Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Well, That's Awkward

Last year, I bought a long sleeved tee from Teespring, a web site which advertised heavily on Facebook.

Long sleeved tees are valuable because they are so versatile in spring and fall with the ability to push up the sleeves if I get too warm. Plus, under layers, they keep my arms warm and aren't as heavy as a sweater.

This is a Discworld image. That's the Great A'Tuin, the ultimate turtle on which the four elephants holding up the world stand. In the cold of space, there's ice on A'Tuin and the elephants. The Discworld spins around the cone in the center, The Hub, and the seas fall off the sides in long cascading tendrils of water and ice. I could get this image on any color tee I wanted. This is my favorite color.

But, at the end of February, a rather large controversy arose centered around Teespring. I can't find the actual start of it but accusations were made suggesting Teespring ripped off the artists whose designs were on the clothing they sold. Friends who are artists said this was "well known" within the artistic community.

It's a very double-edged sword. You want people to see what you do because the way to make money is to have people buy your stuff. The Internet makes it very easy to reach a world-wide audience you never would have reached before. With that visibility comes those who don't care if you spent 382 hours working on something. They are going to steal your design and slap it on a tee shirt and sell it for $14.

I know this is a huge problem in the comic world. Comic conventions have given space to "artists" who print other people's stuff and sell it as their own. Names are tossed about. Videos of confrontations abound and calls for boycotting certain conventions until they weed out the imposters happen every convention season.

I've purchased things from Teespring before. Witness this tee shirt, one of my favorites.

I have a red shirt with a black cat slogan on it which is not as high quality. I have to admit, I don't know the original artist. Hearing people who have more knowledge than me rail against a web site made me wonder if my purchase ever did anything for the artist. Am I perpetuating a fraud? I adore both shirts. The tee part is comfortable and exceptional quality. I love the designs, obviously, or I wouldn't have purchased them.

Since the conversation at the end of February, I have seen zero advertising on my Facebook feed from Teespring. Reviews are not favorable. When you poke around a bit, supposedly Teespring was created as a means for artists to get their work out to the public, but a lot of people are saying this isn't happening. So I feel guilty.

In reality, I need more tee shirts like I need bubonic plague, regardless of their design. My conscience now won't let me order anything from this company and will force me to see if I can track down a shirt designer unless I'm getting it from some place like Disney. I guess the cautionary take away is that if I want to support artists, I need to start frequenting arts and crafts shows. That probably wouldn't be such a bad idea. It would get me out of the house.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Name Dropped

I had to inspect a Seminary on the south side of Chicago. The building was over 100 years old; typical Chicago brick construction. It had always been apartments with warehousing on the lower floors. Old Chicago apartments have a distinctive design. Maybe it's true of all apartment buildings from that era; tiny rooms with small hallways. The seminary has retained quite a bit of the flavor of the building while modernizing it for priests. There is a communal dining area and a chapel with custom glass designs.

The chapel area was, before the seminary bought the building, an artist's studio. But the large space with the 2.5 story ceiling, was too much to keep up so he sold to the building owner and moved north. The priest who took me around to do the inspection said they rent the space to Russian Orthodox and non-denominational congregations for worship. They are pleased it's being used.

During the course of the inspection, the seminarian walking around with me was excited to talk about the next phase of his studies. He was going to Chile in June, for 3 months, but the 2nd week of March, he was going to Greenville, Mississippi, to help the order down there. They have, he said, a strong presence in that area of the country and all the seminarians spend time working there. I looked at him. "Greenville? I know Greenville." He registered surprise as I don't have a Southern accent, couldn't even fake one if I tried. "How do you know Greenville?" Well, the head of the English department where I went to college was a Franciscan sister originally from Greenville. "Wow. Small world," he said.

The priest with us now turns to me and asks, "Who was this sister? That's kind of specific because we're the only order down there. There isn't a convent." "Her name was Sister Thea Bowman. She started at a Sacred Heart school and joined the convent there. When she went to Viterbo for college, she joined the Franciscans, who, as you know, founded Viterbo." The priest stared at me. "You studied under Thea?" I did. She recruited me for the English department and got, then, Viterbo College, to offer me enough scholarship money that 75% of my college experience was paid for. He looked at me.

"I know Thea. Everyone in Sacred Heart knows Thea. Thea is held up as a paragon for activism. You knew her. I am singularly impressed." I have a pencil sketch of her hanging in my living room. She was the most amazing person I think I have ever met. I will never, in my entire life, be half the person she was.

"Madame, I knew you were a very interesting person when we shook hands. I am convinced of it now. I never had the pleasure of meeting Thea. To know she taught you gives me more respect for you."

I didn't know quite how to react to this. I don't know people I could drop into a sentence. One of the guys from the construction company building the hotel for which I needed to do this inspection, was dropping names left and right. "Well, when I got married, I couldn't have some of the Chicago Bears come to my wedding because my wife said they would upstage her." You know some of the Chicago Bears? "Oh yeah, I'm good friends with...", and then he rattles off 5 names from the 1985 Super Bowl team. He knows this person and that person from Chicago politics or Chicago celebrity.

I am always suspect of such people. Do they really know them as in, could they call these people up and ask them to come meet for lunch? Or, is it a way of getting something because we believe in the power of "Six Degrees of Separation" and we want to be associated, however minimally, with someone "famous". There's no reason you couldn't drop any celebrities name into a sentence as being an acquaintance even if the best you know them is from the Access Hollywood TV show. I have no way to prove you don't know them.

Thea sang at my wedding. I have a cassette tape of it and I sometimes think it would be wonderful to extract that part to have. I wouldn't know where to go to get that digitized. I would never have thought to bring up her name in any of the Catholic places I have been. It was a toss-away remark, made by a young man, excited to further his faith which allowed me to say, with much pride, "I knew Thea. I was taught by Thea." I carry her lessons. When I read Shakespeare's comedies with their sexual innuendo, I can hear her voice say, "Well, we're going to jump over those lines because you're Viterbo students and you won't get the joke." Of course that made us read and reread the lines looking for what was funny.

I also feel the priest was impressed with my skills to begin with. Tara and I kind of have that effect. We have been openly dismissed by men who think we can't possibly know what we're doing and then we do it and, um, yeah, about that dismissal. Father John didn't dismiss me. He said what I did was one of the most interesting jobs he'd seen. But the knowledge of having known Thea added a layer of competency. She gave a lot to her students. She still gives. Wish I could call her and tell her.

Beverage: Scottish Breakfast Tea


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sometimes, It Just Works Out

I've been frustrated by the cost of glasses, as you know. I know I have a "large" prescription which necessitates thicker lenses. But "sales" are not "sales" when the only thing on "sale" is the frame and I don't give a rat's patoot about saving 50% on a $75 frame. That's not going to get the cost of glasses down.

So, I get my JCPenney bill yesterday and there is a flyer for 2 pair of glasses for $99 INCLUDING no-line bifocals. "There has to be a catch," thinks I, but I should go see. There was a catch. The selection is limited and, because I work on the computer, no-line bifocals will cause me problems with reading.

Therefore, I have to get progressive lenses. I know what this does. It jacks up the price exponentially. I told the gal that price is the biggest issue in purchasing glasses. If the price isn't good, I won't buy glasses. She understood.

I found a couple pair I liked and we priced them out. Folks, I am getting TWO pair of glasses for $254, including tax. This is $10 LESS than anywhere I'd been able to find for ONE pair, without taxes. I don't want fancy lenses; just give me some which meet my script.

They should be here next week.

I did not have to dip into my Disney fund to get these. I could put the purchase on my JCPenney card. I am still paying off the fridge, which I got during at no-interest for 18 months promotion. The fridge will be paid off in May, way ahead of the 18-month ending. If I take a couple months to pay off the glasses, I'm still way ahead and puts these much, much cheaper than any place I'd found.

An additional benefit is qualifying for the "frequent buyer" program which rewards people with a coupon based on how much they spend. It's been a good year for that, for me. I'll have another coupon to use, thanks to this purchase. I need a fitted sheet to go with the flat sheet I have, but Penneys doesn't have any kind of selection. I'll have to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for something like that.

The other financial shock of the week was a rate increase on my car insurance. I get that my rates would go up when I bought the Malibu. But when I opened the notice I get telling me State Farm would be deducting x amount from my account on the 28th, the rate had gone up $12. This put it over $100 a month. Shocked, I called my agent. He could not give me a reason for the increase. "Well, you did buy a newer car," he stammered. "Rates go up for a time until the car gets beyond a certain age, then they go down." Wha...? This is a 2011 we're discussing here, not a 2016. I don't have any tickets and have not been in an accident. Why is my rate going up? Realizing I wasn't going to get a straight answer, I thanked him and decided I needed to look around.

Now, I equate buying insurance with the same noxiousness of buying a car. I can't help feel that, if the person selling me insurance had better skills, they wouldn't be selling insurance. I know that's not true and if they didn't sell insurance, there would be really smarmy people who would, but I've felt talked down to by agents so my opinion of them is low. This increase forced me out of my comfort zone to check online for rates. My rates had been going up by a dollar or two a month. This put the effective rate increase at 18% since buying the Malibu in July. There is just not a justification for it.

Well, Progressive is always touting their low rates, let's look. I didn't go anywhere else. I'm saving 50% on my car insurance. Between now and September, that's an additional $300 in my pocket; in my Disney savings. It's the exact same coverage. Plus, Progressive is insuring the house. That rate went down $20. "We have an $80,000 replacement guarantee," the agent said. I looked around my house. I don't have $80,000 worth of stuff I'd want replaced, but that's nice to know.

I've been in a private funk since trying to find glasses. It has colored this whole month. How can I make the ends meet when there's always something I have to throw money at to fix? Life has a way of forcing me out of my comfort zone and that is, sometimes, good for me.

JCP is closing 138 stores around the country as the retail industry deals with a massive customer shift in how they shop. I'm one of those who has shifted to doing more online than in brick and mortar stores. The "mall" concept is dying. I enjoy poking around in downtowns with mom and pop stores instead of the mall and I do a lot of shopping online. It's not unexpected that JCP is facing this reality by closing stores.

There is laughter at JCP, too. "Old fogey store", I've heard it called. Well, this old fogey bought a fridge in the perfect size for me and now glasses from JCP. Finding glasses has made my day and my whole month.

Beverage:  British Breakfast Tea


Monday, March 13, 2017

Chocolate Goodness

I've been talking with guild members about our October trip to Walt Disney World. We can make food reservations beginning on April 14th so I'm trying to decide where, exactly, I want to eat and to get people who have expressed an interest, committed to coming to the vacation. All this Disney talk put me in the frame of mind for waffles.

This has been a staple of the family since 1990.

I wasn't sure when the last time was that I'd used this. It was quite dusty on the box top, so it has to have been over a year ago.

The interior was a bit dirty so I scrubbed it before plugging it in. The interior is ostensibly non-stick but I need to remember that, after so many years, the non-stick needs help. I forgot with the first waffle.

This wasn't as bad of a mess as it looks. I unplugged the waffle iron and used a fork to peel everything out of the iron.

This tasted good so I put the debris in a freezer bag and I'll use it on ice cream.

The other issue I had was not knowing how much to actually put in the waffle maker.

One-third cup was too much. One-fourth cup was too little. After dirtying two measuring cups, I settled on a bit shy of a third of a cup. What's always the issue is getting the batter into the ears so you get a full ear.

The ears can, with the right amount of batter, fill in, but it's much cooler to have them be the circle.

There was enough batter to make several waffles. I have no idea how long I have had this recipe.

I also don't remember where I got it. Given the paper, probably from a magazine. Shockingly, I have no pancake/waffle syrup in my house. I'm not sure how that slipped from the grocery list. However, this particular waffle does not benefit from maple syrup. These are best served with whipped cream.

I have enough for two meals, assuming I eat two waffles per meal. So, one lunch this week will be waffles at the office. I hope they are all jealous.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Tall and Green

A last couple of posts about the Mexican sunflowers I planted last spring.

They were so happy in the raised bed. They easily topped out at the 6 foot maximum height listed on the packet. There were so many flowers which, as I posted earlier were enjoyed by hummingbirds AND by monarch butterflies.

They took over the raised bed. It was glorious. I do feel that glory belongs in the front where others can see it. Plus, I can use the raised bed to grow foodstuffs.

So, I'll try to be better about blogging with photos this year so you can watch their progress as they grow.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Saturday, March 11, 2017

September Progress

September afternoons were spent on the deck. I would come home from work, toss a load of wash in the machine, grab my stitching and go sit on the deck. The weekends were marvelous and this lead to a lot of progress with the beach picture. Of course fall is my favorite season so days spent on the deck are among the most pleasant.

I bought another table for the deck. Usually I would put everything on the plastic ottoman I have out there, but Pilchard likes to lie on that when there isn't another chair out there. I opted for just one chair last year, but I will have to put a second one out to accommodate everyone who wants to sit on something. I have a spot for all my supplies AND, most importantly, a mug of tea. On this particular day, I had washed bathroom rugs and draped them over the deck rail to dry.

That morning and afternoon saw the pants and seagull completed and the next item started.

On a roll, I stitched all week and was able to complete the swim goggles. A week later, the "floaties" were done.

Things don't look like much, particularly the seagull, because I've not done any outlining. The goal is to get the whole of the picture done and then add the outlines. It's coming along.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Have You Really Looked

When you think about the dirtiest places in your house, what comes to mind? Bathroom? Kitchen? Kids' room? Have you considered this?

My computer is four years old. This means the keyboard is four years old. The grime from my fingers took years to accumulate. By September of last year, it was driving me nuts.

So, I got out the rubbing alcohol and the Q-tips and spent a Saturday afternoon cleaning the keyboard. Rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly, meaning no liquid gets under the keys. Q-tips clean the sides of the keys and between the keys with ease.

It took me two hours to give the keyboard what I thought was a thorough cleaning, getting in between and along the sides of the keys.

What a difference. I went through a lot of Q-tips to get to this point, but it was worth it. About every two months, I've gone around the keys with Q-tips dipped in rubbing alcohol just to keep the keyboard clean. I did all that work. It would be awful to have the keyboard get as dirty as it was before. Besides, I kind of like cleaning the keyboard. It feels like I've made a bit of difference in my life, as strange as that sounds.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Life Comes to a Halt

He drives me batty on occasion. He jumps the other two, particularly Mija, when they don't want to be jumped. His morning and evening energy leads to more, "Hamlet!" than I'd like. But when he wants loves, the world can take a hike.

The only problem with this position is that I'm holding him up and, after an hour of holding up a 9 pound cat, an arm can go to sleep. I also can't do much at the computer, so I put on some jazz and pulled up a matching game I could play one-handed. He purrs until he falls asleep and he insists upon his body touching my face.

On this particular day, he was sleeping until a stink bug awoke and buzzed about, hitting the window. He was instantly awake and stalking the bug.

He's become pretty good about killing them. He's figured out they don't taste very good but they do give him lots of play time and then he steps on them.

I'll take the demands for cuddles. The other two aren't really the cuddly kind. I hope he still does this in 3 years.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Friday, March 10, 2017

Wishing Upon Stars

For those of us in certain income brackets, issues which need money thrown at them seem to crop up in clusters. I'm going through one right now and it has me frustrated. Bear with me while I, more or less, vent.

I made a decision last year to celebrate my World of Warcraft guild's 10th anniversary at Disney World with a bunch of guild mates. I made a budget to enable saving for that event only to have said budget blow apart by the sewer backing up at the same time the blower on the furnace decided to work only 50% of the time. I am grateful I had some kind of savings to fix both problems, but those emergencies set me way back. I redid the budget and worried that I would need to cut way to the bone, once again, in order to make this trip, on which I had placed a deposit back in September, a reality.

An acquaintance, who is even less of an acquaintance after this, (She's a friend of a friend so I can legitimately avoid her.) was at a lunch with my friend who inquired as to the state of my sewer. Gotta admit, "Can you flush your toilet now without it backing up into the basement?" is lovely lunch conversation. I mentioned getting both things fixed but having to use my Disney fund for this. This woman, whom I have met twice before, and I can tell you where I was, such was the impression she made, said, "Seriously, you're bitching about having to use savings for Disney to fix house problems? Do you know how many people can't even dream about going to Disney and you're bitching about having a 'set back'?" and she made those air quotes when she said "set back".

I pride myself on not letting things get to me. Life hasn't been kind but I've learned to roll with the punches. If I get called out on something, I look at the comment to see if there is any truth to what they are saying.

I've put money down on this. It means a great deal to me. I know there are people, probably in my neighborhood, who struggle for mac and cheese on a Tuesday night and hold no illusions about getting anywhere near the mouse house. But this is my life and my money and her comment reeks of jealousy and self-righteousness. As I type this, I can see the glare in her eye as she looked at me. My friend said, "Yeah, it sucks when you're saving for something and emergencies strike." The woman muttered, "Heh. Disney is not an emergency."

Fast forward to February. if I could, I would be just like Ned Flanders in "The Trouble With Trillions" episode.

If it were possible to get all the paperwork I need AND have the IRS accept returns early, I'd be doing my taxes on New Year's Day. My feeling is if I get a refund, I want it now. If I owe money, I need to know so I can save and send it in on time. But, institutions are terrible, it seems to me, about sending out financial forms so I don't always have everything until the end of January. Therefore, it's about mid-February when I sit down to do the deed. This year, I got enough back to pay for the bulk of my October Disney trip. I stuffed that straight into the savings account. "I'm not going to touch that," I told myself. "That's for Disney." Or so I thought.

Enter life.

A year ago, I got new glasses with my tax refund.

I had an eye doctor appointment in early February. It's a yearly thing now because of my RA. I have RA-induced rosacea of the eye. It just means my eyes are prone to drying out, which makes them itchy and red. Then the cornea can get scratched more easily. I'm to use artificial tears four times a day. I'm not very good on the remembering to do that part. It's a rare day when I put in drops four times. Usually I remember three times.

Anyway, I noticed, in December, my eyesight had deteriorated just a bit. Some things, particularly in the distance, are blurry or have a blurred edge to them. This was verified in the eye exam so I need new glasses. This will be the third year in a row my prescription has changed. I may have to get used to the idea this is my reality; a minor change every year.

So, I set out to find new glasses. It's a racket. I've purchased glasses online from for the last 3 years. I was able to get good deals, but I dislike the frames Coastal has this year, plus, they are more expensive. Wandered over to another place, Zenni Optical. Their prices were better than Coastal but their frames were no better looking. Then I found a place called Glasses USA.

Here I found a couple pair I liked and, initially, their prices looked very good. Then you get into actually purchasing glasses and their "Glasses $95 including lenses" goes down the tube. I have to get bifocals, which cost more. When a company says, "Glasses $95 including lenses", that's what I expect to pay with additions like tax and shipping. They offered a 50-65% discount but that was only on frames and didn't apply if you picked a frame on sale. The costs kept adding up until I was way over what I wanted to pay for glasses. They have a 3-month payment plan, but they put a hold on your funds for the full amount. That's not a payment plan. So, I told them I was severely disappointed in all the wording on their site and will be taking my business elsewhere. They have told me to call them because they have a "deal" for me. No thanks.

But the big kicker is the lack of liquid funds to even get glasses. Oh sure, I have Disney money. I could easily afford glasses IF I pillaged my Disney fund. There is another online glasses company, Warby Parker, who advertises more realistically, "Glasses FROM x". But they are much more expensive and I really cannot afford $345 for glasses unless I take the money from my Disney account. The back door needs to be fixed. I have to get it working again. I don't see that as a small repair. I can fund that, again, IF I take money from my Disney account.

Another acquaintance, more sympathetic to this frustration, said, "You have 6 months before you have to hand over the rest of the money for the vacation. You should be able to save what you take out in 6 months." The operative word there is 'should'. While I have the vacation paid for, I want spending money and money for, frankly, impulse purchases. As I did when I went to BlizzCon and Disneyland in 2015, I want to do Christmas shopping. My tax return wasn't enough to cover those things. I still need to save and it's hard to save when life throws these things at you.

Then, I find out, at the beginning of this month, one of my late English pen pal's daughters and her family, are coming to Florida for two weeks; Disney World and Universal. I have not seen Elizabeth since 1996. She's married with two kids of her own. Her dad and brother are coming and I last saw them in 2005. "You're welcome to come to our villa and stay for a few days. It would be wonderful to see you and we have an extra room," she said.

Oh dear. If I plunder the Disney fund, I can go. I have the vacation days. I wouldn't go for more than a down, hang out, back weekend. But if I take money for this from the fund, where does it stop? This is not, by any stretch, an emergency. Yet, they are so close. I'd need airfare and a car and money for food. I'm content with not going to either Disney and Universal and just hanging around the villa. When Anne died, we kind of lost touch with each other. What a unique opportunity to reconnect, and yet...

Those words above, from a woman I don't like, rankle me, stick in my craw, so to speak. I know there are people much less off than me. Part of my refund went to charities I feel strongly about. This whole glasses thing has me looking ahead. Every year, I fear, I'm going to be in this position of needing new glasses and not finding anything which fits my budget. I'm not looking at frame which cost $170, either. I find those to be ugly, frankly. I also haven't posted my door problem to a site called "Thumbtack" where companies and handymen can give you an estimate on what they think it will cost to do what you want done. Maybe I'm way overestimating what I think fixing the door will cost. I could be pleasantly surprised.

This is merely a post expressing frustration at life and how it seems to gang up on us. I'm going to make do with my glasses for right now. I have no desire to call Glasses USA. If they want my business, they will tell me in writing, what kind of discount they are offering. Otherwise, at the end of the month, I'll schlep myself out to glasses stores and have a look. It may not yield anything, but at least I've given it a go. I want to see Elizabeth, Graham and James and Elizabeth's husband and kids. But that trip feels very much like a "lottery trip" where only some unexpected windfall is going to make it happen because I'm so resistant to using my Disney funds. And then a wave of sadness comes over me and I wonder if I'm being incredibly selfish.

I never count on a windfall. I never counted on getting a tax refund which paid for the basic trip. I don't count on having work trips where I'd get mileage which could be applied somewhere. I count only on what I make every month and that has to work to make what I need a reality. Anything else is unexpected. I just wish life wasn't, sometimes, a need to throw money at things to make it better. It gets down-heartening.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Let Post-Season Begin

Tonight, the Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball team starts the post-season of basketball with a game in the Big Ten tournament. It feels really weird to say the tournament is in Washington DC, but that's where it is this year. This is because Maryland and Rutgers, two universities decidedly NOT in the Midwest, are in the Big Ten Conference. Don't get me started on this. We're not even 10 teams anymore. I can see Nebraska but Rutgers in New Jersey? Oh well, they didn't ask me.

I got a pair of socks in early November because it's important to be completely Hawkeye on game days.

Yes, argyle Hawkeye socks. The "Iowa" is on the bottom of the foot.

In keeping with my tidying efforts, when I brought these into the house, I got rid of a pair which had no elastic around the top. I have a few more like that. I keep forgetting to put them in a give away bag, but I don't always remember they don't stay up until I've been at work for 3 hours and have had to pull them up a dozen times. I can't give away worn socks so I wash them and then forget and they get balled up and put in the drawer. There is a Christmas pair I wore on Tuesday which are like that. This time, I put a post it on the lowboy mirror to remind myself that pair, still in good condition in the foot but lacking elastic in the top, needs to be given away.

Today's outfit includes my Hawkeye sweater along with shoes and socks.

The shoes have no arch support. They are more like slippers in that respect, but they are easy to get into and out of. The last time I worse this combination, the football team beat a much better Nebraska team by a lot.

I need to get a couple more shirts. My long-sleeved tee shirt is going on many years of wear and is slowly fading to dark gray. I don't have a plain Hawkeyes tee shirt as I sent the only one I have to my sister when Iowa beat Michigan in football last year. She wore it to work the next week; a job where Michigan gear was everywhere. "So, how about Saturday's football game?" My Hawkeye shirts are bowl game oriented, not straight "Iowa Hawkeyes".

I really have no illusions about how far the basketball team will go. They have not played well this season. I have listened to only one winning game in the few times I remember to stream the games. I'll try to stream it tonight, but it might be better, because I'm superstitious, if I didn't listen. They seem to do well when I forget the game is on.

Go Hawks.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts tea



A couple of things from the deck flowers last year which were successful.

1) Zinnias in a pot.

I sat next to this pot all summer, when I was stitching on the deck. It never failed to provide cheer. I adore zinnias. I'm pretty sure I have some old zinnia seeds in the basement seed packets. I should dump a mix out front when I plant the sunflowers. I'll buy plants for the pot on the deck.

2) Chocolate cosmos.

This was a new find from Select Seeds. It does not, unfortunately, smell like chocolate. I put three plants in a pot with a "wavy" petunia.

The petunia cascaded over the sides of the pot and it's green-edged pink flowers were most striking. But, as the summer wore on, it required lots and lots of water to not shrivel. In the end, it was dessicated long before any other flowers were. I did not get it in my order this year.

I did get more of the cosmos. I think if combined with white snapdragons, this could be a very distinctive pot pairing. We'll have to see. the cosmos tolerated the few dry spells we had and kept blooming, as long as I deadheaded it, well past the first light frost. I love wild colors in flowers so this definitely is a keeper.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


What to Do

The cleaning and tidying goes in very small bursts. I set out, for one of the veterans groups who takes donations, two grocery bags and a small box of stuff on Monday. I have not done any further purging beyond some box and paper recycling. I battled a rather large RA flare at the end of February and feel a need to clean the house; dust, sweep and wash floors. I was going to start on that task at the end of February but spent the weekend in bed. This happens about every 3-4 months so I'm "used" to it. But it sets me backwards in getting things done which frustrates me and that adds mental stress which triggers a flare which makes me tired so I take a nap which means; well, you get it.

But I was moving things around to make room for other things and stumbled upon this.

This is the veil from my wedding outfit. It was handmade by the woman who owned the store from which I bought my dress. Finding this reminded me the dress itself is in a plastic container in the basement. I don't know what to do with either of these. They date from 1978. Do I put them on eBay? Would they actually sell? I don't think donating them anywhere would work. Who would want them? I don't want them. Both have been cleaned and are in excellent condition, but I'm at a loss here. had an excellent article about the lack of interest in collectibles and general accumulations of life. "Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents' Stuff" made me look around my house and do a more critical evaluation of what I have. While I should not surround myself exclusively with things my daughter will find value in, I need to be happy in my space, if I no longer want it, there's little chance she's going to want it, either. This is a clear example of something which may have zero value. How does one get rid of something like this?

So, I'm struggling with this dilemma. There are some things, like blankets, coffee mugs, clothing, which I can get rid of with ease and which a group willing to take "discards" like that would find value. Some things, such as a wedding dress and veil from 1978, I just don't know there's any kind of market for and it feels wrong to dump it on them. Suggestions?

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Thank You, Mom.

I like plants indoors. I bring in my geraniums to overwinter. I have a zebra plant which I've had since my dad died in 1991. In my office, I have an aloe vera my sister gave me back in 2002 and a geranium I bought which I really didn't need on the deck. I might take that one home this spring. I'm not sure.

I also have an ancient spider plant. You know these; chlorophytum comosum. They have spindly leaves from a central hub and prefer to be pot bound. Eventually, they send out long branches on which is a small spider plant. This plant can be potted and grown. They also produce small white flowers.

The cats love to chew on it. In fact, this spring, when it's warm enough, I'm repotting this particular one into a smaller pot because the cats have chewed off one whole side. I have no idea how long I've had this plant, but it keeps going and going, enduring the chewing of its leaves. Hamlet is the worst.

Now cats eat grass. This is a known fact. It aids in digestion and a cat with an upset stomach will gravitate to grass as a means to sooth the tummy. That they turn around a couple hours later and regurgitate said grass onto the middle of the hallway floor is no matter. The tummy ache is gone. There are all sorts of grass products you can buy for this particular issue. The problem with additives to food is that I think there's a tactile pleasure derived from the chewing of grass and the leaves of my spider plant. Just providing "Greenies", for instance, a treat with grass in it, isn't going to solve the chew problem.

When I go get cat food, I have taken to buying a small container of oat grass. I got one over the weekend. Hamlet was beside himself.

I unpacked it from the bag, wiggled it in his face and set it on the desk. He promptly jumped up and knocked it off, jumping down to chew. So I moved it to my office chair.

He was overjoyed. He goes looking for this, although he still chews on the spider plant. He knows he's not supposed to chew the spider plant and I yell, "NO!" when he jumps up to chew, but that doesn't stop him. I still come home to leaves on the floor. I don't really have a place to put the spider plant where he wouldn't be able to get it, to let it recover. I do think repotting into a smaller container will help because the larger container is just too big for most "Hamlet-proof" spaces.

Mija used to chew but she's given up on that, at least I think she has. She used to do her chewing when she thought I didn't see. She'd jump up on the window sill and sneak in from the back side. After catching her a few times, she quit. I really do think Mija and Pilchard love to see Hamlet get yelled at. Mercifully, unlike other cats I've had who eat grass, he doesn't throw this stuff up

This batch will last until the middle of next week, when it will be brown and dried. I water it every day and keep it in indirect sunlight, but there is a finite amount of grass which can be produced. Somewhere, I have a container with oat seeds, which just needs water. I should find that and see if it will grow. The cost is minimal for one of these, but I don't have to go back to the store for food until the end of the month and I'd rather use the $5.99 for other things, like breakfast at Panera.

Beverage:  Water


The Next Cross-Stitch

After finishing the wedding sampler, I went a good three months without cross-stitching. It was about reading and making good on my goal to read through all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. But the itch, so to speak, needed to be scratched. Picking out the next project also gave me a chance to organize the box in my closet.

I dragged out all the crafting books and pamphlets and dumped them on the living room floor.

I decided my next project would be to liven up the bathrooms at work. We have no art in the office, beyond what people have in their personal offices. I have art, my boss has art, but that's as far as it goes. In the women's bathroom, we have some knick knacks representing the beach. I decided I needed to do a beach cross-stitch. Finding something was going to be the adventure. Oh sure, I could have googled "beach cross-stitch" and come up with something, but why do that when I'm sitting on hundreds of patterns? Plus, the box needed to be organized and this was a prime reason to do so.


The pattern on top is not the one I chose. It's cute, but I felt it was a bit too detailed for what I can do. My goal was to find a pattern which used full cross-stitches as opposed to one, like this beach scene, which uses half, quarter and three-quarter stitches. I'm not good at those and they frustrate me. If I'm to get this done with any speed, it must be something I'll enjoy doing.

I also discovered I need a bigger box. I still have magazines piled on top of the box in the closet. One of the issues is the floor space where the box is stored. A box which will hold all my cross-stitch or craft magazines probably will take up all of the floor space. I'm not sure that's entirely what I want. I have, however, decided not to renew a couple of the magazines I get. One was expensive, even with a discount and the other was veering into non-cross-stitch crafts more than when I subscribed to it. I think I will continue Just Cross-Stitch because that's all I want. As it's published 6 times a year, I'm not adding to the pile quite so quickly.

After a couple days of looking through everything, organizing and contemplating what I wanted to do, I decided on this pattern.

It's all full cross-stitches. The header, "Home is where the Beach is" will be removed. I might do "Life's a Beach" or I might just redo the cloud lines above the clothes line. There is also the ability to shorten the sides so there's no white space when the wording is removed.

For the guy's bathroom, I found this.

My office mates probably aren't going to care, but I really like our office. I like how we were allowed to personalize our spaces. This simple act makes going to work so much more enjoyable and I see this art as part of that. Plus, if you'll allow me to be a bit selfish, it leaves a bit of me behind. Our lease is for 7 years so we'll be here awhile. I can see this being our office until Mike leaves and that should be after I leave.

The fabric count was for 26-count linen with the cross-stitching done over two threads. I have never, ever been able to master that. I always work in 11-16-count. It's easier to see and I don't have to worry that I'm not stitching over two threads. But I had no idea then, how much cloth to buy. My local cross-stitch shop came to my rescue. When it's 22+ count fabric, halve the stitch size and use whatever fabric amount is closest. It's the same size. In my case, I'm using 14 count. In my head, it doesn't seem to  work, shouldn't it be double the amount listed? So far, it's working out just fine.

Ivory material was suggested, not white. I'll go with that, but I didn't have any ivory material in my stash. The shop said they aren't stocking much in the 11-18 count fabric. Stitchers have gravitated to the higher thread counts for more detailed images. That makes me sad. "You can find all sorts of 11-18 count online," the proprietor said. Well, yeah, but that's not the point. I want to shop local when I can. She had a piece of fabric which she thought I might like.

It's kind of tough to see the pattern on the fabric. It's a white with a faint sandy wave-like pattern. It's perfect for a beach pattern. With fabric in hand, over Labor Day weekend, I jumped in.

You can see the fabric pattern a bit better in the images.

Cross-stitching is the best thing to do on the deck, I tell you. I made great strides in September.

I would come home from work, grab the stitching and go out on the deck. An hour of stitching made the troubles of the day just melt away.

This represents three days in September. I'm much farther along with this than these photos show. I'll be posting more as I get to them. Lots of photos yet to blog about. The green stripey thing is a pair of men's swim trunks, in case you're wondering.

Beverage:  Water


Monday, March 6, 2017


It's taken awhile, but the integration of Hamlet into the household is finally complete. This isn't to say we don't have our days. Last night, for example, he and Pilchard were wrestling in the hallway outside the bedroom. That's fine, but not at 11:45 pm. I yelled at them to knock it off. They dispersed and Hamlet went on to chase Mija for a few minutes before I yelled at him to knock it off. Honestly, I need my sleep. They just look at me. "Oh?"

Things were anything but pleasant in early fall. I don't know if it was kitten exuberance or anger at having to share space with him, but there were some fights. I came home, more than once, to scratches on his nose. As I was never around to see the altercation, I had no clue what was happening. It felt like I was doing a lot of yelling at everyone. Unlike dogs, cats don't respond to yelling with groveling. They view the raising of the voice as an attack. I would yell, "Knock it off", they would scattered, and Pilcard and Mija would growl and hiss at me. It was stressful for all of us.

I asked my vet what could be done. Clearly Hamlet's presence was stressful, but I couldn't give him away. Poor little guy. He's cast aside in a driving rain; abandoned on a front porch, alone; stuck in a bathroom where dogs are on the other side of a door, with little in human contact. Then he rides 16 hours under the front seat of a car and is confined to a room, bigger than a bathroom, to be sure, but where there are other cats who are clearly not interested in welcoming him into their home. I needed to figure out how to mitigate the aggression. My vet recommended this product.

I was using a product created by Jackson Galaxy and getting no relief so I thought I'd give this a try. What did I have to lose, really?

The set up is simple.

On the top is a diffuser which plugs into an outlet. The bottle of pheromone-enhanced liquid is inserted into the bottom of the diffuser.

The whole of the packaging is recyclable and the bottle lasts a month. I have it plugged into a socket in the living room, where we spend the majority of our time.

I was skeptical when I bought it. It's not a cheap investment. The initial setup is $25 with each container refill at $25. I set up the first test in October of last year. There was an immediate difference. Hamlet still has more energy than, by rights, anything should have. He seems super-charged on weekday mornings when the radio comes on and I don't get out of bed right away. He's also got excess energy at night, but that doesn't seem to be quite as much. If only I could bottle it.

The growling and hissing died off. The energy seems channeled into more appropriate things like chasing around the house. I think having this, a mood smoother, has allowed Pilchard to see the benefits of the chase and then wrestling him in the hall. Part of me wonders if I can get rid of this and have the benefits, or if that would result in the return to the fighting of early fall. I'm going to be going out and about as it's our busy time of year so I don't think I want to change things right away.

I'm always loathe to recommend a product because "my mileage may be different than yours", but I strongly endorse this. I think it has helped ease Hamlet into the household, made him acceptable. I still have some "knock it off" moments, but life is certainly much smoother with this plugged into a living room outlet.

Beverage:  Water



I planted Mexican sunflowers last year. We think of sunflowers as these.

These are the big, bright smiles from which we get our black oil sunflower seeds. What I planted wasn't anything like these.

They are orange, brilliantly red-orange or orange-red. The flowers themselves are not the dinner plate size we associate with sunflowers. These were, at best, 4-5 inches across. The stalks were tall, eventually topping out at close to 6 feet tall, which is similar to the above sunflowers. They had a lot of leaves, which, I explained, shielded my peppers from the sun, something I had not planned for.

Squirrels and birds love the top sunflower. If you grow them in your yard, you're advised to put a pair of panty hose over the seed head, if you don't want to share. The Mexican ones didn't set a seed head. They attracted something rarer.

I don't know if you can see it. There is a hummingbird at the flower on the left. All summer, from the time these started blooming through just after Labor Day, I had hummingbirds in the yard.

Catching them for a photograph is extraordinarily challenging. He's just above the flower second from the left. There was never more than one around the sunflowers at any given time. Occasionally, one would show up at the front window, almost as if he was asking if there was any nectar.

I am extraordinarily pleased with these plants, but, as I've talked about in previous posts, they need to be somewhere else. I think the front of my house would benefit tremendously from sunflowers. I saw monarch butterflies around them too and you all know how much I adore those. Combined with the milkweed I already grow, this would be a huge boost to their habitat.

The other thing I'm considering is a hummingbird feeder in the front next to the pole feeder and bird bath. The pole feeder was toppled, I believe by yard denizens so I need to anchor it better and deeper in the ground. That has to wait for the thaw to be completely out of the ground and some warmer temperatures. I still have a hummingbird feeder from years ago. I'm debating. It's been decades since I saw these in my yard and then they come back full force. I should decide what to do to encourage them to stay.

Beverage:  Water