Another of “Those” nights

I’m up in the middle of the night, AGAIN! I think there are several parts to this problem. I have been reading a lot lately, and I think that I am not getting enough exercise. I’m going to have to tire myself out for several days in a row, and reestablish an earlier time to rise and go to bed. I think consistency in my day is important.

It’s also possible that this sleeplessness is related to depression. I’m still grieving for my sister, and probably will be for a while. When I see the doc I’ll ask whether melatonin might help in the short term.

I’m also disturbed by the unbelievable scenes of the mob breaking into the Capital building. I am astonished that any of them thought their behavior was appropriate, and I worry what will happen on January 20th. I really think that the inauguration should be held inside the building. (Note to God: Dear Sir, would you please provide foul weather for the day to drive them inside?)

And, we are in our tenth month of sheltering at home (mostly). We’re all tired of the separation, lack of touch, missing special events in our families, the fear that we might catch the virus after all our efforts and the grief for all who have been lost.

Some of that I can’t control but I suspect that more exercise is a good part of the solution to how I feel about all of this. I just wish I could do it sitting down.

Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Stay six feet away from EVERYONE. Wear a mask! It’s very little to ask to prevent the spread of the virus, and maybe I’ll get a little sleep.

Baking Day

I went off the deep end two days ago and spent the day in my kitchen.

I made a large batch of Chex Mix first, so that it could bake as I worked on a loaf of banana nut bread. Dear Husband loves quick bread, and I had bananas that were too ripe for my taste. I’m going to try freezing them for the first time so that I can see how they work in banana walnut bread when defrosted.

While the nut bread was baking I made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. In our household they really shouldn’t be called chocolate chip cookies because I swap the amounts of nuts and chips. If DH was baking, it would become a nut cookie, with no chocolate chips.

I tend to make large cookies, so those baked up quickly. The next item up was a Dutch Apple Cake. I tried it yesterday and was a bit disappointed. The cake is very dense, and there’s not enough cinnamon on the apples. I’ve eaten it at breakfast, but I don’t think I will make it again.

And last, but definitely not least, I made a three layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I found the recipe online. It’s called “Sandy’s Chocolate Cake.” It might be from Taste of Home. The cake is made with brown sugar, which surprised me. It’s a superb cake recipe. I don’t have three cake pans, so I cooked the first two layers, and when they were cool enough to take out of the pans I cooked the third layer. I resolved that problem yesterday by buying three matching good quality cake pans!

The icing was made with bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, butter, sour cream, vanilla and 10X sugar. I think if I ever make this frosting again, I might try making it with just semi-sweet chocolate. I was surprised with how the icing came together, but I think it’s a great recipe.

I don’t have room in the refrigerator for the cake in a cake keeper, but luckily the garage is very cold and works well as a refrigerator. I have one piece of cake each day. I will probably eat less than half the cake before I have killed off my jones for chocolate cake. Dear Husband doesn’t eat cake. He’s a pie guy, so the next time I bake, I’ll be making pies (and maybe bread).

I think I’ve satisfied my need to bake, at least for a while.

Christmas Books

I love books. I want to be able to go back and re-read a passage, or look for a map or a chart, or something that has important information. I have a well-worn Kindle and use it all the time, but I find it harder to navigate than an old fashioned book.

There are good reasons to have a Kindle. If you travel it’s a great way to carry lots of books with you. I can check my mail or Facebook, or read the newspaper, or play games. But, when I’m at home and I have choice, I prefer to have a book in my hand.

For Christmas, Dear Husband gave me three books. I bought him two more. I haven’t started them yet, but I have Barak Obama’s “A Promised Land,” and Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” The third book is “Clanlands.” Oddly, the first book I read was one of the ones I ordered for DH, a Clive Cussler Oregon Files pot boiler, “Final Option.” Of the characters Cussler created after Dirk Pitt, I like Juan Cabrillo and his crew the best.

I’m hoping that Christmas of 2021 I will be able to put Diana Gabaldon’s next book on the list, and perhaps Louise Penney and Donna Leon will have new books out, too. And, maybe Lois McMaster Bujold will write one more book featuring Miles Verkosigan! The thing these women have in common is that they have all written multiple books in a series. I love to see a story unfold and the characters develop.

If you love books as much as I do, consider ordering them from your local bookstore. Part of what pleased me about my Christmas books was that I knew DH bought them locally. Now that card files have gone the way of the dodo, the next best thing is to wander the aisles of a bookstore. One day I went to the help desk. I listed four series of books that I loved, to give the ladies an idea of my taste in books, and asked them for recommendations. It was a good way to find new books to read! I’ll have to try that at the library, too.

Crosswords

I have the oddest pattern in my life. I go to bed, and a couple of hours later I’m wide awake. So, I get out of bed and do the crossword puzzle. It helps to pass the time until I am tired enough to go back to sleep. Well, maybe not the Monday puzzle, which is pretty easy, but certainly the other days of the week.

I’d really rather be doing the puzzle over breakfast, with Dear Husband there to share it. Sunday morning I couldn’t remember the name of Hagar’s dog, and DH came up with it: Snert. I suppose I would have gotten it eventually, but it amazes me what he is able to remember or sound out.

I’ll tell DH the number of spaces and what letters (if any) I might have. Without seeing the grid he can come up with possibilities. He’s quite good at it. Unfortunately, he’s a creative speller, so he won’t bother to do the puzzles on his own, but he seems to be content to start the day helping me.

My mother used to do crossword puzzles in ink. I’m not willing to work on puzzles unless I can do it electronically. I use the option that tells me when I put in a wrong letter. I suppose I could do it my mother’s way, but it would take me all day.

When I was first doing puzzles as an adult my favorites were those by Eugene T. Maleska. He was the editor for the New York Times puzzles. He and I thought about language the same way, and I was more likely to finish one of his puzzles. Now, the editors are not requiring information in the clues such as “two words.” I don’t think the clues are as clever as they used to be, so when I come across a good one, I share it with DH.

I’ll have to put Maleska’s puzzles on my wish list and see whether any of the kids can find them for me. Perhaps I will be doing puzzles like my mother after all.

Great Sadness

I am learning what grief is, first-hand. My oldest sister has passed away from a brain tumor. While we were all sheltering at home, the tumor was growing, and we didn’t recognize the symptoms until it was too late. She was cremated and when it is safe for us all to be together, there will be a memorial service.

Sis was the first of our generation to pass away. Although she was in her early eighties, I thought she would be among us forever. There is a huge hole in my heart where she used to reside. I hope that eventually I will find she is still there.

One of the best qualities she had was her ability to include everyone in what was going on. She always made me feel a part of things, and welcomed Dear Husband and me to every holiday gathering she hosted. That was no mean feat, given that she had a huge family. I loved getting to see how the kids were growing and having the chance to hear what was happening in the adult’s lives.

I could give you a laundry list of all her accomplishments, but I know that her immediate family would prefer that her life not be spread over the Internet, so let me just say that she was an amazingly talented woman, who raised a lovely family, who was generous with her time and compassion. She was the person we all want to be.

I miss you, Sis.

Catching Up Part 2

I can’t believe I haven’t been here since February 25, 2018. I write blog entries in my head all the time, but it seems that I rarely get around to putting them down.

It’s been a tough year for all of us, more so for some. As I write more than 322,000 people in the US have lost their lives to covid-19. The numbers across the world are horrifying, and yet we have a portion of our population who see wearing a mask as an infringement on their personal rights. I’m so very tempted to let them suffer the consequences, but there are several problems with that thought. First, they could possibly spread the disease. The idea of wearing a mask is to keep the virus to ourselves, and perhaps it reminds us to be more careful as we go about our day, so that we aren’t in places where we can pick up the virus.

Secondly, the nation is paying for the astonishing cost of care that a person with covid-19 requires. Those who don’t wear masks/wash hands/social distance are likely not to be able to afford that cost, so we as a country have to shoulder the expense for those who are not willing to do what they can to eradicate this beast. How long will our medical personnel be able to keep up the effort required to help people with the virus? The constant fear of becoming ill themselves, and the emotional toll of seeing patient after patient die is more than we should be asking of them. While it’s nice that the President is sending military medical personnel to California to help in the hospitals, wouldn’t it have been better to head this off when they knew it was coming?? I digress.

I suppose I have to admit that there is a moral problem with my suggestion, but anyone who is so egocentric that they feel they don’t have to help in this fight has a moral problem. My husband feels this is a form of natural selection, but the problem with this is that they take others with them.

The vaccine is available. It’s just starting to be administered. We have a LONG way to go inoculating the country, but we’ve made a start. Hubby and I won’t be in the first or second wave, maybe not even in the next two or three months, so we are still sheltering at home. Christmas was hard, not being able to be with family.

I’m lucky that my husband is my best friend. We are comfortable passing the time together. We have a simple routine that gets us through the days. I’m going to need to get out and walk this Spring. I’ve gained the covid 15 (and more). I can see adding treadmill sessions to our Zoom exercise until the sidewalks are clear again.

We’ve been trying new recipes, cooking together. Hubby is an excellent sous chef, and willing to work with me in the kitchen so that we can try more complex recipes. I have such a taste for baked things and have been trying to limit them, but I just ordered a magazine called “Bake From Scratch.” Maybe a bad choice! I did not make a single Christmas cookie this year!

I hope that those of you who may read this blog, or just this post, are making good choices. I hope my friends are well, and have escaped all the problems that covid-19 has thrust upon us. I wish you well in this coming year, and hope that 2021 will allow us to be together again without fear. Hugggggggs!

Catching Up

Has it really been a year since I last posted? My friend, Cop Car, in her Christmas card encouraged me to get back to blogging, as it is how she keeps track of me. I just wrote to a friend that I’m saddened that people don’t write e-mails to their friends. It seems that I shifted from blogging to e-mails, and keep track of friends that way.

I’m having difficulty sleeping this evening, but I’ll need to give it another try, soon. I think I’ll try to do a VERY quick rundown of last year, just for Cop Car.

Fred had a very damp soaring season. It seemed as though it rained all week, making the field too wet for use on weekends. However, toward the end of the season he was up for a 2 1//2 hour flight, followed by a 3 1/2 hour flight, his longest at this field. He’s VERY eager for the season to resume. Did I tell you that he and two others bought a beautiful little one-seat glider?

We decided to bite the bullet and hire someone to guide us through renovating our kitchen. We put in granite counters, renovated the interior of four cabinets, added 8 more cabinets to make a faux hutch, with a matching granite counter top, replaced all the cabinet fronts and knobs, and installed a new sink and faucet. The couple who did the work did a fine job, but started late and dragged it out for a month. Still, I’m very happy with my “new” kitchen.

It’s possible we may have to look for a new stove/oven. The electronics are getting a bit odd, and I don’t think it is heating consistently.

Last fall we also got a new roof and gutters, thanks to Mother Nature. It took them two days, plus one more for the gutters several weeks later, but again, we’re very happy with the job.

We had a Grand Marquis that was 22 to 23 years old. I got into the car as a passenger one day, after having not been in the car for several years, and thought we might not make it home safely. I set Dear Husband to car shop as soon as we got home. We generally travel together in a car we bought two years ago, but wanted to have a second car that DH could use to go out to the soaring field. We settled on a stripped down Subaru Forester. We chose to add in heated seats, rather than paying for a package that included the sunroof.

We got to visit with my niece’s German boyfriend before Christmas. He flew in, and we took her to O’Hare to collect him. On his way back to Germany, she brought her parents along, and we all made the trip to the airport. I was delighted to learn that he had proposed to her. It makes me smile just to think about it.

Right after Thanksgiving i had a strange episode that felt like angina. My doc had me do an ultrasound, and then sent me to a surgeon. The upshot of all those visits was that I had my gallbladder removed. The surgery went very well, and my incisions are healing nicely. I am not supposed to lift anything more than 10 pounds for a couple of weeks, and I have some minor changes in diet that are not a problem. In all, I feel lucky that things have gone so well.

I thought that last year would see the end of my charity quilting group, but the remaining two ladies said that they wished to continue. I’ve finished one large top, and have two more in the works. Our first meeting of the year will be this coming Tuesday.

And that’s the highlights! DH seems to be doing well, and we’re keeping up with our exercise. I hope all who read this are well, and enjoying 2018.

We bought a home two and a half years ago, and I knew at the time that we needed to change some of the plantings at the front of the house. The previous owner planted holly bushes in a two-foot strip between the sidewalk to the front door and the garage. There are three major problems. One is that the area is in deep shade, no direct sunshine at all. And the second is that holly is prickly, and our guests could be scratched as they walk up the sidewalk. The third is that holly should be much too large for the area where these have been planted. The space requires a much smaller planting. I need to move two or three of the six plants to the back gardens, and give away the rest.

On the other side of the sidewalk there is a shrub rose and two plants which might be red-twigged dogwood. All three of those plants need to be moved, so that they get the sunlight they need, and the area leading up to the front door is open and inviting. I’ll have to research shade plants that will work in those two areas. Hosta and coral bells would work, but I’d like to look a little further.

We also have a bank of shrubs touching the front face of the house. There is a mass of overgrown juniper, a beautiful barberry, and a yew. The specialists at the Growing Place tell me we need to rip out the juniper because it is so overgrown. It would be okay to replant juniper there, but the present plants can’t be pruned back to a reasonable size. The yew brings in a green that doesn’t go with anything else that has been planted. I won’t mind ripping that out. I could bring in grasses behind the barberry, to contrast the form and color.

As soon as I learn how to upload a picture, this will make more sense. I have the perfect view of the house to share.

Winter’s End

We have had an astonishing Winter. We went 87 days with snowfalls of an inch or less. Actually, I bet there were about 85 days with NO SNOWFAll! I can’t remember a Winter like this; it’s a first. Temperatures were unusually mild. It felt like Spring a month ago. We were out on the lawn measuring everything that didn’t move, preparing for a landscaping class. Our neighbors were out working on their lawns, using leaf blowers to clean the sidewalks and drives.

Of course, now that we are in our last week of Winter, temperatures have plummeted, and storms are on the way. We had a couple of inches last night, and they are forecasting 6-9″ in the Chicago area, tonight and tomorrow. Cook and Lake counties, which border Lake Michigan, and DuPage county, are likely to have lake effect snow, which will bring them nine inches. We’re in Algonquin at the moment, and the northern suburbs may have six inches, perhaps a little less to the south.

I can deal with this. What worries me is that Winter could possibly come when we should be seeing Spring. I’ve lived through a blizzard that shut down Chicago in May. I’d rather not see that again. Everyone, think positive: NO MORE WINTER!!

Battle of the minds

We have a battle going on at my house. My husband seems to be thinking of ways to outsmart the neighborhood squirrels. I suspect that this is going to be fun to watch, because the squirrels have been hit and run experts for many years, and are not intimidated by the opening of the back door.

My sister gave us birdseed bells, suet, and a suet hanger for Christmas. I thought it was a splendid gift. I still do, actually, and so do the squirrels. I was concerned about the squirrels carrying the bell off, so we were careful about strapping it to the tree. I thought it might last part of a week, so that the birds might have a chance at it. It was gone in less than a day!

I could hear the gears turning in my husband’s brain as he thought about this problem. I came into the kitchen the next morning to find one of my pastry brushes sitting in the sink, with ORANGE bristles!
Sitting to the side of the sink was the other birdseed bell, with orange blobs and streaks over the surface. I don’t know exactly what he had painted on the bell, but I suspect it was something that would sear a squirrel’s mouth. I wondered if we were going to have to set a bowl of milk out on the patio to provide relief.

So, yesterday morning, after the surface had dried a bit, Dear Husband hung the second bell in the tree outside the kitchen window. There was a testing of the bounty, and then a pause for a couple of hours to regroup, while just the birds had a chance at it. Then, one of the squirrels came back to try eating from the bottom up. How did that sneaky little devil figure out that the bottom side of the bell was safe? DH says he should have hung the bell and THEN painted it!

While all this was going on, the squirrels had been ignoring the suet feeder, for the most part. When they couldn’t eat the bell, they changed their focus to the suet feeder. It’s two-sided, so it can hold two of the suet cakes at a time. I looked over later in the morning to see that both doors hung ajar and there was no suet to be seen!

Okay, so now Dear Husband is thinking about ways to lock the suet holder shut that will allow us to refill the boxes, but keep the squirrels out. And, he’s thinking about ways to paint the birdseed bells more successfully. AND, he realizes that he has to hang these things farther out on the branches so that the squirrels can’t reach them.

This situation is very different from our previous home where baffles and placement of poles was all that was called for. Someone has been training these squirrels, and it’s going to take some planning to outwit them. Scary thought isn’t it?