Sunday, July 19, 2015


Another month quickly they do go.

The last month has pretty much been in pursuit of the same old, same old.  Working at my restoration site battling invasive species.  Working on my garden battling rabbits that are eating everything.  Working at work, butterfly monitoring and generally doing nothing spectacular.

I got a chance to visit with Caroll Martin when she was in from Seattle a couple weeks ago.  Had hoped to spend a little more time with her but it was not to be.  Had lunch with Rick Hannah last week.  Rick came to the house and I honestly could not remember the last time he was here.  We had a nice chat and he took home some car models I had to build.

As noted, I have been fighting rabbits in the garden all this season and have given up.  The rabbits ate my snow peas, snap peas, and now the green beans that I tried to plant.  Where I have always had rabbits hanging around, they never did much damage.  This year has been totally different as they have eaten just about everything in sight from the vegetable garden, to the milkweeds I planted to the new plants I bought at the native plant sale.  Next spring I will have to cage the plantings in the garden off.  I just don't feel like bothering for this year as it is already July.

I have also been raising and photographing monarch caterpillars.  Where I have not found as many caterpillars as some years past, I have had some extraordinary experiences in this endeavor and several firsts.  This was the first year I have raised a caterpillar from an egg and got to photograph that.  For the first time I also got to photograph the shed skin of the caterpillar going from one instar to another. 

I also had a lot of caterpillar death that I am not used to.  I never really had caterpillars die, this year I lost quite a few to parasites and for unknown reasons.  Very disheartening.

I attended the Bartlett Parade this year as the weather wasn't too terrible in the way of heat.  It was a day in the low 80's which is tolerable for that parade in the middle of the day.  I wore my "summer Jedi" and still was sweating pretty bad by the end of the parade.  The Jedi boots I wear with that costume do make things a lot easier on the feet.  All in all I enjoyed the day visiting with some of the Star Wars folks that I have not seen much this year and was glad I did the parade.

I have been working also on a new Jedi costume that I hope to make into two Jedi costumes.  Using 10 yards of a dark brown linen/cotton blend, I made the traditional Jedi tunic set first.  Next, I hope to have enough fabric to make the sleeveless version too.  The nice thing is that I will be able to use the tabarads and obi from the traditional version to wear with the sleeveless version so that will save a LOT of fabric.  I am just finishing that up and only have to hem the sleeves and the tabards on the first version.  It came out pretty good.  The one thing I can't understand is that I have certainly gained weight since the Jedi pattern I used was made, and I have cut the pattern down in some places a couple years back, but the finished costume still seems too large on me.

Thursday after work I had a reporter from the Tribune here do interview me on a piece he is doing for the Trib on Star Wars.  He has interviewed a bunch of different people for different reasons.  The reason he wanted to interview me? segment will be "growing old with Star Wars".  In other words, what someone a LOT older than most thinks about the Star Wars franchise.  It was interesting and there is supposed to be a photographer sent over here maybe next week.

I ordered some new quarter panels for the Jeep this week....sigh...I really thought that when I replaced them the last time that they would last a LOT longer than they did.  I am not happy about the job done by the Body Shop and before these new panels go on, I am going to think a whole lot about my options.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14, 2015

Finally am making a new post in under a month! 

We have been getting rain just about every other day the last couple of weeks.  Rain is better than drought, but sometimes too much rain can be problematic too.  This morning we got another deluge after several downpours yesterday so the garage and back yard are under water...again.  Great for the wet loving plants, but not so good for others.

This year I have tons of rabbit issues.  The rabbits are eating everything in my yard.  They have completely destroyed most of the new milkweeds and other native plants that I put in this year.  They also are eating the vegetable garden.  Things like beet tops and snow peas are getting badly eaten, the snow peas are actually not salvageable at all.  I have to start rabbit proofing some of the garden or I will have nothing.

Another Joliet Library Star Wars Day has passed.  I can't believe how this event has grown and changed.  Growth and change are not always for the better either.  The event is not fun for me anymore as it involves so much work. 

I spent months building that Hoth tatical vidscreen and where it came out nice, the display didn't really gel as a whole and I was disappointed by the total end result. 

Thankfully, the weather was nice.  Even though it was not really hot as it could have been, I still managed to be soaked with sweat the entire day. 

This year we had something like 130 costumed people and probably 11,000+ people were estimated in the crowd.  These figures are a far cry from what we started with - 12 costumed people and less than 100 people who came to see us.

The weather has been goofy this spring and I finally got out to butterfly monitor.  I went this past Tuesday by myself and Sally and I both went out yesterday.  Yesterday's route census went very well.  There were not huge numbers of butterflies, but we did get a nice variety of them.  It also was nice to see the Skippers back, they really have been absent the past two years.

It has been jam making time for sure!  I have gotten some great fruit over the past few weeks.  Apricots have been plentiful, gorgeous, and cheap.  I have made 3 different kinds of apricot preserves.  The Serviceberries are also ripe and I have made that jam as well.  Found out that you can cook and run the serviceberries through a food mill one day....get the pulp..refrigerate...and then actually cook the jam another day.  The texture is off and I had to really cook the pulp/puree down.  I am not sure it is going to set properly either.  Lesson learned.  The cherry tree has produced a fairly good crop this year and those are ripening fast as well.  I am picking daily and putting in the freezer and will make preserves when all of the cherries are done being picked.

I have spent most of my free time the last several weeks spraying invasive species at my restoration site and fighting weeds in my own yard.  It is a never ending battle.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May 17,2015

Well, I am certainly NOT doing much with my blog of late.  I could have sworn I made a post in April.

Ah well, life has been pretty ho-hum anyway.  I have spent most of the last 5 months sick.  I got my sixth cold right after attending C2E2 in late April.  I had just gotten over cold #5 and was starting to actually feel human again when that last cold hit me...and hit me hard again.  I am now starting to feel ok again and I don't know what I will do if I get one more.  The upside of being sick is that at least I have lost some weight.  When I wore my Endor Trooper costume yesterday, the pants were definitely a lot looser...but I still can't get rid of my stomach. 

Anyway....I spent nearly 5 months constructing the set piece for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day event that will be the cornerstone of our Rebel display.  After all of those months, it feels great to say that my part of the project is finally done.  I still hope to add lights to the piece but that ball is in the court of one of the other members of my costume group.  There were a lot of ups and downs on this project and probably things I would do differently.  I am reasonably satisfied with the results.  Now I have to concentrate on other things that go into the display.  I started to work on some signage - that is something I am not very good at.  I lack graphics skills.

I did one Star Wars event in March and had not done any events since December.  On March 25th there was a child's birthday party that was looking for Stormtroopers in nearby New Lenox.  Normally I NEVER wear my Stormtrooper costume unless things are desperate. 
Well, the New Lenox party was desperate for a Stormtrooper as that was the birthday boy's favorite character.  The member who took the event as coordinator did not fit in his TK costume anymore and the other member going didn't have a Stormtrooper I signed on.  Thankfully, member Crix also came in his Stormtrooper. 

It was a short event and the weather was cool and sunny.  Where I generally hate wearing my TK, this event was perfect for wearing it.

In April I went to C2E2 at McCormick Place.  I got the ticket super cheap and parked in the nosebleed parking lot so it was not that much of an expense.  I wore my Hoth Trooper as it also was a perfect costume to wear to this event.  The weather was cool, so going outside to take a break to cool off was an option I used a couple times.  There is a lot of walking at McCormick place and the Hoth boots are super comfy so that was another win.  I generally just hung around at the Nar Shaddaa Base's fan table and had a few people that were looking for me for some costume advice.  There was also a member from Australia in town that I had wanted to meet.  I was successful on all counts...all missions were accomplished. 

I do find that now that I am really looking and feeling old that I am not so inclined to do as many Star Wars events.  I don't like the way I look and the ever present arthritis pains don't allow me as many hours of pain free enjoyment.  Yesterday I did do one more event at the Joliet Historical Museum.  I especially wanted to do that event because the Museum is the "home" of the Rebel Base for the Joliet Library annual Star Wars Day.  The staff at the Museum is always so good to us and the event yesterday was kind of a kick off event that had kids (and parents) doing a scavenger hunt for SW figures throughout the Museum.  It was a free day for families and gave them the opportunity to see the Museum exhibits as they looked for the figures.  I wore my Endor Commando yesterday because a new member was showing up in her just finished Return of the Jedi Leia.  She did an awesome job...and was a lot of fun to talk to.  The weather was really warm and muggy though and I soaked my headgear with sweat in no time.

I have also spent a LOT of time working on a project for the Master Naturalists called the Will County Monarch-y.  3 of us wrote a guide for installation of a Monarch habitat.  I spent a lot of time on writing, research and going through my photos.  In addition to making the guide, I also have been trying to raise milkweed seedlings and digging some prairie plants from my garden and potting them up for distribution.  It has been a lot of hours.  The front of my house looks like a nursery with all of the plants and seedlings.  I will be loading up next week and bringing them to the Will County Farm Bureau.  It will be nice to be rid of all of them.

I have also been trying to get my own garden in.  Thankfully, so far the flooding this year has been minimal.  With the last days of warm weather and rain the garden is already becoming quite the jungle.  Weeds are everywhere and things are leaping out of the ground.  I almost have the entire vegetable garden planted.  About the only thing left to put in the vegetable garden is the tomato plants.  I raised a bunch of them from seed and they are ready to go in.  We are going to have another cold spell later this week, so I am holding off on putting them in the ground.  The lettuce is already just about ready for cutting and I think this will be the best year for my beets and carrots in the last 3 years.  So much flooding the past two years left my veg garden a mess.  We are due for some storms later today and I am just praying that they are not that bad.

It goes without saying that I have spent a lot of time also doing volunteer work for the Forest Preserve District of Will County.  I managed to get a chance to do a burn at Messenger Woods because it was on a Tuesday.  I have also done a lot of foliar spraying of garlic mustard and reed canary grass and all of the other bad stuff.  The fun never ends!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015

Well, Happy New Year -  2 months late.  I can't believe I have not posted here in over two months.  I guess one could say that I was more than a bit busy. 

The last event I did in Star Wars costume was 12-21-14.  I was the event coordinator for a Pops Orchestra event at the Rialto Theater in Joliet.  I wish I could have actually seen the performance as I love to listen to Star Wars Music Live.  It was also difficult to get members to participate in costume.  I am ever grateful to the few people that did show up.  We took a LOT of photos and some of the people coming to the performance were actually there to see us.

In December, I became the LMO of the Rebel Legion and that has been a very time consuming task.  I usually spend about 2 hours a day (sometimes MANY more hours) on that endeavor. 

The weather has been brutal again this last couple months.  Snow and cold are the watchwords of the days.  There have been a couple significant snowfalls and the temperatures have dipped to record levels on some days.  There have been few days in the past two months where the temperature has been above freezing.  When this kind of weather drags on for months, it really starts to get to you.  Couple the bad weather with the fact that I have been really sick since the beginning of December, and you have a very un-fun period of time. 

I have done several sewing projects for people over the past couple months and also one for myself.  I decided to get serious about dying fabric and went through a really time consuming project of removing the color from my tan Yavin Tech jumpsuit and then re-dying it.  The color came out awful so before it dried, I re-dyed it again in the original color I dyed it in the first place.  What a waste of time and materials.  I also sewed a tusken outer robe for a friend using the drop cloth that he gave me. that stuff tough to work with.

I also started a very large project with the U of I Extension Master Naturalist Program and have been spending a LOT of time doing research on that.  The program is with regard to the Monarch butterflies and their disappearance in our landscape.  There are several reasons why this is happening, but our group will address the one thing we CAN change, and that is the loss of milkweed plants due to agricultural practices.  Where we can 't do anything about agriculture, we can urge homeowners, business and civic concerns to add milkweed into their plantings.  I am working on a brochure and flyer for the group and have been active buying milkweed plants and also starting seed.  This will be a long term commitment.

On January 24th, I hosted the 22nd Annual "Frozen Butts" workday at Brightway Prairie/HCB.  It was one of the few nice days we experienced the past two months.  The temperature went above freezing and the day turned out really nice. 

As always, we got a LOT done and had a great time.  After the workday I hosted the Pot Luck at my house.  This year I had purchased tables rather than rent them and with another donated table and some donated chairs, we got by fine in the small confines of my house.  As always, the food was great.  I really enjoy this workday even thought it is a LOT of work for me.  I baked cookies for the 10:00 AM break and made a whole bunch of pulled pork and salads for the pot luck.  Then there is the set up and clean up of the Pot Luck. 

One of the biggest projects I have been working on for the past two months is a Hoth set piece for the Joliet Library Star Wars day and the Discovery World event in October.  It is a re-creation of the vidscreen at Echo Base.  I have spent a lot of time on finding and buying materials and then set out to start the construction.  The first part I got done was the vidscreen itself.  I had to cut a sheet of plexiglass and then take pvc pipes, cut channels in them for the sides and top of the plexi.  Once that was done I started work on the two legs of the piece.  I don't have a lot of fancy tools so doing a lot of the work was challenging.  Crix Turner stopped by after I  had some of this done.  Crix is a carpenter and member of Nar Shaddaa Base and made up the blueprint and built the top of the console of the set piece.  Wow, he did a GREAT job and I could not have done the project without him.  The piece is now pretty much fully constructed.  I have to finish putting the outer "skins" on all the pieces and then the mind numbing part of sanding and painting.  I have several thoughts on the whole painting thing, I am just not sure what direction to go.  For now I will continue to work on the legs.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14, 2014

So, Christmas is almost here and I am pretty far behind on everything.  I got the tree up later than usual and the lights outside put up later than usual.  I don't even have my Christmas newsletter finished.  I started my Christmas cookie baking later than usual and have just been feeling very scattered.

Things have been nuts as usual with workdays, Star Wars events, and all of the things associated with Christmas.  I also spent a week pretty sick with my ulcers acting up and also another devastating cold/flu thing.  I am crawling out from under the sickness part but still have issues with my stomach.

So, for my prairie restoration thing, I did several workdays the past month.  One big one was the annual "Work Off the Turkey Workday" at Hickory Creek Barrens.  We also did a large workday at HCJ and got a lot done there.  Also there was work done at Hickory Creek LaPorte Road Access.  Slowly but surely we are attacking invasives from all ends of Hickory Creek Preserve so the hope is that there will be less and less seed of invasive species being spread at the site as a whole.

I did a whole lot of Star Wars events the past month.  In addition to actual "appearances", I hosted two costume workshops at my house.  I pulled out a whole bunch of stuff on sewing, leatherworking, sculpting, molding and casting.  Both workshops were well attended and I think a lot was accomplished.

On 11-23-14 I headed to Brookfield Zoo to do our Nar Shaddaa Base tree trim.  Steve M. had purchased a tree in the name of the Base and a bunch of us went to the Zoo to decorate it.  I had been working on home-made ornaments the past several weeks to use on the tree.  It is always complicated by the fact that the ornaments must hold up outside in rain and snow and must be shatterproof.  They must also be something that no one wants to  Years ago when we did our first tree, mostly all of the ornaments got stolen.

11-27-14 brought the Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Chicago.  As in the previous years, I headed to the CTA Forest Park Blue Line station early in the morning to meet up with other SW costume members and we headed downtown for the big parade.  According to the weather reports, this was the coldest Thanksgiving Day in 35 years.  It was cold downtown, but the "stand around" time went quickly and we did our march down State Street in the 64th position in the parade.  After the parade, I made my way back to the CTA Forest Park station and then on to sister Joan's for Thanksgiving dinner.  Gotta LOVE turkey!  I should make turkey of my own, but it is just a lot of work. 

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On 12-2-14 (Tuesday) I headed to Lurie Children's Hospital for an event.  It was a very complicated day.  It started out VERY early in the morning with the sister of our host coming to my house so I could try to fit her with one of my costumes.  We also loaded up Artoo which ended up to be a huge challenge because she could not get the liftgate down on the Blazer she picked me up with.  I was having a lot of trouble with my stomach and felt "off" though I didn't have any other symptoms.  I kind of stayed back when it came to visiting the kids at the hospital because I just didn't feel right.  Anyway, we were a huge hit at the hospital and met so many brave kids and their parents.  It is heartbreaking to see those little kids facing such horrible diseases and going through all that nasty treatments.  

12-7-14 found me in Bridgeview doing the annual Toy Con Charity show for Children's Treasure Chest for Pediatric Oncology.  I was feeling really sick at that point, I had contracted something the day after the Lurie event and was sick the rest of the week leaving work early each day as I just could not make it through the day.  So, since I was feeling sick for the ToyCon event, I didn't wear a costume.  That is something I don't think I have ever done is to show up to an event not in costume.

Yesterday I headed out to Cantigny Park for our annual Toys for Tots event.  I try to make this event every year and was not going to do it this year, but found that I had the time and with gasoline being so much less expensive, I was able to get there.  I wore my Imperial Gunner costume for a change.  It is one costume that I don't wear often.  There was a time that the flightsuit for this costume was so tight it was uncomfortable to wear.  I am pleased to say that the suit fit much more loose yesterday and the costume was very comfortable to wear. 

I ended up also with a new position in the Star Wars Universe of costuming,  I was appointed the LMO of the Rebel Legion.  That position takes a LOT of time and has many challenges....I hope I can do a good job of it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

It officially feels like winter.  The clocks are turned back so it gets dark early.  Most trees are devoid of leaves and the weather has been brisk and it has been dreary a lot.

I have finished all of the necessary fall garden clean up.  There are only a few things remaining, but if they don't get cleaned up, they can also wait till spring.  I am hoping for some dry weather to clean up the last of the leaves to grind up and mulch my russian red garlic I planted once the weather freezes.  Speaking of the Russian has broken through the soil surface.  I planted it the second week of October and hoped it would not sprout above the soil, but Gary P. who gave me the bulb said it would be ok.

The big news at the house is my new windows!  I waited 28 years for them.  Since I moved in the house in 1986 I have hated those windows.  They barely opened, some needed to be propped up with a 2x4 and one was broken.  They all leaked and had those crappy triple track storm windows that were a day long project if you wanted to wash the windows.

The new windows are Energy Star and look great.  The crew that installed them also used white aluminum trim and there was no rot in the window frames.  Now I just have to pay for them.  I do have a year to pay with zero financing.

On Saturday I got another Star Wars event in.  This one was nice and close in Joliet.  We were invited to attend a Children's Halloween Party at a hall.  There were not many kids that showed up, probably because the weather outside was so beautiful!  It was one of those last gasp of summer kind of days that I am sure everyone wanted to be outside enjoying. I wore my X-Wing costume again and was relieved to find that it was again fitting a little more loose so that means I am losing a little more weight.  I also brought Artoo with me.  Even though Artoo is not hugely electronic, the kids always seem to love to see him.

I have been doing a whole bunch of costuming projects again.  I completed a new sculpt of my Endor rank badge.  I didn't like the one I had so making a better one was a long time coming.  Also, since it would appear that the Biker Scout greeblie for their thermal detonator is half of an Endor rank badge, I decided to sculpt one of those too.  After making the sculpt, I molded both of them.  I had issues again with the mold and have narrowed it down to the paint on the surface of the sculpt.  Rebound fares much better than the Mold Star, but I am going to have to seal the pieces with clear or something in the future.  I had to mold both the badge and greeblie twice.

I also tried my hand at a 2 piece mold using a Pilot code cylinder.  It came out ok, but not great.  No matter how hard you try, you do end up with an annoying seam and there was lots of issues pouring the casting material down that little hole and not getting bubbles on the "honey wand" portion.  I managed to cast about 8 of them but am not really happy with them.  They can be something held in reserve in case I lose one of my metal ones.

On Sunday I went to visit Tom Olmstead who has ALS.  He no longer has use of his arms and legs as the disease has progressed that far.  He talks to you using a computer that is somehow activated using his eyes and a metal dot that is on his forehead.  His spirits are surprisingly good and I am blown away by his courage and the courage of his wife Lisa.  I just don't know how I would be in a situation like that.

On Saturday, a few of us went out to Hickory Creek Barrens and did some prep work for the Work off the Turkey workday which will be held at the end of this month.  We got two piles started so that two to four groups of people can be working and hauling brush to burning piles and be working in two directions.  I hope to get a LOT done at the workday.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014

Today is a beautiful fall day and some of the days I love so much.  Where I don't like the fact that it gets dark early and stays dark in the morning, one has to go with the flow of the seasons.

Yesterday I had a bit of a odyssey.  I wanted to attend a Star Wars event in Mt. Vernon IL but the trip would have been really expensive gas-wise - about $85.00.  So, I began heading to Bloomington IL (about 2 hours) and met up with another costume member and then road with them to Mt. Vernon.  I began the trip at 7:30 AM Saturday morning and did not get home till 12:30 AM on Sunday.  The event was a parade for the Mt. Vernon Fall Fest.  The weather was perfect - not too hot and not too cold and there were certainly a lot of people along the parade route.  The hostess was one of our members who lives in Mt. Vernon and also owns a local Irish Pub.  We had an entire back room of the Pub to suit up in and to hang out.  The place was huge and an awesome old building.  Loved all the old buildings along the downtown parade route.  I wore my Hoth Trooper and apparently (as posted on Facebook) the costume had at least one fan along the route.

Last Sunday I did the "Best Evah 5K" event again.  This was a fundraiser for the Max Lacewell Foundation.  We had fewer participants this year, but still a nice, short trooping event.  I wore my Endor Trooper for this event and I chose that because there was a Scout Trooper along. Always like to do the yin/yan thing with Rebel and Imperial costumes.

I have been working on finishing up the fall garden clean up and am really in pretty good shape thus far.  I am almost done with the cutting down of things and have distributed some of the season's compost.  This morning I mowed and also took in the last of the geraniums that were outside.  We did get a frost last night and some of the tender stuff got hit.  Thankfully, the geraniums I have are pretty hardy and didn't show any damage so I was able to cut them back and bring them inside.  

Last week was my birthday and as always, it was completely un-eventful.  I treated myself to a movie again on Tuesday.  I was debating whether to see "Left Behind" or go see "Guardians of the Galaxy" again.  Guardians won out as "Left Behind" looked interesting...but a bit depressing and I was depressed enough.

 Last Saturday we also finished our first ever workday at LaPorte Road Access.  It went well and we put at least a small dent in the work that needs to be done there.  I hope that work does progress as every invasive killed there will be one less that makes its way to the Barrens.

And, the big news on the home front.  On October 28th this old house gets new window!  I shopped around and contracted to have Home Depot install new replacement windows in the house.  Got the place measured and the install will be next Tuesday.  I have lived in my house since 1986 and one thing that I hated about the place was the windows.  They were old and drafty and one has been broken for several years.  They have those crappy triple track storm windows that are a nightmare to clean so I seldom washed the windows.  Also, some of them take an act of god to open and I have scraped and puttied and repainted them several times.  Where I can't afford the windows at this time, will I ever really be able to?  So I just decided to go for it and got 1 year "same as cash" financing.