Monday, April 30, 2012


I have a CVS "extra care" card. It's one of those loyalty cards that almost everyone is doing now. CVS is very close to my house so I go there for my prescriptions. I don't know what the criteria is for getting a coupon tacked onto the end of my receipt. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Usually, it's for a $1.00 off my next visit so I'll tack it to the fridge and then forget it because I don't need to go to CVS for prescriptions.

Lately, with all the meds I take and with the staggered nature of the amounts I was given, I find I'm there more than I've ever been. I don't want lots of pill bottles around so I refill a script only when I'm low on it, which reminds me, the metholtrexate is due before Friday. I take the new bottle home and dump the few remaining pills from the old bottle into the new bottle, remove and shred the label and recycle the bottle. I tried giving the bottle back to the pharmacy people but they look at me funny, shrug and toss it into the trash. There is, perhaps, a reason you can't reuse it. I would imagine some pills have residue on them. But I would also imagine there's a market for recyclable pill bottles. There is a recycle mark on the bottle, after all. Having seen them just toss an old bottle, I decided I can recycle all of it and feel better about it.

So, last week, I picked up another batch of folic acid. I was down to 3 pills. I got some chocolate at the same time because it was the weekend and I deserve chocolate. Out comes my receipt with the above attached. Now, these loyalty cards are supposed to provide the vendor with information on buying habits. They are supposed to guarantee that any coupons you get are tailored to what you purchase. Therfore, I won't ever get a coupon for hair dye because I've never purchased hair dye at CVS, as a for instance.

This is quite interesting. I have small blue warning labels on both the Prednisone and the metholtrexate that inform me I am not to take any kind of over the counter pain reliever while on either drug. How nice, then, to get a coupon for $2.50 off any pain reliever, a drug I cannot take. In fact, I have a large bottle of plain aspirin in the medicine chest that I wonder what I should do with now. Perhaps their system needs to synch with everything in the store. I could use a coupon for vitamins or chocolate but not pain relievers. Unfortunately, I can't give this to anyone either because my name was on it.

It's possible their coupon system is rudimentary. Maybe the next coupon available to me was for pain relievers and the system doesn't match up anything. Wonder what the next coupon will be? Dog food?

Beverage: Dr Pepper



I am working from right to left from the right corner now. I finished that small blob which was light copper and then went back to filling in the medium copper. Another day's work and I'll be on the left side.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


I Am in Love

Love, noun, verb 
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
I remember, many, many years ago, a commercial where a young woman sat at the feet of an older woman who was in a rocking chair. The young woman looked at the camera and said something to the effect that the older woman said you cannot love a thing. Grammatically, "love" was only to be used between humans. Then the younger woman espoused the "love" she had for a brand of ice cream. The older woman scowled. The younger woman handed the older woman a spoonful of ice cream. After eating it, the older woman allowed that perhaps she had been wrong, snatched the ice cream from the younger woman and happily dug into it. 
This flickering image of an old commercial rose to my mind when I had this spread on toasted English muffins for breakfast on Sunday. I found this stuff at Target last weekend. I vaguely remember there used to be something like this years ago but it disappeared. This is soooo good. It spreads like peanut butter. The tastes of peanut butter AND chocolate are evident. And when spread on hot English muffins, it's heaven. 
I found a recipe for "Banana Chocolate French Toast" which has you put a chocolate spread, like Nutella, with bananas between whole wheat bread. I almost bought some Nutella but then I saw this. I'm going to make this french toast recipe and use this. Yes, there will be a post on how that turns out. 
If you like peanut butter and chocolate, I strongly recommend you try to find this. Check Target first, in the peanut butter section. This won't be replacing peanut butter in my cupboard, but it has almost replaced it in my sandwiches. You can bet I'm always going to have a jar of this on the shelf.
Beverage:  Huckleberry tea 

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Sunset

A couple hours of stitching and the sunset on the right side is taking shape. You can see how the change from doing all one color to working in bands makes this a bit easier. I did the medium copper, then a band of light copper and then the yellow and then back to the light copper. There's less chance I'm going to screw up the stitch placement. It possibly wouldn't matter as these are rather amorphous bands, but I want to be true to the designer's piece or why follow the chart.

Last night, I worked another hour and a half, while dinner cooked.

The medium copper of the sunset rules the top of the design. If you haven't figured out what this is, you might have a clue now. I have to work carefully as there are some spots of light copper in this upper right corner. This involves a lot of counting and referring back to the chart. Pilchard seems to finally understand that if she sits in my lap, I will scratch ears and chin occasionally as I work. There's more chance of cross-stitching fur into the design, however, so I have to be vigilant.

What you can't see in the photograph is how the glitter of the fabric adds to the sunset. I'm liking this, a lot. I hope the recipient likes it too.

Beverage:  Sencha tea


Shoots and Leaves

I pulled out one of the tins of loose tea that Amber sent me for Christmas. Amongst the 12 pack, are names that I don't recognize. I can be rather timid in trying something new, especially when it comes to tea. I love tea. I drink it like some people drink coffee. Taking a leap and trying a different kind is a bit scary. What if I don't like it? But then I realize that every tea that I do like was foreign to me at one point. It's hot water and plant parts. Just jump in. So, the tea selected was Sencha.

Wikipedia tells me that Sencha is Japanese tea. It's the most popular form of tea in Japan and is made from unground leaves. The leaves are steamed and then rolled. Doing this creates the tubular leaves characteristic of this tea. I poured some into the strainer and this is what it looked like. Yes, that's a twig. I left it in the tea because I thought it was part of it. After reading about Sencha, I'm not so sure it is, but whatever.

So, I pour the hot water over the leaves and twig and let it steep. Tea should be left to steep for about 3 minutes to release all the aromas of the variety. Longer and some teas get bitter. Shorter and you don't have full flavor. I don't always let my tea steep for 3 minutes. It depends upon if I'm in a hurry or how strong I want the result.

This is the result after steeping. I pulled the strainer out of the water and thought, it looks exactly like grass clippings. And the aroma wafting off these leaves was quite "grassy". I wasn't sure I liked the smell. The twig is nowhere to be found. I haven't really poked around in the leaves to see if it sank to the bottom or what. I also thought, "Well, if you're going to read tea leaves, you probably don't use these." It was quite interesting.

What did the resulting tea look like? It's yellow. It's not green at all. That surprised me. I was expecting green. The tin's lid describes this as a perfect whole-day sipping tea. It's yellow. It was okay, kind of mild for my taste, but it was good. But yellow? I then read in wikipedia that this tea goes from green to yellow depending upon how long the leaves are steeped. Yellow is the strongest form of it.

You know me, I'll use a bag or a bunch of leaves until the water doesn't have any tea color in it. I will give this another shot and see how dark I can get the color. Wiki said leaving it to steep too long can result in a bitter tea. I like my tea strong so I'm curious to see what defines "bitter".

This is interesting. Amber's box has more names on it with which I have no familiarity. Expanding my tea experience is a good thing.

Beverage:  Sencha tea


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Flitting About

Maybe it's my observational powers or the desire to be more observational, but there seem to be more butterflies around this spring.

I have no idea what this one is but there have been a lot of these around the deck this month. I've come home from work and found 3 or 4 of them attached to various parts of the western side of the house. I know they are basking in the warmth of the sun but I don't recall finding them in clusters like this.

On Monday, I was back in the city to finish up the project I was working on Friday. As I worked around this parking lot, this little guy kept circling me, finally alighting on the fence.

It is said that butterflies determine the state of the earth. If we don't have butterflies, the area where we are at is apt to be polluted. At some point, my yard will have monarchs and these yellow butterflies that arrive in summer. Having these is another reason to provide flowers. They are such simple creatures but give such beauty.

Beverage: tea


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not Breakfast

And here is another in my random series of "I'll Eat This So You Don't Have To".

I know you're asking yourself, "Just what the heck is this?" It's brand new from Life Cereal. This is Quaker Life Strawberry Crunchtime Multigrain Cereal. Yeah, try asking for that when your significant other says, "We're out of cereal. What do you want?" I needed cereal and Target had these for $2.50 a box. There's probably a reason for that price. It's called, "These aren't selling. Let's see whom we can foist them onto." Well, me, for one. It's Life. It's strawberry. It's cheap.

It's not tasty. It turns the milk a strawberry quick color and the sugar leeches out into the milk. I don't like sugared milk. They got soggy much too fast and the "multigrain" part is so far down the ingredient list, I feel like they added it because the corn they used happened to drive by wheat and oat fields on the way to the processing plant. Strawberry flavor? Well, yeah, but it's that synthetic strawberry flavor.

Now, here's the marketing on the box. "Just 6 grams of sugar per serving." That is less than a box of Fruit Loops or Cap'n Crunch or many other cereals directed at kids. Kids aren't going to care. It's got fiber! Kids don't care. It's got vitamin B6. Again, kids don't care. Parents do and, although the giant strawberry on the front of the package is designed to capture the child's eye, the marketing is strictly to the parent. "Put this on your morning table and feel good about kid's cereals."

I poured out a bowl and the first thing that struck me was, "This looks like Kaboom." Who remembers Kaboom? It was for sale until 2010. Little pseudo-clown faces with marshmallow circus animals. It was another version of Lucky Charms, but not as sweet. I loved Kaboom. These are the red clown faces from Kaboom. There is an apple cinnamon version of this cereal I'll have to try so you don't have to.

Save your money. Go get a box of Cheerios or Kix, slice in some strawberries and serve that for breakfast. Or get your child eating oatmeal in the morning. You don't need a cereal ostensibly for kids that is marketed to adults. I will be eating this up and never again allowing it to darken my doorway.

Bring back Kaboom. Really. It was far better.

Beverage:  Lipton tea


What If I Mixed Them All Together

I finished using up all the packets of scents I had collected over the years. Out of that group, I liked the Avon Soft Musk and the Givenchy best. Now it's time to move on to these little sampler vials.

I collected all the ones I could find in the basket on the dressing table. It took a bit of moving to find the ones on the left, the loose vials, unattached to any kind of identifying card. As you can see, a couple have their names printed on them, but I have three for which I have no clue what they are. My goal now is to use all these up.

I started with the vial to the left. I suspect, judging by the sameness of the blue-topped vial to the right, it's the same scent. What that scent is, I haven't a clue, but, after a couple days of use, I will say it's not unpleasant. I have a bit of difficulty in getting the top off without some very minor splashing. With these vials, I'm not sure anyone can get them off all the time without having to wipe their hands on their body parts at least once.

It's probably going to take at least 2 weeks of near daily use to get through a vial. So, these 5 represent almost 2 months of scents. Once they are done, I can start in on the ones with cards.

I wondered what kind of scent I would make if I just dumped them all into an empty bottle. I have several of one scent. Would that one overpower the others? I'm just crazy enough to try that but I don't have a proper bottle to house the resulting liquid. So, I'll just start with one, finish it off and move on to another.

I found, with the samplers prior, scents can be remarkably similar. "The scents of exotic fruits, amber, patchouli, flowers, and spices." Or, "the intoxicating scents of sandalwood, vanilla, bitter orange, rose, gardenia, jasmine, amber, and mandarin". Shrug. We'll see. This is more about getting rid of than comparing or assessing worth. If I can find a bottle, I still may dump them all together just because I can.

Beverage:  Lipton tea



This is the time of year when the front maple tree goes bonkers.

Look at all the seeds. I don't remember, in recent years, there being this many in this tree. Perhaps it's a result of the weather.

They are everywhere in the front yard and into the street now.

Mostly there are individual ones around but, in some places, clusters have fallen. And there are still more on the tree.

They are hanging on tenaciously, waiting for that one breeze to dislodge them and send them spinning. I haven't seen them fall. It's like they wait, on purpose, for me to be gone and then everyone makes the leap.

I had a college friend who was a missionary to Bangladesh. She taught in a small school attached to a Christian church. It was the only school for something like 20 miles in any direction and, as they were quite well funded, had things the villagers had never experienced, like books and basic first aid.

One year, I collected about 3 dozen of these and sent them to her for the class she taught. They made it through customs, which is always a concern when you send plants, and all the way to her. She gave each student a seed and then they all tossed them into the air. She said the children issued squeals of delight when they watched the seeds twirl to the ground. It took up the rest of the day. Of course, by the time I got the letter back saying these were a huge hit, they were gone.

It's such a wonderful mess. I have a rake now. I could go out and rake these up. Zeke will just mulch them into the lawn. There is something magical about this, however. I love collecting handfuls and tossing them into the air. I'm sure it spawns some rather strange looks from the neighbors. Life is too short not to toss maple seeds and watch them spin in the breeze.

Beverage: Lipton tea


5 1/2 Weeks

Zeke, the guy who mows my lawn, is taking some horticultural classes at College of DuPage. He was told by one of his instructors, that flowering and blooming plants are 5 1/2 weeks ahead of where they would be normally. I can see it now.

The lilacs are done. I spent part of last Saturday just smelling them. I see where Hallmark has a lilac candle available for Mother's Day. I wonder how close it is. And, I need to make a distinction here. The late blooming lilacs, the small flower clusters on an equally small plant, are Miss Kim version. They have a spicy scent which is okay, but I prefer the Persian lilac version. The white ones are called "Abraham Lincoln". I need to spend some time over the summer, pruning my lilacs back. They only blossom on old stalks and pruning all the suckers they make leads to more sturdy plants and more flowers. More flowers is very good.

I'm struck by the dearth in color now. We've got typical spring weather; upper 50's to 60's during the day, upper 30's and 40's with the occasional frost warning at night. This would be the time where tulips would be everywhere. Nothing much is left. We were all thrilled with the exceptionally warm March, but now the color that is missing reminds me unseasonable isn't always exciting.

I spent Friday in the city on a project. The building where I was at has this amazing side garden. The tulips there are the end of the season tulips and were at peak.
 I loved the look. They have pink...

white with pink stripes...

and Queen of the Night tulips.

I love the dark juxtaposed with the light colors. I see this and think, you know what would be an incredible sight, Queen of the Night tulips with late season yellow. Yes, it would be my Iowa black and gold, in my yard. Doing that means actually getting my strength to a point where I can dig up a section and plant tulips in September. Not sure that's going to happen, but this display inspires me.

As the weather warms, I'll be filling pots and growing flowers. Maybe, mid-May, a trip to a plant center could be in order to add color to the yard. Right now, while the green is lovely, I'm really missing the scattered color you'd normally have at this time. Maybe Mother Nature did this so I wouldn't be so anxious for a change of season. I like this quote from Robin Williams, or at least attributed to him, "Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'". I'm wishing the party hadn't been so early.

Beverage:  Lipton tea


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unforeseen Consequences

Isn't he cute? He comes around now just looking for peanuts. He knows I'll toss them out on the deck on occasion and so he's started visiting to see if there are any.

Well, file this under "no good deed goes unpunished". I toss a couple handfuls onto the deck, in front of the back door, and place a handful on the end of the deck rail. One cat can sit at the back door and watch, while the other cat can sit at the window and watch. Yes, it could be the same squirrel stealing all the nuts but there is a fatter one who shows up on occasion. (I still have not see anything of the black one who was in the yard in the winter.)

Sunday, the peanut eater created a huge bunch of drama between the girls. If I'd really thought this out, I probably could have seen this coming, but my goal was to provide some minor entertainment. I had just settled down with my breakfast oatmeal to balance my checkbook and there erupted a massive cat fight in the kitchen. Mija came charging down the hallway with Pilchard in hot pursuit. There was much growling, hissing and some swiping of paws. I broke that up, sent them to their respective corners and yelled, "Stop it!" Unfortunately, that didn't stop it.

The rest of the day, they took turns sniping, growling, hissing at and fighting with each other. It got really bad when Pilchard cornered Mija in the bathroom. I thought fur was going to fly or Mija would come out biting. We've already had a problem with Pilchard getting bit. I don't want another one.

At first, I couldn't figure out what would have triggered such horribly aggressive and hostile behavior in two cats who have been raised together for years. Then, later that night, a raccoon jumped up on the deck railing just outside this window. Mija was asleep on the shelf unit under the window and Pilchard was asleep in the chair to my right. Mija instantly hissed and growled and swiped at the window. Pilchard, awoke and when Mija jumped down off the shelf unit, hissed and growled at her. Bingo. They must have both been at the back door earlier in the day when the squirrel showed up. Cats are notoriously territorial about prey and if both of them saw the squirrel, they would have unleashed the "That's mine" against the other one. It was really, really bad on Sunday.

By Monday, they had calmed down to half of what it was on Sunday. Mija still hissed and growled when she met Pilchard in the hallway and Pilchard still stalked Mija when she would come through the kitchen following me. They seemed to both need reassurance that I was over yelling at them. There are no patches of fur missing, no obvious teeth marks. So, we seem to have gotten through this.

But, I think I shall be limiting how many peanuts I spread out and where they go. It really bothers me to see the natural anger of the girls explode like that. I tried to keep them calm and separated but they want to be with and near me and that seemed to exacerbate the hostilities on Sunday. I need to think about this. Avoidable vet bills are not to be encouraged.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Trying to Get Into the House

I came home from work on Monday and saw this at the back door. It possibly doesn't look like much, but that's a spider and she had spun her web from the back doorknob across the entry. I had to give her points for ingenuity.

I don't have anything really against spiders. I've come a long way from wanting every single one of them killed to understanding the great benefit they provide. This isn't a "Charlotte's Web" kind of thing either. I know, from studies done by a myriad of people, we'd have way more harmful insects if we killed all the spiders. Flies, great disease spreaders, would overpopulate our ability to use insecticide to kill them. Spiders, even the deadly ones, provide a great service to humanity. We, in turn, provide great places for them to build their homes to catch their meals.

It's just that across my back door is not a good place for a spider. Neither is the corner of the living room or between the canisters on the kitchen counter. I don't like the half a dime-size black ones with the little yellow spots. They don't build webs, rather, they hide and leap out at their prey. Catching them to toss them outside can be an exercise in "OMG...Where did it leap to?"

It felt bad to have to destroy the web to get into the house. I picked her off the web using a nearby stick and put her in amongst the plants on the side of the deck with the admonition that her location was not in a good spot. This will be the first of many spiders relocated to better hunting grounds this year.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Red Green in Concert Without Duct Tape

Back in February, I got a ticket to see Red Green in concert. Red Green is a Canadian who developed a whole empire around a semi-clueless guy who did handyman projects with duct tape, belonged to a lodge (think real life Flinstones) and had a variety of friends with quirks. My sister exposed me to this humor back in the 1990's as she was able to pick up the show from a Sault Ste Marie, Michigan TV station. Red "invaded" the US in 2000-ish and duct tape has never been the same. Many PBS stations, generally not in the big cities like Chicago, picked up the syndication and Possum Lodge fever swept parts of the US. I had to go back to Iowa to see him, although he was picked up by a small PBS station in Chicago about 4 years ago. Unfortunately, I didn't find out until a couple years ago so missed a number of episodes. Plus, the show is on Saturday night and I generally have World of Warcraft plans, not TV plans, on Saturday night.

I think the TV show is funny, more so because I've known people who use duct tape in the manner in which the character uses it. The relationship humor is spot on. I think the show appeals to those of us out in the sticks who have had to "make do", "make up", and "make over" what life has given us. I thought, if the show is funny, the stand-up ought to be as funny, too.

The show was held in the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, Illinois. It's a great 1920's era restored theater that is a gem to walk into and just stand there looking. The photos I took were really blurry, owing to the crush of people around me who wouldn't allow me to just stand in one place and shoot. Plus, inside the theater part, I felt conspicuous using flash. The marquee is above and the carvings and pillars above the entry are carried out throughout the theater. I believe they have theater tours and it might be something to look into.

I got there a bit early. There is next to nothing open in downtown Joliet at 6:25 p.m. on a Monday night. Parking, in the one garage I remembered was by cash only. I had no cash. I almost never have cash anymore as 99% of the places I go take debit or credit cards. The guy let me park on the promise I'd come back to him. I asked where an ATM from my bank was and he directed me beyond the theater. I walked 15 minutes around downtown Joliet and never saw an ATM for my bank. I gave up and went inside, worried that I'd have a parking ticket or worse, have my car towed. Neither happened, but this is a notice to me. I need to have a 10 spot in my wallet at all times for things like this.

Now, about the show. Red Green encouraged people to take all the photos they wanted. I know a bit about cameras and knew my little point and shoot wasn't going to get him in any kind of focus. He did stop occasionally, to make a joke and I tried to take photos during those times. This is the best I could do.

The show is humorous. There were times of knee-slapping humor. There were times to chortle, to guffaw, to snicker. There were also a few times, when stuff fell flat but I guess that happens to all stand-up comedians. Knowing the TV show helps the humor. I think anyone dragged along who didn't know the show probably didn't get some of the jokes. Of course, I can't, a day later, recall anything that was stand-out funny, but the show certainly had its moments.

There was a woman behind me and to my right who thought everything was funny, every joke, every movement, every stare, every point at the audience. I can't go that far. The venue was not sold out and there were very good seats in front of me which were not filled. A couple of people left half-way through the first act and several groups of people around me did not come back after intermission.

I did not realize it but the TV show is no longer in production. They filmed 300 episodes and are working to get all shows up on the web site for free. I do know one of the actors passed away about a year ago and several cast members had moved on to do other things. At one point, the Canadian Broadcasting Company was going to cancel the show due to funding but the faithful raised a lot of money to help keep it on the air for another couple of years. This tour seems to be a result of the cancellation. Let's take the schtick to the people.

The thing, for me, is that although I think the show is really funny, the live comedy wasn't as good. This is the first "concert", if you can call stand-up a concert, involving a comedian that I have seen. I don't know if, say, Jerry Seinfeld at his prime, was like this. It's one guy, on a vast stage and everything is on him to keep the audience engaged. We have a shared theme here, The Red Green Show, but, I knew several of the jokes he used (Internet memes) and some of the jokes were familiar schticks from the show. I don't know that I had any real idea of what the show would be. This was new.

Now that I've seen him, I won't go to another show unless I give it as a gift to someone. For me, it wasn't the kind of humor that I am dying to see again. He's wry, he can make some very good topical humor, some pointed observational human traits humor, but about 25% of the show just wasn't, for me, funny. Still, I am very glad I went and if you know anything about Red Green, I encourage you to go to one of the shows.

I enjoyed going to this. The drive home was wonderful with a sliver of a moon, Jupiter and lots of visible stars. It was kind of the icing on a lovely evening.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Using Them Up

You've all read the stories about how merchants love gift cards. Great Aunt Sally buys you a $25 gift card from Bath and Body Works because she really doesn't know want to get you. You're okay with the card although B&BW isn't one of the places you go to a lot. You stick the card in your wallet and, 18 months later, it's still there. It might have even expired. The store got Aunt Sally's money. You have a piece of plastic.

It's the same way with loyalty cards. It doesn't really cost Hallmark anything to issue me a $7.00 gift certificate for being a loyal purchaser of their product. I forget what the percentage I saw quoted is about certificate redemption but it might have been just over 50%. That means, there are a huge bunch of certificates which will expire before the customer uses them. I know that first hand. I just don't have a need for cards so the certificate hangs on the fridge until I find it with the every other month cleaning.

When you're trying to make every penny stretch, this is and isn't a good practice. I tend to get Hallmark gift certificates when I really don't NEED cards or wrapping paper or anything they have to offer. I like having cards available so I don't have to swing by the store for a birthday card, so I have a stash. I don't want to get more cards so I can get $5 off a $15 purchase. That's not cost effective. But sometimes, the money off actually works.

As part of Panera's loyalty program, they send out Internet offers. One of them was for free soup. I love their chicken with wild rice soup. An Internet offer, I am not likely to remember, print out or use so it costs them nothing to send it to me. This time, however, I got soup...and a brownie...and a drink, so lunch on Thursday was $2.97.

Today, I hauled out all the cards I've received over the months and tried to use them up. I stopped at the hardware store and bought more ant killer and a rake. Now, I can feel guilty about not doing more yard work, because I have a rake. That was $5.00 off on my total purchase. It wound up that the ant killer was, essentially, free.

I went on to Target and bought groceries. It was just a lot of little stuff excepting the cat food and kitty litter. I'm in a cooking frame of mind and the things I wanted to cook required one ingredient I didn't have. I'm good, now, until the end of the month. I received a $25 American Express gift card so that took care of half of the purchase.

My friend, Patt, sent me a Starbucks card for my birthday last year. I did get several of Starbucks' seasonal hot cocoa drinks, but I never used the card up completely. On the way out of Target, I got a hot cocoa and used up the card.

I forgot the $1 off coupon from CVS where I picked up my vitamin D pill script this morning. It's not a very costly script, but saving a dollar is saving a dollar. I have it stuck to the fridge and I walked right by it.

So, that uses up all except one. I did rather well today to get things I needed for less. I have a Best Buy gift card, won for knowing more answers to a trivia questionnaire than anyone else in the office when we were doing mandatory training. I do not know the amount. Some were $20. Some were $25 and some were $50. I don't know what I want to use this for. I thought I'd be needing a new mouse but that got resolved. Should I buy movies? I don't watch many now. Adding to the collection seems like a waste. Hence this card just sits. I don't think it has an expiration date but I'd rather just use it up than hang onto it and, by extension, lose it.

Any suggestions, and no, I won't mail it to you.

Beverage:  Water


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Now For the Counting Part

It was a rough night last night so I sought solace in my stitching. It seems to center me, calm me down somewhat and helped me relax enough to fall asleep. All this in spite of the fact that I am to actual counting of stitches on this piece.

While the piece is done completely in full crosses, as I am climbing to the right top of the design, the yellow, light and medium copper colors are becoming intermingled. There are bands of color, to be sure, but, more often than not, there are two or three stitches of one color off to the side in another color. I was stitching all the yellow but realized, with the bands of medium and light copper working their way through, I would get off in counting where each color went.

My new strategy, employed after doing the middle yellow band that bends backwards on itself, is to work a section of color in a "line" somewhat. Then, when I've finished another band which adjoins it, come back to that color even if it eventually ties in with a band done previously. Got that? No? Well, suffice it to say, at this point, I'm not working all one color. With the random colors interspersed, I'll screw up the count.

After finishing that small yellow blob last night, I will come back with the light copper and fill in around it. After that, I'll come back with the medium copper. You can see a few holes on the right side. They were to be filled with medium copper but light copper was around them and I was having problems counting for the right stitch placement. I had a post-it I was using to mark the row I was on, but I don't know quite where that went. I lost it with the late night stitching over the weekend.

And, if you are still puzzling over the design, here's a clue. This is sunset.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happiness Is a Familiar Place

In heading off into the "wilds" of Chicago to attend a concert, I am mindful of the timing of things. Evening concerts require that you leave at a certain hour in order to get to the venue and find parking, if you are not taking public transport. That certain time to be out the door can mean that dinner, such as it is, has to be procured by the venue or on the way to the venue. I had to be out the door by 4:30, if I wanted to eat when I got down there. I also had to pick up my ticket at the "Will Call" window and I didn't want to be dashing in at 6:53 and have to stand in line and miss the opening song.

One of the great things about Chicago is the abundance of restaurants. You want a cuisine, you can find it. It might be a storefront place with 8 tables and a waiter who simply nods when you point to something or it could be white tablecloth covered, reservation-only places with a waiter in a tux who raises an eyebrow when you ask for water. In researching the restaurants around the Old Town School of Folk Music, I had my choice from Mexican to Italian to pub grub to American to sandwich and coffee shops to a German place a few blocks up the street.

In the photo in the post below, you can see the Grafton Pub and Grill. This is an Irish-themed pub with traditional and Americanize Irish fare on the menu. It is also, as you can see, about 35 steps south of the venue. I decided that arriving as close to 5:30 as possible would garner me a table, decent food and an easy walk without worry to the School. If there was a line, I could walk 4 blocks north and eat at the German restaurant. But, reality being what it is, when I finally left the house, at 4:35, the Grafton was sort of on the list and the German restaurant way farther down. I knew I needed to eat but feeling 'meh', I didn't know what I wanted.

There wasn't a line at the Grafton, but there was a semi-packed house. On Sunday evening, it appears they have live music and this has a following. Honestly, I didn't want noise beyond maybe music. The noise of people enjoying company and the tuning of instruments spilled out the open windows and doors (It was near 75 degrees Sunday night). I just didn't want to have to be sociable. So, north I went.

I dropped by the box office and picked up my ticket. With this vital piece of paper in hand, I started walking. There was an Indian restaurant on the corner. This one is Mexican. This is a bar with a patio. Here's a coffee shop and there's Starbucks. In my memory, the last time I was here, there had been a deli with reasonably priced sandwiches and lacking in anything more than utilitarian decor somewhere around here. That's what I wanted. A simple sandwich. Just enough to shove the hunger where it needed to be and to get me home after the show. If I didn't run into that deli, I knew, from reading the restaurant link, Subway was around here somewhere.

I passed a thrift store, a bead store, a used book store which was, thankfully, closed. And then, there it was, on the opposite side of the street.

Costello's in Lincoln Square is where I ate. Carole might remember them from when we saw Old Blind Dogs at Old Town. The decor has not changed although the yellow and red paint on the walls is new. Same colors. Same menu and I mean, the same menu. It's a bunch of tables, a window bar and a counter with a cold drink cooler and a soft drink dispenser. You order off the limited menu, which is nothing but sandwiches. I felt a familiarity with the place. This was not going to be weird food. This was going to be good, filling and familiar and the latter, above all, was what I wanted.

"Can I help you?" "I would like a turkey sandwich but there are things in your sandwiches that don't appeal to me tonight." "Well, let's make one up for you that you would like." It took about 3 minutes to place the order. "Do you want smoked, honey roasted or oven roasted turkey?" "Do you want pepper jack, Swiss, American, Colby, Monterrey Jack, Provolone, Muenster or Cheddar on your sandwich?" "Do you want white, wheat, Russian rye, Jewish rye, ciabatta, foccicia, hard roll, pumpernickel, or a wrap?" "Any veggies? We have lettuce, cucumber, onion, celery, carrots, cole slaw, tomatoes and peppers." Choice is good except when you're hungry and just want a turkey sandwich. The gal behind the counter just giggled when I said, "Wow. So many choices."

That's a turkey, provolone and lettuce wrap. I got mustard on it (Would you like stone ground, yellow, hot or German?). They bake it so the cheese melts and the wrap crisps. I don't remember the 5 different sides I could have. I stuck with chips.

Good. Very good. It was enough. There was a group of musicians in the place, too. They were playing folk and old-style country music. Two mandolins, 3 guitars, a banjo and I couldn't see what the one gal was playing. The place was empty except for me and the musicians and the staff. I call this a serendipitous moment. I just wanted a sandwich. I got music with it. It put me in the right frame of mind to fully enjoy the concert upcoming.

Chicago neighborhoods are filled with these kinds of treasures, from used book stores to simple delis. I sometimes think that actually living in the city wouldn't be a bad thing, but I don't think I could make that move. It was lovely to drive in and experience it, however. Subway will make me a turkey sandwich just the way I order it, anywhere, in the entire country. It will be absolutely the same. These kinds of places are fun to experience because the food is good and it may be a turkey sandwich but it was quite different.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting My Scots On

I went to a concert on Sunday night at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. It's a gem of a place on Lincoln Avenue. If you live in the city, taking the elevated train is the way to get there. If you live in the 'burbs, as I do, you kind of have to drive. Mass transit just isn't a real good option for us. There is a parking lot across the street and some on-street parking but, this being Chicago, finding a free spot can be as much of an adventure as driving there.

I hadn't been feeling very well all day but I've been looking forward to this concert since I got the ticket back in February. I saw The Tannahill Weavers, one of my favorite Scottish folk groups. I stumbled across them about 10 years ago now, right after finding Old Blind Dogs, my favorite Scottish folk group. The Tannies have been around for a long, long time and I've come to the dance late. Even as I wrestled with the idea of just sleeping because that seemed to be what my body wanted me to do, my head kept telling me I would regret not going. So, I listened to my head. It was the right choice.

When I got the ticket, I picked the best seat I could. I honestly didn't know how good my selection was until I got there and found my seat. This is the second row of regular seats, on the end. In front of me were the small tables and chairs they have for sale. It was the perfect spot from which to enjoy traditional Scottish music.

Some observations:  The band used to be 5 members. It's now 4. It doesn't lack for musical power with Les being gone. It means Bill has to sing now whereas, in the past, he used to just play pipes and flute.

They always seem to have a different bagpiper. I don't think I've seen the same guy in any of the 3 other times I've seen them. It's always some cute young gentleman who is 6 1/2 feet tall. I swear. Maybe you can't play the pipes if you're short. I don't know. Roy said Colin, who plays the bagpipes, has doctorates in Zoology and Metallurgy so "If you need your hamster welded, talk to Colin."

The vocals are a bit strained and Roy is showing his age. Some of the songs with notes in the higher registers weren't hit square or weren't even attempted. They played many more instrumental songs than in previous concerts. But, I remember the late Beverly Sills saying, when she announced her retirement, that the spirit was willing but the voice had just aged. It's inevitable. The repertoire changed to reflect this. That means some of the songs I hoped they'd sing, they didn't. But an hour and a half of foot stompin' music with a mix of old and new tunes and I wasn't disappointed.

Roy is really funny. You get the feeling, from the jokes he cracked and the stories he told, that if you got him in a pub with non-stop pints, you would be there for hours, days even, as he spun story after story. They have always played "Jaime Raeburn's Farewell", one of my all-time favorites. In the past, the jokes leading up to this song have been amusing. This year, it was really funny.
"Jaime Raeburn is a transport song. What that means is that Jaime was going to be transported out of Glasgow. We have no idea what he did but it doesn't matter. They sometimes made things up as they went along so you could be transported. See, back then, we didn't have a CSI: Glasgow. Heck, we couldn't have one now. There's no teeth for identification. And the DNA all matches." 
It's infectious music. The venue was not sold out, which is a shame. The crowd was mostly my age, which again is a shame. When you have someone you like, you want people to see and experience it. If the venue isn't filled, will they come back again?

The Weavers played a couple of songs by the man from whom they take their name, Robert Tannahill. He was a contemporary of a certain Robert Burns and is very much overshadowed by Burns. He wasn't as prolific. One of my favorite Tannahill songs they didn't play, The Braes O' Balquidder. I have been working through my pile of magazines about Scotland and had just read a brief biography of Tannahill. I knew the group took their name from him but reading the biography gave his short, tragic life a bit more meaning. Roy said they were so glad he wasn't a "colonic irrigationist" when they were choosing band names.

Scottish life is framed by the '45, the ill-starred attempt by Prince Charlie to take the Scottish crown. The Tannies sang one song written about this rebellion, Cam Ye By Athol. Roy said he grandfather taught him this song and I can see this being handed down verbally since it speaks of riding with Prince Charlie which was treason. Sung Sunday night, it became something of a lament, a sad reminder that the rebellion was doomed from the start and so much of Scotland was crushed with Charlie.

After a standing ovation, they came back for 5 more songs and finally ended with a little ditty by Robert Burns. You know it, but you only know a portion of it. Plus, the music the Tannies use is not the schmaltzy Guy Lombardo-induced strains you're familiar with. "Auld Lang Syne" is on their Best Of 1979-1986 CD and, if you don't have anything by them in your collection, get this one. Just sit and listen to the song. It becomes something else, a good bye to a friend.

I walked out of the concert into a light drizzle and drove home in alternating bands of light and heavy rain. I am so glad I put the "meh" feeling aside. If the Tannies come by you, try to go see them. You don't need to know anything about Scotland or Scottish music to enjoy the concert.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea



When I came home from work, something in the yard caught my eye.

The violets that grow wild in the yard were blooming. Why would this be so odd? It is April, after all. Well, this is the time they should be blooming. I have less than an handful of tulips left and the lilacs will be gone by week's end. It's too chilly to put out plants, although I could go get some pansies from those grocery store greenhouses. There's really nothing of color in the yard this year at a time when usually the color explosion is just starting.

Except the violets.

It's quite interesting to me that, of all the flowers that went bonkers during the very unseasonably warm March, the violets ignored that and are blooming on schedule. Perhaps they are light induced, meaning, they will only bloom when the sunlight is at a certain height in the sky.

It's nice to look across the shaggy back yard and see little pinpoints of purple. Zeke will probably mow in the next week and they will be gone although they are quite close to the ground and the initial mowings aren't "scalps". They are higher. Some violets will escape the blades.

It's been such a quirky end of winter beginning of spring that these little smiles remind me there is some normalcy out there. My snow shovel still sits by the back door. I'm not taking any chances.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


When The Power Goes Out

I was sitting in my recliner last night. A load of towels had just finished washing and supper, a frozen dinner, was cooking in the microwave. Suddenly, the microwave stops. Oh good grief. I need to buy a new microwave? It takes me a few minutes to realize, there are no lights which is a good indication of no power. Well, what do I do now? I put the dinner back in the freezer, since it was only partially cooked. I hung up the towels and made myself a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. Hey! I can cross-stitch.

I took my project into the office where the west facing windows allow lots of evening sunshine to stream in. I was able to work on the project for another hour and a half before it got too dark to see the crosses.

I've stitched up the right side as high as the picture will be. I'll be able to finish all except the bottom green without moving the hoop. I like that. It can be really hard to get a hoop mark out of material when it's left in for awhile.

The power came back on at 8. I wrote a few letters in the gloaming before the power came back on. There is something peaceful about being off the grid even if my first response was, "NOOOOO!"

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Monday, April 16, 2012

Packet Chicken

Now this was good.

I was paging through a cookbook and happened to stumble across this recipe for chicken. It takes about 15 minutes of prep time, an hour to cook and the result was very tasty.

Start with a cookie sheet and line it with foil. Then pour 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce in a pile. On top of the sauce, place two chicken breasts. Roll them around in the sauce so each side is covered. The original recipe called for 4 chicken breasts in 1/4 cup of sauce. That's not enough sauce. You want sauce on all the breasts and just looking at 1/4 cup told me 4 breasts weren't going to get enough. Stick with 2 or double the amount of sauce if you're cooking four.

Peel and slice one potato and place on top of the chicken. Top that with a sliced pepper. The recipe called for a red pepper but I happen to have orange on hand. This would be excellent with all four colors of peppers in it.

Cover the chicken and vegetables with another 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce. Rip off another sheet of aluminum foil and cover this. Fold in the sides to make it tight. You've now got a packet that looks sort of like this. If you're really good, you can make it square. Mine is just an amorphous blob.

Bake it in a 350 oven for an hour. The recipe says 50 minutes and then check the chicken to see if it's done. As the steam escapes when you open this and then, if the chicken isn't done, it has to form steam all over again to finish cooking, I left the thing in the oven for an hour. Remove and open. Be careful. As I said, there's steam inside this packet or there should be if you've sealed it properly. Steam can burn you if you aren't careful.


This was so good.

What I would do differently next time is to add spices to the chicken. The whole point of the cookbook I was looking through was to take everyday favorites and reduce their calories, sodium and fat. That is done with this recipe but the chicken still came out not as flavorful as I like. It would definitely benefit from the addition of garlic. If you like onions, I could see adding onions to this. Varying the flavor of the barbecue sauce would produce other tastes. The one hour cooking time was just perfect and keeping the packet completely sealed resulted in moist chicken. This recipe is not unlike my favorite hobo suppers, which are a cooked hamburger, potatoes, carrots, corn and peas wrapped in a foil packet.

I liked this. Quick, simple and, best of all, there was no mess to clean up. I put the second breast in a container for lunch the next day, balled up the foil and tossed it. I had just gotten the kitchen cleaned up from an earlier multi-step meal so a whole supper with minimal dishes makes me doubly happy.


Beverage:  water


Stitching When All Else Fails

It wasn't the most pleasant of weekends. I don't know what it was but I just didn't feel right all weekend. I was tired. I was uncomfortable. My eyes were very dry and itchy and quite night, I had cramps in my shins which then migrated to my feet. And, I couldn't sleep, at least not at the usual time. I don't know why all of this happened over the weekend, but it did.

The best thing to do, when I have no idea when I'm going to fall asleep, is to cross-stitch. Friday night, after work, I loaded up the sink to wash some of the dishes and plopped down in the recliner to stitch while they were soaking. At batch number three, I came back to this.

This is where I sit. The light is to the upper right, off camera. The ottoman, where I store the unfinished project, the package with the floss, the chart and my current cup of tea is also to the right. I didn't get much done on Friday night as I couldn't bear to move her. Mija 1; Deb 0.

Saturday was way more productive. I got up at the usual time, had breakfast and decided to stitch for a couple hours while I did some wash.

Orange is now a part of the design. I started feeling "funky" about noon so I took a nap and wound up sleeping for 3 hours. I'm hoping this is not a side effect of the metholtrexate. My dosage has been upped to 6 pills a week now and I take them all on Friday. I felt find on Friday but just went downhill all day on Saturday. By the time it was time for bed, I couldn't sleep. I should know better than a long nap in the middle of the day. It will screw with what sleep schedule you have.

When tossing and turning didn't work, I got up at 1 a.m., sat in the recliner and stitched. At 4 a.m., I was sufficiently tired enough that I just grabbed a blanket and slept in the recliner. I still wasn't feeling well. I got up, took my morning meds and went back to sleep. I finally got up at 1 p.m., which meant that Sunday night was another fiasco of trying to get to sleep and stay there. But, the wee hours were great for stitching.

I've figured out how to stitch two-handed, too, which makes this go a bit faster. The hoop, which is large, rests on my chest. I stick the needle into the fabric with my left hand and pull it through with my right. The hard part is making sure I'm on the right row with the right color.

It might look like something to you if you squint.

Beverage:  Root beer


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Elebenty Bill-yum Calories

One of the best parts of having to be gone all day on a job is the opportunity to get lunch and expense it. There are a great number of places to eat in the Mishawaka/South Bend, Indiana area. I considered, very carefully, what it was that I wanted and, I wanted bacon cheese fries from Steak 'n Shake.

I don't want to know the calorie or fat content of this meal. Don't bother me with that. Some days, what you want to eat, what you crave, just blows any kind of calorie restriction out of the water. I got a single bacon cheeseburger and small order of bacon cheese fries. I knew, walking into SnS, I was going to be happy.

And then, I saw it. The shake came out right around Valentine's Day. I haven't eaten at SnS since, I think early January, so I was unaware of this.

Chocolate fudge brownie shake. I still had a bit on the gift card from April and Perry so the shake was free. It was every bit as good as it sounds, every bit. Chocolate ice cream with brownie bits. Heaven.

If I was doing a legitimate diet, I'd have to run to Denver and back to work this off. But, I have satisfied the SnS and the bacon cheese fries cravings. Now, the shake craving is going to be harder. I take my duty to find and test out appealing foodstuffs so you don't have to, seriously. Under my shake is their other new one, Nutter Butter. The only good thing is that I have to drive to get to an SnS. It's not worth it to drive just for the shake. That's what will save me.

If you find yourself near a Steak 'n Shake, have a chocolate fudge brownie shake. Oh my. It's almost better than...well...yeah.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Scents of Time

The survey featuring the free Micheal Kors perfume is over. I get to keep the small bottle I received. I marked it an 8 out of 10. The biggest fault is that bottle design. I never, ever could get it open without some spillage. As packaging, particularly for colognes, is part of the overall effect, I had to make sure my vote was reflective of my difficulty.

So, now that it's done, what to do with the cologne? I rather enjoyed wearing a fragrance daily. I'd gotten out of that over the last 12 years of employment because of the hazards of cologne on a job site. You wouldn't think wearing cologne around sweaty construction or quarry employees would have hazards but there is a big one; bugs.

I cannot tell you how many times some bee or wasp has tried to land on me because I smell like some flower that surely must have pollen grains for pick up. Less common is the implied message you are sending by being a female on a male-dominated work site and smelling of gardenia or something else. Scents attract and sometimes that attention is not in the form you want. My wearing of cologne grew increasingly less and less until it was, maybe, once a month and then only because I was attending a concert or other kind of public event. I might have worn cologne to the office Christmas party. Then again, knowing me, I might not have.

The testing of the cologne and the knowledge that I spend most of my days in the office has inspired me to wear scents again. There are dozens of bottles and samples in a drawer in the dressing table and in a basket on its top. They sit there, collecting dust. Cologne is a mood elevator and heaven knows sometimes I need my mood elevated.

I decided to fish all the free samples out and start with them. The above are all those freebie packets I've got. One-by-one, I'm going to wear these to use them up. Then, I will gather up all those little sample vials and use one until its gone and work on another. I will probably find something, like the Michael Kors sample I received, that I like, but I am not replacing a sample with a big bottle of the stuff. I have dozens of bottles of fragrance. The desire is to use them up. It's part of a much grander goal of decluttering my life.

Since taking the photo, I've worn one of the pink Givenchy samples and am wearing one of the light pink Avon Soft Musk samples. Both are nice and are colognes I could see wearing long-term. I shuffle the stack and whatever comes out on top is the pick for that day.

In looking ahead, some of what I have, I have had for a very long time. I also have some rather large bottles of some scents. It's going to take years to use up some cologne. I don't wear scents when I'm not leaving the house or when I will be outside at a job site. This is just for those days when I'm in the office or out and about. Plus, I have to remember that not everyone can be around someone wearing cologne. Even I can't apply a scent as rigorously as I might have in years past. It's not a good experience when I'm coughing. As the old Brylcream commercials said, "A little dab will do ya'."

In another week, I'll post what vials I have and I have a lot.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


East With the Sun

The equipment was not calling in. It hadn't been calling in since March 17th. We notified the client that, perhaps, the machine had been unplugged. As it's in Mishawaka, Indiana, it's not a 'quick trip' out to service. If they would check on it, we'd be ever so grateful.

One snafu after another passed and it became obvious a trip was needed to see just what the heck was going on. I went yesterday. Armed with another machine and all the trappings to make it work in case there was something really wrong with the one there, I set out, into the morning sunshine.

I love days like this. Look at that sky. Look at the texture in the clouds. The contrast of light and color and dark is amazing on days like this. It's not a very long trip, around 2 hours and 45 minutes. I listened to The Tannahill Weavers, Live and In Studio; Joshua Bell, The Voice of the Violin; and Old Blind Dogs, World Room. I still haven't cleared all the CD's from the case, nor have I replaced the ones I've listened to with new ones. Eventually, I'll do it, just not right now.

I wound up having to replace the machine, set up the new one, get that running and then I could head for home. When I was heading to Ohio for April's party last month, I drove this way. I wondered, since we knew the machine wasn't working then, if I should stop and take a look. I did not because the client assured me they were investigating. Had I done that, I would have discovered the problem but would have had to come back again anyway to replace the machine. I wouldn't have gotten to drive east into a magnificent morning.

The afternoon was just as beautiful.
I could drive for days in weather like this. It wasn't too hot to be in the car. There was a bit of a breeze that I could have done without, especially going around trucks, but the driving was simple.

Doing this makes me want to plan a car trip. My dad used to do that during the summer. He'd just simply decide we needed to go somewhere and we'd all pile into the car and go somewhere, anywhere, in any direction. We used to do it, too, when Carole was a child. You'd pick a direction and drive, investigating roads whose signs you'd seen when driving back to Iowa for family events.

I don't have the monetary resources to do this spur of the moment kind of travel. It has to be planned and budgeted for. On the one hand, it keeps me honest about my money. This is what I have. This is where it has to go. This is what I have left over for whatever I want to do. That usually doesn't include just hopping in the car and going some place. On the other hand, I think expanding my horizons just a bit would do me a world of good. But I feel a sense of timidity.

When it was a family, you were sharing the experience. If something happened, you were not alone. It's just me and while I could leave a note as to where I've gone, if something happened, who would know? It's an idea to blog about in the future.

In the meantime, I jump at the chance to do these kinds of trips. I like the words Tolkien wrote in The Hobbit; "there and back again". That defines it. This trip is familiar, comfortable. I've watched the seasons change on this drive. Assuming nothing else goes wrong, I have one more ahead, when the project requiring our services ends and I need to retrieve the current machine. That will be summer and perhaps can be done with the windows off. I'm looking forward to that drive.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Relaxation = Stitching

My computer mouse is not working properly. For an online gamer like myself, this is not a good thing. I use the mouse for 75% of my gaming activities from combat to simple movement. When movement becomes hop stop hop stop, I'm fairly worthless.

It also affects the whole browsing experience. There is something wrong with the front two buttons of the mouse. Clicking on the scroll bar on the right side of the screen will, sometimes, result in being stuck. All I can do is frantically click while the bar goes up and down and hope the thing will release its grip. Or, other times, it won't grab the bar at all. I was clearing photos from my desktop after uploading them to Flickr and the mouse grabbed everything on the desktop and moved it to the trash. After screaming, I carefully removed all the icons and folders one by one and put them back on the desktop.

Monday night was terrible. I couldn't do anything in the game and just simply navigating through some of the news web sites I read was a huge chore. You know how frustration feels when it builds and builds? That's what it was like. I tried everything I could think of, but neither right nor left clicking worked to get into or out of screens. When I felt like crying, I knew I had to turn off the computer and go find something else to do.


I plopped down in the recliner with a mug of tea. I turned on the light and the bulb popped. Why is it that when you are stressed and at the end of that proverbial rope, little things, like light bulbs quitting, happen all the time? It's a 3-way bulb and I don't have any in the house. No matter. I stuck a 60 watt in the lamp and will get a 3-way later.

I sat there and stitched. Pilchard wanted the lap a couple times and then became content to simply sleep next to me. Mija jumped up onto the back of the recliner, sort of near my head, and purred herself to sleep. I concentrated all my frustration into those little "x's". After a couple of hours of stitching, the light yellow and light blue are completely done and I'm on to just yellow.

I know it still doesn't look like much when you don't know what I'm trying to stitch. As I worked, cats within scratching distance, I felt peace return. No, the mouse doesn't work. I spent the weekend performing computer maintenance which did nothing to help the mouse issue. I had to ask my more tech savvy friends for advise before calling the manufacturer. But, Monday night, I just needed to relax. I needed to de-stress. I needed to calm down. That's what cross-stitching did for me.

This is the 10th day of work on this. I might be half-way done. The yellow that I've started will be the most used color on this design. It's to be a rainy weekend upcoming. We desperately need rain. It's so very dry. Rainy weekends are perfect for afternoons spent stitching. Expect more blocks of color next week.

Beverage: Lady Gray tea


Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Breakfast I Ought to Do Again

Weekend breakfasts tend to be oatmeal or the hot cereal Carole and David gave me for my birthday. I eat dry cereal during the week. It's just faster and more filling. If I would organize the oatmeal the night before, I could have oatmeal, but that lends itself to more leisurely eating than I have the time for during the week.

Weekends, I like to get inventive with breakfast. I have time and desire. Saturday, I had hot cereal but Sunday, being Easter, perhaps put me in the mood for something more. I thought about pancakes. I really wanted chocolate chip pancakes, but the search for a recipe didn't yield anything. I stumbled upon something I hadn't made in years, a puff pancake.

It is, essentially, crepe batter poured into a cast iron skillet and the whole thing baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. The batter puffs up, hence the name, before deflating to a skillet-size dense pancake. This recipe has instructions to make applesauce with it. I had the applesauce in the cupboard so I just made the pancake part. It's a bit sweeter than another recipe I have.

Once the pancake was baking, I decided I needed muffins. I haven't felt like baking much because it's been painful to stir batter, with the twisting motion of my wrists. But, one of the benefits of medication is the reduction of the pain. So, I got out the strawberries I bought for this occasion and made fresh strawberry muffins. They are so good.

The recipe doesn't make more than a dozen, even with my history of having more batter than prepared muffin cups. As the strawberries have to sit in sugar to make syrup, I just got them going and had breakfast. The pancake was sliced into quarters, covered with warmed applesauce and I ate up the very last of the bacon I had fried up a few weeks back. Add tea and milk to take my pill and the whole thing was ready in 30 minutes.

There was extra pancake which I brought to work for lunch. The muffins aren't going to make it into Wednesday, I'm afraid. This munchieness side effect of Prednisone has me trying to avoid the kitchen. "Oh look, a muffin!" my brain hollers as I come in for more tea. As good as homemade muffins are, it's not calorie conscious if you eat half the batch in one day.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Hello There

I've been scattering handfuls of peanuts on the deck again. I start by the back door and just scatter them across the deck. Then, I put some on the railing and leave a group by the office window. I am getting squirrels to visit. I have no idea if it's the same two but one, yesterday, provided quite a few antics.

Pilchard knows there will be a squirrel to watch. She's taken to sitting by the back door. If I were to open that door and ask if she would like to come out onto the deck with me, she will run back into the house. I'm not upset by that. There are ample places about the house to lie in the sunshine and, eventually, the windows will be opened for fresh air. (Yes, I still have my snow shovel upstairs. I'm not moving it until Mother's Day. I'm superstitious.)

A month ago, I moved a small plant stand I got from my mother into the office and tucked it under one of the windows. It's the perfect height. Covered with a towel, the cats can sit and look out or sleep while being next to me. Often when I'm playing World of Warcraft, Pilchard is asleep in the chair to my right, but Mija would have to sleep on the rug. She didn't really like that. With this set up, she's asleep to my left and Pilchard is asleep to my right and all is right with the world. It's also the perfect place to look at squirrels.

I piled a bunch of peanuts right at the end of the deck rail, right outside the window. This little guy knew right where to go to get them. He would snatch a peanut and run away. Then he realized Mija couldn't get to him and he took to eating the peanuts where you see. Eventually, he depleted the pile.

It was very interesting to watch. He looked kind of mangy at first, but then I realized he is shedding his winter coat and will look really scruffy for a couple of weeks.

He got kind of used to me aiming the camera out the window at him. I'm intrigued by how smart he seems to be. It took him about 3 peanuts to realize Mija couldn't get him so he would take his time to remove the rest and then sat there and ate one. That's a taunt if ever there was one. He took off, at first, when I pointed the camera at him. But, he realized, about the same time as he realized Mija couldn't get him, that I couldn't get him so he took his time.

My friend, Patt, had a squirrel she fed on the way to her office. They are vermin. They will give outdoor cats fleas. They can be highly destructive to new plants or electrical wires or insulation in your attic should one get inside, but they sure are darned cute. I don't think the girls would know what to do with one, other than chase it, if they caught it.

At noon, a couple hours after he had cleared the deck of peanuts, he was back, just to bask in the sunshine.

I'll wait a couple days before spreading out more peanuts. 

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea