Friday, June 27, 2008
Top left: Before. Top right and bottom: After
Yesterday, despite having strained my back the day before, I tackled the problem on my new "open" living plan. The living area/dining room sans the dining room suite has been a perplexing problem. It is a 23' x 13.5' room making furniture arrangement a challenge. I don't really like the TV being the focal point of a room, so I resisted moving the entertainment center. After a lot of pondering, I gave in and moved the entertainment center along the long wall between the windows. I put the sleeper couch along the front wall near the front door, left the futon in place, and moved the la-z-boy chair across the room to the other side. The end result: Brilliant. I have to admit, I never liked having that coffee table interrupt the flow from the front door to the kitchen. Now, it's out of the way. I was even able to find a place for the chair Bek donated to one side of the entertainment center. Now I have a decent amount of open space to exercise myself and Jake. Jake has his own little "alcove" for his bed, which is out of my way. It will be interesting to see where Nevada wants her bed. Anyhoo, now I have a great setup with lots of seating and conversation areas for parties. Plus, I have a choice of seating when I actually do turn on the television, and easier access to a plug when I want to plug in my computer out there.
The real bonus here is that I was able to move the sleeper couch out of the spare bedroom. Now I have room for a sewing table in the spare bedroom. I think I'm going to wait until after the garage sale and see if I don't get enough money to afford a folding table so that the sewing table isn't a permanent fixture. I wonder if this will make me more apt to use that computer room. At the end of this little house revamp, I may feel like I'm in a completely new place!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
It all started when I sold Bek my dining room suite. I intended originally just to sell the table and chairs, but ended up dumping the buffet and hutch as well. So, here I am, just in from a collecting trip, facing an empty room full of art glass, collectibles, and table linens. A week later, that crap was still sitting on the floor. I like the art glass. The collectibles....meh...they could go. I really only want the sentimental stuff. After my divorce, I realized that I had spent an extraordinary amount of money on....nothing, and I vowed to never get caught up in that again. And for the most part I haven't. But over time, the buying "mistakes" tend to pile up and you don't really see them until they become a problem. They had become a problem.
You have to understand, I live alone in a two bedroom house with a 2.5 car garage. I have:
a walk-in utility closet
shelving in the utility room
an incredibly large clothes/linen closet in the bathroom
an oversized closet I have converted to storage in the spare bedroom
my exercise equipment stored on the enclosed front porch
a large dresser for clothes in my bedroom.
But the real storage monster is my kitchen, where you might even say I have two kitchens. I have the normal set of kitchen cabinets, which includes three large base cabinets, and three large above-counter cabinets centered around the sink. Those store the everyday dishes and a lot of stuff I never use. The base cabinets are not particularly easy to get to behind the kitchen table. In addition, I have a walk-in pantry with another complete set of base cabinets, upper cabinets, shelves, and a food pantry. This is my "real" kitchen area. I have all my countertop electronics (Kitchenaid, microwave, coffee pot, toaster, and canisters), pots and pans, food, and coffee cups in there.
So when couldn't find room to re-integrate my travel items in this house...oh man, that sent me over the edge. So for the last 3.5 weeks, I've been on an organizing bender. I started with the utility closet. I put away crap that I had just been tossing in there to get it out of my way. I boxed up the art-glass, collectibles, and seldom-used dishware from the buffet and stacked it up inside. Then I came outside and started dealing with the clothes I had in the laundry area, which led me, inevitably, to the bathroom closet. Decided I didn't really need 40 towels in my bathroom, so they went into the storage buckets in the garage.I sorted and purged the unwanted/unused toiletries in the bathroom. Last year, I had purchased a series of small, cheap plastic baskets, so there was no cash outlay, just a spring cleaning, you could say. End result: more room in the cabinets and I have a big bag of travel size shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, and medicines to give away to friends and family.
On to the bedroom. My bedroom is small to say the least: 11.5 x 9.5. It is dominated by a king-size bed. I do have a very nice, oversized dresser, though the clothes in it are out of control. To remedy, I bought one of those diamond sock organizers and 2 sets of plastic boxes for seldom used/untamable items. Anyone who has a thong knows what I mean by an unruly lingerie drawer. I bought several travel packing cubes to organize things that were taking over the least used of my dresser drawers. The organizers in the dresser were actually very useful. They compressed things like socks and underwear and freed up room for folded clothing. Total cost: $40.
I have a small cabinet that came free with my house. For the moment, my linens are stored in there. I wish my kitchen included some useful drawers, but at present, I don't. But the kitchen is a whole other animal. I have embarassingly large amounts of storage space in the kitchen. Still, my biggest problem is plasticware. Over the years, I have tried to purchase increasingly compact plastic storage containers. But they still take up too much room. So, out they go. I'm putting a bunch in the garage sale. Anything cracked goes in the recycle bin. The container that has no use except for storing the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving has got to go. Now there are things that are seldom used that I want to keep: the ice cream maker and bread machine. The wine rack. Its big and bulky andnearly impossible to store. And the matching 3-tiered plate stand. Grandma's silver. The holiday china. The set of china Gram gave me. But the roasting pan...going to my sister. The pans that never see any use...garage sale. When I had the buffet, it was nice. Now, it's an albatross around my neck. I am dedicated to freeing up living space in my kitchen. What can't be stored is gone. Net cost: presumably a profit after the garage sale.
Funny thing, the camping-trip percolator is still on the counter. I'm getting around to it. At least things are starting to loosen up in there, giving me the mental freedom to start thinking about how to arrange my furniture sans the dining room suite. I think I'm going to have to move my entertainment center. Thing is, I like it where it is. Oh well, I guess in the interests of flow, I'm going to have to be open to change.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I have decided to wait on the waterproof/dustproof camera until the price of the Pentax W60 drops after initial release. I never saw the waterproof model as much more than a field camera, which leaves me free to fantasize about my "everyday" camera. I have spent a lot of time considering my camera use. Understanding that I am more than a casual camera user, that I find photography to be both a work necessity and a hobby, and I like to have "snapshots" of normal family/friend stuff like everyone else. I love to spend my free time taking photos in natural areas.
Before my next big trip, I would like to have in my camera bag: a quality, high-megapixel dSLR camera with an adequate kit lens, a kick ass macro lens (or at least mid-range), and a wide-angle lens for landscapes. This is a rather expensive proposition. Thus, it remains in the realm of fantasy at the moment. But, with my car nearly paid off, I can plan my attack.
I have narrowed my choices down to two camera bodies: The Canon D400 Rebel Xti and the Nikon D80. Both are 10 megapixel dSLRs. All the reviews say that the Canon is light has great features...overall a great entry-level SLR. It has a dust-reduction mechanism that the Nikon lacks. The Nikon is thought to be a slightly better quality camera, but still entry level. Much is made about its viewfinder, which I seldom use. The Nikon lacks some of the nice features of the Canon (like anti-dust). The Nikon body is also $150 more expensive.
The "kit" lens with the Canon is an 18-55mm number, and the reviews are rather ho-hum about it. The kit lens with the Nikon is a Nikkor 18-135mm lens, and the reviews are slightly more complimentary. Obviously, that lens is going to get me better telephoto capabilities. To compare, the Canon plus kit lens runs about $675 and the Nikon plus slightly better kit lens runs $950. That's a pretty substantial difference.
However, let us keep in mind that my mother has a Nikon macro lens that may or may not be compatible with the D80. I'll have to check on that and also on whether my mother is willing to loan me her lens for any length of time (like forever). Presuming the best, for a $950.00 investment, I'm up and running with a decent all-purpose lens and a decent (?) macro lens.
Back to the Canon. I can get a Canon EF 100mm USM lens (with auto-focus) for $455. I can get the Canon EF-S 60mm USM lens (also with auto-focus) for $370. Now, I've been dutifully trying to learn about lenses here, but I'm a bit confused. These are fixed focal length lenses. If I am understanding the lingo correctly, the 60mm lens with have a wider frame of focus (will get more along the sides and top) than the 100mm. What I am unclear on is whether you sacrifice something in getting that wider frame. Surely, less must be preferable since the 100mm lens costs more. Somehow, I get the feeling that the 60mm lens will be more than satisfactory for my botanical photographic needs, but I don't like not understanding everything before I plunk down my money.
Obviously, the Canon 40D would be a much better camera, but unlike a film camera, I am a bit concerned that there is a shelf-life on digital cameras of around 10,000 shots. How much better does a camera have to be for me to justify raising the cost of that shot from 6.8 cents to 12 cents? On the other hand, with a pocket-size point and shoot in my arsenal, maybe I wouldn't be so tempted to waste those shots around the house. However, the very idea of spending $1500 on cameras in the next year sends even my fantasies crashing down again.
I think I better do some more thinking on this.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Closeouts . Lowa's best-selling Renegade mid hiking boots are quality day hikers with a Gore-Tex® waterproof breathable membrane system and bi-injection midsole for great comfort and stability. Gore-Tex® blocks outside moisture and lets skin moisture escape, helping to avoid blistering. Mesh lining...
Fantastic comfort and long-lasting
Sizing: Feels true to size
Width: Feels true to width
Pros: Durable, Stable, Comfortable, Water Resistant, Great Traction
Best Uses: Wet Weather, Backcountry, Cold weather, Day hikes
Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer
These are the best boots I have ever owned. They have the comfortable feel of tennis shoes and they are hard-working, long-lasting field boots. I have taken them on 8-week backcountry field excursions in Yellowstone, on day hikes in the Midwest...I even climbed a mountain in them. After 5 years, I thought I'd wear them out on a 5-week camping trip to the southwest, but they just keep on going. I bought a replacement pair 2 years ago that I've yet to take out of the box. These things just don't wear out. And I think they are as comfortable after 5 years as they were the first day I wore them.
I thought that the plastic lace holders were going to be a weak point, but they haven't given me a moment's problem. They are sturdy and stable. I haven't even worn the laces out. And perhaps most amazingly, after getting them wet, muddy, sandy, gritty, silty, and slimy, they seem to dry out and still look presentable. If they quit making this model (and my present pair and spare pair ever wear out), I may just quit going outdoors. I'll never buying anything but Lowa.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
*photos copyright of Pepperidge Farm
So back from the month-long camping trip, it has taken me a week or two to restock the shelves in my pantry with my usual offerings. On on trip to Kroger, I saw that Pepperidge Farm cookies were on sale. When I say they were on sale, they were 19 cents off their regular price of $3.19 each. But I like them generally, so I bought a package of chocolate-raspberry milanos and a package of Chocolate Chunk (Dark Chocolate) Nantucket crispy cookies. The milanos are just a flavor variation of the traditional milanos and the chocolate chunk cookies are just oversized, glorified Chips Ahoy! cookies.
Get the packages home and a few days later I get a sweet tooth. So I open the milanos. The package includes three layers of cookies, each layer including four cookies grouped together in a little paper cup that looks like a coffee filter. You know the kind. Top layer of cookies are all broken. Second layer of cookies are upside down and have dumped into the bottom layer of cookies, which are also beat to hell.
Twelve cookies, mostly broken. $3.00.
Now I don't mind paying a little extra for quality. And there is something to be said for presentation. But $3.00 for 12 broken cookies? I don't take this crap lightly.
I call up the 800 number on the side of the package. I get a recording of some old man--and trust me, they've tried pretty hard to make him sound like your kind ol' grandpa--telling me that if I want to tell them how much I enjoy their product, I'll have to call back on Monday-Friday. So, of course, I can't let this stuff go, so I call back.
Long story short, I explain the problem, they are sending me coupons for free cookies. Just a tip from your good friend, Liz. If you want free food, complain about the product. I have now received multiple coupons from the Campbell's Soup Company and now Pepperidge Farms. I'm now thinking of keeping a list of companies willing to cough up valuable free coupons for 5 minutes of your time.
But back to the cookies. Now, fast forward to my next sugar jones and I open the package of Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Chunk Dark Chocolate Nantucket Crispy Cookies. (Personally, I think it needs a longer name.) This is a two layer package, but the layers aren't separated by paper cups, but by plastic ones. They at least are intact. However, there are only 8 cookies in this package. 8 cookies, $3.00. That's 37.5 cents per cookie. Ho-lee mackeral! I can make about 60 homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for $3.00.
Coupons or no free coupons, I'm done buying Pepperidge Farm cookies. These people are under the mistaken impression that their cookies taste substantially different than Chips Ahoy! cookies or any other cookie. I beg to differ.
Your humble grocery guide,
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
1. What is your favorite word? "shrubbery" (but only when said by Michael Palin) or maybe "porcupine", neither of which comes up in conversation nearly enough.2. What is your least favorite word? "gobbledygook." It actually makes me cringe. WYSIWYG is a close second. Wait, any acronym is a close second.
3. What turns you on?
Intelligence and creative thinking
4. What turns you off?
Intolerance, whining, and begging.
5. What is your favorite curse word?
“Horse shit." It says it all. It has ooomph.
6. What sound or noise do you love?
the sound of a grandfather clock ticking and the sound of a bowling alley
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
Someone blowing their nose, babies crying
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Baker, veterinarian, news or nature photographer, although I might like my own fishing show
9. What profession would you not like to attempt?
Working with mentally handicapped people.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!"
Feel free to add your own answers to the comment section.
I have traveled with dogs before. That is to say, I have driven from point A to point B with a dog in the backseat. I have never been camping with a dog before, and to say the least, I've never tried to do research with a dog along for the ride. So this was a new experience.
While I must say that they held up as well as could be expected for two dogs cramped into a seat for a month and only able to leave the car when it was 1) cool enough that they wouldn't burn their feet, 2) not in a restricted area, which was most of the time, and 3) certain not to get four feet full of cactus spines. Needless to say, they spent plenty of time in the car.
Nonetheless, they were fantastic traveling companions. There is something about sharing your sleeping bag on a cold night with a dog that is as anxious for the extra blankets as you are of the fur coat. There is something about sitting in a place you've never been before with a dog under your arm that just makes it that much more satisfying. It was a bonding experience for Jake and me.
I think my favorite dog spot was Bates Canyon, CA. Despite having interlopers in our exclusive campground, we were able to trek up the road, let the dogs off the leash, and let them be dogs once again. Ok, so Jack flushed out a pheasant and Jake made short work of one of the chicks....America is a tough town. They were dogs. Running, sniffing, exploring, playing, and even relaxing. Here are some of my favorite dog memories from our trip.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Here is a list of the photos I found:
My brother holding a bass (1989).
My mother, sister and nephew against the Chicago skyline (circa winter 1990).
A portrait of my mother from the mid-80s.
Portrait of my dad from the mid-80s.
Dakota and Nevada in the backyard at the Riverside Lawn house (July 1995).
Lee at the beach (April 1995).
Dakota and Nevada in the tub (Apr 1995).
Another photo of Dakota and Nevada in the backyard at the Riverside Lawn house. I think I was trying to show my nice landscaping (July 1995).
Dakota as a puppy at Doug's Bolingbrook house (May 1985).
Brian, Liz and baby Hunter Chapman (date unknown).
Dad holding Kate at Doug's house (New Year's Day 1989).
Dakota holding a Christmas bone (Christmas Day 1988).
Dad holding Lee in the leaves in the backyard (November 1988).
Elaine showing Lee an ostrich at the Louisville Zoo (date unknown, likely summer 1988).
Elaine and Brooks (Christmas 1986).
Grandma opening a present (Christmas Day, year unknown).
Lee in winter clothes (March 1989).
My ex looking goofy (August 1992). OMG, I married THAT?
My ex lying on a couch, shirtless (July 1992). I must have been under the influence!
Lee in his Peter Pan Halloween costume with Dakota (presumably October 1990ish, although as I recall, he enjoyed wearing that costume for a very long time).
Dad holding Lee in the kitchen (Nov 1988).
Don and I with Dakota and Blackjack in his apartment in Bolingbrook (had to be July 1989, when I first moved up).
Grandma, Gram and Lee (in Peter Pan hat again), date unknown.
Grandma Brown with her 93th birthday cake (Jan 14, 1990).
Lee, standing on the tank in Central Park (circa Thanksgiving 1990?)
Brooks holding Lee on the church steps the day Lee was christened (1988?).
Scott Borders (Christmas Day 1986).
Lee on steps at Mom's house (July 1989).
Liz and Brian Chapman on their wedding day.
Gram's church portrait (1990).
Scott and I with Sue at our 10-year class reunion (1990).
Bill the Cat (date unknown)
Brian Chapman and baby Hunter (date unknown).
Elaine in mom's dining room (date uknown).
Portrait of Lee Michael sitting on a stool (circa Easter 1990?).
Elaine, Lee and Mom in an Egyptian cut-out at the Field Museum (circa January 1990).
Picture of Don grilling at his Braidwood house (circa 1990).
A long list, to be sure. It was two collage picture frames. But man, what a difference two decades makes!
All photos compliments of the manufacturers.
Ok, so having destroyed my Sony camera on this last trip, I'm looking for a more fieldwork/backcountry-friendly camera. I welcome any informed comment.
Our contestants are:
The Pentax W60. Market entry date: August 5, 2008. Anticipated cost: $330. A 10-megapixel waterproof (which also makes it dustproof & sandproof) model that can handle macro photos as little as 1 cm away from the subject. It is shockproof to 5 feet, freezeproof and waterproof to 13 feet. Ok, so I probably won't be taking it into freezing temperatures or to 13 feet below the surface. But the macro function is attractive as are the high megapixels. Has beaucoup features, including shake reduction, wide-angle capability, face recognition, a 5X optical zoom lens, auto picture that self-determines the best settings. High quality video at HDTV levels. Panorama function splices together 3 photos into one. Also a wide-angle function available (comparable to 21mm on a 35mm camera). A large 2.5 inch LCD viewfinder. 36.4 MB of built-in memory.
The Pentax W30. Available now. Cost: approximately $215. The W30 is a 7.1-megapixel waterproof model. Not quite the extreme tolerances of the W60, but it does have the macro ability up to 1 cm. Also has face recognition, a 3X optical zoom lens, auto picture that self-determines the best settings. The wide-angle function is a bit less than the W60 (comparable to 38-114 mm on a 35mm format). High quality video is available comparable to a camcorder. Has both digital image and video shake reduction. 21.9 MB of built-in memory.
The Olympus SW1030. Available now. Cost: approximately $400. Waterproof to 33 feet. Shockproof to 6.6 feet. Freezeproof up to 14 degrees F. Dustproof. Crushproof (can withstand up to 220 pounds of pressure). 3.6X wide angle lens. Has the face detection, image stabilization, video function, in-camera panorama. Panorama capabilities allow you to stitch together up to 10 photos using their proprietary software and memory cards. 14.7 MB of internal memory.
The Olympus SW850. Available now. Cost: approximately $280. Waterproof to 10 feet. Shockproof to 5 feet. Freezeproof up to 14 degrees F. Dustproof. Shake stabilization. 3X optical zoom. 5X digital zoom. 8 megapixels. An improved LCD that allows you to compose pics in bright light (this is important!). Like the SW1030, this one is in-camera panorama photo capable, and you can stitch together up to 10 photos with their proprietary software and memory cards. 14.8 MB of internal memory.
Top to bottom: 1) The Kerr River after it leaves Lake Isabella; 2) a kopje we climbed overlooking Lake Isabella; 3) Bates Canyon Road; 4) Pismo Beach dunes 5) Overlook of Morro Rock from Montana de Oro State Park.
I'd love to say that California captured my imagination the way that Utah did, but I'd be lying outright. California is fabulousy better than Texas, only marginally better than Florida, and pales in comparison to either Utah or Nevada. Liv would beg to differ: California has surfer boys. Alas, we all have our biases.
These are from top to bottom: 1) Valley of the Gods near Mexican Hat, Utah, in extreme southeastern Utah near the Arizona border; 2) A canyon within Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona; 3) I believe this is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Lake Powell; 4) An overview of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon NRA; 5) An overlook of Capital Reef National Park near Torrey, Utah; 6) Long Canyon, which I think it part of the Burr Trail inside Capital Reef; 7) A fantastic rock formation near Henryville, Utah.
And for all of this majesty and beauty, I must thank Liv, who I will forever be indebted to for being such a patient and entertaining tour guide to the American West.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
1. I am a mountain person or a desert person, but I am definitely not a beach person.
2. Do NOT wear hiking boots onto a beach. Even if you can manage to walk, you will not be in a good mood when you get there.
3. Lactaid is not foolproof. Keep this in mind when camping, dining in fine restaurants, or on a first date.
4. After 4 days in the field, waiting in line to use the restroom seems silly.
5. Poison oak may be somewhat worse than poison ivy. Poison oak seems to spread of its own accord. At least poison ivy behaves.
6. When camping, bigger is never better.
7. Roughly 1/2 the population is male and none of them will ask me out.
8. There is not a dang thang you can do to remedy the effect of dry weather on your skin.
9. After one month, Bath & Body Works scents will get on your nerves.
10. Study something close to home. Or win the lotto. One or the other.
Ok, so I went to Shawnee Trails Outfitters today and purchased myself a boss new pair of Chacos ZX/1 in biscotti. That's a color, not a flavor. I'd take a picture, but I dropped off my camera for an estimate on cleaning today. I'm spending $15 to get an estimate on the cost to clean the sand out of my camera. In the end, I can probably buy a camera for about 2X the cost of the cleaning. One of th reasons I sent it off for an estimate was, I wanted a bit of time away from it to make a decision about it. In any event, this post isn't about cameras, it's about sandals.
When I first tried on the Chacos, they didn't feel right. The arch was too far forward. I tried a bigger size. That didn't help. I fiddled with the straps. I walked around a bit. I fiddled some more. I walked circles around the crowded shop. Two high school boys (or maybe they are college boys---they all look like they're not done cooking yet) sat on director's chairs and flirted with the sales lady. They paid me no notice except when I walked up to the front of the store. Anyway, with one size 9 sandal on and one size 10 sandal on, I could see that the 9 fit better. I made my purchase and away I went. $102.00 with tax. Tax sucks.
I've worn them all day. I've continued to fiddle with the straps. First I decide they are too tight. I loosen them. Then I decide they are too loose. I tighten them. Having learned something from the 9-10 comparison, I now have one loose sandal and one tight sandal. I wish you could see the sad little Teva tan lines on my feet. Naked, my feet are entirely happening with that tan line. But in these new Chacos, it's just a pitiful reminder of the sandals that were.
The Tevas lasted more than 4 years. They saw trips to Yellowstone, numerous lakes, streams, prairies, backyards, picnics, street festivals, and yes, deserts and oceans. Now, as I sit here trying not to scratch that one little spot of poison oak under my chin, I remember all the good times. I hope these Chacos see me through as many interesting adventures.
Then again, maybe they are just sandals.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Ok, so 33 days later, she arrives at home. And now an accounting. Some important lessons:
Things I took but didn't need.
1) A dog.
3) A rain jacket.
4) A pillow.
5) A towel.
Things I didn't take but wish I had.
1) ok, don't laugh. But in several hotels lacking a hair dryer, I was kinda maybe just a little bit wishing I had a travel one in my stash.
2) Body spray. It would have helped cover the stinkage longer. It would have made me feel fresher. Whichever. Or both. In any event, I missed it.
Things I will keep in mind for future trips.
1) Handles on coffee cups, measuring cups, coffee pots, lanterns, and pot lids take up more room than they are worth.
2) No matter how well you have packed, someone else can do it better.
3) Sand will ruin a camera.
4) Good coffee is so worth it.
5) It's not a small world, after all.
6) After 4 days, your own stench will begin to offend you.
7) Never underestimate the value of high quality camping equipment.
8) Shorts can stretch over more days than underwear.
9) This stuff you brought "just in case" will begin to piss you off if "just in case" never happens.
10) When traveling, you must take care of your feet.
Things I learned along the way:
1) I am not that hard to get along with.
2) You can let go of the stuff that doesn't really matter relatively easily.
3) Patience is cultured.
4) If you want a different result, you have to try a different approach.
5) You can learn things from younger people.
6) Sometimes your gut sends you in the wrong direction.
7) Sometimes it doesn't.
8) Never underestimate the value of luck.
9) Vomit, crap, and dog fights can be overcome.
10) Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.