Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Project Or Paperweights

All those things you say you want to do. The list can be long, long, long. I tend to have motivation come in spurts. I'll feel exceptionally creative or motivated to accomplish something. Pieces will be collected and I'll get ready and bam. The motivation fades as quickly as it come.

I've been dealing with some issues with RA which I didn't realize were RA issues. I knew depression was a side effect of this. You gradually lose mobility and that can be very depressing. I can tell myself, repeatedly, to find gratitude in every day, but I often have to face the reality that I just cannot; that this gloomy mood is what I have. I find acknowledging the mood; feeding it even; works for me to slowly leave it behind. In the interim, I don't do much of anything. That can feed my sense of worthlessness. "If only I felt better, this project would be done."

Enter spring. It's hard for me not to feel a tug toward positivity when the crocus bloom and the sky turns blue and the winter coat goes in the closet for a good two weeks before being needed. I feel I can conquer things. I feel I can take those steps I've longed for to make my surroundings happier. That's necessary for my overall well-being. "Time to fix this," I think. Many times that enthusiasm, however, crashes headlong into the reality that I get tired more easily. Still, here we go with the rebirth of the grass in the back yard and the cacophony of birds in the trees.

Target didn't help diminish that exuberance. In one of my news feeds; ironically, a business feed; there was a discussion about their new Pillowfort line. Targeted to kids, it's gender neutral and features things without designations for boy or girl. It's part of Target's stated objective to make as much of their kids things for all kids, inclusive, rather than blue for boy and pink for girl. You can still find those things but girls like trucks and boys like dolls. Kids shouldn't be pigeonholed into colors and items because of their gender. I can't agree with this enough.

The article showed some items from the collection and one of them was a shelf unit.

It's a whale! I read dimensions but I can't always get my head around sizes relative to anything else. I could order it online and pick it up at my local Target. As I had to get a few other things there, this was a score. It's big.

It's going to go on the wall opposite the medicine chest and sink. When I held it up to the wall, the sadness of the long ago paint scheme in the bathroom was overwhelming.

I need a fresh coat of paint on the walls. If I'm going to make this a focal point of the bathroom, I need walls reflective of that. As if they were mind reading, I got a flyer in the mail from Ace Hardware. There is, this weekend as I type, a buy-one, get one free sale on their best paint. Seriously? I would need painting accouterments as I tossed all that stuff last year, when I was cleaning in the basement for the new washer, because the stuff was old. But cutting the big cost, the paint, in half, could motivate me to actually do this.

When I went to get garbage stickers, I asked about the smell. That could be a deal breaker. The smell, the volatile organic compounds, released as paint dries, are not good for people with breathing difficulties. I don't want my house to make me any sicker than it possibly is. If I have to wait until June, when I throw open the windows, would the paint have settled out? The good news is the sale paint is low VOC, suitable for pregnant women to paint walls with and it is guaranteed to not settle out for up to 9 months after being initially mixed. I grabbed some swatches and stuck them on the wall.

There is light blue tile in the tub/shower. I have a nautical theme in the bathroom which is why the whale shelf appealed to me. It's important to match, as close as I can, the tile. Ideally, you take a tile piece with you and they match it, but I have no idea where the extra tile is that I had. So, I picked what I thought might be close or complimentary.

While I was there, I thought about the neglected back door area. I was going to paint that yellow to compliment the minion poster hanging there. If this is a buy one get one, what if I actually bought the yellow for the back? I grabbed some yellow swatches and slapped them on the wall by the poster.

I wound up going with the bottom blue and the left yellow. In my head, I thought a light lemon yellow would make the poster "pop" on the wall. But the light lemon they had seemed too light, washed out. Hence, I've gone with a color that is an exact match to the one there. Funny how that works out.

Here we are, the end of March. I have two brand new cans of paint in my house. One sits on the kitchen table and the other sits on the bathroom floor.

I'm going to paint the baseboards and the trim around the door this blue. It will be immersion, which is why having a light color on the wall will work. The ceiling will be a bright white, when I get that far. Right now, I have to get the counted cross-stitch project done and I have a few days upcoming when I can just sit and stitch. I also have to prepare the wall for painting.

Gone will be the fish stencils and those solid color fish "stickers". They are a gel plastic. I forget how old they are. Carole was living at home when we found them somewhere and thought they would be cool. They have been, but, over the years, they have attracted and held dust and dirt. I just didn't have the gumption to pry them off the wall and repaint. I'll have to take the towel rack off the wall. I don't relish that. My fear is that I won't get it back up.

In my mind's eye, I picture doing this wall, then resting. Next would be the wall by the door and a rest. Then the wall by the sink and stool and ending with the bit of wall above the shower. It's a month-long project or, if I take a week off work, a full week's painting. The same thing goes for the back door area. A wall a week and it's done.

So, with the advent of spring, this is what inspiration looks like. Supposedly, this paint can be written on with chalk. If so, that could provide some artistic avenues in a nautical bathroom. Or I could buy this or this. Maybe the fact that I have cans of paint will keep me motivated to get this done. These are awfully expensive paperweights.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper



This may be my lone cross-stitch project this year, it's hard to say. It is important to me to get this completed as it's going to be a wedding present for an end of June wedding. I need to have it done probably by the beginning of May so it can be framed in ample time. I thought about just getting it done and letting the couple get it framed, but they could be so busy that it never does.

The first thing we start with is the fabric. I knew exactly what I wanted. It's called "Stardust" and I've used it before several years ago, to do a cross stitch of the Eiffel Tower. "Stardust" is tough to find and I have only seen it at Hobby Lobby. It's become a bit of a chore to get to HL but I wasn't going to pay 20% more to order the fabric online. On one of our weekend luncheon excursions, Pam and I swung by HL where I could get the fabric. The Eiffel Tower was done on cream-colored fabric with gold glitter embedded. For this project, I wanted the very light gray with the silver glitter.

All set and with the colors for the project collected, I sat down to stitch. A couple hours and the form of the design is already taking shape.

Day 2.

Day 3 with more added color.

After day 4 stitching, it is clear what this is going to be.

I picked up the next color and realized I had miscounted. Around the dark circle, there should be two lines of color, not one. The dark color needs to be moved northeast, if you will, to allow for the additional color. My heart sank. Did I want to rip all the dark out? That adds time. Plus, I get down because I should have figured this out when I was stitching it. Could I just work around it?

The more I looked at the pattern and what I had stitched, the more I realized I couldn't make it work. If I really want this to look right, I have to remove the dark and do that area over. So, that's what I've done.

Has it set me back? Well, not really. Ripping out color is a chore, but once that was done, stitching went quickly to reform the circle so I don't make the mistake of miscounting. Now that this is fixed, I can go forward from here. The design is not the hard part, actually. The hard part is placing the wording. That's coming.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Friday, March 18, 2016

Stairway to...No, Not Going to Say It

If my knees or hips are hurting, stairs are a bugger. Up and down are painful. But, there is no denying they are visually interesting. Take the ubiquitous metal fire escape.

Seen from below, they parcel and slice the sky into small sections and snake up the side of a building. When I have to inspect an older brick building, I always fret that I will have to do the exterior by walking out onto the fire escape. You all know I'm afraid of heights and these metal fire escapes are the absolute worst places to be. I can't grip the railing any tighter and it feels as if I will turn to pudding and drip through the grate, falling to my doom x number of floors below. But there is no denying the photographic interest in a fire escape on the side of an old Chicago brick building.

And then there were these stairs.

These were in the service section of another apartment building. Not much additional space had been added for a widening of stairs. I don't know if there had always been a spiral staircase here or if the original had been wider and was cut down to accommodate larger apartments. The plus of this was no center view either up or down which would have made me feel queasy when we went from 10 to 12 and down to 11 and back up to 12.

At best, you saw down to the next level. The biggest issue was the narrowness of the stairwell and treads. I have to go slow now on stairs and felt I was holding people up behind me as I negotiated the climb.

Still, I like the look of stairs. If I can take my time, they can be very visually interesting.

Beverage:  Water


Electric Visions

I got to inspect an electrical supply company. They have been in business since the 1930's, helping businesses and multi-dwelling buildings (love that term) electrify and update. In addition to your regular stack of straight, long, fluorescent lights,

there were other shapes.

Piled in boxes, they made for interesting patterns.

Some boxes were old, and showed a history of electrical lighting.

The boxes were dusty which leads me to believe there is no practical use for this stuff. But, as long as the space in the warehouse isn't needed for anything, they just keep the bulbs around rather than pay to dispose of them.

A stack of trouble lamps was interesting.

There must have been, easily, a couple hundred spilling from this broken box onto the floor, like yellow snakes.

I wish I had time to chat with owners of businesses who have been around for this length of time. I'm always interested in their history and how they have seen their business change over the years. They had boxes and boxes of compact fluorescent and LED lights, but, as I showed above, older lights dating from the 1940's and 50's were at the far back. This company had "lit" some rather high profile jobs over the course of their existence.

As I was looking at the stacks, I came across this bulb.

I think this is so cool. It's a recent reproduction of a design from the 1920's. It's made to be energy efficient but retro. I'm going to start looking more closely at the lighting in the buildings I inspect. Who knew there was a 'cool factor' to light bulbs.

Beverage:  Water


So You Don't Have To - Oreos Edition

On purpose, I've been avoiding the cookie aisle at the grocery. I just don't need that kind of food in the house. It's a path of least resistance, when it comes to meals. I may not be very hungry and there's a box of cookies over yonder and, well, that becomes supper. Not a good choice.

But I found myself craving cookies when friends and my news feed announced it was Girl Scout Cookie time. It's almost impossible to resist the allure of cookies during that time of year. Because I don't know any Girl Scouts, the grocery basket turned, on its own, I swear, down the cookie aisle at Mariano's. Over the course of two months, I tried three different Oreo flavors.

First up was Red Velvet.

Because this is not a part of my family heritage, I'm not completely sure of the attraction of this flavor. Perhaps, because I've not had the real thing, I don't know of the red velvet flavor I've seen in all sorts of products is correct. Steak 'n Shake had a red velvet shake I liked, but I've been little unimpressed with any other red velvet infused offerings.

I pulled open the package and, well, they are red.

The cookie part was bland. I don't know know whether that is intentional. The creme filling was not the usual Oreo flavor. It was more "creamy" tasting, not as sugary. These were okay, but unless you are trying anything with red velvet flavor on the package front, not worth the money. 

Also not worth the money was this flavor. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from this flavor. 

Is there anything to visually recommend this flavor? No. Remove the logo stamped on the cookie and I've seen this kind of thing for decades in the cookie aisle. It's a cinnamon cookie. Wow. With Oreo creme in the middle. Meh. The creme filling was a bit different in flavor, more akin to the glaze on a cinnamon roll. You could do the same thing, perhaps improve the cookie, by make sandwich cookies out of snickerdoodles and vanilla frosting. Save your money.

Finally, I tried the pumpkin filling Oreos. I thought I'd taken a photo of the bag and the cookies but all I have is this.

The cookie part was lightly gingerbread flavored. The filling had a distinct pumpkin taste but with a creamy texture. It was okay; more appealing from an Oreo standpoint than the previous two bags I'd tried. The thing I found most humorous was how the creme filling separated to look like a mouth when I'd take the cookie apart to eat it.

Here's the thing with these "exotic" flavors. The whole point of a bag of Oreos is to dunk the cookies in milk. Either you dunk the whole thing or you take it apart and just dunk the cookie. I can't, for the life of me, fathom dunking any of these cookies in milk. I wouldn't. I realize there is a growing market for "niche" flavors; those unique pairings only available for a limited time. But, as I've pointed out with M&Ms, not every flavor available needs to be in your product, even for a limited time.

Out of all of these, the pumpkin version was, to my surprise, the least offensive. I still wouldn't bother spending your money on any of these versions. Buy the regular Oreos. Get a glass of ice cold milk. Now that spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere, take your milk and a stack of Oreos onto the deck and watch winter leave. Consider all the calcium and Vitamin D you're getting. Yup, I can help you justify those 10 cookies.

Beverage:  water



I saw my eye doctor back in October, two weeks before BlizzCon. There was a slight change in my prescription which would necessitate new glasses. I really like so called them to see about glasses. It was determined that I probably wouldn't get new glasses before leaving for California and I really didn't want them to come while I was gone, even though Pam was picking up the mail. I would order new glasses when I came back. In hindsight (isn't that generally the truth), I should have ordered glasses and had them waiting for me because I got busy and then I had other expenses and it was the receipt of my tax refund which spurred me to finally buy that new pair with the new prescription. It was time.

Here is the old pair.

In this light, the frames look black, but they were a dark navy blue. I liked them the first 6 months after getting them, but, since December, I had a problem with them sliding down my nose, even if I didn't bend over. I probably wouldn't have considered new glasses even with a tax refund if they hadn't been problematic. There's nothing you can do with plastic frames, about nose slide. They are formulated for a specific measurement.

With this problem in mind, I searched the Coastal site and found these.

I've gone back to a wire frame. The gal who helped me at Coastal said there is much more room to adjust the fit with wire frames than with plastic. I can adjust the nose pads and bend the glasses slightly to fit an odd size.

I went with a more pronounced blue and it's sparkly! I like the bigger lens size. Coastal was having a 50% off sale on lenses when I ordered. That's where eyeglass manufacturers get you. A $29 frame is nothing if you have to put no-line bifocals in them.

There's been a bit of an adjustment. I still take them off when I read or when I do cross-stitch. Sometimes, things are blurry in the distance, if I look through the bottom of the lens and not the top. It's about unlearning habits because the glasses I had were out of focus for me.

I expect this is what my life is going to be like going forward. There may, or may not, be an incremental shift in my sight and I'll need to get glasses roughly every year or 18 months. Dr. Park was very happy with my eyes, saying there is no sign of any RA complications affecting my sight. Any incremental shifts are simply age-related. Ah yes, age. I've been on this earth for a few years. Some day, when I'm bored, I should try to figure out how many pair of glasses I've had since I got them in 7th grade.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


That's Up

Finally got one poster up on the wall in the office.

No, it's not square in the middle of the wall. I'm going to put a couple of photos near the right corner; photos of the girls. I got the cutest frames. I am still debating about the Iowa football poster. I may bring it home and put it on the wall in the back room. Originally, it was going to go on the wall to the right, above the cabinet. Now, I'm thinking that corner will be too cluttered. I love the Fantasia poster on the wall, however. It came out exactly as dynamic as I thought it would.

I tried to hang one of the items on the wall behind my desk. The press-on hangers will stick to the wall but not the back of the cross-stitch I have for that wall because the back of the frame is fuzzy. I am going to need to put a nail in the wall, something I was hoping to avoid. I need to get a couple more hangers like I used to hang the framed poster. What I have won't hold what I have left to hang. I need to find a plant stand for the aloe and the geranium in my window. I really should transplant the geranium into something else. Spring is here which means I start contemplating what plants go on the deck. That will spur me to repot the geranium.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Will They Work?

I still clean a bit here and there, tossing things into a give away pile which is growing more massive as the weeks pass. I really need one of the veterans groups to call me for donations, mainly so I can start all over making a pile.

While going through the closet in my bedroom, I found these items.

I remember when Carole and I were going to use these for Halloween costumes. I hesitate to guess how old they are.

So, I wonder, would they still work? I know it's a "simple" chemical reaction that happens when you apply pressure to the item which makes it glow. I wonder if the potential for that chemical reaction diminishes over time. Can these be stored indefinitely? At BlizzCon, Liz had glow bracelets for us to wear. She got 100 of them for $10 on Amazon. Ashley and I had great fun looking through the colors and deciding which ones went with our outfits. I don't have a reason to wear these so I don't want to "crack" them to make the glow, just to see. If it still works, I've lost one item. Guess I'll just hang onto them and maybe wear them to the opening night of the World of Warcraft movie in June.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Officially Spring

I changed the decoration on the front door.

It's officially spring, for me. I have a wreath adorned with spring flowers; tulips, daffodils, lily of the valley. It's lovely but this holds a special place in my heart. Carole and I made this some 15 years ago. Once I take it down for summer decoration, I need to reglue a lot of the lilac sprays and put a better hanger on the back. I have, for the last 5 years, at least, said this every year, even when I put the other wreath on the door. One of the pink sprays was loose this year and fell off as I was hanging this on the door. I just shoved it into the depths where I think it will stay for the time being.

Ah spring. The crocus are finally up.

I've heard a cacophony of birds in the backyard. Something is making noise in the back beginning at 10:30 p.m. My initial thought is some sort of owl, but perhaps it's something else? It's not human, to be sure.

I'm ready for spring. It's been a depressing winter.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Of Course You Realize, This Means War

Got a package from my brother, Dan, a couple weeks ago. It started with a Priority Mail box that had Bears duct tape on the ends. I didn't think to take a photo of the box when I opened it. The duct tape on each end meant I had to actually destroy the box to get into it. I dumped out the contents and found this.

It's a Priority Mail envelope which has been folded around something and sealed with Bears duct tape. (My brother is a big Bears fan.) At that point, I knew something was up. This is obviously something I must document. I had to get the scissors and cut through the duct tape to free enough of the packaging to dump out the contents. This was inside.

It's a belated Christmas present. The wrapping paper is held together with electrical tape. This is totally appropriate, coming from my brother. It was easy to get through this layer. Here is the next layer. (Sensing a theme, perhaps?)

It was yet another bag only this bag was held together with brown tape and Bears duct tape. We're down a couple sizes now, from the original package size. I'm wondering, at this point, just what he sent. Could it be a gift card and I'm going to have to go through 15 more layers? I had to cut this layer to get enough of the packaging free to see what the next layer was.


"Couldn't you feel the M&M's?" I hear you asking. He had compressed the bag so tightly and added all the layers so, no, it didn't feel like a bag of M&Ms. This is hilarious. Of course, you know, I must "retaliate".

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Million Dollar View

My job takes me a variety of places. Most are what could be termed "usual"; a house, a business, a building. Occasionally, I find myself in some place different. Such was the case a couple months ago.

The City of Chicago is a big land mass. If you live "in the city", you generally reference where you live by the neighborhood. In November of last year, the magazine Mental Floss, published an article explaining how the various Chicago neighborhoods got their nicknames. It's worth a read to see how much of a melting pot Chicago was and still is.

The job I had to do took me to the tony "Gold Coast" area, so named for the rich members of Chicago society settling here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I had to inspect parts of a building around a remodel. The area to be remodeled sold, a few years back for over 5 million dollars. You read that right. Five MILLION dollars. It's 5500 square feet in a building that dates to the 1930's. The elevators are tiny, tiny and parking is, well, almost non-existent. There is a reciprocal agreement with adjacent buildings for condo owners in this building to park "overflow" vehicles for a monthly fee. I don't know what "overflow" actually means.

What would compel someone to toss that amount of money at a condo? Well, you're steps off Michigan Avenue, although I don't know where a grocery store is. If you bought a new sofa, I'm not exactly sure how they would get it into your home, given the dimensions of the elevators. And although I see why the current owners are doing a remodel of the space for which they paid millions, the sheer movement of old material out and new material in is going to be a headache for the construction company. Why would you spend that kind of money?

Perhaps it's the view.

This particular building, once you got above the 9th floor had unobstructed views of Lake Michigan.

There was a bit to the east, but more to the northeast and north.

Is this a million dollar view? I don't know. It was cool the day I was there. The windows had deep sills where you could put pillows and sit and read while looking out over a large expanse of water. But I wonder how I would feel about night.

One of the attractions of a city like Chicago is how it looks at night. There's an almost Christmas quality to the city, with all the lights. I am, also, a big fan of dark skies, mainly because I love to look up and see stars. Do you get that with a view like this or do you simply get the mass of black, black gray, gray, and blue black which comes with night in the city.

On the day I was there, the view was lovely, not impressive, but lovely. The lake is always in motion; some times more active than other times. It would be ever changing. For my money, it's not worth millions to watch it. What do you think?

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea