Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May 10, 2016

Spring has sprung, and with it all of the chores of garden and restoration.  The weather has been truly all over the place, but it has been rather mild and wet.  Thankfully there have been no severe thunderstorms and weather events this spring.  We did have one threaten a couple times but nothing materialized.  I did have to send my generator out for repair after all of these years.  It is fixed and ready for the spring storms.  Which, speaking of storms, the neighbor's mulberry tree split badly at the crotch and was likely to come down on my power lines and garage.  With a storm due to come through that threatened hail also, I had to climb a ladder with a chainsaw and under power lines take down a huge portion of that tree.  Nerve wracking to be sure, but thankfully it went well and I didn't kill myself. 

I did finish the display for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day event.  All in all, I am fairly pleased with how the vidscreen came out with its' new panel.  The curtains are done as well as all of the pvc for that.  As in previous years the Rebel display will be at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and they have asked me to leave it up for the month of June following the event.  Works for me, then I don't have to lug it home following the event.  The thing I just need to work out is costumes on mannequins. 

I also had to start and finish a Jedi costume for a Make-A-Wish event we are doing the day after the Joliet Library event.  We are to make the patient "William" a Jedi.  So, to be a proper Jedi, you need a proper Jedi costume.  I made William an entire Jedi costume including outer tunic, inner tunic dickey, tabards, obi and robe.  One of our other members made him a belt, pouches, and a lightsaber.  It came out very nice, I just hope it fits him!!

The last month has been endless workdays for the FPDWC.  Not only have I been doing workdays on the weekend, I have also had my Tuesdays tied up and some nights after work also.  Then there has been the usual endless mixing of herbicide.  We found some serious issues at Hickory Creek Barrens with regard to mountain bikers tearing up a lot of different areas and one of the other volunteers who is a Trail Sentinel has done some great detective work in finding the culprits.  Signs have been put up, but it is anyone' guess how much of a deterrent that will be. 

This year I finally went down to our secret bluebell area and was stunned at how the bluebells have expanded the last couple of years.  The area was absolutely gorgeous and it was nice to just go and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016

March turned out to be a pretty interesting month.  To kick off the month I ended up in Silver Cross Hospital for a couple days.  I went home from work on Monday March 1st and did not feel well.  Later that night I got fever, chills and just felt blah.  Tuesday morning being my day off, I felt lousy and nausea set in all day.  I never got out of bed really and hoped I would be better by morning to go to work.  Wednesday morning, I could not make it to work.  I think I can count the times on one hand that has happened on probably 30 years.  So, I stayed home and figured if I didn't feel better by Thursday morning, then I needed to get to a doctor.  Thursday I could not make it to work and barely had the energy to go to the Minute Clinic at Walgreens.  They said I was too sick for them to treat and I should go by ambulance to the emergency room at Silver Cross.  I opted for going to an urgent care nearby...they said the same thing.  I drove myself to Silver Cross emergency room and got admitted.  Where I felt lousy, I didn't feel "in-patient" bad.  To make a long story short, I ended up staying at Silver Cross from Thursday morning till Friday night with complications of the flu.  The oxygen level in my blood was too low to support function of my body.  I basically got 2 days of oxygen and a started on Tamiflu.  They didn't want to release me unless I took home an oxygen tank and set the house up for oxygen.  I declined and drove myself home and picked up a prescription for 3 more Tamiflu pills.  By Saturday morning, I went to the store and purchased an Oximeter so I could see how my blood oxygen levels were doing, they were bad but coming up.  By Saturday night I felt much better and my oxygen levels were also stabilizing.  I went in to work on that Sunday for over 10 hours as my desk was starting to look like a bomb hit it and as the week went on, I started to feel better and more often, better than I have felt in quite some time.  To be honest, I have felt like crap for 3 years now after a similar bout.  I don't feel like I ever truly got better. 

March was a very busy month.  I did several restoration workdays and a couple projects for the Master Naturalists.  It took about two weeks, but I put together a large information board on the Monarch project.  I don't know what or how they are going to use it, but I made it. 

I also signed on to a invasive plant phenology project.  The project entails going out between the 8th and 14th of each month and looking/reporting on the status of invasive species growth.  March's report showed honeysuckle starting to leaf out, autumn olive and buckthorn with bud swell and reed canary grass coming out of the ground.  Those reports are then sent to the Extension Forestry Dept to be added to a monthly report. 

I also did a few Star Wars events.  On Saturday, March 19th I headed to C2E2 at McCormick Place in my Hoth costume.  The focus of the day was to get a photo autographed by John Ratzenberger (of Cheers fame) who was a cast member for the Hoth scenes in "The Empire Strikes Back". 

Not only did I get a photo I had of him already signed by him, Kathy VanBueningen, Steve Mamman and I (All dressed in Hoth costumes) also took a special photo with him.  I don't have much of a budget and I said that day I spent all of my money on John Ratzenberger.  Autographs and photos of celebrities cost a bit of money.  Thankfully, I am not normally a "celebrity" person and don't generally bother with autographs.  I am also generally not a "Con" person, but had some interesting times through the course of the day.

The next day (March 20), I attended a Blue and Gold Cub Scout banquet in my X-Wing costume and brought Artoo along. 
The event was for the son of one of the Stormtroopers that lives in New Lenox.  I was very grateful that he came to the event for Mark and Sally Wieclaw and the New Lenox Relay for Life and thought it important to support those that supported me.  It was also a very interesting day. 

Spring is trying to break through, but the weather is all over the place.  We have had days in the upper 60's to low 70's and right now it is only in the upper 20's.  I have been taking plants in and out for the last two weeks.  It has also been WINDY!!  Some days the winds hit 60 mph.  A possible storm was headed our way so I decided to see if my generator worked.  I could not get it started and there seemed to be something else wrong with it so I had to call the local repair shop to pick it up.  After about 10 days, they brought it back (over $100.00) and I hope it works.  I have to get out there this week and try to get it started.  I have also transplanted some seedlings and moved other seedlings like the tomatoes to a bigger pot.  I hope the weather straightens out a bit so I can leave the plants out for longer periods of time.

I also continued work on the display piece for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day event.  I started that in February making the curtain panels and the pvc stands for the panels. 

I got that all done and painted and now have moved on to making the new graphics to replace the sheet of plexi in the current Hoth Vidscreen.  I got the new plexi cut and masked and painted the lines that will divide the display into 3 parts.  I have my ideas on what to put in the 3 panels, but am not too clear on exact layout.  Working on this project made me haul out the Cricut machine. 

Where I was not too happy working with the machine on the Hoth project, new graphics purchased on line have made some of this job easier as purchasing the real deal is easier than trying to create your own graphics to use.  Today I am going to try to get some of the layout on the plexi and more of it cut.  Getting the stuff laid out will be a pain. 

And, since I have not gotten to the movies in quite some time, I want to get out to see "Divergent-Allegiant" which is the last of the Divergent series of books.  It has been so long since I read the book, I don't remember much other than "Tris" gets killed at the end...let's see if the movie follows the book.  I suspect that it will as the previous movies in the series followed the books pretty close.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21, 2016

February has been strange in the weather department for sure.  One day it is snowing and zero and the next day it is 60 degrees.  I have been doing some seed starting with mixed results.  I will need to re-start some of the tomatoes but the peppers came up nicely.  I wonder what this garden season will be like.  One starts out each year with renewed enthusiasm, but the last several years have not been good due to a lot of spring flooding.  We will see what 2016 brings.

On 2-6-16 I went to the Hollywood Blvd Theater in Woodridge to see "The Force Awakens" for the third time with a bunch of members of the Midwest Garrison. We had a private screening at noon.  The Hollywood Blvd theater is an experience in itself. 

There is so much to see in there besides the movie.  Each theater is decorated with a theme from an iconic movie.  The theater we saw TFA in was based on the Wizard of Oz.  Where I do like TFA, I guess I am not as blown away by it as some are. 

I have been doing some workdays for the FPDWC, both public and just going out on small workdays and scouting missions.  On Feb. 14th we had the annual "Dick Wunderlich Memorial Workday" at Lockport Prairie.  It was very well attended and we got a lot done.  It was certainly tedious work as most of the buckthorn addressed was small so it was 3 hours of bending over with a chainsaw getting medium and small whips.

For this workday I always bake carrot cake.  This year I got a heads up that we were going to have a large crowd, so I had to bake two of them.

We will be following up with two workdays in the next couple months for more cutting and a big herbicide blitz of the re-sprouts and seedlings. 

I also went out to Hickory Creek Junction doing a scouting expedition with the steward and we found many, many interesting things from forts being built on FP property to a very busy family of beavers and the results of their tree removal.  Yesterday I went out to HCB with Linda and we did a lot of cutting of autumn olive with hand tools.  My right shoulder is still screaming about that one. 

On 2-18-16 I attended a kick off rally for the New Lenox Relay for life at the request of Sally and Mark Wieclaw.  The Relay will be themed on "Star Wars" this year, so they asked for a few costumed participants. 

I was very grateful to get Laura and Chris to come and I think our presence helped a little with the enthusiasm.  They took a lot of photos of us to use on their Facebook page.  I need to go and find their fundraising page and make a donation too. 

It was a short evening, but I find it difficult to do evening events these days and get up for work the next day.  I was so tired on Friday, but soldiered on. 

I have many, many things on the agenda for the next couple of weeks.  Again, it gets more and more difficult as I find myself with less and less energy.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31, 2016

Wow, we just entered 2016 and a month of it is gone already.  It is hard to think back over the month because I really didn't do anything significant, yet have been busy since my last post. 

Well, one thing for sure is that each January, there is the "Frozen Butts" workday.  This year was the 23rd annual FB workday and where there is always lots of planning and work, this one didn't seem nearly as stressful.  I had the pot luck that follows the workday at my house again but with the two tables I bought and lots of chairs that people brought along, things went very smooth. 

The workday went great as the weather was really decent.  We had a high in the 30's and no rain or snow.  There was little snow on the ground so we didn't have to "trudge" through deep snow and the other vans were able to get down the trail to transport participants in. 

We are continuing the work along the trail in the area between the trail and the tracks which is what I hope is the last major cutting event at Hickory Creek Barrens. 

We also had the annual Resource Management meeting that I usually have to attend to get my chainsaw safety training done.  There was also a workday at Sugar Creek Admin the next day that was brutally cold.  Very few people showed up so we only worked 3 hours instead of 4.  My chainsaw was giving me no end of grief too, so between the cold and the saw, the workday was very challenging.

At work they decided to have a chili cook off so I searched the internet for competition chili recipes and found a lot of them.  Most real competition chili does not have beans in it, but after a Facebook poll, I found that probably 95% of regular folks like beans in their chili.  So, I combined a bunch of those on-line chili recipes and added beans and cooked it in the slow cooker for 6 hours.  I then froze the batch and am ready to bring it in for the cook-off.  I have no delusions....lol...I usually don't do well in cook-offs.  The last time I entered a chili cook off I made Southwest White Chili....it came in dead last as I don't think most people can get past the color.  Chili (I guess) should be red.

One of the other volunteers who is cleaning out his parents house offered me a potting bench that his mom had used.  Making a potting bench is something I always intended to do but never got around to make.  Now I don't have to.  The bench is 8' long and about 2' wide and was all in natural wood.  I decided to spruce it up a little and sanded the top plywood and shelf plywood and then painted it with some old exterior paint I had in the basement.  The pieces came out nice. 

I let it dry for over a couple weeks and yesterday I took my jigsaw and removed a square big enough to sink a plastic tub into so that I can use that to keep potting soil contained.  I will see how good it works later when I go downstairs to start seed for milkweed for this years Monarch project.

I also spent a weekend going through a lot of stuff in the basement and cleaning it out.  After reading the book "Lights Out" about the possibility of long term power outages, I felt it was time to put an emergency plan into effect.  I went through my camp gear to make sure my campstove and lantern worked and that I had fuel.  I also went to the store to stock up on "essentials" like paper and canned goods and even things like flour, rice and other staples that I put down there in mouse proof containers.  I also purchased water and filled some of my water carriers with water and looked at the condition of my water filter from my backpacking days.  I feel I am ready at this time to deal with probably a month of no electricity...perhaps longer. The basement is looking a lot more organized and I do hope to get most everything up off the floor.  I am also going to Home Depot this morning to get a much longer florescent light to put above the potting bench.

Also on tap for today is making blueberry jam as blueberries have been on sale.  Yesterday I made a batch of "Mega Berry" jam...I had a bunch of blackberries and raspberries in the freezer...I added some of the blueberries and some strawberries too.  It came out good...always unsure of flavor though.  Is there a too strong berry or do they mix well.  I have found strawberries to have a really strong flavor and only put a little of those in the mix.

 At the monthly Pot Luck for the Master Gardeners/Master Naturalists, I heard about an Eagle's nest at what was said to be "McClintock Woods".  I was given coordinates and never heard of McClintock woods so I found that McKinley Woods might be the right place. 

With very little money to spend the last years and high gas prices, I have been unable to just drive somewhere and look at things and do a little hiking.  Now that gas prices are (temporarily) low, I decided to just go to McKinley woods and take a look around. 

It really is a nice place.  I didn't find an eagle's nest but did enjoy hiking around the area and also the I & M State trail which is there also.  There are campsites at McKinley that look REALLY nice.  It might be a good place to camp a night and get away from it all. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20, 2015

NO....I  have not seen the new Star Wars movie yet!  I hope to go on Tuesday.  Things have been rather rough the last couple weeks.  I have had a lot of SW events lately, and suffice it to say that the experiences at them have not been awe inspiring.  I did not finish my Force Awakens X-wing pilot and more or less have put the costume away.  I don't know that I will bother to finish.  Where I have known for several years now that short and old women get little love in the galaxy far, far away, the point has been driven home a LOT lately and I realize that my time in costuming is probably over.  Some say to make the new Leia costume, but early reviews of the character lead me to believe that there is little interest in her or her costume.  There is supposed to be a new female X-Wing Pilot in the new movie, but, as always....she is young and pretty...two things that I am not.

But, moving forward, I did make an appearance at the Bridgeview ToyCon event that I have done every year since 2004.  This time I wore my Imperial Gunner costume since I don't wear that much and it is an easy trooping event so I can wear the helmet for brief periods of time without the fan (which broke) before things get so steamed up under there that I can't see. 

Next, I did a marathon for the Toys For Tots event at Martino Jr. High in New Lenox.  On 12-9 (Thursday night) I hauled the Hoth Vidscreen, Artoo, and a costume to the gym at Martino and set up the entire thing.  Friday after work, I went home, got suited up and made my way to the event to "appear" from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. 

The next day it was back to Martino to costume the event from 10:00 AM till 1:00 PM. 

On Friday, I wore my Rebel Fleet Trooper costume which got absolutely no "love".  On Saturday I decided to wear what I had completed of my Episode 7 X-Wing costume.  That costume generated zero interest as well.

  Experiences at these events plus a few other events have just not been great.  Where I  have always made costumes that I like and the rest of the world be damned, I have come to learn that the only one interested in these costumes is me and that does not lend itself to a great experience.

Work has been difficult, and the lack of interest in my costumes led me to just bail out of the movie premier and all of the associated costume events. 

Yesterday I did another restoration workday and came home tired and full of pain.  I also had my ulcers just go crazy for a time at the workday but worked my way through the pain.  Today I am taking this rather hideous Star Wars sweatshirt and making it more ugly for a contest at work on Monday...an ugly sweater contest.  If it goes well, I should win hands down!  The sweatshirt on the right is the "base" I am starting with...it is plenty ugly!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 5, 2015

I guess I am about to enter the busiest month ever - December 2015.  In addition to the usual Christmas preparations and restoration workdays, there is this thing called Star Wars Episode 7-The Force Awakens.  Where I had hoped to get the new X-Wing costume done, it does not appear that will happen.  There are snags with fitting the flightsuit and so many details that need working on.  With everything else going on, there simply isn't enough time to dedicate to doing it right.  I did get all of the additional pieces that had to be ordered in through the mail.  The only thing really missing is the leg flares and holder and a few minor trim pieces.

Thanksgiving was very nice again this year.  I began the day with the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade down State Street.  The weather was really iffy.  It was pouring rain when I left the house and the forecast was for intermittent rain.  Thankfully, the rain stopped while I was waiting in the parking lot for the others to arrive to suit up.  We got downtown and the usual "stand around and wait" time went really fast as we were in the front of the parade this year...unit #13.  It was also on the warm side so no standing around freezing either.  The Rebels led off the group this year and our entire unit got a lot of screen time on the TV broadcast.  

After the parade was over, I made my way over to Joan's for Thanksgiving dinner.  Stef was in town this year and it was great to visit with her.  We had a lot of laughs and went over current events.  As usual, I had to leave early because I had to get up for work the next morning.  I am the only one in my family that had to work the next day.  I will be glad when I can stay in bed the day after Thanksgiving.  Stef also paid me a visit at the house on Sunday morning on her way to Bev's.  I finally got the Christmas tree up and pulled a whole bunch of muscles getting the box with the tree upstairs.  But, fortunately, since I kept moving through the pain, I think it lessened the recoup time and I was feeling better by later in the evening.

The Sunday before the parade (11-22-15), I trooped the Chicago Wolves Star Wars night at the Allstate Arena.  I had never been to that venue before and always approach these big events with some logistics concerns.  The Allstate Arena turned out to be very user friendly and we all got in, suited up, and wandered the Concourse in the hour before the game and for the first two periods.  Again, since I had to get up for work the next morning, I didn't stay late and made my way home during the second intermission.  It was a really nice event and I wore my Rebel Fleet Trooper for the first time in a long time.  The pants were getting really tight because I had gained some weight and wearing them was uncomfortable.  I have lost some weight so the costume was once again comfortable to wear.  I would still like to lose a little more...but isn't that always the way it is.

On December 1st, we did a special event down at Lurie Children's Hospital.  We had been contacted by Lucasfilm/Disney about doing the event for a new program that the company is doing with Children's hospitals called "Master Your Force".  Groups of costumers are going into Children's Hospitals across the country with help from Lucasfilm and doing a "Jedi Training" program and distributing toys.  I was asked to wear my Jedi costume, so that is what I wore.  I did NOT want to drive downtown because this event was on Tuesday when all of the usual commuter nightmares are going on.  I decided to get fully suited up and take the train downtown.  I also had to take a bus as the LaSalle Street Station is quite a long way away from Lurie's.  There was the usual last minute snafu's with people running a bit behind schedule, people getting sick, people without transportation, but finally everyone got there.  We didn't have a huge number of kids partake in the activities, but those who did seemed to really enjoy the event.  The trip home was pretty funny.  In full costume, I walked back to Dearborn Street which was the street I hopped the bus on to head north.  As I hit Dearborn I walked a few blocks looking for a bus to take back to the LaSalle Street Rock Island station and it occured to me that there would be no southbound bus as Dearborn is one way north.  So, I didn't plan for that and stood at the corner of Dearborn and something and wondered which way to go.  I ended up heading west to Clark Street and walked a few blocks south and finally found a bus stop and hoped that it went to Jackson.  When I got on the bus, I tried putting my fare into the farebox - I had 3 one dollar bills in one hand and my lightsaber in the other and tried to jam the dollars into the farebox.  I was so "in another world" that I didn't hear the bus driver telling me that the dollar bill machine was broken and "thank you"....lol.  After he said that a second time, I just stood there with the dollar bills and look dazed (I'm sure) and finally got the "thank you" to mean "go sit down".  So, long, long day but everything turned out ok.

Also, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was the annual "Work Off the Turkey" workday at my restoration site.  A couple weeks ago, Linda and I went out and got some brush piles started and ready to light off.  It was a little tight getting going, but we finally got a larger area cleared around the brush piles and at the end of the workday, we had removed another ton of autumn olive and honeysuckle and expanded the open area between the trail and the tracks quite a bit.  Slowly but surely, we are getting that project done.  I would say another 2 years and that will be completed.  There was also a reporter from the New Lenox Patriot out there and she took a few photos (one ended up on the cover of the paper) and tried to interview us, but as usual, the volunteers were all moving pretty fast so she didn't get much....lol.

Yesterday was "Wear Star Wars/Share Star Wars" so I brought some of my helmets to work with me and got photos of my fellow employees doing there job with a helmet on.  It was a lot of fun, something we don't have much of at work and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

The next few weeks will be insane....I hope I have enough energy.  I at least have a few Christmas lights up and am starting on my Christmas cookies/candy.  I tried to make a batch a day the last few days.  I have nothing purchased for our Christmas grab bag yet.  I need to get to that this week because it is all downhilll (timewise) after this week.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15, 2015

The next month and a half are going to be hectic beyond belief as Thanksgiving, Christmas AND the new "Star Wars" movie are hitting between now and Dec 31st.  I started with the holiday decorating yesterday by at least getting some lights put up outside since the weather was pretty good and I had a little time.

As noted in my last entry, I have been scrambling to try to complete an X-Wing costume from the new movie in time for the premier.  I had to wait to start because not enough good information was available on this costume and there are still parts that I am not certain about. New information is coming to light at a fast pace the last week or so with new trailers and TV spots. 

I have completed the flak vest (finally) and today I begin work on the flightsuit.  I also completed the ejection harness and belt.  So, it is coming along, but the flightsuit is going to be very difficult indeed.  I have a tailor that is supposed to come over today to help me to modify the generic flightsuit pattern that I have.  Where I have modified patterns in the past, it has mostly been a trial and error thing.  It will be GREAT to have someone show me the right way to do it and to take some up to date body measurements on me.  Things seem to have shifted a lot on my body as I have gotten older.  So, where I have gotten a lot done, there is still a LOT to go.

On October 18th, I did the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in St. Charles.  I managed to raise over $1,800.00 in donations which was both good and bad.  In years past, I had sometimes managed to raise over $3,000.00.  It was a beautiful day weather-wise and it is always a pleasant walk with some of my friends from the Star Wars costuming groups. 

The night before the MSABC, I attended my 50th Grammar School reunion at Gaelic Park in Tinley Park.  I was hesitant to go at first because the reality is that in grammar school I was fat, poor (which means I never had the latest of anything...lol.) and anything but popular.  I wasn't sure I really wanted to re-live that period of my life.  I sucked it up and went anyway.  I did find it very interesting and pleasant.  I did a lot more listening than talking because I really didn't have that much to talk about that would actually interest anyone else.  Fortunately, some of the folks I graduated with had seen my Facebook page so they did know what I have been up to.

As always, I have done a bunch of restoration workdays for the Forest Preserve and have also been busy at work shutting down my garden for the season.  I remember when I planted the garden I thought to myself that I will be again "shutting it down" before I knew it...and sure enough...that seems to be the case-the year has flown by.

I am still no closer to deciding what to do about retirement...there are so many factors to take into consideration and it becomes a question of how long will one live?  Obviously, none of us has an answer to that.  You don't want to retire too early and outlive your funds and you don't want to wait too  long so that you have little time to enjoy retirement.

I have also been doing a ton of jam making because fresh cranberries have been in the store.  I finished 2 batches of each of Spiced Cranberry, Cran-Raspberry and Cranberry Orange.  Soon it will be time to start the Christmas baking.