Thursday, April 30, 2015

Doesn't Make Me Happy

Back in 2012, I started the process to use up the cologne I have accumulated over the years. First was the small cologne saturated squares Avon used to give out. Next came the small one inch glass tubes with cologne in them. I'm now up to the small jars of cologne. I lined them all up; there were 10 small bottles; and started with the fragrance at the left end. It was a bottle of 5th Avenue. I have no idea where I got it. I wore that, pretty much exclusively, when I wore cologne. This started in July of 2013 and I just finished it last week. Admittedly, I don't wear cologne every day, but that still is a long time.

In that time the "line" on the dresser had been smushed together so I formed it up again and Clinique's "Happy" came up next.

I had 3 small spray bottle samples of it. I figured I'd just lump all three bottle together and wear this until I was out of it. The sprayer on the first bottle would not work so I dumped it into a give away bag. They can deal with it. I grabbed the next bottle. I didn't like the smell. I thought perhaps it was the fact that I was so used to 5th Avenue that the change was startling. I would give Happy a week to grow on me.

Nope. I couldn't do it. I really didn't like the smell. It's too spicy for me. It did not make me happy. So, I dumped these two bottles in the give away bag and grabbed the next one in line.

I like this one much better. Ironically, checking the Clinique web site, they don't make it anymore. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said there is a lot of money to be made in discontinued fragrances. I should put this on eBay. I admit to thinking about it and, if a reader of this blog makes me a decent offer, I would sell it to you. But I don't have time to do a whole eBay selling research and learn session. So, it's just going to get worn.

I like the bottle design. Some fragrances spent as much to create a work of art for the bottle as they did for the contents. Given the two fragrances at the top, this bottle is very distinctive.

After this is gone, I have some very retro fragrances, Charlie and Jessica McClintock. Charlie has seen a resurgence of interest and you can buy it at CVS. I was rather surprised to see it when I walked through the fragrance aisle on my way to the pharmacy. "Oh wow! I wore that." My grandfather gave me a set one year for my birthday that contained a big and a little bottle. I still have the little bottle.

I got the Jessica McClintock in a bag of freebies from Carson Pirie Scott. I remember it with much fondness. It is a fragrance that I always meant to get a bigger bottle of because I liked it so well, but which I never did. So, I squirreled away the small sample bottle and here it is on top of the dresser. It used to be a very exclusive scent, sold only in "finer department stores". You can get it now at Walgreens. Nothing's rare about these two scents. I don't remember what comes after these two.

It's going to be interesting to see how quickly these are used up. I don't wear cologne on the weekend unless I'm going out. I don't wear cologne during the spring, summer and fall, if I'm out on a job site. I've had enough bees try to find the source of the floral smell that it's not worth it. I wonder if spray bottles are consumed faster than a bottle where you have to apply using your finger. I'll just be going by how long it takes to use them up.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Late Spring and Early Summer Reads

My friend, Chris, mentioned in passing that he still had some money left on an Amazon gift card he was given at Christmas. He lives in Canada and his employer gives everyone an Amazon gift card at Christmas. It's usually from Amazon Canada but last year, someone goofed and got them from Amazon US. Well you could order from the US, but the duty taxes to import stuff are pretty steep. So, Chris got me the bathroom set and all the M&Ms back in January. The little bit he had left was mine if I wanted it because he had nothing else to spend it on.

I always wrestle with that kind of offer. I never, ever want to appear greedy. Does accepting something like that make me look greedy? After thinking it over, however, I sent him a list of things which I would like if he really wanted to spend the money. I didn't want to know if he did or if he found something else to do with it. I would be surprised if something came.

Something came.

I have my late spring and early summer reading taken care of. Larson's book is brand new, coming out in March. And I haven't read that Pratchett book. I found out there are 40 books in the Discworld saga. I'm pretty sure I haven't read even half of them. (I still can't find my copies of Going Postal and Hogfather. It's driving me nuts as I want to reread Going Postal.) It's supposed to be a wonderfully warm weekend so I probably won't get to watching the movie, but I'm really excited to watch it.

So, I'm thrilled to be the recipient of Chris' company's error. I need to get the deck stained and sealed and the flowers planted and I'm good for this year's summer relaxing. Ah the simple joy of falling into a book.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea


So You Don't Have To

I love cereal for breakfast. It's quick and easy to get a decent meal and get on with the day. But sometimes, I want something else that's quick and easy to make and that's where Toaster Strudels come in.

These have been around for a very long time. It's got to be pushing 25 years because we started buying them when Carole was a kid. There used to be over a dozen flavors but they have scaled that number back to around 6. Every so often, they try a new flavor. Some of them are good and some are of the "what were they thinking" nature. I stumbled upon this new to me flavor recently and thought I'd give it a try.

Snickerdoodle, a flavor that reeks of childhood and cookies and warm aromas in the house. But how does it taste?

I had high hopes for this. It wasn't pumpkin, although I wouldn't be surprised to see a pumpkin flavored strudel in the fall. I hope not. Pumpkin has been done to death. Enough already! These were good. They had a hint of the cookie. The cream was reminiscent of the sugar cookie while the center jelly had the cinnamon-flavor. They were satisfying for a quick breakfast on those mornings when I didn't want cereal. I would accompany them with a glass of orange juice and felt it was a good start to the day. They aren't my favorite. I prefer their berry flavors, but I'd buy these again for a change of pace. Plus, they give "Boxtops for Education" and I save those for my niece's kids' school. That's a win although I don't buy things just because they have box tops.

Bottom line is, if you want something that's quick to make while you are scrounging up your lunch for a work day, these are good. Don't expect them to taste like a warm snickerdoodle fresh from the oven, but the flavor of the cookie is there.

Beverage:  English teatime Tea


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Things I See 2

I was in the city again today for a job.

There is a north breeze, but if you are out of that breeze and in the sunshine, it's warm. I doffed my jacket and ran around in shirt sleeves while I was outside. It was glorious.

I keep hearing Ernie Hudson in "Ghostbusters", at the end, after they have dispatched the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man, clap his hands together and shout, "I love this town!"

There is public art at the corner where I was working; Taylor Street and Des Plaines Avenue.

There is one on each side of Des Plaines at the intersection.

It's not surprising that Chicago has public art. If you go to the Mayor's Office online, there is a large .pdf book you can print that details most of the public art in the city; who did it, what it represents and a brief history of the piece. In the Bronzeville neighborhood, there are over two dozen benches, each one designed by a different artist. Chicago takes its public art seriously.

But I couldn't, for the life of me, find anything that told me what these installations were. They are red painted steel beams. I would imagine its an homage to Chicago as an industrial powerhouse of the last century. They are nicely maintained and, as you can see, are very striking against a clear Midwestern April morning.

Finally, we're going to plop this into the "Things I See While Working" file.

This is a Sammy Sosa bobblehead doll next to an unopened can of Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup. I haven't a clue about the why. I probably could make up a real whopper of a story. The items look like they were recently placed here. I was standing with a civil engineer, talking about the project to the west of this light pole and he just shrugged. We left them.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


One More Clear

This year, for the first time in roughly 8 years, I have to handle my own lawn mowing. My neighbor, Zeke, has retired and as soon as his house sells, he and his wife are moving. I contacted a few lawn services, but they never returned my call. Therefore, I decided I would mow my own lawn. This is a huge decision because it means I'm feeling reasonably decent enough to take that kind of step. It won't take a long time to mow and it's good exercise. Lord knows I need that.

So the first step was to research lawn mowers. Several people pointed out I need self-propelled. If I have to do the physical work of pushing, I will overdo it which leads to an RA flare up. I'm trying to avoid that. Next, I needed big rear wheels to facilitate moving the mower over rough terrain or through taller than usual grass. I also needed it not to cost an arm, leg and spleen. 

As if the universe was looking out for me, Ace Hardware had a mower on sale over the weekend. I checked it out and decided it was the right mower for me. They had one on the floor that I could have and they put it in the Jeep for me. 

The next step was to clean out the shed. Since I don't have a garage, the mower has to fit in the shed. But in order to get it in there, I had to clean it out. 

This has long been on my "to do" list. I have so many flower pots. It's not organized. I can't find the things I actually use. Needing to buy a lawn mower fit right in with the tidying I'm doing gradually around the house. On Sunday, when the clouds cleared and the sun came out, I jumped into cleaning the shed. I would make a pile of 'save' and a pile of 'pitch'. 

Two years ago, when I was getting pots out for planting, I saw a mouse. I never saw any last year, but there was the unmistakable odor of mouse urine in the shed. Donning gloves, I slowly started pulling pots out, hoping not to see anything gray scurry away. I didn't, but I found the source of the smell. 

They had made a nest in this pot. I actually like this pot. It's heavy-duty plastic. So, I'm going to dump everything in the pot into a garbage bag, rinse out the pot and I should be able to use it. There were no other pots with mice nests in them. 

I found this guy on the floor of the shed. 

I wonder how long he's been in the shed. 

After some work, everything had been removed and I saw the floor was covered in potting soil. 

What a mess. I really can't tell you how old this shed is. I'm thinking I got it in 2000 or 2001. Carole and I assembled it ourselves. I'm fairly certain the dirt on the floor of the shed hasn't been there all that time, but I do know I haven't bothered to clear out old dirt when it spilled. So, I took the broom and swept it out. 

Looks pretty good. 

Now it was time to get the mower out of the Jeep. The guy at Ace said he thought the mower weighed about 50 pounds. That seemed kind of heavy to me, but if the salesman could get it into the Jeep, I could get it out. 

Turns out, it's not 50 pounds. It's more like 30 so it was easy for me to maneuver sideways and lower to the ground. That alone made me feel really good. 

I rolled it over to the shed. From a distance, it appeared the mower was 2-3 inches too wide. What would I do then? I shouldn't have worried. 

It fits perfectly. The handle folds down. It comes with a rear bag but I won't ever use that. The manipulation of the bag is not something I really want to do. It comes with a side discharge and I'm very happy with that. 

The bag will go into the basement for storage. They filled the tank with the gas oil mixture I need and gave me the bottle of oil so I can make sure to buy the same kind for the next fill-up. I need to read the owner's manual this week. 

Once this was done, it was time to finish sorting my flower pots and other stuff in the shed. 

I don't have a grill so I have no need of the charcoal starter. There is a small wire piece that's off the front arbor. I keep meaning to super glue it back on. The brown things are pot trivets. They keep flower pots off the deck proper and allow air to circulate under the pots. Half of these were used continually. I thought I had more, but could never find them. Funny how things show up when you're cleaning. The brackets are for the deck pots and the yellow sponge things are kneelers. I probably could give those away as I don't kneel while gardening anymore. But I hung onto them, figuring that I probably will need them when I stain the deck next month. All this stuff stays although I would be happy to sell the charcoal starter since I don't use it. 

All of this is going. This year, instead of going to the nursery and buying plants, I ordered plants from a catalogue. The company sells heirloom flowers and vegetables and I thought I would give some of their plants a try. Some of these pots are cracked and broken. I just don't use most of them. A lot of the plastic ones I can probably recycle. I'm going to dump out all the dirt and get rid of these. Yes, the hose is going too. It's cracked on one end so it won't hook up to the outside spigot. It's also about twice as long as I realistically can use. I'll drag it to the street on Wednesday and see if one of the scavengers who drives around on garbage day takes it. Otherwise, it will go into the garbage can. 

This is what's left. 

I have my art pieces, which includes the plinth with the cardinal directions. The three at the bottom are the ones I put on the front porch. I have the two that hang off the deck and 4 bigger pots, including the one that needs to be scrubbed. I also have all my geraniums which I overwinter. There is also one large pot at the base of the deck. I think this is plenty. I'll go to the nursery next month and get begonias for the front. Impatiens did not do well on the front last year. They were eaten to stalks by some bug. The begonias filled out the pots very nicely. I anticipate delivery of the plants soon and then, if I need another pot, I have it before getting rid of the others. The cat house will be emptied of bedding and put in the basement. I hope I don't have to use it again this year. 

I noticed my Easter Island head is cracked. 

I'm unsure if I should try to fill this crack with something. There is no drainage hole in the bottom so water and debris accumulate over the course of a summer. You plop a gazing globe in the head but I've just left him as he is. He looks kind of funny with a translucent blue globe in his head.

There are two of these in the shed. These are citronella torches. I have a bunch in the basement in various stages of use. All of them are cracked, horizontally, between some of the rings.

You jammed these in the ground and sat "near" them and they warded off mosquitos. We would put them around the perimeter of the deck or in a circle and then we'd sit inside the circle. I think the optimum distance between each was 6 feet. That was more than enough room to get through the circle of torches if you needed to go inside.

I don't remember how well they worked. They looked cool when lit, like typical torches, and burned fairly slowly. The hard part was getting them into the ground, particularly if the ground was hard. I should see if the shortest of these two will still burn. If it does, then perhaps I should take these to Virginia for the next guild meet up. We like to sit outside, even in screened porches, so warding off bugs would be a good thing. If it doesn't light up and stay lit, there's the garbage can and I won't feel guilty about chucking them. They've been in the basement for years. It's time to use them or pitch them.

Finally, I was moving stuff about and suddenly had a feeling I was being watched. It took me a bit to spot her.

She never moved, even when I spotted her. Could this be a nest? I thought they liked more cover than this, not that she's in real danger in my yard. She was there yesterday when I got home from work. Part of me wonders, because she hasn't moved, could she be sick? Oh that would be lovely, in a not so great way. I'll keep an eye on her.

After asking about, my cousin is going to take all of the pots I want to give away. The cracked ones I won't send her, but I'm happy to be rid of everything else. "Don't spend a lot to ship them," she said. It is worth it to me to spend $20 to get them off my hands. Now to set about emptying all the dirt.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Monday, April 27, 2015

There Was a Wedding - Part 9 - Cleaning Up and Going Home

On Sunday, there was a luncheon hosted by Carole and Larry for their attendants and family. I have a guild member who lives in Roanoke. He can't travel the distance to the guild meet ups owing to a very bad back, so Doo and I decided we were going to Roanoke to meet him. It was a wonderful day to make a 3 hour, one way, drive. Mom was picked up at the house, by Larry and Donna and they dropped off all the gifts before heading to the luncheon. Mom said the meal at the restaurant was fantastic. The kids brought her back to the house so she could sit in the sofa and watch her NASCAR race. Plus, she could have 'bonding' time with her great-grand kitties.

Tobey, while exceedingly mellow, is Carole's cat, 100%. He allowed us to pet him, but he wouldn't get that close. He doesn't like to be picked up, even by Carole, but he sits next to her wherever she happens to me. Sunday evening was a case in point.

Faux is Faux. He liked to be in the hallway.

He knows he won't get stepped on, that you'll step around him. This was his supervisor position for all the activity in the house.

He tolerates, up to a point, being petted, but he's become Larry's cat. When Larry comes home from work, Faux runs to him. Larry scoops him up and flips him over and they would wander about the house. The two boys have twice as much space now to explore but I'm told they are enjoying having all sorts of places to go.

When I got back from Roanoke, the kids were opening gifts. Mom and I enjoyed seeing all the wonderful items. We had leftover cake.

This was the bottom layer and was the Boston Cream Pie layer. We took our cake pieces and watched Iowa lose, badly, to Gonzaga in the NCAA men's basketball tournament while Carole wrote out 'Thank you' notes for wedding gifts. Larry signed and addressed them. Mom and I had to laugh when we received our notes 10 days after we'd returned home. Carole was waiting for the new address labels before mailing them out. That was good because I needed to update my address book.

When that game was over, we watched University of Northern Iowa's game before flipping to Wisconsin-Oregon. This is one of Faux's favorite places to be.

He won't be able to do this in the new house as the TV is going in the basement media room and will be hung on the wall. We didn't finish watching the game as we were all tired and everyone had places to be in the morning.

6 a.m. is early, regardless of which time zone you're in. Mom and I got up, had breakfast, finished packing the car and left. This was the last time to see the house Larry had purchased a couple years before meeting Carole.

The next time I visit, I will be learning a new place to travel to.

Sunrise is pretty regardless of where you are, like in Warrenton, Virginia.

We headed west into a beautiful day.

There was still snow in the mountain ridges and the temperature was cooler than the weekend. It wasn't until we got into western Ohio that the weather took a noticeable turn.

The clouds got really think. It seemed like we were driving into snow. Wait, it had just been 70. Snow? As we passed into Indiana, it was clear. This was snow.

Mom and I looked at each other when I stopped for gas, to make sure we made it back to the house without having to stop in a snowstorm. Snow? Oh yeah, the closer we got to Chicago, the heavier and wetter the snow became.

You can see that the Interstate is wet, but it was never slippery. It was also never not clear so we made decent time as we drove into and out of the snow bands. In Indiana, we passed a UPS truck that had been towing 3 trailers. He had lost control and flipped one trailer over the shoulder guard rail and onto its side. People were emptying that trailer into a larger one. The middle trailer of the three, was standing upright although its hitches were mangled and the first trailer was still attached to the cab. Traffic was slowed to a crawl for several miles before passing the wreck. Otherwise, there was nothing awry, other than snow, to keep us from making time to get to my house.

Look at this.

Whose crazy idea was this?

It was six inches of sloppy snow. It was still 70 degrees in Virginia. Mom and I shoveled the front steps and walk and unpacked the car. We went to bed early that night.

In the morning, we had a lovely brunch at a local Wheaton restaurant.

The melting had started but there were heaps of snow everywhere. After brunch, mom packed up her car and headed back to Iowa.

By the time she left, all the roads were clear and it was sunshine all the way home for her. I returned the rental and started the process of doing wash, dealing with mail and loving up two cats who were very happy to see me. We haven't had a measurable snow since this date.

We packed a lot into 6 days, from travel to and from to buying a house to food and friends. It was a wonderful, wonderful wedding. It went off without a major hitch. Carole and Larry got exactly what they deserved, a perfect day on which to build a forever life together.

Beverage:  Water


There Was a Wedding - Part 8 - The Reception

While the formal act of becoming Mr and Mrs is important, let's be honest. The real reason we have a wedding is to party. We dress up, many of us in clothing we'll never wear again. We eat. We drink. We laugh. We dance. We don't look down on someone on the dance floor because they are celebrating. When we look back on a wedding, we don't remember the first sight of the bride walking down the aisle, or the vows the couple may have written themselves. We remember the food and who was sitting at our table. We remember the DJ and the line dance. The reception is what we remember.

After being dismissed from photos, mom and I came back inside to find our tables. Star Wars featured prominently here.

Everyone received a shot glass with "Larry and CJ, 3-21-15" on it. On the top of the box was your name and your table.

Perhaps someone can clarify something for me. At what point did it become necessary to give guests something to take home with them, beyond memories, full stomachs and the program from the ceremony? When I married, back in the dark ages, the idea that guests got anything other than sincere thanks for showing up was preposterous. Now, it seems that if guests don't have something to take home, they are offended. It's an added cost to the couple. I just wonder when things shifted. I will treasure the shot glass forever, but I wonder how many were left on the table.

I got mom situated and went to find my guild mates from World of Warcraft.

Doo, Jon and Becky have been friends with me since 2009. Jon and Becky have hosted the last two guild meet-ups when I come east to see Carole and Doo has come to both of them. Larry had friends from his World of Warcraft guild in attendance, too. We did not know who they were until photos were posted. We could have joined forces to have an epic "raid" of the dance floor, or something, during the reception.

We were lined up, once the photos were done, and then introduced. We had to walk diagonally across the dance floor, which occupied the place where the ceremony had been held. I went first.

Funny story:  when I was wandering about the assembly, saying "hello" to the friends of Carole's who had made it out for the wedding, I was stopped by a lady who mentioned how wonderful it was to meet me. I had no idea who this woman was. She called me by a name which, when repeated to Larry, was that of a friend of his family. I realized she had mistaken me for someone else so I just patted her hand and said we'd chat later. She should come to my table. Then I had to go get in line for the introductions.

I''m sure when I was introduced as "Deb Montague, mother of the bride", she realized I was not the person she thought I was. I never saw her again.

Carole's father and his wife were introduced. Larry's parents came next followed by the attendants. Then came "the new Mr and Mrs Larry Kevin Oliver, Jr".

They entered to the triumphant march at the end of the very first Star Wars movie, where Luke, Han and Chewie get their medals. Again, people cheered their approval.

Sandy's fiancee, Jerry, on the left above, gave a heart-felt blessing and we were allowed to eat. I didn't take photos of the food. I probably should have. It was amazing. There was a spinach salad, rice, rolls, asparagus, salmon and thin sliced roast beef. The best part was the mashed potato bar.

You could get regular or sweet potato mash and there were 8 different toppings to put on your potatoes. When Carole was telling me of the menu, she kept coming back to "and they have a mashed potato bar, mom". Yes, this was a highlight of an already great menu.

Once most people had finished eating, it was time for the first dance.

They danced to "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran. This song seemed to exemplify their relationship. In the previous event, there was a small battle over the first dance song. The compromise was "At Last" by Etta James. It's not a bad first dance song, but Carole said she regretted that they couldn't agree on one song that meant something to each of them; that they had to 'settle' for a song they could agree on. This was never an issue with Larry. Active in the planning of the wedding and not leaving every decision to Carole only to pick it apart later, he enthusiastically embraced this song. It talks about finding someone in the most improbable of circumstances, how love shows up "right where we are". Like the dress and the venue and the weather, it was just another bit of perfection in an otherwise perfect day.

There was quite a bit of dancing including a line dance. I watched this done at the previous event. It includes the line, "How low can you go?"

No. I did not participate in this.

Half-way through the dancing, it was time to cut the cake.

It was an amazing cake.

I think that's ganache with fondant shaped into Star Wars ships. Carole said when they went to the bakery for their tasting, they took along some photos of Star Wars cakes they had seen on the internet. They described what they wanted and one of the bakers sketched as they talked. The first design is what they liked best.

Each layer was different.

The piece I got had raspberry filling. The big bottom layer was Boston Creme Pie.

I forget the name of the bakery. I asked if they set aside the top layer, as is custom. Carole laughed. "Nope. It was eaten. The bakery gave us a coupon to come back in for our first anniversary to get a small cake. Their reason is 'who wants to eat a cake that's been frozen for a year'?" Yeah, that's a sound reason.

Once the cake was cut, it was back to the dance floor.  Toward the end of the evening, the DJ cranked up "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. Well, that's quite the unconventional music for a dance, but we were urged to come out on the dance floor and sing along. We made a "U" shape and the DJ handed the microphone to Carole. She sang a couple of lines and passed it to Larry.

Everyone took their turn singing one or two lines of this well-known rock anthem.  In the middle, there is a Brian May guitar solo. That was Larry's cue.

He and usher Jeff engaged in an epic air guitar "battle". We declared it a tie, which was the honorable thing to do.

After this, people started to go home. The event was winding down. One of the last group things we did before it was time to pack everything up was to make a big circle and sing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline".

We even got my mom out there. I don't remember if she sang along, but that wasn't really the point. The point was that we were all together, arm-in-arm, singing loudly and celebrating Carole and Larry's marriage.

After this, there were a couple more songs and we began to clean up the hall. There were "Goodbyes" and hugs and a few final quick photos.

Wedding gifts went one way. Mom and I took some of the things which needed to be returned to the florist as well as quite a few things from the dressing room and Carole's flowers. Then we headed back to the house for a well deserved night's sleep.

Funny story:  The top candle in the big center glass at our table was not lit when we sat down. This bothered Becky so much, she fished it out of the container, lit it by holding it over one of the side candles and dropped it back into the water. I have to admit, having that candle lighted did add to the decoration on the table.

It had been a wonderful day.

Beverage:  Ginger Ale