Home > Archive: July, 2018

Archive for July, 2018

Bunnies and brass

July 31st, 2018 at 01:34 pm

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 28th, 2018 at 12:17 am

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, 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 12:24 pm

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 01:19 pm

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 09:12 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 10th, 2018 at 12:54 am

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. 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)

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 know you've got it, if it makes you feel good......

Happy 4th

July 4th, 2018 at 02:54 pm

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 2nd, 2018 at 12:35 am

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 It automatically calculates your calorie intake based on food items you input.