Friday, June 24, 2016

Free Friday at last

Friday! A half day, to boot. Miracle of miracles, the weather is actually...pleasant. Yesterday was downright chilly (this, from someone who rarely, if ever, complains about being cold) and a bit wet. Tomorrow will be muggy and downright steamy. Sunday, not to be outdone, will be even hotter.

Let's enjoy today while we can.

When I leave here it's out to Muskego to meet a friend at the "place with the chickens". For whatever reason, I can never remember the name of the place, but always remember the birds.

Last night was one of those thankfully infrequent nights when I get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night, but fail to fall back asleep afterwards. Urgh. I did doze off about an hour before the alarm went off, so the total sleep tally for last night might be close to four and a half hours. On the bright side, since this happened on a Thursday night, I can make up for the deficit over the weekend.

The lack of sleep is relevant to my afternoon plans. As much as I'd like to come home from lunch and take a nice, long nap, there are still some things to do outside before things heat up. I'd vowed back in May to have the front of the condo and the patio all spruced up and happy-making by the 4th of July. To my surprise, it is almost that date.

It's no real surprise I'm not done yet.

The patio still needs to be power washed. Every time I've had the inclination to do it, the temperature and humidity have soared. Any time the weather cooperates, I've other plans. In between those two, it rains. Today seems to be the perfect day.

Given the lack of energy that comes from a sleepless night, I may only get the prep work done this afternoon - sweeping well, moving the table, chairs and deck box around and dealing with some smaller stuff that hangs out on the patio. Honestly, that stuff takes longer than the actual washing, which I'll do later tonight (if I don't just pass out after dinner) or early tomorrow morning (sorry, neighbors) before it steams up.

Next week Friday afternoon is Craft Day, at my place. Translation: a need to clean a bit more thoroughly this weekend and to come up with a dinner menu. Dessert is already set, a frozen raspberry-whipped cream-toasted almonds thing. During the awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night episode last night I decided to do lamb chops (Pam says she's never had lamb), a mediterranean couscous and a tomato salad. Most of it, other than the chops, can be made in advance.

Because really, I plan to sew for most of craft day, not cook.

What's on your plate for the weekend?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guilded

After a gap of some fifteen years, last night I went to a local quilt guild meeting. Guilds can provide inspiration, knowledge and camaraderie, as well as the opportunity to show your work at any guild quilt show.

In spite of not being much of a joiner, I thought the guild might do me some good. First off, I'm trying to correct the "Diane doesn't get out much" state of my life. Ever since I bought the condo almost five years ago, I find myself quite content to hang out at home. There is always something to be done, whether it's maintenance, hobbies or plain old housework.

Second, being part of the guild should help me get more advance notice of some of the quilt happenings around the area. I often don't find out about shows or classes until a week or so before they happen, and I'm short on either cash or time.

Third, it should help me discover whether or not there would be a market for long arm quilting services, should I decide to become more serious about developing a business as a retirement project.

The group has shrunk since I last was there, from over one hundred to just under fifty members. It's a bit concerning; you do want to make sure you are constantly recruiting new, younger members so the group will continue. I had to laugh when the woman organizing the raffle quilt for the quilt show talked about wanting to set up a database of people who want receive an email blast related to upcoming events - she said it was time to bring the guild "into the twentieth century". I didn't have the heart to correct her.

Speaking of updating communication, they decided to shutter their long-dormant website, as apparently no one knows how to maintain it. I took another look, and from what I can see, it is a WordPress blog. I'm thinking this is a tangible way I can contribute immediately, and help bring the guild "into the twentieth century".

If nothing else, being part of the guild will help me work to finish some projects, just to bring them for show and tell.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Has it been more than a week already?

Every so often, I wonder if I should shutter this place. I haven't had two decent thoughts to rub together in quite a while.

In spite of today's sixty degree high, summer arrived this week. Half days on Fridays, theoretically slower work days, lazy living. Well, unless you spend over half an hour in the drive through lane at Walgreens (don't ask)one day, and your boss schedules a conference call half an hour after you usually leave on another.

Yeah, back from vacation and already the week is shot.

No pictures yet of the redone flower bed. There are still a few little things to do, which I wanted to do the end of last week, but my body decided it was time for a summer cold instead. Boo. I'm still under the weather, and this week's adventures are kicking my butt.

Adventures? We finally had a summer storm Sunday night, and my power went out three different times, not counting the half dozen "let's go off just barely enough to cause all the electronics to go nuts" warm up acts before the main event. The power company was going crazy all night trying to get things fixed (a side note: if you happen actually report one of the outages, We Energies will call you THREE TIMES the next day to tell you it is fixed - thank heavens I only reported the first outage).

Twenty-four hours since the last outage was fixed, and I still haven't reset all the clocks. One lamp timer is digital and resets itself, saving the programming, so I don't sit in the living room in the dark. Both my clock radio and the a/c thermostat have battery back ups, so the important stuff is covered. The rest? Eh.

So after an interrupted night Sunday (I woke up wide awake at 2:30, when the power went out the second time; the lack of noise woke me up - go figure), I thought I'd get a decent night's sleep last night. No such luck: up at 3:30 for a bit of an upset tummy, and I was up for the day.

Grumpy, tired, sneezy, stuffed up. That's me. On the bright side, yesterday, today and tomorrow are absolutely perfect days, sunny and highs in the low sixties. My kind of weather. Of course, the almost ninety on Friday and Saturday with high humidity kind of balance that out. I guess I'll see if the on/off flickering of the power Sunday messed with the A/C unit, huh? At least my annual maintenance contract jumps me to the front of the repair line if something blows up.

Aren't you glad I checked in? Nothing but complaints and gloom.

I'm finally reading Hugh Howey's Molly Fyde series. Not sure why it took so long to get to it, given how much I liked his Wool books. This may be the summer of science fiction. I've taken to reading at lunch again rather than surfing, though it's harder to break away from a good book than an on line article.

Not much else going on.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Obligatory Friday check in*

*with promises of pictures...later

The Friday before the beginning of a vacation - even if the vacation is a "staycation" - is the longest Friday of the year. Add to that the fact that you went to bed an hour and a half later than usual the night before, only to wake at 2:45, finally giving up on sleep at 3:45 and, well, let's just say not much actual work is being done.

The landscapers did the front bed yesterday, and it looks wonderful. Scott called early this morning to check in with me (super extra-special bonus brownie points to Scott for being incredibly proactive and deliberate about communications all through the project), mentioning that at least two of my neighbors, seeing the work they were doing for me, asked him to give them estimates on their places. I'd call that a win all the way around.

I'll have pictures in a day or two. There's some finish work that's up to me: washing the windows (the roof overhangs by almost three feet - how the heck did they get so dirty?), repainting the mailbox and putting a pretty plant on the shepherd's hook (which I decided to leave where it is - a plant hung there mostly hides the ugly electric etc. meters that some dingdong decided should be mounted on the center front of the house). Oh - and tightening the flag bracket, switching the pole from the wooden one to the aluminum and sticking the solar powered spotlight into the ground.

The landscapers also put grass seed in front of the brick border, as they had to tear up some of the grass to do the work. It's the same stuff they seeded along our strip last year, and comes in very thick and green with only the slightest encouragement.

In spite of a forecast that calls for rain/storms almost every day of my entire vacation, finishing up the outside stuff is top on my to-do list. The forecasters say it won't rain all day, that the showers will be hit or miss. Humpf. Every time they say that and I try to do something outdoors, it's "hit" Diane with a deluge time. Even if there isn't a cloud in the sky when I start.

Other than that, I'd like to also finish up, or at least make good progress on, decluttering and rearranging my bedroom. There are several quilts to work on, a couple more to plan (dang friends are done getting married, but everyone is getting ready to pop out kids) and a book to read for a community book club.

I've decided I need to force myself to get out more. While I am perfectly happy puttering around home amusing myself, when I find myself constantly talking (out loud) to myself, it's time to start being a bit more social. This particular club meets at the local library. The book for June is The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. In July, I'm rereading Farenheit 451 for a different community reading group - this group meets in a local bar.

That alone will make it worth attending.

As I said, pictures in a day or two, assuming I can take them without getting soaked.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Out from under

Wow. I hadn't realized it has been two weeks without a post. Not that you have missed me, but while I've thought about posting several times, I didn't quite make it to the keyboard.

Bear with me - it's not quite 4 a.m. and I've been up for half an hour. Sleep cycles lately have been challenging, I think thanks to a med I started taking three weeks ago. Usually, I go to bed just before night, get up once for a pit stop somewhere between 1:3 - 2:30, then fall right back asleep until just before the alarm goes off.

Lately, though, bedtime has crept closer to eight. When it does, I tend to get up twice, once just before midnight, and again somewhere after three. Since I get up at four, that last awakening can be a bit dicey. Today, for instance, it just didn't make sense to go back to bed.

The earlier bedtime, I'm fairly sure, is the result of the med counteracting some of the effects of my thyroid med, specifically, the one that keeps me from being an exhausted slug. Eh, we'll do a blood test to find out for sure; in the meantime, I'll be a bit of a zombie.

Last night I met with the second of three landscapers about the front flower bed edging. This is the same firm that does the landscaping and snow removal for our association. He actually turned the existing edging over to see what was underneath, made himself a drawing, asked a bunch of questions and measured the bed. The first company, though they sounded eager for my business when I called (and I explained very clearly it was a very small project) sent out a salesman who was rather...uninterested.

The guy last night also gave me an approximate quote - considerably lower than the first company.

One more estimate to get, but things are looking good for this guy. If I make a decision for them by the end of the week, they can get to it within the next three weeks or so. Yay!

All the board-approved tax returns have been filed for last fiscal year, which means I'm at the start of the slowest part of my work year. For the next couple of weeks, at least, I can cut back to regular hours. At the beginning of June, however, I'll go back to putting in an extra hour each day, which, with our "summer hours" policy, will give me Friday afternoons off. I've done the "work four ten hour days, take one full day per week off" thing in the past, but ten hours during the slow part of my year simply doesn't pass as quickly as it does when I'm busy.

Besides, it's kind of fun when your half day ends at 10:15 in the morning - it's almost like having a full day off.

Other than the landscape project, I'll make a short list of things to do. Some fun, some home projects. I still haven't had the Fit out on the highway for a nice, long drive. Aimless driving isn't my thing, but I could take a trip out to the Elegant Farmer. Or go to the quilt shop just outside of Madison to shop for a bit.

Then again, I may just sit on the patio and read. The Readathon lit a fire under me, and I've finished at least five books in the three and a half weeks since the event. None of them from the huge pile of nonfiction looming on my kindle. Most of them were the books recommended by Facebook friends as fodder for the Readathon; I'll put up my thoughts on them a bit later.

I'm rambling, and it's time to watch the news for a bit before clearing the sleep sand out of my eyes to get on with the day. I'm foreseeing an early bedtime...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thoughts of spring

On Monday, I've someone from a local greenhouse/garden center coming to give me an estimate on replacing the brick border around the front flowerbed. There are a few challenges...the current border is only about six inches high, but cannot be raised any higher, since the outdoor faucet is on the house at the back of the bed, only an additional six inches or so above the ground. I've looked online at some bricks/pavers/edgings, and honestly, have not found much that appeals. Hopefully, this guy will have more resources.

They will most likely want to provide plantings as well - my efforts last year look rather sad this spring. I think one of the three bushes will make it, while the other two are on the fence. I've no objection to purchasing the plants from them, as well as having them plant them. I can, however, cut some costs by putting down the soaker hose and doing the mulching myself.

At long last I've come up with a solution for the garden hose as well (because of the way the units are built, most of the neighbors have a leader hose running from the faucet to a hose box or reel that sits right in front of the gate to the patio - kind of silly, if you ask me). There are some very pretty hose stands available that I can put in the back corner of the bed. I only need twenty-five feet of hose, which will coil around it very neatly.

Since winters here are just Too Darn Cold for perennials to survive in urns unless said urns are brought inside for the season, the giant outside urns will be filled with annuals. I gave it a try with perennials, but I'm too indifferent a gardener for them to have a fighting chance.

It is still too early to actually plant anything here in the land of Too Darn Cold. The local weatherperson posted a picture on Twitter of the seven day forecast for their sister station in Orlando. Our daytime highs will not reach their current nighttime lows for almost another month. My heat still comes on regularly. Usually, it's completely turned off by now. The sun doesn't set until almost 8 p.m., but if you want to sit outside enjoying the light, you will need warm shoes, your winter coat, a stadium blanket and maybe mittens. Not to mention hot chocolate rather than a cold brew.

It may well be too chilly the week of Memorial Day for the annual tuning up of the air conditioning.

Global warming my frozen butt.

Signs of spring are there if you look closely: grass greening up nicely, leaf buds on trees, geese meandering down the condo complex entrance road... With a bit of luck, we will have a least a day or two of "spring" before Ma Nature flips the switch from Too Darn Cold to Hot, Humid and Hazy.

We can hope, anyway.

Readathon wrap-up

I keep saying that one of these days I'll return to more coherent posts; today is not that day. I've a bit of a cold and haven't been sleeping well this week (two nights ago I had a very pleasant, if slightly creepy dream that featured the (now deceased) owner of my favorite local quilt shop). As a result, I'm a bit foggy and slow to focus.

I did indeed start out the Readathon day strong at 6 a.m., but slowly died out around noon. Too much other stuff to do. I did finish a book I'd already started, start Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and listen to about two hours of an audiobook (Marie Kondos' book on decluttering). I will get to the rest of the books several of you recommended on Facebook...especially as I have some vacation time the end of next month.

One thing the Readathon did accomplish, though, is to get me back into the habit of reading a book at lunch, rather than randomly reading news stories, blogs and other flotsam from the web. Amazing how much you can read in half an hour. Years ago, most of my reading was done either early in the morning, or at bus stops before and after work, yet I managed to read three, sometimes four books each week. My focus may not be as sharp these days, but having consistent, even if short, times to read really helps to increase the "books read" list.

The next day of reading is in October. That's usually a better time for me - the weather is getting cooler, the fire is inviting and it's easier to curl up with a book or three for the day. October 22nd is the day; consider joining the almost 2,000 other people who love to read that day.

Friday, April 22, 2016

'Twas the night before Readathon

I'm not sure I've mentioned it here, but I'm participating in Dewey's 24-hour Readathon on Saturday.

This is my third go-round with the Readathon, but I'm certainly not a hard core, stay up all night kind of reader. I'll read for as much of the day as I can, and will most likely get a couple of additional hours in before church on Sunday, but I value my sleep.

Preparation is the key to being able to read most of the day without guilt.

First, the "stack".

While most of the pictures of reading stacks I've seen from other Readathon participants consist of physical books, mine are all on the Kindle.

This is really a partial stack, as I could only fit the first five books or so on the screen at once. Ironically, the one book that is not shown - Private Justice, the first book in a series recommended to me by a friend - is no longer in the stack because I've read it. Along with the next two in the series. All in the last ten days.

How's that for a warm up?

The beauty of the Kindle is that if none of the original choices grab my attention on Saturday, there are close to one hundred other books in my "unread" kindle library, plus the vast quantities of books available for purchase and immediate download from Amazon.

I'll certainly not want for reading choices.

Next, the snacks.

People seem to be almost as excited by the snacks and other food they've planned for the Readathon as for the reading itself.

Me, I'm planning to stick to mostly "real food" meals and snacks, though I do have both Oreos and Goldfish crackers available as well. The current plan includes:

Breakfast "power sandwich" at Panera to start the day
Hummus and green pepper strips for a morning snack
Chicken and broccoli mostly-crustless quiche and a spinach salad for lunch
An apple, graham crackers and peanut butter for the afternoon pick-me-up
Leftover lemon chicken with mushrooms over pearled couscous for dinner

While I will begin the day with coffee, most of the rest of the day my libation of choice will be ice water. That's pretty much what I do most days, anyway, and the water will keep me well hydrated. If I want a change up in the afternoon, I've refrigerated bottled water and those tubes of Crystal Light lemonade that are made to mix in.

A glass of wine (or two) and some cheese and crackers may round out the later night hours.

Lastly, the locations.

As much as I love to read, I simply cannot stay in one place for the entire Readathon.

As mentioned, I'll start the day at Panera, at 6 a.m. It's an hour before the "official" start in my time zone, but I'm generally up and out by that time on the weekend anyway. The restaurant doesn't start to get noisy and crowded until 8 - 8:30, which gives me plenty of time to get a good start on Hitchhiker's Guide.

Home, then, by midmorning, to curl up in the recliner for a few hours, and the morning snack. I can keep reading through lunch, as the kindle cover works as a stand, allowing me to read almost hands free (still have to keep a finger clean to swipe for page turns).

Here's where things may go a bit awry. Ideally, I'd stay home the rest of the day, moving among the dining room table, recliner, couch and desk to read. But there is a good chance I'll want to get out once more, most likely to Starbucks later in the afternoon. I find that I concentrate better in a slightly noisy place. The bits of my brain that would usually be wandering off and pulling me toward distractions are occupied with keeping the noise at bay, allowing me to focus more keenly on actually reading. It works for me, anyway.

I never, ever read in bed (Bed is for two things, and reading is incompatible with either), so the last reading of the night will be on the computer at the desk upstairs. That's another great thing about the kindle - I can read my books directly from my amazon account on any screen - phone, tablet, computer.

That's the plan. The day will be a success not if all these components come together as laid out, but if I simply spend more of the day reading than not.

The true gold in the Readathon is the impact it has on my usual reading habits. I find that during the week before, and for several months afterwards, I'm more deliberate in my reading, planning out times to read rather than fitting it in any old time. Given that I work full time and have other rather time consuming hobbies, increasing reading time takes that extra bit of planning.

It's well worth it.