Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Two and a Half Weeks

It will be the Spring Equinox. The examples of its arrival are in abundance.

This blurry image shows the area between the front birdbath and the house. I'm hoping those are tulips. There were Shirley tulips in this bed, but I worried they were eclipsed by the overgrown nature of the beds. I should probably move the bath to make sure nothing is trying to sprout under it.

On the other side, the hyacinths and tulips are pushing through the ground. I don't see the crocus but they are notorious for not being visible and, the next day, being everywhere.

The Weather Channel announced Chicagoland had a dubious record today. It's the first January and February in 146 years where there has not been any snow cover. We did have snow overnight on Saturday, but it stuck only on my deck and car, not on the grass or even the sidewalk. Our precipitation has been rain. We need more of that, honestly. With the thaw out of the ground, there's no water when you dig down, as I discovered when I planted the bird feeder pole. We should be seeing some plants poking their heads through the ground now, that's normal, but the unseasonable warmth of the last week has accelerated growth and that's not really a good thing.

People were complaining the weather had turned "cold" this week. I just shake my head. It's a good 20 degrees above what is statistically normal. 55 is NOT normal. We should still have a foot of snow cover.

It's hard to plan the yard when the weather is weirder than usual. I mentioned getting seeds for the front. Do I start to look for pansies or should I just wait until the end of April for more tender plants to arrive in greenhouses? I remember snow on Memorial Day but I'm thinking that's not going to happen again.

I'll watch these bulbs and we'll see how quickly they grow. And, more importantly, we'll see what they are. I need to remove the rest of some volunteer trees which were cut back, down to the ground, in early June. While I'm itching to get out the shovel and trowel and the seed packets. I need to remember the last 'frost free' date is technically May 15th. Wonder if they will modify that, ever.

Beverage:  Water


Thanksgiving Lights

Last Thanksgiving was a milestone birthday for me. I don't talk my age except to say Play-Doh and I share a birth year, although it was "born" in April and I was born in November. For this occasion, I went to Virginia to spent the holiday with Carole and Larry. I returned the day after her November 28th birthday. It had been several years since we'd celebrated together.

Thanksgiving dinner was at Larry's parents' house. In the full tradition of American largess, the sideboards groaned with food. Baked turkey, deep-fried turkey, Virginia ham, mashed and scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, creamed and whole kernel corn, cornbread, rolls, applesauce, pickled beans, beets, stuffing and dressing, items I'm forgetting and macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese is a southern Thanksgiving tradition, I learned. We don't serve that 'up nort'. There were two birthdays to celebrate on Thanksgiving Day in addition to my birthday on Saturday and Carole's the following Monday. I forget how many different desserts there were. We came home with so many leftovers, we didn't cook the whole time I was there.

The next day, we played board games and decorated the house for Christmas. It was 72 degrees out. I had to remind myself this would not last once the sun went down and that was truth. We watched my Hawkeyes beat the snot out of Nebraska in football and then went to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for their annual light show. Carole and Larry have annual passes to this place because they have become a Pokemon hot spot and Larry loves Pokemon. They figured out they only have to go to 2.5 Pokemon events to pay for an annual pass and the Ginter holds more than that, plus all their other events, per year.

We met friends, Jon and Becky. A cold front had moved through during the football game, dropping the temperature 20 degrees and triggering drizzle. Still, we figured, if we got there 30-45 minutes before closing, most people would be leaving. The timing was perfect.

The theme was "Living Color". The first section you walked into was green.

It's a couple mile walk to go everywhere. There was a section for kids with a rainbow maze and tents of multicolored lights.

My little camera didn't do very well with photographs in the dark. I needed a tripod. Some things, like this tree, where I could place the camera on a post, came out fine. But a lot of the photos were blurry.

I love this photo, however.

There was a fence and I could sit the camera on the fence and depress the shutter. Enough light from the decorations meant the shutter speed was fast enough to capture the view.

In the middle of the park is a lake. Across the lake from the kids area was a large pavilion where tropical plants were. This was the view from the path up to a watch tower.

Inside the pavilion was warm and humid, prompting our glasses to steam over. As if the lights around the gardens weren't enough of an attraction, there was this tree in one of the back rooms.

That's Jon and Becky. It was an amazing creation, assembled in the same place every year specifically for photographs. 

These last two photos were taken with a cell phone camera. For my Disney trip in October, I need a better camera. I like the portability of my palm-sized one, but I need something better to capture the moments. 

In spite of the nip and drizzle in the air and the few times we had to contend with obnoxious, undisciplined children and the adults who didn't care, it was a magical event. There are Christmas light events around me which I've talked about attending and never have. I need to go. 

Beverage:  Water



Growing up on a farm, surrounded by plants and animals, can spoil you to the wonders of what a yard could hold. When we first moved into this house, I admit to trying to tame nature to be something it wasn't. Over the years, I've gone from seeing it as something of an adversary to a friend. I realized if I wanted to grow organic, I couldn't use synthetic pesticides or herbicides. If I wanted butterflies, and I remember clouds of them in the garden on the farm, I was going to have to call city hall and ask that spraying for mosquitoes occur sporadically, rather than every week. The pesticide used to kill mosquitoes was killing butterfly larva. A golf club yard isn't necessarily the most diverse and can be a desert for birds.

It's taken awhile and I still have some things in the basement, like Round Up, which I use on tree stumps and to control the spread of Canadian thistle. I'm not feeding thistle seed to finches in my yard. Sorry birds, but you're messy and I want to be able to walk barefoot through the yard without stepping on those things. Gad that hurts. There are other foods I can put out which will be good and then I'm not wandering around with Round Up worried about the repercussions of spraying whole sections of yard for thistle.

It takes awhile for the wild life to figure out what you're doing and to return. Squirrels, no. Raccoons, no. Opossums, no. Put some stale peanuts in the ground feeder on the deck and the next morning, well...

Such a mess. Fortunately, I could just sweep the shells off into the lawn but as much as it's a hoot to watch the squirrels take a couple of peanuts off into the back of the yard, it's not worth the morning mess. I like feeding peanuts but I make a pile on the tree stump where the raccoons and opossums can feast and not tip things over.

One creature I had not seen in any form in years was this.

It's a dragonfly. The body was irridescent green. The wings were black with hints of blue. It's extremely hard to sneak up on a dragonfly to take a photo, but it flitted around the back for a good hour, alighting on various branches.

I also had hummingbirds. I have to post those photos, as I work through all the photos I took last year which never got blogged. What I hope is getting the birdbath in the front fixed so it retains water and redoing where the birdbath is on the deck will encourage more dragonflies and hummingbirds and just wildlife in general to hang around the yard. I should look into suet posts and probably hummingbird feeders, too, but one step at a time.

Sometimes, when I'm watching squirrel acrobatics to get into the north feeder, I think I should have done this years ago; kept it up when I had one feeder. One feeder got to be a chore. But you make choices about what you can do and I can do this now. It gives me immense pleasure.

Now is when it will be done, then.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Found in the Closet

I've slowly been whittling the clothing in the closet. It's an ongoing affair. Pull something out, muse on it and decide if it's worth saving. I filled up two grocery bags with shirts over the past month. There were some sweaters amongst those; sweaters I've had for over a decade but which no longer fit and are uninteresting to me. The closet feels lighter, which is a good thing.

On one of our recent extremely mild days, I reached in and pulled out a polo shirt.

I was a band mom for four years when Carole was in high school. We didn't have anything like that when I was band. We marched in parades and did half-time shows for football games. We played pep band for basketball games. There were concerts in the winter and spring and music contests because we know exposure to music makes kids smarter. But, beyond my mom helping when the music contest was at our school, she didn't travel with the band. This competitive marching that Carole did didn't exist.

The shirt has remained remarkably well for as old as it is. I was given this by a band parent who was leaving the program. I maybe should have passed it on, but I feel a kind of honor in still having it. As much as it doesn't have real meaning to my life right now, I'm not likely to get rid of it either. It still fits. It wears like cast iron and it represents a time of fun and excitement. Who wouldn't want to save something with memories like that?

Beverage:  Heather tea


I Did...a...Thing!

One of the things I keep telling myself is that I need to eat better. One of the purposes of rummaging in the big box of recipes is an attempt to eat something more than Cheerios, straight from the box, on a Wednesday night because I'm too tired to make anything. We all know there are a whole host of complications which derive from not eating well. But when the amount of energy I have is inversely proportional to the amount of energy needed to feed myself, well, myself gets the short end. I love peanut butter so I have been known to subsist on peanut butter sandwiches for a whole week of meals, just because I have found the best tasting 12 grain bread and a peanut butter sandwich his ridiculously easy to make.

I have stuff frozen, but it's reached the point where some of it is just not appealing. This Wednesday, the day before garbage day, I'm going through the freezer with an eye towards whether I will ever cook and eat whatever this is. It's a waste of money, to be sure, to chuck something you bought, but a freezer burned slice of roast just isn't going to be eaten, no matter how much tomato sauce I smother it with. My goal is to have foods in the freezer which are good for me, reasonably easy to prepare or are part of an upcoming recipe I'm going to try. I found a recipe for salmon and I do like salmon. It's a quick meal to prepare.

I found, in the bottom section of freezer, a package of parmesan crusted chicken breasts. I remembered buying them several months ago. Would they still be okay? There were 2 of them. When thawed, I put them in a dish and baked them for 45 minutes, the last 15 minutes without foil over the top of the dish. For having been frozen for several months, they were very good. I bought a package of instant mashed potatoes and made peas and carrots. I always have frozen vegetables. That seems to be something I'm never out of.

The resulting meal made enough for lunch the next day. I added some garlic powder to the potatoes. I'm not one for mashed potatoes because of all the work in making them from scratch. The instant ones are quick, maybe a bit high in sodium, but were creamy and tasted very good.

So, I did...a...thing. I cooked for myself. It didn't take that long to make a decent meal and I had enough for the next day. In fact, there was more than enough mashed potatoes to add to the left over pasta in meat sauce I had the day after this one.

What I'm trying to do is reorder my thinking on meals. My friend, Emily, spends one weekend day every other week making crock pot meals and freezing them. In the morning, she grabs a meal, tosses it in the crock pot, and it happily cooks all day. At most, she makes rice to go with whatever she's cooked. That's a noble idea and I applaud her for that, but it's not something I will do.

The other component of this is I get paid once a month. I have a tendency to think in month swaths and that mind set is hard to break. Sit down, make a meal plan for a whole month. That sounds great. You only shop once a month. Except what sounds good on the 26th of February may sound horrible on the 26th of March. Plus, if I'm going to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet, which is sadly lacking in them, I don't know of any peppers who last a month in the crisper drawer, or, as I like to call it, the "in-house composting drawer". It would be much better for me to think in terms of weekly or bi-weekly shopping trips where produce is purchased.

I'm such a slow learner. It's going to take some work, on my part, to get this ingrained, but I'd like to have more energy and keep my RA meds where they currently are. That's going to need my dedication to mashed potatoes and chicken breasts.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Overwinter This

If you've visited here for any length of time, you know I overwinter geraniums every year. The big pink one has been around for, I think 8 years now. I bring them in when nighttime temperatures get below 40 and they don't go back out until nighttime temperatures get to 55 or above. I repotted a couple last year and tossed one that didn't make it. It was spindly when I brought it in and I worried, but it hung on until April when it developed root rot and fell over.

One of the geraniums I repotted didn't really need it, but when I moved it outside, I noticed this on the top of the soil.

Further examination showed these are egg masses. I don't get grossed out by much, but this was unpleasant. I wound up dumping all the soil out of this pot and moving this geranium to a different pot entirely. This pot was soaked in dish detergent and used, in June for annuals.

No, I don't completely know what bug chose to lay eggs in my geranium. This was the ONLY one, out of 5 pots, which had this. Initially, I thought it was salt from watering, but when I moved the geranium outside, I noticed the little spheres. A friend has suggested these are stink bug eggs. I assumed they laid their eggs in my walls and that's why I'll never, ever, be rid of them. They stay warm in the insulation of the walls, hatch and come out to fly around the warmth of the living room lamps. (Hamlet loves to chase them, but he's learned you don't bite them.)

I'm at a loss about what these could have been. Whatever they were, they were unceremoniously dumped in the back yard. I'm planning to repot all the geraniums this spring, to give them fresh soil. I haven't seen anything like this but there are still 2 months to go before they are back on the deck for spring, summer and fall.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Slow Transformation

It was mid May of last year. I was dreading the thought of mowing the lawn so I hadn't done it. It wasn't that long, but it was getting there. I was online, playing World of Warcraft with friends, and there was a knock on the front door. Answering it, here stood a young man offering to do yard work. He gave me a good price and said he could mow the lawn in the next 2 hours and he would pick up tree branches and haul them away. Given that I was a bit achy from my RA, sure. After mowing the lawn, he wanted to know if I wanted him to do it every week. Well, every week, particularly in the summer, is a bit much. I had issues with the last lawn service I hired billing me for work I don't think they ever did. His price was good, plus, he trimmed around things and hauled away fallen branches.

Over the course of the past summer, Jeremy has been my landscaper. We've looked at what was overgrown and decided what needed to be handled and what I could afford.

He understands how important those milkweed plants are so he carefully trims around them and we let some sections get scruffy if the milkweed is too close to be trimmed without losing one.

One of the places he made a difference last year, was in the front.

There used to be planting beds on either side of the walk. The arbor used to stand upright. Both of those things had been lost over the course of several years.

The white cap is the clean out for the sewer line from the house to the street. Jeremy removed all the sod from here and reawakened the beds.

He dug up and replanted the arbor so it stands upright. I should get a new one, but that's way low on the list of things to buy for the yard.

There was a volunteer tree in the north bed and he dug that up. Found the few bits of statuary I had on either side.

The warning sign and the squirrel were not in the best shape and had to be discarded. The rabbit is concrete and just needed to be washed off to go back in the bed.

I didn't get things planted right away, so some weeds grew back, but there were a few flowers on both sides last year.

It can be tough to get down on the ground and weed, but it's good for the soul.

This year, I'm putting seeds in the beds. There will be sunflowers and coreopsis. I'll still fill in with a few plants, but the sunflowers I grew last year did so well, they deserve to be seen from the street. Also on the docket, will be a rehabbing of the prairie plant bed.

I want to enlarge this and add more plants. The milkweed do well, but I haven't had daisies or black-eyed susans for many years. I also want to move it about a foot away from the drive. I have a tendency, when I back in, to run over the 6 inches closest to the drive. The plants which are in the bed, purple coneflower, will simply be dug up and moved. With someone to do the initial digging, I can do the planting. Enjoying your space. That's what this is all about.

Beverage:  Hot Cocoa


Friday, February 24, 2017

Getting Along, Sometimes

Monday evening, I'm sitting at the computer and all is well with the world. It's quiet in the house. The only sounds are the computer game I'm playing and the voices of my friends through the voice chat we use to communicate when we play. I turned to the right to go put the kettle on for tea and this was what I saw.

Mija is the brown blob in the right corner of the recliner.

Are they getting along? I would say, six months into life with kitten, 90% of the time, yes, yes they are. We had occasional moments of cooperation in the fall.

This was taken when I was streaming an Iowa Hawkeyes game on the computer. The girls know I tend to get "excited". Hamlet thought something horrible had happened and took off for the back part of the house. It helped there were clean clothes lacking cat hair dumped on the bed.

Clean clothes seem to facilitate sleeping together.

Here, I had decided to sort my tee shirts, to pack away ones I no longer wear. I know I should think about giving them away, but I have this great pattern for a quilt which uses the whole shirt and, well, I can't quite make the break to adding them to the give away bags. I was in the process of putting shirts back in the closet and got distracted by another task, so the last bit was left. I think I was doing laundry at the same time. I came back in the bedroom an hour later and here they are.

I do think Hamlet has helped the girls lose that last bit of weight the vet wanted them to lose. He chases both of them, although Pilchard has jumped into the chasing and wrestling bit more willingly than Mija. I worried when I adopted Hamlet, that I'd spend years yelling, "Knock it off!" and separating angry cats. It's gone better than I expected and I am so very happy about that.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


How Do You Like Your Car?

I have been asked this alot lately. It's been six months since the Jeep was replaced. I've gone through every season except spring, but, given the warm air over Chicagoland, you could say we had mini-spring this past week.

I'm driving around Chicagoland on Monday, February 20th, with the windows down and wearing a short sleeved shirt. My photo feed reminds me that 3 years ago, we had 6 inches of snow.

There are things I miss about the Jeep. It was fun to drive, even in traffic, with the stick shift. It sat up higher and I felt I could see more of what was around me. I'm constantly tweaking the mirrors because I don't feel I can see to my left or right, even when I turn to look before changing lanes. Never had that issue with the Jeep. There is one thing the Malibu has which the Jeep did not.

I have information at my finger tips. This was in August. We didn't get a lot of 100+ degree days. We haven't had a summer that hot in a few years. I'm not complaining, mind you. I like hot weather but I think I would feel extremely oppressed if that was the norm, rather than the exception.

On the Monday the above photo was taken, this was the temperature when I got into the car.

I documented this more for the "Oh look. An even number of miles", than the temperature. I haven't figured out the trip meter. I'm going to have to actually read the owner's manual for that. Until I do that, I write the beginning and ending mileage in the notebook I carry with me. The Jeep had a little button I pushed to reset the trip meter.

I also have a tire pressure and oil life indicator I can scroll through. I don't like the lack of a beep or a light if the gas gauge gets low. I have to notice and then set the display for "Fuel Distance". I've come close to being out of gas because I don't have that on the display. (Note to self: you need gas.) Perhaps a noise can be set but I'll have to read the manual to figure out how.

I used the Sirius XM radio free three-month trial and I am NOT signing up for that service. If I listened to classic rock, hip hop, rap, or current popular music, it would pay to have it. The sheer abundance of stations playing that kind of music was immense. I listen to jazz. I had the 1940's channel; the all Frank Sinatra channel; the 'smooth jazz' channel; and a channel devoted to Broadway musicals. Huh? No thanks. When I go cross-country and are out of the reach of my local jazz station, I have a CD player. I can listen to Gregory Porter's "Be Good" or Annie Lennox's "Nostalgia" or Duke Ellington's "Three Suites" or "Ella and Louis Together" or any of my jazz albums, provided I remember to bring my CD case. And don't even get me started on my Scottish music. A station for that? You're nuts.

They have been calling to get me to renew my subscription but don't seem to get that what they offer is not what I like. Last night, I told the guy, "Please stop calling. I won't sign up and the more you call, the more angry I am and the less likely I'll consider your service, period." "But...but...ma'am, you just need to listen..." Click.

As I travel about for work, I've found a number of people who say the Malibu is probably the best passenger car Chevrolet makes. They are impressed I drive one, even one which is 6 years old.  How do I like my car? For once, in spite of the circumstances surrounding the purchase, I got a break from life. I'm happy. It works for me.

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Of Course I Had to Get Them

I tend to be a suspicious consumer when something is pitched via a side advert on any Internet space where I'm visiting. We all know the algorithms sites use can scrape your viewing and posting information and then tailor those ads to what might be interesting to you. They are as wrong as they are right. Real estate? Seriously? A website which purports to help you evict tenants who don't pay? Does this include stink bugs?

Facebook is horrendous for doing this. I get that this is how they make money. An ad you find interesting where you go to the web site and, perhaps, subsequently buy something nets them a fee for ad placement. Because of that, I tend to be hostile to anything which shows up in my feed. "You paid to place an ad there. If I want your product or service, I'll look you up." Except when this barrier fails.

I was doing alright. Apathetic. Unemotional. And then; well, look.

I got suckered in. But come on, how could I not resist? The problem is that, although each sock was listed at $2.00 each, by the time you added shipping and handling, the whole package, and I had to have each pair, although you could buy them separately, amounted to $16.00. That's hardly the advertised price of $2.00 each. I should have known better. But, in my defense, cat socks.

They are, actually, quite comfortable.

They aren't very tall.

My fat legs tend to distort the face. (Mija socks, above.)

This pair is as close to Pilchard as they got. There aren't any for Hamlet.

The numerical reality is that the final cost does represent what I think the quality is. They were $4.00 a pair or, we could say $3.50 each if I bought them in the store and paid sales tax. That's about what I pay for good socks. I have some 50 cent pairs and there's usually an issue with the seam at the toe. These don't have that issue.

They were in my feed for about two months during the summer and have since vanished; a reason they are unique. I've never seen anything quite like them and I found myself poking about in some sock websites at Christmas. Getting these also forced me to take a hard look at what I had in the drawer and decide if I really wanted to fix a few of the pairs with holes. I got rid of several whose elastic at the top had broken which allowed them to sink into my shoes.

The bottom line is that I shouldn't be swayed by stuff advertised on social media or on my news feeds. Generally speaking, I'm not. But I've allowed myself this one purchase because these were cats.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cat TV

We've been in a dome of unseasonably mild air for the past week. That's allowed me to do a bit of yard work. Viola. A new channel of "Cat TV".

I've had this pole feeder for awhile. Originally, it was going to hang on a hook off the northwest corner of the deck. Birds like to use feeders where there is some cover so, in the event of a predator arriving, they can flee to the relative safety of a nearby bush or tree. The back has that, but I wanted to see the birds and even when I get the electrical fixed and move my office back into the original room, there's no place for me to put the feeder, except on a pole, in the back yard. Because the fixing of the electrical issue is months away, I'm here at the picture window when I'm on the computer. I needed to put the feeder where not only the cats, but me could see it.

I raked the bed clear. The warm weather has the bulbs pushing through the ground and the frost is out of the ground now. That pile in front is debris from last years weeds, and pine cones off the pine trees to the right. It's not time for yard waste to be hauled away so this is going to sit for a bit. I should get one of the yard waste cans and, at the next slightly warm weekend, move this into that can so it doesn't kill the emerging grass.

The birdbath is what I won last year in a contest from my favorite nursery. It's heavy duty amalgam; kind of concrete-ish, but much less heavy. It's also cracked. It was in the backyard, by the air conditioner. But the wind over the late fall and winter knocked it over a couple of times. Where the pedestal meets the bath is cracked. There is a hole on the left side and one in the bath itself. When I filled the bath with water, it all drained out. A friend has suggested an epoxy which comes in a quart container and can be brushed on. It provides a seal and should prevent water from leaking. That was disappointing, but it's nice to think I can fix it, once the weather stays above 60 at night.

It takes several days for new feed and new feeders to be noticed. I filled the bird feeder stuck to the north window.

You can see "Police cat" is on duty. Hamlet paws at the window and the squirrel usually runs. I think this is the little guy who had a scabbed over wound on his shoulder. He was fat so he's getting food, but his left shoulder had a scab an inch long, as if something had tried to grab him or he cut himself going somewhere. The fur had fallen off around the scab. He didn't look worse for the wear other than this injury. He was jumping from the pine onto the window sill and then climbing the window to the feeder and crawling in. This morning, when I left for work, a squirrel was in the feeder. I have a critter block on the stump in the back yard, but I think the wide variety of seed in this feeder is more attractive than the corn and sunflowers in the block. Hamlet was right at the window, too.

And I heard a familiar bird song out the front window as I gathered my belongings.

He's hard to see, but there is a chickadee on the left side of the feeder. I noticed there was another in the tree that's off the frame to the left. Chickadees tend to be first to find new feeding potential. I expect, if they have found this, the sparrows and finches won't be far behind. I know the squirrels will try to claim the feeder. I don't have a baffle on this. I'm debating greasing the pole come spring. I should have put cayenne pepper in the seed when I filled it. Birds can't taste that, but squirrels can. It takes, I'm told, a couple of mouthfuls of cayenne-laced seed and they learn this is not something they want to eat.

I found a smaller, better designed tray feeder which adheres to a window. I'm going to give that a try. I gave away the other feeder since it just didn't seem to want to stay stuck to the front window, irrespective of a 1 pound squirrel sitting in it.

They notice the squirrels when they get into the window feeder. They had not noticed the chickadees on the pole because this is the first day I've had them. I remember, years ago, when we did this, there was a cardinal pair who, once they learned the cat and us, couldn't get to them through the glass, came to the feeder and let us watch them. I'm hoping that will, eventually, be the case. It's about making your space inviting for you, and giving the cats something to watch while you're gone during the day.

Beverage:  Orange Juice


Cooking With Deb - Nope Cookies

After the reasonable success of the brownie pie, the next recipe to try was a cookie recipe. It was easy enough with 5 ingredients.

I had everything except the cake mix. I had to go to the grocery anyway, so a cake mix was procured and I decided to see how these tasted.

There was an issue right away. I neglected to read the size of the cake mix I purchased. A "standard" cake mix is 16.9 ounces. This recipe calls for a mix of 9 ounces. I stood in my kitchen and pondered this dilemma. They must mean a cake mix from a company called "Jiffy". I've used their muffin mixes. They are quick and easy to use. I kicked myself for not reading the recipe closely. But, this can be fixed. Seventeen ounces is almost double nine ounces. I'll just double everything else and it should be okay.

The recipe mixed up quickly, as befitting the name. I was slightly disappointed in the fluidity of the batter once everything was added. I added a quarter cup of all-purpose flour to the batter to make it more viscous. Knowing that the baking process would cause the batter to spread, the liquidity of this batter was disconcerting. I decided the "fix" for this was 30 minutes in the fridge. After that amount of time, the batter was much more solid and I felt would not melt all over the cookie sheet.

Well, they didn't melt all over the cookie sheet. I'm not sure, specifically, what the burned stuff is. I think it's butterscotch chips. After the 30 minutes in the fridge, these didn't spread as much as I was anticipating, which was good. I could pack more cookies on a sheet, which means less dishes to wash. Win win. But the burned bits bothered me. There shouldn't be stuff which oozes out and gets burnt.

Here is the finished product, cooling on the rack.

Taste? Blah. They were quite mealy. I don't know if that's because I added that extra quarter cup of flour so all the dry ingredients would be doubled, or if it's a product of using cake mix as your base. They crumbled easily. There was next to no sweetness in the recipe, not in and of itself bad; but you have an expectation there will be sweetness to cookies. The raw dough was okay to taste, but the baked cookies lacked a redeeming quality to move this from "Okay, I've tried this. Now to recycle the recipe" to the recipe box as a keeper.

Next up is a main dish meal recipe. I think I mentioned this in an earlier post that, although I have everything to make it, I'm a bit on the fence about trying it. However, I need to follow through or what would this experiment be?

Beverage:  Raspberry Seltzer


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Now These are Cool

Dashed over to the grocery on Sunday to pick up ingredients for the next two new recipes I'm making. One, involving hamburger, I'm having second thoughts on, but I must persevere. The other is cookies so those I'm not worried about.

As I was leaving, my eye caught these lilies by the exit.

They were called "Love in Bloom". I like the dramatic deep burgundy contrasted with the white. My favorite lilies are "Stargazers", which are very similar to these.

They aren't as deep burgundy and have more "freckles". It would be outstanding to have a bed of lilies with all white in the center and then these two around the outside. Not on the list of garden things this year.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, February 13, 2017


In case you missed it, there was a grand celestial event this past Friday night. First of all, there was a luminous full moon. Then, there was a lunar eclipse. Finally, a comet, which looked green, was to pass through the night sky. I've mentioned how my dad was enamored with the night sky. He bought a telescope when we were kids and we looked at the moon, a lot, particularly in the summer. That was mainly because we complained about the cold, even though winter skies are clearer than summer skies.

Because of his interest, evening skies and celestial events are still a great draw for me. This August, part of Illinois will get to experience a total solar eclipse. I thought about trying to drive south, but everyone and their brother will be down there. I'll be happy for the 90% we'll get up here. It makes very interesting shadows. The last time we experienced this, Carole was in 5th grade and her school had an eclipse party. We made pin hole cameras for all the classrooms. I do remember street lights coming on where the street was shady.

The computer sits facing the east so I get a good view of the moon as it rises. On Friday, I thought the eclipse was to 'start' at 6:48 pm my time. The night was clear, which was, itself, wonderful because we'd had 3 weeks of near constant clouds. The moon rose and, well, nothing. In all the time I watched, I never saw any indication of a lunar eclipse. I was busy so I couldn't check astronomy web sites. The umbra color of the moon during an eclipse is always fascinating. I never saw anything green in the night sky either. Just the red and white lights of incoming aircraft headed to O'Hare airport. It was something of a let down.

But, I was able to take photos, back in November of the Super Hunter's Moon. This is from November 12th.

The actual Hunter's Moon was the 14th, but it was big and white on the 13th. Here it is, rising in the east.

It usually takes a bit of time to go from a light yellow to full white, but the November moon seemed to start out white and just get brighter as the evening wore on. I remember it was nice out, so standing on the front steps trying to get decent photos of it wasn't an exercise in frozen fingers.

You can see in the above photo that it's not quite 100%. Compare the above photo with one taken on the 14th at, roughly, the same time.

It's always an adventure to take moon photos when the moon clears the tree line. I often have to walk down the steps and get the moon in branches before backing up so there is only the white orb left. And, at times like this, I wish I had better equipment than a pocket digital camera or my phone, which is years old.

We've had a lot of celestial "It won't happen again in your lifetime" events in the last 20 years. This is another one. It's exciting.

Beverage:  Raspberry seltzer


Patt Saves the Day

I'm pretty sure I never blogged about this. I had every intention of doing so, but things got hectic and the photo was misplaced.

My friend, Patt, gave me this when I went to visit her over Memorial Day 2015. I had no idea something like this existed. She had retired from her administrative position and was cleaning out cupboards. "Maybe you could use this?" she asked. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know what it was until she explained it.

It has saved my pocketbook and my work time. I found another one on a clearance shelf at Target. You see I have chicken noodle soup in this. But once I discovered Chef Boy-ar-dee still made Spaghetti O's, I started taking a can's worth in this one. So the one I got at Target is used for soup. You know, try as you might, tomato stains don't always come out of Tupperware after it's been microwaved.

This has made lunches so much better. I dump a can of soup or Sketti O's into the container and take it to work. Add a bowl of Jell-O or sliced fruit or vegetables and I have a full meal. I don't absent-mindedly hop in the car and head to Wendy's or Subway; the two closest restaurants; for lunch. It saves me money and I can work through lunch. There are days when you just need to get out because you need the break, but my finances are much better for not going out a lot.

I have the best friends.

Beverage:  Cranberry Tea


Sunday, February 12, 2017

What Is This?

I had to do some home inspections at the end of summer last year. These were large homes with a lot of different landscaping. I find myself mentally filing away things that work and things that don't.

One of the homeowners had this plant in pots by the garage.

It was tall, even taking into consideration it was in a pot. I would say it was probably 6 feet tall. The homeowner had put impatiens around the bottom and this was shooting up from the center.

I have no idea what this is. The husband just shrugged and said, "I dunno. My wife finds this stuff." It's so distinctive. Is it invasive? Is it self-seeding? Is it like a dahlia where I have to dig up the tubers to overwinter in my climate? I have not been able to find this in my seed and plant catalogues. I'm going to be redoing a few of my planting beds this year so I'm on the lookout for distinctive plants. The prairie plant bed is getting enlarged. I don't think this is a native prairie plant, but I could be wrong. Any reader have an idea?

Beverage:  Cranberry Tea


The Things You Learn

Work takes me into a wide variety of structures. I've detailed, in this space, some of the historic structures where I find myself. I've documented the intriguing, the goofy and the "huh?". We had to inspect a Sherwin-Williams paint store warehouse several months ago. It serviced not only homeowners, but also contractors. There were the typical paint store accouterments about the front walls; paint chips, computer for matching colors; rollers and brushes; masking tape; all the stuff you'd find in any paint store.

We headed to the back, into the warehouse, because the job for which we were doing the inspection was adjacent to the back wall. We walked past cans of neutral base. I expected that. There were several different brands of neutral base. I was a bit surprised because I didn't know Sherwin-Williams owned all these different brands. The store manager said different bases have different sheens and have different tones to their colors. That's why they had a 30 foot wall of paint chips. What's yellow in one brand is more lemon in another. It's about giving the customer options.

At the back I saw this.

Rows and rows and palettes upon palettes of 10 gallon sized buckets of paint. These are broken down based on a customer's needs. Certain base colors are for certain mixed colors. They had four industrial mixers, giant red machines where they could make one of these Rembrandt Ruby or Calypso or Quest Gray. They can make large amounts of one color or several gallons of the same color. They service a number of Sherwin-Williams paint stores so these buckets are broken into gallons of base when a store needs more. Plus, a contractor painting all the hallways in an apartment building, for instance, will want 10 gallons of the same color. He can come here and they'll make it.

We've all purchased paint. It comes in a gallon can with a lid whose edge you bend when you have to use the screwdriver to open it because you lost that really neat thing they gave you at the store. It never occurred to me to consider where that gallon comes from. It was fascinating to do my job surrounded by what would become color. Finding this photo reminds me I never did paint the bathroom or the rear entry. I should do that.

Beverage:  Cranberry Tea


I Have No Idea

Found while cleaning.

The bottom key chain has a key to the Jeep. I found another key to the Jeep in a box in the home office. I remember locking myself out of the Jeep, but I eventually figured out how to get in using a long handled snow brush. I was never asked, when taking off side windows, if it was my Jeep I was getting into. But what are the other keys for?

I'm missing a key to the lock on the storage shed containing the lawnmower. None of these are that key. The lock on the front and back doors were changed with the change in ownership of the house. I'm wondering if these represent the old door locks. I consolidated them all onto one key ring. Aren't there people who collect keys? Maybe I should put these up on eBay?

Beverage:  Orange Juice