Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Won!

There is a blog to the right, Cat Wisdom 101, which was running a contest in conjunction with the release of "Cat Daddy" by Jackson Galaxy. If you don't know Jackson's name, you might recognize his TV show on Animal Planet, "My Cat From Hell". For those who don't know the program, Jackson makes house calls to the homes of cat guardians who are at their wits end dealing with a feline who is not socializing well. In some of the programs I've watched, I almost wonder if he ever thinks, "These people shouldn't care for a cat. Period." He always winds up helping both the cat and the guardian live together and thrive.

I don't have cats from hell. While we don't always have sunny skies, we don't have the viciousness, terror and anger that some of the cats Jackson deals with exhibit. Yet, every time I have a chance to watch the show, I learn something, from how to pet the girls to how to play with them to arranging the living space so they will feel at home, something, that enriches all our lives.

Cat Wisdom 101 was giving away an autographed copy of the book. All I had to do was leave a comment. On May 20th, I checked back to the blog and saw this.

My heart jumped a beat. I think the Deb N'Cats is me. I don't remember. It was over a week ago. Yes, I think that's me. OMG! I won! The book arrived yesterday. Today, I removed it from the wrapper and gave it a 'cat scan'. 

It passed. Actually Mija spent quite a bit of time rubbing the edges. I would imagine there was a curious new book smell to this. And yes, it is autographed, not personally, but autographed nonetheless.

I think I shall start reading this over the coming weekend, once I get the deck chairs out of the storage box. It's rare for me to win anything so I'm thrilled. I'll have a review once I'm finished.

P.S. If you need any wisdom on living, loving and caring for a feline, check out the blog Cat Wisdom 101, conveniently bookmarked to the right. Today's question is one I submitted.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Decisions Decisions

These were the shoe choices I selected off my rack for Niles and Jenn's wedding. The tan ones are the ones I bought for Carole's wedding. The white sandals I got for her college graduation. The red ones I've had for decades. They were, at one time, my favorite shoe. They were comfortable and stylish.

The problem is, they don't fit comfortably anymore. I've had some problems with my feet in the past year which I've come to understand is part of having RA. I'm also told that once I get stabilized, the twinges, the cramps, the odd feelings of sand on the soul will go away. There is no guarantee, however, that what I was able to wear, I will be able to wear again.

So, what do I do with these? I'll keep the tan ones but what about the other two and the other pairs hanging on the shoe rack? Do I just give all those away? I'm on the fence. The red ones have a history with them and it feels like giving away that history. The white ones, meh. They are nice shoes however and perhaps saving them for another couple of months while medications get sorted out isn't a bad thing. It's not like I have them spread out all over. They all hang on a shoe rack which is on the back of my bedroom closet door.

In the drive to rid myself of unnecessary stuff, a shoe rack 80% filled with shoes I no longer wear would be at the top of the list. I found myself pulling them off, looking at them, and remembering why I wore them and where. It's probably, then, too early to move these into the give away bag. Back on the rack they go.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Sometimes the Hardest Part

I love the dress I got for Niles and Jenn's wedding. It's going to be a "go-to" item if I need to dress up a bit. For fancy, I can wear what I made for Carole's wedding, but for better than pants, it's going to be the item I pull out of my closet the most.

Now, I don't dress up. I just have no reason to anymore. I don't need to wear dressy clothes to the office and many times a nice tee shirt and jeans is good enough. The dressiest I've been is wearing cologne in my year-long drive to use up these bottles and vials of stuff I've had for years. For the record, I am on my last vial of uncarded cologne, meaning the small vials which were not attached to a card. It's Ralph Lauren's Blue. It's interesting but not something I need a whole bottle of.

It doesn't take me long to get dressed, even when that involves more than pants and a shirt. I just don't believe, anymore, in spending precious time painting my face. I wear make up, sometimes the full gamut, but it still doesn't take me the time I hear that it takes other women. Maybe I've just gotten good at fast application, I'm not sure.

There does come a part in the getting ready where I have to take time. That's the part where the color of lipstick is chosen. Now, for the few guys who read my little corner of the Internet, those are NOT all the same color. Those are 5 different colors and each one has merit. You're a very special guy if you can understand why it is important to a woman to have 5 different shades of what is, essentially the same color. It matters. It really does. You want just the right color and that sometimes means buying several shades around that color. It took me as long to pick out the lipstick shade as it did to get dressed and apply my make up. But, it's that important.

For the record, I went with the second from the left. I don't remember the color but it had "pink" in the name and it was the perfect shade.

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


More Growth

The temperatures over the weekend were decidedly over 90 degrees. I actually turned on the AC for the those two days because, well, the comfort of the cats was paramount. They were afraid of the box fan which sits on the livingroom floor keeping the air at their level circulating. It took a couple days to get used to it but then Pilchard was spotted with her back to the fan, enjoying the breeze.

Today, the temperatures aren't expected to crack 60. It's like November or March out there. The bright sunshine and heat of Memorial Day weekend caused the plants in the flower pots to grow.

This was Saturday morning.

On Monday afternoon, they looked like this. 

There hasn't been much appreciable growth since the weekend and with the temperatures, at night, down in the 40's, I worry, just a bit, that growth will be nipped in the bud. For example, look at the hydrangea which is off the deck. 

Notice the "burned" areas on the leaves. I was concerned about that so I did a bit of research. That's the result of the record March warmth that caused the plant to bud out sooner than it should have. It's frost damage from the April into May "normal" temperatures we had. It won't affect the plant other than to make the leaves look bad. Indeed, it's got a lot of flower heads on it. 

It's just been the weirdest weather I can remember this year. No blizzard. Hardly any snow. Summer in March and cold, damp weather in April and May, but not enough rain. Like us, plants are probably wondering just what the heck is going on. 

This weekend, I will attempt to pull the deck chairs out of the storage unit and position them with a view of my growing seedlings. I'm reminded of a song John Denver sang on The Muppet Show

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down

Gonna get a red geranium this weekend, too. 

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Tradition, At Least With Us

When I go home to visit my mother, one of the first things she asks is, "What would you like to eat?" Certain kinds of food are tradition in some families. My mother is a great cook and I'll eat pretty much anything she makes. When Carole was younger, mom made pot roast. Carole's dad liked the way my mother made that dish. My answer to the inevitable question is usually, "I like whatever you're going to make, mom." She's made some great things in recent years, things I wouldn't have probably tried.

I asked the same thing of Carole when the date grew close for her trip back. "Is there going to be time for me to cook dinner? If so, is there something you want?" While their weekend was stuffed to the gills, there was Friday night and that night revolved around Italian Meatloaf.

Essentially, all this is is meatloaf with shredded mozzarella cheese in the center, rolled up in a log. Oh there's more oregano than you'd put in a regular meatloaf and the binder is crushed saltine crackers. You also add a third of a cup of tomato sauce to the meat and bake the thing for an hour. After an hour, you take it out and pour 2/3 cup of sauce over the top and bake it again for 15 minutes. Fragrant and simple, it's been a staple of our family for decades. It represents home.

To this, I added cottage fries and Green Giant niblets corn.

It took an hour and a half to get everything assembled and on the plates. Even with us eating our fill, I have two meals of leftovers and this is the perfect meal to take to work for lunches.

Sometimes I think I want to try something new or cook something different. But then I realize that sometimes, the familiar is what's called for. They had traveled for 13 hours, slept for 4 and spent the afternoon running around to see people. Carole hadn't been in Wheaton for almost 3 years. Things change. Having a well-loved meal in one's former home brought comfort.

Food does that.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Almost Like Old Times

Time is such a linear thing. There's no way to select a period and go back, even to observe. I was thinking about that this weekend as we gathered for Niles Eastman's wedding.

I'm in that period of life where the kids who gathered in my living room playing Super Smash Brothers, Golden Eye or Magic cards, are marrying. Carole said there has been a wedding she's either gone to or known of from her high school friends every year for the past 7 years. Niles has the honor this year.

Part of this celebration means the kids, and calling them "kids" doesn't really describe them, who are pushing 30 now, come back to Wheaton for this. I have the chance to see them sitting in my living room, not playing Diplomacy, but talking about what's going on in their lives. Or, we arrange to meet some place for lunch, as we did here, with Phil and his parents.

I last saw Phil at Carole and David's wedding and his parents longer ago than that. It's probably a mark of how close we were that we could pick up from where we left off with just minor inquiries. "So are you still at ... ?" The conversation was warm and familiar with laughter and much remembering. David is the new person in all of this but he fit right in. There had been a fire on a nuclear submarine that day and his knowledge helped us understand what the crew and the local firefighters had to deal with. Plus, he's got some really, really funny stories.

It was a very good 90 minutes passed in the company of friends. We don't know who will be next year, who will lure us back to have lunch at Egg'lectic Cafe in downtown Wheaton. The great thing about this place is that the food and service was just as good as the company. Blackberry and banana pancakes.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


An Extra Pair of Hands

There are some things around the house that, if I had an extra pair of hands, they'd be done in, roughly, 30 minutes. What David and Carole are doing in the photo is one of those things.

I have an antique bed set. It's a bed, dresser and dressing table. There's a bench that goes with the dressing table, but it needs to be reassembled with wood screws and glue and that is low on the list of things to do, mainly because I don't really have a place for the bench in the bedroom. The bed consists of a headboard and footboard attached with wooden slats. There is a lip on the interior of the slats where pieces of wood lay crosswise to hold the mattress and box spring off the floor.

Years ago, that lip on one of the slats cracked and broke off. I'm not skilled enough to fashion any thing that would replace this so I simply moved the mattress and box springs to the floor and have slept on them on the floor ever since. It's difficult to get up in the morning sometimes and back before my RA drugs, I needed a cane to lean on to stand up. I bought the cheap bed frame you see on the floor but it came when I was busy and then days stretched to weeks stretched to months and there was no way I could, physically, lift the mattress and box springs off the floor, assemble the frame and maneuver the mattress and springs down onto the new frame. When David and Carole came, it became one of those things that they could easily do in 30 minutes and we'd all sleep better.

They discovered a small problem. The frame has no way to connect to my headboard or footboard. David could drill holes in each piece and, if I had the proper size wood screws, screw both pieces onto this frame. First of all, I knew I didn't have the right kind of screws. Secondly, while that's an adaptation to the new frame, it's not ideal and sort of ruins the pieces. David looked at the slats and said that because they are solid wood, we could go to the hardware store the next time he comes, buy some lumber and wood screws and he can fix the slats. Then the cheap-o bed frame becomes a give away item. So, the slats and the footboard went into the basement to await a time when they can be repaired and reassembled.

The headboard is just leaning against the wall with the mattress shoved up against it. It's kind of noisy in that the mattress is not connected to it and rubs against it every time I roll over. It will take some getting used to, to sleep through the tossing and turning.

Elevating the mattress and springs about 4 inches off the floor has made a difference in getting up. It probably wouldn't have helped last fall as I was simply in too much pain. I was stiff on Monday morning but it was much less time consuming to stand up. I'm told there are bed elevating items I can get at Bed, Bath and Beyond which will raise the bed another 5 inches. That might be something to investigate but I'll need help in putting them on the feet.

The cats aren't quite sure what to make of this new space to explore. I'm now going to have to remember that if I can't find it and it was in the bedroom, I should look under the bed.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Family Tradition

I suppose this is a bit odd for a family "tradition" but it seems to be one we stubbornly hold onto after years and years of travel.

This is Carole's make-up bag. She left it in the bathroom when she returned to Virginia on Monday. I didn't find it until they'd been gone for over an hour and she didn't realize she didn't have it until they were 20 minutes into Indiana. They were gone too far to come back and get it. I shipped it yesterday and she'll have it by Friday.

This seems to be tradition with us. We will go through a house three, four, five times and we'll still miss something like a make-up case. I went through the house before they left and missed this, too. All it takes is to be distracted or to have the item moved, even a few inches from where you left it, to make it invisible. Ninety percent of the time, the item or items are inconsequential to one's life. You can see deodorant in the case. It's no trouble to run out and get another stick. It's quite something else if you leave shoes or articles of clothing. We've done that in the past.

So, if I come to visit and leave a little something behind, it's probably not something I can't live without. Just consider that you've been adopted into the family and are now participating in an time-honored family tradition. "Hi, do you know you left your deodorant on the end table?" If you hold it for "ransom", I maybe could come back and get it. 

Beverage: Huckleberry tea


Monday, May 28, 2012

This Vexes Me #16.

It's been awhile since I've had something to vex me. I'm trying not to let things get to me, even though they do. But, I've spent a day cleaning up after a wonderful weekend as well as pushing forward to clean some things that didn't get done before Carole and David came. That has involved the use of paper towels. And you know what, this vexes me. This. See?

I've used 4 different sheets today and every. single. one. has torn off like this. In fact, out of the half a roll used, I would say 90% of the sheets I've torn off have left this diagonal on the left side. Is it me? Because I'm right handed, am I not tearing them off completely? Are they not cut all the way through? Is it because I'm not buying the cream of the paper towel crop and using store brand? What is it because this is annoying.

Yes, there are times, such as crushing a spider or a large ant, that this diamond on the end is valuable. But most of the time, I want a full sheet. I use what gets torn off and keep the extra diamond on the sheet above. Still, if it's going to be perforated, it should tear all the way across.

Beverage:  Water


Here and Gone

I'm typing this after a wee nap and a load of dishes done and a load of whites washed and hung to dry. Carole and David are headed back to Virginia. It was such a whirlwind visit.

They arrived on Friday morning at 6:30. That's right. They drove. All night. From Virginia. They were the photographers at Niles Eastman's wedding yesterday and did not trust TSA or any baggage handler to not break or otherwise confiscate their photographic equipment. While there is no way on this planet I could drive 13 hours to get to one place, with two of them, they did it.

After a nap on Friday, we had lunch and they trundled off to see friends. Friday night, we had time for a home cooked dinner and some Trivial Pursuit.

Saturday, they met more friends and then started their photographic odyssey by shooting the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.

Sunday was the big day.  This blurry image is from the church as Carole was waiting for the processional to start. Carole is a landscape photographer. You can see some of her work at She has a unique perspective on scenery. David's vision can be found on He's been involved in photography longer than Carole but they share the same kind of energy and passion for the medium.

We have known Niles since he was in 8th grade, I think. Ironically, the church where Niles married and where his mother is the senior pastor was the church where Carole was baptised, St. Paul Lutheran, in Wheaton. It's too long of a story to explain why we aren't there anymore. When Niles and Jenn were looking for photographers, Carole and David became the only choice, never mind that their involvement meant a drive back to Wheaton. A friendship going on 10 years means you come to a wedding, wherever you are. (Once some of the photos get processed and up on the web site, you know I'll share a link.)

If you look at David's web site, you'll see a lot of interesting images, close ups and stills, which require a "studio" of sorts. It was this equipment they were concerned about as a photographer comes with his full arsenal. They did have to rent a couple pieces they didn't own to make sure they had all options covered. It's quite a lot of material, in large and small bags, to haul around.

Thirty-odd years ago, when I married Carole's dad, the photographer had a bag filled with film. The idea of the photographer as a mobile person within the wedding was not fully developed. If you had a formal reception, say, at the country club, there could be a spot reserved for everyone who attended the wedding to go be photographed.

Today, Carole and David wandered about the wedding and reception taking photos all the time. Here they are, as we wait for the meal to be served, looking through the digital cameras at what they had already taken. Multiple images on film was unheard of. That would cost too much money. Now, you can squeeze off 4-10 in a row and pretty much capture movement and the perfect photo. A lot has changed.

They were offered a hotel room last night and gratefully took it. They were exhausted. I heard nothing but compliments on how they handled things, the photos they took and their willingness to "Can you shoot x?" I think she personally shot over 1600 photos. That will be a lot to process and upload over the next week.

This morning, they loaded up the car and left. The girls are happy they are gone. Mija and Pilchard are just not at all used to more than me or Pam in the house. Pilchard was more willing to be petted and I'm pleased that Mija did come out and say, "Hi" a few times. A couple more days and maybe she wouldn't growl when Carole and David came into the house.

It was a too short visit, of course. Something like this generally is. I have such a small house without a guest bedroom that it can be an inconvenience for all around to co-exist. But, we made it work. It's quiet again.

I miss them.

Beverage:  Grape Juice



There was a lot of down time this weekend. That's a good thing if you're looking to complete something which requires a block of time. On Saturday afternoon, I finished the outlining.

Sunday, before dressing for the wedding, I moved the hoop and worked on the bushes.

In the process, with the light in the living room, I discovered about 6 half-finished cross-stitches in the clouds. They might never have gone noticed, but I noticed them so those were finished. They were all in the light blue and light yellow which is understandable. Those colors were close enough to the fabric that I would miss seeing they were unfinished.

This morning, while waiting for the kids to get here from the hotel, I finished the bushes.

Now, I need to wash and iron it and, this coming weekend, I can take it to be framed while there is a large sale at JoAnn Fabrics. I'm going to leave about a half inch of the fabric around the design for the finished piece. I thought I knew what I wanted in the frame and mat when I started this. Seeing the finished design, I'm not sure now. I will have to study the options.

This has been a very fun piece to do. It took a total of 30 days to complete, if I had worked on it every day. The next project is to finish the Christmas banner and then my next project is lined up after that. That one takes a bit of research before I can start it.

Beverage:  Grape Juice


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Close to Complete

The kids got in early yesterday morning. While they napped, I stitched. Then, after lunch, they went to visit some friends and I stitched. 

The addition of the outlining has defined this. The sky is all done. I'm finishing the tower. I have to do the bushes at the bottom and I am finished. 

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Letting Go

We are well into day 2 of the weekend visit where Carole and David have come for Niles and Jenn's wedding. I look around my house and there was so much I wanted, back in February, to get done, but which didn't.

I can do that easily to myself. Dust this. Paint that. Wash this. Sort that. Some of the dusting got done. I did dust the lintels over the doors and removed long empty cobwebs, now festooned with dust, from corners, most of the corners, anyway. I got the deck painted and the bathroom washed. There is still a pile to my right which has not been sorted.

I realized about 2 weeks ago, that the task I had given myself to be "ready" for their visit was way over what I could reasonably hope to accomplish. Having acknowledged that x and x and x weren't going to get done, I went into something of a funk. I just don't have the prolonged energy to be on my knees, on a ladder or on top of all the things that "ready" implied, at least in my mind. I had failed.

But whom had I failed? The kids are fine with the house. They helped do a couple things I don't have the physical strength to do and, in the process, we dusted. Big deal. The only person really unhappy with what didn't get done was me and I know that voice. I've been dealing with her for years.

In the end, I had to let go of the "I need to do x before they arrive" and embrace the "I can get x done before they arrive".  It's not about failure but about what I, realistically, could accomplish. Some things, like washing the exterior of all the windows, I'd love to get done. Some windows, like the living room ones, are rather dirty on the outside. Some things, like washing the bathroom, are necessities and had to be done, although I had to do it in stages. The days are gone when I can spend 2 hours without a break, cleaning the bathroom top to bottom. Now, it takes 2 hours over a couple of days, but it gets done. Washing the windows is going to take more than I'm capable of, at this time.

So, the key is to get done what is necessary and make sure that voice understands I'm doing all I can. I may never be able to silence it but letting go of "I need" and embracing "I want" helps tremendously.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea



I noticed this when I took materials to the recycling bin. These sprouts are encouraging. Are they the real deal? That is, are they the sprouts of the flowers I planted in these pots? I have no clue, but I'm going to let them grow until I can tell for certain they aren't what I put there.

Remember, a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Year Ago

It's hard to believe that a year ago, we were at the end of celebrating the wedding of my daughter. It was a perfect day for two perfect people.

Congratulations on one year.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Stitching

After all the work outside, it was time to come inside and just sit. I filled up the sink with dishes and plopped myself into the recliner for some stitching. Stitch until the piece of thread I'm using is done with, do a load of dishes. I nodded off a couple of times in the 2 hours I spent stitching. Hard work and being out in the fresh air and sunshine will do that. Plus, I had ears to scratch. It was warm yesterday so I brought up the box fan from the basement and put it in the living room. The pedestal fan stayed up here in the back room so I hauled that out and turned it on to blow air down the hallway.

It didn't work. That's my go-to fan. I find the pedestal fan works best at keeping the air circulated simply because it's off the ground. I really was not happy at the thought of having to buy a know what? Electric fans work really well if they are plugged in. The pedestal fan had been on an extension cord which was unplugged from the fan. I didn't realize that when I moved the fan. Plug it in and it works perfectly.

The girls and I enjoyed sitting in the living room with a breeze from the fan. I got the rest of the sky filled half-way with color. It should be clear what the design is now. I have to finish the other half of the sky, details on the Eiffel Tower and the grass at the bottom. I really like how this turned out and I have plenty of time to get it framed for Christmas giving.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Maybe I Should Get Rid of These, Part 2

I have no idea how old these are. These are "gardening shoes". I do know they were offered years ago by Avon products and I bought a pair.

They are rubber. The insoles come out and they can be hosed off or tossed in the washing machine. They are a modified clog in that the back is a bit higher than the other clogs I have. That's a very faded Winnie the Pooh decorative motif on them. They are sturdy and very functional and have sat in the basement for years.

I got a bag of pea gravel this weekend. It's use was to fill the holes in the driveway. I walked out to the car in my slippers and realized that just wasn't the best footwear to be in but I didn't want to put on tennis shoes. That's when I remembered these.

I had considered getting rid of them several years ago. I had worn them a lot when I was much more actively gardening. In fact, they would sit outside by the back door, insoles removed. I'd dump any water that had accumulated in them out, put the insoles back in and be out in the yard in 5 minutes, chucking them when I came inside. Other than being faded, there is nothing at all wrong with them. They are as sturdy as the day I got them. But, I just didn't wear them and why keep something you aren't wearing?

I wasn't sure if the deck was dry (it was) so best to have any tackiness on shoes and not on feet. I wiped them off, put them on and filled the holes in the drive. It's funny how a simple pair of shoes causes memories to come flooding back. I wore these everywhere in the yard. I think I even wore them to the grocery on occasion since they were sitting by the back door.

That's where they are now, sitting by the back door, inside so they will stay dry. This is one time I'm glad inertia caused me to not get rid of something.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea



After Saturday's deck staining, Sunday morning was devoted, primarily, to adding flower pots to the newly stained deck. Back in February, my friend, Patt, sent me 4 packages of flower seeds. In my head, I was going to start them indoors, along with a few other seeds. That didn't happen. So, I pulled pots out of the storage shed and added seeds to fresh potting soil.

This first pot is just a random mix. I also planted Asters, Shasta Daisies, sunflowers and white Nicotania. I have a package of poppies to plant but the pot I wanted to use was ant infested. I shook them around and now they will leave so that pot will be available later this week for the poppies. The nicotania are seeds Carole and I got from Monticello when we visited several years ago. I hope they will sprout. We'll see. I keep my seeds in the basement, in dark and cool conditions which shouldn't cause them to deteriorate that much.

It will be interesting to see if anything really does sprout and grow in this grouping.

As I was filling containers with fresh potting soil, I was kind of kicking myself for not starting this sooner. But, in talking with friends who have gardens, plant growth has been retarded due to the unseasonably chilly late spring weather. It was 87 yesterday. Today's high is only supposed to be 65, a full 22 degrees cooler. For plants that like the warmer temperatures, this isn't helpful. We did get rain so that was a plus.

I also brought the geraniums back outside. They will be out for the year now. I had to cut back the big pink one. It had grown in the two months it was back inside and was quite leggy. I cut it back by half and added fresh soil to all the geranium pots. They look so nice.

I really want a bright red geranium. With the deck stained, next month's project is to paint the front steps. I'll bet Ace will have geraniums. I didn't look at their plant selection on Saturday because that wasn't what I was there for. Eyes on the object and don't get distracted by other shiny things.

Now the waiting game begins. Will or won't these seeds sprout. I won't have flowers until mid-to-late summer but just doing this is great for me. Expanding my space is a huge plus.

Beverage:  Africa Rooibos tea



Zeke power washed the deck a couple weeks ago. With the weather slated to be sunny and dry all weekend, it was the perfect time to get the deck painted. I admit this hadn't been done in, roughly, 5 years, but I was looking forward to it.

I headed over to Ace Hardware and spent a good 30 minutes with the very helpful people deciding what stain to use and how much of it to buy. "How big is your deck?" Um...that question I wasn't prepared for. "It's 2.5 steps this way and 4 steps this way." We had a chuckle about that.

There are so many options and colors of deck stain. Zeke said that the washable stains and paints are just as good as the oil based ones now which opened up a whole section of colors. I really liked the light color of the exposed wood. The original stain color was a dark redwood. That was nice, but I wanted something different.

After much discussion, I chose this; Cabot brand Australian Timber Oil stain in Honey Teak color. I bought brushes I was just going to toss when done and mineral spirits to clean myself off should I get sloppy. I also got a pack of latex gloves to save my hands, but wound up not using them or the mineral spirits.

Painting started at 11 a.m. The deck steps were done first, followed by the railings. Then, I sat down and began working on the deck floor. Even without arthritis, I wouldn't be the most limber person. The arthritis made difficult the job of maneuvering around as I painted. I'm awkward and sitting cross-legged is not something I think I'll ever be able to do comfortably again. The stain went on very easily and quite quickly. I had to take a break at noon with a little over half of the deck done. I got my cane because it helped me to stand up and move to a new spot to paint. An hour later, the first coat was done.

Part of the time in the store was spent trying to decide if one can of stain would be enough. With bare wood, you know it would soak up whatever was put onto it. The guy helping me was a bit leery that one can would be enough to provide an adequate stain. But, when I said I really didn't want a can 3/4ths full sitting around in my basement, he read the side of the can and it says one can would be enough. As it turned out, I had about a fifth of a can left from the first coat. Figures, doesn't it?

So, on Sunday, I decided to use this up. It was harder to scooch around the deck this time. My muscles complained and several times, I just had to sit to recover. What I had left covered most of the deck top. I had done some planting and put flower pots on the deck. I painted around where those were sitting, but covered almost every other section.

I'm very pleased with the final result. It looks rich. I know I could not have done this last year. It would have been way, way beyond me. While it was painful at times and my range of motion is not what I remember it being when I did this 5 years ago, it is a testament to my recovery that I could scoot along, albeit slowly, and get this done. I don't have to do this now for a couple years.

I fixed the crack in the pseudo bird bath this weekend and opened up the storage shed to bring out some pots for seeds and found ants in various places. Now that they have been chased out, I want to bring out the deck chairs and table. I'm looking forward to enjoying this space again.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hmmmm. Maybe I Should Save This

There comes a time in one's life when purging is necessary. The accumulation of stuff just adds up and up and up and you're eventually looking for "I know it's here somewhere" instead of reaching right for it. You know I've been slowly, at a glacial pace, going through the accumulation of years of life in this house. I have a brown paper bag in the hallway into which I toss still usable but unnecessary to my life items. When the bag gets full, the first veteran's group that calls for donations gets it. I'm trying to be utterly ruthless in my purging but sentimentality often gets in the way. That and, well, this does have a use. Maybe I should save it.

Into this latter category is where this item falls.

Any clue? It's a pill splitter. When Penney was alive, I had to split the pills she took for her thyroid condition. Before I bought this, I would take a sharp knife and try to split them. That was awful. I think I went through a half a bottle before deciding there had to be a better way. The pharmacist looked at me as I explained my dilemma and said, "You need a pill splitter." What a marvelous invention! When Penney went over the Rainbow Bridge, I tossed this into a drawer and forgot about it.

Remember the drawer in the bathroom where the mice were visiting? Over the winter, I finally cleaned that out, sterilized the drawer and put it back in service. The pill splitter was in the bottom of that drawer. I looked at it not sure if I should keep it. I didn't have a need for splitting pills. I walked it over to the give away bag but something said, "No. Don't toss it, yet." Back into the drawer it went.

Yesterday's doctor's check up for my RA was the best one yet. I still have the occasional twinge in my wrists and right knee, but the pain I had when I hobbled into Dr. Francis' office back in March is gone. I am officially entering the maintenance phase.

What that means is it has come time to wean me off the Prednisone. This is done slowly and in half pill increments. Half a pill? I can do that and not use a knife with the crushing and the breaking and the uneven splitting.

There's the old joke that when you're looking at something and wondering if you'll need it, you will need it AFTER you toss it out. I guess I figured, in this case, that someone I knew would probably have a use for this and I couldn't really toss it. It didn't take up much room at all in the back of the drawer.

So, I am down to a half a pill at night for 2 weeks and then no pill at night for two weeks. Then, we see how I'm doing and reduce the dosage further. I'm ready. I like the faint crunch sound when you split a pill in half.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Avoid Chicago, Please.

You probably don't know, or maybe you do, as I like to think my readers are a well-informed bunch, but the leaders of Nato are going to be in Chicago this weekend for their meeting. As I live in the 'burbs, this won't affect me all that much, but get a load of what the street closures are:
Street closings, including shutdowns of pedestrian and bicycle paths, start at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Lake Shore Drive will be closed from 39th Street to Balbo on Saturday until an unspecified hour during the evening rush period on Monday, officials said. No traffic will be allowed on the Stevenson Expressway from the Dan Ryan Expressway to Lake Shore Drive during the same period.

Major intermittent closures will occur on the Kennedy Expressway in both directions betweenO'Hare International Airportand downtown; Ohio and Ontario streets between the Kennedy and Fairbanks Court/Columbus Drive; and the Dan Ryan to Roosevelt Road, 18th Street and Canalport Avenue, according to the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications...
"The roadway closures will be intermittent and unannounced," Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said. "That's all we will say."

Security officials have previously said that full traffic stoppages involving temporary roadway closures will be in effect only for President Barack Obama's motorcade, but that all other heads of state will get the "rolling closure'' treatment, meaning traffic is halted as they pass.

But on Wednesday, Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the motorcades for the Afghan and Pakistani heads of state motorcades will also receive the highest level of security, which will include full stoppages of traffic...

Unannounced street and expressway closings, CTA and Metra trains stopped for security sweeps, extra detours of CTA buses that are already detoured from their normal routes, and airport delays even on a cloud-free day in May should be anticipated, officials said...

Monday will be the busiest day by far at O'Hare, because all delegations will be leaving and Mondays are a big day for business travel. Complicating matters, the weather forecast for Monday calls for rain and possible thunderstorms, with the potential for heavy downpours, according to WGN chief meteorologist Tom Skilling.

Meanwhile, Metra will shutter five close-in stations Saturday through Monday on the Electric District line, which will operate without stopping under McCormick Place. On Monday, 25 Metra stations, including the entire Blue Island branch of the Electric line, will be closed.

Unprecedented security measures affecting all 11 Metra lines during the three days will likely throw the commuter railroad's normally good on-time performance to the wind.

Food, liquids and carry-ons such as backpacks and large purses will be prohibited on Metra trains starting Saturday, and passengers will be subject to random searches, Metra police said...

The CTA is taking what many experts view as a more practical approach to increasing security on an open mass-transit system that doesn't lend itself to airport-style passenger screening. CTA customers will see more police officers and explosives-sniffing dogs patrolling CTA rail stations, trains and buses, but the transit agency is not limiting what passengers bring on board.
And I know there are more side streets closed that aren't listed here. This doesn't really affect me all that much, as I'm not heading into the city for anything this weekend. I have other things to be doing. It would be cool to see these heads of state, even from a distance. You read their names and see their photos but it's just different to see them in person. "Hey, it''s...pst. Who's that again?"

We have been told to expect violence from protestors but, again, that's not going to directly affect me. As for my company, we are working very hard to avoid having to send anyone in the direction of the city until Wednesday of next week. It's going to take that long for things to get back to what passes as normal around here. 

The biggest thing I'm expecting to experience is the following.

I was heading home from my doctor's visit yesterday afternoon and caught site of 3 Huey helicopters going from right to left in front of me. By the time I could get the camera out of the purse, turned on and ready to use, only one was visible. I would imagine all area airports are involved in providing a place for security forces to park these things since we don't have the Glenview Naval Air Station anymore. I expect I will hear, if not see, more of these going over my house since one of those airports is directly west of me.

While this is a huge event, a very big feather in our collective caps and will showcase Chicagoland, warts and all, I'm not expecting much change in my routine. You won't see my suburb on the news and I'm grateful for that. Taste of Glen Ellyn is this weekend. I should, maybe, wander over there for something to do. It's going to be a nice weekend. Buying a can of deck stain would also be a profitable way to spend time and I wouldn't need to go into the city to get that.

So, follow the events. Enjoy the view they show of Chicago. It's a beautiful city and a fun place to live. Yes, you're welcome to visit. Give me a couple weeks notice and please, don't come by this weekend. You really won't be able to get there from here.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

That's Where They Come From

As you can see, I've been baking up a semi-storm. This leads to being out of basic baking supplies;  flour, sugar, spices, milk and eggs. I have one lonely egg in the fridge. But, it's no matter. Oberweis delivers tomorrow and I ordered more eggs.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, they have what's called "Farm in the Zoo". It's a museum farm designed to show city kids that milk doesn't come from a plastic jug in a chiller at Dominicks. It's an okay concept but nothing near what it could be, although I think the rarefied air surrounding the zoo would object to the smells of a more traditional working farm.

I never really helped dad milk the cows. He quit milking when I was in 6th grade. It was just more work than he wanted to deal with. But, he loved the idea of raising something. We had hogs for awhile but mostly, dad went with chickens. And with chickens come eggs.

I don't remember how many nesting boxes he set up. I think this particular row had 10. Every day, someone (usually me) had to go check the boxes for eggs. I think we must have had close to 2 dozen hens and hens were always laying. There was one rooster and he had a nasty temper. I had to walk across the barn to get to the other boxes and dad kept a broken broom by the barn door. He told me to grab that and keep it with me, plus never wear shorts. When, not if, the rooster charged, you could whack at him with the broom which would startle him and send him scurrying away. By wearing pants if you weren't quick enough with the broom, he couldn't poke you with his beak through the fabric.

I remember being terrified of that bird. I know on a couple of occasions, with a basket full of eggs from the first row of boxes, I decided those other boxes could wait for dad to check because I just didn't like how the rooster looked at me. It seems to me, dad got tired of dealing with him too, got another rooster and we had chicken for dinner one weekend.

The chickens were allowed to roam free although they usually came into the barn at night. We would lose the occasional one to something but, for the most part, they didn't wander and were fairly secure. With this roaming, you'd occasionally go into the hay mow and find a nest with 3 dozen eggs in it. SCORE! But mom, with her sagacity, wouldn't take any of them for cooking. "You can throw those against the barn." For those of you wondering why we'd do that? Who knows how long the original eggs have been sitting. Yes, you could do a water or candle test, but with this many chickens, you're guaranteed a steady source of fresh eggs. We would muss up the nest we found and then have a field day hurling the eggs against the barn. They made such a great sound when they hit. You always knew when you'd get one that had "turned".

The industrial chicken farms have hens in cages where all they do is lay an egg. It rolls down a chute and into a container to be sorted, graded, packed and shipped. Oberweis doesn't buy eggs from industrial farms. Their egg suppliers allow their chickens some measure of mobility. I think it makes for happier chickens and better eggs and yes, the eggs are more expensive.

My egg gathering consisted of looking into the boxes to see whether anything was there, adding fresh straw to the empty boxes and getting the evil eye from a chicken occupying a box and unwilling to leave so I could get her eggs. When that happened, "just stick your hand under her and grab them. She'll be upset and may poke at you, but you'll be fine", dad said. Um...yeah. I can remember standing in the barn talking to a chicken. "Look, I have to do this. Would you just get up and leave so I can see if you're sitting on anything?" Right. That worked about as well as asking my girls if they would come let me cuddle them. My sister could do it but I rarely could. Sorry mom. Many of those times I came back to the house and said, "That's all that was down there", there was a hen or two in a box and I just couldn't bring myself to stick my hand under her.

When I pull an egg or two out of the fridge to be added to the next batch of whatever I'm baking, I reflect that I know where this comes from and what it's like to raise chickens and gather eggs. Could I stick my hand under a hen to see if she's sitting on something? I don't know. Couldn't we come to an understanding where she leaves when I walk in the door? And where's that rooster? He's giving me the evil eye again.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


And Now I'm Out of Chips

A long-distance friend dared me to make him cookies. Never, ever dare a baker to make you cookies. Okay?

It was an opportunity to try a sort of new recipe, Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Drops. Essentially, it's basic cookie dough with chocolate and peanut butter chips inserted. No oatmeal. No raisins. No nuts of any sort. It's just butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, flour, soda and chips. (I rarely put added salt into a recipe unless I suspect it's vital to the rising of dough or the flavor of the dish. There's a lot of sodium added in things that you don't suspect.) And it's so incredibly delicious as dough.

The butter was a bit softer than I like for cookies so, after mixing it, I stuck it in the fridge for 30 minutes. I think that made a world of difference. Plus, since these were destined for my friend, I watched the time on them better than a hawk. If I'm the only one eating them or if they are just heading to the office, a bit browner on the bottom is acceptable. He's getting cream of the new recipe crop here. He may or may not share. I want his friends impressed.

Supposedly, the recipe makes 5 and a half dozen. I did NOT eat that much but only got 40 cookies out of it. I always wonder what size of cookie they base their total on. These are the size the recipe says they will make and I didn't get nearly 5.5 dozen. Oh well. I got enough. I'll save this recipe. I think I have one similar to it but I couldn't find it in the recipe boxes last night.

The dough was so good. I have a memory or may it's a wish, I can't quite tell, of keeping a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge and eating that without baking the cookies. I know you're not supposed to do that, that uncooked dough could kill you due to the presence of nasty bacteria in the eggs, but, come on. I know where my ingredients come from and I'm certain of their quality. I agree with being careful but I also think we're getting way too paranoid about health for our own health.

AWK! Nevermind. I could take a post about cookies and go somewhere I didn't intend. So, I'll just end it here with, those bananas on top of the fridge are next. Bread or muffins? 'Tis a dilemma to be sure.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time to Paint

Doesn't look like much, just a bunch of boards. My neighbor, Zeke, who mows my lawn, came over and power washed my deck. It's pretty much down to the bare wood on the deck floor and the top of the rails. I had forgotten how nice it looks as I have it covered with a reddish brown stain.

The next step is to get it sealed again. I need to figure out this checkbook imbalance, an imbalance in my favor, ironically, so I can get a can of something and get this painted. I love to paint so doing this myself is not going to be a hardship. Finding the time to get it done is the key and then, do I get a "clear" stain because I like the look of the bare wood or do I get something that's close to the color of the slats on the deck sides? They are still that dark reddish brown. I guess I have to go to the hardware store and just see what they have. Maybe I'll find a different color I like.

In the interim, I need to put the birdbath back. I had a very confused robin hopping on the railing of the deck last night looking for the bird bath. Can't inconvenience my feathered friends.

Beverage:  tea


Mother's Day Meal

I actually cooked a meal for myself on Mother's Day. I had considered ordering out for pizza but there was something in the back of my mind that I've wanted now for a few weeks.

I have this ancient cookbook, Ideals Quick & Easy Gourmet Treasury Cookbook. It's one of those I got out of a sales bin somewhere for pennies and published in 1979. There's a recipe in it, Speedy Sauerbraten, that I used to make several times a year. For some reason, that recipe popped into my head at the end of last month. So, I got all the ingredients and made it for Mother's Day. It makes a lot so I had 2 more meals in addition to a hearty German-based supper.

Essentially, it's a sauce, with raisins, into which pre-cooked roast beef is added and simmered for 15 minutes. I used sliced deli roast beef, but any kind of leftover beef would work. Add noodles and Green Giant nibblets corns in butter sauce and it's a good meal. I don't think it tastes the best when cold but it's really good when hot.

I've made the "real" sauerbraten only once. It involves soaking your beef for days in an acidic bath. It's worth it if you have the time, because the meat is incredibly flavored and just disintegrates once cooked. The leftovers are also phenomenal in sandwiches but it takes 3 days to do and, by that time, I wouldn't care if I cooked it or not. With this recipe, I can have close to real sauerbraten in 30 minutes. A nice beer or a glass of red wine would have made this meal even better. I had a glass of milk and a Prednisone. Oh well.

Beverage:  tea


Isn't She Gorgeous?

I'm sitting at the computer late in the afternoon on Sunday trying to get the checkbook to balance yet again. I'm closer, but still not there. There's a noise behind me. I turn around and this is what I see. No, I could not resist a belly rub which she enjoyed for a bit. These two are not the roll onto their back cats that others I have had were. But, I don't care. After a quick belly rub, I let her be. She's so beautiful and she just glows.

Oh to be a cat and have a pool of sunshine all to oneself.

Beverage:  tea


Big Smile

The only piece of mail I got on Saturday was a card from my friend, Meredith. Look what was inside.

I was already positively glowing from roses, a card from Patt and then this comes. Yes, that was a happy dance the cats saw me do. Yes, they ran.

Beverage:  tea


Monday, May 14, 2012

Hair Cut. No Shave

You'll rarely see photos of me in this space. I have personal reasons for that and hence, it's a vow to myself that I won't put up photos of me. But today, I'm breaking that vow because I got an awesome hair cut at Great Clips.

It was long. In a post last week, I made mention of the "sheep dog effect" my bangs were giving me. I could have cut them myself. I know, sort of, how to do it and really, they grow out so fast so anything askew wouldn't be noticed in a couple of days. But the rest of it was long, longer than I wanted. It took hours to air dry and precious minutes to blow dry. As we progress toward summer and warmth, it was hot on my neck. Invariably, I'd go home and put it up in a pony tail just to get it off my neck and shoulders. The kicker was going out of the purple conditioner I use once a week. That lasted a long time, 7 months, to be exact. I may not need shampoo until July because it takes less shampoo than conditioner to wash the hair. Well, it did until I got 2 and a half inches lopped off.

The stylist complimented me. She said I'm taking very good care of my hair. It will be a rare time that I actually use a rounded brush to get it to curl under as she did. My cut has to look decent when I wash it, comb it and let it dry, but it's nice that she gave me some body.

I'm very happy with it and, at $12, it's a winner.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Sunday Stitching

Part of the day yesterday, was devoted to just sitting and stitching. I got most of the dusting done; washed all the rugs in the living room and ironed the Hawaiian shirts I'm wearing this week at work. I gave myself 2 hours of uninterrupted time to just stitch as I wanted to bake and fix a decent dinner. Pilchard curled up next to me. Mija jumped up onto the back of the recliner and we all just sat. I had the windows open and listened to Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis. But once that was done, I didn't put anything else on. I just listened to the sound of the birds, the lawn mowers, the cars passing by, the people out for walks or bike rides. It was very pleasant.

I made quite a bit of progress on it. I have to fill in some more medium copper in the big blob in the left middle and then what's left to the sky is the light copper. When that's done, the item in the center is completed and the dark green grass at the base is last.

I'll be done by the end of May and it can go be framed.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea