Sunday, June 30, 2013

Another, More Appreciative, Home

Many, many years ago, I had a glass of scotch that was beyond superb. Now, I wasn't a hard liquor drinker. A brandy, very so often, when I had an upset stomach (Don't laugh. It works.), an amaretto and 7Up, those were the extent of my ventures into hard liquor. My dad used to make us whiskey and 7Up on the first New Year's Eve after we turned 16. That was the only time, until we hit legal drinking age, that we got alcohol. I wasn't much for Jim Beam but I had some in my cupboard for years because that was all I knew.

Scotch is considered the "water of life" in Scotland. The combination of barley, malt, water and aging create a drink that is quite unique. It's funny. I can't remember where I was but I can remember the scotch as if I just took a sip. It was called "Aberlour" and has been around since 1879. That's a long time to be brewing and bottling a caramel colored liquid.

This one was superb. It was the color of Kraft caramels, if they had been turned into liquid. I remember being given a shot first and then 3 fingers in a glass with water. The water made all the difference. Someone more knowledgeable than me can tell me why water enhances, not waters down, scotch. I didn't and I still don't quite understand how this drink personified "crisp", but that came to mind. There was the taste of the earth. What sticks in my memory most profoundly, however, was that after I'd swallowed, the lingering taste was one of dark chocolate. Chocolate! How do they do that? I always wanted a bottle of Aberlour but it was quite expensive and very hard to get in the US at the time.

A couple of Carole's friends went together at Christmas one year and got me a bottle of scotch. They tried to get Aberlour but I think they were told it wasn't available. The guy helping them recommended the bottle to the right as being very similar in taste.

While Aberlour produces three kinds of scotch for direct sales, Clynelish produces one kind, a small run of around 13,000 bottles each year. The rest of its production goes into the blended whiskey, Johnny Walker. This is a light, almost honey-colored liquid, compared to the caramel color of Aberlour.

Aberlour has been in continuous operation since opening in 1879. Clynelish was opened in 1819 but closed in 1968. It reopened in newer headquarters across the street from the original distillery and is, thus, considered to date from 1968 and not from 1819. We might shrug and say, "So what?" but to whiskey aficionados, this is important.

I never got around to opening the bottle, I'm sad to say. I put it in the basement with good intentions, but those intentions never materialized into actually trying the drink. So, while the contents say "14 years old on bottling", it's actually about 20 years old now.

You know that I no longer consume alcohol due to the medications I take for rheumatoid arthritis. For the most part, the alcohol I have in the house is what I use in cooking. I can still do that. Bratwurst boiled in beer, beer basted pork chops, mahi mahi in a hazelnut liqueur glaze; I can still eat those because the alcohol is burned off in cooking, leaving only the flavor. But I can no longer sit down with a wee dram, sprinkle some water over the top and enjoy the flavor of a good malt. What to do with something like this?

Well, you prepare to run a raid in World of Warcraft and, as you're getting up to get your can of seltzer, you ask, casually, "Can I get anyone anything?" Bearsilver responds, "Sure. I'll take a scotch and soda, please." Oh, really? Three emails later and I know who is getting a bottle of scotch.

It left my hands on Tuesday and arrived at its destination on Wednesday. I packed the heck out of that. I was even going to open the top and wrap the bottle in bubble wrap, but I couldn't get the top off. As of yesterday, Bear had not opened the container to try the scotch. He was going to share it with a friend.

There was a twinge of sadness as I packed it in foam and bubble wrap. I always meant to give it a try, I really did. I was so surprised and honored that the guys went out of their way to get something they thought I would like. I probably would have. I know that Bear will like it even if it's not the best scotch he's ever had. I'm very happy it's found a good home and will be enjoyed. Now, what to do with the bottle of Canadian Club I found on the back of the top shelf.

Beverage:  Mixed Berry Seltzer


I Guess I Need to Go Shopping

Gone are the days when "relaxing" meant a stroll about the mall. I just don't have the a) disposable income, b) the stamina or c) the inclination to wander about a mall. Increasingly, I find that I can do a lot of things online that I normally would have hopped into the car and driven to the mall.

I'm faced with the prospect of either shopping online or going to a mall because my purse and pocketbook are slowly falling apart.

I got this pocketbook several years ago. It was August 2010. Jessie and I went out to dinner and then went shopping for a new purse and pocketbook. What I had was falling apart. I found both a new purse and this at JC Penney. I also had with me, the leftovers from my dinner. I set that down amongst the purses so I could better search for exactly the right one. We were half-way back to my house when I remembered my lunch for work the next say was sitting amongst the handbags. I almost wrote that Penney's an apology note. I didn't mean to do that. It was 'out of sight, out of mind'.

So here we are, many years later. The fake leather on the strap of the handbag is cracked and slowly flaking off in very small pieces. Most importantly, the hasp on the pocketbook doesn't always open or close. I'm finding myself getting more than a little frustrated with the thing now. Perhaps there is a quick fix, but I don't know what it is. One friend suggested a big rubber band. My mom used to do that. She would carry a wallet that contained envelopes and receipts and other bits of paper. She had a big, fat rubber band around that mess and when she needed something from it, life and the line behind her, came to a dead stop while she opened it up and searched for what she needed. I'm not inclined to do that.

I've blogged before about cleaning out all the purses in my closet and weeding things down to just one, one that goes everywhere day in and day out. Oh I have a couple for fancy events and one that is shaped like a cat which I won't part with, at least, not now, but I don't have a half-dozen or more. You only use one at a time so why have more than one?

Yes, I have looked at purses and pocketbooks online. There are some really good deals out there. But this is, for me, very much an individual choice. The pocketbook has to hold the essentials. They have to be organized so I can find them. It also has to fit into the purse. This one was, in hindsight, just a bit too big for the purse. I often can't get it into the purse quickly. Jessie pointed that out all those years ago, but I liked both and have made them work, not quickly some days, but worked.

I guess it's time to head to the mall and look at purses. I'm not relishing this task. Wonder if Jessie is available next month?

Beverage:  Mixed Berry Seltzer


Friday, June 28, 2013

The End Is Near

Half-way through the year and this is the stack of magazines on the ottoman.

This is it. I've been reading them religiously in an effort to finish off the stack. I'm probably reading a magazine and a half a week.

Three years ago, this was the stack.

It represented several years of "I'll get around to it" and slapping the magazine on the top of the pile. I remember knocking this pile over several times. I thought, "I should just pitch these", but I never could. I reorganized the stack and grouped same titles together, mostly. An errant magazine often pops up on top of the stack. Hmmmmm. I thought I read all the Best Friends. Guess not.

I'm reading magazines from 2010. Earlier this month, I read about Best Friends' efforts to save the dogs used by Michael Vick in his dog fighting enterprise. Most of those dogs found forever homes thanks to Best Friends. A couple have passed over the Rainbow Bridge, but they found out that there are humans who will love them and not force them to fight. It was interesting to read about the initial efforts made on behalf of these dogs because I've known for awhile about the success Best Friends had in rehabilitating the ones brought to the shelter.

The magazines about Scotland are also quite interesting. Most of the main articles are relevant whether I'm reading a magazine from 2013 or 2010. The only difference is in the "current events" columns. "The museum is undergoing a complete renovation and is slated to reopen in 2012." Um...well, I hope they reopened. Sometimes, I go to the URL and find out that, yes, indeed, they did open or a fund raiser was successful or a construction project came in on time and doubled the size of the space. I figure the longer I have the magazine, the more they will revisit something I remember reading. That's happened a couple of times now, with reference to a previous article. In one case, I had just read that particular magazine a few months earlier. No, they aren't in chronological order. That would be too OCD. I'd rather just skip from month to year in a hodge-podge fashion.

So, seeing the stack so close to being gone means I often come home, plop down in the recliner, get Pilchard in my lap and just read for a couple of hours. It feels like a great accomplishment to be this close to having nothing in that spot. What will I put there when the stack is gone? Well, I'm looking toward the day when whatever magazine arrives will go there if I can't read it right away. I get Best Friends, Cooking Light and Scottish Life. I also get a quarterly cross-stitch magazine but I read that right away. (Don't look at me like that. Yes, I have boxes of cross-stitch magazines, but I like seeing new projects.) There won't be a magazine lying there for years waiting to be read. Probably my current book or cross-stitch project will go in that empty space.

You know what else would fit? A cat. I'm sure, once the space opens up, it won't take long for someone to find it. I believe that's a law of cat dynamics. "An empty space must be occupied at least once."

I'm proud of myself. Yeah, it took 3 years to get to this point, but, truthfully, it took just as long to create the pile. The end is near. I'm looking forward to it.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


I Believe I Can Fly

The driveway to the south of the house has often been a gateway for wildlife to get from the backyard to the street. Since I don't have a garage, it's easy to run along the drive and make a left turn into the front yard. Rabbits use this all the time. One year, Carole had taken one of the garbage cans to the curb, turned around and saw a skunk in the drive.

Last night, I pulled in after work and got out. My eye was attracted to something brownish that seemed to fall into the drive along the house. It took me a minute to realize what it was.

It was a fledgling robin.

My neighbors have a large pine tree just south of the drive, off the northeast corner of their house. They also have a bird's nest at the immediate northeast corner, tucked between the house and the "S" curve of the drain pipe.

As I approached, the bird hopped along the drive to get away from me. I couldn't see a nest in the pine tree, but that doesn't mean it's not there. You can see that the rear feathers are not fully developed. All it seemed to be able to do was hop. After getting my picture, I left it be. I decided not to bring the recycling can back from the street because I'd have to maneuver it by the bird. It's in enough shock to have tried to fly and fell. It didn't need to contend with a human and a big blue recycling container.

This morning it was not in the drive. I walked it to be certain. I am rather thankful that I don't have outdoor cats. Betsy, Rascal, Shakespeare, even Penny or Half-Pint would have loved this. "Oooh, thanks mom. Dinner."

Speaking of dinner, there's been a morning visitor to the front yard.

I eat my cereal and have this guy staring back at me. I know they can see me because if I throw up my hands, he will take off. The girls will notice him but they seem uninterested. Squirrels on the deck, yes. Rabbits in the front yard, no.

I like that there is an abundance of wildlife, even of what could be considered a slightly mundane type, in my yard. As overgrown as it is this year, with all the rain, I'm providing a decent habitat. In return, a good habitat provides me with a healthier environment. Plus, when Mija is sitting on the magazine I want to read with my cereal, it gives me something to watch over my Cheerios.

Beverage:  Water


This Vexes Me. First One of 2013.

I've been on a cleaning kick, a deep cleaning kick. I usually get this way when I have company coming. The girls look at me rather strangely because I'm moving things and dusting as well as scrubbing floors. Pilchard was not amused with my total cleaning of the area by the litter boxes. I cleaned and disinfected, which included the use of an odor remover that is applied to the floor and left to dry. Then you wash the floor as usual. That required two days of cleaning which meant the litter boxes were not in their usual places. She peed on the floor to express her displeasure with this arrangement. Sigh. Oh well. I was cleaning anyway.

As I was washing the bathroom floor, I noticed the mop felt 'funny'. I turned it over and saw that the mop head has separated, partly, from the rest of the mop. This means I need another sponge. I always dread this. I don't mop as much as other people do. I really don't need to, so the mop doesn't get replaced often. I'm dreading going to the hardware store, where I got this (I have to go anyway, not just for this.) because every time I've gone to replace the sponge, I've had to buy a new mop because the sponge size I have isn't made anymore.

So I ask you, are sponge mops evolving so fast that we have to have a new design every year? It stands in a bucket in the basement 80% of the year. After use, I let it dry out completely so it's not like it sits in water so it rots. It just vexes me that I have to spend upwards of $15 to wash the floors.

Well, wish me luck this weekend. Let's see what I can find. Then I can wash the kitchen floor and really get the cats worried.

Beverage:  Water


The Garden

The huge amount of rain, followed by warm temperatures have made my flowers lush and green. The begonias on the front steps are filling the pots very nicely.

They seem quite happy on the front steps and it makes the front look nice, considering the flower beds on either side of the front door are really overgrown. (sigh) One of those things I need to do. And it has to stop raining so I can repaint the top of the front steps.

You can't see very well. I was on my way to work when I took this. There are 4 banana peppers on that plant. Plus, there are 4 more blossoms. It's fallen over and I need to find my stakes to stake it upright. Perhaps, by the 4th, at least one of the peppers will be ripe enough to eat. They get a lovely banana yellow when they are ripe.

I need to weed all of the pots and remove the weeds. It's interesting how weeds spring up, even in flower pots. I'll be doing some rearranging of the pots this weekend, but everything is lush and flowering. This space is really nice. Now, it just needs to quit raining so I can enjoy it, although the mosquitoes will be in abundance. Where did I put those citronella candles?

Finally, as promised, here is a close up of the potato vines.

If you look closely, you can see what looks like a red outline around some of the leaves. I think that adds a distinctiveness to the plant. They seem to be loving the deck pots and are cascading over the sides beautifully.

Some years, my flower choices are 'meh'. This year, I'm really happy. It also could be my attitude, but I come home and this space brings me cheer and peace. I do need to cut back a couple of branches as they whap you in the face if you're sitting next to the birdbath. Otherwise, this is a happy place.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


Friday, June 21, 2013

Binge Worthy

Let's talk about color. I can hear you, yes I can. But Deb, there's no black licorice in there. You are absolutely correct. There is no black licorice here. Sorry, but I loathe black licorice. When I was a wee one (Missed the dinos by a few years.), whenever we had a cough, dad would give us Smith Bros cough medicine. It was black. It was the consistency of hot tar, meaning fluid but not like water. And it tasted of licorice, strong licorice, like they took every anise plant they could find in a 12 county radius of the plant and soaked it to wring out every molecule of flavor. Dad loved this stuff, swore by it.

It                  was                  awful.

My mother, reading this post, is going to be laughing right now. She knows. She knows. 

I remember trying to keep a cough quiet from dad and only letting it out into my pillow or my elbow. I'd go into the bathroom and turn the water on full stream in the hopes it would make enough noise to drown out the sound of my cough. I did all of this and more because I did not want to be given the black goo. Dad said if it didn't taste bad, it didn't work, and he was dead serious with that comment.

The thing is, the stuff worked. It stopped a cough like Jersey barriers stop a cyclist. Bam. Done. Over. Yet choking down that syrup, which, incidentally, burned as you swallowed it, took everything you could muster. I can remember dad taking some for a cough and then licking the spoon. I love my father but sometimes, he was nuts. 

When Smith Bros introduced a cherry flavor, we rejoiced. It was good and, I thought, did the same thing as the black stuff. We could take a teaspoon of the cherry flavor and sleep all night with no coughing. It wasn't as viscous as the black stuff, but it sure did taste better. It was in the house for all of one bottle's worth and dad refused to buy it again because he felt it wasn't "real" cough syrup. 

So, while I know the term "licorice" generally refers to the black version, I can't stand it. Thankfully Twizzlers understands there are a lot of us who don't care for the anise flavor. The flavors of Twizzlers are more than a handful and, at the grocery to get cereal, dish soap and apples, I found this bag. Be still my heart. Cherry, orange, lemon, lime, grape and blue raspberry; on sale, too. 

I should have purchased a second bag. Be proud of me. I made this bag last for 3 servings. 

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Garden Progression

My little green corner of the earth and my deck, is coming along nicely. Here are the gnome boxes.

I've had some hit and miss with the sweet potato vine over the years. What you can't see, and I'll try to take a close up photo of it, is that the edges of these vines are outlined in what looks like a red. It is very distinctive and adds quite the dimension to the color of the plant. I'm going to have to rearrange the pots under the white gnome as that vine is falling on top of the pink geranium below it.

What I'm most excited about is this.

That's quite the curly que for a banana pepper but I'll take it. I noticed this morning there is another growing next to this one. We are to have hot weather this weekend and peppers love hot weather. The ones I started from seed and then one seed I added to the pot from a pepper I got at the store are doing well too. I have had to water the deck flowers several times. They dry out quickly. The rest have gotten a watering from me just once. We've had enough rain that I haven't needed to water. Everything is doing well. It's so pleasant to be outside and sitting on the deck amongst the flowers.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Well It Ain't Me

Sometimes, the act of finding something to be happy about on a daily basis gets a little help. Witness this, seen in the morning as I was heading to the office.

I have no idea where it came from. It appears the wind carried it to the yard where it entangled itself around that fern on the north side of my neighbor's house. It made me giggle. I'm fairly certain the gals next door would not define themselves as "princesses". Lord knows I certainly don't. Still, this started the day with a laugh and we could all use one of those. It was gone when I got home.

Now, bring me a bag of Oreos and some milk while I put my feet up in the recliner and watch a movie. Make sure you bow when entering and leaving my presence.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Scaring the Cats

The annual rite of summer happened last weekend. It was the Prospect Street block party. When Carole was in grade through high school, I helped organize this. For about 5 years, we didn't even have them, preferring to just go to Jill and Zeke's on July 4th for a bbq and pool party. But people with kids are back in the neighborhood now and this is a great way to bond.

The street is closed from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and we have always, always started with a parade going from north to south along the block. I was cleaning litter boxes when I heard the police siren. Darned if that didn't sound very close, like within a couple of houses from me. The girls took off for their safe places and I ran to the front door.

Oblivious to the time, I had no idea it was time for the party. 

I think it's great when the police come to an event like this. The officer parked in the middle of the block and let the kids look inside his patrol car, sit in the back for pictures and ask him anything. The kids asked if he'd ever fired his gun. He hadn't except at the shooting range to keep his skills sharp. Yes, this car was brand new and he really liked it. You want your neighborhood to build up a good rapport with the police so when something goes wrong, there is trust there. The last time we did this, years ago, the police officer, had to leave in the middle of her talk because she was called out. 

I came back to the house and the girls were out of their hiding places but still agitated. If we lived on a major street, I think they would get used to the sound of sirens. But, if I lived on a major street, I probably wouldn't pay attention to sirens and go see what was up. I think I'll put up with cats scattering to the winds so I know what's happening in my neighborhood. 

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Monday, June 17, 2013

Weird, Creepy, Eerie, You Label It

I finished my autographed copy of Chicago Haunts 3 on Friday night. If you've read the previous two books, Chicago Haunts and More Chicago Haunts, this is more of the same although the author goes southeast almost to the Indiana border and west as far as Cherry Valley. If you haven't read the first two and you don't know anything about hauntings in Chicago, this book will have references that you won't get. As is the nature of a serial, the author refers back to previous stories. In some cases, she provides a bit of a history. More often, she just mentions that you'll find the story elsewhere. This isn't a negative of the book, just a note that if you pick this up as your first exposure to ghosts of Chicago, you're going to come away disappointed because that's not what she's doing in this book.

Beilski has an immensely readable style. It's breezy and devoid of over-the-top moments. She reports the stories with an eye toward, this is what happened or is rumored to have happened. In her introduction, she mentions that some stories she collected left her shaken and you are warned. Being yet one more layer removed from the actual events, I wasn't scared by anything related in the book. There are some places she talks about that I don't think I would go alone, particularly at night, because the mind plays tricks on you and you can think you see something you don't. Orbs are a classic case of this. At night, a camera flash will illuminate dust particles in the air that we cannot see. People will jump on this as evidence of orbs, something associated with hauntings. It's just evidence of dust in the air.

Cemetery "lights" are another thing. I used to think the Monona City Cemetery was haunted. Every time we passed it at night, I would see these flashes of light in the cemetery. It was only when I started reading about the paranormal that it was explained to me. Flashes of light in a cemetery are, more often than not, reflections of car headlights. Highly polished marble tombstones are the culprit here, not ghosts, yet your mind could tell you there is something strange going on because you want to experience it.

Now, I'm not a skeptic. I believe there are things we don't understand. There are enough ghost photos and stories of hauntings with no logical explanation that I believe there is something to this. Things happen that we just can't explain. Something falls off the shelf and there were no ground vibrations nearby which would cause it to happen. A photo shows an image of a person where everyone swears no one was. One of my guild mates felt someone stroke her hair while she was working alone during the day in an office in a building that was supposed to be haunted. I don't think I've had anything ever happen to me until Saturday. Now, I don't know.

One of these daily is part of the number of drugs and vitamins I take for my RA. They are large, about an inch long. I bought this bottle when it was on sale, buy one get one free, and I happened to be picking up the monthly drugs. It's a great deal. This is a 4 month supply so I have 8 months of vitamins with the two bottles.

On Friday, I finished the last pill in the bottle. I couldn't swear, at the time, but I thought I had only finished bottle #1 of the two, so I went to the bathroom to get the next bottle. I couldn't find it. These are rather large bottles so it's not going to fit just anywhere. I went through both drawers and under the sink. Nothing. I checked the shelves to the left of the medicine chest. (It's too big to fit in there.) Nothing. I opened the bin I have on the floor in the bathroom. It has sunscreen and Ace bandages but no vitamins. I looked around the microwave since I keep my drugs on top of the microwave so I remember to take them in the morning. Nothing. I even looked under the kitchen sink, although I didn't know why I would have put it down there. It wasn't there either. I picked up the old bottle and tossed it into the recycling container.

Oh well. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. I may think I was on bottle #1 but, in reality, I'll bet I was on bottle #2. I went to the office and, over lunch, started a grocery list for the weekend, although I wasn't really planning on leaving the house. Item number 1 was "calcium + D 1000".

Saturday morning, I got up and lurched into the kitchen. Did I want to make waffles this morning? Nah. I'd go with peanut butter toast and yogurt. That will be good. I came to a screeching halt as I walked into the room. There, on the counter in front of the microwave, was the bottle. I blinked for a moment and looked at the back door. I could have sworn I pitched the old bottle into the recycling. Maybe I hadn't. Oh well. I'll just move it to the left side of the sink and pitch it later. I picked up the bottle and nearly dropped it. It was full. Not only that, the lid was unscrewed and the paper seal had been started as if someone had left it for me so it wouldn't be hard to open in the morning when my RA is most acute.

I set the bottle back down, backed away from the counter and just looked at it. This was not here when I went to bed Friday night. I will swear, on a stack of bibles two miles tall. It was raining when I got up and I wasn't looking forward to having to go to the grocery in the rain. Now, it was clear I didn't have to go, but where did this come from?

To the best of my knowledge, I did not have an unexplained black out Friday night. I can, mentally, account for my time from when I came home from work to going to bed. I'm not aware that I sleep walk. I would think I would have discovered other things awry which would cause me to wonder about somnambulism.

I dumped out all the pills and spent an hour looking over all of them. They look fine. My doors were locked so no one came into the house overnight. That would be creepier still; the thought that someone came into my house and gave me a bottle of the vitamins I'm supposed to take, particularly when I didn't tell anyone I was out of them.

So, dear readers, I got nothing here. If there was something awry with my house, I would think the girls would be restless as it's well known that animals can see and hear things we can't. It is entirely possible I found this in my sleep, opened it, and left it out for me to find the next morning. I just don't know.

I went on with my life but I have to tell you, every time I used the microwave this weekend and then, when I dumped out the morning's pill, I just had to wonder. Perhaps I should stand in my kitchen tonight and audibly thank the ether for finding it. Saved me money.

Beverage:  Water



This is my annual June post. I realize I'm preaching to the choir of the few of you who are regular readers but, if you are so inclined, please pass this along.

June is "Adopt a Cat" month. Why should you adopt a cat?

Because they look so adorable sleeping on your right arm while you're trying to read.

Because they lower your blood pressure.

Because they give you unconditional love.

Because they will kill flies if they can catch them.

Because they will let you know where the fly or moth is by sitting below it and staring.

Because they don't need to be walked.

Because they are extremely content to be in the house even if you're sitting outside on the deck.

Because having a purring cat sleeping next to you is pretty close to heaven on earth.

And because some of them don't want anything more exotic than a box or two or three or four...

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


The Piling System

You know how it is. Sometimes, in order to complete a task you've told yourself, repeatedly, that you should get done, you have to reach a "critical mass" or some other trigger wherein not doing the task is worse than spending 4 hours doing it. I reached that point this weekend.

Witness the desk in the bedroom.

Let's see. We have my kilt but the location of my complementary sash is a mystery. There are books, mainly journals and books in which to record the books I have read or want to read. There are the scarves I'm giving as Christmas presents this year. And there are the papers, pages and pages of papers.

This is my "piling" system, as opposed to a normal "filing" system. with a few exceptions, all the papers are clustered together according to type but they are all sitting there, on the end of the desk, awaiting sorting and either filing or shredding. My last 3 years of income taxes are in this pile although they are in a folder. Health insurance information, refinancing documents, credit card receipts, vet bills for the girls and paid bills for several years; all of this is in this pile.

As the pile grew, so did my desire to do something with it but my procrastination also grew. I know what's in the stack, but finding it required sifting through paper and more paper and still more paper. What I need to do is not let it stack up this high to begin with. I know that but tell me you handle things right away. Yeah, I didn't think so either. You'll get around to it. Sometimes, you actually do, but I tend to just pile.

The "critical mass" for me was last month, when I picked up my monthly bottle of methotrexate. It cost me $71. Wait. Wasn't the month before only $35? Buried in this stack, and you can sort of see on the left under the kilt because they are blue, are receipts for my RA drugs. I thought back over the last 14 months of taking this stuff. It's never the same price from month to month. I think I need to call my insurance company and ask if they know why. But, before I do that, I want to lay out a spreadsheet of drug costs so I can track this. In order to do this, I have to have all the receipts from my drugs. I've actually got a folder with RA costs in it. Right now, it's kind of stuffed since it has everything in it, but I should have a folder for doctor visits and for tests ordered.

As long as I'm looking for all the blue drug receipts, I might as well sort everything and file it. Four hours and one and a half cans of seltzer water later, I have to take the paper recycling bin outside tonight so I can begin the shredding part. What this lead to was the perusal of files in the filing cabinet. I emptied and pitched the contents of 10 file folders. I had stuff saved from 1994. There were newspaper clippings, contest entries, gift receipts. I saved these why? At some point, they were valuable. Not anymore.

Now, all my tax information from each year is together, not spread over two drawers. The top one is personal stuff. The bottom one is important papers. Most things are labeled but one look and you'll know what it is.

In the end, the desk now looks like this.

At least one of the books probably could be removed from the stack. The rest are journals. To the left is still the kilt but with the sash found at the bottom of the pile. I need to take those to the cleaners. Under them is the mending, another thing on the list of things that need my attention. I found my pile of bookmarks, too, which was buried until the paper.

The important thing is that this long neglected task was done. Mija wasn't real thrilled with all the piles on the bed. She wound up plopping down in the middle of everything to register her displeasure at the bed being overtaken by paper. Once she saw I was sorting and filing, she moved to sit in the window and just watch.

At some point, I'll deal with the clothing on the left and then the whole left side of the desk will be empty. I think Murphy has a law about how empty surfaces attract piles. For now, it's a step in the right direction.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Lifespan Ending

There are a lot of things in life that we don't really give any mind to until they fail. I've had two failures in the past 5 days.

My chair mat at work was the first to go.

Actually, it had been cracked for some time and I'd lost a few small pieces over the past winter. But, in May, it disintegrated. After getting the chair wheels hung up several times, I ordered a new one. Do you know how expensive these are? I was completely astounded. $100 and up for a chunk of heavy plastic. I was able to find one for much less under the "economy" label.

With big items like this, you take them to the hallway and put a "trash" sticker on them so the cleaning staff knows to dispose of them. Along the way, more pieces dropped off the center.

It left a debris trail from my office to the hallway.

I started working here in 2000, so I've been with this company for 13 years now. This chair mat predates me by at least 2 years, possibly more, but 2 is a good assumption. I have no idea what they paid for it back then, but whatever it was, we certainly got a good value out of it. I hope the new one holds up even half as long.

I didn't realize how much I had adapted (there's that word again) to the bumps and holes in the old one until I put this new one on the floor. That new plastic smell usually makes me cough and causes my allergies to flare up but I've been okay. I think my body has other things to worry about than my allergies.

Sunday, I decided waffles were in order.

I have a couple and then freeze the rest, two to a package. These make quick and filling suppers, lunches and, oh yes, breakfasts.

In order to make the batter, you beat the liquid ingredients together, mix the dry ingredients and then mix the dry into the liquid. A whisk is the perfect tool for this. I started mixing the liquid and the dry ingredients together and saw a piece of black in the batter. It took a bit of fishing to find it.

It's the center peg in the whisk and holds the tool together. I tried to stick it back in. It held for a few more minutes but then fell out again and with it came some small pieces of black plastic. This is falling apart.

I remember when I got this. It was summer and Carole and a bunch of her friends invited me to go see Over the Hedge, an animated feature about suburbia and wildlife. Robert Morris College was handing out free whisks to publicize their culinary arts program. It's been a great whisk, able to whip everything from egg whites to pancake batter. But, as with many things, there is a finite life span and it would appear I have reached it. I'm thinking I should look at spending money and buying a good whisk from Williams Sonoma or Crate and Barrel, not just frequenting the Target utensil aisle. I want my next whisk to last as long as this one did.

For the moment, it will be forks and wooden spoons. I'm kind of sad to see this go. Lightweight and easily manipulated, it was easy to mix ingredients using this. We rail about planned obsolescence in so much of what we buy. I didn't even think about how long the chair mat was under my chair or this whisk was in the utensil drawer. Occasionally, something comes along to remind me that some things will last for years and they are things we don't expect.

Beverage:  Lady Gray tea


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Cult of Weather

This is going to be something of a tidy rant. You've been warned. (wink)

If you were anywhere near a TV or radio or the Internet and checking the weather yesterday, you know about the cold front that moved through the midwest last night. That front is currently in New York.

It's late spring and summer is next week. You'd have to be pretty dense not to realize that living in the mid-section of the country exposes you to some of the most rapidly changing weather on the planet. We get the cold air from Canada and the warm air from the Gulf of Mexico. When they meet each other, particularly in the spring, the churning dance produces some of the most violent weather ever seen. We choose to live here. As much as my knees acted up in March and April with the damp chill of spring mornings, I cannot imagine living in San Diego with weather that is uniform. It has its place, but it's not me.

So, I'm attuned and have been for most of my life, to the changes wrought by the weather in the land where I choose to live. But yesterday's events brought something to the forefront of my mind, something that is not, I think, a positive. We have developed a "cult of weather", as I'm calling it.

It started in the morning with announcements that thunderstorms with high winds and heavy rain would develop in the afternoon. Scientifically, we know this will happen because the sun heats the atmosphere. Heat rises where it meets the cold air of the upper atmosphere. The air doesn't have to be from Canada. Air temperatures at 30,000 feet up are not the same as in your back yard. We know what happens. We've known for decades. This mix breeds thunderstorms.

But what we've seen, with the advent of social media and the ability to make movies with a cell phone, is the rise of the everyman storm chaser. Once the province of people of science, now the average person can hop in a car and, with a computer or just a smart phone, keep tabs on the National Weather Service's radar and warnings and The Weather Channel's on-air personalities pointing to green screens and making prognostications. You, too, can be rightthere, when the winds start circling and the funnel forms. You, too, can get your name and your video shown on the nightly news. We think this is normal and we are addicted to it. We want more.

I followed the weather yesterday. I do want to be informed, make no mistake about that. If I had places to go last night, I would have wanted to know if heavy rain would have interfered with those plans. From Tuesday night onward, however, a graphic was sent around the Internet with the following information, "There is going to be a derecho Wednesday night that starts in Iowa and heads east. This weather event will impact 65 million people. Share this with those in its path." Huh?

Last year, a derecho that formed west of DeKalb and roared east caused billions of dollars in damage. I was, at the time, in a movie theatre with Pam watching "Brave". The thing about this event was that it sprang up 45 miles west of me with little to no warning. Millions of people were inconvenienced and thousands were without power. What did we learn? That yelling the equivalent of "there could be fire" in this crowded country is the way to go. We demand immediacy and the talking heads about weather are our new prophets and preachers. Let me take a moment here and let out a heavy sigh.

"Sixty-five million people are in the affected area." As yesterday went on, the rain predictions grew. Eventually, it was locally heavy rainfall totals of inches. Back in April, we had an inches event that flooded the neighborhood and the street by the office. We knew the potential existed, at the time, for heavy rain. There's no place for inches of water to drain when it comes down in minutes. So the prospect of inches again last night made me check the house and yard and batten down the hatches. The garbage cans were shoved next to the deck. The flower pots on the front steps got moved off the steps to the ground and I tipped over the deck chairs to prevent them being lofted and tossed.

In hindsight, as I was walking out my back door this morning and righting a couple of them to get off the deck, where they are isn't going to cause them to become airborne unless there is a tornado in my back yard. At the most, they would have been shoved next to the house or into the flower pots, but I believed the sentences about the forming of a derecho.

I'm embarrassed. I believed. From March through November, professional and amateur storm chasers will fan out from Texas through Wisconsin, Colorado to New York, Oklahoma to Georgia, all trying to see the elusive weather phenomena known as a tornado. We will sit, glued to our maps and our talking heads, watching them tell us, in ever increasingly shrill voices, about potentials and probabilities. We will believe. We analyze their maps, hoping we can figure out what they, who may have years more training than us, cannot; just where the storm cells will "pop". We grab our cell phones and stand in our doorways with them aimed at the heavens, when we should be seeking shelter, hoping for that one bit of film footage that gets the Channel 4 News Team to interview us on camera. We. Will. Believe.

Again, allow me a moment to sigh. The deaths of 3 professional and 1 amateur storm chasers in Oklahoma last month are now a footnote to the weather. I feel they and the manner in which they died have been forgotten in the drive to be in the right place at the right time. We have gone from, "This afternoon, conditions are right for strong thunderstorms with locally heavy rains and high winds to develop. Some of these storms could produce hail and may have the potential for tornadoes. Please check in with us and be prepared to move to a place of shelter should conditions deteriorate" to "OMG! ZOUNDS! 65 MILLION PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE IMPACTED BY THIS STORM!"

You know what my impact was? It rained. That's it. It rained. No high winds. No hail. Not even inches of rain. It was a cloudburst and then it went away. Pilchard was fine all evening. We had a few flashes of lightning but she never ran to hide. There were heavy rains and winds south and west of me. Tornado sirens went off in various Chicagoland communities. It was nasty in places out there.

Increasingly, we are sounding alarms for potentials that never show, but we believe they will because we are believing what our prophets are telling us. We have developed, thanks to the awfulness of the past, warning systems that reduce death tolls from these major storms. This is tangible proof, life-saving proof, of what the early prophets, preachers, teachers and diviners worked to prove. I feel, however, that we have also removed the ability of people to make informed choices on the weather's impact. "Tut tut. It looks like rain" is now "Take cover! It could be the storm to end all storms!" The only thing missing is the running around waving our collective arms in the air. It's not quite Chicken Little, but it's so close.

I am a very small voice calling for a return to reasonableness. I do need to know if conditions are right for the development of severe weather. I do need to know if that weather impacts me. I do need to know at what point to head to the basement. I don't need my senses bombarded with ZOUNDS! and OMG! and graphics in reds and purples. At some point, the weather will become the little boy who cried wolf. I hate to see the result of that.

For the record, it's a beautiful day today, clear, sunny, mild. I didn't need the weather man to tell me that. I could see it when I walked out by back door. 

Beverage:  Yorkshire Gold Tea


Still Green

I'm just amazed at this.

This is the amaryllis Bill sent me for Christmas. Remember the gorgeous blooms?

I let the stalk and leaves die back, then pulled them off and gave the bulb a good soaking, taking care not to get water in the top where the stalk sprouts from. It has rewarded me with three more green leaves. Now, it needs a dormancy period in order to produce flowers again. That will probably mean putting it in the basement for a time. Right now, however, I'm enjoying the splash of green in the living room.

Beverage:  Yorkshire Gold tea


Wee Pepper

I noticed this last night. This is the sweet banana pepper plant. I'm so excited. We do need to knock off with the rain and have some warm, dry days for it to fill in.

Beverage:  Yorkshire Gold tea


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mini Luxury

You know how I love the little things, the odd things in life because it is those things that can make a person so ridiculously happy in an instant.Witness this.

The window is folded down. This is one of the reasons I'm loathe to replace the Jeep. In addition to, currently, being unable to afford car payments, I would have to special order a Jeep Wrangler with half-doors. Off-the-lot offerings do not come with half-doors. Most people buying Jeeps have no concept of removing the top half of their door. Possibly, they don't want to. But I can and that gives me a freedom completely lacking in a full-door Jeep. Yes, it's a headache and a half to get the new window covers over the windows, but when the weather turns nice, there is nothing, not one thing, more wonderful than removing the windows and tooling down the highway. On days where the threat of rain is very, very real, I can still feel like I'm topless without having to quickly (there's no such thing) put the top up when I encounter rain.

With the old top, the driver's side window was duct taped shut. You can barely see it here. I must have gone through a roll and a half over the course of last fall and winter in an effort to keep out the rain and, eventually, the snow, while I waited for the opportunity to get to Iowa and have my brother help me put on the new top. I haven't been able to unzip the driver's side window in over a year as first, the left zipper quit working and then, the right zipper quit. (Each window comes with two zippers.)

I adapted. I am really, really, really good at adaptation. It doesn't work. No matter. I'll figure something out. I went inside at the bank and fast food restaurants. There was no such thing as drive-up unless the window was off.

When we installed the new top, there was a bump in the zipper that prevented it from being opened all the way around. I thought I'd have to call Quadra Tec and ask what to do with one window unable to open. It turned out all it needed was to be in the sunshine. The canvas expanded and the zipper worked and I've had no problems at all since April. There also wasn't a desire to open the window due to the weather.

A week ago, I had banking to do. I combined that with a trip to Subway. As I was pulling into the bank parking lot, it dawned on me that I could go through the drive through. What a concept! What, for me, is a luxury! I have the window folded down and I can do all my banking without leaving my car. With the window folded down, I lose the "ledge" on which I usually rest my left arm, which is now dry because the window doesn't leak. But that just means I can do through the Dairy Queen drive-thru in downtown Wheaton and not have to contest with hordes of pre-teens loosed on an unsuspecting public at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.

This is yet another thing to be happy about and grateful I have a brother willing and wanting to help. It may seem silly or odd, but it makes my life so much better. If I didn't have chocolate chocolate chip ice cream from Oberweise currently in the freezer, I'd head over to DQ after work. I haven't had a peanut buster in ages.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Reading

I've started out with a bang. In years past, The Bookstore, in downtown Glen Ellyn had this summer reading program. You were to read 10 books between Memorial Day and Labor Day, fill out a form with a bit about the book and turn it in by the weekend after Labor Day. When you did that, you got a free paperback. Never mind that this works out to about a book every other week, if you're a voracious reader, you probably can finish this off by the beginning of August.

Me? Well, it really depended upon what life was like. Some years, I finished 12 books with time to spare. Other years, I barely made it through 4, let alone 10. They had to be age appropriate, too. I couldn't fill my paper with "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", etc, and call it done.

I have gone through a period where my reading has been pretty much confined to magazines and the instruction sheets that go with craft projects. I'm not sure why but I'm drawn to the stack this summer. It could be that's because there is an adaptation of Shakespeare coming to movie theatres this Friday.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is not one of Shakespeare's finest. I hadn't read this play since probably college, so I dug out my Complete Shakespeare and dove in.

This is a frothy tale employing one of Shakespeare's favorite comedic conceits, the masquerade wherein people claim to be whom they are not and the repercussions of this action. The hero and heroine of the story, Claudio and, aptly named, Hero, meet and Claudio falls madly in love with her on sight. She is wooed by Claudio's boss, Don Pedro, and she agrees to marry Claudio. The villain, an illegitimate brother to Claudio's boss decides to break them up and has his henchmen stage a rendevous with Hero's maid at night while Claudio overhears from a nearby orchard. Thinking Hero has just agreed to meet with another man, he publicly humiliates her the next day, at their wedding. Hero faints and several people agree to tell Claudio that she has died, while the local constabulary accidentally arrest the conspirators and elicit a confession. The final act sees all this madness come to resolution and Claudio and Hero happily together about to be married. The whole of this happens under the auspices of a large party to welcome Don Pedro back from an unspecified  successful military campaign.

There are problems with the play. The action takes place over 3 days. Truncating the action like that leads to a great need on behalf of the audience to suspend disbelief and agree that things can happen this quickly. Even "Hamlet" is allowed to play out over several months. "As You Like It", which employs a similar 'people not who they say they are' concept, gives the characters some time to get to know one another. The villain, Don John, is given little motive for doing what he does. He's mentioned as being illegitmate, but in stronger plays, that means someone's been cheated out of an inheritance or ostracized from court. This guy seems to want to be mean just because he can. That's never a very deep well of motivation for a villain. Also, he escapes the police, who have his accomplices, and the movie ends with the announcement that he's sent his army to attack his brother.

The best lines in the play are not from the two lovers. The leads in the play are Beatrice and Bernardo and much of the richness of language, the humor and the resolution of the plots many strings comes from their banter. We meet them before we meet Claudio and Hero and, from the early language understand they have had a long relationship marked by verbal swordplay. Their exchanges are some of the best written lines in this play. The fact that they use their verbal sparring to keep each other at bay when it's clear they love each other is quite amusing. When they come together at the end, accepting that love, it is, I think, a much bigger thrill than Hero being revealed as alive and Claudio finding out he was duped.

The title of the play references all the little twists and turns contained in it. When it comes to love, the bumps and pot holes to get from meeting to marriage are not important, much ado about nothing. True love finds a way. We might have to help it along, but even left to its own devices, it will find a way.

I'm excited to see this adapted for the movies. Will Joss Whedon, director, carry this through? Will he keep the banter between Beatrice and Bernardo at the intensity it is in the original? Will he flesh out Don John and give him more of a reason to be a villain? Will the audience get half of what's going on or will they simply come to see Nathan Fillion call himself an 'ass'? I suppose there are worse ways to get people to hear the words of Shakespeare.

Reading Shakespeare caused me to think about an author I don't think I've read since college. There has been a long, long, long running discussion; in some places of academia, an argument; that the man, William Shakespeare, did not write the plays attributed to him. The one piece of "evidence" used to frame this discussion is that the man called Shakespeare was not educated enough to create such astounding works, to create over 5,000 words which were added to the lexicon. It is known that he was in the theatre but he was just a would-be writer and just didn't have the smarts or social standing to write these intricate works. One of the people associated with this conspiracy is Christopher Marlowe.

Marlowe died in 1593, well before Shakespeare's plays were considered for the stage or before some of them had been written. Some of the conspiracy theorists have Shakespeare killing Marlow and stealing his compositions, affixing his name to them. The two were contemporaries although there is no evidence they ever met. It is known that Shakespeare knew of and read Marlowe's plays and was influenced by his style.

I'm not sure why the association popped into my head, but as I was planning to read Much Ado, I thought of Marlowe and his play "Doctor Faustus". It's based on historical information from Wittenberg, Martin Luther's home town, about a theology student who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for riches. Supposedly this happened shortly after Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the cathedral. This story was "all the rage" with the court and Marlowe tapped into that.

So, I hauled out my big red British Literature book Volume 1 and opened it up to "Doctor Faustus". The premise is simple. A theologian takes up the offer of two others to learn magic and conjures Mephistopheles who says he cannot be the man's servant unless the man sells his soul to Lucifer. There is an on-going dialog between good and evil angels and a final ending wherein either the theologian outwits Lucifer or Lucifer claims the soul. Honestly, I don't remember if this was written as a cautionary tale, lest someone be tempted towards the 'dark arts', or an uplifting story of redemption. It's long, much longer than one of Shakespeare's plays and does require a bit more out of a reader. I reached Act II Scene II yesterday before closing the book to finish chores.

The theatre starts my summer reading. Where it goes from here is going to be a surprise to me. I shall let my eyes pick the next books; there's merit in buying a book because it looks good; and we'll see. What are you reading this summer?

Beverage:  Berry-flavored Seltzer


That is Totally Unacceptable

Meredith likes Skittles. Periodically, we ask in guild chat what everyone is eating as we head into a raid or an event or just to make conversation, like last night when I took a long flight so I could finish eating a piece of chocolate cake. Meredith eats Skittles.

She had a conversation on Facebook about needing a proper bowl in which to hold the Skittles. Just having them in the bag wasn't really acceptable. The bag can rip and spill your snack all over the floor, not that I've ever had that happen to me. She found something that looked, from her photo, to be brushed aluminum or steel. It was a sleek design but, at least as far as I was concerned, didn't have much life to it. If you're going to sit at the computer and eat Skittles, the least you can do is eat them out of a unique container. And with that phrase, an idea was born. I would set out to find Meredith a unique bowl in which to hold her Skittles.

Thankfully, this is the start of fair season. Every weekend, one can find some sort of arts and crafts fair in the Chicagoland area. The first weekend of the month was Wheaton's Cream of Wheaton festival which featured arts and crafts. I figured I'd start there and see what I could find. The first tent I walked into was a potter. She had exactly what I wanted at the price I wanted to pay for something unique.

Now, I didn't set out to match the Skittles bag to the inside of the bowl. That was a happy accident. I didn't want anything too big. It had to hold at least a half a bag and if it held the whole bag, that was a huge plus. I saw several bowls that were cheaper than this but they were also much lighter in weight. As I turned them over in my hands, I realized that they had the potential to be knocked off the desk top.

So, I spend $5 to get a hand made bowl, but it lasts all of two weeks because it's so lightweight, the cord from the mouse knocks it onto the floor. Well, there is no value in that.

This bowl, as you see, has a "foot". That extra edge and its thickness, combined to give this weight. Even if Meredith's mouse cord gets caught on the "other" side of the bowl, it's not going to cause it to go flying. I had to send it with a couple bags of Skittles and, it appeared to me, that the bowl would hold almost a whole bag. I made the creator's day too by being her first sale. I can't find the business card I took so I can link to her site. She had some unique pieces, including handmade buttons. If I ever get around to making that new fall coat I keep thinking I want, I'll seriously consider getting handmade buttons for it.

This was a hit with Meredith. She's sent so many wonderful boxes of awesome to me that something like this is the least I could do to repay her kindness. While her other bowl was okay, it really wasn't acceptable for someone as unique as her. Now, she has a one-of-a kind treasure for her Skittles.

Beverage:  Yorkshire Gold Tea



The flowers by the deck stairs are doing well.

Some of the ones on the deck were sitting in soggy soil thanks to the inches of rain we've received in the last 3 weeks. I'm hoping I don't lose one of the geraniums due to this. I must have relieved the pot of a good quarter cup of water. A reasonably dry weekend past helped.

Any yet, the overwintered dianthus has exploded in flowers and color. The sweet potato vines are growing like the weeds in the yard and I've had to reposition several of the pots so they don't shade some other flowers. I deadheaded the marigolds and the zinnias, so, in another week, those pots will be riots of color. That is always my goal in flower planting. I want color, lots of color. It makes me happy. The day can be long and tiring, but, when I come home and pass by this container, my spirits are cheered.

Beverage:  Yorkshire Gold Tea


I Have a What?

It was the Printer's Row Lit Fest this past weekend. It could not have been better weather for it. I went on Saturday. It was clear and sunny for the whole day with temperatures in the mid-70's. I have been down there, walking amongst the throngs, when it's been 90 so the fact that it was in the 70's seemed, to me, to be a talisman for excitement and discovery. The camera went missing the evening before. Of course, I found it in the pocket of my messenger bag on Sunday, so I had to take photos with my cell phone. It doesn't look clear but trust me, there was beautiful blue sky with nary a cloud in sight.

I like to get there early because a loathe the crowds that don't allow you to look. A book fair like this, in reality, isn't a place for someone like me. I go with a list of books I am on the prowl to buy. That list, this year, included Erik Larson's most recent which is, now, 2 years old with a paperback version out; any Discworld books I haven't read and given that there are upwards of 25 in the series and I'm really not half-way through them, I should find more than a few I haven't read; and anything by Flannery O'Connor. My best friend, Patt, (not to be confused with my best friend, Pam) sent me a brilliant article discussing some of O'Connor's work. I know 'of' her, but I never took "Contemporary American Literature" while in college so never read anything she wrote. After reading this article, I need to get something and add it to the stack.

Last year, I got a Godzilla poster which, sadly, remains unhung. I just haven't found the right spot for it. So, visiting places with posters is a waste of time. I have no wall space without removing something I currently have on the wall. I have a lot of things unframed that I want displayed, so I passed those booths by. With a list of authors I wanted, I was unmoved by the hardcovers at $5 or the paperbacks at $1. And the sheer crush of people means taking the time I want to browse mean inconveniencing people behind me who also want to see what's offered. So, I wound up doing a quick scan of titles and moving on. I also wish, but I'm sure it's quite impossible, that sellers would organize their offerings better. It would save time for me. I think they feel that if everything is jumbled together, it forces you to linger, to look and will, thereby cause you to find something you didn't know you needed.

I always, always head first to one tent, Lake Claremont Press. This small press is regional publishing at its finest. If you are interested in Chicago and its history, their extensive list of books are sure to have something you will like. My interest in this publisher stems from finding, years ago, a book called "Chicago Haunts" by Ursula Bielski. I get announcements from them and I'm always excited to see what they have on offer, so my first stop at the book fair has always been their tent...except...when I can't find them.

That was the case last year. I walked all over the fair looking for their name on the tent and it was nowhere to be found. What I discovered, the next day by checking out their Facebook page, was that they had been sandwiched into a tent with three other regional presses. I must have walked by them three or four times and never saw the name on the proper side of the tent.

This year was different. Viola.

There is the Lake Claremont Press tent. Four sides of literary goodness. I walked all around looking at the books. I did get "Wrigley Field's Last World Series", a book about the last time the Cubs were in the World Series, 1945. My dad often talked about this event. It will be an interesting read.

But what I really wanted was to check on the upcoming book, "Graveyards of Chicago". I have a copy of this. I've had it for years. It's in the stack to be read. In fact, I found it, pulled it out of the stack and brought it along to show them. I enjoy Ursula's books. I'm pretty sure there are two or three on the shelf in the basement.

As I was standing there, chatting with a gal, a woman came up and I was told to talk to her. So, I showed her the book and asked about the upcoming one.

She looked at my book and said, "Oh my gosh. This is a first edition. Do you realize this sells on eBay for $100 because it's out of print?"

I was floored. (A subsequent search reveals that my pristine copy, which I hadn't gotten around to reading, was worth $150, although it could go higher if I did a bidding war on it.) I have never owned a first edition of any book. I've seen them. I've drooled over the idea of having a first edition, but usually those books are, as this lady said, $100 and up, and I can't really justify spending that kind of money on a book. To possess such a thing, on accident, left me speechless. When I mentioned that I was embarrassed to admit I hadn't even read it yet, the lady said, "Oh don't bother. The new one is coming out soon. I'm really proud of it. We put a lot of work into updating it with more accurate information." That's when it dawned on me. (I can be, admittedly, slow on the uptake sometimes.) I was talking with Ursula herself.

I hope my subsequent comments were not too effusive. I don't run in the circles where the meeting of authors would be commonplace. To actually meet the author of books I have admired and enjoyed was a thrill. I wound up buying "Chicago Haunts 3". It's the next book to be read this summer.

What was also a huge thrill for me was to have Ursula autograph my books. Here's the "Chicago Haunts 3" autograph.

And yes, I had her autograph, personally, the first edition. That does diminish its value, but I am NOT selling it. This falls into the "prized possession" category now. I have a personalized, autographed first edition AND I met the author.

I didn't find anything else at the fair and, actually, I didn't really care. This was an amazing set of occurrences. This 15 minutes made my whole day. In the grand scheme of finding things to be grateful for, I can live off this event for weeks. That might seem like hyperbole, but it's things like this that make me really happy. Now I have to make time to find the other titles I own by Ursula and arrange all of these on a shelf where they are visible.

Beverage:  Yorkshire Gold tea


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Start of Summer

Wheaton has been holding this festival, entitled Cream of Wheaton, for a long time. The Chamber of Commerce and the Park District combine to sponsor the event. It's free and held in and around Memorial Park which is just north of downtown.

I've decided that part of getting back into life is to attend things like this which have little to no cost, other than gas and maybe parking, depending upon where it's located. Plus, I was looking for a gift for a friend, a specific gift, and I knew Cream of Wheaton had an arts and crafts component to it.

Memorial Park is where the Disney Channel set up a radio broadcast.

It's also where businesses in Wheaton or serving Wheaton were invited to rent a spot and hawk their wares. My impression? This is the most boring part of the event. There must have been at least a half dozen tents offering massages and chiropractic evaluations. There were banks. There were insurance agents. There were city departments and representatives of the garbage service. There were places where grade school kids could make posters and the Park District had a long table advertising their programs. The guy advertising the Wisconsin Dells would not take "No, thank you" for an answer so I filled out his entry for a free weekend. Is it bad that I put the phone number of the old Internet line that I had discontinued back in March? I'd take a free weekend, but I am not interested in having sales people call.

The arts and crafts part of the festival was very interesting. There were two blocks of tents.

I found what I came for in this section. Along here was a tent for Wheaton College's "Artist Series" concerts. I've seen some very good performances at Wheaton College over the years. At the far right, above, you see some kids coloring on a large mural. It was an advertisement for Wheaton's Cosley Zoo. You could color on the mural and then get a free photo of yourself with the mural. Well, I suspect it wasn't completely "free" as the photos were sponsored by Allstate.

Here's the other block of tents, right around the corner from the above.

I found the cat toys in this group of tents. The gals who made the cat toys also had some very nice wallets. They had one in a dog print. If they'd have had a cat print, I'd have purchased it. They took my email and are supposedly going to contact me with prices for making a wallet in the cat print. I'm also kind of kicking myself as the statuary display at the far right had a couple of things my brothers would like.

There was music in the bandshell in Memorial Park from the Disney Channel and music in front of the old Wheaton Theater from local musicians. Carnival rides were stretched from Hale Street to Water Street.

Although it was cloudy, it was reasonably warm. The carnival "opened" at noon and they were in the final stages of getting things set up when I wandered by. The festival managed to stay dry until 4:15, when the skies opened and it poured. You can't help but think about the vendors out in the open or people who might have been on the Ferris wheel at the time.

I walked a fair chuck on Saturday. It was a fallacy to think there would be any spaces in the downtown parking garage so I didn't even check. Plus, so many streets were closed for the carnival and for the vendors that even getting around downtown required patience. I parked 5 blocks away and walked. It was an hour and a half on my feet, in good shoes, mind you, but my left knee let me know it wasn't very happy.  The next day, I certainly felt the repercussions of all that walking.

Still, this is a good thing for me to do, get out and go to these things. Even if all I get are 3 catnip mice for $2.00, it gets me out and moving. This coming weekend is the Printer's Row Book Fair in downtown Chicago. I know. I know. I don't need any more books, but that's, technically, not the point. There is a free festival somewhere every weekend between now and Labor Day. The point is to get out of the house and do things. Festivals are the way to go.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper