Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What To Do While Waiting for the Doorbell

In years past, I would be on the computer in the back. Last year, I decided I simply wasn't going to hand out anything because it takes too long for me to get to the door. I had to admit, however, that there is fun in seeing the kids, particularly the less than 8 year-olds, navigate this holiday where candy is expected.

So, I have decided that sitting at the computer is not where I'm going to be tonight. It's just easier to be closer to the door. Mija will be in the bedroom, huddled in amongst the covers. Pilchard may actually sit in the window for a time, like she did last year. I love to hear the, "Look! She's got a black cat!" comments from kids when they spot HRH in the window. HRH is clearly not amused, although it's kind of hard to tell. Maybe she is secretly enjoying being pointed out and "oohed" and "ahhed" over.

I spent some time over the weekend, while working on cleaning the kitchen, to cross-stitch. This particular pattern is a bit more complicated, with lots of colors in single and double squares. I can sit and stitch while waiting for the tramp tramp of feet on the front porch.

I made another mistake over the weekend and had to rip that out. After doing it once, it's not so agonizing the second time. I still don't know if I'll get this done in time to be framed for shipment by Christmas, but it's coming right along.

Beverage:  Big Red


Let's Try This Again

They made such a mess of the punkins on the front. The north one is up top and the south one is here to the right. They had chewed so much of the south pumpkin that combined with the rains we got in October, it had collapsed and started to mold and rot.

I dug out the snow shovel and carried both to the compost bin. In the north pumpkin, I found traces of a red squirrel's tail fur.

I meant to post this earlier to the blog. This was taken on the 20th. This guy isn't the fattest of the red squirrels I saw having lunch with my pumpkins. The cats would sit in the living room window and make that noise they do when they see prey. We had some "arguments" over whose turn it was to watch. They really did a number on my Halloween decorations.

Yesterday, I went to Dominicks and bought new pumpkins. I put them out last night. After tonight, I'll take everything down and put the pumpkins on the back porch. We'll see how long before the squirrels chew into those. At least, when they do reduce them to hulks, it will be closer to the compost pile.

Beverage:  Big Red



As if in response to yesterday's post, I saw this out the bedroom window after I got home from work yesterday.

They were being blown around quite a bit in our 30-40 miles per hour winds.

Beverage:  Big Red


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For Sure It's Fall

As you well know, a cold front came through the Midwest last week. I happened to be coming home from a quick job in Madison, Wisconsin. It was one of those phone calls at 2 p.m. begging us to provide someone, anyone, to assist them. As we were really short last week, I got the job.

It turned out that I wasn't needed beyond a couple hours because, as luck would have it, a piece broke and couldn't be fixed until the next day. So, I was cut loose and I headed home. It was 70 degrees when I left Madison. As I headed towards Chicagoland, it started raining and you could feel the temperature start to drop. The cold front was here. Our balmy Indian summer days were coming to a screeching, wet halt.

I drove out of the front line and it didn't reach Chicagoland until around supper so I had a still balmy afternoon to bring in the garbage cans and batten down any hatches, more like turn the empty cans upside down so wind couldn't get inside, swirl around and knock them over. One is sad to see these days leave. Sitting on the deck when it's 78, is quite different than when it's 58, even if it's completely still and sunny and 58.

So, yesterday, I'm wandering about the yard, picking up someone's trash that has blown into my yard and I spot these. This is the final key to knowing that fall is heading towards winter.

Just like blowing dandelion heads in spring, blowing milkweed pod seeds in late fall should be the highlight of a child's life, heck, of anyone's life. Unlike dandelions, however, milkweed seeds need to be dry to really take off. As the pod opens, they are a bit damp and will come out in a clump. When the pod completely splits open and the seeds are caught by the wind, it reminds me of the animation to Tchaikovsky's "Walz of the Flowers" in Walt Disney's Fantasia.

Yes, the dramatic changes in temperature and the explosions of fuzz from milkweed pods remind me that fall is nearly over and the winter is coming. I could bring a stalk inside and keep the potential frozen but I want the milkweeds in the yard. Plus, I think the seeds have to overwinter to sprout in the spring.


Beverage:  Dr Pepper


More Decluttering

It goes in stages. One week, I can't bear to part with something. The next week, it's in the give away bag. An email and some awkward walking finally convinced me to give away some shoes.

JCPenney's send an email saying some of their Clarks shoes were on sale two weeks ago. About 5 years ago, I had problems with my left foot. My toes would cramp and the pain was unbearable. I had a real hard time with some shoes and had to get rid of some then. Finally, after enduring this for 8 months, I went to see a podiatrist. Of course, I had special inserts made which I moved from shoe pair to shoe pair. They relieved the stress on the toes and fixed the problem. At the time, the podiatrist said Clarks shoes were the best shoes she had seen for people who had foot problems. I loved how they fit and their styles. They are NOT cheap but when they are on sale, which is not often, they are a great bargain.

Now, not all the styles of Clarks that Penney's have were on sale. I wasn't really that interested until I had to spend more than 8 hours in the shoes to the right. I love these shoes. I got them at Penneys back when Carole lived in Seattle. They are canvas and I've washed them a few times. But 3+ years of sometimes daily wear will take a toll on a pair of shoes. As much as I like these, when I came home and took them off, my feet thanked me. I had to admit that, for me, these were just not comfortable anymore. There's still a lot of life in them, but not for me. (I have to admit that my original pair of Clarks is slowly approaching that point, too. I will be really sad when I have to get rid of those.)

Hence, the JCPenney email advertisement became very important. I poured through what was on sale. Technically, at the time of the sale, I didn't have the spare cash. But, as if karma, or something, was influencing my decision making process, an article in AOL's Everyday Health came up about shoes and people with rheumatoid arthritis. The article stressed that heels over 1.5 inches were not advisable as they can skew your joints, particularly in your ankles and hips. I needed to find shoes that were comfortable. One of the problems RA sufferers have is that if their shoes aren't comfortable, they won't keep moving and keeping moving helps keep the joints from swelling. So, I needed to look at shoes not just as a covering for my feet but as a part of my overall health. Sold.

I went back to the web site announcing the sale and looked through all the styles. Of course, a couple pair that I really liked weren't on sale or were sold out online. Then I realized that I probably needed to try any shoe on. The days of purchasing shoes off the Internet are probably gone. If I'm going to be walking around in them, I had better make sure they are comfortable. I settled on the style to the left and went off the store.

These are pewter, which doesn't show up very well in the sunlight on my bed. They are a half size larger than I've worn all my life, but I read that is better for RA sufferers because it allows the foot to move instead of being crammed into a shoe, even one that "was" your size. These are comfortable and patent leather. They look good in dressy and casual situations.

The other thing the article recommended was to buy shoes with backs. I'm very fond of what are called "mules". Those are the shoes without backs. Just slip into them and go. For RA sufferers, we need the stability of a whole shoe. I'll keep that in mind as I slowly replace other shoes that wear out. I also could use a shoe horn to help put these on. Shoes with backs require some bending over and sort of forcing the foot into the shoes. The mules don't. A shoe horn would make a good bit of difference in getting these on.

I looked at another pair but they didn't have it in my size. They also didn't have the pair of athletic shoes I wanted to try on. It's a small store and I can order them from the catalog, but I hate having to return something so I wanted to try them on.

In keeping with my one in-one out policy, I looked at my shoe rack. The black ones, above, went into the give away box. Then I looked at my heels. I have to be ruthless. The article said "no high heels". I loved these shoes. I loved how they look and how they looked on me. But I simply can't wear them anymore. Why hang onto them because of memories? The dust on them was deep enough to write my name in it. I dusted them off and stuck them in the give away bag. A veteran's group picked the bag up last Thursday. They are gone.

And I don't miss them. There are two pair of heels left on the shoe rack. One pair, I probably can still wear because the heel isn't very high. The other I know I keep for sentimental reasons and I'm not ready to part with them. At some point I probably will, but not now. I still want to try on that other pair of Clarks they didn't have in my size and I'm tempted by boots. For now, I'm happy on two fronts. I got a good pair of shoes which will last for awhile at a good price and I decluttered just a wee bit more. Now to get a shoe horn.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper



I believe it's a robin. This is as close as I could come and it's two weeks removed from when I last saw it. I have not seen any other robins in the yard so I'm tempted to say then have started their migration south. I have not seen a corpse either so I am hopeful this bird headed south with the group.

Most sources I found said the average lifespan of a robin is 2 years. Perhaps he or she, after all, I can't really tell gender, will be back next year. I hope so. He was quite the addition to my back yard.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Friday, October 26, 2012


I'm not sure this was really necessary, but have you seen these?

These are Kraft's new marshmallows. They are flat and square, the better to fit s'mores.

When I was buying a bag of marshmallows to make s'mores, these were cheaper than regular large marshmallows. It grabbed them, not giving a care what they looked like. It wasn't until I actually set out to make s'mores in the microwave about a week later that I noticed the odd shape and then read the package.

How do they work? Well, they are okay. For me, half the fun in making a microwave s'more is watching the marshmallow puff up and then shrink down. I'm not sure these get as gooey inside as the other, bigger, kind. I know big marshmallows tend to be less expensive than the miniature ones and I have, in the past, purchased the big ones and cut them down for recipes. These square ones will be much easier to cut if their price stays as low as it was. I tend to think this will be a niche market that won't last beyond a couple years.

Still, they were fun to use. These would not work, I don't think, on the end of a stick held in fire. Mmmmm. That's the best way to make s'more, over an open fire on a crisp autumn evening with friends or family and the inevitable discussion. Which is better, a lightly browned marshmallow or a charred one?

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Don't Need Help, But The Company is Nice

"It won't be that hard to do. Just walk around and take photos of the streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters."

How bad could this be? Really. It's just a park. It's going to be redone. New playgrounds. New tennis courts. New walkways. New landscaping. More accessibility for the neighbors. This won't be a problem.

"Oh would you mind photographing all the concrete vents that protrude up from the parking garage underneath the park? There are 28 small vents and 8 large vents that are also access points to the park so they have two sets of stairs."

Not a problem.

Well, on day three of trying to get this done, it was a problem. All the walking was not good for me. I could only be on my feet for 4-5 hours, even with lunch and taking breaks on the park benches watching the world pass by. I still don't know my limits. One day, getting out of my office chair to go to the copier is an exercise in perseverance. The next day, feeling exactly the same, I could probably walk from here to Cedar Rapids. There must be cues that I haven't quite figured out that will tell me what my endurance is on any given day.

This last day was reserved for finishing up the vents. They allow air to get into and out of the garage that is under the park. As the garage will stay, the vents needed to be photographed prior to work starting. I started on one side and worked toward the other side.

Even in a city such as Chicago, wildlife abounds. Some animals are surprisingly resilient and adaptable creatures. I had finished one side where the small vents were and was working in the middle of the park where the large vents with their access stairways were. I had a plan for doing these rectangles. North, east, south, west. Always the same. At one point, I had this feeling I was being watched. I turned around and there he was, in the tree behind me. I posted the above photo to Facebook. In addition to being highly adaptable, gray squirrels have great camouflage on a gray, rainy day in autumn. I just chuckled and continued.

Well, not content to watch from a tree, he noticed my walking pattern and jumped on top of the large vent I was photographing. He was very, very curious, but, when I got too close, he took off, back to the safety of a nearby tree.

He continued to watch me as I progressed around this vent. But, curiosity got the best of him and he approached.

This resulted in my favorite photo.

He was looking for a handout. Obviously, he's been fed and has lost that overpowering fear of humans. He's still skittish in that I probably could not have reached out to touch him. I didn't want to. Squirrels can harbor fleas and the last thing I need to bring home is fleas, certainly not with a long-haired black cat. He posed in anticipation of a treat, which I did not have. I moved and he took off, but he didn't stray too far away. 

He's at the lower right in the above photo, following me as I do my documentation of this structure.

This was the last photo of him. He moved on after this after probably figuring out I had nothing to offer.

It was a gray day and I didn't want to be down here. This project had taken 3 times longer than we had anticipated. My knees hurt, possibly more from the damp, chilly weather than the actual walking around. I was either overdressed in my long sleeves and raincoat or under dressed when the wind whipped up and the drizzle started. Yet, for about a half an hour, the company was very much appreciated and made me laugh. I'm going to have the close up professionally enlarged to a nice 5x7 for the office.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Autumn Leaves

There is a jazz standard entitled "Autumn Leaves". Wikipedia says it was originally a French song, "Les Feuilles Mort", which translates, literally, into "The Dead Leaves". It was written in 1945 by Joseph Kosma with words by French poet Jacques Prevert. Somewhere in my volumes, I have a book of poetry by Jacques Prevert, a gift from the French teacher in college upon getting an "A" in the final exam my first year of French. She hoped it would inspire us to greater heights in the second year of the required two for our degree. Had she not been a rather strange teacher, it might have. I have no idea where the book is now but I've been itching to find it after hearing "Autumn Leaves" on the radio.

I know this song. It was one that my piano teacher had me learn when I was taking piano lessons. It's relatively easy to master and, unlike some other things she had me try, I got this one down rather quickly. It was fun to play and I learned the words to the song too. I remember being at the piano playing it when Dad walked into the room and started humming along. My dad couldn't carry a tune in a covered bucket but that didn't stop him from expressing himself in song. I remember cringing a bit as he missed the notes but I felt rather proud of myself for playing something he knew.

So, on Saturday, the familiar strains of the tune came out of my car radio as I headed for some overtime at work. This wasn't what I wanted to be doing on a golden Saturday morning, but if I didn't spend some time on this project, it would not be done by the Tuesday deadline. Would this be an instrumental version? There are some wonderful instrumental versions out there. Most of them take the song a bit fast. To me, it's a song about the end of the season and the ending of a relationship and should be performed slowly. The version I heard on Saturday was a vocal version. The female voice sang the song in the original French and it was clear she understood the song. At the end, the announcer said, "And that was Karrin Allyson singing 'Autumn Leaves' off her 'Collage' album."

Once I had a moment, I hit up Barnes and to check this out. Karrin Allyson is not a new voice in jazz. I'm familiar with her. But, up to now, she's not been someone I've had to rush out to get. My opinion changed with her rendition of "Autumn Leaves". I need to add something of hers to my CD collection. As luck would have it, Carole needed me to put together the annual Christmas list. That album and two others were added to the list.

I've had the song stuck in my head intermittently with The Tannahill Weavers "Cam Ye by Athol" and Great Big Sea's "Captain Kidd", widely disparate music styles. As I sat on the deck on Sunday, the autumn leaves released their grip on the trees in the back yard and drifted to the ground or caught some air and tumbled into the neighbor's yard.

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold....
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands, I used to hold
Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I'll hear ol' winter's song.
But I miss you most of all my darling,
When autumn leaves start to fall.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Last Gasp

I opened the doors on the storage shed and there was a wasp nest. Back in July, I noticed a flurry of activity at this same corner. One evening, I gingerly opened the top and noticed them starting a small hive. As that will not do, they were promptly hosed down. I thought that was the end of it. Nature, often, has other ideas.

At first, I thought this was the hive I had soaked with wasp killer back in July. Then, as I watched, the wasps on this hive began to move. Well darn. I guess they decided to try to build again. I'm surprised I didn't notice a swarm around the gap in the side of the container. I soaked these wasps again and waited until they all fell off the hive. Then I knocked the whole thing down and crushed it. Admittedly, if I'd have waited until the first hard freeze, these guys would be toast to begin with, but they build on the previous year's work and I don't want them here or in my front door.

I sat down on the deck with my cross-stitch and a cherry Coke. Within 5 minutes, I had 4 yellow jackets buzzing my coke. How do they know? That is quite amazing to me. They were just there. I had to put the Coke in the house before they would leave me alone. Even covering the beverage with a small saucer didn't deter them. They left my tea alone, but the coke was a magnet.

Oh well, it's the end of the season. A good hard freeze and we'll not see them around. I did a quick walk around the house perimeter to see if there were nests I hadn't seen before in the eaves. I didn't see anything, but they could, like bumblebees, have a very wide range. One of the guys in the office just bought a house and he didn't find the nest until after he'd moved in. They were sliding in behind the back porch light. He sprayed and then sealed the entrance hole but he wonders how big the nest is inside the wall. Short of ripping the wall apart, he probably won't know. He now has to wait until spring to see if they have another way out and, hopefully, that's NOT into his house.

Wasps and yellow jackets remind us that as much as we think we have conquered the world, it still finds ways to humble us.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Much Better

It still doesn't look like much but it's going better having made the decision to rip out the old and start over. This is day 2 of this project after starting over.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Monday, October 22, 2012

Starting Again

Remember this project, started last month?

There have been no new posts about it since I sat on the deck over Labor Day weekend and worked on it. I would see it sitting on the ottoman in its nice plastic bag and think about working on it and then not. There was a reason for that.

The colors are wrong.

That's right. The colors you see that I stitched are the wrong colors for those stitches. I didn't realize I got the symbols mixed up until I picked up the project later in the week after starting it. At the time I realized what I'd done, I thought, "Oh well, it won't be noticeable that they are wrong. I can continue with this color here and that color there for just this section. When it's done, I can do the right colors."

Well, the more I considered that, the more it grated on me. I don't want to rip something out and start over, but these aren't the right colors. I'm going to know even if the recipient hasn't a clue. It's going to bother me and bother me it did, so much so that I didn't pick up the project again until this past weekend.

With the deck cleared off, the chance to just sit in the warm sunshine and fresh air presented itself. This was the perfect time to start over. So, I ripped out all the old stitching, all of it. That was a good 3 hours of work there, but I pulled it all out. Then, I started over. This time, instead of going right of center, I went left of center. There are less colors that way; more of a chance I can get the right symbols matched, in my head, with the correct colors. That way, when I move right of center, I won't get the colors mixed up.

It doesn't look like much and I don't know that I have a chance to finish this and get it framed before Christmas, but, I took a deep breath and started in again. At the very least, I know when the recipient's birthday is and I could get it done by then or just save it for Christmas 2013.

I follow a number of people who are so very crafty. They always have such wonderful projects on their blogs. I often wonder about the failed starts, the projects that went horribly wrong. Sometimes I think we learn as much, if not more, from the "oops" as we do from the "ahhh".

I've got cookies to bake this week for my son-in-law, thanks to a horribly nasty performance or lack thereof by my Hawkeyes. Having a cross-stitch project to work on while the cookies bake means they won't burn. I try NOT to be on the computer while cookies are baking. It's too tempting to check one more thing and then 5 minutes have passed. I can set down the cross-stitch and address the buzzer. Plus, there is nothing more relaxing for me than a mug of hot tea, a cross-stitch project and a furry lap warmer who doesn't mind that I'm not really paying that much attention to her.

Beverage:  Blueberry tea


The End of the Season

The end of days spent outside is rapidly approaching. The deck has gone from this
to this
It was time to clean things up and put things away for the season.

I couldn't have asked for a better day, really. The bright, warm sunshine made working on the deck comfortable. In fact, I changed to a tee shirt and shorts once I got started because it was nearly 70.

First to go were the chairs and the table. The more I thought about the upcoming week, which is supposed to be 70's during the day and upper 50's-60's at night, the more I thought that being able to sit on the deck when I get home isn't such a bad thing. So, I only put away left chair and the table. The weather is to take a turn by this coming weekend and then I can put the chair away. I made sure that area of the storage bin is clear.

The geraniums have been in the kitchen for a couple weeks now. We are to get rain, late season warm rains and it's good for them to soak in this last bit before coming inside for good. I pulled them all outside, removed all the dead and dying blossoms and leaves and organized them with the other flowers.

I think perhaps next year, I'll just cluster all the pots in one corner. The geraniums look a bit naked, minus all the dead leaves and flower heads. I'll bring them in this weekend, probably for good. The other annuals, I'll let die out. I remember the year we still had petunias blooming in December because we didn't get snow until right before Christmas. I brought the petunias in when the temps got below 45, but it stayed in the 60's for the longest time. I'm not counting on that this year.

It was just a glorious day to clear things away. I put the decorations in the storage container. The chicken and the pig did well this year. That spray paint has given them new life.

I wouldn't mind a few more weekend days like this one where life slows down and you can just sit. Pilchard was really crabby about something while I sat outside. I brought out the footstool from the living room since I'd put the other chair and table in the container. It wasn't until I moved my feet and she lay down on the footstool that she stopped complaining. She wanted to be with me but didn't want to lie on the deck. Yes, this cat is spoiled.

Somewhere, a neighbor burned leaves and the smell wafted across the back yard. It combined with the general smells of fall, leaves and earth. I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to winter or not this year. Last year, I was worried sick about dealing with another blizzard. This year would be just as tough, but I'm not as worried about it. Perhaps I should be but yesterday, as I sat and smelled the smells of a vanishing autumn, winter and snow seemed months away.

Beverage:  Blueberry tea


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bwee Bop Boop. Connection to Reality Secured

"Now, with these guys; there's gonna be a lot of them. Just dps them down until their health turns green. Then they back up. After that, there's two more. Just dps them down, too. When they're done, we run up the stairs to the boss," said the guy who was leading the 5-man group running through a dungeon event in World of Warcraft on Monday night.

I knew the dungeon. I'd been in here before. I backed my character up a bit and took aim at the mean baddies attacking us. Twenty-five came at us. We knocked them all down. Then came the two larger mobs. The one started off with a flurry of punches and kicks. The other started to do his spinning attack. He spun...

and spun...

and spun...

and spun. I looked at my colleagues in this dungeon. I couldn't see Sprucemoose or Theudis. I could see Vervaine and she seemed to be stuck in an endless cycle of spell casting. Eromar stood off to the side, his character's left arm raised in perpetual healing stance. I realized my pet, a dinosaur named "Gimmzilla", was standing in one place, swaying back and forth. I was being disconnected from the game.

I play on a Mac. Apple computers are extremely stable in the internet gaming environment. Plus, my connection to the internet is extremely stable. It is very rare for me to be disconnected. It happens so one just gets out of the game and reloads. Even rarer is the need for me to shut down and restart. But, on Monday, my attempts to reconnect were met with nothing. I wound up completely shutting down, counting to 10, and restarting. Nothing. Then I noticed the modem/router. It's the top piece of equipment in the photo.

During the gaming session, I had become aware of a clicking noise. Unable to put my finger on what it was, I finally decided it was my office chair and that a little WD40 later in the week would fix that. As I was troubleshooting why I couldn't log back onto the internet, I noticed the power light on the modem would go red and then green. This color change was accompanied by a click. Now, I'm not a techie by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm fairly certain modems shouldn't "click", nor should their power light alternate red and green. That's when I noticed the DSL and Ethernet lights were not lit. This is definately not good.

I pushed the reset button on the back of the modem, plugged it in and no lights came on. Oh dear. I took the thing into the bathroom where I knew the outlet worked. Nothing. My heart sank. It sunk faster than a 2 ton stone in water. I was fairly certain the modem/router would have to be replaced. The piece that had died cost me $115 3-4 years ago. I couldn't even remember how long I'd had this. I did not have $115, not by any stretch of the imagination.

I shut down the Mac, picked up a magazine and spent the rest of the evening stewing over my options alternating with reading. The internet is important to me. It's become hugely important to be connected to it. But, I remember when a computer was a machine that took up a class room. I went to college when the only computer available for students to use was a machine in one room that was attached to a dot matrix printer. It played a really cool Star Trek game but you could only use it for 2 hours at a time and then, only from 6 a.m. to midnight as the building it was in was closed from midnight to 5:50 a.m.

I know how to survive without computers. Plus, I have internet access at the office. It's not like I'm totally cut off. I just wouldn't be online at night. I looked at the stack of magazines to my left. It's been whittled by 3/4. I can buy a new modem at the end of the month and, in the meantime, finish off the stack. It will be hard on weekends as I won't be able to stream Iowa Hawkeyes play-by-play, but I also have my phone and it's somewhat acceptable. I seldom access the internet via my phone, although I can. The resulting view is too small for my liking and my fat fingers can't type very well on the keypad. I can do this. Fifteen days. I can do this.

I posted, via this phone, a note to my WOW guild's Facebook page, apologizing for my sudden departure and explained what I thought was the problem. I also said that replacing the modem could be problematic. The next day, I was in the guild's web site chat room and was fairly ambushed by guys who work in computers for their various companies, all wanting to a) diagnose the problem and then b) find a solution for me. Several different modems were found online, all with prices around $40. Forty dollars I can handle. They all agreed that going to an AT&T store would result in my being sold something woefully overpriced and probably "a piece of *&^#", to use Squidchin's colorful language. He finally said, "Gimm, just go to the Micro Center over on Ogden. Take the old one in and they'll get you set up." Thoryn looked at their web site and found the bottom one. "That's what you need, Gimm. Print this page out and tell them, but have them verify everything."

Off I went. I walked into the store and when asked if I needed help, I said, "The guys in my WOW guild told me to come here, that you'd help me. This died last night." The salesman looked at me, smiled and said, "What server do you play on?" Inside I'm thinking, "Yes, SCORE! He understands!" He looked at the piece of paper and asked a couple of questions. "Yup, this is the one you want and even you can set it up." I did have to call AT&T because I had written down the wrong user name and password for the modem. The guy who helped me was very polite and efficient and I was back up and running in an hour.

A friend of mine has been having problems with her left wrist. It was in a velcro cast and she's taken steroids and anti-inflammatories. Nothing seemed to work. She finally went to the doctor who put the wrist and arm up to 3 inches above the elbow in a cast. She's to wear this for 5 weeks. He hopes complete immobilization will allow the tendon to heal. Prior to the visit, she was online looking at all the things it could be, from a simple sprain to bone cancer. She had worked herself into a huge worry and was actually scared of what the doctor could find.

How does this relate to my modem? While not to diminish her cast, she's left-handed so life is, shall we say, more "interesting", this is not nearly the worst thing the doctor could have done or told her the problem was. I sat in my chair on Monday night, carving out the worse-case scenario for the modem. I'd be offline at night for fifteen days until pay day and I could replace it. We both did the same thing. "What's the worst that could happen? Okay, let me mentally think that over so I'm prepared."

Make no mistake. There are times when you need to be prepared for anything. If you choose to drive in a blizzard, you need to consider what if you get stranded. Are you prepared for that? But in all situations, considering the worse case in everything will drive you batty. Yet I can do it time and time again. "I don't want to be blind sided by something I wasn't prepared for," I tell myself and friends who ask why I considered the worse case. The problem with the mind set is that it doesn't allow for those same friends to offer helpful advice. Never once, in my ruminations over hot tea and a magazine, did I consider that I know quite a few people who might have sound, sensible advice that would result in a solution that was inexpensive. I never thought of them. It was all about walking into the AT&T store and finding out that a replacement modem would be $157.93 and that I'd have to be on the phone for 90 minutes to get it set up. Worse case.

My friend in her cast and I realize we do this all the time. A little set back is not a "little" set back. It's a do or die, fight or flight chance for major decision making. I think it's because we've made decisions that have turned out to be not so great and which resulted in greater messes needing to be cleaned up. We missed one piece of information that, of course this is hindsight, was there and we discarded it. We didn't think everything through. What this does to us is slows down our decision making. It prevents us from clear headed analysis. I don't mean that every decision should be a quick, "Meh, this'll do," but I know I need to not make everything so grave. I know I need to not see everything as a worse case scenario.

I have endured and slogged through a lot in the past 15 years. This climb to where I am has given me skills I didn't have before. I get through things, events, problems, because I know I can. It may not be pretty, but I figure it out and go on. I look back at the modem event and realize I need a reality check here. This wasn't just about connecting back into the Internet so I could play the game. This was about connecting back into reality. Not everything is do or die and I have a large circle of friends who have a lot of information between them. I need to stop, breathe and ask.

Beverage:  Homemade Cherry Coke


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bet You Read it Wrong, Too

Pam and I went to Steak 'n Shake. It had been over a month, maybe longer, since we'd had dinner together and there was much catching up to do. On the way there, we made a left turn before some road construction. The usual flashing sign was before the road narrowed.

"Cell Phones Prohibited"

"In Work Zones"

And then this. Bet you read it the way we did, at first.

We both saw it. Pam pointed it out and I said, "Yes, I see it." "No," she said. "Look at it."

It's quite interesting how the mind works. There are a number of Internet memes that make the rounds regarding how well you can read even if the words are misspelled. Both of us take great pride in our language skills and we both read "protect" simply because that's what we knew it was supposed to be. We had a nice chuckle about this.

These are the kinds of signs that you will occasionally read about people hacking into to have "Zombies Ahead" flash instead of some construction warning. I'm kind of the opinion that we become inured to these signs and, eventually, we don't even notice what they say. Generally, it's the same thing. "One Lane Road" or "Speed Limit 55" or "No Left Turn". I think if they had a couple, one flashing, "Slow Down Zombies" and then the other "Not Really" and "Just One Lane", or something similar, people would slow down simply because the warnings are not the usual stuff. Advertisers know that you have to constantly come up with a new way to get your point across. Pam and I wondered if IDOT was trying the same thing.

Or not. This is the highway department. That might be giving them too much credit.

Beverage:  Raspberry tea


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


It's hard to tell the species with a cell phone photo.

This bird has been in the back yard for the last two weeks. I first saw it the first weekend in October. My cell phone was dead then or I'd have tried to get a photo because it was just outside the back door. This past weekend, it was taking a bath in one of the puddles in the driveway. When I got my phone and went to photograph it, it had flown to the tree beyond the Jeep. This is the best I could get.

It has the size and shape of a robin but it's black and white. It's not big enough to be a pigeon. It's possible it could be an albino cardinal, as it's close to cardinal size. I don't know much about albinism other than it's the absence of pigment, but I thought the animal would be solid white and this bird is not. It has patches of black on it. It's not anything I've ever seen before so I'm quite curious. I have only seen it on weekends, but then, I'm not home during the day during the week so it could be all over my yard during the day.

It's times like this that I wish I had a better camera. Oh well the cell phone takes acceptable photos.

Beverage: Rooibos tea


Maybe Zombies?

It was probably silly of me to think the squirrels would leave the pumpkins alone. It's one thing for them to be in a pile with hundreds of other pumpkins and lots of people.

It's quite another thing for them to be alone on my front steps.

Hence, I shouldn't have been that surprised when they chewed into one and then the other. Over the weekend, I heard a noise and when I looked outside, there was one of the fattest red squirrels I have ever seen with his head in the north side pumpkin.

He filled the entire hole they had chewed. They love pumpkin seeds and I don't really blame them but the squirrel doing the eating looked like he needed Weight Watchers. Opportunistic buggers.

I posted this photo to Facebook and several people suggested it looked like the spider had dug the hole. "You know, zombie spiders bursting out of pumpkins..." or as Melody called it, "pumpkin zombie apocalypse".

At first, I was going to get new pumpkins, but, the more I think about it, the more I could use these as they are. I have to sweep the detritus off the steps which probably means volunteer pumpkins in the front come spring. Then, I could spray paint 4 more of the balls black, cut short legs and they could be hatchlings coming out of the pumpkins. We got 2 inches of rain over the weekend and other than the webbing looking a bit beaten down, the spiders survived the deluge just fine. I was a touch upset by the chewing but, now that I step back to think about this, it could be really funny.

So, the next step, spray paint more balls and make more spiders!

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Monday, October 15, 2012

Less to Waste

It was time for a new bottle of zinc. I have taken zinc for a long time. It seems to help with regards to warding off colds, flu and other such things. I take 50 mg a day, which is one capsule. It, a calcium and vitamin D supplement, and Folic Acid are taken every morning with breakfast.

So I open the bottle. Inside is the cotton plug. I remember reading some place a long time ago that, in the spring, putting these out for birds to take is a great idea. They will pick them apart for nesting materials. Well, it's October and, other than lining the nest to keep out the cold, I can't see them taking this.

I was thinking about all that as I started removing the wad, and removing, and removing and removing. Sheesh. There's half a field of cotton in here. After I pulled the wad out, there is half a bottle of zinc. I am not making this up. The line in the photo more or less shows where the zinc started and the cotton wad stopped. I wondered why the bottle I emptied was smaller. There was less cotton and less plastic bottle. The brand I had emptied was not available at CVS.

I understand the need for the cotton. It prevents the pills from shifting in the shipping process, smashing together and breaking apart. Zinc isn't that expensive and I can recycle the bottle easily. I used to have a cat who loved to play with the cotton. You'd ball it up and throw it around and she'd chase it. These two, when offered the ball, sniffed it and the looked at me as if to say, "Now what?" Still, it just seems to be such a waste of resources to have half the bottle stuffed with cotton.

Beverage:  Water


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Okay Then. I Won't Be Back

The conversation went something like this.

"Would you like to sign up for our preferred customer card?"

No, thank you.

"In two weeks, if you don't have it, you don't get the specials."

Excuse me?

"You'll be paying full price on these items because you don't have the card."

So, what you're saying is that there will never be sales prices for non-card members again at Walgreens.


Therefore, every time your sales flyer comes in the mail, I can throw it out because it's meaningless to anyone but a person who has a card.

(Hesitant look on the clerk's face.) "Well, no. It's still something you could read."

But you just said that all the sales prices in the store are only for card members. Isn't that what you told me?

"Um...yeah, but..."

There's no but. Either I have a card and can get the sales prices or I don't have a card and this whole place becomes full price. That's what you're saying.

"No, there will always be sales."

But I have to have a card, which I don't want, in order to get those sales.

"Well, kinda...yeah."

Well, thank you for the information. I won't be shopping here ever again.

I collected my chocolate and left the store. As I got to my car, I heard an "Excuse me!" It was the guy who was behind me in line.

"Do you really think they are going to no sales without a card?"

It sort of seems that way, doesn't it? He nodded.

"I've always come here for quick stops on the way home. Guess I won't be doing that anymore."

I agree with him. Walgreens has been convenient for me. It's on the way home. CVS, where I get my prescriptions, is closer to the house but not on the way home from work. I understand the whole loyalty program. I use several loyalty cards, but it seems to me the way to suck people in to using them is not to exclude them on everything you have for sale. "The M&M's are 50 cents off, on sale, but if you have our loyalty program, you get an additional dollar off." That, to me, is how you build a use for a loyalty card.

I don't use Walgreens for anything really. It won't change my shopping habits to never go there again. It will make me think about my purchases more because the M&M's aren't on the way home. That will probably be a boon for my pocketbook.

Beverage:  Water


It's Not Really a Cure

I've mentioned how, on occasion, I endure some minor bouts of depression. I'm not as bad as some people I know who really have that hard mistress, as I like to think of her, living with them. I struggle with it, but can usually find something, after a few days, to lift my spirits. It's been rough for me, for about a week now.

It's hard to say what triggers the arrival of the mistress. I think this time it was all the walking that I've had to do to complete an inspection job. I'm not done with it either and there's at least a half-day's worth of walking yet to do before I'm done.

I still don't have a clue on my bodily limits as I deal with RA. Some days, I don't do as much as I could and then feel badly because things aren't done at the end of a day. The next day, I feel exactly the same and I am completely spent from doing half as much as I did the day before. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to my endurance or lack thereof. I did great on Sunday. I moved slowly and I recognized that by the time I got to the sub shop to pick up lunch, that was going to be it. I don't feel nearly as achy in the body today, but walking down the hall to my boss's office is tiring me out. This is depressing.

Part of depression is the levels of serotonin in your brain. As I looked back over the last 10 days, I felt, yesterday, that perhaps my serotonin levels weren't high. Hence, in addition to just feeling crummy because my joints ache, I might be having a chemical issue. Well, what raises serotonin? Chocolate. There's my temporary answer.

I realized I haven't had chocolate anything in over 10 days. I think I do best when I have something chocolate at least every other day. So, on the way home, I stopped at Walgreens and picked up the assortment you see here. This is not a cure. If you know anything about depression, it's really not something that gets "cured" as you would cure a cold. You learn what triggers your depression and you learn the ways you can get out of it or, at the very least, manage it. Sometimes, that includes medication and/or therapy. I've done the therapy but never the medication, unless you want to consider chocolate my medication.

I dived into the Oreos when I got home. That was all I ate for supper last night. I had Oreos and milk, Oreos and cranberry grape juice and Oreos and tea. There was a brief moment where the nutrition fairy alighted on my shoulder and said, " gonna eat the whole bag? You know that's not good for you." Nutritionally, no. Eating half a bag of Oreos cannot, in any way, shape or form, be considered a "good dietary choice". But I'm not looking at my diet. I'm looking at my mood. If a $3.00 bag of Oreos gets my mood back where it should be, then that's what I'm going to do.

I could be deluding myself, but I did feel better about 9 p.m. last night. Yes, I ate half the bag. The M&Ms are untouched but are there for the rest of the week. A couple handfuls of them per day and I'll be on an even keel in no time. Things won't seem so oppressive even when I move slower than molasses, uphill, in January. Hmmmmm, molasses. I read where that's a help for RA. I like molasses. I think some tests are in order.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Technically, it's been Christmas all year in that I started back in January to make things for people for Christmas this year. I might not get the last project, which I started over Labor Day weekend, but which hasn't really called to me since then, done. It's supposed to be a delightful weekend upcoming, possibly the last one until April of next year, and I believe I should be outside, sitting on the deck, enjoying it. I think that's an acceptable use of my time. Therefore, I'll be working on the cross-stitch this weekend. Maybe I will get it done. Who knows. The person to whom it would go is not expecting anything like that, heck, not expecting anything really, so he or she will be surprised if I do get it done.

But now is the time that I assess the finances and look for those items to fill in around what I already have. We exchange "gifts" at the office Christmas party every year. Sometimes, they are very useful gifts, like the gift certificates to Best Buy that we got one year. I used it to buy that converter box we needed to have for our TVs. Most of the time, it's something silly or something interesting that doesn't cost a lot. Last year, I made those ornaments and everyone got one.

I was looking for a drinking bird. Yes, there's an upcoming blog post involving the drinking bird. I didn't have one and I needed one. You know what that is even if you don't recognize the name. On the web site where I found the bird, I found this. Score! This is perfect for the guys for Christmas. They were cheap and, although they are plastic wrapped, there was a faint bacon odor.

I ordered a few more items for other people too and the order came in a very nice box.

Yes, perfectly (or is that purr-fectly) Pilchard size. All I had to do was drop the box on the floor and she claimed it, immediately. This is a nice box and it is the proper size to ship one of the cross-stitches I made earlier this year. I like being done by Thanksgiving with all my shopping or having only a handful of people left to finish. We'll see how that goes. 70 days left before Christmas? Something like that?

And no worries about tipping off the guys to what they are getting. None of them read my blog. 

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


They Just Couldn't Wait

This is the pumpkin on the south side of the front. I went to get the mail when I got home from work last night and a squirrel took off as I opened the storm door. I just had to laugh.

See, if the pumpkins hadn't gone really soft, I was going to take them around back and see how long it took before the squirrels had chewed into them to get at the seeds. I guess they couldn't wait. So, do I replace this pumpkin? It's actually funny. No styrofoam spider is going to scare them from a good meal.

Beverage: Dunkin' Donuts tea


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mums the Word

Rows of them. Rows and rows of them. So many colors, but only 2 sizes, not that it really mattered. I couldn't afford to bring one home anyway. But aren't these gorgeous?

What I liked was the globular size. They were huge about 3/4ths balls covered with flowers. There were so many colors, too.

I'm sure they aren't just "mums". There is probably a different kind for these ones that are a mass of blossoms. Look at how compact the flower head is. It's completely covered in flowers. All of the plants along this side were like that. The smaller ones, out by the entry, were more leggy. Those are the kind of mums I remember, the ones that got leggy by the end of the season.

If I could have afforded one, I would have purchased this one.

I was drawn to the dark, intense read of the few flowers that were open. This would make a great contrast to the blue of the front porch.

I remember my brother had a little mum plant that he nurtured for years. It didn't grow much from year to year, but he kept it going for several years. I wonder if you could do that with these. I know they are designed to be stuck around the house and then tossed around Thanksgiving, after the nights never get above 35. I wonder, if I pruned off all the blossoms and transplanted it to a new pot, would it overwinter? If it didn't make it all the way through the winter, I'll bet it would blossom again briefly. Who couldn't use some flowers in the dead of winter?

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea



Over the weekend, the night temperatures were to drop into the low 30's. I realized it was probably time to bring in the geraniums. There may be a few more days in October, those 'Indian summer' days, where they can be out on the deck, but they have probably see their last days in the sun, wind and rain.

Now, they are taking up residence on the kitchen floor until I get around to cutting them back and removing the dead leaves. I also have to go into the back room and make room for them to sit in the south window. They need a good soaking and some fertilizer and then we'll call it a season.

They look marvelous. I deadheaded them about mid-September and they responded with a flourish of blooms. The pink one, at the back, is about 3 feet tall now. It's going to be tough to take about 6 inches off it, but I need to or it will bet quite leggy.

Here comes the "hard" part. I haven't been able to overwinter a red geranium. I bought one this year and it looks very happy in its pot. Can I keep it going all winter?

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Trying to Get My Business

In the mail, I get these flyers with coupons. Ninety-five percent of the time, I wind up tossing the whole thing into the recycling bin as there's nothing in the flyers I can use. On Saturday, two came. I've been chucking them without even perusing them because there's nothing for me but, for some reason, I actually looked through both of them. There was a coupon for $7.99 hair cuts at the place I get my hair cut and there was a coupon for a free drink and chips when you bought a sandwich from a new sub place in town. It happened to be over by the JoAnn Fabrics where I was headed after getting the pumpkins. That would make it just an easy stop on the way home.

I know nothing about this chain. It appears they have been around for some time and are just making inroads into my neck of the woods. It's a small place with 5 tables and a huge TV. The menu is quite large in terms of specialty sandwiches and they will do made to order sandwiches, too.

After several minutes reading the menu, I opted for their "Hook and Ladder". It's ham and turkey with Monterey Jack cheese. It comes with mayo, tomato and onion but they did make mine without all that. "Do you want a pickle?" No thanks but they gave me a pickle anyway. The sandwich is heated so the cheese melts.

It's 8 inches long for $7.38. You all know how I feel about Subway so how did this stack up against Subway. Let's just say that I won't go there again unless I have a coupon. If I'm going to spend $10 for a sub meal, I want a footlong. They have white or wheat bread. I usually don't get my Subway sandwiches toasted I think I'd have to speak up loudly to not get a toasted sub here. I don't necessarily think toasting adds to the flavor of the sub. In the winter, a hot sandwich is nice, but I prefer mine untoasted so I taste all the ingredients.

And that's where I think this sub failed. It all tasted the same. There wasn't a difference between the ham and the turkey. Their wheat roll got soggy, especially the second half. There's not a lot to recommend me driving out of my way to go get one.

One thing they did have which I found really interesting was the Coca-Cola "Freestyle" machine. If you go to the web site and click on beverages, it pulls up a graphic of the machine. It's a bit smaller than a regular soda machine but it dispenses, they say, up to 120 different sodas. There is a graphic on the front where you select your beverage, Dr Pepper, and then the version, regular, and then, the flavor, regular. They had cherry and cherry vanilla Dr Pepper in regular and Diet. On the cup was a listing of all the flavors this machine will dispense and, if you are inclined to mix flavors, as some people are, your possibilities for beverages jumps to the hundreds. You could get water, sparkling water, ice tea in flavors and lemonade in flavors. It's quite impressive, but the storage space for all those kinds of beverages has to be huge. No Pepsi products. This is solely a Coke thing.

The bottom line, for me, is that they haven't won my business from Subway. I'm a fairly boring person when it comes to the subs I like so a place like this isn't attractive to me. Plus, in terms of what I get for my money, Subway can't be beat with a footlong for $6.00 versus an 8 inch for $7.00. I think there's room for variety so I wish them well.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea