Monday, January 19, 2015

Blog housekeeping and sundry other assorted things

Sigh. Blogger (almost typed "booger", which may be more appropriate) appears to have messed with the the "compose" (wysiwyg) input screen. It now looks more like a word processing document. Not that that is bad, but I find that no matter what you do to format things the way you want to on that page, it always, always ends up off in some way. While writing in the HTML screen isn't as intuitive, I enjoy the confidence of knowing things will look the way I want them to look without a lot of messing about.

I've done a bit of blog housekeeping tonight. If you look up top, I've added a tab for the current year reads. At some point I'll hide the 2014 list's tab; for now, I want to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction I get every time I see it and realize I met my goal. It's the little things that make me happy.

I already have an entry on the 2015 list, and in the spirit of New Year's organization, I've also written the post to go along with it, scheduled to publish on February 1st. I managed, at long last, to figure out how to include a picture of the cover. Yay, me.

About twenty-five percent of the links in my sidebar were dead, whether due to someone ceasing blogging or changing the location of the blog. I've done some weeding there, as well as a little planting. If you aren't there and want to be, let me know.

The link to the daily reading plan is the same plan I'm using for my current year read through. They've updated things a bit; included on the linked page is the option to listen to the passage rather than read it. The narrator is excellent, with a balanced, well paced delivery. One drawback - there is no way to rewind or fast forward. Auditory learning is not my favored way to learn. My mind wanders off much too easily. Reading, on the other hand, forces my mind to stay more focused (I can actually daydream while I'm reading - I don't recommend it if you want to retain any of what you read).

The long weekend is over. I can't say I did much, other than get some extra sleep, read a book cover to cover, iron some fabric and lay out a quilt batt on the living room floor to relax (it gets all wadded up in the bags they sell it in - I will most likely have to press portions of it, but for now I'm fooling myself into thinking the wrinkles will fall out on their own). The head cold that has been lurking is still hovering around the edges, held at bay by extra rest and a bit of Coricidin.

The next three weekends are fairly busy. I may be meeting a quilt friend from Iowa in Mazomanie, a little city just west of Madison, Wisconsin, next Saturday. She is coming to town to babysit her grands. We've met out there once before, and if we can arrange it, this will be a treat. The following weekend I'm having lunch at my aunt's. The next, already the first full weekend in February, is a mini women's retreat at church (I really, really like "retreats" that allow me to sleep in my own bed!).

This weekend I also said goodbye to a dear friend, who is moving with her hubby and daughters to a camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Her husband took a position as the Director of Urban Ministries at the camp, responsible for hiring the counselors and recruiting campers from neighboring cities, including Philadelphia and New York. His education is in youth ministry, and he's done inner city ministry in New Orleans in the past. The camp is gorgeous, and they will be living in a great house on the camp grounds. It's an incredible answer to sustained prayers.

I'd intended to get to bed early-ish tonight, which means I need to wander than direction about now.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Powered down

It's been a tired, draggy sort of week. A head cold lurks nearby, close enough to block my sinuses just a bit and sap my energy, but not quite so bad it needs full-on cold remedy action. Getting enough sleep always helps me to recover from these sorts of things. Like a wounded animal, I go to ground when I don't feel well, sleeping ten hours a night and napping most of the day. I am most definitely a believer in the restorative power of sleep.

Accordingly, I managed to get to bed minutes after eight o'clock last night, snuggling in, knowing I'd gained an hour or more extra shut-eye to help get me through to the three day weekend, when I could sleep to my hearts content.

Two hours later, I woke up abruptly. Something was wrong.

No hum of the refrigerator. No muted roar of the furnace. No pattern of mini-blind slats on the ceiling.

The power had gone out.

During the twenty years I lived at the old flat, I can count on one hand the number of times the power went out. All of those times, with one exception, were during severe thunderstorms (the last was due to an adventurous squirrel checking out a transformer). This is the third outage at the condo, all three coming in totally clear weather.

Did the neighbors call it in or not? Not wanting to assume, I groped my way down the hall, through the loft, down the stairs, through the living room and to the dining room to get the phone. Reversed the process, then pulled up We Energies on the smart phone. They have a wonderful on-line reporting tool, and a quick look and call to their automated service informed me that they did indeed know about the outage, and expected to have it fixed within an hour and a half.

That's a relief; while I know where the bypass is on the garage door, I highly doubt I'd be able to lift the door up on my own. Underground parking is no advantage when the power goes out.

Naturally, I didn't fall back asleep easily. Usually, I wake up on my own about ten minutes before the alarm is set. Today, the alarm rang for more than a minute while I fumbled to find it. I have a feeling it is going to be a long, foggy day.

At least is is a long weekend. Lots of time to nap and recover. This is the first year in a long time that I didn't come down with a raging cold just before the Christmas break. I'd like to stay reasonably healthy this winter, if at all possible. Hot soup, lots of naps, not doing much - a quiet weekend end and a bit of self care should keep this cold at bay. Hopefully.

Obviously, the power came back on. I think there are only four clocks to reset (my clock radio has a battery back up) - stove, coffeemaker and the the two timers I use on the living room lamps. Everything else resets itself.

I wish I had a reset button.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Another trip around the sun

It's official: as of 11 p.m. last night, I'm a year older.

It always sneaks up on me, perhaps because it is so close to the holiday. Even though it's two weeks removed from Christmas, I would still occasionally get birthday gifts along with Christmas gifts. I hated that.

Just what did I do for the momentous day? Went to work, drove home in a nasty snowstorm, ate leftovers for dinner and went to bed early.

Just typing out that sentence made me feel old.

So I'm going to do something I normally despise: extend the celebration, such as it is. I'm declaring this the "birthday weekend", and I'm going to do only things I really, really want to do. Get some extra sleep. Sit and read by the fire for a few hours. Embroider cute owls on some fleece for charity blankets. Make home made pizza. Go to Panera really early (free breakfast sandwich on my Panera card for my birthday!)(which reminds me, where the heck is my free Starbucks drink?). Vacuum the basement.

Yes, vacuum the basement. A friend helped get rid of quite a bit of the cut up cardboard that had been taking up room, so I finally hauled the old Dirt Devil down to the basement to clean up the floor. It doesn't suck too well anymore, but it does enough. While it's unfinished, the previous owners had put down a six by eight indoor/outdoor rug that is still in pretty good shape. The game plan is to do all the clean up by early summer, just a bit at a time, then put in some shelving and a small freezer. So yes, vacuuming the basement is "fun".

The plan for this next year is more reading, more quilting, less stress. Finish more projects, whether it be the basement, the patio or the decorating. At the same time, take pleasure in the process, not just the final result. Enjoy the journey.

Eh, at the rate my mind is wandering, I'll be lucky to remember what those plans are a month from now!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Getting back into the swing of things here isn't going quite as well as I hoped. So here is a brief brain dump/reminder list to clear out some room for work related items.

- The joy of an early January birthday: Everyone is broke from Christmas and it's nasty cold, so no one wants to go out to celebrate. According to the forecast, it will be minus ten overnight Wednesday to Thursday morning - Thursday would be my birthday. May I please stay home where it is warm instead of dragging out in the cold to work?

-Three plus hours for Chinese food: Short version: internet order didn't go through, though the site said it was confirmed. Called restaurant, placed order over the phone, was told 35 - 40 minutes, but it took over an hour. I don't think I'll be having Chinese food again. Ever.

-Stupid window blind: While I was out Sunday morning, the support cables on one of the blinds on my bedroom window decided they were no longer up to the job. Since I'm having issues getting the existing valance rod to stay on its supports, I've decided to ditch the whole idea of blinds and valance. The blinds will be completely removed, a new, double curtain rod installed with floor length sheers and the newly made valance. It will be less expensive overall than new blinds, and I'm a whiz at installing curtain rods.

-Stupid Home Depot: I'm thinking of painting the downstairs bathroom over MLK weekend, which means at long last putting up a new fixture. The one I love, love, love is no longer available at Home Depot. Instead, I have to go to the fancy lighting store downtown (ok, so "downtown" in this case is five minutes from where I work). Same price, but much, much more tempting things to walk past. I still have to find out if the electrician who owes me a favor will be available to install it.

-Now that we finally have snow, can it melt, please?: We had about an inch and a half overnight, and of course, our snowplowing/clearing company hadn't done anything yet when I left this morning. The media is going nuts about plow counts and salting - you would think they had never seen snow before. Naturally, there were two different serious accidents this morning, as people misjudged the conditions.

-So I remember: Package, batting, clothes, pork chops, baking, weekend list.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Back to real life...

Back to work tomorrow; off to bed as soon as this is done.

After several weeks of above normal temperatures and below (way below) normal precipitation, it snowed about three inches today, and this coming week we are going into the deep freeze. As of this afternoon, there is a wind chill advisory in place through tomorrow night. The high tomorrow is an incredible five degrees. Slightly warmer Tuesday, but Wednesday's high will be all of two one degrees. Let's not talk about the overnight lows.

This couldn't have happened during the two weeks I was free to stay at home in fuzzy slipper socks and a bathrobe over a sweat suit?

And stay home I did. I filled the car with gas on the first Monday I was home, at $2.23 a gallon. I passed a station this morning that finally showed a price of $1.99 - something I've not seen in years. Glancing down, I realized I'd used less than two gallons of gas over the preceding two weeks. It truly was a stay-cation.

So what did I do? Read, cook, sleep late a few times, nap, read some more, clean, have a craft day, do some sewing, finally rearrange parts of the studio, nap again...there were a couple of big events/discoveries, but nothing I care to share at the moment. The incident with the bird (or bat, but I'm denying that was a possibility) I've already chronicled.

This isn't exactly "what I did on my Christmas vacation", as it was finished the week prior, but I certainly have been enjoying it this past couple of weeks. I'd shared an "in progress' picture of the pillow on Facebook a while ago. It's made of a ten by ten grid of two inch (finished) squares, all the fabric pulled from my stash, including the backing and binding. It will take a while to get it to the proper squishy state; the polyester stuffing in the pillow form is a bit stiff just yet.

The quilt underneath is a Christmas quilt I made about ten years ago. Most of the top was pieced while waiting for the carpet guys to come and install the carpet in the back bedroom at the flat; they didn't get there until four-thirty, and I got most of the quilt top put together that day. The backing is flannel - nice and cozy.

This is where I spent some of the reading/napping time, with the pillow, quilt and a big travel mug of coffee close to hand. The fireplace puts out quite a bit of heat when you sit right next to it. The reading lamp isn't on the optimal side for a right hander, but I can live with it.

Everything is put together for tomorrow. Clothes picked out (and laid out), the totebag loaded (I'd brought my water bottle home for a trip or two through the dishwasher), lunch made and scarf, gloves, coat hood and car scraper located. All that is left is the good night's sleep.

With that - sweet dreams.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year - now where's the coffee?

Four forty-two a.m. New Year's Day. A tad early to be up, but I'm practicing for going back to work next week. Better to deal with the midafternoon sleepiness when I'm in a position to take a nap that won't be a firing offense.

I'd make some observations about a new dawn, a new year and new opportunities, but dawn is still a couple of hours away. Besides, it's difficult to wax poetic before coffee.

But it still is a new year, the traditional start for new beginnings. I've set some loose goals for the year, a whopping total of four of them. They are organized around this verse:

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength."
-Mark 12:30

Soul - Read through the Bible chronologically again this year. It's been four or five years since I've done this; I feel the lack.

Mind - Read two nonfiction books per month. The backlog on the Kindle, it doesn't go away, with most of those books (well, almost all) in the nonfiction genre. Time to reduce that list.

Strength - Seriously work on my health. Consistent diet and exercise. Regular sleep (well, I may already have that one pegged). Stress reduction.

Heart - Well, yeah. I haven't nailed this one down yet. I'm thinking about this in terms of what makes me happy, feeds my soul. Creating, playing in the studio, picking up new techniques, maybe going back to some crafts I've dropped in past years. Maybe growing flowers/bushes that I don't kill.

We'll see. And that is sort of the point of these artificial annual resets - for one shining moment, everything is potentiality.

The first actual act of my shiny new year? Finding a blasted cup of coffee.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December reads and 2014 reading wrap up

First off, December reads.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand - Really, so many people have already seen the movie (or read the book) I suppose any sort of plot summary is superfluous. Let me say, though, that I read this straight through in about two days. It was both difficult to read in sections, and impossible to put down. The depth of man's depravity is only exceeded by the limitlessness of his resilience.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent, Nancy Guthrie - I will happily use this devotional again next year. The daily readings are thoughtful without being sentimental, and the questions and suggestions for activities included at the end of each day are suitable not only for families, but for adults of all walks of life as well.

Furniture Makeovers: Simple Techniques for Transforming Furniture with Paint, Stains, Paper Stencils and More, Barbara Blair - Hmm. This seems to be written for someone who intends to refinish/change up furniture often, rather than the casual weekend crafter. There are great lists of supplies needed for specific types of projects, though those lists tend to be very product and/or store specific (so much so, one wonders if she got endorsement deals to write the book). A decent reference, but not really what I was looking for.

Inspired You: Breathing New Life Into Your Heart and Home - Marian Parsons - This was more what I was looking for in a furniture and home changing book, I think. Lots of before-and-after shots, some suggested projects and walk throughs, all given with a serving of home making philosophy. A favorite quote:

"Keep in mind what is at the heart of hospitality – love. Any act of hospitality, no matter how big or small, will be appreciated by those on the receiving end of that action. Don’t let an imperfect house, imperfect cooking, or an imperfect family prevent you from sharing that love with others. Some of the humblest forms of hospitality can also be the most impactful."

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, Sophie Hudson - This was a reread, but a sweet one. Ms. Hudson tells tales of growing up in a small town in the south, family and faith.

With these five, my total for the year stands at fifty-nine books read (though not listed separately, the Elmo Jenkins trilogy is counted as three books), more than meeting my goal of a book per week. I make no representations about the quality of my reading this past year, but at least my nose was more consistently in a book. I didn't realize how much I'd missed that.

For 2015, I'll be slowing things down a bit. The backlog in the Kindle hasn't gone down all that much, with most of the stack consisting of non-fiction. For 2015, I plan to aim at a pace of two non-fiction books per month, for 26 in total. It will be an exercise in discipline as well - no new nonfiction in 2015. Anything that looks interesting goes on the wish list, and if next December 31st I can still remember why it is on the list, I'll pick it up.

Happy reading, 2015!