Friday, June 30, 2017

I Don't See Any

While weeding the south side bed by the arbor, I looked at the underside of the leaves on the milkweed plants which had sprouted in that area.

There is a very small white dot on the underside of this leaf. I got excited. This could be an elusive monarch caterpillar egg. I have seen plenty of butterflies but no caterpillars. I know the eggs are hard to find so I left this and dashed inside to google it. It seemed like a winner. I was so excited. First a caterpillar. Then a chrysalis.

The milkweed is blooming in the southeast corner of the front yard.

Every year, a few more plants show up. It's overgrown, and, living in suburbia, yards which are not golf course perfect, can be flagged for code violations. But everyone seems to understand this is monarch territory. They can pull their milkweeds, run them over with a lawn mower. Mine are there for this endangered butterfly.

So far, no sign of a caterpillar, anywhere. The small white dot has vanished. Bees are circling the flowers, but if there are any caterpillars, they are where I can't see them. I'm disappointed, to be sure, but I'll nurture these plants and hope I see something over the summer.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea



After getting the shepherd's crook up with the tube feeder attached, I moved the resin birdbath to the front planting bed. I was attaching the new small feeder to the front window...

and knocked over the birdbath, spilling the contents. Side note: the birds haven't used this at all. I need to check the seed. It's been out there for several weeks and may be unattractive. I can scatter it on the ground under the tube feeder where I've seen ground feeding birds like mourning doves and rabbits, in addition to squirrels, eating what's fallen from the feeder. It's rather humorous to watch birds on perches flick aside what they aren't interested in, from the mix in the tube.

The birdbath had fallen over when it was in the back yard and was slightly chipped. This would be, I was told by a friend, easily fixable with a resin repair you painted on. This latest problem would not be reparable with a simple paint job. So, I'd be faced with replacing the birdbath. This one was the one I won last year, so I wasn't out a lot of money.

I hopped online and typed in "birdbaths". The sheer enormity of what's available it astounding. This is a nice looking bath, but I wanted something else. Glass bird baths. Who uses those for anything other than interior decoration? I mean, seriously. We have had strong thunderstorms rumble through Chicagoland the past three days. These come with upwards of 40 mph winds. The absolute last thing I want to do is clean up broken glass because Mother Nature decided to lift the bath off its stand and drop it to the side, in the flower bed. And given the fragility of resin, I couldn't justify the replacement cost to see another bath tipped over and broken. I thought about what I have on the deck. It's low enough that wildlife can use it, but it's extremely rare to have it tipped over by the wind. But I wanted to be able to see the birds who might use this, if I stand up and look out the window. I found what I thought would be a good match for all these criteria on a site called

I read the product description. It was white, heavy-duty plastic. It should not crack, even in the winter. If tipped over the product shouldn't break where the column meets the dish. It was a good buy.

The box was rather big.

It was also much lighter than I understood from the product description. Hmmmm. I unpacked it. Here were the two pieces.

Okay. Now what? There were no directions. The top and base had the indentations for, perhaps, nails, screws, something, but it wasn't clear. I pulled off the packing slip and there were instructions. "Attach basin to post with included screws." That's all that was on the slip. I looked for "included screws". I couldn't find any. Not to worry. I'm a homeowner. I have a couple hundred (It seems.) screws in the basement which would work. I screwed the top onto the base and carried the bath outside.

This will look very nice. I went to add water but when I came out, it had tipped over. No matter. I'll just right it and add water to the basin. The water's weight should keep it upright. Nope. It was a slightly windy day; gust upwards of 15 mph. It tipped over repeatedly. Frustrated, I found a stake, wired the bath to the stake and shaved off a small section of ground in case where I had it was not level. It lasted upright 10 minutes. The thing is too light to stand on its own and even anchoring it simply delayed the inevitable tipping over.

Frustrated and angry, I went back to the web site. Suddenly, all these comments became visible. "Screws weren't provided." "Holes for screws not properly drilled." (I didn't have a problem with this, but I could see how it could be a problem since this appears to be injection molded plastic.) There, buried about 15 comments down was this. "Instructions woefully insufficient. Base must be filled with sand or dirt for the bath to stand upright. This is NOT printed anywhere on the instructions. I had to figure it out for myself." AHA. This is the problem. is simply a reseller. They aggregate items from manufacturers, add some mark-up, and resell it to you. My daughter has had good luck with the things she's purchased. I am extremely unhappy with this. The description of the birdbath on Wayfair is woefully inadequate. Nowhere does it say you need to fill the base with sand for stability. This should be in the product description. I never saw the negative ads. I only saw glowing ads touting the product. All relevant comments, even negative ones, should be available to view. Instructions could be Ikea-style, where it's a simple sheet with a blow-up diagram of the product and its assembly. Instructions need to be on a separate sheet, not printed on the packing slip.

You know what, I did find the screws. They were in a tiny plastic bag, taped to the bottom inside wall of one of the sides. I only found them when I ripped the box apart for recycling. They could, very easily, be taped to the basin where they would be visible. Is that Wayfair's fault? Possibly not, but they could, as a reseller, ask the manufacturer to do this. I simply added the screws to the container of random screws I already have.

So, this weekend, I need to head to the hardware store and get a bag of sand. Then, I need to deconstruct the bath, add the sand, and put it back. The total cost is still going to be cheaper than any resin birdbath, which would not have tipped over, would be. I guess the moral of this is that I got what I paid for. Actually, I got less. Once the sand has been added. this will be a nice addition to this spot. Since I have to buy a hummingbird feeder, getting the sand isn't an added inconvenience.

I'm not shopping at Wayfair again. When I complained, explained what they should have done, they offered me 10% off my next purchase, as long as it was done within the month of June. That's kind of an insult. I'm not sure when I would be shopping with them and 10% isn't going to cover shipping and handling costs for anything. A friend asked what would get me to shop there again. "You know what, you make very valid points. We failed in our description for this product. We're going to fix that. I'm sorry you're unhappy with this product. We can replace it for you, sending you a box to ship it back and give you your money back towards the purchase of something else. Or, we can offer 25% off anything, including sale priced merchandise, good through the end of the year. Again, we're sorry this product did not meet your standards."

I won't hold my breath.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Contributing to My Addiction

I got a package last week from my friend, Doo Yi. Packages from friends, particularly when they are unexpected, are the best. Inside I found these things.

Ohboyohboyohboy! Look at the stickers! With the Pipsticks monthly subscription Carole and Larry gave me, and the addition of these, I'm set for a bit, although, maybe not. I sent out a couple of small packages this week and those used quite a few stickers. I have a reputation to maintain, you know.

There is a pair of compression gloves which I have already used this week. They made a great difference in my achy finger joints.

I had to laugh. I went to the Itasca post office to mail a couple of flats of inspection reports. The client does not use UPS. We've asked for a UPS address and they say, "Just mail it." So, although they had 12 reports, I couldn't package them up and ship UPS. Whatever, I guess. They shipping cost is built into the cost of doing business.

But the clerks at the post office know me now. We've been at our Itasca location for 18 months and we really like it here. One of the reasons is how friendly the PO clerks are. I walked in with these two parcels and Tim says to me, "I can't accept these for mailing. There are no stickers on them." After I stopped laughing, I explained these were for work, not personal, and I didn't think my boss would like me sticking shark stickers on customer flats. "Well, okay, then. I'll take them for mailing."

I asked about the dog he was thinking of adopting. He did adopt the pit bull who had been rescued from the streets of Chicago. The poor thing had to have hip surgery and had an ear infection and was covered in fleas. A rescue group nursed him to where he could be adopted. I got to see photos. This is service, when you can stand around and talk rescuing animals and share photos of your four-legged friends.

The package arrived on a day when I was feeling achy and tired. Talk about a day brightener. I owe a bunch of people letters. I better get writing. I don't have the excuse that I don't have stickers for the envelopes.

Beverage:  Klarbrunn Black Cherry Seltzer


Yard Work

I've been busy in the yard. The first thing to do was weed the front beds by the arbor.

By the time I got to them, they were weedy but not overgrown. I bought Round-Up to spray on the trees which are in the beds. I don't have the stamina to dig them out, but Round-Up does work, to an extent, to kill them. You just need to be fairly religious about spraying and, in that respect, I'm not. But I can pull weeds because I can sit down while doing that.

Along with the weeding, there was planting to be done. Here's the south side of the arbor.

The dirt is not very good in these areas. I should have someone rototill mushroom compost into the soil, along with some garden soil in an effort to make these beds better for flowers. It will, of course, bring long dormant weed seeds to where they can sprout, but I can deal with weeding.

Because I don't have anyone who can rototill, my solution is to dig holes in the ground and fill those with a mix of soil and compost. Plants I want out front then go into the holes. On the south side, I have some annual daisies and several morning glories. The black mass in the left center is where I've planted the sunflowers from last year. I have milkweed, of course. It tends to like craptastic soil like this. I was late getting the sunflowers in the ground but they are doing well as of today.

This is the north side.

Right now, all I have in this bed are a couple of coleus. They are quite distinctive in marking but it looks a little sad on this side. I think, this weekend, after I've paid bills, I will go to the nursery and get a small fern and a hosta for this side. It's 80% shade anyway. I have a marigold plant to replace on the deck, too.

Moving to the front of the house, I cleared out the north side, under the picture window.

The tube feeder is a huge hit, with finches, sparrows and cardinals all frequenting the perches. I spent time trimming back the lilac and the cherry tree off the right side of the photo. My loppers is not working well anymore. It binds in the joint and generous applications of WD-40 don't seems to be loosening it. Perhaps I should look into the cost of new ones.

I need to do the usual weeding but I'm happy with how things have progressed. Best of all, :::cue Frank Sinatra::: I did it my way.

Beverage:  Klarbrunn Black Cherry Seltzer


Looks Good On Me

Now that I've paid for my Disney vacation AND my air fare, I can look at those few things I want to get to make the vacation more exciting. The last time I went to Disney, your park admittance was on a card, similar to the one I'll use to get into "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party".

But, in the intervening years, technology has improved, as we know, in leaps and bounds and now, Disney uses Magic Bands. Your admission, your room key, and your dining credits are all stored on a chip inside the band. You wear this everywhere; it's waterproof; and just swipe your arm when you need to do something. When I finally pick my FastPass rides for parks, those selections will be loaded onto my band. It's quite astounding technology.

By staying in the resort, you get a free band. It's a plain gray color but it has your name on it. You can get other colors, but I looked at the plain colored ones and decided that wasn't what I wanted. Back at the beginning of the year, there was a band with the seagulls from "Finding Nemo". It said, "MineMineMine!" on it. You have to buy the special bands from the Disney Store and there are periodic sales. I decided I would wait and see. If there wasn't a sale on bands by August 1st, I'd buy one to make sure I had it in time. Amazingly, at the end of May, there was a sale on bands. But, the "Mine" band was nowhere to be found. My friend, Liz, said these specialty bands come and go. You know it's to drive purchase. If there is the chance what you want could be discontinued, you're more likely to buy it now. I had to "settle" for a Tigger band. The only thing you have with the free versus the paid for bands is that, once you get your band from the store, you have to link it to your account. It's a reasonably simple matter to log into your account and type in a bunch of numbers and letters to get it linked.

The band came and the packaging felt a little strange. When I opened it up, this was the container for the band.

It was all bent. This was kind of odd. I turned it around to open the package.

I could not imagine the post office, even running it through some heavy duty machines, could mangle the package like this. Clearly, this package had been opened. Well, as long I can link it to my account, I'm okay with it.

So, I put it on. This is so cool! All my information will be contained on this wristband. I flipped the band over, located the 6 point type code and entered it into my account. Nothing. I got an error message saying the band had been assigned to another account. Wait? How could that happen? Maybe I "fat fingered" the code because it's so small. I tried twice more. Each time, I was told the band was assigned to another account.

I called Disney tech support. They verified that it was linked to another account. They referred me to the Disney Store to get the band replaced. When I called them and explained the problem, the gal on the phone was speechless.

"I...I don't know what to say, ma'am. This has never happened to me before. Magic bands are not returnable for this precise reason. They can't be reused once they are linked to an account. I will ship a new one to you right away. I am so sorry this happened."

If you look at the bottom of the package, it says, "No returns, exchanges or refunds." She said my call would spur an assessment of how this could have happened. I remember reading, somewhere, when I bought the Tigger band, that Magic Bands were not returnable. Who knows how this happened, but I'm the one it happened to.

It took another week, but my real Tigger Magic Band arrived. Once I had it, I tried to enter the code, but, trust me, the code is in such small type, I had all sorts of difficulty. I kept getting a message that the code didn't exist. Another call was placed to Disney. Fortunately, we determined the "8" was a "B" and the tech support gal was able to attach the band to my account. I know I tried typing the "8" as a "B" because I wasn't sure which it was, but the web site claimed not to recognize the code.


I'm excited. Disney said I can do with the other one whatever I want to do. I'm not sure what that is. I kept it. The bands are cool. They are a malleable, lightweight rubber compound. Once you snap the top over the bottom, you aren't going to lose it, even if your wrist gets sweaty or you go into the pool. I'll enjoy wearing this for a week.

Beverage:  Water


It Only Took Two Months

I have some interesting friends. One of them posted a silly horoscope to her Facebook page. I responded by writing something totally off the cuff. She challenged me to write the whole story to go with that sentence.

Immediately, work got crazy. I was traveling every week, sometimes three to four days out of that work week. In so doing, I figured out where the nearest Panera was to my travels.

I printed out the horoscope and pasted it into this journal I was going to use for the collection of quotes from the books I read. (I have abandoned that idea in favor of post-its because I don't want to stop, copy a quote, and read on. It breaks the rhythm. I have the post-its handy for ripping off a sheet and slapping it into the book where it marks the lines I liked.) When I had time to kill, Panera was great. I could get lunch and work on the story and they didn't mind. Around me, people were hooked up to the internet, doing whatever they needed to. I had my journal and my gel pens and I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I was very proud of myself when, after a couple weeks of this, I'd reached paged 23.

No, the journal pages are not numbered. I have to do that myself, but that simple task delivered a great feeling of accomplishment. How far in advance should I number them? Was 30 enough? No. Not even close. 50? I might be half-way through. I'm not sure. I settled on 100.

I wrote in various fragments of time; at the doctor's office at the end of May; at the office when burning CDs or processing data tied up my computer for long stretches. May was cold and damp and I felt the words struggle to flow through my pen onto the pages. Some days, I could barely manage a page. Other days, three and four pages of text seemed to sprint onto the lines. I went through one pack of gel pens and had to buy another.

And then life caught up and all these things I needed/wanted to do called to me and the journal was set aside for a time. I knew exactly how the story would end. I knew the characters. I knew, mostly, the dialog. It was getting it committed to the pages of the journal. I wasn't feeling inspired.

Then, last Saturday, a glorious day of moderate temperatures and warm sunshine, I got the deck into sitting mode.

All the plants are planted, although I need another marigold for one which didn't make it. The statuary is out. There is a table for a drink and supplies, and there is the comfort of flowers.

The geraniums, as I've said, are rather spindly and will be cut back in the next week. This space is inviting now. I don't feel like it needs more than the usual deadheading of flowers. I can sit out here and work on whatever project I have in front of me, be it a book, a cross-stitch, or a story. Of course, my flow gets interrupted by "Hamlet! Deck! Now!" He was so good but has since regressed, although he comes when I call. He's timid, as the girls are, so I probably could let him loose while I finished a chapter or a line of stitching, but I worry and that not good for concentration.

Anyway, Sunday, finally, after two months of off and on writing, I could write "The End".

It's 82 pages in the journal which might type up to 40 pages on 8.5 x 11 inch paper. I changed verb tenses in the last quarter of the story, preferring the ending tenses to the beginning. It made more sense. I'm probably the worst editor of my stuff. I agonize over punctuation placement and whether this word is exactly what I want to use. I didn't do much editing of the raw product but it was hard, when I had to go backwards a few pages to remember where the story was and where it needed to go. Oh gee. That's not the right wording there, and out comes the editor in me.

The next step is to type this up so my friend can read it. After that, I have no idea what I'll do with this, other than mark something complete and move on to the next idea. She mentioned, while driving in the rain one day, seeing a book, pages flapping in the wind, in the median of the road she was on. Did someone leave it on the top of their car and drive off? Or did they heave it out the window during a rainstorm, on purpose? If so, why would you do that to a book? She never specifies the size of the book. So many ideas.

This is a great victory for me. I got the deck set up for a summer of relaxation AND I finished something I'd started. On to the next project!

Beverage:  Water


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Probably About Time

There's a Highland Festival this weekend. I haven't been to one in 3 years and then, I couldn't stay the full time because I hurt all over. I'm much better now at managing my RA and have progressed to a better place. So, I was gathering the few things I'm bringing to the clan tent.

I see there's a broken fluorescent bulb in the basement which I need to clean up on Sunday. And I think I'm finally ready to cut this box down and recycle it.

The photo dates from 2009. That's probably when I bought this new but I'm really not sure.

Why is it that I've kept it all this time? All it's done is take up space. I need to find a place in Chicagoland which recycles computers and give this away. It sits, taking up space, on the back corner of a desk in the office, along with a pile of cords I no longer use. When I put the things for the festival away in the bins, I have to clean up the bulb, and I will recycle this. I promise.

Are you Windows users this attached to your computer boxes or is it just me?

Beverage:  Klarbrunn Black Cherry Seltzer


Wonderful Wheels

I'm coming up on a year with the Malibu and I must say I have enjoyed having this car. I tolerate so much which, in reality, I shouldn't. One of those things was the deterioration, all around me, of the Jeep. I adored my Jeep; I really did. There is something deeply fun about driving a Jeep Wrangler; going pretty much anywhere and knowing you're reasonably safe to progress through bad weather. They also wear like cast iron, although, as they age, you need money to keep them afloat.

There was one thing I never did with the Jeep.

I never took it through a car wash. This was because it had a soft top and, when I first got it, car washes had not adopted  "touchless" technology. Those bristle things which descended from the ceiling and popped out from the sides, were designed to remove the grime in minimal passes. But with a soft top, they would shred the canvas fabric.

Even when washes went to those heavy canvas octopus-like brushes which seemed to slap the dirt off, I wasn't persuaded they wouldn't harm the top. So, I never went, even when washes went touchless, with high-powered soap and water dispensers, and heat blowers which would remove the feathers from a turkey. I always washed the Jeep by hand.

Now, the benefits of having someone else clean the grime off the Malibu are abundant. I can do a good job hand washing my car, but, invariably, I miss a spot and it mocks me until I can wash it. Touchless washes don't miss anything. Plus, getting the areas down by the door involve a level of bending which is uncomfortable now, with my RA. Let someone else clean the wheel wells.

Another thing I'm enjoying about the Malibu is the temperature display.

On Tuesday, I left the office, got into the car and viola, I know the air temperature around the Malibu. I also noticed I had rolled over a magic number when I pulled into the office. I didn't notice this until I was to go home. This is fortuitous. I can see exactly how many miles it is from the office to home.

When I got home, the temperature had dropped and it's 12 miles from my house to the office. It takes me from 20-30 minutes, depending upon traffic, to traverse those miles. Right now, there is road destruction in a number of locations so, even if I plan to get to the office early, I can be on-time or late, if the destruction is in my lanes. I know it will be very nice when they get it done. It's just enduring that time until it is done.

I've spent a lot of time in my car in the past 3.5 months. We've been slammed with work which has meant a great many day trips. I was coming back from Dubuque, Iowa, after one project and thought just how nice it was to put on cruise control and just drive, knowing my car is in excellent repair, even if it is 5 years old, and I have nothing to worry about. It makes driving 300 miles a joy, rather than a chore.

Beverage:  Earl Grey Tea


So You Might Want To

With a flurry of excitement, M&Ms announced a new flavor; caramel. /sigh. If you've spent any time here, you know I've been less than enthusiastic about their attempts to broaden their flavor base. It's kind of ridiculous. M&M/Mars holds a commanding lead in market share in the American chocolate market. They don't need to make anything other than M&Ms in plain, peanut, peanut butter, and pretzel, and they would still trounce anyone else. But they seem to always be trying something else.

Chocolate and caramel are a winning combination, however. Milky Way and Snickers bars have delicious gooey caramel. Cadbury has a chocolate caramel bar that is amazing. I should give this a try; that is, if I can find it. Reports were Wal*Mart had them, but I refuse to go to Wal*Mart unless that is the only place to buy something which is life-saving. M&Ms with caramel is not lifesaving.

Then, I found them on a site looking to position itself as an Amazon alternative; The bag was cheaper than I anticipated finding it in the store for this size. So, I bought it. I have since found out that is owned by Wal*Mart so I'm in a quandary. I refuse to overtly give the Waltons any of my money because I know how much they pay their workers; how a friend of mine had to apply for foodstamps because a supervisor who didn't like her, cut her pay in an attempt to get her to quit. (It was a very nasty story. That supervisor was, eventually, fired from Wal*Mart because she picked on not just my friend, but also others. Yet the corporate culture is such that employees can be subject to the whims of a supervisor who simply doesn't like them, with little recourse unless others speak up.) I will have to consider the use of this service versus the use of Amazon which I'm not fond of because of its world domination perception.

Anyway, the M&Ms came to my door in a padded mailer. Inside was the bag of M&Ms and this.

I should mention the mailer with the M&Ms arrived while I was at work. I suspected, when I saw the "Expected delivery date" on the shipping form, it would arrive when I was not at home. I had a bit of worry I'd pull out a mass of liquified chocolate mixed with caramel. That wasn't the case. It was still cool on the inside of the mailer.

Ta Da.

Although the graphic on the front would suggest the caramel was liquid, that is not so. It is chewy. I found it a delightful soft chew. I feel, if it were the more liquid caramel of, say the Milky Way, there would be little of the caramel taste. It would disappear from your tongue before you had a chance to actively combine chocolate and caramel. They didn't put hard caramel centers because you couldn't eat them one after another, if they were the hard caramels. I'm actually impressed that thought and probably not a little testing went into this design.

I give these two decided thumbs up. If you like M&Ms, I recommend you seek out a package and give them a try. "Sharing Size"? I think not. Get your own.

Beverage:  Earl Grey Tea


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Things I See; A Library's Goodies

Last fall, I had the joy of inspecting a fairly new library in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago. What could be more exciting? An English major in a library BEFORE it opens. I had to wander the stacks too because I had to look at the ceiling where the stacks were. I have an observation which was eye-opening to me.

Libraries in multi-cultural neighborhoods need to have books in the languages of their neighbors.

I feel like such a dork for not realizing that. Of course, I don't know which Asian language or languages this is, but there was a whole row of such books. It also made me realize that, although I knew it, lending libraries are global. If you speak Spanish, but your library doesn't carry Spanish-language books, the reach of a lending library means you can get books in your language. This is a head-to-desk realization.

When I was growing up, inter-library loan was a thing. Mainly, it was in the loaning of large print or Braille books. I knew people who would go to the local library and ask for the list of large print books. They had to wait awhile because these came from the big libraries or, in some cases, the university libraries, but they would arrive to our little library in Monona. I remember the librarian let me see one. Whoa! 18, 24, 28 point type. A 150 page book could balloon in page size to double that. You could kill small animals with the size of the book. But the librarian emphasized that people with failing eyesight should be allowed to read, too.

Libraries have had to remake themselves as the world goes digital. The days are long gone where you could wander the stacks of a library, finding treasures in the back; books which hadn't been checked out in 10 years. I loved to look through those, even if I didn't check them out. My local library has removed some of their stacks, replaced by an increase in the display area of periodicals (I'm not against that.), more music and movie offerings; and more classes. I have a cross-stitch club I go to every fourth Tuesday of the month, assuming I'm not traveling. There are more computers available for those without reliable access. But the large number of stacks, which I remember wandering in the 1980's, are gone. It's just the nature of a library nowadays. If I want something, they can get it via inter-library loan, but I do miss wandering and finding something I didn't know existed.

This library in Albany Park, was sparse from a browsing point of view. They are heavily focused into community programs. Being part of the Chicago Library system, there is no need to have a vast amount of paper materials in the building. Instant access in requesting books is provided. You can do it yourself from one of the terminals around the library. They have an outdoor reading area where you bring your own things or books you have checked out. It was quite inviting.

I have great fondness for the library I grew up with. That is probably as much due to the librarian who was very invested in getting kids and their parents to read. It was just assumed you went there. That libraries address the reading needs of their diverse communities should not have come as a surprise to me. I'm kind of ashamed it never occurred to me before I had to inspect one.

Beverage:  Water


And Upgrade to Life

At my November doctor's appointment, I discussed everything with my "new" doctor. I'd seen her once before and she came across as very understanding and empathetic. I was, and still am, very impressed with her. In that November visit, we went over all my meds and all my lifestyle choices. One thing I brought up was alcohol.

Since March of 2012, this has been wine.

I like sparkling grape juice so I didn't feel I was missing out on much. Alcohol and medications go through the liver and alcohol can cause problems with the liver and methotrexate. So, depending upon how much methotrexate you take, doctors will tell you not to drink so your liver just processes the drug, and not the alcohol. There could be liver damage. I decided, when diagnosed, that my health was more important than alcohol so it was not an issue to remove this from my life. I even created a "Poor Man's Mimosa".

I don't know why I haven't ever noticed these individual orange juice bottles before. I love orange juice but can't always consume a whole carton before it get, shall we say, "ripe".

But, since the middle of last year, I'd been reading a great deal of information on how alcohol in moderation is good for those with RA. It should be noted I'd seen studies conducted in Europe, but not much in the US. One of the RA sites I frequent commented on the older studies of the general population which detail how a glass of red wine at least 3 times a week, was beneficial to one's health. There was no mention of conflicts with methotrexate. So, can I or can't I? Dr. Francis said I shouldn't be drinking, period, in spite of what studies may be saying. Okay /shrug. I can live without alcohol. There are some cool mugs out there which liven up my non-alcoholic ways. Witness the mug my friend, Pam, gave me for my birthday.

(Yes, this celebration was at Steak 'n Shake.)

Still, there was enough "noise", if you will, over the alcohol issue that I raised the point with Dr. Gierut. What did she think of all of this? She said there are three schools of thought. One, the European school, feels one alcoholic drink, per day, is okay for people on any RA meds. European studies have not shown a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption with methotrexate, and liver damage. Many US doctors feel the studies are very flawed and no one taking methotrexate should drink alcohol. And there there are doctors, like her, who fall in the middle. If I limit myself to three drinks per week, she feels that's a good middle-of-the-road answer.

I did not, dear reader, rush out and toast this news of being able to break my abstinence, with a beer or 3. Nor have I rushed to Binny's Beverage Depot and purchased a shopping cart full of beverages. My first beer since 2012 was at the company Christmas party last December.

It was a vanilla porter. I've always said I like beers I can chew. I did go to Binny's to get beverages with which to ring in the New Year.

Oh Belhaven, how I have missed you. And you now have a stout? Yes, please. And I got a beverage with which to lace my hot cocoa.

In the years since I quit alcohol, Godiva discontinued their white chocolate flavor. No matter. This will be fine. I've consumed "so much" that I have one shot glass left in the bottle before I have to replace it. I'll drink hot cocoa at any time of year. When I'm feeling a lot of stress, it's a good relaxant. But, yeah. It's taken 6 months to finish the bottle off. I'm not in any danger of overconsumption.

Currently, there is a regional stout in the fridge. I bought it in, um, March, maybe? I wasn't a big drinker before the ban and I'm not going to be a big drinker now that I can. Three glasses of alcohol a week seems like a lot more than I was drinking before, even averaging an evening out where two or three might be consumed, with weeks of nothing.

Still, I see this as a victory of sorts. I'm doing well enough that I can, with great moderation, toast my friends or relatives with alcohol. The upcoming Disney trip features brunch with "all you can drink" mimosas. I love mimosas, which was why I replicated, somewhat, the taste. "All I can drink" might be a couple, but at least I can have a real one.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Is That Hamlet?

Remember this little face?

In May of 2016, my friend, Becky, rescued this kitten from a storm drain where he had gone during a pouring rain to stay dry. He joined my family in July of last year when three homes fell through for him.

They grow kind of imperceptibly.

He's brought energy and giggles to the house.

He's my lover, particularly on a Sunday morning, when I sit down for breakfast and an hour of computer time before tackling the day's events.

He can be a pain when he wants attention but I want to play World of Warcraft. One of the best $50 I spent was for an impact case for my phone.

He turned a year old in April, so we had the obligatory vet visit.

At his first visit, he weighed 3 pounds. Let's add 10 to that. I was a bit horrified. Pilchard topped out at 13 and Mija was 12 and I worked to get them down to right around 10 pounds each. But the vet said she wasn't worried. He's a big cat; I mean look at that furrball on my table up there. Thirteen pounds on him is okay.

I still spend more time yelling, "Hamlet, no!" than I want to. He chases the girls and Mija really doesn't like it. Pilchard encourages it and will go looking for him. She will also growl at him if he wants to come inside and she's by the door. I realize this an exertion of dominance but I yell at her to knock it off.

He has learned to stay on the deck if I have the door open. That is a wonderful thing. The late spring gently warm days are wonderful if I can have the back door open. But, during the winter, when we'd go outside to sit in the sunshine, he'd go running off the deck. I rued being able to ever leave the door open again. The girls don't leave the deck if they come outside. They are skittish and usually don't go out even if I'm out there. I don't know what changed but he is usually very good now. If he leaves the deck, "Hamlet! Deck! House!" and he comes running.

For his birthday, I squirted some aerosol whipping cream onto a plate. Mija and Pilchard weren't quite sure what this stuff was so they didn't clean off their plates. He happily finished theirs. I don't feed him anything different than the other two. He thinks he wants people food and is always in my face when I sit down to eat, but then he sees what it is and realizes it's not for cats. He stuck his nose into my tea back in February and started drinking, which prompted a call to the vet to see if English Breakfast was acceptable. He did it only one other time and my vet said it was okay as long as he didn't drink it all the time.

He also loves catnip. The girls aren't that fond of it. They like it but he loves it.

So, yes, this is Hamlet, quite grown up. I never thought I wanted another cat but he's been the purrfect addition to the family.

Beverage:  Klarbrunn Black Cherry Seltzer


Perfect Gifts

Santa Baby,
Just stick some stickers under the tree
For me.
Been an awful good girl.
Santa Baby,
Hurry down the chimney tonight.

(I hope you know that song, but if you don't, here's a link to Eartha Kitt's version.)

As I age, I realize the gifts which make me deliriously happy are simple. One of them is stickers. All boxes and mailers and letters leave my house with stickers attached; unless they are mailers from Target. Those things require me to glue my stickers on. Not going to do that.

Christmas was a magical time. Carole sent me a whole bunch of stickers. I think she went to Hobby Lobby several times to accumulate this mass.

My friend, Liz, and my sister also got in on the act.

Liz's were all from Disney, thanks to her trip to Disneyland in November, and Sharyn's were all 50 cents or less.

I vowed, this year I would be better about writing people. I was gifted with some lovely note cards which don't take hours to draft a note. Thanks to this and a vow to be better about sending cards, I've used up 80% of this stash. I had to buy more stickers in March because I was running low. I put together Easter baskets for my great-nieces and nephews and bought stickers to put in those, which gave me a few more. But I realized I'd need to, probably in June, set aside some cash and hit up Hallmark. They have neat stickers, even though they are a bit pricey.

Enter Mother's Day.

The last three years, Carole has sent flowers. While very appreciated, 1-800-Flowers was not sending me good blooms. She would get a credit because the flowers would arrive with brown edges or would fail to open. After last year, she said, "I'm never ordering from them again, mom." There are a lot of things which would be great if she wanted to send me something, but she didn't ask so I didn't volunteer. When the Mother's Day card came, she said I have been gifted with a 6 month membership to Pipsticks. Huh?

Pipsticks. This is one of those subscription crate services which are popping up all over. I get a package every month. The clear mailer holds a pouch which contains stickers;

oodles and oodles of stickers;

all sorts.

I don't know if you can see them. On the left side of the keyboard are translucent colored raindrops. I'm not sure about the big rainbow piece at the bottom. It might be a place to stick stickers onto. I haven't tried to see if it's one huge sticker itself which would be awesome on the back of a mailer or flat or on the side of a box. I have a method for stickering packages and I just haven't gotten to that piece, yet.

Also included is a picture to color, a pre-stamped postcard and a newsletter, which is the heart covered paper. I sent the postcard to a friend and added the coloring page to a color book I got last year.

I am thrilled. I have not used these up. I've been really busy and haven't written a lot of letters. I sent out some parcels right before and right after Memorial Day and it was so wonderful to adorn them with stickers. It was hilarious because I sent a flat to someone who had never received a letter from me. His reaction was priceless. On the guild Facebook page he typed, "OMG! You guys! Letters from Gimm come covered in stickers!" A large number of people responded, "Yes, yes they do." The postcard is blank on the other side so you can use your stickers to create a scene. I just covered the side with anything which would fit.

My subscription runs through October. This might become my birthday and Mother's Day gift, I was told, assuming each pack stays as great as this one. In October, I'll have the rest of these to use up.

I bought these to use in achievement books when my guild goes to Disney World in October. (See below.)  I have two boxes full of stickers. We won't use all of them and the boxes are small enough to carry in my purse for stickering on the go.

This makes me so happy. I'm trying to get my life in order so I can sit down and write some notes. If I have to take boxes to the post office, I go to the one near the office. The clerks there get a big kick out of what I mail.

Beverage:  Klarbrunn Black Cherry Seltzer



One of the Twitter places I follow had this in their feed.

I confess to laughing so very hard at this.

Beverage:  Water


It's Really Real

I've been saving for a guild trip to Walt Disney World this coming October. As of today, it's 132 days until I'm in the air on my way to Orlando. It hasn't seemed real until May. Finally,  Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party dates and tickets released. This was, kind of, the big reason we chose to go in October. It's pricey, particularly to our overseas guild mates. But, there was sheer joy when I got a letter from Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

There it is. My ticket to the Halloween party. This one plastic item caused me to really ramp up the collection of things. The next thing was to order this bag I'd had my eye on.

When I went to Disneyland in 2015, I wanted to pare down all the stuff I carry to a small handbag; a wristlet, is what it's called. I love this bag. I use it exclusively now. It fits in the glove box or under the seat or in the well between the seats. Everything I could use fits in it. But, DisneyWorld requires a different strategy from Disneyland. The sheer size of the park means I need to carry more things. Building on the lessons learned from the Land trip, I need a portable phone charger. My phone and my digital camera wore down with all the picture taking. Disney World has portable chargers for sale. But I felt I should do my research and get one before I got there, mainly to figure out how it works. Thankfully, one of the tech sites I frequent had a recommendation AND a coupon code.

Viola. The $20 phone charger the same size as my ancient iphone. It takes an hour to charge the phone to full when it's less than 40%. It take 10 minutes to charge the charger, when it's 50% or greater. 

I'm going to need a water bottle. I can't duck out of line to get water and I don't want to pay $3.50 for a bottle of water. Staying hydrated is going to be important. But my little blue bag certainly can't hold a water bottle or this charger. 

Then, I had this thought; when I made dinner, lunch and breakfast reservations back in April. There will be times when I'll be standing or sitting; waiting for whatever is next; i.e. our table to be ready. I need to bring a paperback book with me. I read everywhere. The blue purse certainly can't hold that. I don't read books on my phone. I prefer the joy of flipping pages. I was now into large purse territory. I am not carrying a backpack. Disney searches ALL bags and they pay particular attention to backpacks. My little blue purse makes it easy to see exactly what I have with me. I need something bigger.

Four years ago, I bought a leather purse with a Celtic emblem on the front. I looked at that purse. While I like it, I've always had issues with the interior pockets. Getting stuff out was a chore. This wasn't the right purse for Disney. I looked into just a large "beach bag" with a zipper top. No. That didn't appeal to me at all. Then I got a catalog in the mail and there was this steampunk "shoulder satchel", they called it. Now THAT was something I could get behind. Weird and funky and just the right size. Plus, it wasn't too big that I might be tempted to bring everything with me. We have this list of items people on various web sites have said are worth bringing with you. You would need a backpack to hold it all. One of my friends goes with her mom to Disney and the problem with her mom's backpack is, invariably, what mom wants has fallen into the bottom of the backpack. It takes her 10 minutes to find wet wipes. I am not going to be "that person" in the group.

The purse was $70. That's kind of pricey for something I might not use again. And then I thought, "Who are you kidding? You're going to be buying all sorts of things you'll only use for this vacation." I started searching "steampunk purses". Double viola.

The pin, to the left, is a Christmas gift from Liz. That's the Small World facade. I wanted canvas and a sturdy strap because, while I don't collect pins, I will buy a few as souvenirs. The purse itself, is canvas with probably cardboard(?) or some other thing in the flap, front and back, to give it bulk and to hold shape. The side pocket is too small for a cell phone, but will be perfect for pens or other small items. There is the small top pocket and a zippered pocket on the back and one inside. Otherwise the interior is open.

The three bottles on top will be filled with glitter and glued shut. In the game, players have status bars which increase or decrease based on what they are doing. Health is red. Mana, which can be thought of as the essence needed for spells, is blue. Hunters, which is what my main is, use focus, which is an orange red.

All of this fits inside the bag. There's plenty of room for a small container of wet wipes (a great idea), a tube of sunscreen, my cell phone and ...

This handmade booklet is a take-off on the in-game achievements available to players. Liz and I spent months, going back to her trip to Disneyland in November, coming up with "achievements". The first one, "Attend Spectacular Death's 10th Anniversary Disney World trip", is done. Every guild member and family member going with us, got a book. Most of the achievements are completed by taking a photo of something. Then, you show me the photo and I'll put a sticker on the page. After receiving my Halloween party ticket, I spent two weeks printing, cutting, folding and stapling books. They have all been mailed. I was going to pass them out when I got there, but we're coming at different times and I know I'd want to have it sooner so I can plan where to go to do the most achievements at once. I'm going to try to do every achievement in the book. We came up with some which can overlap others. "Take a photo of Mickey. Double sticker if you're in the photo." can be combined with "Take a photo of a character not in their usual costume", because we're going to a character breakfast in the Animal Kingdom and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Daisy wear tour guide outfits.

I took the car in for an oil change and tire rotation and I'm going to need to replace the brakes. There is a sale at my mechanic where I can get $50 off new brakes. I sighed on the way home. How can I save when I need something important like this? It's not like I don't have the money, but it's spoken for. I decided I had better pay for the vacation so I know what I have to save for. That was done Friday. Disney has acknowledged receipt of payment. The only thing left is airfare and the travel agent is watching those numbers for me. I need to have $137 for my foot and leg massage on the Wednesday we are there. I have that saved. I need $40 for an Epcot fireworks boat ride and $48 for a tour of the Disney steam train. I have those saved. I can now look at the calendar and plan to rent a car and get the brakes fixed toward the end of the month. Then, save for souvenirs.


Beverage:  Poor man's mimosa