Friday, September 12, 2014

It has to be the weather

It's been a rocky day, and there are still two and a half hours until quitting time. I'm blaming it on yet another long, frustrating encounter with customer service from U.S. Cellular (really, truly, I DO NOT WANT the $25 credit you are offering, it will just make it harder to track the ways in which you still have my account wrong after three months - better yet, just FIX the dang account).

But that's not it.

Tracking down what it is that's got me on the verge of an emotional melt down isn't easy, though. Too much work? Lots on my plate, but nothing too overwhelming. Too much to do at home? Again, things to do, assuming other people quit taking up my time with all things that revolve around them (but demand my immediate attention), but nothing too difficult to get done.

I've been tired all week. In fact, I slept through the night last night, without even the usual jaunt to the facilities mid-sleep cycle. If my bed were more comfortable (year twenty, at least, on this mattress/box spring set), I could stay there indefinitely.

It has to be the weather.

More precisely, the change in the weather. We dropped something like thirty degrees over night Wednesday to Thursday, with Thursday's high temperature setting a record low for the earliest day this cold - ever. It's not much warmer today.

Don't get me wrong, I generally adore days with highs in the fifties, but this almost psychotic change caught me off guard. My grocery order for tomorrow is full of winter vegies; the forecast says it will stay unseasonably cool (but not quite as cold as today) for long enough to eat my way through them.

I need sleep, time away from people and zero demands on my time. With a little luck, I may be able to manage that this weekend.

Disturb at your own risk.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The fine art of distraction

Sigh. The to-do list for the day is rather long, though not particularly tedious. In spite of being up fairly early, not much has been knocked off the list.

The most recent distraction is this picture, or more specifically, ordering an enlargement of this picture. It was taken on a chilly weekend in January up in Sturgeon Bay. Several inches of new snow covered the mostly frozen bay; I simply had to pull over and take this picture. No processing at all after the fact, this image is straight from the under-$100 Canon digital point and shoot. The bigger picture will be part of a grouping that features a winter farmhouse scene a friend photographed. He was kind enough to get me a 9 x 12" print when I said I liked it. It's been professionally framed, and is now leaning against the wall waiting for me to actually put a new nail in my fairly recently painted walls.

Ah, the great fear of nail holes. They aren't as scary when the walls are a light color and filling them isn't obvious, but with darker brown walls, I really would like to get the positioning done correctly the first time.

Along with that picture, I've asked for a print of this one. This is actually a scanned image of the original 8 x 10 print. Taken thirty years ago while I was on a cruise, with a 35mm Nikon point and shoot film camera, this is one of my very favorite photos. The negative is lost somewhere, so the scan will at least insure I have the ability to get more prints.

The sky started to clear a bit after one of those short, hard downpours, and streamed through to the water in visible rays. I knew I needed to have something to anchor the image - the lifeboat seemed a fitting addition. Again, no post processing - and contrary to first glance, this is a color picture. In person, the sun's reflection on the water is much more golden.

Yes, distractions. The laundry is at least started, an egg casserole has been baked to be frozen for breakfasts. In addition to ordering these prints, I printed off a number of other photos, mostly of the move and recent projects for the scrapbook. Printing photos isn't on today's list, needless to say.

Since no one has yet invented a self-cleaning house, I'd better get to it.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Slow loading Friday

Ah, Friday. Time for clearing out some brain fluff in preparation for the weekend.

John Kerry is an idiot. Scripture says nothing about Muslims at all, much less that they are the worst victims of global warming. Maybe he is confusing the Bible with the Koran?

There was a bit of a shoot out along the main drag near my home overnight Tuesday. The cops responded to the report of an auto accident - a car in a ditch, front end crumpled against and demolishing - wait for it - the sign for the AAA building. They discovered that the driver of the car had been shot, then noticed additional bullet holes in the car. Shell casings up and down the road for about a quarter of a mile.

The driver died the next day; his passenger, while quite banged up from the accident, will live. Police are still looking for the driver of the other car - you know, the one chasing the wrecked car, shooting at the occupants. They believe the driver was specifically targeted, so those of us who live less than a mile from the scene really have nothing to worry about. Still...

Most of my plants are dead. Both baskets of flowers went to the great greenhouse in the sky a while ago. One of the "Mr. Bowling Ball" shrubs will probably not make it - I put it a bit too far back and forgot about the overhang of the eaves (a good four feet). It will never get enough water back there unless I commit to watering it every day for the rest of its life. The hydrangea, however, is doing quite well. It has a sunny corner and no nasty overhanging eaves, and has steadily grown.

The weeds are fairly healthy in the front bed. Out they come - tomorrow, when it isn't so humid you need an oxygen tank to get a decent breath. I have a viola and a blue star creeper to plant as well - just arrived yesterday.

Hope springs eternal, you know.

The original plan was to use the creeper as ground cover around the bushes in the front bed. I didn't make a decision until late, and the nursery at that point was only taking orders for fall shipping (you see, they actually care that their plants get the best possible chance to survive, which makes me wonder why they took me as a customer). The issue with the front bed, however, is that the edging on it is two layers of trapeziodal bricks. That particular shape makes a nice, curving border, however, the shape of the bed is rectangular. That leaves lots of little gaps through which a feisty creeper can creep. Given my track record in upkeep (did I mention one rather aggressive weed is taller than my little round shrub?), I don't think it's a great idea to plant the blue star in the front bed.

It can, however, be contained in one of the urns on the patio. If, next summer or sometime in the future, I do manage to put a better border on that bed, I can always transplant some of it. In the meantime, I'll mulch the heck out of the front bed to keep Monster Weed Thing from coming back.

Oh - and the violas were always meant for the patio, for the urn that gets only an hour or so of sun a day. They should be happy back there.

Let's just say that when I get to heaven and God assigns me my work for eternity, it won't involve gardening, at least if He intends to keep the new earth Eden-lush.

On deck for the weekend: cleaning. But cleaning with a purpose. While the house needs a general going over, (much of which can be done tonight), I really, really want to tear apart the sewing studio. Again. At long last I've final plans on what to put on the walls, how I want the sewing desk arranged and which supplies I truly need close to me when I sew. The desk itself needs to go forward about a foot (fortunately, it's on rollers), and the library-card-catalog-looking-CD-storage-unit-turned-thread-cabinet needs to be moved to the opposite wall, but that's it for major furniture moving.

A week or so ago I finally found a lamp that works well for additional lighting (no overhead light in that room, not an issue when I'm at the machine, where I have both the bright lights from the machine and a natural daylight floor lamp, but an issue if you are trying to iron, find thread or pull a book from the shelves at night). A floor lamp that takes a three way bulb, with an upward focused shade, it also has an attached, flexible reading lamp, perfect for shining on the ironing board.

Anyway, it's supply control that is the issue, along with works-in-progress. I really, really need to get to work. Or rather, start to finish things more quickly. Hopefully, this final rearranging will make everything easier.

There will be time, too, to read. I'm almost done with a delightful book on decorating. With about seventeen weeks to go in the year, I'm about three-four books ahead of my "book per week" goal. I'm even making a little bit of progress on the non-fiction books. That may change this month, as two preorders for books from some favorite authors should drop in the next two weeks.

Thieves, maybe. When the clematis came out, I was left with a wire trellis about five feet high. It's been leaning against the wall, inside the patio, for a bit. As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I realized I didn't remember seeing it recently. Sure enough, a quick glance this morning confirmed it was gone. I'd offered it to a friend, but she would have told me had she come to get it when I wasn't home. It's a puzzlement.

Gun battles, thieves...this is supposed to be a quiet, law-abiding part of the city.

I've babbled on for long enough, time to get to work and finish off the week.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Labor Day

It is odd to title this "labor" day, as I've really done nothing that even approaches labor. A few weekend thoughts -

- I finally made home made yogurt, using this general procedure, though skipping the ice bath. Hot enamel over cast iron pans don't react well when plunged into an ice bath. It only took about ten minutes for the milk to cool down enough to add the yogurt. Since I like a fairly thick product, I did add a few tablespoons of dry milk along with the commercial yogurt, but did not go whole hog and drain off the whey to get a Greek-style thickness.

This afternoon, I had my first bowlful, sweetened with a bit of honey and flavored with a little vanilla, topped with some granola. Yum. After having chilled overnight, the texture was both a bit thicker and creamier than it had been when I stopped the fermenting. I do wish I had some berries in the house, so I could flavor some that way (in a fit of nostalgia for the summer-that-wasn't, I ordered both a watermelon and a cantaloupe in my Friday grocery order, but no berries). Overall, I do think I'll be doing this again, though I still have about nine or so of the over-sweet yoplait to finish off first.

- A friend has a start up martial arts studio, combining learning the moves with discipleship - learning about Jesus, learning good character. He has a few new students, and had the outfit thingees (I still don't know what to call them) to be hemmed. For whichever branch he teaches, they need knee length pants and above elbow jackets. He dropped off four sets...the actual sewing doesn't take long, even with four separate lines of stitching around each opening, thanks to the 1100 stitches per minute the machine offers, but the measure, mark, cut, turn up, turn the edge under phase? Yeah, more than two long movies' worth of work. But they are done, and once the sewing itself started, fun to do.

- On the personal sewing project side, not much was done. I did pull fabric for the back and binding of the pillow whose top I finished last weekend. At this rate, I may have an actual pillow in another week or so. I also sewed a sample buttonhole. Another cool feature of this machine: when you tap "auto buttonhole", a screen pops up. You line up your actual button with the left edge of the screen, then turn the stitch length knob until the big black line is at the right edge of the button. A little graphic above shows you (and tells you in millimeters - hey, the machine is Swiss) the exact size not only of the buttonhole, but of the width of the slit inside it. Hit record, and the machine will stitch that exact buttonhole as many times as you would like.

- Cooked my favorite chicken-and-rice dish, using brown rice instead of the white rice I usually use (and was out of). Note for the future: an hour and fifteen minutes of baking is not enough to thoroughly cook brown rice. The initial meal was a bit...crunchy, but the leftovers, microwaved for a while with additional water, were great.

- Almost forgot the best surprise! About five thirty today I was sitting watching the news, thinking about ordering pizza. The doorbell rang (why yes, the doorbell that I fixed, which shortly after that died for a day or two, has come back to life, working perfectly) was my neighbor from across the sidewalk, with a huge plate of food. She said I never came over, so she fixed a plate for me. I'm confused - I know they seem to have company on the holidays, since their big patio umbrella goes up, but if it's a community thing, I didn't know about it. I actually had several things I was trying to get done, so couldn't join them. Wonderful gesture, wonderful food. It really is more than time for me to have the neighborhood over and start getting to know people a bit better.

- Lots of little stuff going on this week. Hair appointment, embroidery class, will signing. Somewhere in there, I need to do other little things, like clean. Maybe even cook some more. And finish that throw pillow.

August reads

August reads. I was sure there was another non-fiction book; I'll have to check the other kindle. I've been updating this as I finish the book, and the post was scheduled to post early this morning. It didn't post; not sure why. That makes me wonder if, in the updating process, I messed something up. Stupid Blogger. Or stupid me. Anyway, here we go...

The Road to Cardinal Valley - Earlene Fowler - This is the follow up to last month's The Saddlemaker's Wife. It takes some unexpected turns, but overall, continues well with the lives of the characters. I doubt there will be a third in the series; all the loose ends were tied up and there doesn't seem to be anywhere else for the characters to go.

The Swan House: A Novel - Elizabeth Musser - I would really like to know on whose blog or recommendation I picked this up (first week of July this year). It's a wonderful novel, set in the early sixties in Atlanta, in the middle of historical events (the crash of a planeful of Atlanteans in Lyon, the civil rights movement). In fact, I liked it enough to pick up another by the same author.

The Guards: A Novel (Jack Taylor series) - Ken Bruen - Sooooo...whilst wandering through Netflix, looking for something in the "hard boiled detective" genre, I ran across a miniseries starring one of the actors from Game of Thrones. The first installment wasn't too bad, so I decided to check out the books on which the series is based. I pick books for the strangest reasons...This is set in Ireland, Galway, in fact, as the author continually reminds us. The protagonist is Jack Taylor, ex-Gardi, current alcoholic with few friends other than the bottle. The book is well written, though very, very...Irish. Dark. Brooding. Full of poetry at odd spots and strange formatting. The comparisons in the blurbs are to Elmore Leonard, and like Leonard's books, I'm happy with one every so often, but don't care for them enough to make it a steady diet.

Dwelling Place - Elizabeth Musser - This is a follow up to The Swan House, a next generation, if you will. I don't want to say much, but I will say I very much needed to read this book.

Master Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Organizing Your Life With Evernote (and 75 Ideas to Get You Started) - S. J. Scott - The title may be longer than the actual book. I started using Evernote a few years ago (it's available for free as a desktop app, along with free apps for all mobile platforms, plus kindle and nook), and find it handy to keep some information available without having to deal with paper notes. You set up "notebooks" to hold your "notes - which can be typed, scanned, photos, audio or video files - and can stack notebooks and tag individual notes. There is an add-on web clipper, with which you can save a URL,an entire web page or a portion of a page (like a recipe). You can store your information locally on your device, but an Evernote account comes with free cloud storage. By storing your notes on Evernote's servers, you can sync and retrieve them across all your devices. Even though my "if it's in the cloud the government can get at it" paranoid, tin-foil hat wearing side isn't thrilled with using the cloud storage, it is incredibly convenient to look up the size fluorescent tube I need on Evernote when I'm standing at the hardware store, having forgotten the written note that would tell me the size. The book has some handy tips for organizing things, making use of functions within Evernote of which you might not be aware.

My Life in France - Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme - I know things have moved on from the great Julia craze, but I was watching old episodes of The French Chef and realized I'd never read this book. If you've seen the show, or read any of her cookbooks, you will recognize her unique voice in this memoir, even though it was written by her great nephew from interviews he had with her. It's written in the the first person, and sounds just like her. The glimpse into 1950's France is fascinating, as is the history of the publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her husband Paul, in addition to being in government service most of his career, was quite the artist; most of the pictures in the book are his. All in all, this was a great look into the life of a truly unique woman.

Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind - edited by Jocelyn C. Glei - This is a round up of blog posts about how to enhance creativity, by authors ranging from professional creative talent wranglers (think people who keep songwriters on task and on schedule) to writers and research professors. In general, the book takes what we are used to viewing as productivity enhancers for business and applies them to the "business" of creativity. Even though some of the concepts are very familiar, the way in which they are applied have special twists to adapt them to the creative mindset. Contributors include Seth Godin and Mark McGuinness, with an afterword by Stephen Pressfield. On balance, some good information.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good thing I *like* being at home

Getting around this weekend is going to be a bit problematic.

This weekend is the big Harley Davidson rally. Most of the events are held down at the lakefront or at the dealerships, fortunately. Unfortunately, at least for this weekend, a rather large accessory and clothing store is located on one of the main drags from my place to...everywhere.

The police have already put up signs that the road in front of the House of Harley, a two lane in each direction boulevard, will be restricted to a single lane in each way, in what is normally the westbound lanes, from today through Monday. They are doing this to allow the customers and other bikers to use the eastbound lanes for parking.

I can go around the bottleneck easily enough, for the things I'm planning to do.

On Monday, things will get a bit more restricted, though in a different direction. The POTUS has decided to make an appearance in one of the few states that still support him (though with only a 45% approval rating).

Assuming the media is correct, and he is coming in to speak at "Laborfest", a union-sponsored, union-pushing "festival" down at the lakefront, and assuming the motorcade takes the shortest, fastest route, I'd expect the portion of I-94 between Mitchell and I-794 to the lakefront to be closed for most of his visit, most likely in both directions. Not that they will tell us that ahead of time.

I feel a bit sorry for anyone planning to drive that route - or trying to fly in to or out of Mitchell - on Monday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Geeky love

It's no secret I love reading on my kindle. The ability to highlight and makes notes makes it almost like reading a real book - with one exception: you can't copy and paste that information into a more easy to use format, like a Word document. To find a highlighted passage, you need to scroll through the highlights in the book on the kindle.

Until now. Today, Tim Challies posted a wonderful technique for using Evernote in conjunction with the kindle, to download the notes and highlights into an Evernote note, which can then be filed any way you choose within that application, ready for easy (and searchable) reference.

Two of my very favorite things working together.

With the ability to search through both notes and tags on Evernote, it should be easy to find any particular highlighted passage in just a minute or so. Faster, even, than flipping through a physical book to find the highlight (I have an exceptional visual memory, one that can often visualize the placement of the highlight on the page, making finding a passage pretty quick - this is much faster).

Sorry, I don't mean to go all incoherent fan girl here, but for those of us who read quite a bit, highlight often and want to go back to refresh ourselves on the content of a book six months from our original read through, this is a wonderful technique.

Add this to the tips garnered from a book I read this month (will be listed on the August reads post, scheduled to post 9/1), and I may well become a superuser on Evernote.

Woo hoo!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sugary sweet

It took me a very long time to develop a taste for yogurt. The health benefits are undeniable, but for me, it was a texture thing. Finally, in an effort to get in some dairy other than cheese and ice cream (I hate drinking milk), I gave in.

After a few tries, I found a favorite. Not too sweet, not too yogurt-y. I've been eating Yoplait Light for years, at the rate of at least five a week.

A month or so ago, they announced they were switching sweeteners. No longer would the light version contain any of the nasty aspartame; they were using a more healthful sweetener.


Um, yeah.

Still, it's a step in the right direction.

On its own, sucralose is three times as sweet as an equivalent amount of aspartame, so you would naturally think that they would cut down on the amount of sweetener added to the product.

Unfortunately, they did some "taste tests" with the general public, and decided to increase the relative sweetness of the product. So much so, in fact, that I almost can't eat it, it is so sickeningly sweet.

Sigh. One of the reasons I liked Yoplait was that it wasn't as sweet as the competitors. Stupid general public and their out of control sweet cravings.

I suppose I should grab half a dozen containers of competitor's brands and do a taste test. Judging by prior experience (including recent try outs of some "greek" yogurts) I doubt I'll find one I like.

Anyone out there have a favorite?