Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Yesterday was a bad day. I awoke with a headache. I cannot tell you the last time that's happened. Since starting this regimen of drugs for RA, I rarely get headaches. No stress headaches. No tension headaches. Whatever would cause those things seems to be either kept in check or abated since adding RA drugs to my life. So, waking up with a monster headache, actually, having the headache wake me up, another rarity, was strange.

I've been having a bit of an RA flare since coming home from vacation. I'm pretty sure it was a result of the long distance and the lack of cruise control on the rental car. We stopped frequently, but it wasn't enough. My right eye has been red, a sure sign of a flare, since midday on Tuesday, and really goopy, proof of a flare. I know how to handle that, warm compresses over my eyes and sterile eye drops, but it takes time, once I'm in a full-blown flare, to get it under control. My sleep gets disrupted, too. But, thanks to the physical therapy, my sciatica is nowhere to be seen. That, alone, makes handling a flare easier. I even mowed the lawn in one sitting on Sunday, 45 minutes. After I did that, I spent 2.5 hours in the recliner with my feet up.

But this headache... There is a perfect Yiddish word for this, "Oy". I had breakfast and took a shower but the warmth of the water and steam didn't make it go away. I warmed a wash cloth and lie down on the bed, with it over my face. I lay as long as I could, grabbed left over spaghetti for lunch, and headed to the office. One aspirin and an allergy pill later, it seemed to abate, but it was never gone. I also found myself dozing off frequently throughout the day. It was a bad Monday.

And then I came home. Look!

The prairie flowers that I have at the southeast corner of the yard are in full bloom. I will take a photo tonight when I get home. The purple coneflowers and black-eyed susans are beautiful this year. Maybe it was all the rain? And you know I don't mow off the common milkweed that grows in my yard unless it's really not in a good spot. I've actually mowed around 5 plants in the front yard. They look kind of silly but I want them to grow specifically for monarchs.

There were actually two monarchs in this patch.

Such joy! I sat in my driveway and tried to capture their swirling dance around each other as they flitted through the plants. Later, as I watered the flowers on the deck, one came around, probably looking for water in the birdbath. It was so dirty that I had dumped it out in the morning and hadn't refilled the bowl.

This makes me so happy. I wish I could find a cocoon. I would photograph the heck out of that. I've never seen one and it's obvious I've got something of a habitat for them. As monarchs are endangered, this brings me a great deal of happiness.

Last Wednesday, a perky young woman stopped by my house to offer me bug killing services. "We'll rid your yard and house of bugs and spiders," she said enthusiastically. I was shocked. She couldn't guarantee that beneficial insects, such as my monarchs, wouldn't be harmed when their pesticide was applied. Why, on earth, do people want sterile yards? She gave me some clap trap about how spiders only remove 1% of the bugs in your yard. But they, and the bugs I see around me, are part of a broader ecosystem. If we remove the bugs, then there's nothing for birds. She couldn't or wouldn't, give me the scientific proof that spiders only eat 1% of bugs and she was stumped when I said, "Then there's nothing for birds or bats to eat." And, when I pointed out that you cannot completely eradicate bugs because your neighbor's property may not be sprayed, she said, "Well, we just spray everyone then and it all works out." No. No. No. It doesn't work like that. When she told me I was wrong for wanting spiders in my yard, I told her to get off my property and take her pesticide with her. I may have said, "And get a real job where you're not lying to people" as she walked away.

I'm right. We're all connected. I thought about the neighbor who wants no bugs. No butterflies? No moths? No ladybugs? No dances of orange wings on a Monday afternoon. I don't get it, but maybe I'm weird. My headache didn't go away and I wound up going to bed early and sleeping for 10 hours. I feel fine today. I hope the butterflies are back. I really want to capture the joy in watching them fly. That's happiness.

Beverage:  water


Monday, July 27, 2015

I Didn't Know

Today is Bugs Bunny's 75th birthday. On July 27th, 1940, a subversive rabbit who did not yet have a name, burst onto the scene in a short cartoon named "The Wild Hare". It's often been said that Walt Disney wanted to capture the family market while Warner Brothers wanted everyone else. Bugs, named for the original director of his movies, Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, was the subversive, wise-cracking character that Mickey wasn't, and, in fairness, couldn't be. Voice actor extraordinaire, Mel Blanc, decided the rabbit would have a faintly Brooklyn accent in homage to the caricature of the tough Brooklyn male, always in trouble and always one step ahead of any authority figure. In 1954, he was America's favorite cartoon character and won an Oscar in 1964 for "Knight-Knight Bugs".

He appeared in more than 170 shorts over the next 30 years and starred with Michael Jordan in "Space Jam". (Do not ask my opinion on the rumored sequel to that movie.) Steven Spielberg resurrected the whole Looney Toons gang with "Tiny Toon Adventures", which ran from 1990 to 1995. It was cute, but it never caught on the way the original cast did. "The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour" was a staple at our house on Saturday mornings. Dad would come in from the fields or the barn or wherever he was at 11:00 a.m. to spend an hour laughing at the antics of Elmer and Daffy and the Devil and Wile E. Coyote.

There are so many, many shorts with eminently quotable lines, but if you ask anyone, myself included, what their favorite Looney Toons short would be, it has to be this one, "What's Opera, Doc?"

"Oh Brunhilde, you're so wuv-wy."

"Yes, I know it. I can't help it."

"Oh Brunhilde, be-ee my love."

I can't tell you how many times those three lines get sung, even now.

Why isn't this a national holiday? Seriously.

Beverage:  Water


Cut Ups

Another small step in the tidying.

In the cleaning of the "Receipts for Major Purchases" folder, I found terms and conditions for credit cards. That's a misfiling but it caused me to pull out the drawer where I have cards and actually look through them. Since the 5th 3rd debacle, I have canceled or let expire a whole bunch of cards that I had but didn't use. I hung onto my 5th 3rd cards until this whole mess was cleaned up, which it was at the end of May. So, I spent some delicious minutes carving those credit cards into shards over the garbage can.

But then there are these. Sears gave me my first card, back in 1977 when I was a college junior. I felt so powerful but had no idea exactly what credit was. Still, I had, and used, that white card until they began issuing standard size cards in the 1990's, I think. Marshall Fields (defunct) and Nieman Marcus also used the small card format. I used to have an NM card. I thought I saved it for nostalgia but it wasn't in the stash.

Sears and Field's issued new cards which I, obviously, never activated. I know they pre-date the banking fiasco or maybe came at the time of the fiasco and I felt, for my good, not having the credit was a good step in righting my financial ship.

Ah Disney. I got this way back in the late 1980's, when Disney stores in malls were exploding like pop rocks. I spent so much money at those stores and through their catalogues. When we took our first vacation to Walt Disney World, we got all sorts of discounts using the Disney card. I think they discontinued it or we canceled it, I don't remember.

And finally, Montgomery Ward. My ex worked for a trucking company affiliated with Wards. We got a 25% discount on goods and services purchased through the store. As mentioned in a previous post, my oven is a Montgomery Ward branded appliance. We got a fantastic deal on it. I have a blue sweater that I got at Wards for $12. I'm pretty sure it's close to the same age as Carole and one of the elbows needs some love, but it has worn like cast iron. I kind of liked Wards and was sad to seem them go bankrupt and close.

But they have arisen from those ashes and are online only now. Scanning through their offerings, they aren't all that unique in what they have for sale. I don't need much but there are a few things which would be fun. They have a compact computer desk. I'd love to replace the behemoth I have in my home office with something more compact. Wards is a distributor for the company that sells the desk. Comparing prices, they aren't cheaper. I think I'd be buying nostalgia more than anything else and I have to be leery about tossing money at something for nostalgia sake. I have a lot of that as it is.

I cut up the big Sears and Fields cards. The rest I put back in the drawer. I'm not ready to take a scissors to them just yet. The act of tidying has always been about being ready to let go, being critical about what I save. There is no use to these. They are saved purely because of warm memories attached to them. At some point the scissors will come out and they will be gone, but that's not now. I did reduce the stack by 3/4ths, however and that is a good feeling.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola



I haven't seen the Minions movie, yet. It's on the list of things to do, but so are a lot of other things. Still, I can celebrate all things minion. I have help in that one of my friends, Meredith, is kind of minion obsessed. She contributed to my enjoyment with a box of goodies.

So many goodies, most of which were at the dollar store. I use the minion cup for beverages while I'm at the computer. Right now, it has Coca-Cola in it. The tic tacs sit off to the right. I'm not sure if I want to open them. The hand wash is in the bathroom. It's apple banana scented and is heavy on the apple, but light on the banana smell. I don't know if I want to use the toothbrush. It's cute. I will use the toothpaste, once I've used up what I have now. And the mouthwash is, well, interesting.

It's called "Bubble Fruit" flavor. I had just used up some cinnamon flavor ACT mouthwash so I jumped in to use the minion branded one. Maybe if it had been dyed pink. I won't say it's horrible, but I won't rush right out and replace like for like when it's used up. Maybe it's my "adult" palate, but I thought the flavor was a bit too chemical and not fruity. Still, at a dollar for a bottle, it's a better value than the ACT brand I was using.

There was going to be another Spectacular Death guild meet-up while I was in Virginia visiting Carole and Larry. With the movie out, it was the perfect time to do something of a minion theme. Meredith found minion paper goggles which we used for a guild photo.

I'm grateful to the guild members who attended for going along with the goggles for a photo.

A minion balloon marked the driveway.

Meredith made name tags featuring minions and put them in a minion folder.

I didn't have a printer or the time to make name badges. Next year, we probably won't need them because most everyone will know everyone else, but having minions was funny.

I bought a minion decorating package which contained spiral hangers and a banner.

Everyone got a goodie bag containing a minion bubble wand, their goggles, a sticker and a minion activity book which contained crayons. Mom helped assemble the bags.

The best minion item, however, is my poster.

This is done at weddings. There is a poster or photo or something on which attendees can write messages of congratulations. I found this poster at AllPosters.com. Sadly, this doesn't seem to be available on their site anymore. I had each guild member, and Carole, pick a minion and sign their toon's name on it. I'm going to take this to JoAnn Fabrics next weekend, after I get paid, and have them frame it. I was trying to think, after making that decision, where I'd put this and suddenly it hit me. Of course, that's where it needs to go. You'll have to wait to see where that is, after it gets framed.

We don't really NEED a theme for a guild party. The theme could be just "Spectacular Death gets together", but it was fun to assemble something totally silly. I can't thank Meredith enough for the goggles and the name tags. She also sent me a minion note book where I can record my thoughts about what crazy things my guild could get into.

For the record, the red item in the box is an M&M zipper pull. It's gone onto my winter coat.

Good times.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


Pain Free, Sort Of

Ah, the life of flexibility, when I can cross my legs while propping them up on my office desk and not wonder if it will take a crane to get down.

I've dealt with sciatica, an inflammation of the sciatic nerve which runs through your hip and down into your legs, since December of last year. It would flare up and then go away, depending upon how much I was moving. Aspirin would help, occasionally, but I can't take a lot of aspirin due to the other drugs I take for RA. By April, the pain was affecting how I walked, sat, slept. It hurt to roll onto my side at night to fall asleep. Sitting for a day at the computer, writing reports, was painful but getting up and moving around was worse. It just seemed to be a spiral.

Dr. Francis ordered x-rays of my lower back. I have severe arthritis in my lower back and sciatica. She ordered a regimen of physical therapy. A lot of people have PT because I couldn't get my first appointment until after I came home from my Minnesota vacation. It hurt. I have a bunch of exercises designed to strengthen muscles around my "core" and then around the hip. I found that as I did those exercises, the occasional problems with my knees eases. The pain eased. On one day, when I had PT scheduled, I was half-way through the day when I realized, I wasn't in pain anywhere, not my hands, not my feet, not my knees or hips, nothing.

That weekend, an amazing thing happened.

I mowed the entire lawn without a break, the whole thing, front and back, without stopping other than when I ran out of gas. I swear I filled the mower, but, obviously, I didn't. Not only did I mow the lawn in one pass, but I ran errands after a shower, all without pain. I decided I had earned lunch so I stopped at Culver's and brought it home.

I wound up taking a nap 2 hours after coming home from running errands, but, hey, I'll take it.

Since that weekend, I've had some achy days. The drive back from my vacation to Virginia was long. I didn't get a car with cruise control and I realize that's kind of key to my comfort. That may mean I have to pay more for a rental, but that's the way it goes. My left index finger is swollen in the morning and "clicks" when I bend it. I've had minor achy joints in both hands and my knees. The sciatica is back, but it is very mild compared to where I was when I walked in that first week of June.

You know what? I'll take this. It makes me happy not to have the pain I had in my joints. Is it all from the Humira and drug combination? Is it simply the result of physical therapy? I don't honestly know. I just know that I'm feeling better than I've felt since 2010 and these little aches are easy to dismiss. Dr. Francis is talking about a change in my medications so I'm hoping it will be a reduction. I"m okay with that.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


Saturday, July 25, 2015


Can't go to Carole's without playing games.

It started with the creation of a "Corn Hole". I looked at Larry. "A what?" I asked. "A Corn Hole," he replied, as if telling me again would make me understand it better. Out to the garage we went.

Once I saw these, I knew what they were for. We would call the whole thing a "Bean Bag Toss" set up. The object of the game is to toss a bag full of beans or, in this area of the country, dried corn kernels, into the hole from a distance. You get 3 points for getting the bag through the hole, 2 points for getting the bag on the top quarter, near the hole, and 1 point for getting the bag on the bottom of the ramp.

Larry had seen these at a store but they wanted an exorbitant amount of money for them. So he and his dad built their own.

The rectangle has two feet at the top which fold out to give the piece its slant.

This one was a little wobbly on the driveway, but once in the back yard, it was fine. My job was to paint chalkboard paint onto the top so topical items can be drawn or written on the face. It was warm on Friday morning when I did this.

Larry didn't want the sides or the interior of the hole to be be painted so there was blue painter's tape to edge those areas. I could not get the blue tape to stick to the sides. It worked for a bit with the interior of the hole, but I gave up on the one and just did my best to not have it drip. This was the first coat. It took a bit of mixing to get the paint to come out evenly.

Ultimately, it took three coats to get an even surface. I brought sidewalk chalk along but that was too hard for the surface and I had to paint over the markings. You need to use chalkboard chalk on this paint. The can recommends a drying time of 24-hours so I painted this on Friday as we were going to use them at the 3rd Annual Spectacular Death Guild Meet-up, held on Saturday. By Saturday, they were ready to go.

In this blurry photo of Larry and Luke, we had a great time playing "Corn Hole".

It was hot and humid so we wound up not using these as much as I think we would have had the humidity not been so oppressive. The chalk markings erased very easily. When the bean bags would land on the ramp, they would erase the chalk.

Late Saturday night, we played Cards Against Humanity.

On Monday evening, we blocked off the whole evening and played three games. First up was Star Trek Catan.

It took me a little bit to remember how to play Settlers of Catan, but once I remembered, this plays exactly like Settlers. Your pieces are the Enterprise space ship and Federation space stations. Carole won this.

Next up, we played Ascension.

I'm not one to enjoy card games where you have strategies utilizing various cards. Magic: The Gathering and Blizzard's Hearthstone card game are like that. Ascension is similar but it's easier for people like me to figure out. It was fun. It might be something I'd enjoy doing on a regular basis. Larry and I played Pirate Munchkin on Sunday afternoon. I do like that game, mainly because the cards are hilarious. I believe Larry won this round of Ascension.

Carole said there is an Ascension app for smart phones. She spends a lot of time playing the game on her phone. I looked at my smart phone and shook my head. I use my phone to make and receive calls, occasionally check the weather and find mapping routes, and as an alarm clock when one is not available. Play games on it? I don't think so.

We ended the night with my favorite game, Trivial Pursuit.

This was the newest version, the one Larry gave Carole for Christmas. Mom joined us and we played the fast way where you got a pie piece when you answered a question correctly. I won. I'd been stumped by the green Science and Nature category so they thought that was a good one to give me at the end. My question? "What kind of dog was Lassie?" I thought, at first, Larry, who was giving me questions, was joking. I was really expecting something along the lines of "Name one of the nobel gasses." I'd have had to actually think about that. It was kind of disappointing to win on what, to me, was a hugely easy question. Oh well, it was still fun.

I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons online with a group of friends since May. I just added a table top Dungeons and Dragons event which may play as much as twice a month, but right now, we're looking at just once a month. Years ago, bi-monthly gaming dates with friends was a part of my life. Games are a way to connect and have fun. It's slowly coming back into my life and I couldn't be happier.

Beverage:  Water


Not Yet at Full Hype

In case you live somewhere that has no access to mass market goods, but has Internet, since you're reading this post, I present the latest in mass market hype for the upcoming Star Wars movie.

Yoda and Darth Vader grace the cover of boxes of what amounts to Lucky Charms, just redone with Star Wars marshmallows. Larry had a Yoda box.

The movie comes out in December. In February, there will be two more limited edition boxes released, according to the General Mills web site. My beloved Cheerios has limited edition posters contained in the boxes.

I haven't seen this on my store shelf, but I haven't been looking. In cleaning the basement, I stumbled upon the Star Wars calendar I got in 1978. Back then, calendars involving movies were rare. Star Wars ushered in the merchandising phenomenon we take for granted today. I gave the calendar to Larry. In the grand scheme of eBay merchandise, it's probably worth more than an unopened box of Yoda cereal will be.

I've always felt that the "goodness" of a movie is in direct proportion to how much pre-release hype it gets. There is a current movie, "Pixels", which looked good in the one trailer I saw, but which has been critically panned. There's not been much hype. Maybe the studio realized it was a stinker and so they released it just to get it off their shelves. It flies in the face of my theory.

With all this pre-release merchandising, I'm worried about the Star Wars movie. I want it to be good, but if there's cereal already out, are they trying to make back the cost of the movie by shilling foodstuffs? Is than an omen?

I didn't try this. I'm not a Lucky Charms fan. In the grand scheme of making money, product merchandising is where it's at. We aren't at full capacity yet, either, on the Star Wars hype. By the time December rolls around, I may be so tired of Yoda's face everywhere that I won't want to go see the movie.

Beverage:  Water


So You Don't Have To

Look! Something new!

Carole found this at her grocery. I had to go to the grocery on the last day of my vacation and I didn't see this. Admittedly, I was doing a quick run for snacks for a Dungeons and Dragons game so I didn't have time to really search the shelves, but, from experience, interesting versions of cereals don't often make it to Mariano's. Perhaps they are trying to save us from ourselves?

It's cute looking.

It's the color of rainbow sherbet; orange, lime and raspberry. I asked Carole how it tasted before I opted to try it. "Meh. It's like Pebbles, just different colors," she said. It's been awhile since I had Pebbles so I couldn't quite remember that flavor so let's try a bowl and see.

It's okay, as sugary breakfast cereals go. I would be more charitable than Carole and say there is a hint of sherbety flavor. There's definitely not the creamy taste of sherbet or the taste of the individual flavors, but what I remember as the taste of Fruity Pebbles is not completely there. It was pretty good. I'd like to find a box of this and Fruity Pebbles and have a taste test. That might require wandering into Jewel grocery stores, which I really, really don't like. Times like this I miss Dominick's so much.

Beverage:  water


Butterflies Are Free

There has been a vacation in this month. I drove to Virginia to spend time with Carole and Larry. With all the other things going on in life, I didn't have time to finish the butterfly cross-stitch before I left. I was down to just a corner and the outlining.

But the whole point of a vacation is to be leisurely or, at the very least, do things you want to do. One of those was finish the cross-stitch. First, I finished the last four butterflies in the lower right corner. Then I started the outlining.

I've made some modification in the instructions as I've worked. What I like about the design is the mixing of the colors. Completed, it's like a water-color. The primary outline color is silver thread. The big butterfly in the center is partially outlined in black. Not all the the butterflies get outlined, either, which I think lends to the wispy-ness of the design.

The silver added just the right touch, but there was also the matter of all the backspacing within each wing. I opted not to do that. I felt the additional silver would detract from the butterflies and I wanted them to be the primary focus.

It's hard to see the black outline around the top wings of the big butterfly, but it's there. The other thing I didn't do was add the dark brown box around the outside. I felt that seriously detracted from the design and was very unnecessary. The piece also is not "signed", as I usually sign things. I couldn't decide where to put my signature, "DM [year]", where it wouldn't detract from the design. Carole said signing it wasn't necessary. She knew who had done it and would tell anyone who asked.

I hand washed the piece for her and left it. She can frame it however she likes.

With that done, I'm going to the sewing machine for my next projects, but there is a trip to JoAnn Fabrics next weekend before I sit down to sew.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, July 13, 2015

A Plethora of Plastic

Yet another task was accomplished over the weekend.

I went through all the containers and matched them with lids. This is most of what I have. Now comes the decision on how much I really need to save. The green container I have had for a good 25 years. That's the thing about Tupperware. I'm inclined to keep it simply because it's lasted so long and shows no sign of wearing out.

It seems to me that I might have culled this group about 5 years ago. In that time, new plastic containers have been released. It's easy to be seduced by the shiny goodness of plastic storage. But I have to be ruthless here. I just can't save everything. I need to be realistic in how much I actually store. Why is it so hard to part with this stuff?

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Oh Yeah. I Sort of Remember

Another find in the basement stacks.

I vaguely remember this storm. We were supposed to go to an Iowa Hawkeyes-Northwest Wildcats basketball game the Saturday the storm arrived. After some brief discussion, we decided that was not a good thing to do so we stayed home. When we awoke the next morning, we had 2 feet of snow, more in the driveway because of the small hill and the drifting. The snow had ended overnight and the clouds broke to reveal one of those impossibly gorgeous blue skies that are so common in the winter.

What I remember most is the digging out and not for a positive reason. We didn't own a snowblower so we had to shovel. At the time, there were three of us living here. We did a two hours on, 2 hours off rotation. Carole was a sophomore in high school so she could shovel. By noon, a neighbor came by and blew out the drive. We shoveled the driveway apron and had shoveled the walks, the front steps and the deck. We started in liberating the cars.

That afternoon, the Green Bay Packers were playing the San Francisco 49ers for the National League title. My ex was a big Packer fan. There was a game before this one, so the Packers-49ers was not slated to start until 3:30 our time. We got the ex's car freed and he backed it out of the drive to make sure he could leave in the morning. Carole and I started working on freeing my car. My ex came back from a drive around the block and dashed inside. I went in and said, "My car needs about 45 minutes worth of work. If you come help, we can get it done faster." He looked at me and said, "Absolutely not. The Packers are going to be playing football. That was the deal. I'll shovel until the game and then I don't have to shovel any more."

I just stood there looking at him. First of all, there had been no such deal. We were going to dig ourselves out. The only thing that could have waited was the sidewalks, but getting to the drive was easier if we shoveled those out, so that's what we did first. Secondly, the other game was still, at this point, 10 minutes from completion and if you know anything about pro sports, 10 minutes left in a game means it will take 30-40 minutes to play, what with all the time outs and TV breaks. He went into the bathroom, took off all his winter gear, left it in a pile and plopped down in front of the TV. His car was free and that's all that mattered.

Carole and I spent the next hour digging out my car and widening the front walk. When we came inside, the first game was still going and he had made no effort, during commercials, to take care of his winter clothing. It was still in a soggy pile in the bathroom. I knew, at that point, that unless there were major changes in attitudes, I did not want to be married to this person anymore. He would not have missed any of "his" game and we would have been done much sooner if he'd helped. That idea wasn't remotely in his mind.

All of these memories flooded back when I looked at this newspaper. Since 1999, I've endured 3 more blizzards. I've faced them on my own. It can be tough, but there is a great deal of satisfaction in handling winter by myself. I tossed this paper in the recycling bin. There are some milestones you want to remember and some which are better off being pitched.

Beverage:  Water


Small Cleans

You know how you can pass by a section of your house for years and really not "see" things? It's often easier to just let the piles be. On Saturday, after years of ignoring it and pushing things around, I cleaned the top of my chest of drawers. The space, not very big, was a catch-all for stuff. It's where my cologne sits. I had hair ties and clips even though my hair is a bob now. There's body lotion at easy arm's reach for the times when my legs and feet are cracked and scaly. But there were also photos, lots of photos and other stuff, just stuff. I reached a point, I don't know why, where that space cried out to be cleaned.

I sorted through all the photos. I have a large number of Carole taken for prom and homecoming and turnabout, the dance where the girls ask the guys to go. It can also be called a "Sadie Hawkins Day dance" in reference to a Lil' Abner comic strip where Sadie asks Lil' Abner to a dance. You have to either really love comics or be a certain age to know that reference. As much as I like the memories associated with the photos, I decided I didn't need all the framed photos. They are going to Carole. I have other photos of the events which I will keep.

The above photo I'm saving. This was sophomore marching band season. Those uniforms were brand new that year. The Wheaton North Marching Band did, and still does, competitive marching band. If you aren't familiar with it, a band develops a show, much longer than a half-time show, with a color guard and on-field marching. Depending upon the length of time you've done this and where you fall in the rankings at shows, you can get an invitation to the regional competition. For us, it was in Indianapolis at the RCA Superdome, which was demolished in 2008. It was breath-taking to walk onto the field behind the kids and then watch them perform. I can't remember for sure, but I think our highest place was 10th overall in our division. The competition is fierce and we saw some amazing marching bands. That's Rob, Marc, Jesse and Colin with Carole. Four of the five of them have stayed in contact with each other. I was a band mom and this photo reminds me of all the stress we went through to get to this point, but, more importantly, all the fun and excitement of watching our kids do something they loved.

I found this in the piles on top of the dresser.

My mother's pen pal sent this to me many years ago. The design is based on Charles Rennie Macintosh, a Scottish artist. It's porcelain.

It hasn't worked for years and was in a box at the back of the top of the dresser. I was pretty sure it was simply a matter of replacing a battery, but it could be something else. It's not very big, maybe 4 inches tall, but it's so pretty. I needed to see if it could be fixed.

There was another button battery in the box. I couldn't see, at first, how to change any kind of battery until I realized that the clock face can be removed.

You can see the face isn't very big. Once removed, I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to pry the battery out. Then I noticed there is a little clip. When that was pulled, out popped the battery. I put the one I found in the box in the vacated spot and the clock started up. That's all that was the problem. It needed a new battery.

There was a huge amount of dust on top of the dresser. I didn't take a photo of that. Some things are better left not shown. I tossed so many rubber bands and spent hair ties. I gave away pins and ceremonial buttons for events I don't remember attending. I found all my Scottish jewelry and it's in one box now, not scattered about. I need to shine a silver chain however. That was a bit of a downer to see it had tarnished.

But, the area is cleaned and looks so much nicer. I need a container for bills. I always put them on top of the dresser where they are in visual sight so I don't forget to pay something. In rearranging and pitching, I've removed some things the bills would lie against because I am not interested in saving things. I'll find something and I have the perfect spot for it.

It's another step in tidying my space and it feels so good.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Friday, July 10, 2015

Berries Finally!

In the rearranging of the deck to bring in the washer I decided to move the pot containing the strawberry plants up onto the deck rail.

Look at all those berries. I had little hope that I'd get to enjoy them, given how my plant has been plundered by vermin unknown. I found out the little bugger hasn't been dragging them away to eat, either.

This fake stone is in the corner under the location where I'd moved the pot. This makes me wonder if squirrels really are to blame. Two years ago, I had chipmunks brazenly sunbathe while sitting on this. Maybe they were grabbing my berries. Whoever was doing it, hasn't touched the plant since I moved it up onto the railing.

I actually need to harvest the plants this weekend.

I'm going to get a handful of berries, finally, to have with breakfast.

I'm not sure this is where I want to keep the pot, but perhaps that's all that needed to be done. I simply needed to move it up off the deck floor. The next question is whether to bring this inside this fall. It would not produce fruit since there are no pollinators, but it might be kind of cool to have the plants overwinter inside. Buying from Select Seeds was one of the best things I did this year's growing season.

Here's to fresh strawberries from my "garden".

Beverage:  Water


A Summer Sky

So, we had the orange sunrises of the Canadian wildfires. We had a the gloom of days of overcast and the dumping of rain, rain and more rain. And then we had this.

I didn't do anything to this photo. We were under a severe thunderstorm watch at the time.

As the front with the storms advanced toward the Chicago area, it removed the shorter light wavelengths associated with blue, leaving only the yellow, orange, and red spectrum. This light is usually attached to supercells, those big, big thunderstorms which produce lots of rain and high winds.

While the heavy clouds of a frontal boundary are worrisome, I think orange skies make me more nervous. It seems, in my experience, that orange skies bring unusually strong thunderstorms. If I remember correctly, this was the storm that dropped 2 inches of rain in 3 hours and pushed the water into my basement.

Photographers talk about a "golden hour", a time, at sunset, when the light is just perfect for photography. This isn't what they are referring to, but it does make unusually colored photos.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Butterflies are Finished

I finished all the butterflies.

All the major stitching is done now. There is, in the pattern, a large empty space below the large butterfly. I debated just adding something but this is how the design is so I'm leaving it. The next step was to add the butterfly bodies.

That was simply taking a full section of thread and doing a straight stitch. Now that this is done, I need to outline some of the butterflies. Not all of them get that treatment. I also need to figure out where to put my initials and the year. There is a box that goes around the design, pulling it together. I might "sign" this project near the box.

Adding the bodies made the butterflies look so much better. It will be exciting to see how much more distinctive they become with outlining.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Thursday, July 9, 2015

That Is a Lot

My only contribution of late to tidying my life has been getting the basement ready for a new washer. I have removed, through today, 9 bags of garbage, real honest-to-goodness, garbage. It really was a case of boxes of packing peanuts or something else tipping over and me not having the will or desire to sweep it up. Add to that, the occasional episodes of seepage when we get inches of rain in a small window of time, and that just breeds decay. Over the years, boxes of stuff have gotten wet and I just didn't mentally want to deal with it, so the stuff sat and sat and sat. 

That all changed when I knew I needed a washer. I couldn't shove or relocate things to another part of the basement because there wasn't another part of the basement. So, I started cleaning in May and finished a clear path to the old machine the last weekend of June. I have a large pile of things for Carole, a pile which grows and grows each time I attack yet another section of the basement. She's going to need a moving van for all this. 

Then the washer came and I have the warranty information to file away. I wanted to see, for sure, when I bought the replaced washer so I pulled out my "Receipts for Major Purchases" file folder from the filing cabinet. It's fat and heavy with instruction manuals and receipts and proof of warranty. It's also one of those things that needs to be gone through and cleaned out. 

After going through the pile, this is what needs to be chucked. At the risk of jinxing myself, I have the receipt from the stove; purchased from Montgomery Wards in 1984. I also have the receipt for the fridge; again purchased from Montgomery Wards in 1994. I have receipts for two long gone lawn mowers and Apple computers. I have receipts for a dust buster and three, count 'em, three irons. There are two phones, a VHS player, and jewelry I no longer have. I also have the receipt for the clock radio that wakes me up every morning and the record player/cassette player that sits in the living room. The warranty for this "boom box"? That can be pitched. I don't remember when that broke and we pitched it. 

This stack is half of what was in the folder. There were quite a few memories and quite a few, "I have no idea to what this belongs" moments. The only things in the folder now are the warranties and receipts for things I still have. Yes, I kept the warranty information on the 20+ year old clock radio. Do they even make those anymore or are people using their phones? The Art of Tidying talked about how that extends to paper and I have known, for awhile, that my files are filled with stuff I no long need. One folder at a time. It felt very, very satisfying to dump all this paper into the recycling bin.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


Move Along

I needed to move the plants on the deck out of the way in order to get the washer in the back door and down the basement stairs. It was also time to deadhead and then cut flowers back. I admit to benign neglect this June simply because I didn't have to water. Had we not had a record rainfall, I would have spent more time moving things around and pruning.

I started in and noticed there was a guest in the corner around the nicotania.

Just above left center is a spider. She had made a lovely circular web in the northwest corner of the deck. As of July 4th weekend, there was only one bundle in that web so I'm not sure if she was having much success with her hunting strategy.

I don't know how long she'd been there. Again, I really hadn't paid that much attention to my deck flowers.

I also felt a bit bad for her because her web wasn't in the best of places. So, I gently removed the part attached to the right and she scuttled off the other side to the deck. I finished pruning and spreading out the flower pots.

There are friends who have an extreme fear of spiders. A couple weeks ago, one of my friends had to stop in the middle of the street to her house and get out of her car because she saw a spider walking across the dashboard. She said she jumped out screaming. I admit to being startled when one has shown up on the steering wheel, having descended from the roof of the Jeep. I don't scream. It's more a gasp because the spider is some place I'm not expecting it to be.

They are so beneficial to life and our environment. I usually, if I can, scoop them up onto paper and toss them outside. In spite of getting some flies and moths in the house, my interior environment is not the best place to catch a meal. They will have better luck stretching a web across the myriad of plants in the yard.

Back in June, I was going to close the window in the office because rain was predicted and found this.

It was this blob of yellow, wrapped in webbing. I poked at it and, when ruptured, all these spheres spilled out. Not real sure, at the time, what they were, I collected them on a piece of paper and tossed them outside before closing the window.

The more I thought about it, the more I wonder if this was a spider nest. I don't know for sure, but the webbing seems to tend toward that notion. It seems weird that it was in the middle of the bottom of the window frame, just stuck there, and not in a corner where it wouldn't get disturbed. For a few seconds, as I looked at it and took photos, I considered leaving it alone just to see whether anything would hatch, but given its location, I would have bumped it eventually. The spheres were rather hard and made a sound like dumping out a bag of marbles when I knocked them off the frame. I've never seen this before so it was fascinating.

My deck spider hasn't been back. I would ignore her for a time if she did come back. She's not really in my way and I'm not in hers. Yes, remove those bottle flies, mosquitos and June bugs from the environment. I applaud you for that. Just don't bring the web inside where it's in my way and don't drop off the ceiling into my vision when I least expect it.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


It's What?

I found this very funny. One of my Facebook friends posted it.

But it got me thinking. How many people know this?

The botanical definition of a "fruit" is a structure which grows from a flowering plant. The flower needs to be pollinated in order to produce the item. Therefore, in a strict botanical definition, a tomato is a fruit, along with eggplants and peppers.

But, when you get to the culinary definition, a tomato is a vegetable. It's because we have grouped the sweet products of flowering as fruits and the savory tasting products, which include roots and stems and leaves, as vegetables. Because tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are savory, they were lumped into the vegetable category, never mind their botanical origins.

It's an American food, eaten by the Aztecs and imported to Europe. We all know that tomatoes used to be considered poisonous. Aristocrats who ate tomatoes in the 16th century would die mysteriously. They didn't know the high acidity of a tomato reacted with their pewter plates to produce lead poisoning. They didn't know that's what was causing the sickness and death. It HAD to be this tomato thing. Because of this, it was mainly grown as an ornamental plants until some enterprising chef in late 18th century Italy decided to try cooking with it. From there, knowledge of it spread across Europe and new varieties of the plant were brought to the US.

What I find really funny is this little nugget about the history of tomatoes in America. (The rest of the article can be found here.)

The fruit vs. vegetable debate can sometimes reach such a fever pitch that the law must step in.  In the 1893 United States Supreme Court case Nix. v. Hedden, the court ruled unanimously that an imported tomato should be taxed as a vegetable, rather than as a (less taxed) fruit. The court acknowledged that a tomato is a botanical fruit, but went with what they called the "ordinary" definitions of fruit and vegetable — the ones used in the kitchen.  

This case was not about someone trying to decide if the tomato was a fruit or a vegetable in the botanic sense. It was a tariff case that happened to involve tomatoes. Taxing them as fruit meant less money for the coffers.

I wonder what would happen if some chef decided to adhere to the botanical definition of fruits and add a tomato or a pepper to a fruit salad. The orange peppers are incredibly sweet and I eat those raw. Other than being non-standard to a fruit salad, I could see adding them for crunch, color and taste. But I think I'd draw the line at a tomato in with my melon and strawberries and blueberries.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


What's Going On?

I came home on Tuesday and noticed this on the roof of the house.

That's a little weird for a squirrel to just be lying on the roof. He lay there watching me watching him. I got off one photo and then he turned around.

He wasn't moving fast at all. I wondered if he had fallen from the trees onto the roof and injured himself. What would I do if he was hurt? I'm sure a terrified squirrel would not be easy to retrieve off the roof and that meant climbing a ladder to get to him, something I'm not secure in doing anymore.

But as I approached the house, he jumped up and ran across the roof to the right. He got to the electric line and hopped aboard.

That's not an injured squirrel. All the little bugger was doing was lying in the sunshine. Scared me for a second. I've heard squirrels referred to as the clowns of the animal kingdom. Yeah. Yeah. I'd agree with that.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea