Friday, February 27, 2015

First Project of 2015

After some searching, I found a pattern for an item I wanted to make. It was kind of amazing to me that in all the boxes of books and pamphlets and magazines, what I wanted wasn't among them. Thankfully, you can find almost anything on either Pinterest or Etsy. Pinterest was my savior.

The pattern was a "whopping" $3.50 and came in a .pdf format. I really need to get my home printer fixed. I had to print the pattern at the office, which I don't like to do for personal stuff. Although I had concerns, it came out nice and clear.

Once that was in my grubby little hands, it was off to the cross-stitch store to get black fabric. I have a small stash of cross-stitch fabric but not black. And, what do you know, they were out of black, too. I ordered a large piece because I have another project which would benefit from black.

Then, I headed over to JoAnn Fabrics to get some silly gifts for a friend who had knee surgery. Not expecting much, I went to the cross-stitch aisle and there was black fabric. It was one of those facepalm moments. Oh well. I can use the fabric I ordered. They also had some great fabric.

I could see making myself shirts from the M&M's fabrics. I need more fabric like I need a third ear. Let's not even contemplate what we could do with that fabric and move along. But...but...Move along. At least this discussion goes on inside my head and not with an imaginary self in the store. I did not come home with fabric.

I did come home with black cross-stitch fabric.

I'm starting with a light pearl gray. The thing about black is that, at night, it's difficult to see the holes in the cross-stitch grid. I figured out if I kept the white paper pattern in my lap, the light bouncing off the white paper illuminated the grid. But when a certain black cat wants the lap, stitching becomes an, "I think I've got it" proposition for finding the next hole for the needle.

I started late in the evening on the first day so not a lot was accomplished. The weekend ahead should prove profitable for stitching.

Beverage:  water


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Comfort Food

It's kind of overused to call this a "brutal" winter. At least we don't have the snow here that we did last year. It's just cold. Cold I can deal with, especially when I can make comfort food.

It was on sale for $1.50 a box. I think that comes very close to the cost of making them from scratch. What could be more comforting than warm brownies on a cold winter night.

Everything gets dumped into one bowl.

As advertised, the mix comes with chocolate pieces. Some were chunks and some were chips. There is a pouch of fudge which is added to the batter. You add an egg, 1/2 cup of oil and 3 tablespoons of water.

I found it humorous that the directions tell you to beat the batter for 50 strokes. Usually, it says "beat until moist". I guess they found that giving people a set number of strokes results in a more consistent product. The bottom of the pan is greased and the batter poured into the prepared pan. You bake the brownies at 350 for 35 to 37 minutes.

While they are baking, lick the bowl. It could be argued that one of the reasons I bake is to eat the batter. You wouldn't be completely wrong, but I think the combination of batter and baked good is best.

They look like brownies should look. There is a thin cracked crust and they rose just a bit. My pan is 8.5 by 6.5 so I got thick brownies. If you use a 9x9 pan, which the box says can be used, they would be thin. I guess it's all in how you like your brownies.

I cut the pan into quarters. I discovered that the 37 minutes allotted was not enough. The bottom was still batter. So, I was making fries at the time and stuck the pan back in the 450 oven for another 10 minutes. That cooked them all the way through. If I do this again, I'll go for 40-45 minutes.

They smelled wonderful. The batter tasted good. I can't call it "great" because it did taste somewhat artificial. There is a difference in taste when you make it on your own than when it comes from a box due to food preservation laws. You'd think it would just be chocolate pieces, cocoa, flour and sugar, but there was something else. Probably anti-clumping additives. It wasn't a bad taste, but it didn't taste like brownies composed of flour, sugar and cocoa.

They didn't hold up as well as homemade, however. They aren't the kind you wrap in plastic and send with lunch. By the time you get to lunch, they will be in pieces. The chocolate chips and chunks weren't as many as it appears when I dumped in the pouch. I thought about adding more and I should have. I think these also would have benefitted from the addition of walnuts. The chocolate flavor was consistent but I wonder how much the fudge sauce contributes to the flavor. "Real" brownies don't need that sauce to be chocolate.

I could just eat them plain, but warm, from the oven brownies just scream for ice cream. I was worried I didn't have any. But, I moved a bag of peas and there was a pint of Haagen Das vanilla bean ice cream; the perfect complement to chocolate brownies. This can be supper on a cold, cold winter night.

So, if you're in the market for brownies and don't want to take the hour to make homemade ones, and you see this on sale for $2.50 or less, it's worth it. You don't get a 9x13 pan of them unless you buy two boxes. They won't be as dense as the photo on the box or as you're used to but they are fine for an afternoon or evening treat. They tasted great and warm, with ice cream, it was very satisfying. Don't buy them if you are looking for a heap of chocolate. They aren't that chocolaty. Buy them if you want a quick treat.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast Tea


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

We're Not Bag Girls

My friend, Doo, sent the girls a Christmas gift.

We cat owners know how much our felines love to be in things or behind things or under things. These bags are catnip infused and should prove tempting to the girls.

But, one of the issues is that neither has shown a real interest in bags. I bought groceries at the end of the last month and came home with a few paper bags. Past cats couldn't wait until the bag was empty to collapse a side in an attempt to get into it. I dropped a bag on the floor.

She sniffed it, then sat down and looked at me like, "Now what?" I left it out for a day and there was no interest in going inside. So, I was unsure how these would be received.

With the increase in growling and hissing, I thought a change might be in order so I got out a package and opened one of the bags.

Pilchard instantly came over to sniff and to rub her face against the unopened bag. I shooed her off the table, opened the bag and dropped it on the floor. The directions said to lightly scratch the inside of the bag to release the catnip aroma. This is what happened.

She wasn't interested in going inside, but to sit on the bag, that was just fine.

I turned my attention to Mija and pulled a bag out of the box. She waited until I had opened up the bag before coming over to sniff.

This is as interested as she got. I dropped the bag on the floor. She sniffed it and wandered away, showing no inclination to want to go inside. Pilchard, on the other hand, came over and laid down on the bag, almost like she was claiming it and the other one, too.

In looking over the bags and my cats, it occurred to me that the problem might be too little bag for too big of a cat. Pilchard did go into the Mariano's bag, but she didn't stay. These catnip infused ones are smaller. While cats like to be in enclosed areas, and I've watched Pilchard, over the years, get into places she really shouldn't, it seems as if my girls are taking the tack now that the box or bag needs to adequately fit them. These bags were just a bit too snug. So, I got a pair of scissors and cut them kind of apart.

That was, instantly, a bigger hit with Pilchard. Mija sniffs them, but she doesn't lie down. Pilchard, however, sits and lies on the bags to the exclusion of the two boxes I have in the living room for her. That's fine because Mija has claimed the boxes. It's a lot like musical containers at my house, only no one gets eliminated.

Beverage:  Lady Grey Tea


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Single Serving of Comfort

Back in January, my friend, Chris, sent a bunch of boxes with a whole variety of items inside. One of the boxes is a very important part of our life still.

I opened the bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms and have snacked on a few. It's going to take me a very long time to eat through all the M&Ms on top of the fridge. Friends were quite generous to me at Christmas.

There was a lot of tea in the parcels this year. This is good. I drink a lot of tea. Chris sent a box of tea from a company called Tea Forte. They were billed as single serving. I decided it was time to try them.

Well, if the English Breakfast is any indication, I will like these. It's loose tea, something I didn't see clearly on the front of the box. It's there, but I didn't see it. There is about a tablespoon of leaves in the pouch. I have a mug sized strainer so I dumped in the leaves, added the water and steeped for 2 minutes. The result was rich and aromatic and oh so good.

Technically, I should toss the leaves into the compost pile after one use, but I know from experience, that there's a lot of tea left in those leaves. So far, I've made 2 cups and 1 travel mug from the first pouch. After tonight's mug of tea, that will probably be enough and I'll need to open another pouch.

I'm pleasantly surprised by these. If I had a strainer I could take with me in my purse, I could see keeping a couple in my purse for those times when "I'd like hot tea, please" results in the staid Lipton kind. I used to carry tea bags in my purse but bags tend to get beaten up and I'd wind up with a mass of leaves at the bottom of the bag. This pouch could take the bending and twisting that comes with a handbag.

There are four other flavors to try from this box. I'm going to enjoy myself.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


A Week of Socks

Now that I've decided on the socks for the wedding, I've not posted what's been on my feet. There aren't many left in the drawer that you haven't seen. It seemed sort of a let down once I decided. There wasn't any reason to post photos of the ones still in the drawer since they really aren't in contention.

But, I've enjoyed showing off my socks so I've gathered a weeks' worth of photos. Today's socks were going to be a dull navy blue, but when I put them on, there's a hole in the toe. Into the mending pile they went. On these cold winter evenings, I should clear out the mending pile. "Should" and "will" are two very different words.

Monday, February 9th.

These are more pink than the photo shows. Carole got these for me from Crater Lake Natinal Park in Oregon. Those are bears.

Tuesday, February 10th.

Carole got these for me last year at Walt Disney World.

Wednesday, February 11th.

I don't think I bought these. I think I got these at Christmas from a former co-worker. She gave me socks one year, but was it these or one of the other red Christmas socks I have?

Thursday, February 12th.

Here's another pair from Carole. These are San Francisco socks. She buys me some of the best socks from her travels. I have a pair from Seattle and a pair from Chicago. The Chicago pair is in the mending pile.

Friday, February 13th.

Yes, these are kind of boring for a day filled with superstition. But, I reached into the drawer and pulled these out. They are another pair Carole got me; Gold Toe brand. There are three pair of Gold  Toe in the drawer. She gave me these for Mother's Day. I do like the design.

Over the weekend, my feet spent time in slippers. I have heavy socks I wear in the cold and when combined with the slippers, my feet were comfortable. Do you wear socks to bed? I find that sometimes I just have to and these every day wear socks don't cut it.

Monday, February 16th.

This pair was 50 cents. That's all I remember about them. How could I pass up a pair of decent socks priced at 50 cents? I have no idea where I picked them up as I've had them for awhile. Everyone needs a pair of loud and obnoxious socks.

Today's socks are similar to another pair I have.

I have this design on black socks. The black ones I was considering as wedding socks. These were on this list as possibilities if I hadn't chosen by the time they were pulled from the drawer. One of Carole's friends gave me this pair and the companion black pair for a milestone birthday several years ago.

So, that's what's been on my feet lately. I think there are 3 more pair in the drawer. I didn't count when I looked this morning. It's been kind of funny to do laundry. It seems to be nothing but socks.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Occasionally, It Pays Off

I'm really on the fence about loyalty cards. I have them. I use them. But the benefits don't seem to be hugely apparent. I joined Best Buy's loyalty program with I bought my TV and Blu-Ray player last year. I got $5 back. Woo...hoo. I used that, in January, to buy the external storage device. I'll probably not accrue any more loyalty stuff from Best Buy unless I have to buy a major appliance.

Hallmark is another place I have a loyalty card. That does sometimes pay benefits, if I remember to bring the coupon with me when I go into the store. My Panera loyalty program gets me a dollar off on a pastry or a free beverage, on occasion. My Dunkin Donuts "Perks" card is probably the one loyalty card that nets me the most freebies.

I find, at this stage of life, I'm at CVS Pharmacy quite a bit. I haven't managed to get all my prescriptions to be filled at the same time so I can make one run. I have this one at this time and these two at that time, so I find myself in the place quite frequently. I have their loyalty card and it will give me a lot of discounts, most of which I don't need. I've talked about it before, how loyalty cards don't really inconvenience a company. You can give me $15 in coupons, but if I don't NEED batteries, even giving me a buy any size get one free coupon isn't going to entice me into the store. Sometimes, however, I can hit it just right.

Shampoo and two bottles of conditioner. I was out of conditioner and had to pick up a prescription. I also happened to have a $3.00 off on my next purchase, thanks to all the times I'm in the store to pick up medication. VO5 is 99 cents. My final bill was pocket change. The receipt has a coupon for greeting cards; buy 2 and get 1 free. I might use that. I might not. I need to look to see what's upcoming that might need a card to send.

I don't go somewhere because there is a loyalty program. In fact, I could probably weed the key fobs I don't use off the key fob on which I have them. Still, it does pay to check. Every so often, I can score a great deal.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Ooey Gooey

I'm just going to leave this right here.

Friday the 13th's donut in honor of last Saturday's pseudo-holiday. Yeah.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Monday, February 16, 2015

Sleeping Arrangements

There's a draft along the floor in the house and I can't seem to find where it's coming from. It's quite annoying and I'm seeing the results of it.

It's not just my feet that feel it. Lately, Mija's been sleeping on my bed on one of the pillows. She's always been the one to lie by my face so that I awaken to a purring cat. This cements that position. She doesn't move, either, when it comes time for bed. I don't mind accommodating her. After all, that's what those of us who share our lives with cats do.

It struck me over the weekend that a year ago, we were working through some hissing and growling issues. Again this year, February started with angry voices and growling, yeowling and hissing at each other. I don't know what causes it and it distresses me so. But, yesterday, there was this.

I wish I knew what happens to break the intolerance. They were so very happy all afternoon.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Friday, February 13, 2015

It Took a Week

We had our first, and what I hope is only, blizzard at the beginning of the month. With my home office right outside the deck, I would watch the snow pile up on the deck railing.

At this point, Sunday morning, February 1st, it wasn't that much. But, two hours later, another couple inches had been added.

It was coming down fast at 11 a.m.. By sunset on Sunday, the storm had passed and I was looking at what would be the next day's adventure, shoveling 15 inches out of my yard to be able to get to work on Tuesday.

When I came home on Tuesday, we'd had some melting and the snow on the railing looked like this.

The stuff hanging over the edge intrigued me. I wondered how long it would be able to stay attached to the body on the railing and, also, how long it would take to melt the main mass there in the front. So, rather than knock it off, I decided to leave it. On Wednesday, February 4th, although it was cloudy, the temperatures were over 32 degrees and we had more melting.

It didn't look like much, if any change. The big change was to come.

I forgot to take photos on Thursday and Friday, but this was the status on Saturday at noon.

What I find interesting is the "lip" is still there. Some of it has fallen, but it's clear where a big bulk of snow was and is still attached to the railing. By Saturday sunset, this is what the railing looked like.

I'm not sure if the "lip" fell off or simply melted away, but it's gone by 4:15 p.m.

By Sunday noon, the snow was completely gone.

We're in the grip of some cold weather. If this cold had come right after the blizzard, I'd probably still have snow on the railing. I didn't get all the snow shoveled off the deck, as you can see, so what's there is now frozen pretty hard. I need a warm up to be able to move that.

I also need to restain the deck this spring.

Beverage:  Water


My Mom Wins

I got home last night and there was a small, padded envelope from my mother. Well, it's close to Valentine's Day, but I couldn't imagine what she would be sending me. Maybe it was a card and a whole bunch of newspaper clippings. She'll do that, clip things of interest to me, set them aside, and 4 months later, I'll get an envelop filled with news.

I ripped it open and out fell this.

I laughed so hard, I scared the cats. I had to call her.

"Well, I read your blog post that yours broke. The next day, I opened my utensil drawer and saw I had 5 of these. I'm not going to use 5 of them, I barely use one, so I thought you could use it."

We both marveled that the head on mine would break so cleanly since it appears they are one solid piece of plastic. But, whatever, I now have a brand new citrus opener. Beware oranges. Here I come!

Beverage:  Water


Thursday, February 12, 2015

It Was an Experience

So this was Wednesday's American Experience on PBS. Sounds like it would be something of a downer for TV but American Experience programs are always well researched. They tend to cover things that we forget about as we live in this United States and don't shy away from controversial topics.

This program caught my eye when the announcement of it came through my newsfeed. I have a special connection, if unpleasant, to tuberculosis. My mother's mother's parents died of the disease. Gram didn't talk about the real reason they died until the 1980's, well after she'd retired and was drawing a pension which couldn't be taken away from her. As the dates of their deaths coincided with the end of the Spanish flu outbreak after World War I, it was agreed upon that the family would say they died of the flu. No one would be the wiser. When she finally told us, she shrugged and said, "We lied because to be truthful meant no doctor would see us nor could we get a job or go to school."

I know about the virulent forms of TB currently in the world. I know how difficult it is to eradicate this disease. Indeed, PBS' own Frontline program examined the current state of tuberculosis and treatment almost a year ago. But how could this be a "forgotten plague"? Why did it affect my grandmother and her sister for the rest of their lives? I had to watch the program to find out.

I was hugely disappointed. Perhaps it's my close association with this disease that let me down. Perhaps it's that I'm educated and interested in things like health so I know about TB. Perhaps it's that, with rheumatoid arthritis, I have to be careful because my immune system won't fight off anything like TB. Perhaps it's that, given 55 minutes, AE can't really delve into a study of TB in America. Whatever the case, I've come away with way more questions than there were answers.

The program was based on a book, Living in the Shadow of Death by Sheila M. Rothman. She was one of the "talking heads" who explained points in the program. There were a couple of medical professionals as well as a couple of historians which do give the program weight. That's a good thing about AE. They don't throw many statements or points into the wind to see what would stick. But they made what I call "throw away statements", statements which just beg for further exposition.

For example, there was a statement that TB has been around since there have been medical records. The Greeks knew of it. It was never stated if the Chinese knew or if the Egyptians knew. How far back in recorded history, say the Babylonians?, is there a record of TB. If this disease has been known for thousands of years, how was it treated? Did that treatment change over time or was it the same treatment in Isaac Newton's day as it was when Pliny lived? Is this a strictly European disease or did the natives of the Americas have it?

Next, I would have liked a brief description of what TB is. At one point there was a graphic, which briefly discussed how TB is transmitted, but it went by so fast that the accompanying verbal information was lost. The program would have benefitted from a brief explanation of why it's referred to as "consumption". As TB control and eradication became a public health priority, knowing who had TB and who didn't became important. There were telltale signs that someone had TB. An explanation of what those signs were would have made clear how people with TB were found.

Edward Trudeau, a New York physician, was diagnosed, in 1873. He was told to go to the Adirondack mountains in New York to spend what was thought to be his final summer in a place he loved. His brother had died of the disease and this diagnosis was a crushing blow to his psyche. But, Trudeau got better in the mountains. After going back and forth from the mountains to New York and getting worse in the city, he decided it was the fresh air and sunshine which kept him alive. He moved his family to Saranac Lake, New York. He would live the rest of his life there.

This was the nature of TB control. People with the disease were told to rest and go some place where there was fresh air. With the advent of the transcontinental railroads, whole advertising campaigns were developed by cities out west to lure TB sufferers. I did not know that Albuquerque, New Mexico and Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado; were billed as the perfect place for TB sufferers to live. Pasadena, California was originally a town created for invalids and Los Angeles hired a marketing director to specifically push the climate for the wealthy consumptive.

A great deal of time is spent dwelling on going west. If you couldn't afford to travel, where did you go, or didn't you go? That's never made clear. Once people arrived at their destination, what then? Social services were not in place to help mass numbers of sick people. This didn't happen until well into the 1960's. A lot of people went west to be "cured" and died.

Trudeau became more and more driven to find a cure. He read everything he could find. In the early 1880's, he stumbled across an obscure paper written by a German doctor, Robert Koch. Koch put forth the notion that many diseases were caused by germs, unseen things which disrupted health. He grew some bacteria in his lab and, when injected into healthy animals, gave them TB. Trudeau spent the next 5 years trying to replicate Koch's experiments. Once he was able to grow the TB bacteria, Trudeau spent years getting the medical establishment to accept this discovery and listen to Koch's ideas about other illnesses.

What were the main objections to acceptance? How did Trudeau persuade doctors? Did Koch have a hand in this? He won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1905 for isolating the TB bacteria. Did this acceptance of a microorganism as the cause of this disease change the way doctors practiced? How fast did the news spread?

One of the side effects of this knowledge was the correlation that people spread TB by coughing. That meant that anyone with TB was contagious. There were two known kinds; a virulent kind that claimed its victims within 6 months of diagnosis and a long-term kind where the victim lived with it for 10-40 years. Trudeau's brother and daughter had the former while Trudeau had the latter.

Battling TB because the nation's first public health war. How? Who made the decision? The program didn't say whether there were initiatives from Congress or the White House. It seems it was left up to the states to deal with. In New York, there were special police who went door-to-door in the tenements looking for "consumptives". If you had TB, you were moved, often with as little as 24 hours, out of the home and sent to a sanatorium. Trudeau had established the first one in Saranac Lake. Were families isolated then? Given that families were multi-generational, if mom had TB, did that mean grandpa and junior were ostracized. Given what my grandmother said, it seems they were. Again, there were no social safety nets for people who suddenly lost jobs because of a diagnosis. How much homelessness was a result of this? Where did people go?

There was no discussion of TB in the wars. I know, from reading, that TB was in prisoner of war camps in the Civil War. What about the Spanish-American War and World War I? TB takes awhile to manifest. The strapping young man at the recruitment center could find himself, 8 months out, coughing in a bed in France. How did the military handle this? In discussions with friends online, the military is extremely rigorous in checking for TB, given how quickly it spreads.

The discovery of penicillin was not a boon to TB medicine. Penicillin did not work on the TB bacteria. It would be 1943 before streptomycin was discovered and used. It was discovered by Selman Waksman, a microbiologist, who felt the answer to curing TB lay in the soil. It's never explained why he thought that. He ran test after test on soil samples, growing whatever microorganism he found. His assistant, Albert Schatz, spent hours and hours in the lab growing things and then applying the result to patches of common bacteria. In October of 1943, he discovered an organism that cleaned out the petri dish to which it was applied. He asked Waksman to try it on TB. When it cleared that petri dish, they grew enough of it to send to the Mayo Clinic and in November of 1944, a 21 year-old woman, nearly dead from TB, was the guinea pig. She made a full recovery. Why Mayo? Why her? Who was she? Did it completely eradicate her TB?

It turned out that the one drug was not enough, that TB was a very resistant germ. Patients needed and still need, a course of antibiotics. One immunologist said, "You have to be spot on. You can't give them too much or too little and they have to take it at just the right time." I've read that this is a problem in developing countries. TB can be killed but you have to take all of your meds at the right time and, for homeless people or those without safe water supplies, that can be almost impossible.

There is a brief discussion on how TB mutates. For this program, that was enough because it wasn't about current treatment. It was about the past. There was no real discussion of the TB testing which was done in the schools in the 1950's through the 1970's. I remember those patch tests. They were part of the start of every school year. How effective were they in knowing who had TB? I remember kids bursting into tears when their test got red and swollen. I have to get a TB test every year now, but it's not a skin test, it's a blood test. Is that more effective? When were the arm patch tests ended?

Trudeau's sanatorium closed in 1951. What happened to it? Are there any left, even as repurposed buildings? Is the idea of a sanatorium for TB or other infectious diseases a dead and discredited idea? What was the infection rate amongst those who cared for people in sanatoriums? It seems like people who went there never saw their family again. What was the mortality rate? When Trudeau established his sanatorium, 1 in 7 people was living with TB. Did that rate fluctuate? Were people in sanatoriums allowed visitors? Are there cemeteries where those who died are buried? What does it say on death certificates, particularly in the early part of the 20th century? I don't know if my mother has obtained the death certificates of her grandparents to know what was written as the cause of death.

My great-grandmother was a striking beauty, my grandmother said. She was tall and willowy, with dark eyes. Gram remembered her as having an easy laugh. She didn't remember much about her father. The wedding picture we have shows him to be tall with light colored hair. My grandmother had red hair. My great-aunt, her sister, had brown hair.

She remembered her father lying on a cot in the porch. She remembered him being pale and she remembered hearing the coughing fits. She remembered the doctor coming, often, it seemed. She remembered going to the porch door and leaning her face against the glass. Her father would kiss the glass where her cheek was and wave her good night. When the photo to the right was taken, she was 7 and Irene was 5. Their father had been dead at least a year, at this point. The next year, their mother was gone, taken by the same illness. Francis and Irene went to live with Till and Edward, their father's sister. I do not know what happened to the man in the photo, the father of their mother.

I've ordered the book. I feel a need to know about the effects on society of this disease. I think the title of the program, "The Forgotten Plague" is a misnomer. The average person on the street doesn't know about it, but then, they don't know about the Spanish flu, which unleashed a pandemic at the same time as society was battling TB. Could your weakened effects from fighting the flu have left you more vulnerable to TB? How did the two feed off each other? There's so much I don't know.

Perhaps that's why the program felt incomplete to me. This is a topic which probably deserves more than the 55 minutes it's allowed on a Wednesday night. (That extra 5 minutes is for shilling all the corporate and foundational sponsors, you know.) I do know that the death of her parents had a profound impact on my grandmother. How many other children faced this loss? What was done with them? So many questions.

Beverage:  Water


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The girls have settled into use of the cat tree. Pilchard loves to race around the house and then jump onto the middle rung to exercise her claws. Lately, however, she'd look at it, think about jumping up but then change her mind. It was odd. Over the weekend, I was cleaning the living room and took a good hard look at the tree.

Hair. It was just everywhere.

I guess that is to be expected. I swept up about half a cat it seemed, of black fur. I almost never see fur from Mija but it's got to be there. It's just that it's so short and it's brown, the color of the floors, that I don't see it.

So, I got out the comb and spent 20 minutes combing the cat tree.

It's not the clearest since it was gray dust on a gray carpet, but there's a mass in the corner of that level. No wonder Pilchard didn't want to sit on the tree. Who knew that part of caring for the cats involves combing their cat tree. Guess that will be part of my cleaning the living room.

Beverage:  Water


A Spot of Color

There has been quite a bit of singing in the backyard lately. I swear I have heard the call of a robin but it's way, way too early for them. I have the usual chickadees. Their call is so fun; chicka-dee-dee-dee.

The usual call in the winter is from this bird.

There have always been at least one nesting pair in my yard. I used to think I recognized them, but I can't say that I do anymore. I know one pair uses the birdbath when it's liquid because I see the female at it.

This guy is really red and provides a smile in the dull of a gray February day.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Next Decision

With the sock issue decided, it's time to look at the accessories which will go with the dress. The high neck and the elbow-length sleeves mean I do not need a lot of jewelry to accentuate the look. This is good because I've gone away from that as I have aged. My job is not the place earrings, bracelets or necklaces are needed or even safe. So, for the most part, my collection stays in my boxes. This is one time, however, when I can pull out items in anticipation of the perfect place to wear them.

I don't have pierced ears. I have problems with my ears getting nodules in the lobes, which, on rare occasions, become infected. It's less now than it was when I was younger. I was told accidentally piercing the spot would be bad. Clip earrings were the way to go as a hole for pierced earrings would be closed during these episodes. Even going to clip, I remember sitting in church and having to remove my earrings due to the inordinate amount of pain caused by squeezing one of those infected spots. Hence, my earring case is filled with clips and I have a lot to sift through to make a decision.

Plain gold in a variety of designs is never a bad choice.

I've ruled out the button ones in the upper right of the bottom photo and the large hoops. The buttons are too boring and the hoops are too big. I don't think I like the 'door knocker' style of the top photo, bottom left, either.

I could go with gold and sparklies. I think the starburst is too big and the rectangles at the top are too small. These are fake diamonds and each of them is missing a small stone somewhere. That might doom their selection although if someone is counting whether I have all the fake diamonds on my earrings, they need to find something else to do.

I could go with my fake pearls. They are easy to wear and don't hurt my ears as some of the above can do when worn for a long time. But I think they would get lost in the dress. I'd be better off not wearing any earrings as the effect would be the same.

I could go with something completely different and wear silver. The shells would need to be polished. They have tarnished over the years. The leaves were my grandmother's. I remember her wearing them to church. The hoops suffer from blah. In the end, I'm not sold on silver.

I could go with black. That would pick up the black of the lace overlay. The solid black with the screw backs at the upper left are another pair which were my grandmother's. I don't remember her wearing them, but they were in her things when she passed away. Carole was in 2nd grade so it's a bit of nostalgia to wear something connected to her. Black with gold accents goes with anything, mostly, but I'm not sure about these.

There's color. That's blue topaz and sapphire colored gems in these. I think the light blue would get lost among the dress. The sapphire has potential in that it's sparkly, not too small or too big and the dark blue stones look almost black, which complements the lace.

I thought about whimsy, but, in the end, no, these won't work.

Then there are these. I don't know how long I've had them but they are still a favorite after all these years. I love the art deco style. They are bigger than some, but would not be lost against the dress. I am leaning toward these, but I should probably put them on and see if they really are the ones.

The other thought, when I bought the dress, was that I would wear a bracelet. I thought I had just the piece in the bracelet box.

The operative word is "thought". The bracelet is too red. It would not match or complement, at all.

I have another.

I'm fairly certain I bought these separately and it was just dumb luck that they sort of go together. But the earrings are too big for the dress. The bracelet would work and would add a small splash of color, but I don't really need that. So, I've ruled these out.

As with the socks, I'm going to take several pairs along, even if I think I know exactly what I want. When that day arrives and I'm getting dressed, I may decide that the original "best one ever" is just not right.

Finally, does anyone know where the other one of this pair is?

I like the funky design but can only find this one lone earring. Don't you hate when that happens? I need to hang onto it lest I find the companion when I do spring cleaning and move the furniture.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea