Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Friend By Any Other Name

One of the things I wanted to do when I was in Virginia, was meet as many people from my World of Warcraft guild as possible. So once my dates were firm, I set Saturday, August 17th, as the date we'd have a party. Jon and Becky offered the house they rented as the venue.

We had food. Oh boy did we have food.

We had a watermelon cut like a shark.

Fruit salad was inside the mouth. Becky cut this. It was so impressive. The "water" is partially set blue jello in cool whip. The jello is supposed to be a solid sheet, but, for some reason, it didn't completely set. We actually liked it better. It looked like the shark was coming up out of the water.

We had beer.

And soda, of course. The beer, which I couldn't drink, was in commemoration of an upcoming guild event, the Second Annual Terrapin 500, where we race turtle mounts around one of the capital cities. We all had a great laugh about this.

We had a specially decorated cake.

The plastic pigs stuck on the cake are in honor of "Mr. Wiggles", the guild mascot. In the game, when we are running a raid, I need to have Mr. Wiggles, a pig, running along with me. We do better, for some reason, when the mascot is along.

We had a dragon pinata. Carole's cat, Faux, was unimpressed.

The piñata commemorated Deathwing, who was the final villain of the last retooling of the game. He was a big black dragon.

We hung the piñata off one section of Jon and Becky's deck. Jon found a broom and we let the kids take a swing. Lee's son took a swing and got it swaying. Her daughter wound up and swung. The rope snapped and Deathwing went sailing into the back yard. He didn't break.

After we stopped laughing at the dragon fleeing, Larry and Jon put their heads together and used an electrical cord to hang the dargon on the deck.

Larry used a good ol' Boy Scout knot to hold the pinata. Stuart swung next.

Then Carole.

After Carole took a hit, Doo got a chance. Poor guy got the damp chair which we didn't know until he stood up.

Finally, it was Lee's turn.

She took a mighty swing and split Deathwing, cleanly decapitating the dragon and spilling candy all over for the kids, who giggled with delight.

Jon and Becky liked the look of a bodiless dragon on the deck so much, the head hung there for a good 3 weeks before getting too soggy to maintain its form and was taken down.

The best part was having all these people come for a party. It meant a drive of 2.5 hours for several people up near Washington DC. Lee and her family came up from Georgia and stayed overnight.

We were sitting around the fire pit at the end of the day, reminiscing about how we came to find Spectacular Death and what were some of the funny guild stories we remembered. All of the above people belong to SD with Lee, on the left in the front, being the newest member. Doo, in the front on the right, has been in the guild the longest, besides me. I don't count. I started the thing. Jon joined in 2010, while Vince, in the back in the gray shirt, his son, Stuart, and Betsy, behind Doo, joined in 2011.

What I marveled at, as we sat laughing and talking. was that, although we had never met each other before that night, it felt like we were all old friends, good old friends. Jon and Becky had just gotten engaged so we celebrated that, but we were really celebrating how the whole event wasn't awkward at all as they can be when you don't "know" anyone. It was hugs, on meeting. We called each other by our WOW toon name and answered to that instead of our real name. And, it felt normal. I'm "Gimm". Calling me "Deb" almost didn't cause me to answer. I am so proud to call these people friends. I hope they felt the same.

As a souvenir, I had a bunch of cups made for everyone to take a bunch home.

I forgot to take more photos than what you see here. Other guild members who couldn't come said the lack of photos shows just how much fun we were having. We spent more time talking and laughing than posing for photos.

This is one of my favorite memories of the whole week. We're already thinking about a guild meet-up next year. If it's anything like this one, it will be fantastic.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


The Only One

I had hoped, after seeing this one in late August, that there would be more.

Nope. I haven't seen another since I found this one in the yard. It had a damaged wing so I knew it wouldn't be making a flight to Mexico.

I remember when the backyard was filled with monarchs. This is very distressing. Climate change and man's destruction of their habitat is, for sure, to blame. Pesticides? I don't remember the mosquito patrol driving through the neighborhood spraying for mosquitoes. Perhaps there were bugs this year because it was cooler and wetter than last year, but they didn't seem to be as prevalent as last year when we had all the hot weather after a soggy June.

It's too late in the year, now to see any unless there are cocoons around that I haven't found. It makes me sad. I need to plant a few more butterfly attractive flowers next year. It will take a bit to reestablish this as a butterfly habitat, but any little bit helps now.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Friday, September 27, 2013

"Crowd Sourced"

I'm not sure if Oxford has added the title term to their venerable dictionary, yet, but I expect it to be added soon. If you aren't sure what it means, it means to turn to a wide variety of people to fund your endeavor. The "crowd", that's us, provides the money, the "source", to get something done. Crowd sourced things cover everything from movies to games to green projects. Kickstarter is, perhaps, the most familiar of places to find ideas, items and concepts asking for public donations to get them done.

A few of my friends have posted to Facebook about Kickstarter campaigns to which they have contributed. They have been very interesting, ranging from a movie about the green girl in the original Star Trek, to a company making miniatures for use in gaming.

I don't remember where I saw these. I've had the link in my email to remind me to blog about it.

I think these are an absolute stitch. There are three sizes, small, medium and large. You can use them for dogs and cats. Use one for food and one for water. The best part is that the ceramicist is a cat rescuer and fosterer and will donate a dollar from each bowl sold toward either a cat or dog rescue.

In the grand scheme of things, I need more cat food bowls like I need the flu. But, over the summer, Mija has developed these black spots in her chin. They don't seem tender to the touch, but she's not thrilled when I want to take a close look at them. They remind me, very much, of the acne Shakespeare had. He would get zits and then, in cleaning his chin, pop them which would cause all sorts of wounds and nastiness. The vet suggested switching from plastic bowls to ceramic as they had seen this before. Once we switched, the acne went away.

I have a couple of ceramic bowls and a couple of plastic ones. Once a week, I rotate the bowls so I need an extra set to have for when the current bowls are being washed. I could just go to the pet store and get a couple more ceramic bowls, but they wouldn't have character. I'm so about character. Plus, these have a gently sloping side. If you have pets, have you noticed them trying to get that last piece of food out of the junction between the side and bottom? There's not really a junction here. Every bit should be devoured. Uh oh. That means I'll really get yelled at when the dish is empty. I like that they are elevated, too. I think that will make it easier for the girls to eat from, particularly in the winter when the floor is chilly. I even thought about getting one just for me to use as a candy dish. Wouldn't that be cool?

So, I followed this link,, and checked out the site. You don't have to get anything back. Once you click the "contribute" button, you're taken into the donation part of the site and there is a spot to just donate money towards this. I want a couple of bowls, one for each gal. Plus, I like what she's doing so I rounded up my donation just because.

This is the kind of thing I can support. I've searched through Kickstarter and not been touched by things I've found. Cat bowls hand made by a ceramicist who is also a cat rescuer and a foster mom? Yeah. I can get behind that. You're welcome to link to this blog post about this to spread the word. And, if you've got a bit of extra cash lying around, I hope you'll consider helping fund this project.

Beverage:  Water


I Wonder

To some of us, this image is instantly recognizable.

You know what it is and what you were doing when the event that created this footprint happened.

Part of my job entails going into limestone quarries to provide a service to them. I got out of the Jeep to do my job and stepped into a fine powder, the residue of drilling holes for blasting.

When, I stepped out of the Jeep and into this powder, instantly, a memory was triggered.

Carole was in 1st grade. At the time, we belonged to the Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College. Eugene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon, in December of 1972. He was at the Center and there was a member's only reception for him where he gave a presentation about space, what he saw and how he felt to be up there and looking back at the earth. Then he took questions from the audience. There was a highly political question about going back into space and colonizing Mars, which he answered rather well and quite deftly avoided the political comments. He scanned the audience for another question and picked a small hand to my right. It was my daughter.

"What's the ground on the moon like?" she asked.

Cernan's face lit up like a Christmas tree. You could tell he relished talking about the experience, plus, this was a rather smart question from a child. He talked about the dust. I remember that clearly. He talked about how some places, the dust was inches deep and they had to be careful where they were walking. They had to walk slowly. The space suits were big and bulky but you didn't want to kick up any of this dust because it wouldn't settle back down and you didn't want moon dust in your equipment.

The footprint above, from Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon, will be there still, as perfect as it was in July of 1969, when it's July of 2969. There's no wind to blow it away.

The full moon was last week, but as it moves toward half, it's been shining in my bedroom window, owing to these wonderfully clear nights. It's a comfort, a friend, an irritation when you're trying to sleep, a marker of seasons. I looked at it last night, mindful of the thoughts I would be sharing, and wondered if I would ever see grainy television transmissions from its surface again. How clear would transmissions be now, I wondered, given our technological advancements, many brought about by the very program that allowed that footprint to be implanted in lunar dust so many decades ago?

So many program struggle for our attention and our tax monies that it's hard to say, "Yes, we'll give billions, trillions even, to revisit the moon." It was a national obsession, born of a time when one-upping another country was part of who we were. I look down at my dusty work boots and the footprints I leave behind. I look up at the shiny white orb in my night sky and I remember the oft-quoted sections of a poem by aviator John Gillespie McGee, Jr.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Branching Out

Blogs are everywhere. I don't remember how I stumbled onto this one, House Panthers, but, in perusing the posts, I've found a blog for those of us sharing our lives with black cats.

I have had a hard time keeping up Deb's Cup of Tea with the goal of a post a day. Lately, I've been really busy and, right now, I'm going through a minor flare-up of my RA which leaves me tired. I have many more posts from the Virginia trip and there are always things I see that become posts in the back of my mind. Yet, a blog written by a number of people who have black cats?

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know I'm a huge proponent of adopting a black cat. I love, adore, Mija, don't get me wrong, but black cats are so maligned that if I can spur one person to adopt one, giving it a forever home, then that's one cat and one person who is happy and it's worth trying to remember Black Cat Appreciation Day. (PST...August 17th.)

So, I applied to become a guest blogger. My "credentials"? Viola.

Today, I did my first post for House Panthers. I'm giving myself the goal of a post a week. I can, when I'm feeling eloquent and inspired and verbose, write the next week's post and schedule it. I'm thinking Thursdays are a good day.

We'll see how this goes. Maybe it will be more than I can, realistically, do. Then again, maybe it will inspire me.

Beverage:  Water


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Will You Remember Me?

Thursday, September 26th is the first annual Remember Me Thursday. I have decided to have my tiny corner of the blogosphere participate.

Millions of adoptable pets in shelters lose their lives every year. It averages out to over 9,300 pets every day. Let that sink in. Nine THOUSAND three hundred adoptable pets are killed every single day simply because there is no room at the inn. That should never be a reason for euthanasia.

Every single one of my cats, including the ones who have gone over the Rainbow Bridge, were rescues, not from a shelter, but were rescues, nonetheless. I wouldn't change that for the world. Rescue, neuter and spay and give a pet a forever home. Let's bring about a day when there truly are no more homeless pets.

Please go to and find out how you can become involved and spread the word.


Monday, September 23, 2013

So You Don't Have To

Wikipedia says Pillsbury introduced this brand in 1985. We started buying them when they first came out. They were billed as an alternative to Pop-Tarts. I've enjoyed their convenience ever since. There is a store brand at the grocery but I've never been tempted to try it, even though it is priced about fifty cents less. I don't buy these unless they are on sale. I don't think they are a good value otherwise. I eat them not just for breakfast, but also as a snack or even dinner when I'm took tired to cook.

This flavor has been in the store since early August. With a coupon and on sale, it was a great deal so I thought I'd give it a try. Pop-Tarts has a s'mores version that, even heated, just doesn't taste right. I didn't hold out much hope that these would be any better than those. 

I was rather surprised when they turned out to be decent. There's never enough icing for these and in the s'mores version, that's noticeable. The packets could be half again as much and I can't see that it would change the price any. The filling was creamy and didn't have an overpowering marshmallow flavor. It wasn't sticky or gooey. As with any of their other flavors, fresh out of the toaster, you taste heat, not flavor, so let them cool a bit before eating. 

My favorite strudel is the strawberry flavor, but for a change of pace, these were nice. "Limited Edition" usually means, "We're going to give this a try and if it takes off, then we'll continue to make it." If you can get it on sale, give it a try. 

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Deck Full of Flowers

In another month, I'll be clearing out the flower pots and putting everything away for the winter.

I have these observations from this year's garden.

1)  Too much. I have a lot of pots. I don't have to fill every single one of them. I believe the peppers would have done better with less around them. I would not have felt so overwhelmed and let things get a bit too leggy. There will be much halving of geraniums when I finally bring them inside.

2)  While the banana peppers were prolific, I'm not into banana peppers. Next year, bell peppers only, maybe nothing but chocolate peppers. If I'm going to plant my own plants, I need to start them in January so they are nice and tall and strong by May, when they go into the pots. I only need 4 plants, if that.

3)  Too tall. I need to, when I select plants, make an effort to search out low growing plants, other than alyssum. It's not weedy. It's just a lot of tall plants and that makes those who are lower growing strive to be tall and they don't look good. No 3 foot tall marigolds next year.

4)  I don't need to start sunflowers inside. The Teddy Bear sunflowers I planted directly into the pot in 2012 did far, far better than the ones I started in March. These were quite stunted this year. I don't know if that had something to do with being crowded, but they just didn't grow well.

5)  Sweet potato vines are excellent for adding color and dimension. I happened to notice this in the vine on the left.

That looks, suspiciously, like a tuber. In October, when I pull up the 4 vines I have, will I have sweet potatoes I can eat? That would be an added bonus to planting the vines. I haven't found an answer to this question.

This space was wonderful this year. I very much enjoyed the time I spent out here. It helped that we had a cooler summer. Today, not just myself and Pilchard enjoyed the deck. This visitor came by.

On the desiccated husk of a sunflower is perched a dragonfly. I know the birds have enjoyed this space. The squirrels are starting to bury nuts in the pots so they have enjoyed this space. It's nice to see that I have a mini-habitat for this fragile creature.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday on the Deck

Oh my. These are the days I live for, even if these are the days my seasonal allergies remind me they are residents within my cranium. Today's tasks revolved around getting ready for the week ahead. Much, much to do and much of it will be out of the office. It's going to be a week of not enough hours in a day to get done everything that needs to be done.

The front door decoration was changed. The recycling bin, left by the street since Thursday, was rolled to be next to the deck. Warm sunshine. Gentle breeze. I need to do dishes. The kitchen is a wreck. I'm less likely to prepare good food if there is no counter space on which to prepare it, but when do you have glorious days like this? They will soon be short in number.

I need to craft. The long list, created in March, has many names crossed off, but many more remain. And it's a glorious Sunday afternoon. Perhaps I can marry the two?

I dragged the current project, which is nearly done, to the deck, propped up my feet and crocheted. My supervisor came out and sat next to me.

She's hardly a help. About every 10-15 minutes, she demanded ear and chin scratching and general, "I require attention NOW." I did a sink load of dishes and came back outside to crochet and ear scratch. We only had one altercation when I left to do a load and she left the deck. I came back outside and she was standing in the grass by the back steps.

"Pilchard! Get back up here!" She knew. She knew. She charged back up the steps and into the house, getting hissed at by Mija who decided being outside was not something she wanted to do. She spent a good 30 minutes in the house before coming back outside, hopping up into the chair and staying there until I was done and heading back inside.

Blue is done. I'm going to be starting on some bright colors beginning tomorrow. I like this scarf. It's quite distinctive.

The kitchen is clean. I'm having popcorn for supper. Lunch is ready for work tomorrow. It's been a hugely productive day. These kinds of days make me really happy.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Ushering in Fall

I can be really lazy in some things. Witness the decoration on the front door.

It's a lovely spring wreath. It's been hanging on the door since April. Now, all the times I go into the basement, I never thought to pull one of the more seasonal door decorations off the stack and put that on the front door. I just left the spring wreath.

But, in the past 3 days, the maple tree across the street has started to turn.

It was still solid green last Sunday. The changes in light are telling the leaves that fall is here and it's time to put on the fancy duds. I expect, by Wednesday, this will be ablaze in color. 

So, maybe, just maybe I should consider changing the front door decoration to something without tulips and daffodils. 

It is officially fall here. 

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

I tend to view holidays as simply a day off. These "made up" holidays, whether real or hijacked by the gifting companies are particularly easy to ignore. I don't need cards to be happy. I know I'm a mom and having my daughter talk to me, confide in me, laugh with me makes every day "Mother's Day". It used to be a measure of how much my friends thought about me if they remembered me on these holidays. Then I realized that the hecticness of life often means I can't send cards, let alone some of my friends.

And I realized that one should never, ever measure a friendship by how many times you get a card in the mail. This also should extend to your family. My daughter loves me. I'm certain of that. If she can't get something in the mail for Mother's Day, it's not a measure of how little she thinks of me. It's because she's busy.

When I arrived in Virginia, last month, she surprised me with a couple of gifts. The first is the suncatcher to the left. She said she saw it and it was me. Yeah. That is me. I need to wash the front window and then I can put this up. I kind of wish the girls would react this way, but I'm thrilled when they sleep together in the recliner, one on one side and one on the other.

While this is beautiful, the other gift for Mother's Day was truly a work of art. Carole has a friend, Cheal Snoke, who makes jewelry and Carole commissioned a piece for Mother's Day.

This is beautiful. These are black and two shades of brown beads.

The pendant stone is navy blue with silver flecks. I love the feather accents.

The clasp is great because it's not just one size.

There are several links on this clasp so I can make it up to an inch longer if I desire. That is a huge plus for me. I wore it to a special event on Friday evening. I generally don't post photos of myself here but here I am wearing the necklace.

I need to build an outfit around this. I'm thinking cream with brown accents. Looking through my closet, I don't have much in that area. This has become a treasured piece and I want to show it off. My daughter has exquisite taste in jewelry and I'm thrilled to have been the recipient of a stunning necklace.

Cheal has a Facebook page, Saturnine Treasures. Check out the photos for more examples of her work.

I didn't drive to Virginia to receive a Mother's Day present of such beauty. This was just icing on the cake.

Beverage:  Earl Grey Tea


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Things I Saw - Part the Fourteenth

Landscapes. Difference. Beauty.

Ohio isn't much different than Iowa.

I could be on the road to visit my mom instead of somewhere on US 35, southeast of Dayton, heading towards West Virginia. Corn. Miles and miles of corn. Blue sky. Puffy clouds.

And then I reached the Ohio River and crossed into eastern West Virginia. The photos below, of Charleston, hint at the driving to come. From there, it was up into the mountains.

We don't have mountains out here in the midwest. We have hills and valleys. Sometimes, as when you're walking the Fire Trail at Effigy Mounds National Park, those hills can seem like mountains, but they aren't really mountains.

I was directed to get off the West Virginia Turnpike and follow Interstate 64 east. These don't look that intimidating.

As I drove into and out of the shadows of the hills, the air temperature dropped noticeably. I had the driver's side window half-way open at this point, and it was interesting to go from a fully sunlit section to shade and feel the air coming in the window drop in temperature.

Our ancestors took paths of least resistance. Going through the mountains with a wagon and horses must have been arduous.

We have the technology to cut through those mountains. That lane on the right is where I discovered I would spend a great deal of time on an upward climb. The Jeep is a good traveler, but for horsepower going up, it would slow down. I think the slowest I ever climbed was at 50 mph. It does give you time to look at what's around you.

And then you cross the top of this particular mountain and it's smooth sailing down into the valley.

Setting down a road through the Appalachian Mountains is quite the feat of engineering. The past of least resistance, the trail used by our forefathers to get through this space, was followed in some locations. But getting from point A to point B sometimes meant bridging the gap between the hills. To the traveling public's ease, there are often long sections of straight road.

It hugs the right side of one hill and the left side of another with a bridge over the gap between them.

The road is separated here by a median of trees. There is a peace to travel here. Few cars, few trucks. Just me and the music, Benny Goodman at this point, and the sky and the sun and the clouds and the shade. You don't see this scenery around Wheaton, Illinois.

I came over a rise and saw the patterns on the mountains.

I wondered how they got the different colors of trees. Then it hit me. Those color changes are the shadows of the clouds.

I leave you with two more photos taken in eastern West Virginia. This area is in Great Smoky Mountains National Forest.

It's clearly evident why they are called "The Smokies".

Some day I want to go back and drive the Smoky Mountain Parkway just because it's there.

Beverage: Earl Gray tea


Things I Saw - Part the Thirteenth

The cities of travel are often passed with no thought to what they are. Many, many, many years ago, I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, an hour's drive south of Indianapolis. Passing by Indy on my way east, I thought of how different it looked those decades ago. It was quite derelict back then. In the 1990's, the skyline was dominated by the RCA Dome, a white concave structure you saw on the left side of this photo. That's been replaced, but you can't see the new stadium from I-65.

Indy comes across a very utilitarian city. Form follows function with a parking garage and the squared, boxy buildings of a medical center complex. There's a capital building in the center of the city, but I couldn't see it from the road.

And then there is Dayton, Ohio.

I can't remember if I've been by Dayton or not. I think not. The downtown was less horizontal than Indianapolis, more vertical. Indy was tan. Dayton was steel and black and blue.

My preference is not to drive through a metropolitan area while traveling. I guess that comes from living in Chicagoland and knowing the phrase, "You can't get there from here" very often pertains to traffic in Chicago. But this journey east took me, following the map, unavoidably, past the centers of cities. I love living in Chicago, love looking at the city's profile. I'm so used to the buildings with 50+ stories that buildings with 20 stories being the tallest give me pause while realizing that, to the residents of this city, this is tall.

Many years ago, on a family trip out east, we drove by Charleston, West Virginia. I knew, given the lay of the land, that the Interstate had to be placed in such a manner that you drove right by the capital building. 

At that time, I thought it would be neat to make a pilgrimage to the various capital buildings of all 50 states, take their tours and look at their construction. As I drove by this, I was kind of sad that I let that idea die. I don't believe in "bucket lists". (That's a post for another time.) I simply enjoyed the view of the capital building of West Virginia gently reflecting the sunshine of an August afternoon. 

Beverage:  Earl Gray tea