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November 5th, 2018 at 05:35 am


My back yard

Yesterday was a lovely fall day, in the 50s but bright and sunny. I decided to mow my lawn myself again, mainly to chop up all the leaves. I ran it for as long as the battery lasted, about 35 minutes, so the lawn is by no means finished and we will have rain off and on this week.

I also used both my blowers to clean some leaves off the lawn and driveway, so I felt like I got plenty of fresh air today.


My street

Later in the afternoon I met an old college roommate at a local diner. She used my town as a midway meeting point to meet up with a man who was adopting a cat she was fostering. She lives 2.5 hours away from here, and he lives in Massachusetts. So we spent a few hours catching up.

I cut a lousy deal with my neighbor, who very much wanted me to edit a children's book he's written. I gave him a really cheap price, knowing his writing needed a lot of work, and also offered him an option to barter if he would cut down an old, half-dead apple tree on my property. That's what he chose, but in the meantime, I'm spending way too much time editing his book. I'm only on page 15 and already spent 7 hours on it, so that means it's taking me an hour to edit 2 pages.

It's the usual thing where someone writes something and then doesn't read it again. So I'm catching a lot of stuff he could have fixed himself if he had just read it over again.

I'm wanting to get this mostly done before the new job comes through and I need to start that work. Not really sure when that will be, but I did receive word last week that the employer finally signed the SOW.

We've passed "peak fall foliage" although everything is still quite lovely.


My town

Nice visit with new cousin

October 28th, 2018 at 05:33 am

Yesterday i met for the first time another cousin I've discovered through Ancestry.com. She came with her husband, who is Norwegian and still trying to get his green card.

They are both in their 20s and live in NYC, though my cousin said they expect to live in Norway in five or 10 years; in the meantime, he wants to find a teaching job here. His expertise is Norse mythology. She has a big interest in historical textiles, and she was the one who uncovered the town, Hunkovce, where my Slovakian ancestors came from.

Here is the church in that town, which is across the street from my ancestors' address, and where they are buried.



I made a lasagna and big salad, plus a nut pie for dessert.

I let her pick out a few pieces of art, but I think she was more interested in my small collection of my mother's woven clothing. She took home a long loom-woven jackets and shawl my mother made. None of this clothing fit me, and so they've been hanging in my spare bedroom for 3 years now. I thought it was very fitting that my mother's mother's sister's great-granddaughter should wear and enjoy these.

All told, I've made meaningful connections with 3 new-to-me cousins I discovered through Ancestry; they each represent 3 of the 4 different family lines. And I've met once or at least connected on Facebook probably a dozen more.



This and that...

October 18th, 2018 at 04:30 pm

Cold weather puts me in a mood to cook, so last night, I made lentil bolognese over quinoa. Tonight it was creamed carrot and cauliflower soup.



I also made a lemon chia pudding which is setting as we speak.

Tomorrow I'll make a tofu chocolate pie.

I'm trying out a few new recipes, casting about for what to make for lunch next weekend when my 3rd new-to-me cousin comes up for a visit with her husband, from the city. Maybe a lasagna would be easiest. I don't want to force my vegan food choices on anyone who may not be receptive.

I did something this week I haven't done in several years...mow my lawn. I have long been dissatisfied with how my mower guy does the lawn. He rides one of those very wide mowers and he skirts the edges all the time. I've noticed by looking at various markers...an old tree stump here, a drainage pipe there....that his skirting the edges has allowed weeds to encroach inward on the lawn about a foot! And there's one part of my lawn in the far front corner where I haven't been all summer that he just didn't mow at all.

So I mowed myself and then called and told him not to come this week. I'll probably keep using him next year because I don't have time to mow every single week, that's the thing. Plus, I don't like mowing in the heat of summer.

Unfortunately, as I was pushing the mower back toward the garage, one of the wheels came off. The bolt that kept it locked in place was lost. This happened to me once before and it was a pain to find just the right thing to fix it at the hardware store. Took several trips and frustration to fix it. Sigh.

I turned the heat on, guys. Frown

The new job offer is still not official yet, but the recruiter said he'll begin the background check. I am hoping to get the phone interview tomorrow; otherwise, due to my work schedule and jury duty next week, I won't be able to talk to hiring manager til Thursday.

So it doesn't quite seem real to me yet becus I haven't had an interview, and it's the hiring manager I want to speak to about the job, not the recruiter, who really has very limited info about it.

I can tell you I'm not looking forward to giving notice, but hey, maybe if he'd been more responsive to my earlier requests (in August), I wouldn't have considered this position. But it's really hard to turn down a 30% pay increase.

Oh, and after the 2nd coat of paint on the family room floor finally dried (it took 2 weeks, but there was no heat on in that room), I could see all kinds of marks from the roller.

I painted a 3rd coat this past Monday, and while I haven't walked in there yet, peering through the closed French doors I can still see some marks. Maybe not as bad, but there are still marks. And I give up. I will just throw a large rug down and call it a day. I can't devote my life to painting the floor, and apparently I don't have the technique down. I read you're supposed to "lay the paint down," not rub the roller back and forth, and that's what I tried to do. I think it's harder with a dark color and high gloss, which is what I have.

I spent some time with my friend with prostate cancer. He has run out of options and is being offered palliative care. When I got there, he asked me to stay the night because he was having a panic attack. He later got his sister to come over.

While I was there, there was a knock at the door and my friend asked me to get the door, since he is hooked up to a very long oxygen tube that snakes all around the house. It was a woman and her young son. She was the daughter of one of my friend's neighbors, and her father had told her about my friend, and she asked me at the door if she could pray with my friend. Kind of a gutsy thing to do. I let her in and they prayed together. My friend appreciated that.

He has already given his dog to his niece, because he doesn't feel he can take care of it anymore. He really loved that dog, and I feel bad he had to do that.

My friend has a very good network of people who care about him and are pitching in to help him. Besides me, he has 2 guys from childhood who have driven him over a dozen times already to Yale New Haven. He has another male friend, his sister, and his ex wife, all of whom are there for him. Still, I think he was having the panic attack because he does live alone, and he had recently learned he was no longer able to participate in a clinical trial of a new drug, he can't take the chemo anymore and he felt stranded.

I'm afraid I wasn't much help. His illness has revealed to me that while I want to be supportive, I don't always know the words or ways to express that. I need to try harder.

Still no heat...how 'bout you?

October 13th, 2018 at 05:48 am

It's been very easy not turning the heat on as the Northeast has had a very warm October. That may end tonight with a frost advisory overnight. Ahh, this is the sweet spot between seasons, when I am running neither the furnace nor the air conditioning. My wallet thanks me.

Nothing definitive yet on the possible new job. Recruiter says a phone interview could come Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, which would work out well since I have that week off from my current job. Recruiter said he's 95% certain I have the job, but his agency is also trying to fill 2 other positions with this employer and they're trying to put it all together in a package deal.

Meanwhile, my manager at current job will be going overseas next week on business (Munich...damn, he's lucky), so it's conceivable I'll have to email him "notice" while he's away. I'm not even sure contract employees typically give "notice" like perm employees do, but I would like to do that anyway.

I wrapped up my 6 mths with the SaverLife program and earned $40 out of a possible $60 for saving a small amount of money each month. I made the mistake of using a checking account, so I lost out on saving the monthly $10 in 2 months because various checks I'd written were processed, eliminating my actual "savings." Not a biggie.

I'm still continuing to do 2 monthly surveys with my local bank, which earns me $20 a month. It usually involves a lobby visit to do something along with using the drive-up teller. I've done this all year, so again, a nice way to earn some pocket change.

Here's the SaverLife link for those who didn't see this earlier...

https://saverlife.earn.org/#/register

I am savoring a week off from work next week. I plan to see 2 matinees, one with dad, one by myself. I want to see The Old Man with a Gun becus I do like Robert Redford, and I think my dad would like First Man.

Here's what else is on my agenda for the week:

1. Stop by the farmer's market; this may be the last week it's open and I never get to go since it's on Tuesdays, when I normally work.
2. A furnace cleaning
3. Two MS dinner lectures
4. Yardwork, weather permitting
5. (sigh) I need to do a third coat on my family room floor. Sun glare kept me from noticing I was not evenly rolling the 2nd coat, and now I can see all sorts of roller marks on the floor. I didn't know a roller could actually leave marks, but it can. I was either not applying even pressure with each stroke, or I was not being careful to roll out all the paint. Have to admit I kind of rushed through it after all the prep I'd done and was feeling like I just wanted to be through with it.
6. A new (free) mindful meditation class at the library each Thursday, which will dovetail nicely with the classes I'm taking as part of the clinical study.
7. A few walks with my friend
8. Hopefully a phone interview for the new job

Our meditation classes are continuing, now with a yoga supplement. At this point, I doubt I will continue with it once the classes end as I don't really feel I'm getting anything out of it, but I know it's important to stick with it and give it a really good try since this is what the study is about. I think my next assessment with the neurologist running the study is not til December.

I finally have a setup in my upstairs bath that I think is adequate for my cacti collection and which I can live with in that tiny space. I have a floor lamp with 3 different shades which can be swiveled in different directions, and I'm using 3 plant grow light bulbs.



All the plants on the 2 small coffee tables here are grouped according to how much light they require, and those requiring the most light are directly under the light, which ideally should be as close as 6 inches away.

The ones I have repotted using my own soil mix are doing soooo much better. I didn't appreciate what a different the soil mix makes, and my pencil cactus in particular is grown at an astonishing rate this fall once I changed the soil, after a full 3 years of barely hanging on.

I really enjoy tending to them.

I have quite a few tiny plants I'm propagating on the window sill, which you can't see, and also on top of back of the toilet. My 3 jades are by a west-facing downstairs window, there's a pothos in my office and some more echeveria leaf propagation growing in little jars at the kitchen window. Oh, and the aloe and peperomia in my bedroom. The air is clean in here!

I may jump ship

October 10th, 2018 at 04:54 am

I've been coasting along at my little p/t job, feeling fairly content. To recap, it's about 20 hours a week, pays $32/hr and is pretty easy to do. It's still a 40-minute commute (1-way) 3 days a week.

The game plan was to stay with this job for the next 6 years until I can get on Medicare.

More recently, I've been feeling a bit frustrated since I've been pushing to be moved from the recruiter agency payroll to the company's payroll, becus I feel the raises would be much better with the employer and I could contribute to a 401k.

I began this conversation with my manager back in AUGUST and while my manager hasn't said yes, definitely, he hasn't said no either. My coworker says he's just super busy.

In the meantime, I went straight to the agency last week and asked them for a raise. I just felt that if my manager is not sharing with me some reason they're reluctant to put me on the payroll, then I should still get some kind of COL adjustment from the agency then. The agency is supposed to be talking to my manager this week. I'm not expecting much from them; maybe 3% tops.

I thought my manager was a straightshooter, but I recently caught him in a little white lie; while it's of no consequence in and of itself, it bothers me that he did that.

When I last asked him a few weeks ago about the status of my possible switch, he said he was having trouble getting through to the woman who is his contact at the recruiter agency, and that she was "hard to get a hold of" and wasn't calling him back.

He wanted to find out if the company would have to pay any sort of fee to "buy" me out. He didn't think so, as I've now been there for a year although there's a sliding scale of a fee they have to pay if they want to permanently hire a contract worker within less than a year's time.

Well, when I called this same woman on a Friday to ask for a raise, she was out of the country on vacation but called me back the following Monday, which I think is pretty darn responsive. When, after talking about a raise I casually asked her if she'd been in touch with my manager recently, she said no, but she'd been meaning to call him. So he wasn't being truthful.

So yesterday, out of the blue, I hear from my old friend, the headhunter who found me the job I'm at now but who now works at a different agency.

He has an opportunity for a contract writer to work for a health insurance company (coincidentally, it's the one I buy my health insurance from) which he thought might be great for me to "supplement" my income with. It's 15-20 hours a week at $45/hr and work from home.

At first I was intrigued and sent him all my writing samples, but then I realized it wouldn't work becus the extra income would quickly put me over $45K, which exceeds the threshold for ACA subsidy and I'd have to pay the subsidy money back at tax time. It certainly wouldn't be worth doing this for just an extra 2 months worth of extra income in 2018.

But then I started thinking about leaving my current contract job for this one. With the substantially higher rate of pay, I could actually work around 18 hours a week to make the same amount of money as I would be earning at my current job working 25 hours a week.

There's a sweet spot of work and income for me, and it's about $40K a year. Work too few hours and I won't cover my typical living expenses, but work too many hours and I risk losing the healthcare subsidy.

I don't want to go back to f/t work becus I still want to help out my dad. He's been doing ok but his doctor recently told him his vision is deteriorating more rapidly. There will come a time when my dad will need to be ferried to all doc appointments, grocery shopping, etc. and I plan to be there for him.

THIS year I will have no trouble earning right up to about $41K (I have investment income and taxable interest too, so can't go much beyond that), but I worked FULL TIME the 1st 3 months of the year. It wasn't until April that I began the abbreviated work hours.

So in 2019, I'll work all 12 months p/t, and I think my income at this current job will be considerably lower as a result, which could be problematic.

So the new opportunity with the health insurance company comes at a a very fortuitous time. I've been so focused this year on not working too many hours that I forgot that next year, I'm going to potentially have the opposite problem: not enough income.

The new job would make that easy to achieve, in less time, and from the comfort of home during nasty winter weather and all year long.

But I need to find out how temporary or perm this contract work is...if they only envision needing someone for a year or so... or less... it probably wouldn't be worth it to walk away from my current job and income, which is fairly certain and secure.

My recruiter friend is submitting my resume this morning. I know it would be sweet payback for him if he poached me from my current agency, the one that laid him off. He didn't think it fair that he had just brought in me and another contract hire to our jobs at my current company only to be let go by his own agency a short time later. I would be happy to inform them of my new agency contact. Smile

This and that

October 7th, 2018 at 10:33 am


Haworthia coarctata, the latest Haworthia in my collection

I went to get my car's oil changed last week; I was sitting and sitting and waiting and waiting. Finally, at the 2 hour mark, I walked up the counter and asked them what was going on. Turns out they put the paperwork for my car in someone else's car, and they hadn't even started my oil change. Another 45 minutes later, I was finally out of there, and they paid for the oil change to make up for the inconvenience.

Not sure what got into to me today, but when I was folding laundry, I finally decided I'd had it with my overstuffed linen closet. I mean, it is just stuffed.

I sorted everything out, matching flat sheets to fitted sheets, and counted 6 sets of flannel sheets and 3 sets of cotton sheets. I don't need so many, but it's hard for me to get rid of items that are perfectly usable "eventually." Some of these I acquired 3 years ago when my mother passed.

I did put aside for donating the following items:
* a set of flannel sheets in a pink color I didn't like
* 3 or 4 mismatched pillow cases
* a few sheets where I had just the flat sheet but not the fitted sheet
* a very bulky duvet cover that took up a lot of room (I still have 2 other duvet covers)
* a curtain

Sigh. This filled up 3 garbage bags full of stuff for Good Will (which includes some clothing items, too), though the closet is still quite full. Just not as full as before. At least now I can find stuff in there.

Now that it's getting cooler outside, all of my cacti/succulents are inside, and probably 80% of them are residing in my upstairs bathroom, because that's the sunniest room in the house, with both south and west-facing windows. I also bought a floor lamp with 3 flexible light fixtures you can turn in various directions, and I've ordered 3 plant light LED bulbs for use in them. The bulbs, purchased from Amazon, are being shipped direct from China, so it's a 3-week wait.

I'm also really liking these acrylic window plant shelves I bought and will likely get more:


These are over the kitchen sink, and I already have 3 more in the upstairs bathroom for maximum sun exposure.



The person I job-share with has various reasons to be out of office this coming week, so I've agreed to work all this week full time. The only good thing about it is that I will then have the entire following week off, as he wants to make up for the lost time. I'll be glad to get back to the normal schedule after that.

We've begun doing yoga at the meditation classes. Our daily homework requirement is also growing, and this has become problematic on days that I work. I just don't have time for an hour of meditation, 15 minutes of mindful breathing and now, a few more assignments as well.

I'm still walking with a neighborhood friend usually twice a week. I would do more, but we both have busy schedules and it can be difficult to coordinate. I'm holding steady at about 8 or 9 pounds lost, depending on the day, but I would like to lose more and I'm not sure how to get off the plateau.

On the days I walk with my friend, I usually get in 11,000+ steps.

Couldn't sleep last night and watched a fascinating Frontline episode called Trump's Showdown. It was around 4 am so I guess it was a rerun. It did a really good job of piecing together the long sequence of events related to the Russia investigation and everything related to that. I find it hard to connect all the dots when I'm hearing mostly headlines here or there in between the rest of my life.

Home maintenance and pushing for a raise

September 28th, 2018 at 05:17 am

It being fall, there are certain home maintenance things I do each year:

* Schedule a furnace cleaning
* Schedule a chimney cleaning
* Clean out the gutter over the family room

And this year,
* Get prices for resealing my driveway

There was one chimney sweep I called and couldn't reach until the other day. I was surprised when he told me that I really don't need to clean a furnace flue, which is all that I have. I don't have a fireplace. He said I'm basically wasting my money because furnaces burn much cleaner than, say, a wood-burning stove.

I won't say I had the chimney cleaned every year, but I wouldn't let it go more than a year or so...just for peace of mind. I also had a stainless steel insert put in years back.

In 23 years of home ownership, no other chimney sweep has ever told me it's unnecessary. Not doing this will save me about $70 to $125 each year. I may call my local fire department, just to see what they say.

Mindful meditation classes are going okay; I spend just as much time meditating as "homework" as I do in class. The time commitment has grown with each class: now I'm supposed to do a 45-minute body scan, 10 minutes of breathing meditation as well as another "mindful" activity of my choice, which is washing dishes.

I can't say I notice much difference in anything, including my sleep. I sometimes drift in and out of consciousness while doing the body scan, since I'm lying on my back. And I just don't do as well with the other "unguided" practices I mentioned. But I will soldier on.

As it turns out, I easily met the spend requirements of both of the 2 new credit cards I got, even without the spending on my biggest bill of the year, my combined home and auto insurance ($1300). I've already redeemed one $150 bonus as a statement credit and the second one will become available to me at the next statement.

Now that it's dry, I could more closely inspect the 1st coat paint job on my family room floor. It looks pretty good, although you can still clearly see some significant scratches probably caused by moving furniture.

I expect to be doing the 2nd and final coat of paint tomorrow; it's raining today.

I'm having a little trouble, for the first time, finding an electricity provider. My one year with Ambit Energy expires next month, so I went online to my state's website where you can compare all offers. I applied to two 4-mth fixed deals (the best I could find) one from Public Power and the other from SunWave, but was turned down for both because I didn't meet the "load factor criteria." I'm not sure if I use too little electricity to make it worth their while, or if my electricity usage is too variable (becus I have central air). Anyway, my latest application is pending with SunWave. With each successive rejection, the remaining available offers are becoming more and more expensive, but not much I can do.

I have been (gently) pushing my manager at work to put me on the company payroll. Right now, as a contract employee, I'm on the agency's payroll. And I'm pretty certain I would fare better as far as raises go, not to mention eligibility to contribute to a 401k, with the company itself.

He seemed receptive to doing so, but he said a few weeks ago he was having trouble getting the contact at the agency to call him back. He seems like a straight shooter, so I have no reason to doubt that's the case, but at the same time, moving on this does not seem like a high priority for him.

So, rather than languish around waiting for him, I decided to call the agency myself and ask for a raise of some sort since I've been there a year now. At the same time, I would wait around to see if my manager does anything. If he doesn't, at least I got some sort of pay increase.

I don't know how pay rate increases work when you're working for an agency, but I'm guessing it will be minimal; I would hope for at least 3% since that's what inflation is running at these days (2.7%, to be exact). By getting no raise, I'm actually falling behind, and I can see that with prices for everything rising.

I'm just a number to the agency, and since my liaison there, a personal friend of mine, left the agency 6 months ago, I haven't heard a peep from them, not even to let me know who my new contact is. Really poor communications, but maybe their attitude is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My job began as something for a month or two and then my manager would basically reassess how he liked my work, and so I've just continued on for a year now.

So I spoke to someone at the agency who seemed receptive to a raise, but he doesn't manage my account and the person who does is out of the country til next week. She's supposed to call me next week.

I don't know if, as part of the process of reviewing a rate increase, the agency will contact my manager at the company, at which point it might be a little embarrassing for me since last thing he told me a few weeks ago was that he was having trouble contacting someone at the agency, but had agreed he'd look into whether there would be any penalties/payoff the company would have to pay to take me on as a perm employee.

Embarrassing only becus I haven't shared with my manager that I called the agency to ask for a raise, but I was beginning to feel impatient with nothing happening with my situation after talking about it, off and on, for a few months now. I know another contract worker with the same agency also desires to get on the company payroll, too.

What's also a little problematic is that getting a raise from either the company directly or the agency will make it more likely that toward year's end, I may have to tell the company I can't work for rest of year if my gross income exceeds the income cap for subsidy eligibility for the ACA health insurance I have. This would not make my manager happy as their busiest time is end of the year, although the person I share my job with could probably pick up any slack.

I told my manager this could happen, and that this was one reason why I wanted to get on the company payroll, becus by then making traditional 401k contributions as a regular employee, I could lower my reportable income enough to avoid this whole scenario. Meaning, I wouldn't be in danger of having my reportable income exceed $45k a year. (I'm working p/t.)

So far, I have NOT turned on the furnace yet; nights have been cool, but not cold. I just threw an extra blanket on the bed.

The Home Heating Contest

September 25th, 2018 at 04:58 am

Does anyone want to play the home heating contest this year? You know, where you try to avoid turning on the heat for as long as possible?

A Saturday Surprise

September 22nd, 2018 at 09:20 am

Today's very big accomplishment was getting the first coat done on my family room floor. Looks great; I picked out a nice dark brown which I would describe as a cocoa color, and let me tell you, using the whole paint roller-on-a-pole routine really makes the job go fast and saved my back.



It will have plenty of time to dry before the next coat; if the weather cooperates, that will take place in a week, but I see rain is forecast, so it may have to wait.

I still have to find 2 strong men to move the large cabinet at left in photo.

So, getting to my "surprise...."

After all the laborious prep time on the floor, the actual painting went pretty darn fast. I realized when I was done that i had plenty of time to go to my town's health fair, which I like to do each fall.

I left, possibly looking a little disheveled, with some dried brown paint on my arm, but no matter, I thought, I probably won't see anyone I know.

When I got there, I wandered among the different booths and filled out a few raffle tickets. About 15 minutes later, I hear someone on a microphone calling my name, mispronouncing it multiple times. The thing was, I couldn't find where the guy was who was on the microphone. Apparently, I'd won something.

Then I found him; he was one of my town's state senators (a Republican). I know him well because he's always in the paper. He was emceeing our little health fair!

I won $30 gift certificates to a local burrito place. But the real surprise was when the senator said he'd been wanting to meet me for the last 15 years! He even showed me my name and contact info on his phone!! Boy was I surprised. He said someone had told him I was a very good writer, and that he wanted help writing some political stuff as English is a second language for him.

He talked a while about how he wants to bring people together to diminish the polarization which seems to have taken over so much discourse today.

He kept telling me he was so happy to meet me, and after I told him where I was now working (in the town where he lives), he insisted we get together for a coffee since I work nearby. I gave him my updated phone number.

He was so personable, with what I would describe as a magnetic personality, I forgot to tell him I'm a Democrat.

Catching up...

September 14th, 2018 at 05:15 pm

Saving on Phone and Internet
So recently I dropped my Frontier (formerly AT&T) phone line and took a chance on Magic Jack. I'm happy with Magic Jack, although I notice if my computer is not turned on, neither is the phone. I now have 4 phones working with it and my annual bill for it will be about $40 a year, as opposed to my $62/mth for combined phone and Internet with Frontier. A big improvement.

So today I decided to see if could do better with the Internet; since I dropped the phone with Frontier, I lost some bundled discounts, and the Internet alone with them is $45. I felt I could do better elsewhere, but after speaking to their retention department, I was able to get it lowered to $35 a month with a 1-year contract. I'm pretty happy with it. It's a pretty slow speed (12 mgps) but it works for me and I watch movies/videos all the time.

I love lowering recurring bills.

Bonus Credit Cards
I recently did a temporary lift on my credit freeze at all 3 bureaus (only 1 charged me for doing so, $10...I think they will all be free moving forward? not sure...). I did this to apply for a new bonus credit card, to defer the cost of my annual home/auto insurance.

I didn't qualify for the card I wanted (Cap 1 Savor Rewards) but I did qualify for 2 others with smaller bonuses of $150 each: the Chase Freedom card, which I've had before, and an HSBC card.

Current home improvement project
Haven't made much progress on repainting the family room floor, mainly becus it's been humid and hot. I plan to work on it this weekend. Not the first coat, but finishing up with the sanding and priming.

Mindful meditation
I've had 2 MM classes thus far. It's a bit more of a commitment than I initially realized, but it should be okay. Our instructor has a PhD in psychotherapy and a master's in something else, plus she trained with a Buddhist in Japan. I love using the FitBit. My sleep patterns seem kind of wacky. I need to research what is "normal" as far as the amount of deep and REM sleep you should be getting.

We have daily homework assignments.

Tomorrow is International Coastal Cleanup Day, and a friend and I are going to one of many Connecticut beaches with organized cleanups. Ocean trash is a real problem and hazard to marine life.

Aside from that, the weekend's priority is working on my family room floor project.

I discovered 9 more black swallowtail larvae on my parsley plants.. It's rather late in the season and Ii suspect they will overwinter and emerge in spring rather than now; this is something they decide on their own. I anticipate keeping them in the garage during that time, for their own protection.

Be mindful!

August 31st, 2018 at 06:04 am

I learned yesterday I was accepted into a study to determine if mindful meditation helps with insomnia among MS patients. Well, I knew I was in the study but didn't know if I'd be in the control group, which attended no classes, or in the study group itself. So I'm in the latter, which means 13 weeks of classes each Friday afternoon, plus 3 "assessments."

The benefits for me include learning a lot more about mindful meditation, a subject that interests me, getting paid $200, and a free FitBit, which I'll be using during the course of the study.

My only expense will be the gas money for driving to and from the hospital, about a 30-minute ride one way.

I recently cancelled my (Frontier) phone service and bought Magic Jack, which has a new phone number. I noticed today that my old phone number is still in service, so I had to call them back. It should be gone in 1-3 days, which is good for me because I noticed since cancelling the old number that I'm getting lots more spam, since my new number is not registered on the Do Not Call list.

I was unable to register the new number because the system "recognized" I was calling from the old number! It also appears that while I can make outgoing calls from any of my 7 phones (2 sets of cordless phones and 1 regular), I only receive incoming phone calls from the 1 regular phone. If I'm on a phone call on that line and I pick up one of the cordless phones, I get a dial tone.

I suspect (hope) that this is also caused by the fact that Frontier hasn't yet terminated my old phone number. I checked my Panasonic cordless manual to see if there was anything I need to do to "format" when you change phone numbers, but there doesn't appear to be anything....it's all kind of confusing but I hope it straightens itself out shortly.

As far as the carpet/floor painting project in my family room, I decided to remove ALL furniture in there and do all the prep and paint for the whole floor instead of trying to do one half at a time. It just seemed like it would be double the work. Of course, that means all that furniture is piled up in my living room and dining room,and it's generally a mess on the 1st floor now. I have just one more piece of carpet/padding to remove, and then I'll drop it at the dump today since I have little room for it to just sit here.

Here's what the room looks like right now...you can see in back the large entertainment center..it's actually 2 pieces but still heavy as heck.





I was able to move all the furniture out MYSELF except for a sold oak and very heavy entertainment center, which would take 2 brawny men to move. I suppose I could try calling a moving company and ask for 2 men to move just that (and move it back without scratching a newly painted floor), but the cost would be ridiculous for just that, and the whole idea of me doing this was to save money by doing it myself.

So while it sounds totally tacky, I'm kind of resigned to just cutting away the carpeting around the entertainment center, and painting around it, leaving a rectangular piece of carpet in place under it. Totally tacky, right??

I guess my desire to get rid of old stained carpeting was greater than my distaste for painting around the entertainment center.

I actually even considered just leaving the current "battleship gray" paint with white splatters AS IS, calling it "urban chic" and leaving it at that.

On today's agenda I hope to do the following:

1. Rip off remainder of carpeting and padding, including around the entertainment center.
2. Use tools to pry up the tack stripping around rest of room.
3. Bring all this ripped up stuff to dump
4. Vacuum
5. Begin using wood putty in the many holes and maybe some of the larger scratches, cracks. Let dry.
6. Do a 2nd lead paint test, just to be sure. The 1st one came out negative, but I'm not positive I exposed all the paint to swab, so want to do again for peace of mind, and I should be getting that 2nd lead test today via Amazon.
6. Do a light sanding.
Vacuum again.
7. Prime some spots where there's bare wood.

This should take most of the day, if not tomorrow.

I'd also like to hit the paint store to get color swatches. I have 2 options I can't decide between:

1. Use the same light taupe color I used in adjoining sun room, or

2. Use a very dark brown (almost black) with high gloss as a contrast to the medium oak brown furniture, white walls and taupe trim. I've seen this beautiful look in home decorator magazines.

One writer cautioned against using glass paint and suggested at most semi-gloss because the high gloss looks "like plastic." Not sure if I'd agree or not.

Please weigh in on the issue of painting around the entertainment center instead of trying to move it, and the color choice for floor.

All my news...

August 26th, 2018 at 04:35 pm

It's been a while since I posted here.

This morning I visited a beautiful Japanese garden on a country estate.



This afternoon (I don't know what got into me), but I began ripping up the wall-t0-wall carpet in my family room. It's 23 years old and has many stains and I really couldn't wait to get rid of it. I think what motivated me was that I finally got around to doing a lead test on the paint, because I wasn't sure if I would just paint over it and use area rugs or, if it had lead, just replace with new wall to wall carpet.

Turns out it tested negative, so that inspired me. Ripping up the carpet, and the spongy thing underneath, then rolling them and cutting into small pieces so I could take in my car to transfer station was the easy part.

The harder part was pulling up the gazillions of nails and staples. I used a hammer and another tool that I used as a crow bar to pry up the tack strips along the wall perimeter, and used a pair of pliers to pull up the staples.

The game plan is to putty holes and deep scratches, then lightly sand and paint, probably in the color of the baseboard, to make it easier. I'll have to repaint the baseboard becus once I removed the carpeting, you can see the different color on the bottom half-inch of baseboard.

Once that's done, I'll move the furniture on this half of the room back in place, then start moving furniture on the other half. A big project!!

Yesterday my cousin from Jersey came up for the day (just the 2nd time she's been here), and I had my father over too. She's a talker. Smile I did a ton of cooking for just the 3 of us, so now I have plenty of leftovers. My dessert came out really great: vegan ice cream which had a great ice cream-like consistency. So easy to make and great for anyone who's lactose-intolerant. You just combine in a food processor: frozen cherries, 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a dash of vanilla, a teaspoon of honey, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa and a small amount of almond or soy milk.

I have a new walking partner who I try to walk with twice a week, in addition to my other jaunts. She has a German shepherd, so she walks twice daily regardless. She used to live on my street when she was married, but now she's divorced and lives very nearby but on another street. So I can walk there when we go. When I walk with her, we walk much longer than I would otherwise do, so this is good.

The only problem is, she's used to walking from her house, and we both live in an area that has limited places to go for walks that don't involve busy 2-lane highways or a very steep hill. We have ended up walking along the busy highway for short distances, or even crossed it, but I really feel uncomfortable doing that on a regular basis. Drivers just don't expect to see pedestrians in these areas, and it only takes one distracted driver. Even her dog was spooked the other day when we were trying to cross.

I did say I wasn't crazy about doing this and that there are nicer places to go if we hop in the car, but somehow we've ended up always walking on these streets. So I really need to be more firm about it, I guess.

Together with some adjustments to my diet, I've lost 7 pounds! My neighbor asked me if I'd lost weight. The adjustments involved reducing my portion of (homemade) granola for breakfast, mostly staying away from pasta and watching those portions, too, and eating not quite as many nuts.

My latest news

August 13th, 2018 at 06:32 am

I finally took the plunge and got Magic Jack. It was very easy to hook up. Initially, I decided to save myself $20 and have them randomly assign me a new (free) phone number, but once I did that, I regretted not porting over my existing number, because now I'll have a gazillion people to inform.

On the plus side, having a new number should vastly cut down on the amount of telemarketing calls I receive. Plus, Magic Jack has a free service you can opt into for call screening, where the caller is asked to dial a one-digit number before the call is patched over to me and my phone rings. Robocalls can't do that, so that's a plus, too. Finally, I don't think my Magic Jack call will be listed in public phone directories like my Frontier (formerly AT&T) number was, so that again, would be helpful.

Why did I go with Magic Jack? Because I was one of those very few people who still maintained a land line, and I was tired of having to renegotiate my phone bill every year or every other year with Frontier, with certain "discounts" I never knew about until I threatened to leave. More transparency would have been nice.

My current bill with Frontier for both phone and Internet is $61 and change. Roughly $30 for each. Note huge, but I dislike recurring bills and knew there were many other options available.

I had discounts for bundling my phone and Internet with Frontier so I knew my current bill for both would not be cut in half when I dropped the phone. I called them this morning, and in fact, cancelling my phone service with Frontier (effective end of the month becus they bill in cycles) will only save me $15 a month, so my current $61 bill will drop to just $47 (inclusive of taxes/fees).

Once I and everyone who knows me gets used to my new phone number, it will still be worth it, because phone service is one of those things you don't tend to think about much from day to day. So the $15 a month savings will become $177 saved annually, or $885 saved over the course of 5 years, without really thinking about it.

Magic Jack cost me $47, which includes shipping fee, plus another $6 for 911 service. The 911 fee varies in price and is not set by Magic Jack. I will pay to renew Magic Jack service each year, I'm assuming after subtracting the $8 shipping cost referenced above.

I will feel more comfortable once my Frontier phone service is disconnected, as I want to make sure clarity and operability of the new service works fine. I tested, dialing my new number from my cell phone, and it seemed to work fine.

I have a new walking partner who lives within walking distance of me. She's one of the neighbors I invited to my patio party last month and like me, she loves to walk. (And she's VERY trim!) I am aiming for now to walk with her twice a week. Maybe in the fall when it cools down we can do more. She goes daily, often twice daily, as she has a German Shepherd.

I can't tell you how much more enjoyable walking for exercise is when you have someone to talk to. So we are enjoying getting to know one another. Last night, after our walk, she invited me in for a glass of wine. And I lost another pound!

I made a delicious cold salad to bring to work today, perfect for these hot weather days: chopped fresh pineapple, chopped cucumber, chopped cilantro and lime. Yum.

My father's vision is getting worse. My father knew this all along, but now his doctor, who's been giving him the monthly eye injections for some time now, has informed him so, and I think my father is finally resigning himself to not being able to drive "soon." He still has to get the eye injections because while it doesn't stop the deteriorating vision, it will slow it down. My father will not be blind, but nearly so. It's very sad.

I told him I'm available to take him to all his doc appointments, and I can do grocery shopping with him too. It's going to require a significantly greater commitment by me to help him out, but this is one reason why I scaled back my work hours, because I saw this coming. My sister works full-time and is not around during the week.

I also prodded him to complete the process of getting all local doctors where he's living now; at the moment, he still travels 1.5 hours to New Jersey to see his podiatrist and his dentist, who happens to be his brother-in-law. Totally unnecessary, and while I have to drive him down there to replace a broken tooth, I'm not going to make a habit of ferrying him down there when he can see doctors up here.

Even so, I worry about my dad's mental health. To feel confined to your apartment except for very occasional outings (we also go to dinner every weekend), cannot be an easy thing. I need to think about this and what else I can do to help him. Maybe looking into senior center transportation options and contacting his town's senior center for info.

Two black swallowtail caterpillars feeding on my parsley have formed their chrysallises, and I expect them to emerge as butterflies very soon. Smile

I also spotted 2 Monarchs nectaring on my Joe Pye Weed, and I'm hoping they laid eggs.

Bunnies and brass

July 31st, 2018 at 06:34 am

I spent a lot of time over the weekend polishing my brass door knobs, believe it or not. But they do look great. It took a lot of polishing to remove 23+ years of tarnish. I don't know how long the "new" look will last, but it does look like new right now.

I've discovered that I now have THREE bunnies living in the yard: 2 in back and 1 in front. I love watching them; they will happily munch on grass or just about anything, so I'm not too worried about my flowering annuals because it's a pretty big yard. They come out pretty reliably every dusk.

The co-owners at work belong to a CSA, and lately they've been bringing in assorted produce each week for anyone who wants to help themselves: cucumbers, zucchini, corn and eggplant so far. Smile

With August right around the corner, I'm coming up on my 1-year anniversary (end of September) at my job. I plan to ask if we could now put me on my company's payroll, which would be possible now without having to pay the agency a commission. Once that's done, I'd like to ask for a raise and if I can contribute to a 401k. My manager had previously indicated this was a possibility, but then he didn't say anything and I didn't pursue it because I know if we did not wait the full year, the company would have to pay extra to hire me outright.

Unearthed some more cousins

July 27th, 2018 at 05:17 pm

Yes, someone I tried to contact fully 2 years ago via Ancestry, when I first got my DNA results, finally wrote back to me with an apology for being so late, but he said he wanted to retire first.

Anyway, he's the son of my grandmother's brother. He is one of 14 children! He said most of them live within a 25-mile radius of where he lives in eastern PA, and suggested we all get together soon. I can only imagine the crowd with the siblings, their spouses and possibly some kids. Wow.

I already got some truly wonderful photos from him of my great-grandparents, and 2 of my grandmother, which are really precious to me, because I have never seen her at such a young age, in the 1940s.

Despite the heat/humidity, I squeezed in a half hour walk earlier this evening. Mostly, I wasted time today on Facebook groups.

We'll get relief from the humidity on Sunday, for 2 days.

I bumped into a neighbor, a woman my age who came to my recent patio party, and we agreed to walk together (with her dog) this Sunday evening, so that will be a nice change. The thing is, she walks VERY fast.

I did lose 4 pounds in recent weeks, which I'm very happy about. It's not enough to notice on my frame, but just the fact of losing it is something. I can never lose any weight, but I recently began using cronometer.com, which I love and is so easy to use. You can input exactly what you've eaten and immediately see how many calories each food item is, and the same thing with your exercise. So if you're trying to lose weight, you know exactly what you're dealing with, and it tracks not just calories, but all the essential nutrients you need, fiber, protein, etc.

I enjoyed the 1st Japanese eggplant from my potted plant by making ratatouille. I also tonight made my own salad dressing, a recipe I like a lot that involves walnuts, raisins, balsamic vinegar, thyme and garlic. It's otherwise hard to find an oil-free salad dressing, or even one using only olive oil, not safflower or cottonseed, which isn't healthy. Plain oil and vinegar is a little boring to me.

I'm also getting a few cherry tomatoes here or there, and 1 cucumber.

Luther loves to feel snug.

Weekend retrospective

July 23rd, 2018 at 05:24 am

Another week of the muggies are forecast, and yesterday was the first day of it. UGH. I stayed inside all day except to weed a garden bed for about an hour.

Otherwise, I picked up a little around the house and spent too much time on Facebook again. BAD HABIT.

I need to start buckling down on the spending. Year to date, I've spent $23,916 but only earned $19,053, a shortfall of $4,863. Although I feel I've been too spendy the last few months, it's probably mostly due to the patio redo. I think by most people's standards, my spending is really pretty reasonable; I'm not buying a fancy new car or going on lavish trips, just spending on my growing cacti/succulent collection, trying out different potting mixes and buying pretty pots and always on the lookout for interesting new shelving systems. That and probably more shoes than I need.

In any case, I would like to get the spending more in line with income. I was never sure my newish p/t hours would cover 100% of living expenses, but am confident it will cover at least 80% of expenses, and preferably closer to 95%.

It's only July, and already I'm starting to feel a little anxious about what's coming up in November: announcement of new ACA premium amounts for those of us who get our health insurance that way. I know there will be an increase; I just hope it's reasonable, given what's been happening in the death-by-a-thousand-cuts effort to dismantle Obamacare.

First there was Dido's visit, then my happy hour for the neighbors, and dad, of course. Next up, to help me enjoy the patio, I've invited my cousin from New Jersey, the one I connected with after my mom passed. I would have invited her a long time ago (I've been down to see her at least 4 times), but she has so many animals I thought it would be too much of a hassle for her to find someone to look after them. But I vaguely remember some comment she made a while ago that she might like to come up for an overnight visit at some point, so I figure September might be nice....cooler, but not too cool.

Like some other people here, I am trying to improve my social life..something that can be more challenging if you are single, I think. And it seems easier to create your own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to do it. Smile I'd love to do some travel, but while Luther is still around, I guess I'll try to be content having people come to me.

Back to work today....

Gosh, I'm so out of the walking habit.. I haven't walked at all for at least a week, mainly because either the weather was not cooperating or I just didn't make it a priority and ran out of time. This past weekend I did get a few yardwork chores done, something that is becoming more and more difficult as I seem to have lost interest in yardwork. Mainly becus of my fear of ticks. I don't think it's worth the risk so I do only what seems absolutely necessary. And I keep looking for small ways to simplify or reduce yardwork, like a current project to get rid of one small portion of the old brick walking path from old patio and just reseeding with grass, because having the guy I pay mow it all is much easier than me having to keep a path weeded/trimmed which I rarely would use anyway.

I was working on that project and hoping to have it all reseeded in time for this whole week of rain we're expecting, but I wasn't able to do that. I DID reseed areas running the length of the new patio that had all bare spots along the edge. So I reseeded and then threw hay on top of it to reduce seed lost to birds. The aforementioned little path project was, as usual, a bigger project than I realized. I had to use a shovel tip to dislodge all the brick mostly buried in the ground, toss them in a wheelbarrow and then cart 4 full and very heavy wheelbarrows full of briks to my driveway, then unload them there (then eventually load them again into car trunk to drop off at dump...all told, I'll have moved those bricks by hand FOUR TIMES).

So most of the bricks are down by driveway. Next I need to dig up some weeds growing adjacent to the old brick path and shake them all out, then rake everything smooth before seeding. It all takes a fair amount of work.

So many other yard projects calling for my attention. Invasive vines overtaking my little tool shed. Bittersweet popping up in the pachysandra beds, to climb more shrubs/trees if I don't at least cut or dig it up (hard to do in established pachysandra). Finally getting rid of brushy overgrowth and poison ivy in north corner by old picket fence. I used to enjoy doing this kind of physical work, but now it's become harder and it's all such a production to even get ready to do it becus I "suit up" (due to ticks) in special white clothing, pants inside socks, boots, hair in pony tail with baseball cap and of course gloves.

This week's doings

July 20th, 2018 at 06:19 am

Things with my friend with prostate cancer have not been going so well. The chemo's been knocking him for a loop. They found a blood clot in his lung which was causing him difficulty in breathing. They wanted to try a 4th chemo drug becus the others haven't been working; either that or a clinical trial. He has oxygen at home now and is going for a blood transfusion next week becus his white cell count is too low.

I was planning to go over there this morning to continue to help with the decluttering, but he said he was feeling too tired.

A trip to the Social Security office
Yesterday I helped my dad apply for a replacement Social Security card at the local SS office. There's a form online you can print, fill out and then bring to local office to avoid having to mail an original document showing proof of ID in the mail. (They won't accept copies.)

I sure hope his old card, which he just can't find, didn't fall into the wrong hands. He has a very worn Medicare card (the original one issued 20 years ago) and I was able to file for a new Medicare card, too, although they are already phasing in new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers printed on them.

I actually reported on the decision to phase out of SS numbers on Medicare cards when I worked as a personal finance writer 8 years ago, and it's taken that long for the US government to implement. Wow.

Lowes and Applebees
After the Social Security office, we went to Lowes for a few things, and for the very first time, on his own initiative (!), Dad tried out one of those battery-operated carts you can drive there (and other places). He walks with a cane and I knew he'd be fatigued trying to walk any big box store. I think it worked very well, although those carts run at just one speed....slow. Dad has resisted many things in the past that would make his life easier (including the cane), because he doesn't want to be viewed as "disabled."



I picked up this begonia on markdown for $3 at Lowes, and liked it so much I was able to get another one on this trip with Dad. I never thought I cared for begonias that much, but the plant looks so healthy and bright red that it brightens my days. Now I have a pot hanging on either side of my front entry.


Key getting stuck in lock!
After Lowes, we had lunch at Applebees and on the way home I was able to find the graphite powder (sold out at Lowes) I read can be used to blow into a keyhole where the key is not sliding in smoothly. My front door lock is so bad I can barely get the key in now, and I initially assumed it was just an old lock and I'd have to pay a locksmith to come and install a new lock. I squirted the powder in the keyhole just once, and voila...the key slides in much easier now. I never even knew a product like this existed, and if it wasn't for the Internet, I would have spent $100+ instead of $2!

Stung by a hornet!
Yesterday I decided to do some long-neglected weeding/yard cleanup in a certain area. I wasn't out there for 5 minutes before I was stung by a hornet, in the neck. I hadn't noticed the ground nest that I had gotten too close to.

I usually have swelling for a week, so I popped an antihistamine right away, and I think that helped a lot. It's still pretty itchy and red, but I don't see much swelling.

So I was pulling weeds in another area of the yard last night around 7 pm, when it was cool, and I must admit to looking over my shoulder a few times lest there should be the bobcat. Luckily, none showed up.

Today, I really need to hit Aldi's for the basics and then maybe BJs. In this hot weather, I like to bring my small cooler with 4 or 5 frozen ice paks to keep food cold; if there's a shady place to park, I grab it, but that's usually not the case.

Unchecked spending spree
Unfortunately, I've been on a bit of a spending spree this month. All small stuff, but it does add up. I decided to get some insulated curtains for my family room as it really heats up in summer; they look fine, but due to the way the curtain rings are (built into the fabric), they don't cover the entire bank of 3 windows I have in a row. The only solution will be to order a 2nd set of the same curtains, and use one of them so the entire windows are blocked.

So while the price of the original set of 2 curtains was great ($20), now it will be $40. I did at least offset my cost a bit by loading $100 onto my Amazon gift card balance, thereby earning $10.

I've also been spending on terra cotta pots for my succulents, along with rather pricey succulent soil formulas. I bought chicken grit from Tractor Supply as a more affordable alternative to the super expensive Bonsai Jack.

The Miracle Gro formula you see widely sold, especially formulated for cacti/succulents, is NOT good at all for cacti/succulents, and I've killed my fair share of plants sitting in this soil, which retains dampness far too long. So you have to mimic desert soil, which is more grit/pebbles than true soil.

I also spent on some Japanese Sencha green tea, a few books and a pair of pretty new cushions for 2 rattan chairs I snagged on my local Facebook marketplace last month.

Rattan furniture is one of those things I love, because it reminds me of my grandmother's dining room set on the patio. I find that most anything I remember from my childhood is something I crave as an adult. Wierd, but true for me, anyway.

I also spent too much money on 2 large plastic trays that look very much like those trays you used in the school lunchroom, except that they are much bigger and perfectly fit the top of my built-in benches in the sun room.

I'm using them for my cacti/succulent collection, which after a lot of trial and error, I've mostly brought indoors again. Everyone says put them outside in summer, but while they may thrive in the hot dry heat of the southwest or California, muggy summers in the Northeast are not ideal. I also can't always protect them from rain and a few already got mealy bugs; once the plants have mealy bugs, it's rounds of spraying and segregating from other plants so they don't spread. I think it simpler to just keep the plants inside, where I can enjoy them more anyway. And Luther, now solidly middle-aged, does not seem as interested in nibbling or biting the plants.

I spent on a small $20 metal plant stand after a trip to Ikea, which I had a heck of a time assembling. I overspent $60 on my McAfee antivirus protection, but it was on auto-renew and I should have fixed that beforehand becus I know you can get it much cheaper.

So, lots of things to spend on; I did sell a few small items of my own including a Rubbermaid outdoor trash bin, a shoe stretcher, and a patio table planter.

Neighborhood party, and bobcat sighting!

July 13th, 2018 at 02:12 pm

The more exciting news first...I saw a bobcat in my back yard this past Wednesday night!

It was by no means dark. It was about 7:45 pm, and about 10 minutes prior, I had been weeding in the exact area where I later saw the bobcat; there was also a small bunny I noticed as I walked inside.

Anyway, I was in the sun room watering my plants when my Early Warning System (aka, Luther) alerted me with his tail all bushed out and looking very wide-eyed. From inside the sun room, I glanced in the direction of where he was looking, peering through a thicket of hydrangea branches, and the first thing I see is the rear end of an animal and I saw it was a tufted tail.

Then it rounded the bend, skirting my newly rebuilt patio, and I could see it was a very healthy looking bobcat, maybe 2 or 3 times the size of my cat (small but fearsome), but with a shorter body and longer legs, tufted ears, tan with black spots.

I was surprised it didn't see me, but at that time of evening, the interior of the house is very dark compared to outside, and I was hidden by the large, bushy snowball hydrangea (which by the way I need to trim).

It walked the length of the back yard, alert and purposeful, before disappearing from view. Luther and I both raced to the kitchen to follow it, but lost it.

This marks the 3rd bobcat sighting in my yard in the past 3 years!! Last year I also saw a bobcat (perhaps the same one?) in July. I've read that a female bobcat range is about 6 miles while the males can range as much as 30 miles.

So awesome, and disconcerting at the same time since I was so recently outside in that exact same spot.

So I'm having a party, kind of impromptu, tonight! More like a neighborhood Happy Hour. I was just going to have my neighbors who live behind me over for a glass of wine, to show off the patio, and one thing led to another. I invited another couple I'm friendly with from further up the street, my neighbor (a widower) from across the street and a divorced woman who used to live on our street but now lives on an adjacent road. Plus my dad. So, 7 people, a nice small group. Everyone except my father can walk here. Smile


Getting ready...

I ran around yesterday for food/drink supplies and am just having assorted micro-brewed bears, 3 kinds of wine and gin/tonic for dad, along with nonalcoholic drinks if anyone wants.

Food-wise, I'll have 3 dips: hummus, guacomole and salsa with nachos, plus cheese and crackers, red grapes, carrots, pistachio nuts. I think that should be do it. No cooking, voila.

I realized I would really need some of those domed food covers to keep insects away, and I had seen them at Aldi's for several weeks. Of course, they were out of them when I went there yesterday, but I found them at TJ Maax in town, where I bought the last 2 in the store.

I have just barely enough seating (all mismatched but it'll do), including a wood bench I bought at a yard sale on my street last summer, which I had to drag out of garage and to back patio. I haven't really used it much because it's painted wood, and it'll get ruined if exposed to the rain. Eventually, like next year I hope, I'll get a pergola up on the patio and maybe that would offer some protection from elements. My mason told me about a pergola "kit" that includes louvers you can operate to open/close.

A day in the life....

July 9th, 2018 at 05:54 pm

I hit the library book sale this weekend, picking up 4 books and 2 CDs for just $6. At checkout, one of the guys sitting at the tabled observed my Janis Joplin tape and said "Wow."

I never did learn exactly what that meant, but maybe it struck him as odd that a woman in her 50s is buying Janis Joplin music. Hey...my observation is, we tend to stick with the music we grew up with, and for me, that meant:

A. Classical music and opera (my step-father was a classical pianist who taught at NYU)
and..

B. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Seals & Croft, Janis, Crosby Still Nash & Young, Joan Baez, Carly Simon, Carole King, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.

Anyway, when I put the CD in the drive for my car ride to work, I realized the cellophane tape was still on the CD. Brand new and just $1! Cool.

When I was walking around on the town walking trails, I noticed the gooseberries were ripe. I used to grow them but had always eaten only the green (unripe) berries becus the birds would get the ripe ones first.

So I was curious what they'd taste like. I picked a handful of berries and continued walking until a man around my age stopped me, curious to know about the berries, which he had seen too, but had been afraid to eat.

I assured him they were safe to eat, and before long, I learned he was born and raised in my town, really likes sour candies and he had met Adam (the shooter) 2 times, once at Big Y supermarket, when Adam seemed very, very angry about something.

At one point, the man told me, "You have gray/great hair." I wasn't really sure if he said I have GREAT hair, or GRAY hair, both of which would be true.

But then he followed that with, "So do I....but not like yours." He actually did have white hair, so again, he could have been insulting me or complementing me, depending on how you take it.

It kind of amused me to think about.

I have to take my father to the Social Security office in nearby city this week to replace a lost card. It makes me cringe to think where his card is now. Most likely, he left it at a doctor's office, since he says they ask for it, but you would think they would have contacted him by now if they had it.

I might suggest a freeze to him when I see him.

Dad and I enjoyed drinks on the new patio before leaving for dinner. It was very pleasant out there. He said I need to entertain more, now that I have the patio space, and I agreed. Next up: inviting my neighbors over.

Now I can't get these Janis songs out of my head. Now c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, take another little piece of my heart now baby.....you know you've got it, if it makes you feel good......

Happy 4th

July 4th, 2018 at 07:54 am

I was sort of expecting to work today, as the agency I work for has no qualms about keeping the office open if there's a big project with a deadline looming. It's the nature of the beast.

But as it turned out, it IS a holiday for us, so I only logged 14.25 hours this week. It's okay, I'm pretty sure I'll make up later in the year.

I got my property tax bill, which totals $6,684 and is to be paid in 2 installments. The increase on a monthly basis is fairly noticeable, going from $492 a month to $557 a month. Oh well. Not much I can do about that now, though once I turn 65, I'll qualify for tax credits, both at the town and state level, if I keep my income fairly low.

The state (CT) tax credit is much less generous: if your income is under $35,300, you get a credit up to $1,000. That's a very low income, but since I won't be working at all by that point, I should still qualify.

But you can have an income of up to $44,999 to qualify for the maximum town property tax credit of $2,525, and even those with an income of up to $55,000 would still get a smaller credit of $1,750.

My car tax was $246; each year, as the car depreciates, the bill becomes a little smaller. My car is a 2013, to give you some idea. Thanks to Trump's tax law changes, I won't be able to claim the full amount of taxes paid on my federal return, since they exceed $10K.

My thermometer registered nearly 100% humidity outside. Yuck. I know I need salad greens and soymilk, so I guess I've got to go out to Aldi's at some point.

I've been blocking the cat door to basement, where the litter boxes are, so Luther won't catch mice down there and bring them alive, up stairs, in the middle of the night.

He's been fine with that, and has shown no urgency in using the litter box in the morning. But one morning he bolted right down there, and just a few minutes later bounded up the stairs with a mouse in his mouth! He must be hearing things I just can't hear. He had it in the family room. I did the box-and-broom routine, which doesn't always work, but this time, I was able to sweep the mouse into box in a few minutes' time and released it, alive, outside.

But wait. There's more! Luther was showing unusual interest in a certain corner of the family room, and yes, there was another mouse. Somehow I swept up that mouse too and released it outside.

The fun wasn't over. When I came home from work yesterday, I found 2 more dead mice on family room carpet. He had found a nest.

He's very efficient at catching mice, but I can't stand having them at all; i'm going to try getting someone to block entry areas in basement. I have a general sense of where they come in, where the house rests on sill/foundation, based on where I see the cat always crouching. Not easily accessible areas, so I'd rather pay someone to do it.

A sultry Sunday

July 1st, 2018 at 05:35 pm



I don't know about other people but the tremendous heat wave we're into just causes me to stay home and not do much of anything.

The AC is set at a mostly comfortable 77 degrees. You can really tell the difference when you walk in from outside. Any higher and it's too hot upstairs.

I've whiled away a lot of hours getting into succulent propagation. I had 2 echeverias that were lanky, so I deadheaded both for replanting, and also pinched off lots of leaves which, after they callused over this weekend, I then "planted" in dry cactus soil, to encourage them to grow roots. This rooting process will take weeks; it's an exercise in patience, but hopefully I will have lots of baby Echeveria Black Prince and Echeveria Perle von Nurberg.

I did also tidy up the garage, and I've been watering all my potted plants on a daily basis.

I have plenty of yard chores, but just can't bring myself to do them.

The USDA site where I logged all my exercise shut down effective June 30 (thanks Trump) but I found a much better site do record exercise and diet at cronometer.com. It automatically calculates your calorie intake based on food items you input.

CD rates are rising

June 29th, 2018 at 01:23 pm

As I was doing my end-of-month expense and investment reports (I'm down $10,000 for the month), I noticed that 2 of my laddered CDs are coming due in August and September.

This is part of my cash position, and the idea behind laddering CDs is that each time you renew one of the CDs in your spread of 4 or 5 CDs, all taken out at different times, you can improve your rate of return based on current rates.

I checked bankrate.com to see how much better rates are since I got these 2- and 5-year CDs which are currently earning 1.35% and 1.98% APY, respectively.

I was happy to see Barclay's is offering 2.85% on its 5-yr CD, but I can do even better than that: a 5-year CD with Connexus Credit Union earning 3.25%.

If you don't meet the criteria for becoming a member, based on where you live or where you work, you can just pay $5 to join. SmileSo in late August I'll open up a new CD with Connexus with $10,000 from a maturing Barclays CD, and in September I'll consider opening up another CD with them with $8775 from a maturing State Farm CD.

After so many years of ultra-low bank saving rates, 3.25% actually sounds good.

As it turned out, I worked a nearly normal work week this week, as work was slow. So I left at my usual time after a half day on Wednesday, and yesterday I worked from home for just an hour and a half hour today.

Today is the start of very high temps in the upper 80s and 90s. Sun/Mon is supposed to be the worst, with high humidity.

So far I'm making do in the house with onlyl the ceiling fans running, as I anticipate I'll need the central AC Sunday/Monday and am trying to keep costs down.

The other day I noticed that my Aldi's $20 shelving system (purchased last summer) partially collapsed because I put too much weight on it. I'm thankful none of my plants crashed to the ground.

So that's destined for the landfill but in the meantime, I decided to use one of the old plastic shelves I kept from my mother for my outdoor plants. I mean, plastic won't rust, and the rain won't rot it like wood, and these are much more sturdy than the Aldi's shelves (although this year I bought a different set of shelves...;metal...from Aldi's for the same cheap $20, I think, that I really love, although they were a pain to assemble).

So I unloaded all the paint cans and other stuff on the shelves, which I'd been using in the basement (because the basement tends to be damp, so plastic works well there too), and lugged it to the back patio. It may not be the prettiest thing to look at, but it provides lots of shelf space and kind of acts like a "wall" delineating the outdoor seating space.

I have several pots of parsley on the top shelf, which I don't think chipmunks will climb. They kept periodically marauding the parsley (which I'm growing for black swallowtail butterflies) right on my front stoop. So the plastic shelves (about 5 feet high) will do a much better job of protecting my parsley.

I still have to watch it with the weight, and I decided some of my larger terra cotta pots can't go on it, but that's ok. I would love to buy another set of metal shelves like the other set I got this spring, but it's a seasonal item at Aldi's, I guess, and I haven't seen them there since.

The same shelves are being sold elsewhere for $60, and I don't want to pay that.

After watching a You Tube video, I decided I felt confident enough to pull off leaves and deadhead my Black Prince Echeveria. Once callused over, the leaves can be used to form new pups (plants) and I can replant the top of the plant I deadheaded. Truth be told, I'm not sure any of the leaves will root because they are all kind of yellowish looking; I wasn't watching it and it got a lot of rain recently. We'll see.

I also planted some wandering Jew cuttings I had sitting in water on the kitchen windowsill which I salvaged from a plant I nearly managed to kill. These plants are so easy to grow; I remember them from my teenage years. Not sure what I did wrong, but am trying again with the rooted cuttings.

So that's about how my day's gone; I haven't done anything much or gone anywhere, yet it was kind of enjoyable just the same.

June --a spendy month

June 28th, 2018 at 06:18 am

As expected, I am in the red for month of June spending, coming in at a whopping $11,740 spent due to the redo of my new patio. I budgeted $5,000 for home improvements, so technically, I exceeded this line item by $4200.

If I don't include the patio redo at all, then my spending came in at a reasonable $2540, just $24 over this month's income. (It helped a bit that I had 5 paydays this month instead of 4.)

Still, I spent a little too liberally in the categories of "household," (the new fountain for patio), clothing ($100), entertainment (my Ancestry renewal, at $100, and taking dad out for Father's Day, $83), and over $100 on various annuals, hanging baskets, grass seed and so on.

So year-to-date, I wiped out my modest savings of $4300 and am now at -$7385 YTD. I hope to return that to the black by year's end.

We got lots of much-needed rain this morning, with more to come, with strong thunderstorms, this afternoon. I was able to bring all my cacti and succulents inside this time, because invariably they get soaked, even sitting under the front entry overhang.

Today's agenda includes filling up the gas tank and a stop at BJs and Aldi's. I saw a cheap laundry cart on wheels that's narrow and meant to fill the space between washer and dryer. Just $8, and I was thinking this could be good for some of my cacti, which tend to be in small pots. It's small enough I could easily lift it to sheltered area when it rains. That's my thought, anyway.

This week's doings

June 27th, 2018 at 04:05 am

My bank is doing another fun promotion to try to get me to use my debit card. If I make 5 purchases with it in the month of July, I'll get a $10 Amazon gift card. Easy peasy.

I had another tick spraying yesterday. Organic cedar oil. You can smell it after they leave. So far, I don't really think it's been that effective, but in fairness, I have so many critters running around here (like chipmunks and deer) that probably keep reinfecting things that maybe it would have been worse without the spraying.

I stuck around to meet the guy to at least reinforce I want them to be as thorough as possible, and to ask him to avoid spraying anything flowering, even though he said their studies have shown bees aren't hurt by direct spray.

So I'm not sure it's worth it; it's $100 a visit, but anytime I see a tick I just call Tick Ranger and they do a respray at no charge and come within a few days time. So far I've had 2 resprays and 3 paid sprays. I'll reassess whether I want to continue this next year at the end of the summer/fall season, I guess.

I got some great ideas from a FB group I belong to about how to beautify the ugly well cover that I incorporated into my back patio design. (I wanted to connect the patio to the stairs leading to my drive, so I had them do this circular walkway around the well.



Anyway, the best idea I got was to cover it in mosaic tile, an idea I love, but I'm not sure I'm up to the task. I've always wanted to try mosaic tiling.

Something like this:


I'm usually too impatient for the finished product to enjoy the journey. But, a mosaic there would really be a highlight of the whole patio area, and it would be meaningful if I did it myself. Anyone here ever dabble in mosaic? It needs to be weatherproof, obviously, but I understand they sell frostproof grout.

I'm connected to town water supply now, but when I connected, I kept my outdoor faucets tied in to the well. A decision I never regretted since it ensures I can use all the water I want for car washes and garden irrigation for free. So it's only used on a seasonal basis and I've never had a reason to remove the very heavy concrete cover to get into the well, except to note how low the water had gotten in very dry years.

If I did have to remove the cover after installing a mosaic, I would just need to be very, very careful that whoever moved it did not chip an end while doing so.

I'm working a full 5-day week this week as my counterpart is on vacation. UGH. I miss my free time. Hopefully, the rest of the week will not be completely full days.

That's about it. I've been revising the whole should I eat seafood thing by checking the latest research. I'm mostly vegan, but probably a few months back began a habit of eating wild sockeye salmon once a week. There are a lot of sources saying I should eat fish twice a week, and I was considering upping the fish meals with only "clean" low mercury fish like either more salmon or pollack or herring, but then I go to other sites that say until we have cleaner wild or farmed fish environments, it's best not to rely on fish for omega 3s and take a micro-algae supplement instead. It's really hard to make a decision given all the conflicting evidence.

We all got to see the new Lab puppy at the office yesterday. He's very cute.

New face at work

June 20th, 2018 at 05:59 pm

It was a quiet day at work today. The co-owner husband and wife left for Mississippi, where they are adopting a blond lab puppy, just a few weeks after losing their beloved Golden Retriever. The first dog was named Dylan, after Bob Dylan, and this puppy shall be called Bowie. Smile They are bringing him back on the plane, and are nervous about doing that.

I will get to see him when I return to work on Monday. They always bring their dogs to the office so they're with about 8 or 9 of us animal lovers all day log. And the hired dog walker comes daily (or did for Dylan).

My manager, in the meantime, is on a business trip to Munich. I'm SO jealous.

Next week, the person who I job-share with wants the week off for vacation, so I will be working 5 days next week. Frown I didn't really think I could say no, but at least a few of the days will be not full days. But I'm sure it will feel like a VERY LONG WEEK. Ugh.

Today, I couldn't resist buying this teeny tiny cactus at Aldi's for just $1.99.



Someone in my cacti FB group told me it's a torch cactus.

I really do love cacti and succulents, though truth be told, my long-term success rate with them is only 50/50. Some do well under my care, and others slowly die. I enjoy researching care instructions, but even then, it's somewhat hit or miss. I hope this one will be a keeper.

My dad asked me to take him shoe shopping tomorrow, and after a trip to DSW (or maybe New Balance), I'll have him stay for lunch.

The valve stem on one of my tires has been leaking air and needs topping off every 2 weeks, so to replace the whole thing, Sunoco wants to charge me $60. Which I think is a lot of money for a valve stem! I don't think I have much choice though, and who has time to go shopping that around? Sigh.

I spent way too much time trying to lessen my online presence. Specifically, I googled my name and was shocked to see that many data mining sites list my complete address, phone, the names of my parents and much more. Having to hunt and search for an opt-out method (each site is different) is a real pain in the neck. One site requires proof of residence and that you email them a scanned image. I hope junk mail's sufficient because that's all I felt comfortable sending. I complained to BBB about one site because they provide NO phone number contact on their site, and my email to them came back undeliverable.

I got thru about a dozen sites and I'm sure there are more. Google your own name and see what you find! I've done this before, but apparently, I only scratched the surface.

Shingles vaccine, part 1

June 15th, 2018 at 03:49 pm

I've been reminding myself to get the shingles vaccine at age 60, but somewhere along the way, I've been hearing that insurance companies will cover it 100% for anyone over 50. So I figured, what the heck, why wait? Might as well do it now as I could get shingles at any time. I did have chicken pox at the age of 16.

There was a New York Times story about the vaccine where the author said you had to have a prescription for it, but I found that not to be true after calling Walgreen's and CVS. Walgreen's told me they were temporarily out of the vaccine due to a distribution problem, so I then went to CVS.

It was pretty easy: I just walked up to the prescription window and announced my intent. The woman had some trouble figuring out what to type in her computer, but eventually got it, and I got my shot.

The pharmacist warned me it would not be a great weekend for me, that a lot of other people were complaining about flu-like symptoms and headaches, achiness and tiredness, and a very sore arm, and some even chose to defer getting the shot until a better time.

I did have a mild headache but that's about it...so far. And yeah, the arm is a little sore. I'll have to go back for the 2nd shot within 2 to 6 months' time.

I'm glad I'm halfway done with this particular chore, because I've heard of several cases of very bad shingles, and the vaccine is supposed to be 97% effective. (That being said, I read that if you have MS, the vaccine is somewhat less effective.)

So a few weeks ago I saw first-of-the-season cherries in the supermarket, but they were a jaw-dropping $8.99 a pound. I passed. Today I saw cherries again the store, and the price had come down some, to $6.99 a pound. I passed, again. I love cherries so it's hard to do this, but I'll wait til they're truly "in season."

Today I had been thinking of going to Ikea, but truth be told I don't really "need" anything. I had it in mind to look at plant stands and cacti there.

I decided against it and instead did mostly a little of this, a little of that: some weeding and cutting back of spent bulb leaves, reading, quality time with Luther, wasting time on Facebook and not much else, but I enjoyed it.

I've missed this season's The Bachelorette due to spotty TV reception, but then remembered I can watch it online, so last night I enjoyed the premiere and tonight it'll be the 2nd episode. I am a sucker for reality TV...not all of it, but some.

Yesterday I did my grocery shopping at Aldi's and filled up the gas tank. I also stopped at Christmas Tree Shoppes, where I got a new doormat (for back patio entry into sunroom) and one of those metal garden hoses. (I hate the heavy rubber hose that always kinks, and those fabric ones I also loved, alas, they burst very easily.)

Ants: Problem and Solution

June 13th, 2018 at 05:47 am

Monday I worked late at the office and got home around 9 pm to find a swarm of about 20 or 25 carpenter ants on my kitchen counter. I had left a small amount of leftover sugar water in a cup on the counter after refreshing the hummingbird feeder.

I took a deep breath and squelched the impulse to kill them all, ASAP, and instead I set out some Terro liquid ant baits. I'd forgotten I had these and so they were well over a year old. They had leaked out of the unopened containers but I put them out anyway, on little index cards to catch any spill-over. The ants quickly took to them.

The next morning, there were still ants feeding on the Terro, but not as many as before. When I came home from work that night (yesterday), there were just 2 ants.

But even more amazing is this: About a week earlier, I was actually hearing crinkly sounds coming from either underneath my upstairs bath window or from under the roof shingles where the roof of garage/sunroom meets the bathroom wall. I had a feeling it was ants because I'd noticed dead insect parts dropping through the ceiling of the sunroom below that area several years earlier, but had sealed up a crack in that area with caulk and foolishly, perhaps, never really did anything else.

But with that crinkly noise, it seemed an ant nest was thriving inside the wall, and I reluctantly decided it was time to call an exterminator, who would probably want to drill holes through the wallpaper in my bathroom to dust them.

But after I put out the Terro ant baits in the KITCHEN, there was no crinkly sounds coming from upstairs bathroom wall!

Apparently, the ants were traveling from the side of the house by the bathroom to the back center of the house on the back wall to kitchen. In fact, when I had the swarm of ants going after the sugar water, there were enough ants coming and going that I could finally see where they were coming in: they drilled 2 tiny holes in a corner of trim by the ceiling above the kitchen door.

No wonder when I looked around at night with a flashlight I could find no ant trails leading to the house...they were already nesting elsewhere inside the house.

10 stars on Amazon for sure!

Weekend visit

June 11th, 2018 at 04:27 am

I had Dido come up for the weekend and we had a nice visit. We crammed a fair amount of stuff into just 2 days.

I made a nice lunch for us when she arrived, and after that we strolled around the 4th annual Catherine Violet Hubbard Butterfly Party & Adoption Event. They had many dozens of rescue groups there trying to place everything from cats and dogs to bunnies, ducks and llamas.





After that, we walked over to the municipal center where there was an opening reception for an art show by a local woman who owns a vineyard in town.



I did a brief driving tour of my town, pointing out various points of interest.

We met my dad at home for drinks on my new patio, except that it was still a little too warm outside, so we settled for the kitchen table. Smile

Then it was off to dinner at the trendy new restaurant at the end of my street, right on Main Street. The chefs are British/Italian.



After saying goodbye to dad, we squeezed in a walk around my neighborhood.

Next day, we did a longer walk on the walking trails and hung around more and chit chatted before Dido headed home.

Weekend fun

June 9th, 2018 at 06:46 am

"Dido" is now winging her way to my place for a visit. She should be here just in time for lunch. Smile

It will be a short overnight visit so I haven't planned too much. What's nice is that the 1st 3 activities all take place in the same location.

1. A walk on our paved walking trails.
2. The butterfly party and pet adoption event.
3. Art exhibit
4. Drinks on my new patio.
5. Dinner out with dad.

Here's the new patio, after I "decorated."




What you see is the well cap, which I'm pretty much stuck with, so I decided to have them do a circular walkway around it that leads to an old set of stairs going to the driveway.

The pagoda on top of it is only missing its top; I found it at the landfill and brought it home. I stuck a flower pot in the top instead and will maybe put some vinca vines in there so the vines cascade down and soften the concrete look. Can't plant too many flowers because the woodchuck will eat them. If anyone has any other ideas for softening/beautifying the look of the ugly concrete, let me know!


I really like the 2 rattan-look planters. They are actually some kind of vinyl, so they'll stand up to the weather, and were just $20 each at Aldi's. The flowers were actually more expensive.


I just bought this fountain for the patio and I really like it. A pump sends the water bubbling up to the top, where it then overflows and cascades to the lower level "cups" you see. I threw some colorful marbles in there just for fun.

Since it's a plug-in, I have it near the one outdoor outlet I have, which conveniently is close to the kitchen window, so I can hear the sound of trickling water if I listen carefully at the sink. Smile


Here's a little garden inside the paver walkway, filled with ground phlox, mostly. After selling all my other perennials back here, I decided to keep the phlox. It's not looking so spiffy at the moment as they pulled out and killed a lot of it but should be fine next spring.

Nearly there

June 6th, 2018 at 05:58 am

The Great Patio Rebuild is nearly done. I was super happy with everything, but when I got home last night and saw their latest progress (Day 4), I noticed that different parts of the patio were noticeably pitched in a way that I didn't want.

The large rectangular-shaped patio is slightly pitched, which I asked for to ensure rainwater doesn't drain toward the house/basement.

But then when they did the small square path around the bird statue, that also pitches toward the house, and it looks a little funny. Then the circular path around my well head (the path connects with my stairs going down to the driveway) pitches in another direction, toward the stairs. It all made me feel like I was on a ship and everything was slightly tilted one way. I don't want want visitors to feel unsteady on their feet.



So I talked to the mason last night and again when he arrived this morning, and we worked out a solution to the tilted square walkway. It will take them about an hour to fix that and hopefully it will be nearly level.

As for the circular path around the well head, that can really only be made level when I have the stone stairs redone (next year), due to the terrain, unless I wanted a small step inserted right at the circle, which I don't want.

It's all a little tricky, with certain drawbacks or benefits to doing things a certain way. Like, whether the mower can do a clean cut over level stones, or whether I'll have more trimming to do against stones that aren't flush with the grass.

Well, we'll see what Fiscal Fitness girl thinks when she gets here.

I am eager to have the masons finish up and tidy up the loose ends so I can "decorate" a little with some planters and patio furniture, along with a fountain that should be arriving today.


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