Sunday, June 11, 2017

June 11, 2017

I didn't realize how busy I have been until I looked for what I posted last here and what to add since. 

 At the end of April I started a project for the Master Gardener/Master Naturalist program.  I built a "little library" for the CASA program in Joliet.  My job was just to build the basic structure.  I had some scrap outdoor plywood and some plexiglass from other projects so I built the structure and primed it in white. 

After I finished my part it was handed off to another MG who put a cedar shake roof on it.  After the roof was on, it was given to yet another MG to paint the outside of it.  It came out pretty good considering I had warped wood to work with so fitting things together was a real challenge.  It was very important to make it sealed from the weather so everything was caulked within an inch of its' life.  Hopefully no rain will get in and ruin any books. 

On May 6th I gave a talk on the monarch issue at the FPDWC Sugar Creek Administration building.  It was well attended and it went pretty well.  I had a lot of the participants come up to me after the talk to say that they learned something and a teacher came up to me and said that she has gone to several of these talks before and came away from mine with better facts and understanding than all the other ones she attended.  That made my day!

 The Endor Bunker was all set up and ready for its' premier - the Joliet Area Historical Museum's Star Wars Scavenger Hunt.  We had a good turn out of costumed characters to add to the atmosphere and the Bunker was a huge hit. 

Attendance was double last year's event and everyone that came seemed to have a good time.

The Bunker was definitely ready for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day festivities.

I did another event on 5-4-17 for the Children's Miracle Network.  Fellow Nar Shaddaa Base member Robert Redden had a fundraiser for CMN at his WalMart store in Orland Park.  We were there taking photos for several hours.  It was a nice, cool day so a perfect opportunity to wear the really hot TFA Resistance Pilot costume.  It was a "May the Fourth" event so it was on a Thursday night.  Considering it was not the weekend, we still managed to get a good amount in donations.
May 28th brought another Star Wars costume event.  This time it was Legoland up in Schaumburg.  I haven't done a Legoland event in a number of years.  I felt that I owed myself a "get away" from the house.  The wipers on my Jeep finally quit working and rain was predicted, so it was a bit of a "throw caution to the wind" thing to drive to Schaumburg with no wipers.  Fortunately, it didn't rain and I made it home with no issues.  I didn't really stay at the event that long as issues with arthritis make long costume events not something I am that crazy about anymore.
 On June 3rd was the "big day" - Joliet Library Star Wars Day.  The weather had been great right up to the event but the "day of" it was hot and very humid.  It was yet another "sweat fest".  Things went surprisingly well and the day went pretty quickly.  I didn't leave the Museum to see the rest of the event and stationed myself at the Bunker pretty much all day. I spent most of the day at the roped entrance to the bunker and tried to wrangle donations out of everyone who wanted to have their picture taken behind the ropes at either the bunker or the speeder bike or both.
We raised just over $600.00 for Bugs Pals from the public who came to take pictures.  Many of the people who attended both 2016 and 2017 said they felt that the crowd had grown again.  It was hard to tell since I spent the entire day inside the Museum.  This year we were also spread out over 3 venues instead of just 2, so that probably made things a little less hectic.  The Museum didn't seem to be as "crushed" but that could have been because we actually had more room this year with the R2 Builders at the Rialto Theater.
 On May 26th I had my new bay window installed.  The old one had been a mess and was rotting away.  Ants were being attracted to the rotting wood and the window had been fogging up between the glass panes for years and years.  The old window actually started to fog up only a couple years after  I had moved into the house in 1986.  I hated that old window and the casement windows on the side.  The new window looks GREAT!!  I can't believe what a difference a window makes.  The new window has double hung windows on each side of the picture
window instead of those crappy crank out casement windows.  It is so nice to open windows at will without dealing with the awkward screens that had to go in the old windows.  I also finally fixed the screen on the front door.  That has been torn away for years and fixing that went unexpectedly well.  I also fixed the toilet last month that was "running" way too often.  I thought that since the toilet was so old that I would not be able to find parts, but it was an easy, universal, $5.00 fix and no more wasting water.

May 31st I attended the "Invasive Species Symposium" in Champaign IL at the Extension Office.  It was a good event even though a lot of the topics were on invasive species in the waterways.  Good information but not anything I will likely use.  I rode with Mark Bettin who is another FPDWC restoration volunteer and on the way home we stopped off at a cemetery prairie called Prospect Prairie.  It was truly an amazing place.  I have to remember to get out more.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017

Stick a fork in is done!!

After months of work and a continual mess in my house, the Endor Bunker has moved out!  On Wednesday, the walls I was working on met the framework that one of the other members of my Base in the lobby of the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

The day before the "move in" I went to the museum to put up "drapery" that I made from black tablecloths so that people could not see into the back of the Bunker's "innards".

It took a crew of us all day on Wednesday to get the walls mated to the frame and a lot of things were left to cut and fit as we went along because we were not sure how everything would come together.  At the end of Wednesday, the Bunker was, for the most part, up!  It looked pretty amazing.

On Thursday, I went back to the Museum along with fellow base-mate Laura Smith to finish up a few things that needed to be covered and add set decoration.  I brought along my R2D2, my Endor Commando costume and a few bits and pieces of other "Endor" props.  We added a little moss and greenery and called it a day.
I do plan on heading back to the Bunker this coming Wednesday to add more moss and to do some final paint touch up.

On Saturday, there will be an event at the Museum in advance of the annual "Star Wars Day".  It will be a scavenger hunt in the Museum for kids of all ages.  Where I initially intended to wear the costume on the mannequin, it was such a pain in the ass to dress the mannequin that I will wear another costume!

I really have not been doing that many "Star Wars" events this year.  I did make an exception and went to the Lego event at the Joliet Area Historical Museum on 4-2-17.  I try to support the people who support Nar Shaddaa Base and I can't think of another group of people who supports us more than the people at the JAHM!  I had just gotten (mostly) over with a severe muscle strain/spasm and a really bad bout with my ulcers, so I didn't stay at the event all day.  It was nice to get out a bit though.

Spring is a crazy time of year for me because not only am I working in my own garden, there is a LOT of work to be done at my FPDWC restoration site.  There is a brief window in the spring to start to spray some of the invasive species like garlic mustard and reed canary grass.  I have been out spraying as much as possible and as long as the weather is cooperative.  The one thing about going out to volunteer in the spring is that the spring blooming woodland wildflowers give you a real show that you get to see up close and personal.  Where a lot of the plants can be seen from the trail, it is much nicer to get away from the trail and further back into the woodlands to see them.

My own garden has been under water for months but is finally drying out a bit.  We got a lot of rain the past couple of months and the yard just never seems to drain off.  The neighbors had the large willow that was on our property line cut down.  It has been dying off and looking pretty ratty for many years.  The stump was over a yard in diameter.  It was so sad to see it go!   So many of the trees on their property have been lost in recent years.  When I first moved in, there were two large willows that draped over my yard, the first one was removed years ago by the previous owners and the willow that was left was really looking bad.  Sad that both of them are gone now along with the beautiful ash tree that used to be out front.

The trees in the yard are in full bloom and it looks like I will get another great crop of tart cherries from my tree as long as there is no really bad frosts. 

I also removed one of the shrubs out front to make room for my latest "venture" which is growing concord grapes.  There really was no good place to put the grapevine in the yard.  Most of the places where there was room it was simply too wet of an area when the spring flooding begins.  I also did some other pruning of shrubs that were looking pretty bad and today I will be taking the chainsaw to the pussywillow in the back of the lot.  It has never done very well and is mostly dead.  I will saw it down but NOT herbicide the stump and see what happens.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 14, 2017

Like I said the last time I posted, it seems that now that I am retired, I have even less time to post.  The last post was over 2 months ago.

Where I seemingly have all the time in the world, I also seem to be busier than ever.  I have not done many actual Star Wars events this year, fact of the matter is that I have only done one event and that was in Oakbrook.  I finally had a day on a weekend where I was not doing a workday for the Forest Preserve District so I did the Special Olympics Polar Plunge in Oakrbrook on 3-4-17.  I didn't plunge this time and was just there to cheer on two members of the Midwest Garrison and all of the other teams that went in.  It was a beautiful day.  Not too cold and not too hot to wear the Hoth Trooper.

The other Star Wars thing that occupied most of February was the construction of the Endor Bunker that Nar Shaddaa Base is to display for this years Joliet Library Star Wars Day in June.  We are supposed to  have the bunker finished and set up by the end of April and it will stay up till June.  As always, it will be part of the NSB display in the lobby of the Joliet Area Historical Museum.  On January 28th and 29th I had two "workdays" on this project and had several members of the Base on hand.  Robert Redden picked up the foam board and delivered that on Saturday morning and it was nothing but cut, sand and paint for the next month.

For a month, just about every room in the house was littered with pieces of this project and it became a bit overwhelming.  I would wake up at 1:00 AM after only a couple hours sleep and start sanding or painting or gluing or whatever.  When all of the pieces were finally painted it was time to see how it all went together and to try to figure out the support system for the piece.

I had a bunch of the NSB members over  on 2-25-17 to gather up all of the pieces and see how things fit together.  I also have been working on some greenery details and other things while Crix builds the support.  This is all supposed to come together in a few weeks.  I have tried to do my best to make it the highest quality one can get out of foamboard and make something that people will truly remember. 

The project is actually starting to look like something and I am pretty excited about seeing it up with all of the "set decoration" that we have planned for it.

I am hoping that it rivals some of the other builds that I have seen on-line and in person.

Now to wait for April and the big "set up".

Since January 1st, I have already put in over 100 hours volunteer time for the Forest Preserve Dist. of Will County.  Lots of regular workdays and going out to do clean up at HCB and also a good deal of work at LaPorte Rd Access.  We finished a really nice project at LRA that removed a vast amount of honeysuckle so that now you could see into the woods again and what it is supposed to look like.

 Much of the work I have done the past couple months is follow up and clean up at HCB.  Those things never end but a lot of the area cleaned up very well so it will be interesting to see how things progress in the new season.

In addition to the workdays I have been able to do a couple of burns with the District and at Lily Cache with the Nelsons.  The time for burns already grows short and I hope to get another one or two in before the season ends.  The burns were fairly easy ones this year.  At HCB the fuel was still a little on the wet side so managing the burn was fairly easy.  The morning of the Lily Cache burn the weather was nasty and there was mist and fog, but we decided to go to lunch and begin the burn later and it worked out well as the site burned pretty well once the humidity went down and the sun came out and warmed things a bit.

The warm weather had jump started a lot of the spring ephemerals but we had a surprise snow storm the last couple of days that buried everything a bit.  I have the annual Garlic Mustard Blitz coming up next week so I hope the snow melts so we can find the garlic mustard. 

I also got a chance to see my friend Cheryl's new house in Beach Park Il.  I went up there on March 5th to do a little chainsawing of some trees that were too close to the house or dead. 

I brought my Stihl saw with me and as usual, it refused to start.  I got fed up with it and Cheryl and I went to the local Home Depot and I purchased a Ryobi saw that I had been looking at for a time.  The Ryobi started very nice and ran great.  I had another friend look at my Stihl saw to see what was going on with it and he did quite a few fixes to it.  I think I will still keep the Ryobi as a back up though as I no longer trust the Stihl to acutally start. 

I have so many things coming up in the next couple of weeks that I both look forward to and some things that I don't look forward to.  I have to go to Silver Cross Hospital for tests...that always sucks.  I am also having the usual teeth issues so there will be trips to the dentist.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January 5, 2017 would think that since I retired on 11-21-16 from full time work that I would have more time to keep up with my Blog.  Guess that is not so.  Since retiring I have been sorting out a lot of issues with regard to how I will live, healthcare and many other time consuming and mind numbing tasks.  I  have no income right now and am living off of money I had put aside for many years just for this scenario.  I still have to get my 401K issues straightened out.  So, since I have no money coming in right now, I don't get a chance to get out and do much.  I hope that changes soon.  I have done some things during the month of December despite the fact that I did get another bad cold that hit pretty hard.

I had a mad scramble on my last day of work.  I worked till noon on 11-21 my last day and due to some snafu, I had to leave at noon to get some legal paperwork done on putting one of my siblings on the deed to my house.  They had a little send off for me and it just has been so strange not to get up for work each morning and go into Oak Lawn after 38 years.  I hope I have done the right thing.  Some days I am positive about my decision and other days...well..not so much.

11-24-16 was Thanksgiving Day and I had a really nice and full day.  I got up (and still get up) very early that morning to get dressed and head to Forest Park to meet up with the Star Wars folks to head downtown to the City of Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade. 

As always, that was a lot of fun.  The weather was a little on the cold side, but not bad and there was no snow or no rain.  We were just about the last unit in the parade this year so there was a lot of standing around.

After the parade, I went to Joan's for Thanksgiving dinner.  Stef and Meryl were in from Utah and it was so nice to see them and to be able to stay later because I didn't have to get up for work the next day.  The family had a little celebration for my retirement and gave me a gift card for travel on Southwest Airlines.  We played Scrabble and had a great time just getting caught up.  I got a chance to see Stef again before she went home.  I had also put up the Christmas tree that morning.

Since retiring, I have been going out to Hickory Creek Barrens to work on the restoration site quite often.  I will go for 2-3 hours and get some work done.  It is a way to get exercise and get something accomplished with out feeling too overwhelmed.  I have started on "small tasks" that I can accomplish in a couple days and that is better than looking at the whole of what needs to be done.  We have been doing a lot of follow up on areas cut before and it is nice to get back into a lot of those areas and give them a once over.

During December, I did do a number of Star Wars events.  On 12-4-16 I did the Toy Con Charity Toy Show.  This year attendance was down by the public, but as always we had a great turn out of Star Wars costumed members.  I always feel it is our annual Christmas Party. 

Unfortunately, the snow flurries predicted for that day turned out to be a lot more than flurries and travel home during what ended up to be practically a white out was challenging.  But, again, it was great to not have to get up the next morning for work and maneuver the snow to get into Oak Lawn. 

On 12-10 I did a "double header" of events.  They were down on participants for the Toys For Tots event at Cantigny so, I put on my Imperial Gunner costume to go to that around noon.  I had also made plans to attend an event in the evening at Fermilab, so rather than go to the Toys For Tots thing early, I went later in the day and then headed straight from Cantigny to Fermilab. 

I had some time to kill in between, so I just stopped at a Dunkin Donuts on the way to Fermilab and had some coffee.

The event at Fermilab was the premier of a SW fan film I had appeared in.  The filming was back in 2008 and I thought they would never finish it.  Well, they did finish it and held a premier at Fermilab because that was where much of it was filmed.  They also asked that the few of us that were there appear in costume to greet the people coming in.  Where I had not planned to wear the costume in the evening too, I did end up putting it back on.  The movie turned out to be pretty good and had a great ending.  The scenes that I filmed were all in the final movie, so that was pretty cool. 

Unfortunately, another snowstorm hit as I was leaving Cantigny and the snow kept coming down while I was at the movie premier.  The ride home on the expressways was a real "white knuckler" as people always insist on driving like a bat out of hell even when the roads are bad.  Also, the Jeep's heater/defroster is not the greatest in the world and the wiper arms are also worn out and the ride home was pretty intense.  Things got better the closer to Will County that I got.

I have also started to make preparations for the Frozen Butts workday.  Berkots finally had port butt on sale, so I bought 3 of them and spent a lot of time last weekend preparing the pulled pork for the workday pot luck.  I also am looking over what I have to give as door prizes which will not be as good as previous years because I have no income coming in.  On Christmas Eve several of us went out to HCB to start the brush piles that will be burned for the Frozen Butts Workday.  The weather was really nice that day for this time in December.  There was still snow on the ground, but it was due to be rained away on Christmas Day.

On 12-16, Star Wars Rogue One premiered and I was signed up for a premier showing at Hollywood Blvd Theater.  It was a pretty long day into night and I was definitely not comfortable wearing the RFT costume.  The pants for the RFT are really tight in the waist and the boots are very uncomfortable so by the time my showing of the movie came about, I was just not feeling well. 

I found that I didn't like the movie very much and thought that maybe that was because I was tired and hurting.  I went to see it again on Tuesday and found that I still didn't think that much of it.  I liked it because it was Star Wars...but have to confess that I was not thrilled by the movie. 

On New Years Eve, a bunch of us restoration volunteers went out to work at Hickory Creek, LaPorte Rd Access.  The weather was beautiful.  Sunny and in the 40's by noon.  I brought a little bottle of champagne along and we all had a toast to the New Year.  On New Years Day, I also went out with Mark Bettin and we worked at HCB taking down the last of some very large honeysuckle in one area that I have wanted to get back to for a long time. 

Well, I am sure that I have forgotten a bunch of stuff, but this at least gets me a little up to date on what is going on in my life. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016 is at hand.  Tomorrow will be my last day of work at Mancari's - I have been there over 38 years.  Friday will be my last paycheck and then I am on my own till I collect SS in Oct of 2017.  I hope I have made the right decision, but I know that I am tired of working.  I started babysitting at age 12.  By 15 I was working and going to school.  By 16 I was working 2 jobs, 7 days a week and going to high school.  When I bought my first tiny house in Chicago, I worked 2 part time and 1 full time job and did that for many years.  I have always tried to save money and have also tried to live within my means.  I took a 20 year mortgage instead of a 30 year and paid my house off (such as it is) several years back.  So, do I have enough to retire on...I hope so.  The one thing that none of us knows is how long will we live?  Will we outlive what we have saved?  I do know that tomorrow is promised to no one and I want to have some time to just live life at a little more non-hectic pace and have a little time to take some deep breaths.  I plan to really stick close to home the first months, spend as little money as possible and do a massive purge on the house. 

I do have enough hobbies and interests to keep my mind an body "in shape".  I am dogged by some health issues but certainly have no room to complain.

The last few weeks, I have been out actively working on my prairie restoration site and will have additional time to put in there after retirement.  This Saturday is the "Work Off The Turkey" workday and I am looking forward to it.  Linda and I have done prep for it by making some piles to start and areas to work in.  I have pleaded for the areas that we have been working on the last years to get burned this season.  I have about 200 volunteer hours in so far this year.  A few more than last year.

On 11-6-16, I took a day to wander at Morton Arboretum.  It was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to go out and enjoy it.  The fall colors on the trees have not been so spectacular this year and it seems that the trees were out of synch this year.  A lot of the trees had dropped their leaves already, some were in full splendor, and some did not hit peak till just this week. 

I got a very early start and was glad I did because after about 10:30 AM the place was just nuts with people.  I had gotten there before 8 AM and went to one of the further parking lots on the west side and took a few trails.  I, of course, wanted to see Schuylenberg Prairie which I have not visited since the very early days of its' inception and planting.  It, of course, was all brown at this time of year, so I  have to plan a visit in the spring and summer next year.

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day at Navy Pier for ChiTag (Chicago Toy and Game Show) in costume.  I decided to wear the TFA X-Wing Pilot and hoped that it would not be too hot and was surprised that I didn't sweat my butt off all day. 

I stayed behind at the boot while everyone else went to the Star Wars luncheon and I had quite a mob at the booth at times with kids playing with and trying on the helmets and lightsabers that were there to use for photos at the backdrops.  These days I get fairly tired after several hours so I was glad to head home at 2:00 PM. 

This Thursday is Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to the annual Chgo Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown and then heading to Joan's for dinner.  Stef and Meryl will be in town and it will be great to see them and the best part is that I will not have to get up for work the next morning. 

Last week I also helped a friend move a large Star Wars display piece to a storage unit.  It was a large U-Wing from the new movie "Rogue One" that was hanging from the ceiling at his WalMart store.  It just barely fit in the Jeep.

I also had a meeting with the folks at the Joliet Area Historical Museum to look at plans for a very large build for the annual Joliet Star Wars Day.  I know that I will begin some of the building of this piece as soon as possible.  We will need to get going if it is to be ready for display by the end of April so that it can stay up at the Museum from "May the Fourth" till about a month after JLSWD which is June 3, 2017.  I know this project will keep me busy.