe, or so the directions say. It's also in my "to do" box.

A friend of mine is a New York Giants fan. I've known him since before the Giants won Super Bowl 42, in 2008. I have a flyer that has all the NFL logos on it. I'm going to try my hand at cross-stitching the Giants logo along with the two recent Superbowl logos onto this insert. This will be his either Christmas present or, if I don't get it done in time, birthday present.

Seeing the mug on the "to do" pile makes me want to jump in right away. I still have not finished the Merry Christmas banner and I've told myself I can't pick up a new project, even one to finish, until that is done. I cleaned off the living room table so I can move the sewing machine back. I have no excuses other than my inertia.

Ah yes, inertia. There is no 'cure' for it other than to simply wag my finger at myself and do it. The swans sampler is framed. I need to wash the cat sampler now so I can drop that off when I pick up the swans. I need more Woolite for that. Inertia. That means a trip to the store after work. Inertia. Some days, it really does get the best of me.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea


Weekend Cats

It's the second weekend in a row where I had plans but they fell through. Last Sunday, the 19th, a college friend, whom I have not seen in roughly 8 years, was to have a 3 hour layover in Chicago beginning at 12:30. There was a wedding shower for Niles and Jenn at 1, so, painfully, I decided to meet my college friend and forgo the shower. She wanted to leave O'Hare and, in 3 hours, one can do that, dash over to a close restaurant and have a somewhat leisurely lunch while catching up on who was where of our mutual friends and how life was treating each of us. As of the 16th, all was still good. On the 18th, she called to say she had to delay her return because of an illness in her family and she would be flying through on the 22nd. I do know she got home but suddenly, I had Sunday all to myself. Same thing happened this weekend.

I was to visit with a friend who lives in the area. We don't see each other in person much but we talk every 2-3 weeks. We were going to spend pretty much the whole of Sunday together, starting at 9:30 with brunch and ending at 2:30 after lunch. She got this stomach flu that is going around. As much as I love her company, I don't love stomach bugs. So, I was left with essentially nothing to do. Well...not nothing...

It turned into one of those lazy weekends where I did dishes and laundry and cleaned little spots here and there. I changed the bedding on the bed. Hmmmm. I'm matching the blanket to the cat or, considering the blanket is older than my daughter, maybe I'm matching the cat to the blanket.

I swept. I washed. I played my game. I sorted. I pitched. I moved to another stack. Yes, yes, I know. Moving does not constitute "dealing with" the item. It just prolongs the decision on what to ultimately do with said item.

I clipped claws, every. last. one, which is tough to do with Pilchard. Even having treats around for when she allows me to clip the claws, I can only do a couple paws before I have to let her go. She did, however, let me comb her for 20 minutes, 20 solid minutes. She just lay in her box and purred.

I think I understand why she loves this box. This is how I usually find her when I come home from work or in the afternoon. The edges of the box are just the right height for her to look out on the world and rest her chin on the side. She doesn't have to look up. She can just move her eyes side to side. This is the epitome of cat energy conservation, or laziness, but I'm calling it energy conservation. She let me comb everything except her belly, which is fine. I found one small mat under her chin which came out easily. It also seemed as if I was combing out all her hair. I swear. I had enough combed out to create another cat.

So, although I would have loved to see friends, being in the company of cats and having a lazy weekend is wonderful too.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea


Friday, February 24, 2012

My Favorite Snow

This is my favorite kind of snow. The high moisture content makes it stick to everything, outlining them in white.

Everything gets an outline but it's so much more pronounced with trees and vegetation. It can make the most tangled of brush look dainty, almost like lace.

What's also cool with this kind of snow, is that you can tell what direction it came from by what side of things got covered. The snow just seems to accentuate what would normally be a rather dull intersection.

This is okay snowball snow but it's a bit too wet. I'm not going to shovel although I might shove it off the deck and front steps. The weather is to warm up and this 3 inches will be gone by next week.

You can find the most unusual photos with this kind of snow, too.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Thursday, February 23, 2012


Project 2 is finished. I really enjoyed the simplicity and ease of doing this one. It was mostly full cross-stitches. I don't mind quarter, half and three-quarter stitches but sometimes I just want to put the needle in and pull the needle out and not have to worry if this is to be at an angle. Once the swans comes back from framing, this will go out and I can cross someone else off my Christmas list.

I'm liking, even more, the peace I'm feeling as I'm working through these projects. Now that this is done, the weekend's task is to either finish or make major progress on, the green "Merry Christmas" banner. I've decided I'm not looking ahead to the next cross-stitch project until that banner is done.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


So You Don't Have To

I like Oreos and Oreo-like cookies. I twist my Oreos apart, eat the middle and then eat the cookie. That is, unless I'm dunking them, in which case, the whole thing gets dunked and eaten.

There are "Springtime" Oreos out now. Yellow creme with the familiar chocolate cookie were on sale, really cheap. Okay, let's see how these fair.

For dunkability, they are the same sturdy Oreos you know and love. For taste, bland, really bland. I don't remember the white creme with such a bland flavor. I think paper would have tasted better.

You know what would be excellent? Lemon. Just a hint of lemon in the creme and paired with the chocolate cookie? Now THAT would have been springtime.

So, here is another in my series of "I ate it so you don't have to". Don't bother with these. Even at $2.00 a bag, they aren't worth it. If you're going to buy Oreos, buy the original white creme filled ones. They have a flavor.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Olfactory Assault

Pilchard's been a bit of a crab the last couple of weeks. Cats are like kids. They can't tell you what's wrong. The best Pilchard can do is stand in the middle of the floor and meow piteously. She has been standing at the back door looking outside when I do the dishes. Then she'll look at me and meow, as if she wants to go outside. But, on these lovely late winter days when the temps are in the upper 30's, she comes out onto the deck, sniffs the air and decides she'd rather be inside, sitting in her box, than out on the deck with me.

There's an edge to the meow, too. I can tell she's irritated or upset with something, but I can't figure out what. She wants in my lap and then she wants out and will, once she jumps off my lap, stand on the floor and meow at me. They have plenty of food and fresh water and I clean the litter boxes every other day. It struck me, over the weekend, that the litter boxes may be the source of the anger.

I use either Arm & Hammer or Fresh Steps litter. It depends upon which one is on sale at the time that I either need it or have the funds on hand to buy a box. I try to buy when they are really cheap so I'm not forking out twice the money because I have to have it.

A month ago, I bought a box of Fresh Steps. It didn't look any different than any other box of this kind of litter that I've usually bought. It is different. It's got a scent. "Whoa Nellie!" to purloin Keith Jackson's signature exclamation, does it have a scent. I didn't see the "scented" label on the front.

It's awful. It's really bad. This is not a delicate scent designed to gently perfume the air, much like blooming lilacs on a May morning. This is a "Hey, this stuff stinks so we're going to completely cover that smell with this one!" I can't even describe whether this is a floral or whatever kind of scent. I just know that it's incredibly overpowering. We usually use unscented litter which, if kept clean, does keep cat odors down. I can tell, when I walk into my house, if I haven't been diligent about removing waste. I really don't need to mask those odors with something horribly chemical in nature. If I don't like it, I'm very certain Pilchard's complaining is because she has to stand and dig in it and it assaults her nose worse than it assaults mine.

I'm down to the last quarter of that box. I checked the two boxes I've picked up on sale and neither one is scented. You can be certain I will, from now on, check the front of the box. I keep telling her that, in a month, this odor will be gone just by attrition. Plus, we'll have the windows open and will be airing out the house and it will be less an assault than a casual, "Oh yeah, that smell".

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea



He or she, let's be realistic. I really can't tell from this picture, the gender of this squirrel. We'll call it a he. 

Anyway, he came close to the window to get the peanuts. Sometimes, he eats them, but most of the time, he grabs them and takes off to bury them. I've seen him digging in the back yard. I would imagine this is an old wives clue that winter is still going to be in force here. If he's stockpiling nuts, he doesn't think spring and food is any time soon. 

He's still a bit skittish when I sit here and watch but we may be overcoming that. I have not seen the black squirrel, the real object of offering peanuts, since that first day. 

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's an Age Thing

This morning, while getting ready for work, I heard a siren. Now, I live in the 'burbs of Chicago and 2 blocks west of and 4 blocks east of, two major north-south streets where the fire and emergency vehicles generally run. To hear a siren is not an uncommon occurrence. If it gets really loud and you start to see red and blue lights, then you go look, but otherwise, you notice the noise but it does not interrupt your day.

I also live 4 blocks from the tornado siren. On the first Tuesday of every month, that siren is tested at 10 a.m. unless it's the summer and tornado watches/warnings are in the area. Then they wait for the next week.

I do pay attention to the siren in the summer. There is a theory that the skyscrapers of Chicago prevent formation of tornadoes by interrupting the air flow near the lake. While tornadoes are uncommon, they aren't rare and every summer can produce 3-4 reliable sightings even if they never touch down.

So, this morning's siren was very noticeable. It's not tornado weather, not in the least. We got snow last night with rain, sleet and snow predicted over the next 3 days. Why would it be sounding on a Wednesday, at 7:45 a.m.? I could call the police station if I was really curious but I didn't think that was adviseable.

I'm of a certain age where I remember the above sign on buildings around my hometown. In the lunch room of my high school, this sign was on the wall next to a locked door. I remember asking someone, can't remember whom, what that sign meant. That person said if we were ever attacked by the Russians, people could find these places where food and water was stored and could then survive. I accepted this as fact and, at the time I would have asked this question, this was accepted as fact. I remember vague instructions on what to do if the "air raid sirens" went off. That's what they were called, "air raid sirens". This is a direct hold over from World War II when heeding the sirens was a necessity.

Today, if I said I heard the air raid siren go off, I'd be looked at as a quack, if anyone even knew what I was talking about. I pondered this as I left the house and the siren went off again. There wasn't a sound from the siren to my east, which I can hear. I found myself looking to the skies. In this day and age of so much nationalistic hate and the knowledge that people don't like us just because of where we live, the idea that we could be attacked by the air is not improbable. It happened once. It possibly could happen again.

I also wondered what others thought when they heard the siren. Did they stop at all? Did they find it annoying or perplexing? Or are they of a certain age, like me, who heard the siren and had their mind harken back to a different time when Duck and Cover was taught in school?

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Moving the Hoop Again

It's time to move the hoop again. I finished the 14 stitches in #612 and then all those in color #613. Now it's time to do the lettering and this is done. It's come out very nicely and I hope the recipient will be pleased.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Monday, February 20, 2012

Language That Hurts

Perhaps you have seen the headlines. A number of staff members of sporting giant, ESPN, were fired over the weekend for authoring and approving an article's headline that was racist.  I've thought a bit about this and the use of language.

If you do not know the story, briefly, the New York Knicks, a professional basketball team (identifying this for my readers who couldn't care less) have a player who lives in Taiwan. This is important to know. He's good. He's very good and has helped the Knicks to many wins this season, including a recent impressive winning streak. Over the weekend, however, the Knicks lost. This resulted in the most unfortunate headline on ESPN's online site. "Chink in the Armor" it read.

First of all, racist, derogatory language has no place in a civilized society under any circumstances. I'm not going to defend what was said from the standpoint of the racist overtones. It was wrong. Period.

Yet, when I read this headline, I didn't see the racist word. I had to read the subsequent articles to realize "chink" is the offensive word here. Perhaps you didn't see it either if you aren't paying attention to sports. I consider myself very aware of racism and I missed it. Why?

"Chink" is not a word with which I have familiarity and therein should provide ESPN and, indeed all of us with a huge teaching moment, to use a trite cliche. Once I was told the word of course I recognized it but in the social and ethnic circles I run in, this word is not used as a put down of another race. It's used to describe a dent or ding, an unintended crack, a fissure or the sound made by glass glasses being struck together. It would never occur to me and I would hope, my friends, to use this word for any other purpose.

I'm willing to bet, at the heart of this, that's what happened. You had a writer, an editor and a proofreader who were completely unfamiliar with this word being offensive to a whole group of people. Follow up articles have said this player was called a 'chink' which doubles the agony of seeing this in print.

We have done remarkably well to eradicate some offensive language from public speech. We have worked to remove "nigger" from the public discourse. It's just not an acceptable term. Other words remain, however, and it's in this class that 'chink' belongs. If it was never used in your sphere of life, it's not going to be understood as the derogatory word that it is.

So, what to do about this. I would never advocate having a class where all the possible terms to put someone down are identified. I remember hearing in a psychology class in college that as long as long as there has been language, there has been need of one class to create a derogatory term to identify another class. I want to make myself feel better about who I am. Therefore, I will brand you as an 'x' and tell my friends to use it, too. Language and human history is littered with attempts to put down one class verbally so another class can feel better about itself.

I think, however, if ESPN does not have a 'style book', they better get one, now. In this book should be a page of terms which are unacceptable to be used at any point. One woman's unexpected fissure is another's racist appellation. ESPN should have meetings where this book is distributed and their writers and editors and proofreaders should be instructed to memorize the list. They have stepped forward and said, "This is unacceptable to us." Their example to remove this kind of language will go a long way toward removing it from everyday casual conversation.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


A Box From a Friend

A few weeks ago, I posted photos of some items I found while cleaning a random space near the computer. One of my guild members quickly pounced on the key chain and the scissors. "What do you want for them?" Nothing. "No. Really. How much do you want?" Um...nothing. Zero. Zip. I'm just glad to get them out of the house. If you want, you can reimburse me for the postage to mail them. (That came to a whole $1.90.) "Are you sure you don't want anything for them?" Positive.

But, she decided that just wouldn't do and set out to send me the cariest of all care packages. It arrived on Thursday of last week.

Now, this is the gal who sent me the amazingly awesome hippo toy that sings "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas". (Click on the link if you missed the post the first time.) I really, honestly, didn't need her to do anything for me in response to sending those two items. I'm glad they provided her with happiness and have a good home. But she insisted. So she also had to wrap the box to make sure it would take me a long time to get into it, as it only took me a few minutes to get into the hippo box and she had teased me that she'd really wrapped it up.

This box was covered with package tape and clear wrapping tape. I got out the utility knife and slit part of one side. Then I shoved in the scissors and cut that side open, repeating with the other side. From there, it was a quick slice and cut and, I would say, in 5 minutes, I had the box open to reveal, packing peanuts. Oh wait. There's stuff in here, in fact, there's a whole lotta stuff in here.

It must be noted that the girls gave the box a sniff and then wandered away. I can't remember bringing a box into the house that they haven't examined thoroughly before opening. They were absolutely not interested in this one.

Look at all the goodies. It was like emptying an unending box of stuff. Chocolate creme-filled biscuits; instant hot cocoa; mini somethings (I haven't opened those yet.); a strawberry champagne chocolate bar; chocolate-covered macadamia nuts; breath mints; three different selections of tea and a cross-stitch bookmark kit. WOW.

I am amazed and humbled by all this. It's far more than a pair of scissors and a key chain. As this is the year of gratitude, I kind of feel words are inadequate to express my gratitude for these gifts. And don't forget, she gave me a hippo, too. I'm quite touched and very appreciative.

I have eaten the hippo biscuits. They provoked laughter, to be sure. We have this theme going. What can I do on my end to perpetuate it? They were good. I also opened the macadamia nuts. As the package is exactly like the packages for cat treats, when I opened it, I had two very interested felines looking at me. Pilchard was downright annoyed that this was people food and not for her. Mija seemed confused. It sounds like cat treats but it's not. I wound up giving them a few treats while I ate mine.

Thank you. What a delight to find on the doorstep. I took the blue box of tea to work as I have nearly finished the teas my brother gave me for Christmas last year. I now have plenty to snack on as I play the game in the evenings. The bookmark is going to be stitched some time this year. I've never done a bookmark so I'm interested to see how this will work.

Unexpected pleasures. What happiness.

Beverage: Edinburgh's Finest tea


Time to Move the Hoop

I took time off on Friday to get the car fixed. It was the number one thing on the list after receipt of my tax return money. The repairs, while not excessive, were to take all day so I decided, since I had vacation time to use up, leaving the car and staying home was a good thing. This encouraged blocks of time to do things, like stitching.

On Friday, I finished everything in the first circle area, including all the outlining and the lazy daisy stitches on the one pillow. On Saturday, I started working on the final area, a section above the cat.

It was going just fine until I ran out of color #612. I didn't have much to start with, going into this project, but I figured I had enough to finish it. Nope. 14 stitches left and there wasn't enough to finish. This meant a trip to the store. Fortunately, there was a huge sale and the floss was marked down. I also took the time, before going, to look ahead at what I want to get done this year and assess my fabric needs. I bought a couple pieces for projects I intend to get to this year. Of course, one never knows.

On Thursday, I dropped off the swan piece to be framed and purchased the items needed to finish the Christmas banner. I'm liking the idea of finishing something in between starting something new. So, once this piece is done, I'll be finishing the banner. Then, I can look ahead to a new item. I'm feeling very energized by this crafting phase and am looking at those things I've started but never finished and all the ideas I've had for things to make. So the bathtub doesn't get cleaned this month. So the dishes pile up in the sink. I am loving just sitting in the recliner with jazz softly playing in the background and my cats asleep in the living room as I stitch.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lots of Noise

I had a major project to get out of the office this week. Between phone calls and emergencies, it was difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. Tuesday, things took a turn for the bizarre. I was immersed in proofreading and heard honking outside my office window. Thankfully, I keep the camera with me.

We have had, in past year, a nesting couple near the front entry. While watching the majesty of nature as you walk into work is nice, it is not nice to be honked at and somewhat threatened by an over protective mate. There seemed to be more noise than just these two could make. A quick glace to the left and ...

Since it's a flock, they didn't stay. I'm kind of grateful for that. Angry 25 pound birds preventing me from entering the office is not an exciting proposition. 

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Brand Loyalty

I used part of the Target gift card to get furnace filters. I bought a couple of the 3M Filtrete filters which were on sale for $8.99 each. I thought I was getting such a deal.

Then, I went to Ace Hardware to pick up locks for the office. We use padlocks on our instrument cases and periodically have to buy a dozen and have them keyed the same.

While picking up the locks, I noticed their furnace filters. A 3 pack of Ace brand, which are identical to the Filtrete filters, was on sale for $9.99. I didn't have to think twice about buying a 3-pack. I have almost a year's worth of filters now, even if I change them every other month as the furnace guy recommended. So, I questioned my loyalty to Filtrete.

Brand loyalty can be a good thing. I have a key ring with a number of loyalty cards. You make a purchase, swipe your card and you rack up points towards something. This encourages loyalty plus a guaranteed revenue stream. But, the price of loyalty is not something I'm always willing to pay. I intend to look over all the brands to which I have an expressed loyalty and assess whether I get much out of that loyalty. Is this an "in name" thing only or do I have value with it? Value can be difficult to quantify and is rather subjective.

Still, this particular purchase has caused me to reassess where I spend my hard earned cash. If I get the same thing for less money, that puts me farther along the path to being where I want financially. Loyalty doesn't have to be expensive, but it seems it is. Time to filter the good loyalty from the bad.

See what I did there?

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cat NOT Included

Got my geek on this weekend.

The local ampm store attached to BP gas stations has this offer of these four Worldof Warcraft cups for $1.99 each. I need cups like I need measles but they are WOW cups AND they are ONLY $1.99 each. Yes, I got 2 sets because I'm sending one to a friend from Australia. For some reason, they don't have ampms near her. The images on the cups are of legendary villains from the game. Left to right it's Kil'Jaedan, Illidan, Deathwing and The Lich King.

These are, actually, very nice cups. They are at least 16 ounces, possibly more and are a heavy molded plastic. These are very sturdy. The design is printed all the way around. I had to rearrange some things in the cupboard to make room for them, but they are a good value for only costing $1.99.

I posted the above photo on my guild's web site as proof that I'd purchased my cups. I have a lot of guild members who don't have ampms near them so I have a number of requests for cups. I'm going to try to honor as many as I can AFTER I get the car fixed on Friday. The best line was this one. "Ooooh nice, but how much for the cat?"

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Not Worth It

It's time for another in my series of "I eat it so you don't have to" posts.

When I saw that Cheerios had come out with a peanut butter flavor, I was thrilled. Peanut butter is my second favorite flavor, after chocolate, so this is going to be exceptional. I'm of the age where I remember the hullabaloo over Honey Nut Cheerios. What did General Mills think they were doing to the best cereal ever? Honey Nut Cheerios took off and possibly opened the floodgates for other iconic cereals to experiment with flavors.

Looking at the Cheerios web site, there are 13 different flavors of the cereal. Thirteen. Their marketing plan involves pitching Cheerios as a flavor for everyone. They have multi grain, apple cinnamon, banana nut, chocolate, dulce de leche, cinnamon burst, frosted, fruity, oat cluster and yogurt cluster in addition to the regular, honey nut and peanut butter flavors. If I want something a bit different in Cheerios, I get the fruity ones. Now those are good.

I was disappointed, very disappointed, in peanut butter Cheerios. When I opened the box, there was strong whiff of peanut butter. But once you add milk, the flavor is merely hinted at. The predominant taste is the multi grain. The smell of peanut butter is there but the taste, not at all. I really wanted peanut butter. This is a suggestion of flavor. These weren't even good for snacking during World of Warcraft raids. 

I won't be buying these again. Chocolate Cheerios don't really appeal to me, but I'm thinking I should check all these flavors out, for science, you know. What I recommend is buy a yellow box of the real thing and make yourself some peanut butter toast to go with it. A bite of Cheerios, a bite of toast and viola. You have the peanut butter taste they should have created.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fresh. Fresh. Fresh.

Oberweis Dairy added a new service last year, fresh fruits and vegetables. I hadn't really been tempted by the idea until I got the tax return and could squeeze a few pennies to set aside. They have prepared boxes or you can make your own. I decided a mix catering to my tastes was in order.

There are 5 gala apples, 3 comice pears, 2 yellow peppers, a bag of 4 large carrots and a box of strawberries. I had a discount coupon good on my first produce order so the total for the box wound up being less than if I'd purchased all this in the store.

The key factor here is convenience. They have a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. I imagine this is comparable grocery quality, although the peppers are huge. I didn't see anything like that in the store. In between brick and mortar runs, I can have fresh delivered on a Thursday morning.

I have eaten one of the peppers, 2 apples and a pear. Very good flavor. I slice them and eat them raw. Although I did get a bag of peanut M&Ms at Target, I feel rather smug eating sliced apples and pears instead of M&Ms when playing World of Warcraft. Plus, the pepper slices were great for noshing as I was transcribing an inspection tape at the office yesterday. The carrots are going in soup. The strawberries are going in muffins.

So, was it a good value? I'm on the fence about that. The produce is certainly stellar. Having it delivered to me and in my face, so to speak means that I'm eating it instead of bread or thinking about chips or something else that I really don't need to be eating. I've mentioned this before. Good eating is expensive. It just is. Fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than a bag of Cheetos. That is, from my point of view, the biggest problem in getting people, myself included, to eat better. I love the apples. I love the pears, but my pocketbook doesn't love the cost. I'm not sure what can be done about that, however, and still provide a decent profit to the farmer who grows the pepper, the guy who picks it and the company that gets it from farm to grocery. If I watch the store sales, I can spend less for the same items.

I think the best part of this experiment was after I removed the produce and the cushioning.

The box is perfectly Pilchard size. She just loves it. She can rest her chin on the edge and sleep. She can curl up completely inside it but it's not so deep she can't see out. I was going to use it to ship some things to a friend but it's been commandeered. Mija sits in it, too but it's not her box. This belongs to Pilchard.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Weekend With Needle

I spent part of the weekend enjoying a comforting visit with my friend, my tapestry needle. You can see the body is finished. It does look a little creepy when I walk by the piece on the magazine stand and it's missing the head. I'm taking a day off this week to get the car fixed so I intend to make more head way (pun definitely intended) on this.

The other thing I did was prepare the goose sampler and the Christmas cross-stitch banner for finishing. This is, of course, never a simple process. First, I had to wash the bathroom sink. I needed to do it anyway but I'm one of those people that unless I have company, some stuff doesn't get cleaned. It had been a couple months since I had thoroughly washed and scrubbed the sink bowl.

So, of course, it stops draining. That meant adding Liquid Plummer to the Target purchase list. Once purchased and poured in the drain, it took all of 10 minutes to clear the clog and get the water draining again. Then, I could finish scrubbing the bowl, and hand wash both pieces for eventual finishing. I had just enough Woolite left for these two pieces.

I've had this bottle for years. This is, pretty much, the only thing I used it for, hand washing my stitching projects. I try to avoid buying clothing that requires hand washing. Now I have to replace this, I'm wondering if there is something better for stitching. I guess a little research will be in order.

On Thursday, the goose sampler will be dropped off for framing and I'll buy the components needed to finish the banner. Finishing the banner. Doesn't seem possible. I've had the stitching done for years. Silly procrastinating person me. This year is the year I finish some of this stuff. Hooray!

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


For Sure It's From Me

With a few exceptions, I sent out kids valentine's again this year. Unlike last year, I actually purchased them before the 13th and went to the grocery store which had more than just one option as I had last year because I waited too long to shop. Hence, sticker covered envelope? Silly kids valentine? Must be from me.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone.

Beverage: Darjeeling tea


Friday, February 10, 2012

A Bit More Form

After an hour of stitching last night, you can probably guess what the design is I'm currently working on. I feel like chucking some of the "should dos" this weekend again and just stitching. I'm enjoying watching this come together. 
Beverage:  Water


Well Smack Me Upside the Head

So I'm working with this whole gratitude idea. Be grateful for everything you can be. In the midst of awfulness, being grateful for what you have is, in theory, supposed to wean me of the negativity I've felt and expressed over these last few years. Negativity becomes a life-style and it's not positive. On Wednesday, I wrote about where I am in my journey toward embracing gratitude.

I go home tired. It's been a long week. My arthritis has been active this week in more ways than one. I'm not sleeping through the night without awakening. Gratitude. Gratitude. Remember this. I go down the front steps and get the mail and there is an envelope addressed to me with no return address. The handwriting sort of looks familiar. I tear it open and a $50 Target card falls out.

No, the symbolism is not lost on me. Mr. Anonymous strikes again. How long has this been going on? Is it up to 2 years now? I never, ever count on these things arriving in the mailbox. I never, ever think, "Well, isn't it about time for the anonymous gift card?"

Every time one shows up in the post, I am overcome. Someone, some where is getting a great deal of happiness in sending these to me. They drop this in the post and know, is a few days, I'm going to be standing in my living room marveling at someone's generosity and kindness towards me. Dare I say it? I am filled with gratitude at this. I am always, always delightfully surprised.

I need furnace filters. The orthopedic doctor recommended resuming the glucosamine/chondroitin regimen although I'm not completely convinced it's doing anything to help. It's Valentine's Day next week. I could stand a bag of Valentine M&M's with peanuts for myself. I can make $50 do a lot.

Thank you to whomever is this mysterious benefactor. I think you're enjoying this. You certainly drove home the point that gratitude is a good state of mind.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The State of Gratitude

I've been giving my resolution to find gratitude every day some thought. How have I done, mainly? It's time for a status update.

It's gone fairly well. It's one of the hardest things I've challenged myself to do. My day starts painfully. Arthritis has settled into my hands and the mornings are very bad for mobility. Even getting up a half hour earlier does not mean I make it to work on time. I struggle to open the milk container and pour milk on my cereal. Brushing my teeth, with the gripping and maneuvering of the toothbrush causes pain in my wrists. Getting dressed takes about 30% longer than it used to and I now have to look at clothing from a "will this hurt to put on or take off" stand point. And opening the car door, if I don't watch the placement of my fingers on the latch, can be painful. I've pretty much resigned myself to the knowledge that pain is a companion. Some days are worse than others but it's always going to be there now.

It would be very, very easy to wallow in that knowledge. When I can't get a bottle of juice open or when I can't grab the top of the litter box and pull to open the box, it's easy to feel sorry for myself. I had to take a small saw and score the box top then rip it off in pieces. At least it can be recycled.

And that last statement is what I am trying, every day, to seize upon. Yes, it hurts and it's incredibly frustrating to realize I can't do what used to come so naturally. But there is gratitude in everything. I'm grateful I can recycle the boxes litter comes in. I belong to the Fresh Step Points Club. When I buy Fresh Step litter, those rare occasions when it's cheaper than Arm and Hammer, I get points. I am really close to getting a cat tower after years of saving and not spending points. I think the girls will love it.

I have a friend who is going through some health problems. I sometimes want to shake him. He's so negative. Yes, life is hard. He's got problems I wouldn't wish on my casual enemy. I know the view from his position. He's looking up and all around him is a hole. It's easy, so very easy, not to see there are things to be grateful for even when the situation looks bleak. But he could stand a huge dose of gratitude. He has a place to live. He can put food on his table and clothes on his back. To use a trite cliche, "Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt."

Not every day is a good day. Not every day can I remember to be grateful for something, anything. A client was angry at a spread sheet we sent him. It was wrong. I had handed off the data to others to do input and they couldn't read my writing or they questioned what I had written and added things that weren't there. I hadn't supervised. I was busy. I trusted when I should have gone back and looked. I was dreading a meeting after he called about the problem. All the way to the meeting, I kept telling myself to find gratitude in the day. It was balmy, for a January. It was mileage and got me out of the office. Yet that little voice, that critical me, kept saying I was a doofus, or worse. The client accepted my apology and we worked together to fix the spreadsheet. It wasn't as bad as my critical side had drummed up.

Practicing gratitude is hard. In the midst of frustration, it's hard to find something to be grateful for. I am very grateful for a mild winter, in spite of the fact that we need the moisture for spring and I kind of miss the snow. It takes me 30% longer to get going in the morning, but I am grateful for oatmeal and Cheerios and a job I like. I am grateful that I can still do cross-stitch. And I am grateful for lap cats and snuggle cats. I have much to be grateful for even if, at times, I don't remember that.

So, where am I in the drive to remove the negative and embrace gratitude? It's coming. I've spent so long with that critical me pounding on my self-esteem that embracing gratitude will take some time. Change is done in baby steps and I seem to be walking now.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


The Things We Find

Over the weekend, while doing some uploading to the guild web site and burning CD's, I took a moment to clean off the top of my computer desk and clean the space around it. It was one of those acts that you know you should do at some point, but it's so low on the priority list as to be nowhere near the immediate 'gotta do'. Cleaning became an act of spontaneity. I should dust off the back of the desk, but I'll settle for cleaned off and organized right now.

There are two bins on the floor next to the desk. One is for office supplies. One is for, well look at that. Here are my stamps and ink pads. I was looking for them to stamp the front of Christmas cards but, in December, couldn't remember where I'd put them. On the floor next to the desk is not the most memorable place, but I don't have another place that's an intuitive place to put the bin, so right now, it will stay where it is.

In the course of cleaning, I stumbled across a few things. Confetti. Four packages of confetti. I went through a confetti phase where it was the thing to add to cards. I have (clockwise from upper left) stars; ghosts, pumpkins and black cats; balloons; and small cats.

I'm not sure what to do with this stuff. I wouldn't dream of sticking it in cards now. I know how I would feel if I opened a card and confetti fell out. I'm not even sure why I bought these in the first place. I probably had a reason. For now, I stuck the packages in a drawer. Maybe one of my readers wants them.

The next item I know why I bought it. In 2006, I went to Colonial Williamsburg. My clan had their annual meeting there. I had never been to this location and a clan meeting was a good way to see Williamsburg. It was a fun time, very interesting. I came back with some decent souvenirs, one of which is to the left.

Carole used to collect key chains. They are easy to store and inexpensive to obtain. She also played the flute and, while this is a fife player, it's reminiscent of the flute. It was a couple bucks in one of the stores. I was going to give it to her in her Christmas stocking.

But, when I came back from the trip, she had decided she didn't want to store all these key chains she'd collected. While they were nice and a wonderful way of remembering where she'd been, she had too many of them and collecting these didn't interest her anymore. The keychain was set aside and set aside some more and fell into the box of office supplies. I don't need it. It will probably wind up in the give away bag unless someone out there wants it.

I found these scissors I had forgotten I had. They have a scalloped edge and I know I bought them to make cards one year. I moved them from the office bin to the crafting drawer in the wardrobe behind me. I'm not sure how much use I'll get out of them, but in the drawer, which I do use often, at least I'll see them more than in the bottom of a bin. I could, very easily, part with these. About the time I ship them off, I'll find a use for them but that's the way it goes.

Lastly, I found these items that I won't part with. These were my grandfather's. The upper left item enlarges the print in a small area. We used these in college to look at photos and text when I was on the newspaper. Back in the days of Linotype, this magnifying monocle was a necessity to check for broken letters. I used to use it when I edited a magazine and needed to proof the product before it went to print. Grandpa Al was in publicity for Allis Chalmers so he would have used it to look at photos and type for ads.

The large circular glass is also a magnifying glass. I'm not sure exactly what grandpa used it for but I can speculate. He was an avid coin and stamp collector. I do remember him using the monocle viewer to look at coins and stamps. I'm thinking he used the large magnifier for the same purpose.

It's not that I won't get rid of them because of their attachment to my grandfather. There is that. But these are useful. I don't like to do cross-stitch on anything smaller than 18 count fabric. Generally, when you go smaller, you're doing stitching over 2 squares, not just one. It's way too hard for me to see the thread count. So I stay with what I can see easily. The smaller thread counts lend themselves to more intricately detailed cross-stitched pictures. I have some I'd like to try. Having a magnifying glass handy could make the stitching process easier for me. If I combine that with the new glasses I intend to get at the end of the month, I'll look through my patterns for something reasonably easy and give it a go. I moved these to the craft drawer too where, in theory, I'll remember where they are. In practice, there will be a post come April about where did I put those.

So, I'm inspired now to move onward through the office and clean out more piles. I wish I knew how to put things up on eBay. I have things that probably others would want or could use. I've realized that stuff does not equate to happiness and my happiness would be better if I had less stuff. If you're a friend and you want any of the top three items, you know how to contact me.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Monday, February 6, 2012

I Want to Cuddle It

This fellow lives either under or directly adjacent to the deck.

When I put out the peanuts yesterday, he/she startled me by dashing away from the deck. I'm not sure if he/she has a nest of sorts between the deck and the air conditioning unit or if he/she actually is under the deck. He/she moved so fast I'm thinking he/she is either tucked up next to the house or the AC unit. He/she just sat there while I took some photos.

What strikes me about this photo is that it clearly shows the camouflage of the rabbit. If you were giving a leaf strewn area a cursory glance, you probably wouldn't see the it. He/she is rather bold living up against the deck. While the girls aren't outside all that much, they do come out. I'm not sure precisely what they would do if they spotted the bunny. I'm not sure I want to find out either.

Beverage: Darjeeling tea


Serious Stitching

I completed these items on the project on Friday. I was going to continue working on this on Saturday but you know how things go. I decided to upload a file folder of photos of my World of Warcraft guild. That took awhile. Then, I burned 2 CD's worth of images which were erased off my hard drive. Then, I burned two CD's of guild movies. While things were burning, I tidied the computer desk and decided to tidy up around it, finding some things I've been looking for and things I didn't know I had.

You know how it goes. Do a load of wash and work on dishes and suddenly, the whole day is gone. On the face of it, I hadn't cleaned anything that could be discerned, but clearing space on my computer hard drive is a good thing.

So, Sunday afternoon was devoted to stitching.

It's beginning to look like something.

Beverage: Darjeeling tea



I spread some temptation outside yesterday afternoon. The reason for this is that while I was doing dishes I happened to see a black squirrel in the back yard. Big deal, I hear you say. No, really, this is a big deal. I had never seen a black squirrel until 2000, when I visited a former friend who lived in Port Perry, Ontario, Canada. She was quite amused at my excitement since black squirrels are common there. Wikipedia lists their habitat as thus:
Large natural populations of black squirrels can be found throughout Ontario and in several parts of Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Indiana, Virginia, Washington DC, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.[6] Populations of grey squirrels in which the black subgroup is dominant can be found in these six areas as well as in smaller enclaves in New Jersey, southern New York, Illinois and Connecticut.[7]
In July, I started seeing a couple in the block south of me. Perhaps they have been here all along but I've lived in this neighborhood nearly 30 years and this is the first time I've seen them. I'm excited. We have the big, fat red and gray squirrels so it's exciting to see a different color. It came up on the deck but, by the time I could get the camera, it had disappeared. My hope is that by putting out peanuts, I will tempt it to stay.

 I decided to up the ante a bit, too, and maybe provide some photographic opportunities. I'm hoping one or more squirrels will get used to activity beyond the window and will wind up sitting there, on the deck railing, as they eat. This morning, most of the stash had been pillaged by a grey squirrel who was decidedly camera shy. I'll need to keep the bird bath full of water. I rinsed it out yesterday and refilled it. I have seen squirrels come to the bath to drink.

I am hopeful. I know some people view squirrels as vermin and they can be harmful if they get into your house. Still, the chance of some biological diversity in my little back yard is something I want to encourage. I do need to wash the exterior of the office windows. Man. You do something like this in the hopes of taking photos and I suddenly realize just how dirty the exterior of these windows are.

So, here we go in the grand experiment in welcoming squirrels.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Friday, February 3, 2012

Thanks, April and Perry

For Christmas, April and Perry gave me a Steak 'n Shake gift card. On Tuesday, Pam and I went to Steak 'n Shake. We had not gotten together since early December. She works at a charitable organization and the end of the year is always one of her busiest times with last minute "I want to donate some money" gifts coming in. I know how irritated I can get when I have all my tax information EXCEPT that one piece of paper from some organization to whom I have donated money. Then I listen to how much work Pam has to do to make sure everything is done in compliance with both tax laws and her employer's standards and we joke that we won't see her from mid-December until mid-February. "I think she's under that stack of papers over yonder." This really is the kind of thing that can't be automated. It takes a real person to make sure the $40 I give gets acknowledged and then filed with the IRS and whatever else the organization does with it.

So, I was very grateful that she was able to take time off from the overtime she's been working to come to Steak 'n Shake with me. She has done a lot for me over the years including take me to Steak 'n Shake, so my ability to take her there made me feel wonderful. And, to have that event provided by two other wonderful friends spreads the gratitude around. (See what I did there?)

All day I was thinking about the food I would have. I had it winnowed down to chicken fingers and their bacon cheese fries. Yes, yes, yes. I know bacon cheese fries are hardening your arteries as you read this. BUT, I eat these maybe once every 6 months, if that. I think I would hate them if I suddenly had the urge to eat them even once a month. They are quite fat-filled but as a rare treat, they are acceptable. It is debatable if the yellow stuff is real cheese or a cheese-flavored something or other, but they taste good, again, once or twice a year. 

Karma was good to me and the mail brought a Steak 'n Shake flyer with coupons. The end result was that I could get a sundae free and my chicken fingers and bacon cheese fries at $1.50 off the regular price. That alone paid for the shake; M&M, if you please. I had to bring both home because, honestly, I was full after three large pieces of breaded chicken breast and the baconist, cheesiest fries I've had in awhile. The shake was consumed during WOW while we killed a dragon. I wound up saving the sundae for the next day. I was too full. It was kind of mushy the next day but I liked it because it was free. 

Pam and I got caught up on everything, so we are set now until probably the end of March. I love having friends like this where each meeting is a 'pick up where we left off' one, filled with laughter. Our server at Steak 'n Shake was really good, too. Just attentive enough without our feeling that he was hovering. 

So, thank you April and Perry. You made both of us very happy. 

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Thursday Stitching

I haven't been sleeping well of late. I wake up every couple of hours. Hence, I find myself nodding off during the day, going home and being wired at night so the cycle begins again. Last night, I came home, sat down in the recliner, had Pilchard sit down in my lap and, the next thing I know, it's an hour later. I start to get down on myself.

But that small voice inside me that is trying to help me remember gratitude pipes up that now, when I'm feeling badly about nodding off, would be a good time to stitch. Now, when the voice of failure and how I 'shoudda' done something can be drowned out by the small voice of gratitude for having something I like to do in front of me.

So the dishes and the wash and the 'shouddas' were set aside and I stitched for an hour before making myself supper and trotting off to play WoW. It still doesn't look like much, does it? Technically, I have finished the lighter mauve pink and the light blue but I'll keep those colors in the bag in case I didn't read the chart right.

I'm getting there, both in remembering to listen to the voice advocating gratitude and in finishing another project.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Still Doesn't Look Like Much

Another hour spent stitching last night. It was quite relaxing.

This project still doesn't look like much. It's going fast. The weekend is to be rainy with snow mixed in for good measure. It's the perfect combination to putting up the feet, tossing a load of wash in the machine and just stitching. I've been quite stressed since Monday and stitching relieves my stress.

It's good that I didn't pick too difficult of a pattern for this next project. If I'd have to do partial stitches while feeling this overwhelmed, the stitching would contribute to feeling badly.

As it is, all it does is relax me and give me a feeling of accomplishment. That's what hobbies should do, make you feel good.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Have We Here

I went to dinner with Pam last night. Prior to her picking me up, I decided I needed to replace that light bulb in the front light that had burned out. The back light needs an electrician's touch to fix so the front is the only working exterior light. I was coming home in the dark and needed it working.

I took out the old bulb and, well what do you know. Look at that. I don't know if this is a yellow jacket or a wasp nest. Both are opportunistic builders. Whichever one it is doesn't need to be there. This is right by the front door.

So, I took a knife and knocked down the nest. I'll need to keep an eye on the light this summer as once they have built a nest in a certain location, they will return to that location. A small sign asking them to move won't do the trick.

I walked around the house, looking at the eaves just in case there was another mass I needed to knock down before the creators returned. Thankfully, I found nothing. Once the nest was removed and the bulb replaced, I had front light again.

This explains why I felt there were more wasps around the front door last year than in previous years. I'll just have to remain vigilant to keep them away.

Beverage:  Water


One Year Ago

Yesterday, I came home from work and let the girls out on the deck. It was 58 on the last day of January. A thin sunshine worked its way through the over cast. We sat on the deck and smelled the early smells of a spring unsure of what was going on. We enjoyed a few minutes on the deck with a light breeze.

Last year, after work time was the leading edge of what we remember as the 4th worst blizzard in Chicago history. Yesterday, at 1, we went into Mike's office and said, with smirks on our face, that a year prior, we had gone home at 1 due to the weather. He laughed and said, "Ah...no. Everyone back to work."

I went home on that Tuesday and didn't leave until the next Monday. I look through my collection of blizzard photos and it all comes flooding back to me, the snow, the cold, particularly, the need to shovel because there wasn't anyone to help me get out.

We've had 10 inches so far this winter, which is less than half what we got in one fell swoop at the beginning of the month. I expect the weather to vary year to year, but this does seem rather radical. There is still a month and a half of "winter" left. The snow shovels sit on the deck, almost begging to be used.

I'm not that upset that I've only done one shoveling so far. That was quite enough. I do miss the white of snow, after all I live where winter equals snow. There's a magic when the snow sticks to everything. But, if I had to choose between this and the afternoon above with the girls, I'll choose the afternoon. This makes for a story to be told and retold over the next years, but not something my achy muscles want to handle.

Beverage:  water