Saturday, December 27, 2014

Made out like a bandit, I did

Had a lovely lunch with my two sisters-in-law, where we (traditionally) exchange gifts - by this time we are all giving each other the same things (meaning there are three sets of the identical objects being traded) because we know the others like them, so that's kind of hilarious. It's the lunch that's important - no, I'm wrong - it's the *company* at the lunch that's important.

Had a lovely Christmas Day dinner at my one sis-in-law's home, with her son's family and the other sis-in-law and *her* grown kids. Lots of good food (lasagne! Another delectable family tradition), lame jokes, banter, and watching the ten year old and the two year old zoom around.

And I was *buried* in gifts from my son & his family! They just kept showing up on my doorstep, day after day! And what gifts!!! The Firefly board game! (swoon)  The Pandemic board game! (squeeeee!) The Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen's "Exploring JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit" (I debated how to treat the font in that title. If I remember I'll look it up in my handy grammar and punctuation book and let you know how I did)!

[And now I'm wondering: Is italicizing and underlining *grammar*? Or punctuation? Is there a third rail in English usage? Something else to look up. Post a comment if you know. I check comments daily because I've got the comment filtering setting On.] [No one ever comments, but I live in hope.]

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Short catch-up post

My energy level has improved considerably since that last post. Since then I've gotten cookies baked, presents store-bought or handmade wrapped and in some cases mailed, a lovely luncheon enjoyed, and lots of reading done. I finished Bill Bryson's One Summer: America 1927, and enjoyed it a lot (despite one friend's scathing critique of Bryson's research quality), and Alan Cumming's autobiographical book Not My Father's Son (this last was a cheat on my TBR pile; I sat down the minute I got it home and read it all in one sitting - now I go back to the TBR pile in proper order).  I'm working on Asia's Cauldron: the South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by Robert D. Kaplan. For bed-time reading right now I'm working on Christie's An Overdose of Death.

I started Yet Another pair of socks, to alternate with the sock I've *almost* got done. I got tired of that one, and this pair excites me because 1) I'm again making it up as I go along - no pattern - and 2) I'm using two colors! Whee! Wide dark green and natural white stripes in a knit 2, purl 2 rib (except for the sole, which will be smooooth stockinette). It's also the first time I've used the CoBaSiyarn (cotton, bamboo, and silk) so I'm interesting to find out how long-lasting it is in a sock.

And so goes my tha-rilling life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Low-karma week

Having a hard time doing any of the many things I have on my To Do list this week. Don't know if the grey, clammy weather has anything to do with it, but that's not going to get better; looks like we have maybe 5 straight days of grey cold rainy crap coming up, segueing partway through into grey cold snowy crap. Oh joy.

Oh well, my library book pile is up to 9 volumes now. I could always hide in bed for days at a time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

This week's Project

This was what my dining room windows looked like yesterday morning:

This is what the dining room looked like last night:

And this is what it looks like now:

I made some shelves! I'll remove the clamps tonight (I glued a board to the foot of each side plank for stability). They're not finished or painted, because I'm not sure where they will ultimately end up. The main two things were: get rid of those god-awful sheer curtains at the windows, and get a shelving unit up to put the little houseplant babies on. And open the wall up to be lighter. It faces east, over the neighbor's driveway to the side of his house, and it's entirely canopied by huge oak trees from his yard, so it tends to be dark in the dining room. 

I made up the shelves as I went along. As always with anything I build, it's pretty half-assed. But if it works, I'm happy. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Ridiculously chuffed

Since last May, I've been trying to change my diet and activity habits to reduce some bad-trending numbers in my health assessment. Cholesterol and blood sugars, mostly. Yesterday I had a fasting blood draw to check the cholesterol levels. Today I got the results: My good cholesterol (HDL) dropped 2 points, 51 to 49 (both within 1 point of the "50 or higher" desired level). My total cholesterol dropped 41 points. My Triglycerides dropped 46 points. My bad cholesterol (LDL) dropped 29 points. The cholesterol/HDL ratio dropped from 5.3 to 4.6. The Total, Triglycerides, Bad, and ratio are all still higher than desirable. But if I lower them as much in the next 6 months as I have in the past 6 months, they'll all be down in the Normal range.

I was really anxious about this blood test. I have been working hard but I was thinking, please please oh PLEASE, let me lower the bad ones by 5 points! Just 5 points! On my more optimistic days I thought maybe I could make that 10 points.  So today's results have got me OVER THE MOON! OVER THE MOON CARL!!! (I don't watch The Walking Dead so I really don't have the ticket to use that meme but I felt like it, so there.)

What have I done to get here? Changed my diet, mostly. I mean, that's almost entirely it. I have reduced my beef consumption, bacon consumption and cheese consumption by like, 85 - 90%. What meat I do use, is more of an accent or a garnish. I have fish (cod, pollack, frozen; tuna, salmon, canned), chicken, rarely pork. Once in a great while I go crazy and go to Village Inn and have Pigs in Blankets LOL. Woo hoo do I know how to live, or what??? I've increased the proportion of fresh or frozen or canned vegetables and fruits I eat per day. Like, I've doubled that. I've reduced by about half the amount of bread I eat (which really kills me, but since I make my own, eating less of it per day means I have to bake less often, so there's that). I TRY to either ignore dessert cravings or have a pear or apple or some canned fruit - that's really hard as I have a giant sweet tooth.

In fact, I buy almost no processed foods, I make most of my meals from scratch using fresh, frozen or canned straight stuff. I like my cooking better than Corporate America's. And with my adjusted plate I know I'm eating a well balanced diet. My problem is, I eat too much of that wonderfully healthy food. And my main problem is after dinner - after nightfall. When I'm sitting here watching a DVD or Netflix, knitting, or playing's almost irresistible to go out there and graze. And I'm an experienced cook & baker so it doesn't take long to create something Bad in a very short time (cookie dough, anyone?). I've been working on that for some time now, and I have to say I have failed often enough to start considering the drastic measure of installing a chain gate with a sign: No Admittance After 8 p.m.). I have the hardware. It could be up in like, 20 minutes. But the idea is so humiliating that maybe, just maybe, I can threaten myself with it into behaving myself, late-night-snack-wise.

So keeping with the diet methods I've had is the first component of my plan going forward.

The second part is staying out of the damned kitchen after 8 p.m.

The third part is exercise. That, I told my health coach, is the Piece of the Puzzle I haven't been Pounding in Place. (That was earlier today on our monthly phone visit, right after I'd eyeballed these wonderful new numbers. I was a little giddy.) So we arrived at a goal - a realistic and achievable goal - for my exercise from today on: one hour aerobic per week, and 3 times per week strength training. I mean really, that's pretty minimal. I should have no trouble doing that. Yet it's BEEN my goal for like 6 months. I haven't DONE it yet. So now I'm hoping my curiosity will be an additional incentive: My health numbers have improved so much, just changing my diet, how much better will they get if I add in the exercise?

Oh, I haven't yet mentioned my BMI. It's horrible. It's in the LOOKOUT YOU'RE GOING TO DIE OF FAT range. It's identical to what it was in May (this was not a surprise). I'll be very interested to see if staying out of the kitchen after dark and exercising every day will have a beneficial effect on my weight, too. Whaddya wanna bet? Likewise, the blood glucose levels, which didn't get measured in yesterday's test. They were "borderline" last time; I am even more concerned about those than I was about cholesterol, I mean I am flat-out fucking terrified of diabetes.  But I am confident that if I follow this plan of mine, my blood glucose levels will revert to normal, too.

Stay tuned.

I mean to behave.

Monday, December 01, 2014

House plant update.

Ageratum doesn't transplant well. It dies. Ah well, worth a try. The thin-leafed deep raspberry-colored plant is also struggling. I don't know if any of the slips from that plant will make it. But, the Swedish ivy, geraniums, and bi-colored (white and jade green) vine are doing well. The begonias look a little tough, but they're going for it. I can trim out the dead bits once they're established for sure.

I moved some of all of them (except the dead ones) up to the sewing room window. They seem happy. I put a bicolor in the bathroom, but the light there is limited so I may move it.

I'm going to go looking for string-of-pearls and Philodendron, and maybe one other houseplant, in a couple of weeks. This is an oxygen-enhancing effort, as well as a home-enhancing effort. It's been a long time since I had plants. Didn't want them. Now I do. And so it goes.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

OK so far, but I can do better

I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any trouble keeping up with my son's family (including my 6 year old granddaughter) over my Thanksgiving visit last week. This is a distinct difference from previous visits, when my excess weight, general inactivity and resulting lack of fitness kept me breathless, sweaty and sore, and lagging behind in general. I did try over the past year to up my physical activity, and while I never managed to develop a regular (or even very frequent) workout habit, I did get out and move around more.  This included the first two weeks of October when I tried to do without my car, relying on shank's mare, buses and taxies to get places. And when I do drive, I park much farther from the store's doors than I ever used to, just to get the extra walking in.

Anyway, as I said earlier, my daughter-in-law's cooking is absolutely fabulous in every way, and she's got her family on a mostly-vegan (except for her daughter) diet now, with occasional juice fasts. I have no objection to joining right in and the deliciousness certainly makes that easy. I'm inspired to eat a LOT more fresh vegetables and fruits, cut back on the carbs (SOME--I will NEVER be anti-carb), and just eat less in general. And quit eating at 8 p.m. - that's a biggie for me. I do fine with sensible breakfast and lunch, and even dinner. I just need to stay out of the kitchen after 8 p.m.

Another thing I've drifted way far away from in the past year is planning a week's worth of meals ahead of time. I sat down this afternoon and did that for this coming week. First I did a full inventory of all the food and condiments, herbs and spices, that I already have. I just looked for recipes that sounded fairly easy and good, and didn't worry about whether I had the ingredients on hand. As it turned out, the only thing I lack from the menu I made was parsley! I need lots of salad goodies, and to replace my dairy stuff, so I still need to hit the store.

Tonight I made Moroccan Pumpkin Soup, from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden. This is a big, gorgeous book full of mouth-watering recipes and I've barely scratched the surface. For this recipe, I substituted some roasted acorn squash I had in the freezer for the pumpkin. I had some tortillas left over so I heated up a za'atar mix (lots of thyme and sesame seeds, with a dash of sumac) in a small amount of olive oil in my cast-iron skillet, then browned a couple of tortillas in it. The combination of soup and flatbread was really good, and I'm glad there's enough left over to repeat the dinner tomorrow night. (I didn't take a picture; neither my food presentation skills nor my photography is good enough to make food look very appetizing.)

I have a fasting blood draw tomorrow. I'm feeling a bit pessimistic about it, but we'll see. Perhaps I *did* reduce the carbs and cholesterol, and increase my physical activity enough over the past 6 months to improve my numbers. In any case, I'm going to be working hard to do a more concentrated and methodic job of that going forward.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Home again, home again

Just got home tonight from visiting my son & his family over the past 8 days. Too wiped out to post anything else now. But have been inspired, as always, by my d-i-l's delicious and healthful cooking plus some reading about what the scientists are learning about the effects of inactivity (aka "sloth") on the human body have evoked a feeling that I really, seriously, must change the way I live my life. I've been working on it for several years, and I've enjoyed improvements, but I've never gone into it whole-heartedly. What they're finding on the health front is damned scary, and I think I'm ready to ratchet up my game.

More later.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Socks socks socks socks

I finally finished Sock No. 8 last week,

(it looks a little cooler after it was washed and blocked) so had nothing on needles. I pulled out the Zwerger Garn Opal Sport:

to make a pattern called Edwardian Boating Socks (which I can't share a picture because I don't have the copyrights to any of them - but when they're finished I'll post the heck out of my own photos). I bought this yarn because it was the closest I could find to the colors in the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS. That pattern looks really really cool with variegated yarn and I have high hopes for this pair.

And it started out really well. Then I hit the actual pattern. This is the first time I've tried a pattern using a chart and I buggered it up twice, and right now I've tinked it back to the last row of ribbing (which went perfectly this time). But it's not going to be a TV-watching project for me. I'll have to have all music and videos off and really concentrate to get the chart right.

Which is a disappointment because I wanted to take it along on my trip to California to keep my hands busy en route and during quiet times with the family. So I decided to start a plain vanilla pattern (like the one I made up for the Trekking 474 socks:

and decided to use the WüllenStudio Desperado (colorway) I bought because I love the turquoises and khaki and cocoa with just little dashes of forest green now & then:

so this is what I'll take on the planes with me. If I can fit it in the one carry-on bag I'm taking.

I have so much sock yarn and I do need socks - I need to keep pushing to work my way through the stash.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This is me, saying Yes.

Last Wednesday, I got the November Omaha By Design e-newsletter. One of the articles was a call for volunteers to go downtown yesterday morning and participate in a photo shoot for a promotion of Complete Streets. That's where a city works to make their streets safer and more attractive and friendlier to pedestrians, bicyclists, and mass transit riders. They were having the police block 16th Street off between Capitol and Chicago Streets. They’d have us park our cars in a close grid right across the street to show how much room cars take up, then have the bicyclists with their bikes, the city bus and its riders, and some pedestrians.

This sounded like exactly the kind of thing one gets retired for, to have some fun like this. So I signed up, and yesterday morning, I made my way downtown, and found the right corner, and parked my car where they directed me, and then we all stood around in the 20 sunny, windy degrees and waited while the organizers and photographers figured things out. They thought for a few minutes they were going to have to draft one of the policemen’s cars to fill out the 30 vehicles, but then someone else showed up and all was well.

They had a big BIG jack platform on a flatbed truck, and the photographers and director of Omaha By Design, Connie Spellman, rode it up until it was oh, I don’t know, 15 feet high? So their eye level would be 20 feet or so? I don’t know. They were way high up.

They had 30 of us gather in front of the block of cars, and that was when I found out that 30 people, average age maybe 35, are incapable of counting off. Mind-boggling. We had to do it three times. During the fourth, I turned to look behind us, and witnessed a zombie, stiff-legged, arms stretched out front, eyes vacant, jaw lolling, shambling through the grid of cars to where we stood for the photo. It wasn’t actually a zombie, of course, it was just a guy IN JEAN SHORTS AND A TEE SHIRT IN TWENTY-DEGREE WEATHER come to see what all the fuss was about. What little discipline we had was, of course, shattered. But we re-grouped, and the zombie stood behind us - behind *me*, actually, and the volunteers and Number 31 (which he yelled out with great enthusiasm after Number 30 had called his number) proceeded to enjoy some 20 minutes of joshing around.

Someone asked him why he wasn’t properly dressed for the weather. He said he saw the commotion out his hotel window (16th Street ends at the back of the DoubleTree Hotel) and when he saw that block of cars he KNEW that what we needed was zombies, so he raced right down to help us out. He said he’d flown in to Omaha for the Motley Crūe concert Thursday night. Somebody asked where he was from & he said “Elgin.” (I assume Illinois?) He said he’s found Midwestern people are way, way more friendly than - someone pressed him: “Than where - New York?” but he finished his sentence saying “Well - than me.” I told him we weren’t going to do this for him every time he comes to town so he shouldn’t get used to it. That got a laugh.

Then the organizers had us disband and re-group as cyclists, bus riders and pedestrians, and Number 31 high-tailed it for the hotel double-time without even a wave. I think the cold must have finally got his attention LOL.

Next, I was a pedestrian. We were to pretend to be crossing the street, in front of the single-file cyclists and the 10 bus-riders oddly clumped together *in front* of the bus. The guy in front of me was movie-star handsome and I noticed he always faced toward the camera’s direction with a gorgeous smile. I teased him: “Making sure they get your good side?” and he immediately started vogueing, very funny. He must’ve been there with office-mates because several others started hoo-hah-ing him for it.

Then they were done! It took less than half an hour in all (from we volunteers’ POV) and it was a blast. I went off to have a rare breakfast at the pancake house and didn’t find out until later that they were giving us tee shirts. Connie mentioned it in an email later; she said she’ll get me one, too. I just wish we’d got Number 31’s name & address so he could get one too. He really MADE that little event, for me.  We're supposed to get a picture and if I do, I'll post it here. Connie already said I could.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thank you, ESA!

Background: When Curiosity was going to land on Mars, I stayed up for it, watching NASA/JPL's live feed. It was stunningly emotional. (I fell in love with Mohawk Guy along with probably 90% of the world's female population. I wouldn't presume to guess about the male portion.) But mostly I sat here, alone in my house in the middle of that August night, weeping with joy and pride and astonishment. I had "kind of" seen the first human set foot on the moon. Now I'd seen Curiosity land on Mars. 

But with the time difference between here and Europe I didn't feel like trying to figure out when, exactly, Philae would touch down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The closest a quick try got me was about 2 a.m. here. Nope. I'll read about it in the headlines tomorrow, I thought.

I slept, got up and did the usual morning routine, and sat down with my coffee to do the daily news and blog-run. Right now, I can't remember how I even got there, but the first thing I saw was a Twitter post: 

Spaceflight Now ‏@SpaceflightNow  36 sec ago

    Philae is on the comet! #CometLanding

36 seconds? I missed it by 36 seconds? Well, hey, guess what, I DIDN'T MISS IT THEN!!!! Unbelieveable. I was apparently MEANT to share this joyous occasion, just like last time, joyously weeping over my coffee. 

Then I went hunting for what I'd written about Curiosity's triumph. 

Nothing. Not in my blog, not in my journal, nothing. 

And now that I think about it, this is all I'll write about this morning's occasion. I just don't have words adequate to the event. 

But by some wacked-out stroke of good luck, I didn't miss it. That means I'm 3 for 3: the Moon, Mars, and 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  I am SO delighted to live in the future!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Here's a brilliant idea

I wish someone would take this idea and run with it: A web site where you could sign up to set up whatever regular contributions you want, to the charities you want, and get off the lists of everyone else - you should also be able to specify that you get NO additional solicitations from charities you already contribute to. I can't think how the web site would sustain itself, though. Maybe the charities could pay them half of what it would cost them to MAIL solicitations to non-interested people. That way the web site would pay for itself and the charities would save money.

Waiting until the very last minute

as usual, I finally got those plants potted up that I want to keep as house plants or overwinter to re-plant outdoors in the spring. I've had the pots ready for two weeks, just couldn't muster the interest until it became obvious yesterday that we are about to get our first real winter blast.

And as usual, I thought I could get this AND plasticking-over the windows done today. Nope, heh. The plants took freaking *forever*.  The windows will have to wait until tomorrow. But then that will be two important projects (= they've been driving me nuts for weeks) DONE for the winter! And I can go on to the next one, which is sewing a skirt in time to take it to CA with me later this year.

Anyway, I took pics of the plant-potting ceremony. Trashed the dining room for a couple of hours, but it's all cleaned up now. I haven't had houseplants for decades. I just didn't want anything else alive that I'm responsible for, but now I want pretty plants here & there and I want their oxygenating effects during the winter.

Getting set up:

Halfway done:

And done:

I used cuttings of the geraniums and Swedish ivy, hoping they'll take hold so I can replant them for the front stoop in the spring. I also took cuttings of the little green & white vine and the tall, lovely red-purple plant whose name I don't know, thinking maybe the vine will do OK but the red thing is iffy. We'll see. I also have some Wandering Jew I got via craigslist. I still would like to get some Philodendron and String of pearls for houseplants. So yay, this project is over except for the watering.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

I can tell when I'm tired.

It's when, as I try to put together some project and I'm clumsy, stupid and incompetent doing something that should be simple, if not easy. *sigh*

I fear another trip to Lowe's is in my future.


I had volunteered at the county Democratic HQ to drive people to the polls yesterday, or deliver ballots to the election commission. I put a lot of miles on the car, had two really interesting conversations (one with a grade-school classmate I hadn't seen *since* grade school), delivered two ballots and performed two "agented ballots." The latter involved going to the election commission office, signing my name as an "agent" (we're limited to doing two of these per election so they record it), receiving and then taking the ballot to the voter, helping them if need be to fill out their ballot, then after they've signed (if possible; if not I don't know exactly what I would have done - called in for instructions, for sure) and sealed the envelope, taking the ballot back to the election commissioner's office.

I won't go into details about the voters I did the agent service for except to say it was an honor and a privilege, and if the droves of idiots who stayed away from the polls could have witnessed these folks's determination to vote, they would *maybe* have felt the shame they should have. One of them had sent in the application for the absentee ballot (and if this person didn't qualify no one would), but never received the ballot. The voter called up the EC's office and asked what happened, and was told by "a young woman" that "Oh, we were really understaffed that day and some of them just didn't get sent out." This young woman was lucky it wasn't me doing the asking. Her ear may never have recovered. Her supervisor was lucky, too, because shortly after that call I would been there, in person, screaming into said supervisor's face about how many hundreds of thousands of people have died for our right to vote and they have ONE JOB DAMMIT, which is to make sure everyone who wants to vote gets to vote and it is a sacred trust that they should be ready to die to ensure. OH my were they lucky it wasn't me on that phone call. It's elevated my blood pressure right now just thinking about it. I reported it to the party volunteer coordinator and she said she'd heard similar things about the EC office and would bring it up at the next Dem. party meeting. Not nearly as satisfying as screaming in a miscreant's face, but I suppose it will have to suffice.

They said I could go home (4:30 pm) because they didn't expect many more calls for rides/ballot delivery before the polls closed at 8 pm, but once I'd got home and had just sat down to eat dinner, they called saying they needed volunteers for a "special project" County Dem. HQ wanted - to go to the polls just before closing time and stand by the line (if any) and be sure no one left without voting, without being encouraged to stay and vote. This sounds like a) probably a good idea and 2) nothing I was remotely interested in doing at that point. So I turned them down. By then I knew I was really REALLY tired.

But, I feel it was a good day's work. Oh, and I had mailed in my ballot a couple of weeks ago so I could be free to do the driving thing.

Monday, November 03, 2014

No, your eyes were not deceiving you

I deleted Oct. 31st's post because it was nothing but whining about what is, after all, a minor infection. If I don't want to become one of those old ladies who only talk about their health issues, I have to nip this shit in the bud right now.

Here's a pretty picture of one of my cats:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The long and winding road

to making a temporary shelving unit out of materials I already have, for  plants, this winter, in the blue room upstairs (I found out last winter that once the maple tree's leaves have dropped, the light is EXCELLENT for plants.)

Is it my convoluted brain? Is it the 10 years I spent in the DEQ Planning Unit, despite the fact that I never had any course work in Planning (mostly biology and other sciences)? Anyway, every damn thing I want to do seems to have its own House That Jack Built complications.

OK, I want to dig up several begonias, a couple of the geraniums, the ivies, the little white and green leaved thing in the hanging pots, and also plant some free Wandering Jew vines I got via craigslist, and put them in pots to over-winter in the Blue Room. But there would be too many to just put on the sewing table like I did last winter. So: a temporary shelving unit.  I've procrastinated for weeks. Today, it turned out, was the day. But I had to Plan, first. So:

1. Draw up a plan for the unit, using materials I already have.

2. Build the unit, assemble it in place upstairs.

3. In the garage, assemble the plant pots: river rock in the bottom, a layer of gravel, and half the amount of potting soil (the rest to be sprinkled in once the plants are planted).

4. Pot up the plants and put them in a protected spot on the back patio. when the maple leaves have fallen, move the plants to the Blue Room for the winter.

Also, I need to divide the irises and replant them in bare spaces in the flower beds, and elsewhere depending on how many there are.  So, after potting up the first set:

5. Cut off iris leaves to about 6" high. Dig up the corms, cut apart and replant both in present iris bed and the spaces where the potted plants were before.

6. Also: Cut off Hosta flower stalks and leaves to about 6" high for the winter.

OK, so I had a Plan! I went out into the garage to commence to begin. The first thing I discovered was that I should have gone out there and checked my *actual* wood inventory instead of thinking I knew what I had. BIG SIGH. The plan called for 8" wide boards. I only had 3 1/2" wide boards - and I don't have the tools to butt boards together to make wider planks. So, a trip to Lowe's was added to my round of errands.

So much for using what I have. On the bright side, though, I could have the guy cut the planks for me, saving me quite a bit of work. There will still be some sawing to do but the lumber guy did help a lot. 

But as always, my ideas of what I could get done today were totally unrealistic. I wonder why I persist in doing that. Oh well, back into the fray tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When will I ever learn?

I've committed myself to spending Monday afternoons helping a Certified Master Gardener do groundskeeping at our local branch of the public library (presumably through the end of the growing season). I arose yesterday feeling like something unspeakable rolled in sand (to paraphrase an old saying of my  mom's) thinking I'd call the MG and beg off, but by the time I got to the bathroom I'd decided to just go, and do it, and quit being such a wuss.

So I did. On tap for yesterday was the delivery of a dump truck-full of mulch to be spread over the two flower/ornamental tree beds on either side of the main library entrance. When will I ever learn that any given yard job is going to be MAGNITUDES more work than I think it will? Ye gods, am I out of shape. One and a half hours of that and I was utterly spent. I could hardly move. The MG guy is amazing - he's my age but he's never let himself go to shite like I have. I kept at it until I really thought maybe I'd have to stop the car on the way home (a five minute drive) and rest - and so I quit then. When he returned my wheelbarrow and push-broom this morning he said (when I asked) that he'd got the job done by himself, working there until 5 pm. I feel like such a heel. And what's sadder yet is that right now I'm in the best shape I've been since - oh, since I retired, let's say. I've been far more active and conscious of my sleep habits and physical exertions this year and I can really tell the difference in my strength and stamina - and yesterday's 1 1/2 hours was me pushing myself hard the whole time. WHAT a slug!

So, I know what I have to do. Will I do it? Probably more than I have up to yesterday. I do know that for today, I'm flattened, too. And my own yard is yelling at me about how the sycamore leaves (those the size of dinner plates, with 6-inch long leathery petioles) are covering the yard already. And and and other yard chores too numerous to mention. Egads, I'm in a hole today. Fresh air, exercise, and the exercise of civic responsibility is supposed to make you feel good about yourself - didn't work, this time. Maybe next Monday...for today, it's Tea and a Book (by Wylie Becket):

Sunday, October 19, 2014

An unexpected visitor!

In my yard and my neighbor's yard yesterday! Since moving here in 1993 I've never seen one here. What a treat. And so dignified.

He went off down the sidewalk at a leisurely pace, looking around like a tourist. I hope he finds his preferred location without interference.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Coming up on an inactive period, I think

I generally have what I call "troughs." I think it's a mild form of depression. Not mild because it's weak; indeed it keeps me inert for days, sometimes weeks. But I call it mild because it's not really a painful depression. I don't experience severe emotional pain, or really, any at all. It's a state in which I just *love* not doing anything. Not going anywhere, not working on any projects. Maybe reading, watching my library of DVDs, or Netflix. Maybe knitting and listening to music. But not going out if I don't have to, not going out of my way to be with people. Just kind of shutting down like a clam. And I LOVE it. It feels GOOD. I can't imagine how I lived all those years not being able to go with this need, but I did, as does everyone: you have to go to work. You are obligated to attend to family and friends. Now that I'm alone, and retired, I can indulge this need much more than ever. And when the current trough is almost over, I know it because I develop the urge to clean, to cook, to visit, to get out and do things. To make ridiculously overoptimistic To Do lists.

But right now I just want to coccoon. Literally: I've started putting plastic over the windows for winter. There are some yard things I really need to do, too. Not that I feel like it but I'd better, if I don't want Spring to come as a horrid surprise (assuming there will be snow to melt and reveal the consequences of any neglect I perpetrate).

So if there's not much bloggity for awhile you'll know why. I'm being utterly boring and there's nothing to write about. You might want to subscribe by entering your email address in the box in the right margin, and then whenever I post you'll get a note saying I've posted. That way you won't waste time coming here when in all likelihood there won't be anything new.

Going to make a cup of tea, get a blanket, and a good book (I'm reading "Walkable Cities" right now.)

ETA: two hours later: I'm even contrary with my OWN edicts. No sooner had I posted the above than I had a sudden burst of energy and have been going up & down stairs, laundry, cooking, cleaning, changing the closet from summer to winter clothes...I've quit trying to figure out my own psychology. There is no rhyme or reason.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What REALLY happened

Reader, I drove.

Oh, I got up fully intending to walk to and from my dentist's office. It's a gorgeous fall day,  and I was looking forward to it. Then as I came downstairs, my left ankle ... weakened. Painfully, and almost threw me the rest of the way down the stairs. It had been bothering me all week, a little bit. Sunday, at the highway clean-up, it got more aggravating. It kind of ached all night last night - not enough to really worry about. Until the stairs.

I'm always telling other people to be sensible and take care of themselves. Always carry your cell phone as you do chores upstairs, downstairs, outside, because you never know when you'll need to call someone for help. Etc etc.  So once I got downstairs I sat down and took a good, hard look at my walking adventures and what my body was trying to tell me about them.

64 is not 46. I've been sedentary for so long, now that I'm really wanting to change that, I've been pushing it too hard. All of my joints from the waist down are sore, all the time. If I lie in bed more than 8 hours, my hip joints really hurt. I have to get up and walk around a bit before they stop.

I think I've been stupid. 64 is not 46. Those years and pounds COUNT.

So, I drove to my dentist's, and afterwards I drove to the grocery store and got some of the "heavy stuff" I've been worrittin' and worrittin' about all week. That's another thing - this experiment has made manifest more of the problems that going car-less in this society, in this city, cause people. You have to be constantly planning, analyzing, strategizing even the simplest of errands. No matter how tired or sore you are, some things HAVE to be done. You HAVE to go to work (if you're lucky enough to have a job). You HAVE to get groceries and household items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies and laundry supplies. You HAVE to get yourself and your family to the doctor's or dentist's. It must be just exhausting. *I* find it exhausting, frustrating and depressing. Depressing, because I have the choice: I can quit this game any time - until my car actually dies. Then I'll have to either go in debt for another one, or get back on the Mode Shift merry-go-round.

I think there are a LOT of elected and un-elected officials in this city who really, really need to try this experiment themselves. I think there'd be changes made to the transportation network in Omaha real fast if they did.

Monday, October 13, 2014

In which a decision is reversed

I was so exhausted and foot-sore last night that I went to bed thinking I am going to have to fail this car-less experiment. I just can't do it. Between the bulky/heavy items issue and the long distance between me and the dentist's office (tomorrow's my 6 month check-up), I just can't, any more.

Got a lousy 5 hours of sleep and stumbled up much earlier than usual this morning just to get out of bed which was not fulfilling its purpose of cradling me to blissful slumber. I had already dedicated this day to very little but recuperating from my uncharacteristically busy week last week. So I thought about how I was going to admit in this blog that I just don't have what it takes to be a car-less citizen any more. And to ponder how exactly I was going to muster the money to have on hand when the one I've got bites the dust.

Well, I thought, failure can be a valuable post, too. I have to be honest or this thing is worthless.

Then I thought, but if I'm going to be scientific I have to at LEAST do the comparisons between my different options for going to the dentist tomorrow. I'm thinking it's at least 3 miles there. No way could I walk 6 miles in one day at this point. But to figure out how much a taxi ride would cost, I have to have a mileage estimate. So the first thing to do for a mode comparison is find out exactly how MANY millions of miles away my dentist's office is. I use I laid out the path and looked at the number.

1.7 mile.


Heh heh.

I can do that. That's about how far the grocery store is from me, and I did that last week. There's a really mean 1-block hill on the way to the dentist's, and one or more milder ones, as opposed to the grocery store trek which is downhill all the way from home. But I can take it moderately and get there, at 1.7 mile.  I'm cursing myself for not having noted when I left the house on my grocery store foray, so I don't know exactly how long it took me. But I bet I could reach the dentist's in 45 minutes max. In fact, I'd say 30 because I can go the 1.8 mile to the Benson P.O. in less than half an hour, but that's almost completely flat. So, say 45 minutes to the dentist. And no outlay of money.

How about taxi? Well, the one home from the grocery store cost me $8.00 including a tip. So a round trip dentist appt. would be ~ $16.00. And would take just a few minutes each way.

And the bus. I laid out the bus schedules and figured out I can get there by riding all the way out to the Westroads and back in to midtown (Metro has no routes that go anything LIKE directly from point to point north & south in midtown) and it would take a little over an hour, one way. Round trip fare would cost me four pass rides if they won't let me get transfers (I seem to remember they don't allow transfers when you'd be transferring to a bus that goes the opposite direction from the one you get the pass on? That might be incorrect, I'll check). And if they *do* allow transfers for this journey, then just 2 pass rides plus 50 cents.

So: Fast, but expensive:       taxi.
       Slow but cheap:             bus.
       Equally slow but free:   walk.

What's the weather doing tomorrow? Looks like gray but not rainy, and mid-to upper-50s. Sweater & scarf. I can totally do this.

I love that picture.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Day 11, the end of a rather tiring week

A friend to whom I was bragging about all the walking I'd done this week kind of made fun of me because he regularly walks that amount (all my week's hikes) in one round-trip hike to his job and back. However, I'm still pleased with my achievement; I'm ten years older than he and I've been very sedentary the past few years and I'm way, way overweight. (Losing pounds, though, walking does help with that!).

However, I confess I've been having thoughts of keeping the car after this trial month is over. If I do I'm going to have to start saving scrupulously for its replacement because that necessity is, if not actually looming, inevitable eventually. So that will entail more planning and work. I intend to stick with my pledge for this month, though, because its benefits are so obvious to me. The Plan, With Car, will include mostly NOT driving the car except for things like trips to the pet store for bulk amounts of cat litter, and emergency visits to friends or family (like if someone's sick, or unable to leave the house but needing something). I could still consolidate all the distance and/or bulky errands in one or two days per month. It's not like I'd be losing money (except in the usual depreciation of the car's value) because without the car, I'd still be spending money on bus and taxis, etc. I don't know. This requires more thought and pencil & paper analysis. I wonder how you quantify sore feet...

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Not surprising, I knew this, but...

ye gods are you ever punished for not owning a car.  Price-wise, I'm talking. And maybe only here in Omaha where there are a great many places you can't get to by bus without a LOT of walking. My practice of buying the 42 pound size of cat litter, for example, is truly endangered by not having a car. I can't find any bus route and walking schedule that is at all realistic for that. A taxi would negate the bulk price benefit.  I knew that people without cars have a much harder time of everyday things, here in Omaha. Now I'm experiencing it and feeling vaguely guilty that this is a *choice* I have. (Though to be honest, my car is now elderly and if it dies, I would have to rely on this current plan anyway - I cannot take on a car payment. And my experience with used cars - before 2011 when I bought this one new - and particularly for the $$ I have to pay for one outright - was not good. Egads, forsooth.) So - back to smaller sizes of cat litter, I guess. The biggest available in my grocery store, to be loaded into the taxi trunk on the semi-monthly Big Grocery List trip.

This economic factor is one that is quite well known in the alternative transportation modes world. It interlocks with all the other economic justice issues that keep people poor and struggling.  I am very lucky to have the income I have, small as it is. And the health I've got, iffy as it's been (cholesterol levels, I"m looking at YOU). Cutting down on my eating to stretch my money farther because it's just plain HARDER TO GET - that won't hurt me a bit, nor will the much-increased exercise. I have been affluentin' myself to death here. No amount of list-making, resolution-vowing, self-promising can put the brakes on a late-night trip to the store for ice cream like a mile-and-a-half walk to that store, and the walk back.

All that said, I'm sitting here grinning because Yah, I knew this would be a learning experience. And Yah, I had NO IDEA...

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Second bus-riding adventure: achievement locked

Ha. That's what the cool kids say. I don't know that it's locked so much as I finally got home, and fell back against the door exhausted. Well, not exhausted, but footsore and tired. A nice sitdown and half a pint of ice water later and I'm feeling perkier.

Anyway - I shank's-mared it and rode buses downtown (almost) to Spielbound to play some table top games with the nice guys in Godless Gamers. It was all guys at our table, except me. The other table had more people and at least two women, maybe three. I wasn't doing a census.

I'm glad that I shed any pride many years ago. I only today figured out that when I'm going somewhere that requires two buses, I should be telling the first bus driver I need a transfer, then I get a special transfer ticket and it costs less than charging my regular pass for a whole ride. DUH.

Also, the #3 - this confused me because their "maps" are SO highly stylized they're almost undecipherable - only goes to 40th & Farnam, then turns west and goes through the MidTown Transfer Center (that means it stops at the glass box and waits for possible riders for five minutes) then circles around to get going south again, and instead of getting to 40th & Harney where I thought I could get off, it only goes to 42nd & Harney, before diverging from where I need to go. This added two very steep blocks to my walk to Spielbound, but I still made it at exactly 1 p.m. So I know that about that route on a Sunday now. What I need to do is practice reading those schedules better!

Case in point: I mis-read the going-home #4 bus schedule. Where I thought the #4 came by 40th & Cuming at 4:28 pm, two minutes after the #3 dropped me off there, it actually didn't come by until 4:58. So I had a nice half hour on the not very comfortable bus bench. Seriously, not only is the seat hard, it *slants* toward the front so I kept feeling like I was falling off!

But the exercise was good for me, the gaming was fun and the people were, as always, very nice and fun. So it was a good afternoon all around.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

First round trip bus ride accomplished

I was gone from home right at 3 hours. The buses are on time, clean, and the drivers are friendly and helpful. Of course, they might get understandably tetchy in rush hours on the hottest days of the summer, but today, with a light weekend passenger load and perfect driving weather, all was serene.

I was astonished, on my last bus home, to be told by the driver that my State Driver's License does not serve for ID for my Senior 10-ride pass! This is the 5th driver - why didn't the other 4 tell me this? I was further astonished to learn that I actually have to go PHYSICALLY to MAT HQ nearly all the way downtown to get a MAT ID. So, I'll be going down there Monday to do that. I still have my game event I'm going to tomorrow afternoon, but it won't break the bank, just two rides.

I think I'm going to end up feeling like getting rid of my car (haven't done it yet, in case you're just now seeing this) was (will have been) the best thing I did since retiring. Already, today, I felt wonderfully free - though irritated no end at how human-hostile our streets and byways are.  But the idea of just locking the front door and walking out and *going* - not having to worry about gas, or parking or driving - feels very independent.

Stay tuned, we'll find out how long that lasts.

ETA: I know that this is a LOT of to-do about an activity that is utterly mundane for millions of people everywhere. It is enlightening to realize just how out of touch I have been, sealed up in my metal boxes, all these years. Out of touch with the world around me, the people around me, my own abilities ... I think this month-long test was an *excellent* idea.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

It's Day One of playing "I don't have a car"!

And I realized yesterday that I'd screwed it up before I even started, by double-booking Oct. 12.  My Game Day friends and I set up that afternoon for a Game Day here, and then last week I got notice from Omaha Atheists that their fall highway cleanup is coming up, "so sign up and join us!" So I did - and THEN realized it was for 10 a.m. Oct. 12, and it's clear out west by the Platte River. NOT a walkable, busable or taxiable destination. Even the meet-up place would take me an hour or more to reach from home by bus - meaning it would also take an hour or more to get home, and there would be no guarantee we'd be done with the cleanup in time for me to get a ride back to the bus stop ... etc etc. So, Since my Game Day crew are my first priority BUT the commitment to the OA highway cleanup is a civic promise I made, I'm going to waive the No Car rule for that one event. I'll drive myself out there, and leave in time to greet my Game Day friends after getting cleaned up myself.

I decided, rather than feel like a doofus about this, I will think of it as one of the things this experiment is going to teach me: I'm going to have to be a lot more mindful about planning ahead, without a car.

AND THEN I realized that I ALSO had bought a ticket to a documentary film downtown at Filmstreans. It is a Spanish film about global transportation issues, one I greatly want to see, and last week at the Sosa documentary I told Lin, "I'll be back here next Thursday, too."  Then in the wee hours of this morning (after I finally finished William Kent Kreuger's newest mystery, Windigo Island), I realized I probably could get a bus to Filmstreams, so I wrote a note to remind myself to look up the bus schedule to do so. This morning, I went to the Filmstreams site to find out the show time. I am, I discovered, a day late. It was shown Tuesday night. Well, so there's THAT problem sorted! *dusts off hands, kisses that $4.50 movie ticket good-bye*

But otherwise, hey, everything's cool. My next adventure will simply be to get to the Swanson Branch of the library for their Friends of the Library Book Sale this Saturday between 10 a.m. and 3 a.m. to find some more *little* kids' "scary" books to hand out at Hallowe'en for All Hallow's Read night. (Don't know what that is? Here's Neil Gaiman & friends to tell you.) I've done it the past two Hallowe'ens and I was surprised and delighted at the tricksers'r'treaters' responses - they loved it! Some of them went bouncing off my porch waving their books at their parents on the sidewalk yelling, "Look, Dad! I got a book!"  Now, you can't ask for a happier outcome than THAT. I went to the library sale the first Saturday in September and got 24 books, but very few for tiny tots, toddlers and preschoolers. I'm hoping I can find a few more of those this Saturday. The All Hallow's Read site also has a selection posters you can download. Here's the one I liked best, go see which one you like:

They also have bookmarks you can download and print out, and do whatever you like with:

And that's about all the thrilling news from here for today. Until I remember something else I screwed up...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Contemplating a big life change

I'm thinking seriously about selling my car, and doing without. At my age (64), this is scary. I live alone. Usually people my age are clinging tenaciously to their car keys, sometimes even in the face of actual, factual, decline in their ability to drive safely. It's famously one of a family's hardest moments: taking Dad's car keys away.

But you know what? As a car-owner, I think I'm in the tiny minority of humans who own a car. Really - there are billions of people who live their entire lives without possessing one of these metal and plastic and fossil-fuel and money-guzzling monsters.

I've stayed in my home past retirement because 1)  Good GOLLY I don't want to have to go through everything a down-sizing move would require, 2) almost everything I need (except a grocery store, and that may be changing somewhat even as I write) is within easy walking distance in Benson (a tiny old former small town that was engulfed two generations ago by Omaha), and 3) I have a great neighborhood with great neighbors. Having experienced life with horrible neighbors, I do not sell that feature short.
But now here I am, overweight, too sedentary, with some health exam test results I'm not very happy about. Here I am, I seldom leave the house more than twice a week for errands, and occasionally for social occasions, and my car, a 2001 Hyundai Elantra I bought new in July 2001 when some asshole rammed a stolen car into the trunk of my innocent Ford Taurus parked outside my house, is showing its age. It won't be long before the upkeep becomes too expensive. And here I am with a granddaughter, thinking about what global warming is doing to her future. 

I started thinking about all the alternatives to driving my own car that I have or could have. I can certainly walk, though not as far or as painlessly as in my younger days. A bus is one or two blocks away, and while Omaha's bus system is not ideal, they're working on it and if I plan ahead I could get most anywhere I need to go. I'm retired, so time isn't a problem (I can always knit on long bus trips). And I'm eligible for a bit of a discount for senior citizens now. We have taxis. And if I want to consolidate a lot of errands all over town into one day, I could rent a car. I hear one company delivers the car to your door, and will take you home when you return the car. And I checked - not having car insurance (because lacking a car) does not prohibit you from renting their cars. You can buy insurance for while you're driving it.

So I looked at how much not having a car would save me. Not a lot, it turns out. But probably enough. Dropping my car insurance would result in my losing a $300 a year discount for carrying both my house and car with the same company, but that still would save me about $80/month. And since I haven't been driving all that much, I figure I only put about $35 - $40 worth of gas in it per month. So that's about $90, let's say to be conservative, per month I could use for bus rides, taxis, and/or rental car. I can walk to the nearest full-blown grocery store - and it's all downhill! and could have a taxi take me back home for about $13 - or if I didn't have a huge bulky bunch of stuff to take home, I could ride the bus for much, much less.

And that doesn't even take bicycling into account. I'm thinking with what I could get for my car now, I could maybe get a decent used bike, helmet, and elbow and knee pads - not going to do without those!  Having a bike would greatly expand the boundaries of my carless world. Omaha buses all have a bike rack nowadays (yay!) so there's that.

It would be stupid of me to just sell the car without further ado. Therefore, I'm going to pretend during next month that I don't have a car, and see how I do. Maybe I'll have things to blog about the experience. In any case it's a good experiment! And I'd welcome tips you may have on how to live without a car.

Edited later to add: There IS a new grocery store just 4 blocks from my house! It's a tiny, storefront type place, carrying locally produced meats and vegetables and cereals, eggs, cheese, milk, handmade pastas - all kinds of goodies. It's a little pricey but I need to eat *better* and *less* so that's probably a good thing. Very friendly clerk. I got some organically-grown beef brats. Can't wait for dinner!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Getting ready for Fall

After seeing the movie "Ratatouille" a few years ago, I came home and hunted for recipes online, and found the very one they invented for the movie!

Smitten Kitchen's photo

I've never even tried to make it as gorgeous - I was looking for the basics. And what I found just upended my favorite, spaghetti sauce.  Mine is more of a vegetable stew. The past couple of years I've made large quantities to freeze over the winter. It's cheap, delicious, nutritious, and versatile. The more authentic recipes, I think, use very few herbs or spices. Some thyme, maybe. So it's a great base for just about any ethnic variation you like: Italian, French, Near Eastern...

Anyway, I took myself by surprise yesterday when I got done loading the car trunk with grocery store groceries and as I got in and fastened the seat belt, thought: "Wenninghoff's." That's a multi-generational family produce farm in the north central area of Omaha. So I drove on out there and guess what, came home with eggplant, zucchini, red and green bell peppers, onions, plus a buttercup and butternut squash, a small box of tomatoes, and some little red potatoes. The squashes and potatoes will go into homemade TV dinners that I'll freeze, some with roasted chicken portions, others entirely vegetarian, to add some variety in the winter. Here's what I got:


This saves me incredible amounts of money in the winter, and makes sure I'm eating a  lot of vegetables. And oh my, do I love ratatouille! It's good just with garlic bread and some parmesan on top, or over noodles, or rice (I dislike the idea of having it with potatoes, for some unknown reason), or some cooked lentils mixed in. Some ideas for variations:

French: thyme, basil, rosemary, bay leaf; with of course a baguette hot out of the oven and butter, and a green salad
Mexican: Mexican oregano, a dash of chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, some fresh cilantro and shredded cheddar on top; serve with corn bread or tortillas
Italian: a tsp or 2 of fennel seeds, oregano, basil, and bay leaf with parmesan on top; over spaghetti or penne, garlic bread side with a lettuce & tomato salad
Near Eastern: I am not very well versed in this, but I do know that za'atar - a flat bread with lots of thyme (here is David Lebovitz's blog post that turned me on to za'atar) and sesame seeds and sumac - goes very well with it indeed, even my poor imitation of za'atar

Next month is soon enough to start thinking about sealing the house up with plastic over the windows. I dread that, for eventually the house air seems stale and I start getting stir-crazy. But, it makes a significant dent in the gas bill, so there ya are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I feel so cheated

I went to a showing of the documentary "Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America" tonight at Filmstreams. I only found out about her 4 or 5 years ago, through a duet she did with Francis Cabrel on one of his CDs quite a few years ago. I immediately knew I had to find out about the woman with this astonishing voice. I got a CD -- but I've drifted away from listening to a lot of music in recent years. Seeing this film tonight has got me scrambling for more Sosa.

That voice! That face! That golden heart! If you get a chance to see this movie, see it. Find her music, listen to it. She was famous and loved around the world - except in the US. I'm sure the lack of Mercedes Sosa music here had to do with politics, plus mainstream white America having no interest in the music of "furriners." This would fill me with rage - except Sosa was not about rage, not at all.

The Spanish language web sites I found via Bing aren't very accessible to non-Spanish-readers like me. I recommend reading the wiki article  and look on YouTube - I'm listening to a jaw-dropping duet with her and Joan Baez right now. Maybe if enough US folks start buying her music, we'll get better English web sites? So more can find her?

Monday, September 22, 2014

One little project finished!

Last week I finally finished Sock Number - well, what number is it, anyway. Way back in the deeps of time, like at the end of 2012, I started a pair of socks in Malabrigo Boticelli sock yarn, a lovely blend of reds. This would be the third pair I will have made, so Numbers 5 and 6? I finally finished the first Boticelli sock (#5) last month.

(The reds are a bit deeper than this photo shows.)

In the meantime, in February of this year, I started another pair of socks, from Trekking 474 sock yarn in a lovely scrumptious variegated colorway. 

It will be the 4th pair I will have made (anyone remember the multiplicity of tenses one alien species practiced in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at this point?), so Numbers 7 and 8? Except I finished # 7 before # 6. So which should have which number?

It's not important, right. The important thing is, I finally finished the 4th pair! And they're the first that really fit! I'm so chuffed.

There is something very powerful psychologically in finishing something, for me, with my chronic Startitis and unfinished projects of all sorts all over my domain. It makes me want to get busy and finish something else! Well, er, um, really it makes me want to START something else LOL, just what I need. However, at this point, I do have that second Boticelli sock to start, so that will scratch that itch.

This weekend I bought a lovely set of four tan linen napkins and seven autumn colors of DMC floss, and I'm on the hunt for nice autumn leaves embroidery patterns to decorate the napkins with. I'm sticking to SIMPLE patterns so there is some remote possibility of these napkins getting finished before I die.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A lovely, slow summer doesn't make for exciting blog posts

For anyone who may wander over here occasionally, I apologize for being even more boring than usual. I've been enjoying a pretty serene summer, which means there's not been much of interest to blog about. How's this for excitement: I've been making a real effort to read more!

*and the crowd goes WILD*

I know how annoying it is when you keep going to a blog hoping for something interesting and new to appear, and it's the same old weeks-old post sitting there decomposing. So I finally bestirred myself to find and install a "Follow by email" widget on this blog. It's over in the right-hand column. If you put your email address there, whenever I get around to making a new post, it'll show up in your email. That way you avoid the irritation of seeing the same moldy old post alla time time time.

ETA: When you enter your email address, the program will send you an email to confirm that you really want to subscribe to emails from this blog. You can decline or accept; if later you want to unsubscribe, there will be an Unsubscribe option at the bottom of each of the emails. As far as I know, I don't get a list of who has subscribed, but even if I do, I won't use your email for anything at all. The subscription provider handles all the addresses and only uses them for this one task.

Yes, this is what passes for thrills around here. I like it because I dislike drama. Had enough of that, ready for peace. Oh, okay, here's something new: I made another personal journal last week. I covered this one with denim from an old pair of jeans. It's even less perfect than the first one I made, because like an idiot I thought I knew all the steps so I didn't bother to go over onto SeaLemon's YouTube channel and review them. Oops. It'll serve, but I've put a memo in the back of the new journal to go consult SeaLemon before tackling the next one!

Mistakes: used too few pages; the front and back boards are too wide for the text block; the bookmark ribbon could be 1/2" longer... 

general lack of precision and accuracy in cutting the boards and pasting the text block in.  Pluses: well, it serves, doesn't it? It's comfortable in my hands and

I had fun using old maps for the endpapers and

  I found some photos from catalogues of some space
 flights and auroras to doll the pages up a little.

Here are the videos I referred to:

How to make a text block

How to make a hardcover book

SeaLemon includes in-video links to skills used in each video that you may not have run across, such as creating your own book cloth for binding.

And here's a page that has all the basic bookbinding video links in a list.

I really like her bookbinding videos and I've bookmarked them because I'll be making various kinds of notebooks and pads in the future.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


you look something up you think is going to be pretty simple, and what you find is rather astonishing.  The viral video of the guy dancing on the walking machine in the gym to Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" caused me to wonder about the history of the song. The lyrics have always seemed a little - poetically mysterious? - to me, for a Rat Pack song about a mafia hit man, which was what I thought it was. Hoo boy, was I wrong...'s what you're soaked in and don't even know it.


Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
      And it shows them pearly white
      Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
      And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.

      Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe
      Scarlet billows start to spread
      Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe
      So there’s nevah, nevah a trace of red.

      Now on the sidewalk … uuh, huh … whoo … sunny mornin’ … uuh, huh
      Lies a body just oozin' life … eeek!
      And someone’s sneakin' ‘round the corner
      Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

      A-there's a tugboat … huh, huh, huh … down by the river don’tcha know
      Where a cement bag’s just a'droopin' on down
      Oh, that cement is just, it's there for the weight, dear
      Five'll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town.

      Now, d'ja hear ‘bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe
      After drawin' out all his hard-earned cash
      And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
      Could it be our boy's done somethin' rash?

      Now … Jenny Diver … ho, ho … yeah … Sukey Tawdry      
      Ooh … Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
      Oh, the line forms on the right, babe
      Now that Macky’s back in town.

      Aah … I said Jenny Diver … whoa … Sukey Tawdry
      Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
      Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
      Now that Macky’s back in town …

      Look out … old Macky is back!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Perfect summer night!

Last Friday evening,my friend Doris and I went out to Fremont to show support for a friend of ours, Michael Jones, as he displayed his hot air balloon, Emerald City Express at a “balloon-glow” event for a church fundraiser, ice cream social/fun fair (I guess?). I took lots of pictures and even drew one! 

 A “glow,” I learned for the first time that night, is when the balloons are inflated but never leave the ground, and the operators shoot flames up inside them to make them glow - a lovely spectacle for the crowds.  But because of the winds, the four balloons were only vertical at one time for a very short period of time. The crowds - especially the little boys and the little boys disguised as grown-ups - were excited about it all anyway. I got a good upper-body workout out of it - when inflated, those things want to FLY DAMMIT and we had six people hanging onto the sides of the basket with Michael and his niece standing inside it. That was 20 minutes of strain, let me tell you. And the wicker basket sides are like a cheese grater - my knees show the evidence. But it was grand fun, I’m so glad Doris called me and invited me. I ate a hot dog, and an ice cream cone, so it was perfect. Good company, too.

(I told Michael to strike an intrepid pose. I think he needs an aviator cap, goggles, and a white scarf, don't you? Or maybe a top hat.)

Michael’s niece Heather Jones, Michael, his nephew Allen Jones and *his* wife, Kat - the ground crew that night.

These things attract attention even when they’re lying down!

The giants are awaking…that’s Michael’s beauty in the front; Emerald City Express! I was trying to walk and take pictures at the same time, dummy me.

Looks scary, but everything’s OK. You can feel that heat from 150 feet away, though.

Now there are THREE waking giants.

After that, I got busy trying (feebly) to help get Emerald City Express vertical, and keep her on the ground. The three balloons (the fourth was deflated before the other three got vertical) were only vertical for a few minutes; once they were standing up they interfered with the wind such that the middle one was bobbing around impinging on the other two, so there was only a brief Glow display and I wasn’t taking pictures. 

But it was a grand evening complete with hot dog and ice cream, what could be better? Oh yeah - a yard sale - and Doris and I hit the one on the main drag heading toward the fun fest on the way there.

Then on Sunday I hosted another Game Day for my buddies Linda, Sharon and Doris. We had a great time playing a new game that I got by supporting its Kickstarter campaign, called "paperback." 

As usual half the fun was figuring out how to play the darned game. I think some developers forget their customers aren't all experienced gamers. But we worked it out to our satisfaction and it IS a really fun game. Then we played a game of Forbidden Island - I think that's one of the group's very favorite, so far. Food was et, and a good time was had by all.