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August ramblings

August 18th, 2019 at 05:48 am

Wow, I really love using the new iPhone. It's amazing how quickly my cellphone use has gone from occasional/sporadic to every day, throughout the day. I just find so many ways to use it, and I still want to explore podcasts and music more. If anyone has any great (free) podcasts to recommend, I'm all ears. I did subscribe to The Moth radio hour.

Luther got through his dental procedure fine, though on one of the car rides home, he was so upset that he peed AND pooped in his carrier, and when we got home, I found the urine had spilled onto the fabric car seat.

Between the seat and Luther, it was quite a cleaning job, especially after Luther escaped from the bathroom where I'd temporarily put him and then tracked urine footprints all over the house.

I twisted my knee a week ago walking with a friend. We had gone off the paved trail onto a dirt trail and I slipped on a downward incline with some loose rocks. I used my left hand to break my fall and it is still pretty sore if I clench my fist or move it in certain ways.

What's probably more concerning is my right knee. I've resumed my walking routines, but the knee just goes out from under me without warning so I have to catch myself from falling. This is something that happened to me in the past, much more sporadically, which I think was due to a much older injury, and now the more recent fall seems to have aggravated that. I'm hoping that with time and continued building up of the muscles around the knee that this will resolve. I imagine it could have been much worse if I wasn't as much of a walker as I am.


2 giant tiger swallowtails on my dwarf Joe Pye Weed.

Dad and I had a nice visit with my cousin 2 weeks ago, out from PA. We mostly just went out for some good meals and talked a lot. On his way home, though, he was pulled over for speeding and then found after the cop left that he was stuck in a ditch and couldn't get out. Luckily the cop saw this, returned and waited with him until the tow truck arrived. He ended up paying about $1200 for damage to the undercarriage of the car. (Lucky for him, he got just a warning from the cop.)

On the money front, not much to report. I continue to track all my spending and then do monthly income/expense reports just to make sure I stay on track with a rough annual budgeted allowance of about $40,000. My investments are pretty much "set it and forget it," although I have some cash sitting in a money market I'd like to invest during one of the big dips we've been having.

I am thinking I would like to get a fixed immediate (not variable) annuity using about one-tenth of my portfolio, I guess when I turn 65 and plan to be fully retired. The stream of guaranteed income begins immediately. I like the idea of having all of my basic ongoing expenses covered by guaranteed income instruments: Social Security and/or the annuity. Without it, I'm so much more vulnerable to stock market gyrations, something I'd rather not have to deal with when I'm on a fixed income.

The last few weeks...

July 21st, 2019 at 10:26 am

There's so much going on in Fern's life these days.

Let's see....

I am loving my weekly CSA veggie pickup at the farm. Thankfully we are getting away from the Swiss chard (which I don't have much use for) and getting into the good stuff, like cucumbers, broccoli and soon, I hope, tomatoes. In the meantime, I've started picking some cherry tomatoes from my own potted plants.

I get so many yellow squash and zucchini from them that I'm having trouble keeping up. I have made these bland vegetables much more interesting by learning how to use my spiralizer gadget, which turns the veggies into long, spaghetti-like strands. I soften these up in just a few minutes over the stovetop, then grate some parmesan and mix that in. I ate 2 zucchini like that today! Yum.


Spiralized zucchini with parmesan


Hullless barley with kale and sweet potato

I also made a slammin' chocolate-cherry ice cream that tastes like the real thing, so creamy, not watery, but is actually totally vegan. I think it's the tablespoon of peanut butter that ensures that. It also involves frozen cherries, one ripe (frozen) banana, some unsweetened cocoa powder and that's about it. No added sugars, either.

So yesterday I set out to a certain road where we were supposed to have our monthly litter pickup. No one from the group, including the chairman who pressed me to do the litter pickup despite the heat, showed up. And later when reading the local paper I realized the paper hadn't published my little press release, so no members of the public showed up either.

The heat was pretty bad, even at 8:30 am, but I walked the trails, there and back, for about 40 minutes. I was close to my car, sweaty and tired, when I realized my driver's license was not in the front pocket of my shorts. I had pulled it out of my purse at home so I wouldn't have to carry the purse. Oh no. Where was it? I worried that it somehow fell out of my pocket on the trail, so yep, back on the trail I went to retrace my steps, so I essentially doubled my walk time in the god-awful heat. No driver's license found, and a number of people passed me coming and going.

I searched the car inside and out, as well as my house. I mean, gosh, where did it go? I swear this kind of thing happens to me constantly. I remember putting it in my shorts pocket.

So I've downloaded and filled out a DMV form for a replacement license you can get through the mail with a $30 payment. I'll mail it tomorrow, but who know how long that will take, and of course I'm taking a risk driving without a driver's license now.

The other thing, oddly, I also discovered was missing was a very handy little litter pick-up stick I got for free at another litter pickup day in a different town earlier in the spring. I loved using it. I used it at our June litter pickup and had been storing it in the back seat of my car or the trunk, but it's not there or in the garage. GRRRRRRR. These things literally walk away from me.

I am hoping to drop off 3 of my mother's pieces at the public library this week; they are tentatively planning on putting one of them right by the front door, which is a great spot. I will be happy to get some wall space back here.

I got an early birthday present from my cousin, a very generous one. An iPhone 10 with the monthly services paid for, for as long as he lives!

This cousin has a knack for getting me gifts of things I didn't think I needed or wanted, but then once I start using them, it's like oh my gosh where have you been all my life? It was like that with a set of 3 knives he got me, which I now use every day. And I've been playing with the iPhone for the past few days, syncing it with my email, entering all my phone contacts and video chatting with him. What fun!! It's kind of like driving a Honda and thinking it was fine and did the job, but then someone gives you a BMW and then you see what a difference there is in your ride. That's kind of how I feel with the iPhone.

I love taking photos with my phone. It has really totally supplanted the little Canon PowerShot I had used for years. But my old phone had next to no storage, and even with a disk card in there, I could not take more than 25 photos or so and then I'd have to delete some to make room for more. It was very limiting. And of course, taking a video was just not possible. So I'm looking forward to putting the iPhone through its paces.

My cousin is tentatively planning on coming for 3 or 4 days next week. It's going to be more challenging this time because my dad is no longer driving at all, and cousin doesn't feel comfortable driving local roads unfamiliar to him. (My sister actually would not let him have his car keys, which, knowing her, must've been exceedingly difficult to do to stand up to dad.)

But it will be fun as it will be my birthday week; i have a favorite outdoor restaurant I want to take cousin to, and maybe the local theater.


Favorite restaurant

After feeling a funny, pea-sized lump on Luther's chest last week, I brought him to the vet. They insisted on giving him a rabies shot, even though he's an indoor cat, which I understand, for their protection. Turns out it was just, umm, some matted hair, but during the exam he looked at his teeth and said most all of them, except his 4 canines, should come out. He showed me one tooth that was cracked and the gum had grown over it.

Luther shows no signs of being in pain, but I am biting the bullet and having it done this week, before my cousin comes up. I have to bring him in the day before for bloodwork to make sure it's safe to do surgery/anesthesia on him. Then bring him back the next day, drop him off and pick up toward day's end. Poor Luther. I'm feeling a little anxious about it. The bill will be about $700. Luther says he's worth it.


This is the final day of the heat wave. It's a shame it occurred on a weekend as I can't get anything done I would normally do in the yard except copiously water all my potted plants, which barely get through the day even after being watered the previous night.



I signed up for a AAA safe driver test after deciding to join AAA. It's being held at the local police station. I hope that by the time I go the class, I have my new driver's license, just in case they ask to see your license or something to show your ID.

For the month of July, I started a 30-day challenge to see if I could walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Last year I made a little money by entering a clinical trial tracking sleep patterns, and I also got to keep the FitBit they gave me. So I know what it takes to walk 10,000 steps; basically, just walk a half-hour in the neighborhood in the morning before work, and then walk another 40 minutes or so on my lunch break. The rest of the steps (usually less than a thousand) are made up in the office and at home.

I was doing pretty well with the challenge but the heat wave means that today, for instance, I will fail miserably to meet my goal. Oh well.




I've returned

July 5th, 2019 at 07:19 pm

Yes, it's me....Patient Saver, also known in a past life as Wild Blue Yonder.

I deleted my blog somewhat impulsively, annoyed by a few nasty commenters and with the realization that my penchant for sharing all could make me a target.

But aw, heck, I miss this place. So here I am, ready to update you on my goings on, and thanks for all the kind words following my absence. I was going to just begin fresh, but my email is linked to this older blog, so the path of least resistance is just to continue on with this account.

Anyhoo......

I am into Week 2 of the farm CSA program I joined. I've picked up a big bushel each week of (so far) garlic scapes, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, basil, zucchini and arugula, and since the farmer's wife has been emailing us with the coming week's goodies, I've been trying to get out in front of all this perishable produce by getting my recipes lined up...especially since we can help ourselves to whatever fresh herbs we want. If I don't know what recipes I'll be using, I can't really avail myself of the herbs. So I need to be uber-organized.

I went so far as to ask my manager if, on Wednesdays only and just until end of October, I could arrive and leave the office an hour early. That's because the bushels of food are placed outside at the farm; there is no refrigeration! So you can imagine in this heat how quickly things begin to wilt. It's in the shade, but on hot days, that doesn't make much difference. I've paid too much to get wilted food. We can pick up any time after 2 pm, but normally i would not get out of work til 2:30 pm, and by the time I drive home, it's about 3:15 pm.

So I got the okay to leave work at 1:30 pm on a "let's see how it goes" basis. The whole reason I was coming in to work later is because they don't always have work for me to do earlier in the morning, based on the work flow and what others have to do before I get the work passed on to me. So I'll be gently prodding the woman who gives me most of my work to have something for me to do first thing when I arrive.

I am blessed with an abundance of garter snakes this year. On just one day, I saw 3 snakes in totally different locations (one a baby) so I don't think it's the same snake unless it's incredibly mobile.

In other wildlife news, one of the does who visits daily to eat the fallen apples from my sole remaining apple tree (there were 6 when I moved here), brought 2 small fawns with her. They're cute, to be sure.

I've been busy working on a small (roughly 10 x 4') wildflower garden abutting my new back patio. I returned this morning with another 5 small butterfly weed plants, purchased from a woman in town who sells plants from her home at greatly discounted prices. I paid $15 for 5 plants.

Actually, it started out as wildflower "meadow," but after observing how aggressively the grass takes over, I'm wanting to weed out the undesirables and mulch like any other perennial bed. It will still attract the pollinators, which is my goal.

Saw my dad yesterday, and my brother and I took him out to lunch. Since his surgery in February, he is getting around, but still uses a walker; he used to use a cane. He has also given up driving, which is a big relief to me. There was no grand announcement or conversation about it, but he's not going anywhere unless one of his kids drives. This does present greater challenges for us since we need to bring him to various doctors' visits, do the grocery shopping and so on, but at least there are two of us sharing some of these necessary trips.

The weather this past week has been mostly awful...very hot and very humid. I'm so grateful for my air conditioning on days like this, and now a storm is rolling in.

In the past month, I've had 4 trees taken down. The two small ones (a Japanese black pine I planted the year I moved in 24 years ago and a cedar tree with a rust gall disease) were taken down by a local landscaper who I knew would do it fairly cheaply: $300 for the two, which included disposal on my property).

The third tree was a dead ash, another victim of the ash borer insect, which was on the property line but could conceivably hit the sun room. I got my elderly neighbor's okay to have them drive their bucket truck on her side, which is just lawn and more accessible than mine. The 4th tree, a dead black locust, was quite large, maybe 90 feet tall, and was close to my neighbors' on the other side. If that one came down, it would take down the neighbors' power lines and generally not cause any good will, so that one was done too. Overall, they did a very neat job except for 7 or 8 holes in the ground caused by the impact of falling limbs, and they did sacrifice a very nice Japanese maple growing under the locust, but oh well. I get a lot of Japanese maple volunteers here. The 2 large trees cost me I think $2600, so it wasn't cheap, but that's the going rate around here and actually I was fairly happy with the price.

My local public library graciously accepted a gift of two of my mother's paintings. I'm just waiting to sign some paperwork and then I'll deliver it to them. I purposefully chose 2 fairly large pieces as I desperately need the space here.

I rejoined Ancestry.com as they were offering memberships at half-price, but I'm wondering if I'll really have the time to spend on it.

I went to the Bronx Zoo a few weeks ago with my NJ cousin and her two grand-kids. It was a lot of fun, but everything was so expensive, from the parking to lunch on premises, to the camel rides for the boys.

I am making more serious attempts to get plastic out of my life, and I found that using dampened tea towels which I already had on hand work very well to keep all kinds of fresh produce fresh in the refrigerator. Plastic bags don't always do the job and actually, the tea towels seem to work better with lettuce and other soft greens! I just wet the towels, then ring them out, then gently roll up the produce and store in the drawer.

I also have a large collection of those plastic produce bags you get in the produce department, plus I've purchased some reusable mesh bags too. I plan to keep using the plastic ones until they develop a hole or something, then will transition to the mesh bags.

This is all a result, I think, of my continued work with the environmental group in town I belong to. I can't often make their meetings due to work, but since they put me in charge of monthly litter pickups, I still have a chance to get to know certain other members who come out for that.

I'm also still volunteering at Kiva.org, which reminds me, I've got to do some editing for them this weekend.

I'm still working at decluttering as much as possible, and have had great luck selling all sorts of things on Facebook, from a portable AC to a vintage photo to a single pair of wood shutters.

In short, semi-retirement is full of all sorts of interesting activities; my part-time work is really like a little something that gets in the way of my activities, instead of the other way around.