Friday, February 28, 2014

They Do Exist

Pam and I went out for dinner last night. We had to swing by the tollway authority's headquarters because she got a new car and she needed the velcro strips to affix her transponder to the windshield. If you've never driven through the Chicago area, we have toll roads. For those of us who find ourselves traveling on those roads quite frequently, the desire and need not to have lots of change for tolls means we get an I-Pass which is filled with a pre-determined amount of money. This must be affixed to your window and it automatically removes the toll cost whenever you pass by a toll booth. People with I-Passes play less money in tolls than those tossing in coinage. Plus, we can use our I-Pass on the Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida turnpikes. This makes driving east to see Carole a lot easier on the wallet.

So, we pulled into the lot and Pam went inside the building to get new velcro strips for her I-Pass while I waited in the car. Looking to my right, I was surprised to see this.

This is an electric car charging station. I'd heard rumors there were some in the Chicagoland area. This is the first one I've seen.

An electric car is somewhat attractive as the cost for ownership is a bit less although the cost for the car itself is more. But the current available electric cars don't have a battery that goes the distances I need them to go without recharging. And the lack of recharging stations is a factor in where you can go. This is, however, a good sign, even if it is a novelty.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea


Something New

I don't recall ever seeing this in my driveway.

I know it doesn't look like much and, um...Deb, that's snow and ice. Yeah yeah, but can you also see the embedded brown bits in the ice?

Pine cones. Hundreds of small pine cones. They are about an inch long, if that. There is a pine tree in the neighbor's yard at this location.

It's been there a long time and I don't remember it ever sending out pine cones before, ever. I wonder if the cold winter has anything to do with that.

I have two pine trees on the north side of the house and they have, in the past, shed pine cones, but usually in the very early spring, not in the dead of winter. Plus those are about 2-3 inches long and slender. These are about the size of large acorns. Thankfully, they don't really track into the house on boots so when I drag garbage or recycling to the curb, I'm not in danger of bringing something inside. They are also kind of fragile.

I looked at them and thought "Ooooh! Craft project. I'll just scoop up a whole bunch and then, in the summer, spray paint them gold and silver, mount them on a styrofoam wreath and I have something for that transition from Christmas to Valentine's Day. And then, as I took these photos I thought, "Yeah. This will be just another batch of things you think you're going to do and they will sit in the basement for 7 years." When I drive or walk over them, they crush easily and then fall apart. I have enough stuff in my basement to be used for crafting "to dos" that I don't need more.

Still, it's been interesting to see these in the last week. I wonder what other things we will see with this cold weather.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea



Those catnip infused cardboard scratching boxes are great, but they wear out quite quickly. Plus, they attract dust like a magnet and if I put catnip on them, I have to spend 10 minutes picking the dust off before adding catnip. But the girls like them and, occasionally, I'll see one of them resting on the ones we have right now. It is time, however, to replace them and I decided to look for sturdier.

If one types "cat scratchers" into a search engine, hundreds, thousands of hits come up. Some items I wouldn't allow near any cat. Some items don't justify a $50 price tag. I tend to shop with a company I know and have had experience with. If something is on sale, so much the better. For this search, I found myself poking about in They had a huge sale and I found something I think will be appreciated, in time. It arrived on Wednesday.

I didn't realize there would be some assembly to it. I should have. When you see the finished product, how could I expect that it would be shipped in one unit. Fortunately, it's just two pieces and the screw to assemble along with the allen wrench to do the assembly, were included.

So here's a question for you. I have accumulated a number of allen wrenches. How do I know the size? I think keeping these would be a good idea since one never knows when one might need these, particularly this one if the girls get to attacking the post as I'd like them to. This part might come loose. I'm thinking I should mark on this, somewhere, which wrench this is for and the size. I'm not sure how to do this. Suggestions?

Anyway, this scratching unit is two pieces, the half-moon piece and a small tower with dangling balls which will attempt to encourage play.

The tower just screwed onto the base. The carpet on the base is very soft and the half moon has a nice, sturdy, sisal covering that I'm hoping is attractive to scratching. Here it is, assembled and sitting on the floor next to the printer box which I thought would be attractive but hasn't been used in a couple of months.

As I have limited floor space in the living room, I'm cutting down the printer box this weekend and recycling it. Perhaps it was too big. Given that Pilchard likes the coziness of the laundry basket in my bedroom, there could be an argument made for the sheer size of the printer box being a deterrent to its being used. And then, when she investigated the box the scratching piece came in ...

she had a great time digging in the floor of it. It really is purrfectly Pilchard (or Mija for that matter) size.

I can safely recycle the printer box and know they won't be traumatized by having no boxes to play in. I tipped this over onto its side but I think they prefer the act of jumping into it. Once the printer box is gone, this will replace it until such time as some other box tickles their fancy.

You're wondering how the scratcher has gone over. Meh. They have sniffed it.

Pilchard even took some swipes at the balls.

Mija has, at least while I've been looking, ignored the thing. I think I need to sprinkle some catnip on it to encourage scratching. I really like the carpeting on this. It's really soft and I think, once they figure out what this is for, they will like it too. It's just getting to that point.

I also got some new "chase around" toys.

They were on sale and pretty humorous. They have feathers attached to them. The other cats have loved something with feathers that could be batted around. These two seemed confused. I may have to toss these down the hallway so they can chase them. What I really need to get now is a basket to keep all the toys in. They are currently in a box and it's not conducive to a cat walking over and pulling something out to play with. In my mind's eye, a basket would have a smaller footprint than the box plus it will also look nicer. I could get to JoAnn Fabrics, take one look at the basket selection and stick with the box, but I'll never know if I don't go look.

I got these also.

These are a birthday present to a cat lover and Star Wars fan.

It was a good haul. Now for getting the girls acclimated to their new toys.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Warm Spot

Two weeks ago, I managed to get almost caught up with the laundry. This is no mean feat as I don't like going up and down the basement stairs although it might actually be good for me to do that every day. I brought up the clean clothes, which were topped with my red sweater and set the basket on the floor at the foot of the bed. I'd get to folding and putting them away the following day. Yeah, that didn't happen.

Claimed. I really couldn't move her. It's just not something that's done. But I wanted the clothes so over the next week, when she was otherwise occupied, I'd remove a few more items from the basket, replace the sweater and put the thing back onto the floor. It took a week but I got all the clothes put away, excepting the sweater. She didn't seem to mind that the only thing in the basket was the sweater. So I had an idea.

I realize the reasons she hopped into the basket are 1) clean clothes are cat magnets, and 2) the heating vent for the room is about 2 feet from where the basket is. She gets the benefit of a direct warm air current right on her. I don't know of any cat that can resist warm heat. To take advantage of this, I made some adjustments to the above layout. I turned the basket on its side.

This is where she goes during the day and at night, too. I've resigned myself to having just one clothes basket through the rest of the winter. I probably could get another one as they aren't that expensive and, when there's heavy rains forecast, being able to pick up any bedding I have in piles on the basement floor off the floor, will give me peace of mind in the event of seepage.

But, I think this fascination will wear off once we get through these polar vortexes and spring has arrived. There are far worse places she could want to sleep.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


This Vexes Me #19

"Don't get fancy. Have you cooked an apple pie? You don't know what you did wrong? Do this:  take two or three apples. Put them on a table. Study them."  --Paul Prudhomme, chef

I love apples. My favorite is Gala, but Fuji, shown here, and a Golden Delicious are good too. I haven't made a pie in years. I think about making homemade applesauce in the fall. With a good mix of apples, all you need is a dollop of cinnamon and no sugar. Drop it in a freezer container and then, come February, when all is frozen and there is the prospect of 10 inches of snow over the weekend, you can have warm applesauce instead of fake maple syrup on your pancakes.

So why does this vex me? See that little tag? Oh lordy do I hate those. When I buy fruit, I just want to rip all the tags off, march over to the guy in the produce department and slap all of them on him. They seem to meld with the skin of pears, particularly if the pears are getting ripe. I tend to buy pears under ripe so they will not rot in the fruit drawer before I eat them. Apple stickers are sort of easy to remove, but I can't tell you how many times I have pulled an apple out of the bin and begun slicing it only to see a sliver of a sticker on the peel of one of the slices. It vexes me to no end to have to then try to pry the small sliver off the piece and find the rest of it.

I realize that there isn't a better way to mark things like apples. You don't put them in plastic clamshell boxes like you do with berries and people want to pick their own apples off the pile. I can spend a good 10 minutes looking at the mountain of fruit and making my choices on which ones look best. And you can't expect your cashiers to be able to identify the 8 different varieties of apples you have, particularly when Gala and Fuji can look very similar but be much different in price.

Still it vexes me. I sliced this apple for my lunch today. I happened also to find the caramel apple dipping sauce on a recent trip. Oh my. While I'll happily sit down and eat two apples, sliced, add a dash of caramel to the slices and it's heaven...(cue the music) I'm in heaven/and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak/and I seem to find the happiness I seek/when it's caramel apples that I have to eat.

My apologies to Irving Berlin.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lights Fantastic

The lights have arrived. Ryan looked at Menards for the lights I want installed in the back half of the house and 2 of the 3 had to be ordered online. Figures.

I ordered them on a Thursday after I got home from work. The first one arrived that Saturday. I had to run errands and was quite surprised to come home to a box on the front steps.

This is the light for the back bedroom.

It's going to look so nice. Maybe I'll be inspired to slowly change that space from store room to extra bedroom, although someone staying would have to understand this is also the cat's room. We'll see. Even if I make it into a reading room for me instead of storing all sorts of stuff, that would make it more inviting.

The kitchen light arrived toward the end of last week. I thought it would be like the above light with the light inside a box inside a box but it's just the light inside the box.

It's nice and big and will make a great impact on seeing in the kitchen. I'm excited.

But, before Ryan can install these, I had to scrub the kitchen ceiling around where the light was going. We don't think about washing walls or ceilings so much when we clean, but over time, the tiny droplets of whatever you're cooking go up and attach to your ceiling. I would look up at the blotches and get depressed at the thought of climbing up with a wet sponge, scrubbing and climbing down the step stool. For small tasks, the step stool is fine. For scrubbing the ceiling, the thought of the climbing up and down and being steady while I scrubbed made me really nervous.

So, when I went to Target with the gift card, I looked in the scrub brush section, since I needed a new toilet brush anyway, and I found this.

It's meant for scrubbing your shower but what attracted me to it was the ability to extend the handle. After having it on my kitchen table for 3 weeks, I gave it a try last night. It works. The scrubber end does not contain any soap so I added a bit of dish soap. It worked up a good lather which I hadn't counted on and which forced me to have to rinse the scrubber head quite a bit. It seemed to do exactly what I needed it to do while I was standing on the kitchen floor. Rinsing was as simple as washing out the brush and going over the ceiling sections I'd scrubbed.

Now, barring any last minute snowstorms or jobs that need to be done on Saturday, I should have new lights Saturday afternoon. Crossing my fingers.

Beverage:  Cranberry Raspberry Seltzer


Monday, February 24, 2014

I Collect Spores, Molds and Funguses.

This year, I vowed not to keep up with the cult of celebrity. I honestly feel it adds nothing to the value of life and, in fact, leads people down a dead end of low self-esteem (Why am I not famous? Where's my 15-minutes of fame?) and to doing stupid things to garner that fame (Watch this!) It's been hard, particularly when my schadenfreude kicks in at someone's public stupidity. If I was going to drag race down a street at 4 a.m., I certainly wouldn't do it in a residential neighborhood.

Today, however, there is one light gone out in the marquee that is celebrity. Harold Ramis died this morning. It doesn't seem possible. There are people we tend to think will be around forever and it is jarring to accept their mortality. It reminds us that we are mortal. I think Ramis' death is such a shock for a lot of us because he contributed in a big way to movies which are touchstones in American comedy; "National Lampoon's Animal House", "Caddyshack", "Stripes", "Groundhog Day", and "Ghostbusters". The comedy he created was not only slapstick but cerebral, full of sight gags as well as appealing to one's intellect. A good turn of a phrase, such as "Where do these stairs go? They go up," from "Ghostbusters" (One of my all-time favorite movie lines), is as appreciated as dropping 150 pounds of liquid marshmallow on a guy in a suit.

Ramis, as remembered by friends, colleagues and people whose paths crossed his but once, took to mentoring others, dispensing advice in a genial, friendly style, never getting upset at being asked the same questions over and over again. He will be remembered as much for the influence behind the scenes as he was for the few times he was in front of the camera. It's a shame, with the Academy Awards next Sunday, an event I don't care about beyond "she wore what", that the Academy chooses to ignore comedy in their awards. Ramis should have a golden statue on his mantle.

I think the ability to make us laugh is harder to pull off than drama. I would hope that Ramis is making God laugh right now.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Friday, February 21, 2014

You Asked For Them

I have great friends. You know the kind. They are the ones who "get" you. That's an overused word, but it's truth. If someone doesn't see your kind of humor or share most, but not all, of your tastes, they won't understand why you think Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the best movie to feature knights and bathroom humor ever made.

I engaged my friend, Patt, in a series of emails at the end of January. They started with the usual, "How's the weather?" "Awful. How's it by you?" "Rotten." She mentioned, at the time, that she was sucking on Lifesavers. She'd been given a bunch and they are a nice treat with few calories but just enough flavor to tide one over when you're between meals. I realized I hadn't had a roll of Lifesavers in my purse in years. It used to be something I always had. She's right in that the little burst of flavor can be all you need to get through the late morning or afternoon between meals. And Lifesavers can double as cough drops. I used them alot for that reason, if I didn't have cough drops in my purse.

She mentioned that in her package were banana-flavored Lifesavers and they were not a flavor she liked. "I adore the other ones, just not banana." I mentioned that I really liked the banana ones. Pineapple-flavored got chucked into the garbage. I never had a roll of the tropical flavors in my purse. I usually had the 5 standard flavors or, if I could find them, wintergreen. Oh heavens. Wintergreen is my favorite, but they are so hard to find. I jokingly told her I'd take her banana-flavored ones. I assumed she had a roll and not a box of Lifesavers.

Fast forward to February 12th. I come home and there is a box with Disney emblems all over it. I look at this and think, "Oh Carole was smart and got something for Valentine's Day when she visited Disney World back in November." Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and saw this.

It took me a minute or so to figure this out because, no, I hadn't looked at the return address label. I asked for them? What are these? They are lemon Life...oh wait a minute. I burst out laughing. It felt kind of weird because I thought when I opened the box and realized what these were, that Patt had gone through her rolls of Lifesavers picking out the banana ones. She had then just dropped them in a bag to send to me.

When I opened the bag, I find that the Lifesavers are individually wrapped.

You know how you'll share a lot with your friends. I wasn't sure I wanted to share unwrapped banana Lifesavers picked from a roll and tossed into a bag. It's one thing to have your friend point the roll at you and say, "It's a banana one. Want it?" You can see the status of the Lifesaver, but I thought, "If these are just Lifesavers in a bag, I may not eat them." This thought leads me to another thought, "When did I get so paranoid?" I trust my friends. Why would I consider tossing perfectly good Lifesavers because they weren't in wrapped packages? Hmmm...there's a blog post in that. But I digress.

Patt is right. A Lifesaver at 10:30 and 3:00 eases the hunger pangs until lunch or dinner. I am so enjoying the explosion of banana flavor and I giggle every time I open one up thinking about how I got these. And, these are my Lifesavers. You get your own.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Sizeable Gauge

I've been trying to give some scope to the amount of snow received this winter. Chicagoland's average winter snowfall is around 37 inches, so 3 feet over the course of 3 months. In 2011, we had the great February blizzard which dropped 21 inches at once and then had that whipped into drifts by 30 mile per hour winds. Generally, speaking, we get a couple over 6 inch snowfalls but the rest are 3-4 inches, widely spaced. It can seem like a lot when you get wave after wave of small storms pass through, each dropping a half inch at a time. Overall, however, 3 feet isn't really that much. A year ago, we broke the record for longest consecutive days without snow. This year, our snow total is currently at 68 inches for these 3 months. It started January 2nd and it really hasn't let up.

I wondered how best to illustrate all this snow. Sixty-eight inches since December 1st is a bit over 22 inches per month. Another way of looking at it is that it's close to an inch a day since December 1st. For us, that's a lot of snow.

I think our first snow was back in November with a light dusting. I remember looking out my office window with some happiness. "Ooooh snow!"

(The green color is from the tinted glass.)

A week ago, I took this photo of the same area.

When the owners plow the parking lot, they shove all the snow into this corner because we don't use all the spots in the lot as it is. This represents all those 68 inches in one spot. Here's another view of the pile taken on Monday when the temperature was 42 degrees at noon.

Right now, it's raining heavily. That pile will be smaller by the time this rain moves through. The ground is frozen so all the water released by rain on snow will have to find somewhere to go. I expect there will be seepage in my basement. It's the nature of such things.

I think, more than anything else, this is a good gauge of the amount of snow we've received. It's no wonder my legs ache, no wonder I have inflamed my sciatic nerve. I do hereby vow, however, that come August, when it's 95 in the shade, I will not complain. The heat is something I don't have to shovel.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Despicably Tempting

While wandering about Target with the gift card sent anonymously, I chanced across these at the junction of the men's and boy's sections.

This produced an audible chuckle and I used my camera phone to take a photo to send to a friend.

I stood there for several minutes. They had my size. Like so many people, I'm captivated by the minions in the Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 movies. I hope the creators are stingy with how they license the characters. If they wind up on everything, their value and attraction diminishes.

I almost bought the shirt. After all, I have a $50 gift card in my wallet. But I needed kitty litter and cat treats, highlighters and post-it notes, a new toothbrush and toilet paper. A tee shirt, even one as cute as this, was not on the list and would not have been a good use of the gift card.

I think about it, however. It was created for St. Patrick's Day and is probably still available in the store. (Notice, at right, the Guinness boxer shorts.) It would make me smile to pull it out of the closet and wear, but I have a lot of tee shirts. I passed it by but I enjoy this photo. It makes me smile.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


A New Favorite

In the post below, I mention having cereal for breakfast. If you're a long-time reader of this space, you know I adore Cheerios. While I like their fruit-flavored ones, my all time favorite is original Cheerios. I find them to be perfect World of Warcraft raiding food and will, sometimes, have a bowl next to the computer when I'm playing. Most of the time, ice cold milk and a bowl of Cheerios is a meal, any time.

One thing I've noticed as a difference between Mariano's and Dominicks is the smaller selection of cereals. Dominicks had one full aisle, both sides, with cereal. They jumped into "organic" or "natural" cereals in a big way a couple years ago when they remodeled the store. The selection was huge and included brands I had, heretofore, only seen at Whole Foods. I was thrilled that I didn't have to drive to Whole Foods to get Barbara's Puffins cereal in peanut butter flavor. Dominicks had it.

Mariano's doesn't think like that. Cereal is on one side of one aisle. I can't even tell you what's on the other side. It's divided into General Mills and Cheerios at the west end of the aisle and Kelloggs and Rice Krispies at the east end with a middle section that contains the "organic" and "natural" cereals. The selection overall is thin and, if you are looking for sales, they are few and far between.

I don't have time...well, actually, that's not completely true. I don't make time, during the week to have pancakes or an omelet or yogurt and toast for breakfast. This meal is very important to me because I have to take medication in the morning and some of it needs to be taken with food. Cereal, with it's quick fix speedy glory, means I don't forget that pill line up. Those times I'm really late and swing by Dunkin or Panera for a quick breakfast are the days that I find my medications still in my pants pocket at 3:30 in the afternoon. That's not a good thing. Plus, it just starts your day out better when you can collect your thoughts over a bowl of Cheerios and explain to Mija that she has to wait until the cereal is gone before she gets the milk residue.

At Dominicks, I could count on some cereal being on sale every week. If it wasn't an advertised in the flyer sale, it was a sale by virtue of being a frequent buyer. It wasn't uncommon of me to have 6 boxes of different kinds on the shelf. Ah choice. How I love thee.

Mariano's hasn't, at least in the last 3 months that I've been going there, put as much cereal on sale as Dominicks did. I wonder if cereal on sale was a "loss-leader", meaning dropping the price of a box below or a few pennies above the cost to the store, was a way to get people in the door knowing they would probably buy something not on sale. And there isn't the large selection at Mariano's. Perhaps that is by design. They seem to be more conscious of the subtle and not-so-subtle shifting of the American palate to more healthy foods. I wouldn't buy a box of Frosted Flakes, although if it was on sale for $1.50, you would certainly tempt me. That kind of cereal isn't as readily available as at Dominicks.

One day, while standing in the aisle, looking forlornly at the offerings, I chanced to see a small selection of cereals in the middle, between the General Mills and Kellogg's behemoths. These cereals, limited in kind, were the same size as the box of Cheerios I usually buy but priced a dollar less. Ever conscious of my pocketbook, I bought a box. While it won't replace Cheerios as my all-time favorite, when I'm low, and cereal is on the list, I buy a box of this.

These are good. I bought them because of the price. I go back to them because of the taste. It's comparable to Cinnamon Toast Crunch but different in that it's not as sweet. The cinnamon sugar flavor is there and, if you eat them right out of the box, they are messy. They leave a cinnamon residue in the bowl which prompts Mija to give me a disgusted look because she won't lick out the bowl with the residue in it.

I'm leery of companies that tout their environmental awareness. Mom's Best Cereals doesn't trumpet what they do for the environment on their spartan web site. It's more on the box, itself. All boxes are made from recycled materials. They don't use preservatives. They buy wind credits to off set what energy they use. There's no high-fructose corn syrup to be found in any of their sweetened cereals. While the above kind is my favorite, I have also had their "Blue Pom Wheat Fuls", very similar to Frosted Mini-Wheats, and those were good. They have 6 kinds of instant oatmeal as well as quick-cooking and regular oatmeal. When I make oatmeal, I use Bob's Red Mill Scottish Oats, but, when I need to use oatmeal for something else, I reach for Quaker. I would be hard pressed to change that unless there was a clear price difference, but I'm thinking of giving their instant oatmeal a try. I shy away from instant because the ingredient list on a package of Quaker instant oatmeal reads like War and Peace. I don't need all that stuff in my body.

The take away from this is that, if you chance to see this brand on your store shelf, it comes with my recommendation on a couple of kinds. There are three kinds that I will be trying the next time I need to get cereal. I'll never not have Cheerios on the shelf, but for a change of pace, this seems to be a new, good find. That the boxes are cheaper is a huge plus.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea



Notice something different, besides the fact that I probably have too many remotes?

That's right, all the magazines are gone...all of them...every last one.

I finished the last one on the ottoman, a Scottish Life from August 2009, last night. Chucked that baby into the recycling bin and just looked at this space. I have a book to read now. My goal is to read 12 books in however long it takes me. That symbolizes a book a month for a year. Of course there will be reviews.

It didn't really hit me until this morning when I made up my cereal and sat down for breakfast. I have always had a magazine to read while eating. Today, I did not. It felt kind of odd to be reading a book and I can see a problem with this. With a magazine, I could set it aside once I was done with cereal. A book will, very often, scream at me to finish at least the next chapter. I could find myself so engrossed I lose track of time. At night, that's not a problem. In the morning, however...

This is such a huge accomplishment for me. I have winnowed down the magazines I get to 3 which can be read when they arrive or within a week of arrival. There won't be, ever again, a stack 3 feet high threatening to collapse onto the floor.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday, February 16, 2014


At my last rheumatology appointment on January 31st, Dr. Francis mentioned that, of all her patients, only 2 had NOT complained about joint pain or stiffness this winter. She said it's been a very hard winter for those of us with arthritis or other joint problems. She said there's no literature about this theory she has but she thinks the cold shrinks the capillaries that deliver blood to the joint. Without this blood flow, it's worn muscle on bone and that causes inflammation which causes pain. I'm not sure how one would go about proving this either but it's as good of a theory as any other to explain how much I hurt.

And actually, in going through this assessment I do before every appointment, I wasn't quite as bad as I thought I was. I'm not really in a lot of pain. It's more stiffness. It is taking me about 5-10 minutes longer in the morning to get going than it did, even back in December. I try to build that into my morning, by getting up earlier, but I find myself still running behind simply because I'm slow. She put me back on Prednisone for the month of February and, if necessary, into the first 2 weeks of March, just to get through winter's last gasp here, help with the moving about and ease some of the aches that crop up from time to time.

But, in the last 10 days, that hasn't helped. The pain has been in the middle of my butt-cheek, radiating over to the hip and, particularly with my right leg, down the leg to the knee or, sometimes, the top of the calf. As the prednisone kicked in, the left side pain went away. The right side has lingered.

I realized it reminded me of the sciatica I had when I was pregnant. The medications you are given to alleviate sciatica cannot be given to pregnant women so I wound up spending a lot of time off my feet with my legs elevated. I find that now, it's a good way to ease the pain, too. But my friend, Becky, who is a doctor of physical therapy said elevation of the legs needs to be combined with movement. So, once an hour or 3 times a day, if I'm busy, I get up and walk around the office. It helps, but it just isn't making the pain go away.

This is so frustrating. I have a lot of things I want and need to get done. Floors need to be dusted, dishes washed, laundry done. But I can't be on my feet for long periods of time because it eventually hurts, very much, to move or stand or bend. I've moderated my abilities as I've learned what I can and can't do with this disease, but this pain is something else entirely.

Dr. Francis decided I needed to be on a Medpred pack. A what now? I've never heard of this.

I started yesterday with the top row. Each day, the pill count is reduced. It was kind of depressing to see my oatmeal bowl surrounded by all these pills since Saturday and Sunday are my days to take my weekly RA meds and there are a lot of those. But if it helps get through this, then it's necessary.

So, I'm on day two. I've been able to do a bit more than yesterday, but I'm still achy and sore. I'm going to do some reading this afternoon because I can elevate my legs which helps, plus, I've been up and down the stairs to do laundry and move things from upstairs downstairs.

What would also help is if we didn't get snow for a week. Although I take it slow and I bend my knees and not twist to toss the shovels full and I have a shovel that is designed to take some of the stress off shoveling, the sheer amount of snow we've had to shovel this year has contributed to my achiness. Hurry up spring. I'd rather be out raking the lawn than moving white stuff from one place to another.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nothing Left But the Debris

I was leaving the office on Friday after work. As I sat at the entrance to the parking lot, waiting for traffic to clear to make a left turn to head west, a truck carrying some rather large logs passed by, heading east. Man those logs looked familiar. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were the giant sections of the tree that had been taken down next to my drive.

I came close, a couple of times, to calling the city to find out if those were to be picked up or if I had to figure out their disposal. If the tree is dead, could I have someone carve the trunks into chunks suitable for further chopping into cords of wood? Or is that not allowed since the tree was killed by an invasive insect? I didn't know what the law or the general practice was.

Upon arriving home, this was the sight in my front yard.

I had been right. The truck contained my tree. All that's left is the debris, the branches and some bark which will be raked up come spring.

The tree is at the upper right of this photo, taken in early January.

It doesn't seem, now, that it was ever there because the stump is covered with snow.

The real change will be in the summer when that section of the yard is bright and sunny, instead of in shadow.

Beverage:  Black Cherry Seltzer



One of the side effects of heavy snow is that said snow will inevitably melt. If it's on your roof, it can help you check for your attic insulation. I need more, but I knew that. Escaping heat combines with the sunshine of gloriously clear days to melt the snow which then freezes to produce icicles. They have been quite large this year.

One of the big problems has been the ones which formed in front of the front door.

I come home and drive to the back, entering the house through the rear door. I set down my lunch bag and my purse, scratch some ears and go get the mail off the front porch. I have, several times this year, opened the storm door, which opens out, and hit an icicle which is right off this left side. It comes crashing down, onto the front steps and onto me. This could be dangerous if it's large enough and it hits me square in the head. I need to go slow and check my house when I get home for front icicles. If there are any, I need to knock them down from the outside, not swing the door open and shatter the ice all over.

The back had a similar, but less frustrating problem. After a particularly clear and sunny day, even with a wind chill in the single digits, I came home to a ridge of ice.

There are icicles hanging over the back door. They were not very long and I could easily duck them when entering the house. I came back out with the shovel and knocked them down. I left the ones over the windows, however.

Icicles are fascinating. There is great beauty in them. We got more snow between the above two photos, taken on the same day, and these lower photos, so there was more material to feed into the ice. I decided to keep the ones over the windows intact to see how long they would get or if their weight would cause them to crumble on their own.

I realize this can be problematic for roofs. The freezing and thawing of the snow will create ice dams which don't allow liquid water to flow into the gutter. It can back up under the shingles and into the roof, causing rotting and deterioration and a lot of damage. I need the gutters cleaned once spring arrives. I'm hoping my legs will be better and climbing ladders just to get to the eaves, won't be an exercise in pain and I can do this task myself.

In the meantime, I watch them grow and melt.

They remind me of lines from Macbeth, (Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 34, 38b, 39a)

"Is this a dagger that I see before me, ... or art thou but a dagger of the mind ..." 

Beverage: Black Cherry Seltzer



The game plan was to go to Mariano's and then to Target and then to CVS. I needed a few groceries and I needed to pick up a new prescription for the pain in my right leg. I had only one thing on my mind at Target.


Target employees had dismantled over 80% of the Valentine's display by the time I walked into the store at 9:15 a.m. Easter M&M's have been artfully arranged on the end cap where, the week earlier, Valentine bags of pink, red and white sat. I nearly panicked. I couldn't see any Valentine candy. Giving the employees wide berth, particularly the gal tasked with lowering an extending sign that just didn't want to collapse, I found the candy on a back set of shelves. All the M&M's were lumped together, arranged by colored bags, but in one small section. There were probably 7 bags of these left. The sign said 30% off.

Yes, I admit it. I was sorely tempted to grab all 7 bags. My favorite flavor has been the peanut filled ones, Mr. Yellow. But when I stumbled upon these 2 years ago, he was replaced. Thankfully, they are only available around Valentine's Day and I've only seen them in Target. Must be something between Target and M&M special flavors. (I think the bag on the very bottom of the Easter display was coconut. No thanks.) I only took 4 bags, however. It seemed wrong of me, no matter how much I like these, to take all that was left. Seven bags looked kind of greedy. I wouldn't have had that angst had they been down to the last 4 bags. MINE!

So, I'm good now. I have not checked to see when Easter actually arrives, but I shall ration these and then head over to Target the day after for some pastel Mr. Yellow. With some luck, I can make these last through Easter, through spring and, perhaps up to Memorial Day.

Beverage:  Black Cherry Seltzer


Friday, February 14, 2014

I Got a Date

He's not very tall, but he's really good looking and he wears the most intoxicating cologne.

I'll be heading to Target tomorrow in the hopes of getting a few more of these. That will use up the $2.36 left on the gift card sent last month. Priorities, you know.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Thursday, February 13, 2014

So You Don't Have To

I've been doing some taste tests in the past couple of weeks. They haven't been as successful as I, initially, thought they would be. Let's dive in and see what I've eaten lately.

First of all, Oreos. These are not your run of the mill Oreos or even the dipped ones. These are two new, limited edition, flavors. As I've come to see with M&M's, limited edition usually means, "Hey, let's try something". I remember reading a news short about these flavors and set out to find, and consume, them in an effort to see just how they compared to the real Oreos.


I couldn't find these at Mariano's. I had to go to Target.

The premise seems reasonable enough. Oreos has a solid seller with chocolate and vanilla cookies. You know you can buy "blonde" Oreos as well as the regular ones. You can even buy Oreos with a chocolate and a vanilla cookie. I remember seeing vanilla cookies with chocoalte middles. They are simply varying the inside creme flavor.

Those are little flecks of crispy rice. The assembly process removes the "crispy" so the mouth feel is akin to creme with chunky bits.

I thought I would be excited by the cookie dough version. Oberweis Cookie Dough ice cream is a favorite of mine. I should have suspected something when the front of the package reads, "Made with chocolatey chips" (emphasis mine), not chocolate chips, mind you, but chocolate-y chips. You might as well say "It's not real chocolate but someone in the factory had a chocolate bar so we're using the neighborhood rule to call these chocolate".

Neither one was very good. The cookie part itself was just what I expect from Oreos, crisp and sturdy, with the vanilla tasting like vanilla and the chocolate tasting like chocolate. The marshmallow was too sweet, way too sweet. I realize they were going for something approximating a Rice Krispy bar but I don't think of those as sweet as these cookies are. I didn't eat the whole package.

The cookie dough cookie bore no resemblance to cookie dough ice cream. I've had Edy's and Dean's cookie dough ice cream and although I prefer Oberweis', those are good quality ice creams. The cookie dough tastes like cookie dough. This was a meager attempt at cashing in on this idea and, as far as I'm concerned, failed. Thankfully, these are limited editions and won't replace the Oreos we know and love. Save your pennies.

On that same Target shopping trip, I was craving pizza so I picked up a frozen one. It was on sale.

This brand tends, in my opinion, to be consistently good in the category of "hand tossed" crusts. I'm usually leery of "new" appended to a long-time favored brand. What was it about the way you'd made your product for decades that you felt you had to "improve"? I sort of shuddered, but I liked DiGiorno and I wanted a sausage pizza.

Oh dear. It was bad. They have added or increased the sugar content of their sauce. Maybe I'm more sensitive to sugar, I don't know, but, to me, pizza sauce should be about tomatoes and herbs, maybe a bit of oil as a binding agent, but not sugar. That's what I tasted, sweet.

So, I look at the ingredient list.

Third line, right after the "tomato paste", there it is, sugar. Because you have to list ingredients in the order of greatest to least, wheat flour is first since a pizza is mostly crust. Then comes the cheese and the sausage and then the sauce. Look on the 4th line. Sugar shows up a second time. No wonder I tasted sweet. I ate 3 pieces and couldn't eat anymore. That also went outside on the deck for the wildlife, a couple days after the Oreos.

I'm still craving pizza but I'm seriously considering ordering Dominos. I haven't had delivery in months. I could order it at the office and then pick it up after work. Then I wouldn't worry about the delivery guy getting stuck in the drive.

In the same trip, I wandered by the T.G.I. Friday's frozen appetizers. Everything was on sale so I bought a package of cheese "sticks". These should be really good. No, they aren't.

These are what I wanted.

These are from Arby's. When I think cheese sticks, this is what I think of. It's a chunk of mozzarella, rolled in a breading and deep fried. Now, I don't do deep frying anymore. As with any kind of food, moderation is the key but I just didn't want to store used oil for long periods of time. It will go rancid and, if you've ever smelled that, you know it's not pleasant. So, I baked the sticks, which were more like blocks than sticks. I don't have a photo of them, but they turned out to be almost like cheese-flavored sticks. The ooey gooey strings of cheese that one associates with sticks like Arby's wasn't there. I had a nearly empty shell of breading instead of cheese. Even on sale, they were a huge disappointment and I won't be getting them again. I'll stick to satisfying the deep fried cheese cravings with Arby's.

So, there you have it. These things aren't, in my opinion, worth your dollars to purchase. I'm not all that disappointed in the Oreos. Having tried and survived the pumpkin in everything craze at Halloween, I guess my expectations for a "new" and "limited time" flavor are low. But the pizza is a disappointment to me. I could write Nestle's a letter expressing my sadness at the change, but I fear they will send me a coupon for a free pizza and I won't touch DiGiorno's again.

Save your pennies. Once every 3 months, head over to Arby's and get yourself real cheese sticks. Order delivery pizza and bake yourself some cookies. The latter covers two items. There's a lot to be said for home made cookie dough.

Beverage:  Water


Friday, February 7, 2014

Socks It To Me

Slow feet, Quick feet.
Trick feet, Sick feet.
Up feet, Down feet.
Here come clown feet.
Small feet, Big feet.
Here come pig feet.
His feet, Her feet.
Fuzzy fur feet.

(From Dr. Seuss' The Foot Book)

I'll stitch my socks until they can't be stitched anymore in an effort to get the most out of them. I realized this year, I have several pairs that really can't be fixed anymore. I should look up how to darn because a couple pair could benefit from darning, but I decided to ask for socks for Christmas. Above, minus one pair, is what I got.

Carole went to Disney World in November and picked up a couple pair there. 

These were great inside my boots on a day when I had to wear boots to work because I hadn't shoveled to the Jeep. 

And who wouldn't love mouse ears? 

This pair was a gift from Jan, a late arriving package with a note, "I saw these at JoAnn's. Thinking of you and your loud socks." 

Oh yes. Seriously loud. 

The rest in the box are from April and Perry. I can now replace one of the pair of Halloween socks I have had since man learned how to make socks. 

Those are skulls, or, maybe, aliens, but the effect is funny.

This fuzzy blue pair works great in my boots but I wear them to bed, actually. My toes can be really cold at night so I pull these on and I don't need a heating pad to keep my feet warm. And, wearing them while wearing my slippers is guaranteed warmth. My mother always told me, "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." But I do think thick socks keeping the feet warm helps toward making the rest of you feel warm.

Finally, there are the three pair of knee length socks. 

I used to wear knee socks exclusively. When I was in high school, the idea of ankle socks was ridiculous. That's what "little" girls wore, the ones in grade school. I remember having 3 pair of the very thin, white ankle socks with the lace around the cuff. I wore them to church and no other place. They were "church clothes". That's what I considered ankle socks when they were first out.

Even "athletic" socks were knee length. It took several years before over the ankle or ankle-length socks were all the rage. Then I had a hard time finding knee-length and I was kind of forced into wearing those. Now, ankle-length is what I wear and some of the best and loudest designs are on ankle-length socks.

My legs are larger than they used to be and full knee-length socks can bind at the top or, I can't get them over my calves. When this happens, I simply fold the top down. That kind of makes them calf-length socks. They become the same height at my boots. This is a very good thing. 

I love the colors and the novelty of all these socks. I have charged myself with critically examining all my socks now and getting rid of the ones I really can't fix. I realized, as I went through the week with a new pair every day, that new socks, ones that don't have holes in the toes or a see-through heel, keep your feet much warmer. They felt good, too, whole, not thin. The old socks will go in the dust rag pile. Have you ever dusted with a sock? It works really well. If you do any polishing of silver, slap on an old sock and polish away. You can toss the sock when you're through. Hmmmm...maybe that's a blog post. "101 things to do with old socks."

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea