Ladybugs, free while they last

Free-range, live ladybugs, 189 at last count. A variety of lovely red and bright orange shades with delightful dark polka dots to brighten up your walls or windows. Have a garden-style room that you like to relax in? You need these! They will complete the theme! Each is about 3/8 inch in diameter. Some will spread their wings and treat you to aeronautic gymnastics.

Want to do amazing trick videos? You need these! Occasionally there is a friendly one that likes to perch on your shoulder. Amaze your friends as they watch you let a ladybug crawl up your raised hand, perch on the end, then lift off! Tame enough to let your friends join in the fun. Simple enough to let children give it a go, too.

Environmentally friendly! Do you have aphids on your indoor plants? You need these! Teach children the green way to deal with plant pests. No toxic chemicals. No any kind of chemicals.

Speaking of aphids, do you like awake at night, racking your brain for a science project for the kiddies? You need these! Fetch the plants with aphids, get the camera, let the kids draw a chart, add ladybugs, then record observations. Following science fair guidelines, of course. Simple.

Want a pet without a litter box or newspaper on the bottom of the cage? Tired of scooping up Rover’s presents? You need these! All are housebroken; never any output.

Hungry for a delicacy? Again, you need these! I don’t make any stipulation that these must be kept as pets. As I mentioned, they probably are organic. Covered with chocolate–has to be good. It’s protein on protein. Right? I’m just saying.

Need a varied diet for your pet lizard, turtle, or other reptile? You need these! Arachnids also might like them. Share them freely; there are always more arriving.

I will have another supply tomorrow, and another the day after that, most likely throughout the winter, but don’t delay — they die quickly here and I’d like to relocate them as soon as possible. Daily arrivals vary from a dozen to over 300 hundred.

Do NOT miss this deal!

Poker with the girls; Grandma’s pride and joy

Today my granddaughters asked me to teach them to play poker. Since they’re 7 and 9, I gave them some elementary instruction in suits, straights, flushes, and so on. The seven-year-old was really paying attention, as an hour later when her big sister tried to bluff us out, she refused to cave and took the pot with a full house! I’m so proud of her!

Day 2 of the sleepover: more poker! Hours and hours of poker! When I got up this morning, they were already playing. We invited Grampa to join us. He introduced the girls to Seven Card Stud, and we introduced him to wild cards. 🙂

 

The funny side of telephone spam

From February:

I had such a good laugh this morning. Rich (my husband, for those of you who don’t know) answered a spam phone call and kept the caller on the line, which we do from time to time for a little free recreation. If you get a similar opportunity, I recommend it highly. Here’s how we do it.

This call was a little different. On the other end was a guy with a very foreign accent–you know the kind, he sounded just the same as when you call a company for some help and it’s outsourced to a third world country. Barely intelligible. And he said he was calling to help us! Rich stalled until he got into my office and put him on speaker phone. This guy started right in with how he was calling to diagnose our computer woes and walk us through a fix, how does that sound? Oh boy! Yes, help us! Rich let the guy walk him through computer testing, but asked him to repeat himself over and over, keeping him online, believing that he’s doing what the guy is telling him to do.

So anyway, this guy tells Rich to get on the computer, look at the monitor, and tell him what he sees. Icons, he says. Rich says birds. Then come more instructions: go to the lower left side of the keyboard and find the Control key. Where? Rich asks. What key? Oh, okay, got it. At this point, I think we’re up to about ten minutes of play. I’ve been silent so far. Rich is “struggling” but he finally understands that he’s supposed to push Control R, which he states that he just did. There’s like half a minute of silence, and then–as if I’ve just come in–I say, “Oh my God, what did you do to my computer?!!” The “tech” sounds panicked: “What happened? What do you see??” I’m cracking up, silently. Rich says the birds flew away. The tech starts dialoging in the background in another language. Really, this much fun shouldn’t be free.

Rich leaves the office. The guy’s still on the speaker phone in MY office, though, so I’m left with a couple minutes of, “Sir?” and “What do you see?” I wanted to say that he went to the bathroom, but I resisted. Now that I think about it, I should have said my husband was throwing up, or there was smoke coming out of the CPU. Darn, I missed that opportunity.

Rich returns to my office. He’s been on his computer finding out that this kind of spam call is gaining in frequency. Techie-sounding people call, get people to push a couple keys on their keyboard, then the tech says he sees a problem with the computer and can fix it for $75. Would anybody really fall for this?? I guess so. I mean, it’s hell enough when you HAVE to deal with real outsourced calls, why cooperate AND PAY FOR an unsolicited one?

Be prepared. If you get the call, be devious. Work it. Slowwwwly. Be evil. 🙂

Scores of hawks in Arkansas

My husband and I drove an 80-mile stretch through Arkansas this week. The sun was just right to light up the white breast feathers on hawks sitting sentinel in bare tree tops and on stocky wooden fence posts. Once I pointed them out to my husband, we were both saying, “Another one! Another one!” Sometimes there were hawks every tenth of a mile, then a couple miles without any, and then scores in rapid succession again. I wish I’d started counting them at the border. Well over one hundred, probably closer to two. 70 mph was too fast to snap photos; probably too far away anyway. It also was too fast for a couple of unlucky birds on the shoulder. I watched one hawk pounce on prey in the grassy median, then lift off with its catch. Had the pickup truck in front of me been a foot taller, or say, a semi, the bird would not have cleared. As it was, it struggled to rise high enough, fast enough, but finally made it.

A few thoughts come to mind. Why were the birds facing the highway when there were thousands of acres of fields and trees behind them? Were there thousands more studying the peaceful farmlands and woods? How can they sit there, watching vehicle after vehicle roar by and not “get it” that more vehicles are coming? (It’s probably some survival of the fittest test.) Were they out in large numbers because the colder-than-normal winter has been killing off the birds’ food source?

I would look forward to driving south again and seeing if the high numbers of hawks were steady. However, I have driven due south four times. First time–water in the gas tank when we filled up. Second time–ran out of gas. Third time–rear ended by a taxi in New Orleans. Fourth time (this time)–the transmission in my vehicle broke. Jeez Louise!! But unlike the hawks, I have learned something. Never drive due south again!

 

The hit of the party

obama

Oh, and wasn’t this a lot of fun! This was a morning Christmas gift, which went right into the powder room when I returned home. Guests were in and out of the house all evening at my annual open house celebration. Every once in a while, all throughout the main level, we’d suddenly hear a huge belly laugh which signaled that another person had seen the paper. Shortly followed by him or her calling out to someone else, “C’mere. You have to see this!” Our family and friends lean two different ways when it comes to politics, but one thing we all have in common: love and respect. The TP was a big hit across the board.

Crystal Wonderland

Today is day two of one of the most awesome sights in the hills around my home. Yesterday morning, I awoke to ice-covered trees. It was well below freezing all day, so today I was graced with another day of jaw-dropping awe. I’ve had iced trees here before, but usually it melts off after an hour or less. This time, as the sun moves across the sky hour after hour, it highlights a hill of trees there, a ridge over there, even the valleys, for miles, turning the ice to a glowing white canvas of crystal branches. These photos are from below the trees, but looking out my wall of windows, I have an even better show from above. Yes, have. It’s still there.

icy trees 3 icy trees 4 icy trees 2 It’s supposed to warm up tomorrow–Christmas Day–so I doubt it will still be there to share with guests. But that’s okay.

What’s the best part of road kill?

My husband and I set out on a quest last week. We have what we consider a prime view here in the midwest. A city with a million or two, and we’re way out on the western fringe, also possibly the eastern fringe of the Ozarks. And way, way off on the horizon (we never knew the mileage), suddenly there’s a water tower one month and a ginormous fake tree shortly thereafter. I wouldn’t have noticed the water tower except for the crane towering over it. Out came the telescope! As for the fake tree, my daughter walked in and knew what it was immediately–a cell tower. I’d feel bad about not “keeping up” but none of my girlfriends knew either. :-p

hawk and vultures 4With the aid of google earth, we finally tracked down some data. My husband calculated the two legs between which we’d find our goals. I was able to determine a longitude and latitude on the two structures, eliminating other towers because they were outside his parameters. This also revealed that the horizon is about four miles out. I would have bet on more, but I defer to technology. Next step–see if we can find them on a drive. We’d looked before, but we’d made a wrong turn early on. Now, with longitude and latitude known and GPS in the car, we went the right way.

So we’re in a isolated subdivision, most of the time the road is one lane only. I crossed my fingers that no one else was going the other way, and I lucked out. Our eyes were not on the houses, barely on the road, as we saw glimpses of the cell tree and tried to get closer. It got bigger and bigger, but there were a couple more wrong turns. A right turn brought up the above view. Two large birds winged away. My mouth dropped open, and I slowed to a stop, watching these four awesome avians. One red-tailed hawk; three turkey vultures. I see these birds soaring in the same sky quite often. I’ve never seen them on the ground together. See the hawk–second bird from the left? He’s not part of a parade–he has a bloody tidbit on the ground. Now, my husband has watched me watch animals for over 40 years. This day, he was as in awe as I. Fortunately, he thought to reach for the camera and get some shots.

hawk and vultures 3

Hm, the vulture on the left isn’t going to let our presence deter him from getting a little closer to lunch. There were no squabbles while we were there, just the hawk pulling off a bite or two while the vultures slowly jogged position for a better look.

hawk and vultures 5

Notice the vulture on the right moving into the dry grass. It started pulling at a branch. My husband totally missed the next photo op as we both said, “I thought he was pulling on a branch!” Eww. That branch turned out to be the tip of a very long, very dead animal that we could not identify as the bird took flight, the corpse floating behind it like a banner. The other two vultures quickly followed. And in the blink of an eye, the hawk grabbed its tasty morsel and pursued. The first two birds who’d taken off when we arrived–another vulture and another hawk, I think–joined them. But it was the last we saw of them.

We still wonder what that dead animal was. And why the vultures were watching the hawk eat a teensy bit (the best part?) while the bounty lay in the weeds.

Yes, we found the cell tree. And while the water tower looked to be in someone’s back yard, it is actually quite a distance away. We drove miles to circle around and approach it from a closer vantage point in St. Albans. Google earth, however, shows “invisible” (grayed out) roads going to it. And I’m not very good at following invisible roads. I have this thing about not trespassing.

Hitchhiker? Hijacker?

Raccoon-Riding-a-Trash-Truck

Hitchhiking…or hijacking?

My husband and I saw this little guy pacing the back of a trash truck driving in front of us today, but sans ladder. He had nothing to hold onto at 40 mph. Gives new meaning to belly flop. He hit the shoulder hard, slid quite a ways, looked around, panting, as I rode by. In the rear view mirrors, we saw him get up and scamper across the road toward the woods and creek.

Being a writer, I immediately brainstormed his sitting around the dump tonight, telling the other raccoons about his UFO experience where he was minding his own business in a trashcan, only to be swallowed up into the belly of a huge, noisy ship. Lucky to escape with his life before they performed “experiments” on him. 🙂  You know this one would’ve ended up in a book.

OTOH, an author of a different genre could relate the coon’s foiled attempt to hijack a trashtruck for the big bash tonight.

God, sometimes I miss writing!

Baby Turkeys

Turkey and poultsI’ve lived in my current home eighteen years, and for the first time, adult turkeys have brought their broods into sight. I’ve never grown tired of seeing fawns in the yard, so imagine this one-time sight! Or was it? The very next day, I saw them again, this time while walking to the mailbox. I stopped and let them decide which way to go (the neighbors’ yard instead of the street), talking softly to them the whole time. My husband used to be embarrassed, I think, when we went on our nightly walks and I, being me, talked to nearly every animal I saw. He eventually got desensitized. 🙂

Undecorating

I tried. I really did. I started decorating for Christmas at the beginning of November. The first week of December, I was done. I could walk around the house and just enjoy the season, knowing it was finished. By mid-December, I had analyzed and calculated that if I left everything up through the end of January, I would be enjoying the decorations for two months instead of my usual one. Two months. That’s over 16% of the year!

Yeah, analyze; that’s something a person can overdo, right?

But today, the weather was beautiful. Mid-fifties. Sunny. My husband mentioned that he would like to take the lights off the bushes while the weather was nice. So as much as I’d resolved to leave it all up, I knew he was right, and I liked it even better that we could do it together. Tonight, a mere few hours later, it’s in the thirties and raining. Ice is predicted overnight. It feels good that the outside is done.

Inside the house, though, I’m warm and toasty and still enjoying it all. I know I can’t leave everything in place through the end of the month–the poinsettias are already screaming, Take me downstairs!–but I’ll bet the lighted wreath over the fireplace makes it.

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Lights out: CERT trained

Last night was a picnic–literally. The oven was preheating, parmesan-encrusted tilapia was on the menu <mouth watering> the wind had been blowing, the day outside was nasty, and the power went out. Oven off. Lights off. Well off. Water off. Planned menu out of the question.

My husband promptly suggested we go out to dinner. It was in the low thirties, dark–not that the sun had been out all day, and did I mention the wind? High winds. Can’t even imagine what the wind chill was, and how would we know which direction to find a restaurant with power? It’s not like we leave the driveway and we’re in Retail Land. We’re both CERT trained, stocked up on food, water, dry goods, and prepared to spend a few days on our own when needed. We called the electric company, reported lights out, and learned that the repairs should be made by 10:45 the next morning.

While we were making that call, a fire truck arrives out front and stops. Did you know they have a really bright search light on those things? Makes sense, but I’d never noticed. So they’re out front on our curvy, hilly, two-lane road, inching westward, backing eastward, shining, shining, shining. Eventually they stop and stay in one spot. A vehicle arrives, light bar strobing the area with red and blue. I’m assuming it was a patrol car; it was low enough that I couldn’t see it on the other side of the rise. The fire truck left. The patrol vehicle remained, lights flashing, for hours. Hoooouuuuurrrrssss. I would have gone out to see what was going on, but it was too damn cold. I would have gone out and offered the officer (or whomever) some hot coffee, but without power, I couldn’t make any.

To conserve heat, we put down window shades and closed doors to insulate a few rooms. Dinner was peanut butter and crackers, washed down liberally with wine and topped off with friend Char’s pumpkin bread. Entertainment was a few hours of gin rummy, at which I suck. Fortunately I can enjoy myself anyway, and we had a lot of laughs. We finished with me two hundred points behind. I blame the sucky candlelight making it extremely difficult to tell red suits from black. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

An electric company truck arrived. It was too dark to see what they were doing, but they eventually left. Lights still out.

As bed time approached, we started monitoring the indoor temperature. The room we thought would be warm enough to sleep in turned out to be the coldest. Long story short, the basement was warmest, couch cushions made a bed, the sleeping bag a cover. Pillows in place, flashlights handy, we were just covering up when the lights came on as suddenly as they’d gone off. Lights on. Furnace on. Water on. We walked around the house turning off whatever had been on when the power had gone out, flushed the toilets, climbed into our temporary bed (didn’t want the work to go to waste), and went to sleep, still laughing about the fun we’d had without computers, TV, and heat. Of course, it was easy to “suffer” the inconvenience knowing it would be over in another twelve hours. We did this one winter a few years back when no end was predicted, and lasted three days until we caved and went to a hotel. But I digress.

If you’re not CERT trained, look for a program in your area. It’s free training, and invaluable. Start here. Training is done through local police and fire departments. Call them up or check their websites.

A baker’s dozen of shooting stars

shower1Watching the Perseid showers is pretty much an annual event, a fun, traditional thing for my husband and me to do on an August night. They usually coincide with our wedding anniversary, which makes the event easy to remember. With urban spread, though, they’re getting tougher to see.

Tonight was the second night I gave the Geminid showers a go. Forty degrees, no moon, a crisp breeze out of the southwest. Also a thick hat, gloves, and a sleeping bag out on the deck. There were a couple of “shooting stars” last night, but tonight–oh!–thirteen in less than an hour! Awesome. The first one was bright and over twenty degrees long, which was a good way to begin. I know where they were all supposed to be coming from, but really, they were all over the sky. Some short and pale, others bright, some long and bright. I’d still be out there, but the deck was getting awfully hard, and the loungers are already put away for the winter.

All in all, a real treat.

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Getting an early start on Christmas

Confession time.

I hate that the retail stores have been decorating for over a month. I used to hate that people would string their outside Christmas lights and turn them on before Thanksgiving; it just didn’t seem “traditional.”

This year, to hell with traditions rooted in childhood. Winter’s too long, the sunshine too short, and with seasonal affective disorder lurking in the shadows, I have learned to slow down, appreciate what’s pretty and enjoyable, and let go of traditions that no longer fit that recipe.

People have been putting up their Christmas lights for a week or so; our tee-shirt weather is definitely favorable for it. This year I started early, too, my goal to accomplish one Christmas thing per day, starting in early November, so that it would take little effort. My goal wasn’t just decorating, but anything to do with Christmas and its prep. I started indoors, with small things. A couple Christmas pillows one day, the wreath up on the fireplace another, gift certificates purchased with a phone call, gifts on amazon and shipped for free, then candles (that flicker and burn on timers!),  some lighted ceramics and more. Day by day, a transformation from leather furniture and lush Oriental rugs to carefree holiday joy.  I love changing pillows; so fast, so festive, a quick way to make over the whole mood of a room.

Outdoors came later, but was finished –I thought– days ago. My husband suggested we drape clear lights on the split rail fence that runs along the street in front; I was all for it! We had extra lights, then he wanted to continue along the fence to the neighbors’ drive, and they said, Sure!

And this year, I <gasp> turned on the outside lights early. It’s beautiful! The new LED lights are so bright and crisp. Net lights are a breeze, so I’ve been replacing the temperamental old strings. Oops, almost said old-fashioned, as in non traditional.

My conclusion: what’s the point of doing all the decorating between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just to take it down after the New Year? This year, I’m getting to enjoy all the pretties for weeks longer. I might even leave it until, oh, the end of January?

Sam the schnauzer

My silver schnauzer, years ago when I had one named Sam(antha), found a huge bag of M&Ms one night and decided Santa left them just for her. Huge. Prior to bed that night, I had a perfect, tan, faux suede sofa. Perfect. In the morning, I had a dog in hiding — I don’t care if she was “under the weather” under the bed — a lumpy pile of digested chocolate, and a faux suede sofa with a ginormous brown polka dot right in the middle of a seat cushion. No, not the kind that turns over. Are you kidding me?

Did I mention that this was years ago, as in pre-google days? I know, I know, it’s hard to remember that far back. If you’re like me, no sooner than an “I wonder how to…” comes into your head, you’re on google. I believe it might also have been before ginormous was a word, though Merriam Webster claims that’s not so.

To make a long story short, there must have been a miracle finish on the sofa; it cleaned right up. Therefore, the dog lived, though I sent her away to live with a friend who didn’t mind shampooing the bitch every time she rolled in rabbit poop. And I use bitch in the correct, non-demeaning way, I swear I do. Have you ever smelled warm, smeared rabbit poop? And had it jump on you, all tail-wagging and happy to see you and share this olfactory delight? You have no idea. Unless you work in a landfill, maybe, on a sweltering hot day in July.

I so don’t miss having a dog.

Dyeing in a front-loading HE washer

I have a Whirlpool Duet HE front-loading washer. I wanted to dye three pair of my husband’s 100% cotton jeans back to black, so I went online to search for how to do that on an HE front-loader. I found some instructions, but nothing that looked as if it would work well, so I did some testing, proceeded with the dyeing, and learned a few things that I can share.

Online instructions said to pour the dye through the plastic detergent dispenser as the washer filled. I know this is necessary because of the water level sensors in the machine, but I wasn’t willing to have a gray dispenser for the rest of the machine’s life, and if you’re reading this, I doubt you are either. So without further ado . . .

  • buy liquid dye, not powder. Shake the bottle to mix.
  • dissolve a cup of salt in hot water. When it’s dissolved, throw in ice cubes to lower the temp. I don’t know if the salt is necessary, but I’ve read to use it before, and I read it again, so I did.
  • pre wet the jeans –I did three pair– on a quick rinse, low-spin or no-spin cycle to get them wet.
  • remove all the “extra” parts on the washer’s dispenser, which are the little gate that you change, depending on whether you wash with powder or liquid detergent, and the whole top “lid” of the assembly as well.
  • cut a bottom corner out of a plastic bag; I used a ziploc because I had one. Tuck the cut corner down into the detergent compartment, as far back into the hole as you can–this is where the dye is going to flow in, bypassing all that nice white plastic you don’t want to dye. Turn the zip top of the bag out and down a little, forming a cuff that is more rigid and will hold its shape when you’re pouring the dye through. I had no worries about a ziploc going the same way as the liquid and getting hung up in the machine anywhere, but not knowing what kind of more-flexible bag you might use, it bears mentioning.
  • set cycle on bulky, cold water, low speed rinse. That should give you over an hour for a really good dye. And yes, I know they say to dye fabric on the hottest possible setting. Believe me, cold is the hottest temp I want on our jeans. I never wash them in warm, and I always hang them to dry. Tumbling them in the dryer later–on air, not heat–softens them up just fine for wearing. I have always dyed our jeans on cold. So I might have to redye them in a couple years, so what? It’s better than shopping for new ones.
  • start washer
  • when the washer starts filling with cold water –and this is just in the first couple minutes– pour the dye into the plastic bag. Follow with the salt water. I noticed that the right side of the dispenser was filling with cold water and not going into the machine at all (probably because I had the dispenser pulled forward and it couldn’t), so I estimated that it looked like three cups or so of water and I quickly poured three more cups of water down the chute to make up for it.
  • here’s the only tricky part. There was still a pocket of dye caught in the ziploc when I pulled it out. I could see it and prepare for it, but as careful as I was, there still was a little that escaped into the plastic dispenser. I got right on that with a rag and nothing stained.
  • go do something else and come back when the washer’s done. The jeans were beautiful black again! I did a quick wash and rinse on cold, just in case.
  • hang the jeans to dry, unless you normally dry them in the dryer anyway.
  • clean washer on hot with a load of towels and rags. I threw in some light rags, just to see if they’d pick up any tint from the dye process. They did not.

Pondering my daughter’s wedding day

My daughter’s wedding anniversary rolled around a few days ago. My husband and I took the girls for the weekend. The elder one was a little moody, which eventually led to this:

Things you don’t think about on “the big day.” Ten years later, to the day, I was sending my 8-year-old granddaughter to her room to ponder her behavior.

Bad bad sign

Have you ever seen such a poor sign?? As if it’s all right NOT to stop for pedestrians anywhere but in a crosswalk.

Spotted on Taylor Road in Wildwood MO.

Tons more tomatoes than expected

In October!

Look what my husband found! After feeding various marauding animals this spring with fresh, tender plants and green tomatoes, followed by our triple digit drought, I gave up on homegrown tomatoes. See, I’m responsible for watering them. No sense watering stubs!

For some unknown reason, my husband went out back a week ago to cut down the weeds in the garden. He found pounds of tomatoes, a few red, mostly green. He’s treated me to fried green tomatoes–yum!

He took all the green tomatoes and did one of two things with them. Some he hung from their vines in the garage. He draped a sheet around them so if they fell off the vine, they would tumble safely into the sheet until he harvested them. Good idea, too, or we’d have tomato stains on the concrete floor. Others he put into a cardboard box. When tomatoes in either group begin to turn red, he brings them inside. We eat a couple every day, yet the supply on the counter keeps growing.

I had planned on skipping new plants next year, but I’ve changed my mind. I’ll just upgrade the garden against the little thieves.

More turning red every day.

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