Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Crochet Goes On

I've nearly finished yet another scarf so now is a good time to post a shot of what I've done since January's initial yarn purchase and the subsequent one at the beginning of this month.

I've nearly finished the green and white one. It takes about a week of a couple hours every day and more on the weekends, to complete a scarf. To say I am having fun with this would be a huge understatement. I watched "Brave" and "The Princess Bride" over the weekend while working. It's bonding time for Pilchard and I and she's come to expect this lap time. If she doesn't get it, I get "yelled" at. It was tough this past weekend because I wanted to spend the afternoon poking around in the new computer. But some things are not denied. She's really good about having the scarf thrown across her as she sleeps. Mija jumps up onto the recliner and sleeps next to us.

It took me a few days of this to get over my "I'm not getting anything done" idea. I am so getting things done. These are Christmas or, maybe, birthday gifts. If I didn't sit down now and work on them, I'd have to scramble at the end of the year. The difference is, at this point, I can take my time. I can watch the weather people run around waving their hands at the awful snow heading our way. I can giggle at movie lines, listen to jazz or sit in comfortable silence.

I'm having a blast.

Beverage:  water


Under the Deck...

there lives a rabbit.

I see him almost every day, either in the morning when I'm leaving, or at night when I return. With no outdoor cats, he can be under the deck and know he won't be attacked.

Yes, every time I spook him and he takes off, I call out gently, "It's just me. No need to run away." They probably never get truly used to you in their short life. I'll take this over a stench of skunks, a hive of bees or a mask of raccoons.

Beverage:  water


Life, Version 10.8

I get teased, a lot, about my devotion to Apple products. Now, I don't own an iPhone. I have Android because that's what my company approved. I don't have an iPad. I've used my friend, Perry's, and if I won one or had someone give one to me, I'd probably use it, but it's not something I feel is vital to my existence. I'm more than connected enough.

But, after the great hard drive crash of December 2012 and the lines that were appearing in my computer screen, I realized I needed to replace my computer. At six, going on seven years of age, it was easily 150 in human years and was simply wearing out. I don't watch TV. I don't have cable. I play World of Warcraft. That's my pastime and a new computer will make the pastime more enjoyable.

When the tax refund was deposited in the bank account, I searched for the best computer deal for me. I don't need a lot of the bells and whistles found on some models. I don't do web site development. I don't compose music. I don't create graphics. I play a computer game. I write letters and I maintain this blog. So a lot of the programs and capabilities of certain computers won't even be touched by me. Why pay for them? I'd really like a CD/DvD drive so I don't have to buy an external one. iTunes does not have even a fifth of my jazz library. I want to be able to upload my music. I need to be able to upload photos from my camera. This really is what I use my computer for and anything else is superfluous to my life.

With the help of Matt, Jon and Chris, I found one. I had it delivered to the office because it required a signature and it would not sit on the front steps even if the UPS guy got a neighbor to sign for it. The UPS guy for our office has been coming here for at least 5 years. We love him to pieces. He's really good. I mentioned the computer was coming. Last Thursday, he stuck his head into my office and said, "Oh darn. No one is here. I guess I'll just have to take this home with me for safe keeping."

I practically tackled him in the hallway.

This new computer is 21 inches wide. I kind of wanted a lap top. I could load the game onto that and then take it wherever I was going. But you pay for that portability and, particularly with Apple, what I could afford was not really an upgrade to the screen size on which I play the game. That's a big consideration. So, I went with a desktop model. I also got a refurbished rather than brand new computer. I still have the same warranty since I purchased this from Apple.

It was a bit gangly getting it home.

For a minute, I didn't think it would fit in the Jeep.

Then, as I was driving the 2.5 miles home, I found myself saying, "I have my new computer here. Get out of the way." Funny how you'll tolerate some kinds of driving when it's just you and your lunch but add a thousand dollar piece of equipment and everyone's out to get you.

There was a guild event that night so I left the machine in the box in the living room. Chris had volunteered to help me get it set up and running and to teach me about some of the new things you can do with the new to me operating system (OS). This is rather important. Apple names their operating systems after cats. I had updated my OS about 4 years ago from "Leopard", which the computer had come with, to "Snow Leopard". "Mountain Lion", the newest version, was released last July. (I'm waiting for the "Domestic American Shorthair" version.) I need to learn what to do with this new OS. It's not like going from a word-based OS to the familiar icon-based OS, but the things I did, out of habit, probably won't be the same and I will have quite a few "where is..." moments. I felt setting things up was a task best left for the weekend. The box was 2 inches taller than the seat for the recliner.

My guild mates couldn't believe my restraint. "How can you not want to open it?" Chris convinced me to get going on the system migration. "The sooner you start, the sooner you can play," he said in that teasing voice when someone it holding the carrot just out of range. "Okay, fine."

Apple computers are ridiculously easy to set up. Step 1:  Open the box.

Step 2:  Prepare the space where the old computer will sit while you migrate everything to the new computer.

This was quite the job. Look at the dust. This is where the printer, that hasn't worked in 2 years, sat. It's going bye-bye when Wheaton has it's annual electronics turn in during April. I would like a new printer/scanner. I would write more letters if I could write and print them at home.

Step 3:  Move the old computer and put the new one in the old one's place.

Be sure to use the word, "Whoa" a lot during this process. At the time I was doing this, Chris had taken over my old computer and was reconfiguring my router for wireless connections.

Step 4:  Find the mouse, keyboard and power cables. Remove the cushion around the new computer and plug it into power. Remember to say, "Whoa" at least a half dozen times. Have a cat come find out what you're doing while you are under the desk trying to figure out if you really need all the power cords that are plugged into your multi-cord adapter.

Step 5: Turn the thing on and gasp at the sheer size of your screen now.

From this point, we started the data transfer process.

I remember doing that when I bought the one on the left. All my settings, folders, photos and World of Warcraft would be transferred, we hoped wirelessly, from left to right. Then, it would be a matter of sorting out what I needed and didn't need and migrating that to the new operating system.

In practice, it didn't work as seamlessly as we had hoped. I awakened on Friday to the same message that I had gone to bed with and that message was still on the screen when I got home from work on Friday. Chris determined that the computer on the left had gone to sleep during the overnight attempt to transfer data and this stopped the transfer but there isn't a way to tell me that. Thanks to my pack rat tendencies, I had another Ethernet cable and we hooked the two together. Transfer of all data took 45 minutes. Then, I could begin the weeding out of the stuff I really don't need. I've spent all weekend doing that and asking questions about where things go and how do I do what I used to do. Chris has been so patient with me.

It's been utterly amazing to work on this. The things I use most have been updated and will, eventually, become intuitive. I've learned so much in 3 days. I updated my web browser. Might as well do that. I'm taking a critical look at the things I had on the old system. For instance, I really don't use the address book or the calendar. As long as there is a calendar behind the computer, I simply need the time in the upper right corner.

For now, I'm keeping the old computer. I don't have an extended keyboard with the new one, but I really like the touch of it as compared to my old keyboard. The new machine came with a wireless mouse, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work properly in the game so we hooked up my Logitech mouse. The old Apple mice I have kicking around can go into the great bag of miscellaneous cables which will be recycled in April. I have no need of them anymore, not even as a back up.

I need to take a screenshot in the game. I found some places where I took screenshots on the old machine. You need to see what I can see now. It's a brand new game for me. I was with 2 guild members in a 5-man event last night. We ran through a building and out onto its patio. "Oh my gosh! It's snowing out here!" I had never seen the snowfall. My graphics had to be kept low so the game would run. I'm seeing distances and things I just never saw. I was happy with how the game played and looked; obviously because I am still playing it after 7 years. I just never saw some things because my computer couldn't handle it.

So, as Jon says, "Welcome to the 21st century." It's going to take me a few weeks to get back up to speed and to discover all the things I can do with this new system. You know how, sometimes, you just know you bought the right thing? This is it.

Here's to 6 more years of gaming.

Beverage:  water


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Day the Earth Turned Pink

Remember the box, the large box?

It arrived at its destination last week. This is the kind of practical joke I love pulling. It involved the purchase of some things and the shipping of said things, which wound up being more than the things inside the box, but the resulting email about how the box and its contents was received was worth every. single. penny. spent.

So, what was inside the box? First a bit of background information. Louise, a member of my World of Warcraft guild, has become a good friend. She sent out a mass Facebook spam to everyone she knows inviting them to her open house to celebrate moving into a new home. She and her hubby, Damien, moved back in October, but haven't been ready to celebrate until this coming weekend, February 23rd. There's just one itty, bitty problem. Louise lives in Canada. Um...yeah. My attending a party there isn't going to happen.

Several of us were teasing her about this housewarming party and someone mentioned needing pink flamingos in the yard. She said Damien would be horrified but she would love it. An idea was born. I started checking out pink flamingo yard ornaments and found a couple at Bed, Bath and Beyond that were a reasonable price. Then, I stumbled onto Home Depot's add for 10, count 'em, 10 pink flamingos for $30. Another friend, Jon, bought the flamingos and had them shipped to me. That's the box you see on my porch. Here are the contents.

Look at them all looking at me with their beady little eyes. The box was only half full of flamingos and the total weight was something around 6 pounds. It was less than one of the cats even though the box was very tall, about 34 inches tall. I was really worried I couldn't ship this via the post but there is a total inches shipped of 108 and I was well below that. Plus, the light weight made for less shipping cost. You don't want to know what it would have cost me to ship via UPS, had I not been able to ship via the post office.

As this was designed to represent the WOW guild, I had to dress up the birds with something appropriate to the guild. Our guild tabard is green, a robust summer grass green. Pink and green. Perfect.

I printed out a copy of the guild tabard and hit JoAnn Fabrics. I had a coupon for 20% off a regular priced item. With a flamingo under one arm, the gal at the cutting table helped me figure out if one or two spools of green ribbon was needed. We figured out only one. Using a generous 15 inches, I cut 10 pieces of ribbon and adorned the necks of these gloriously tacky birds.

Isn't that just the most stunning thing you've ever seen? I was even going to attach green bows to the area where the knot was, but realized that hot gluing them could a) melt through the body plastic. Face it. These are not made of the world's best plastic. Or b) prevent Louise from doing other things to them  by permanently putting decoration on them. So, I decided green neck ribbons was enough. Once reboxed, I took the box to the office and used ALL the packing peanuts we had as well as some foam, to fill up the empty space and to make sure the flamingos were comfortable. Can you imagine the customs inspectors x-raying this box? I only put "yard ornament" on the custom's slip. If Louise read it, she would know, but perhaps Damien wouldn't.

I handed over the box to the post mistress and then set about trying NOT to say a word about anything. I sent her a Valentine's card and that takes about 2 weeks for first class mail. Right before that would have arrived, I sent a cryptic "INCOMING" email. The flamingos, I was told, would take 6 to 14 working days. They would be at her house by her housewarming.

On February 14th, she tells me she got a notice that there was a package to pick up at the post office. She couldn't get it until the next day. All through the next day, I kept emailing her asking if she'd gone to the post office to get the package. "Now? Did you get it now?" "How about now?" She said her dad is known for sending stuff so I did wonder if it was the birds or something else. Here is the email I received on Friday, February 15th.
"Alright, finally got the box, here's the low down of reactions
1.Damien (hubby) enters in the house with this HUGE box, pretending it weighs a ton, because he's an ass:
-My reaction: Disbelief and feverish curiousity (Quote: What the F*** did Gimm do now????)

2.Box is deposited on the living room floor, I immediately take the cisors to the box. meanwhile Damien sits at the very other end of the room and watches (he couldn't see what was in the box). I open it up and look inside.
-My reaction: Hysterical laughter, including tears
-Damien's reaction: Confusion

3. I start pulling out the box's "cargo", only pulled one out at first.
-My reaction: still laughing my ass off (Quote: omg Gimm, really? REALLY? THIS IS WICKED AWESOME!!!)
-Damien's reaction: Surprised but shaking his head (Quote: Why Lou? Whyyyyy? This is horrible. You are NOT putting that thing in the front yard)

4.I keep pulling more, and more and more out....
-My reaction: totally still laughing, developping a devious shenanigans shit-eating grin
-Damien's reaction: Total disbelief with a tinge of horror crossing his face

5.I finally have them all pulled out
-My reaction: Laughing still and nodding (Quote: Oh I've have tons of plans for these....)
-Damien's reaction: blank stare (Quote: I don't like your guild leader anymore.....) [Note: This is now my absolute favorite quote.]

So there you have it. I thought it was full of the awesome! Damien won't let me put some up front (I can't completely blame him), but seeing as the house warming party is coming up, I'll have to get him to make a one day exception, just to mess with people. ALL of them will be planted for that party, both outback and outfront.

After the house warming party, I might grab one or two and make them look a bit more "metal", as in the style, not the material. This way both Jay (our roomate and hubby's best friend) might be more inclined to let me have fun with my kitsch.

Totally unexpected but awesome gift gimm! Didn't see that coming from a mile away.

thank you so much!"
She set up a couple of shots of the flamingos for the guild web site. Here's one with her Border Collie, Skoll. He was being "eaten" by the flamingos. He's an attention hog and she'd just taken him out for his afternoon romp so he was tired and more than willing to stay put for the photo shoot.

And then she put the legs on the birds and posed them in the living room.

She said they were fighting over the remote control.

These are the practical jokes that are so worth the cost. I wish I could have been there although it would have been way too hard not to keep a straight face and not to want to help pull the birds out of the box. I can hardly wait to see more photos of what these birds might be up to. 

10 flamingos for $30. So totally worth it. 

Beverage:  Water


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do I or Don't I?

February is, historically, a very slow month in the office. Winter, in the Chicagoland area, is usually a cold affair with snow and the companies to which we provide service don't generally work in the winter. We have just enough work to cover office expenses but that's it.

Now is the time to go through all those files, consolidate and purge. That task has fallen on me because I'm not out in the field as much. Plus, I've been with the company for 13 years now. We save things for 10 years so we're purging things I remember doing. That's been a big help in knowing what to save for longer than 10 years.

I recycle all paper goods. I have two recycling bins loaded with folders and reports just waiting for Friday when my very full recycling can will be emptied and I can add this material to it. I remove all paper clips, but staples aren't a problem, the recycling company told me. Data rolls and photographs are even recycled. But here's the dilemma.

We used to take a lot of photos. We didn't go fully digital until 2010 and some clients still require prints on their projects. We make prints from our digital photos so it's been a couple years since we actually had to buy film. 

The problem is, I have all these negative strips. It's kind of hard to see, but there is a recycling symbol on the plastic film strip holders. I had pitched a day's worth of cleaning before realizing the holders could be recycled. Do I? Do I spend the time to pull all the negatives out of the plastic holders so the holders can be recycled? The recycling fiend that is part of me says, "Absolutely". I don't really have a whole lot to do so it's not like this would be in lieu of doing something I'm putting off. The part of me that just wants the job done says, "Pfft. No. Just toss them." 

Then I wonder if the negatives themselves can be recycled. If I knew that and knew where I could take them that was local, it would tip me in the direction of complete recycling. 

So, dear reader, I'm on the fence about this. What do you think?

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


May's Fix-It Already Planned

I went to get the mail last Friday and noticed something on the front porch.

The paint is already flaking off on the boards that are in a direct line below the gutters. The job is going to be to clean out the gutters and then repaint the front porch area. I have at least a third of a can of paint left.

It's a bit frustrating that I have to retouch so soon after painting in the first place. When I finished this back in June and repainted the back door, I thought to myself that I should apply a second coat, mainly to use up what was in the can, but a second coat couldn't hurt. I didn't because it seemed to go on adequately.

I looked at the can last night. At the end of April, I'll need to bring it upstairs and sit it by the front door so, on the first days above 65 with no rain for 48 hours, I can get out there and touch up. Thank goodness I love to paint.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Second Stalk

The second, and taller, stalk off the amaryllis bulb has finally bloomed.

It would be a lie to say I won't miss this when it's gone. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it grow and bloom. I'm wondering if I can force it next year.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


That's All

This short month often leaves me feeling monetarily anxious. Never you mind that it's only short by a couple of days, those days represent money and dates when things could be due but aren't because those days aren't there. So, everything comes at once instead of spread out. March 1st looming on the horizon with nothing but change in the pocket has often left me with a case of the "how can I's", as in "how can I possibly pay this"?

My refunds from both state and federal taxes have gone a ways to make me feel a bit more secure. There are still bills that have to be wrangled and negotiated every month and I've added medical expenses to the list, but I am calmer about squeezing every last dime out of the paycheck and shoving it where it needs to go.

Sometimes, when I get a month behind and don't have a current bill in front of me, I'll estimate what the next charges will be and send that amount. It can be a crap shoot, a game of guessing. I've found that calling the company and asking for current charges often gets me an amount that shows a payment hasn't been applied, yet. So, it was taken out of my account on the 22nd and it's the 30th and it's still not applied? Huh? "Well, ma'am, billing has probably applied it, but it's not showing up on your account here in customer service." Whatever. I'm usually very close when estimating so I'm not that worried.

I had a bill this month that comes usually on or around the 8th. I'd been a bit behind with this account but they understood the need to pay the medical bill first. I would get caught up over time. This month's bill should be small and then we would be back to normal in March. I couldn't have predicted this.

That's what I owed them. Fifty cents.

I thought about sending a check. I thought about not paying it this month and letting it roll over into next month, but there would be finance charges, however small, on that fifty cents. I figured a check would cost more than fifty cents to process so, let's just send them the cash. I taped the quarters to the front of the bill and off it went.

As I look through the finances and contemplate another high gas bill to heat the house, sending off fifty cents to be current makes me feel really good. Wish all my bills were like that.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Friday, February 15, 2013

One A Penny, Two A Penny

Hot cross buns! Oh yes, please.

Today was the first day for Panera's Hot Cross Buns. They are so good.

Usually, I eat them warmed and these are really good in the morning with some yogurt and hot tea. Today, however, I am a doofus and left my lunch, all packed into the lunch bag, sitting on the stove so I'll have a couple of these to tide me over until supper.

"Traditional" hot cross buns are made with currants or raisins. Panera will do that but these have bits of dried strawberry in them instead of raisins. It's a delicious change. It's $5.99 for a half dozen, more pricey than other baked goods. I'll have these once during the time they are available and then won't think about them the rest of Lent.

Most bakeries will churn them out during Lent but you have to be fast. When I worked at The Bookstore in downtown Glen Ellyn, the buns from the bakery down the block were usually gone by the time I opened the store for the day. Pretty much the only time I got to sample one was on Saturday, when we opened an hour early. If you can find them, I recommend them.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

Beverage:  water


This is Going to be Fun

Memory card procured for the camera and my first photos were taken last night and this morning of, what else, the amazingly beautiful flowers Carole sent.

For comparison, here's a photo using the camera on my phone.

It's pretty good. That's natural light from the east and north windows in the living room. You can see everything. I rearranged the bouquet last night so it was more mixed. It's just incredibly stunning.

Here's the same bouquet taken with the camera.

Look at the detail. This is why I needed a new camera. There was a "daylight" flash that filled in some of the dark spaces. This photo is incredibly sharp and true to color. Some of the comments about the camera were that it tended to produce some yellowed images, but I don't see that.

I took this one last night before I rearranged the bouquet.

I think it looks a bit washed out. A dark room with the indoor flash and, pop, wow. As with my last camera, there are dozens of settings I don't quite understand, but I made a good choice with this.

This photo was better. I backed up a couple steps so I wasn't right on top of the bouquet.

I took a photography course in college back when SLR's were just starting to be the rage. (I know. I'm old.) We used these box cameras in the class. It was taught from an arty point of view, which has merit, but I'm a documentary-type of photographer. The photos I take document what's going on at any given time. I am not interested in pushing f-stops or manipulating timers. What I see is what I want. Sometimes those can be happy accidents, but I've already composed the photo in my eye, my camera is just documenting that.

So, buying a $850 camera is kind of a waste for me. Just give me point and shoot with few bells and whistles. I need to figure out reducing the flash and turning it off for those night shots where all I want is natural light; a full moon, for example. There is an old joke that the device isn't very intuitive if you have to read the instructions to make it work. Well, I'm going to modify that a bit. The camera is out of the box ready but the bells and whistles need to be explained.

This is going to be fun. Watch out girls. You thought I took a lot of photos of you before. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Beverage:  water


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Merrie Christmas

Thanks to the Internet and this game, World of Warcraft, that I play, I have expanded my list of friends. Most of them I will probably never meet, but that doesn't make them any less of a friend to me. We share life stories, events, ideas, cares and woes just the same as if they lived next door to me. They are no less real.

So, the Christmas holiday approaches and, while I don't have to send them anything, I like to. I consider them my friends. We have shared time in this online game, gotten to know one another, and it means a lot to me to be able to send them a small token that symbolizes just what a friend they are to me.

Matt's one of my WOW friends. I'm not sure why I asked for and got his address but I have it. So, as I page through my address book looking at the names and trying to think of Christmas presents, I got to his name and it hit me. The. Perfect. Gift.

Now there is a story with this. In WOW, if you take the profession, engineering, you can make a personal helicopter, a Turbo-Charged Flying Machine. The EPA would not appreciate this thing as it belches smoke which is probably lethal. Only engineers can make them and only they can use them. One of the pieces they need is a hula girl doll which rides on the dashboard. Bingo. Matt would get the significance of the doll. Matt would get the joke.

Matt recently sent this photo. That's his car. He lives in Maine so the streaks are from a snowstorm. I never expected, when I sent the doll, that it would wind up on his dashboard. It wasn't very expensive and I figured it would just sit some place in his house until spring and then he'd toss it or move it to a box somewhere. I was more than okay with that. It was the joke between two friends that was the important part.

I love it when the gift is appreciated like this. I hope it gives him a lot of happiness when he drives to and from work. He doesn't play WOW anymore but I hope it reminds him of the fun times we had, all those times that his character beat up my character in battlegrounds or the time he had to wear that awful sweater in Ironforge.

And yes, she does the hula. I wouldn't send one that didn't.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Purrfect Pilchard Sized

The title says it all.

I had to remove the insert that kept the flowers and the vase stable. 

The minute I put the box on the floor, she was in it. It's the perfect size. 

It's almost like they measured her and then made the box to size. She stayed in it for a good hour. Without a flash on the camera phone, it's kind of tough to see her, but she's in the box. Mija was in it this morning, checking it out. I did think about taping the top shut and cutting out both ends. I don't know if they would use it, if I did that, however. The novelty of this will probably wear off by weekend and I can recycle the thing. For now, it's a cat's meow. 

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


What Valentine's Day Flowers Mean

Aren't they beautiful? I cut an inch off the stem and plunged them into water last night as I was supposed to. I didn't realize it this morning until I'm here at work posting photos of them, but I should have added more water to the vase. It will be dry when I get home. Oh well, they will perk back up if they droop a bit. They were quite droopy when I pulled them from the box once I got home. But, by bedtime last night, they were bright and colorful. I didn't realize the blue flowers were lilies until I pulled them from the package. It's such a beautiful bouquet. I'm so thrilled.

The second amaryllis bulb cracked this morning.

I will probably have flowers by Saturday.

I am so happy right now. A year ago, at this time, I was feeling sorry for myself. A year of practicing gratitude has caused me to look at things so much differently. Would I wish for a special someone in my life? Of course I would. But, you know what? I can be happy wherever I am and in whatever situation I find myself.

I look at these flowers and it's like life is smiling back at me. I remember the words of Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of "A Christmas Carol". He's just sent Bob Cratchit out for a new coal scuttle and he's trying to get his work done. He gives up and says, "I don't deserve to be so happy, but I can't help it." That's sort of how I feel. Actually, Ebenezer, we all deserve to be happy. Finding that little bit of happiness in each day, not just when you have flowers blooming in your living room, changes your whole point of view.

It really is a happy Valentine's Day.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea



I got a new digital camera.

As okay as the cell phone camera was, and there are a number of articles I've seen lately where people talk about how the cameras in cell phones are nearly as good as dedicated digital cameras, it's not the most convenient for me to use. It requires a swipe and a push and a hope that what I wanted to document is still there. I really missed the convenience of having a small digital camera in my purse, just waiting for those occasions when I want to document something like, oh, plastic wrapped potatoes at the grocery store.

This camera was on sale through a web site, They have a lot of great deals and then, a lot of, um...okay, deals. I'm thrilled with it and the price was right. I do have to buy a different memory card as the ones I had at home didn't fit.

I'm excited to get out shooting photos again. Yeah, I know that everyone takes photos with their cell phone now days, but I like actually having a camera to do that. A large SLR digital camera didn't appeal to me at all. That's why this one is exciting to me.

Right price. Fits in my purse, it's perfect. Plus, it's red and so cute.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I got flowers from my daughter today for Valentine's Day. The UPS man really enjoyed bringing me the box. He walked into my office and said, in a very sing songy voice, "Somebody likes you. Someone sent you flowers." I didn't believe him. No one sends me flowers, well, almost no one. Ignore the amaryllis Bill sent at Christmas. I pulled the perforated zip opening and, wow, someone did send me flowers. Who?

The UPS guy had to point out the LARGE white card that says "Thinking of You" on it because lord knows I couldn't find it and didn't know who would send me flowers. I was just so thrilled, the obvious wasn't obvious.

See the plastic covered box at the bottom, just off the middle? That box contains chocolates. I couldn't get a good photo of it. The UPS guy was having as much fun watching me open this as I was. He's been the office's UPS guy for years. I should bake him some cookies or something because he really takes care of us. He gave us his phone number so when we have something coming that's time sensitive, we can text him in the morning and he'll look out for it. I'll see him over by Subway or Panera and we will wave at each other.

Here are the flowers.

Tulips! I'm thrilled. I'm going to have to rearrange the top of the organ so I can set these next to the amaryllis.

It can be cold and dank and overcast and snowy all it wants to. I have fresh flowers in my house to remind me that spring is approaching.

Beverage:  Water


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My New Orleans Story

This wall decoration came from a gal I knew years ago. She had been to a convention around the time of Mardi Gras and these masks were at every place setting. She had been given an extra one which she passed on to me. It's one of my favorite possessions.

Today is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. I've told this story to a number of people but I thought today would be a fun day to put it out there for those of you who have never heard it and for those who have.

I've been to New Orleans. It was November of 1993. I flew to Jackson, Mississippi where a college friend, JoAnn, had settled. She had a sister-in-law who worked for Holiday Inn and we were able to score very steeply discounted rooms across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. We made a several day itinerary. Day one was my arrival and our driving there. Day two, we did this circle driving loop that took in all these plantations that have been restored and opened for tours. One of the plantations we visited was Oak Alley. It was just as beautiful as the photos on this web site show you. We toured four plantations that day. The other three I can see in my mind's eye but I don't remember their names.

Oak Alley sticks in my head for two reasons. The first is that we had lunch there and JoAnn had me try the gumbo which had this stuff called "okra" in it. I'm not the best at trying new foods but she said, guaranteed in fact, that I would like this. I remember the soup/stew coming to the table. It was a creamy consistency with rice and these pieces of green in it. The sliced okra reminded me of flowers. It wasn't as horrible as I was anticipating. I haven't had okra since, however, but I wouldn't be averse to eating it again.

The second reason I remember Oak Alley was that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt had just, the week before we toured the place, shot scenes for Interview with the Vampire, the film adaptation of Anne Rice's book, at the plantation. In fact, as we toured about the other plantations and New Orleans, we were told, "Oh Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were here filming just yesterday" or "were here last week" or "were here 3 days ago". They were somewhere in the city while we were there. Our brush with fame. Ha.

The other thing going on was the Green Bay Packers were playing the New Orleans Saints that weekend. We hit Bourbon Street on Thursday. The point was to see the street during the day, to get our bearings and to be able to look around when there weren't crowds. Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" seemed to blare from all the bars. I love the song, but I had to admit that I found it annoying by the time we had walked the entire street. Friday morning, we drove around western Louisiana, just being tourists, following the Mississippi River north a ways. Then, we headed back to New Orleans to partake of Bourbon Street night life.

The weather was warm. Bourbon Street is one way. On Thursday, when we sat on a balcony overlooking the street, I marveled at and felt some sorrow for the delivery trucks that had to make deliveries to the bars and restaurants. It's two car widths wide but that's pushing it. On this Friday night, you combined the cars with the abundance of people and I think it's one of those "why are you driving here" type of experiences. The street caters to walkers and vehicles get in the way.

JoAnn and I started at Canal Street intending to walk all the way Esplanade Avenue as we had on Thursday. We just wanted to see the street at night. We would find a place to eat that looked inviting, not the place we had eaten at before, but some other place. We weren't going to eat in a bar. We wanted a restaurant.

The street was packed with Packer fans. A couple months prior to this, there had been sniper shootings in New Orleans. We were concerned about not being taken for tourists so we dressed down as much as was comfortable. We needn't have worried about being targets. Packer fans were resplendent in their green, white and yellow. Some of them, it seemed, hadn't been out of Wisconsin. Beer is available on street corners and if you don't have a drink in hand, you're fairly accosted by the vendors. This was a football fan from Wisconsin's heaven. They clustered around the vendors like ants on sugar making getting by without walking in the street nearly impossible. Like I mentioned, there was traffic along Bourbon Street. It really should be closed on weekend nights. There's just no room for people and cars.

What's also typical on Bourbon Street are the burlesque shows. There was the gal on a swing, wearing pasties and a g-string, who swung out over the sidewalk, blowing kisses and waving at the crowd below her. Packer fans stared with their mouths agape. JoAnn and I just looked at each other and shrugged. The reactions were quite comical.

We moved on, most of the time going with the flow of walkers. Suddenly the crowd came to a halt. One of the shows had the door open in the balmy night air, but the door didn't flatten completely against the building. So, you had to move around it and that meant walking a bit in the street. As we got close to the doorway, we could see some gal on stage, shaking her topless assets for all they were worth. There were a few people in the place, but not a whole lot. From our left came a shout, "Oh my god, Marv! You gotta see this!" and a group of about 5-7 Packer fans moved, en masse, across the street to stand right in our way and gape at the floor show.

Suddenly, this large black shape loomed in the doorway. A black man, the size of a redwood tree just seemed to materialize in the doorway. He looked at the group, crossed his hands and growled, "Ya wanna see the show. Ya gotta pay." The Packer fans froze. JoAnn and I took that opportunity to slip around them and to walk away as fast as we could. I will never ever forget the size of that man and the authority he radiated.

We walked a block away, stopped, turned around and looked back. We could barely make out the open door in the sea of humanity. We looked at each other and then burst into laughter. "Oh my god. These people are so green," JoAnn said. We walked another block and found a restaurant with a window on the street. I had a really good jambalya and JoAnn had a platter. I remember she didn't like the shrimp on it so she gave them all to me. Just a note, if cayenne pepper is used in your dish, don't itch your eye. The waiter got a kick out of me dousing my right eye with water to get the sting out.

We spent a couple more hours just walking, standing, watching and walking some more. Finally, the crush of people was too much for us and we headed back to the car and the motel. It was a great time.

Some day, I'd like to go back for a 3-day weekend. There are things, like the jazz museum and Preservation Hall, that I didn't see when we were there. It's one of those places that I don't have to spend a lot of time visiting but it's worth it to say, "Yes, I've been there."

Beverage:  water


February Cat Post

I haven't posted anything about the girls in awhile. You probably get tired of me saying how grateful I am to have them in my life. There's just something so wonderful about coming home to their faces.

Mija doesn't like to sit for cell phone photos. It's hard to get a good photo of her. This is going to be one of my favorites, perched on the organ bench, hoping I'm going to go get her treats. When I head into the kitchen, this is where she goes to wait and see what I'm up to in there. This is where she goes when I come home.

Sometimes, when I come home from work, Pilchard will be on the foot rest waiting for me.

When I sent this photo to Val, she responded that sometimes, she thought Pilchard looked a bit like an owl. I hadn't seen that in her but here she really does.

We're quite the family. When I'm crocheting, they are with me in the recliner. When I decide it's time to get up and go play World of Warcraft, Mija jumps down into my now vacated spot. It's warm, doncha know. They are happy to be curled up in the recliner.

At the end of January, when the temperatures dropped into the single and negative numbers, I found that both of them seemed to want my lap or to be where I was sitting. It was annoying at times, especially when I was trying to do my taxes and this big black cat was demanding my lap.

Then, on Friday, February 1st, I was working on laundry. Mija sleeps with me. Pilchard has, quite a bit more this winter, jumped up onto the pillow next to me. She meows and wants scritches but won't stay. Mija was on the bed,out of sight to the right, and I was folding clothes. I opened the draw for my pants and ...

Mija has done this. It's quite common for her to jump in. This is the first time Pilchard has. She settled right down and stayed there for an hour. So, I left the drawer open. That night, the drawer was still open. Mija and I settled down for the night. Pilchard came into the bedroom and jumped into the drawer. I have no idea how long she stayed but she did settled down.

It occurred to me that heat rises. The furnace was working to keep the house at 69 degrees. My feet were chilled. How chilly were the girls, walking about the floor? That explains why my lap was a desired target as was the drawer. They were warm.

Since then, I've just left the drawer open. I am not in the bedroom except in the morning, when putting away clean clothes, and at night so it's not an inconvenience to keep it open. I spread a tee shirt over the clean pants so they aren't completely covered in cat hair. Someone uses the drawer daily.

Yes, yes. The things I do for the comfort of my cats.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Just Another Saturday Morning

Wheaton, Illinois, where I live, is bisected by a mainline railroad. Originally, it was the Galena and Western. That was bought by the Chicago and North Western. The C&NW was still an entity when we moved here in 1981. In 1995, the Union Pacific absorbed the Chicago and North Western. The line that goes through Wheaton goes west to Clinton, Iowa, across Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska and onward to the west coast. It's a direct import route for containers from LA to the Midwest. We also have a lot of coal traffic to area power plants from Wyoming where low sulfur coal is mined. Illinois coal is higher in sulfur and requires more emissions cleaning.

There is also a Metra commuter rail service operating on this route. It's not uncommon, if you hit it just right, to have to wait for 2 freight trains and a Metra train to clear a crossing. We have one overpass west of downtown. There have been discussions about creating another over or underpass as the downtown gets terribly snarled when there is a train problem. But there isn't a place to put either an overpass or an underpass. The city grew up around the railroad and it still provides goods and services to merchants.

So, you just need to get used to delays, such as on Saturday past.

I wanted to stop at the Starbucks at the corner of Main and Front Street. As I headed south on Main, I could see the train stopped. I turned right, then right again. Then I made 2 left turns and went straight by the post office. Another left turn and I was on Front Street heading east. You really do have to know your way around because there are so many one-way streets that to get where you're going can be frustrating.

There was, fortunately, a parking spot by Starbucks. I got my hot cocoa and breakfast roll and the train didn't move. I was in Starbucks for about 10 minutes and the barista said the train had been stopped for 10 minutes prior to my arrival. That's a long time to inconvenience people wanting to head south. Add to this, a road closure one block east of where I was and it makes getting around a headache and a half.

The locomotive was 2 blocks east of me. I couldn't see anything wrong with the train. It didn't seem to have hit anything as happens more frequently than it should. I felt badly for people stuck in a position where they couldn't leave the line of cars to continue on. I don't think I heard it move for another 40 minutes after I got home.

There will be renewed calls for "fixing" this. Four crossings were closed including the 3 main ones through downtown. If you like to watch trains, downtown Wheaton is a good spot for it. You might even get lucky and have one stop for you.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Wrong Month

We finally got some of the white stuff.

I actually had to shovel last week.

I shoveled enough of the deck so I could set out bags of kitty litter for the garbage. Another dusting came through that evening. These two storms were the really light fluffy snow. I started shoveling and realized I'd be better served by just taking the broom and sweeping. That's actually easier on my knees.

The next storm that passed through on its way east to dump feet on New England, started as ice here before changing to snow. The pattern on the deck was cool. The tree that hangs over the north end, prevented some of the snow from falling on the deck. Then, as the snow turned to water and dripped, it created this interesting pattern.

The snow was plastered to sides of trees. I have always liked that particular look, as if someone traced the edges. It crunches underfoot when it's like this.

This is the most snow we've had this year, so far. I really would have preferred this in December. It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when that spirit includes snow.

We had rain on Sunday past with temperatures in the forties. I don't think there's any doubt that we are in a period of weather transition related to global warming. It seems kind of weird that we'd have a blizzard and then one of the warmest winters on record the next year, but weather extremes and swings are probably going to be the norm now rather than the exception. And I feel for farmers. This isn't nearly enough snow to provide drought relief. The heavy rains of Sunday didn't soak in. The ground is frozen, not very far, but frozen nonetheless. All I had in my backyard on Monday was this.

As much as I don't want to tackle the experience of shoveling 2 or more feet, I can't help but wonder how dry it's going to be this summer. The weather we counted on can't be counted on anymore. Chicagoland has always had a 50/50 chance of a white Christmas. I guess I should get used to more brown than white. I can handle these kinds of snows so I wouldn't mind a couple more before the winter turns to spring. My broom and I are ready.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Monday, February 11, 2013

From Little to Big

On January 29th, I had a legitimate second sprout to my amaryllis.

This is what it looked like yesterday. Today's photo is way too dark. Danged heavily overcast mornings.

It didn't, this morning, show any signs of opening so I wonder just how tall it's going to be.

Whatever Bill paid for this, I got more than his money out of it.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea