Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6. 2014 snow left on the ground.  I had a bit of snow still on the north side of the house where I did a bunch of piling of the snow I shoveled from the patio area through the course of the long winter and that finally melted.  The garage has been underwater or should I say under ice for months.  During one small thaw during the winter where we got rain, the garage flooded and then it froze into a block of ice for 2 months.  The ice finally thawed this week so I used a floor squeegie to get as much out as I could and then had a fan going in there 24/7 for a week. 

It is finally almost dry in there.  Spring also finally sprung as I put in the "spitting carp" and pump into the water feature yesterday.  Today is supposed to be fairly nice again and I am headed out to Hickory Creek Barrens in a few hours to do some more cutting of honeysuckle.

I actually have been spending most of my free time volunteering for the FPDWC this past month.  I have done workdays most every weekend.  On 3-22-14 we did a workday at Rock Run and had a staggering amount of volunteers.  I chainsawed the entire day and in some places it was a bit "dicey" to be sure as I worked on a slope that went into the small lake there.  My feet did end up in the drink on one occasion. 

I then did a workday at Goodenow Grove that was also challenging as we had to drag the cut stuff up a rise to the burning brush pile on the top.  After a couple hours of dragging large branches up that rise I really got tired. 

This past Tuesday I put my day off to good use as I joined the "Usual Suspects" as we burned Lily Cache Prairie with the Nelsons.  The day was cool in the morning and very windy.   Due to the wind we had to be extra careful that we didn't get any spot fires outside of the burn unit.  The burn was successful and the site had its most complete burn to date. 

Before the burn I got a chance to go to Peter Rubi's and buy some of their great produce and after the burn we had lunch at Baby Back Blues which is a really great BBQ place right near Lily Cache.

I haven't felt much like doing Star Wars events lately.  All of the drama that goes on with the groups is souring my desire to go out and do events. 

I have, however, been working on display pieces to use at the upcoming Joliet Library Star Wars Day event in June and will be focusing my efforts on the Rebel Display.  I made these stands out of 12" diameter concrete forms that I cut in half and painted white and then painted some 17" rounds white.  The stands will be utilized to display items that go with costumes which will be on mannequins and dress forms. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16, 2014

Good grief, it is almost 2 months again since I updated my blog.  Life the past two months has been pretty monotonous.  Snowstorm...shovel...deep freeze....snowstorm...shovel.....deep freeze.  And that goes on and on.  One thing I can say about all of the snow and shoveling is that I have been getting a lot of great exercise.  We are finally seeing some temperatures that are a bit more moderate but I don't think that winter is quite done with us yet.  All of the snow almost melted because of a few warm days but then we got hit with another 6" snowfall this past Wednesday and it was some seriously wet snow. 

The other thing that I have been doing a LOT of is volunteer workdays for the Forest Preserve Dist. of Will County.  We volunteers have worked all winter before, during and after the many snowstorms.  Cutting and hauling brush is a difficult job even in good weather but with the deep snows, the task became pretty exhausting.  More good exercise!  Not only did we work with the snow, we also worked some days of extreme cold.  This certainly has been a character builder of a winter!

I also did quite a bit of sewing on some costume projects.  I made a new RFT vest for myself and did some alterations of my Hoth Commander that I have now passed along to someone else.  The truth is that I have plenty of costumes and I doubt that I would really ever get around to wearing the Hoth Commander.  The member who I passed the costume along to wore it yesterday and I must admit that the costume looks so much better on him than me and I know that costume went to a better place. I also finished my Y-Wing costume.  That one has been buzzing around my head for some time and had plenty of challenges.  I had a good many pieces of that costume already, it was just the belly pouch on the vest that was giving me fits.  I must have re-made that piece a half dozen times.  I also struggled with the greeblies on the vest.  As usual, there were no really good photos to try to figure out just what in the hell was on that any good Rebel costumer...I winged it.

I did no Star Wars costume events in February and now have done 2 in March.  On March 1st I headed to the Joliet Historical Museum for a taping of a video for the upcoming Joliet Library Star Wars Day.  It was unusual because we had to be fans and not costumers.  So generally we take great pains to not show behind the scenes images, this photoshoot was all about behind the scenes so that we could show that we are just fans.

Yesterday I went up to LEGOLAND in Schaumburg.  I was supposed to do the Southside Irish Parade today, but we could not get enough costumed volunteers to cover that event so I went to the event at LEGOLAND.  I have done that event many times in the past but this time was more to showcase our Nar Shaddaa Base Hoth team with Steve Mamman coming in his newly acquired Hoth Commander.  It was good to see everyone again, I haven't been out much lately.

January 22,2014

Ohmigod....enough already with winter!!  The month of January has been miserable and it doesn't look like it is going to improve any.  We have had lots of snow, followed by more snow.  We had something now being called a Polar Vortex that brought -16 degrees (-40 degrees with the wind chill) along with a huge snow. There was, however, one day when it got above freezing and then we had a LOT of rain and everything flooded.  My garage floor is flooded and is now a big ice cube.  I think everyone is about ready to blow their brains out.  December was no bargain either!

The 21st Annual "Frozen Butts" workday was this past Saturday.  With no other options, I had the pot luck following the workday at my house.  I had to rent some tables and chairs as I really have none.  The tables and chairs were delivered Friday night and I spent the evening baking cookies for the workday and setting everything up.  I had people drop off their food on the way to the workday because I had no one to "house sit".  After the last person dropped off food, I drove to the cul-de-sac, loaded up all the power equipment and the workday began. 
It was another cold and miserable day weather-wise, but as always the other volunteers have a way of brightening up the workday.  We tried to get one of the large brush piles burning, but it was built on a small stream of water, and apparently there was ice under the pile and it would not ignite.  So we had to start small with a bit of brush and keep building till we had a good fire going to handle all of the stuff being cut. 

The house was crowded for the pot luck, but we managed.  All in all, it was a great workday, but I am also always glad when it is over.

I also went out to Hickory Creek Junction to burn brush piles for a few hours last Tuesday and also did another workday at Sugar Creek Administration on January 12th. 

I brought out my Y-Wing Pilot project again.  I have a feeling that if I don't finish the project this time around, I never will.  I also have pieces of my Hoth Commander costume back and am trying to alter them to fit someone else.  The truth of the matter is, I probably would have never gotten around to wearing it anyway. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 5, 2014

Thank goodness...the holidays are over with!  I took advantage of what is becoming a rare warm day this winter to take down all the Christmas lights outside just before New Years and took the tree down several days later.

I went to Joan's for a few hours on Christmas Eve which proved to be a challenge as I could not get into the Jeep as it was frozen shut and I dumped Jim's basket of goodies all over the driveway.  Some of  the glass canning jars broke and I had to re-do his.  Then I could not keep the door on the Jeep closed because the latch was stuck.  But after getting that working again I was finally off to Joan's.  Christmas Day I spent at home just taking care of a bunch of things and then watched a movie.

New Year's Day was a real challenge and possibly the most difficult trooping event I have ever done.  We had experienced a fairly sizeable snowfall starting New Years Eve and it was still coming down New Years Day when I headed to Lincoln Park Zoo for the Polar Bear Plunge at North Ave Beach. 

It was cold, windy, and snowing like crazy.  I got to the Zoo around 10:00 AM and waited for the rest of the members of my costume group to arrive.  We suited up at the Zoo and then when everyone was ready at around 11:20 AM - we started to walk to North Ave Beach about 1/2 mile away.  It was a challenging walk with the driving snow and high winds.  The Lake was frozen over this year and only a hole was cut into the ice for the people to plunge into.  We stayed at the beach for probably an hour and a half.  We got interviewed by Channel 5 and Channel 9 news and posed for photos and generally froze.  I did handle photo chores for a couple girls who went into the water. 

We then walked back to the Zoo and suited down.  The weather was still crazy when I left as the snow was still coming down worse than earlier in the day.  It was a long ride home, but not too bad.  All in all...quite a start to 2014. 

Yesterday we had our annual FPDWC Resource Management meeting.  It was disappointing to see that there were no new faces.  It was really just the "Usual Suspects".  I shoveled snow when I got home from the meeting as I knew more snow was on the way today.  It was warm yesterday by comparison of what it is supposed to be the next two days.  Record cold is coming this way and it snowed again last night.  I will probably head out when it gets light out and shovel again move the Jeep and plug in the engine block heater.  With the really cold weather, I have been going through gasoline like crazy and a great deal of my paycheck is going into the gas tank.

The 21st Annual Frozen Butts Workday is coming up on January 18th and it would appear that I will be having the Pot Luck here at my house so today I start some massive "spring cleaning".  I need to tackle the incredible amount of paperwork that I seem to accumulate on my kitchen counter all the time.  I also need to do some serious dusting and general tidy up of the place as I will need all the room I can get my hands on to accommodate people.  I will need to also rent some tables and chairs and I think I found a really local place to do that.  I also need to tackle clean up of my computer.  Usually at the beginning of the year I transfer all of the "stuff" I have accumulated in the computer to one of the flash drives. 

So....Happy New Year and I certainly hope 2014 is better than 2013 - but somehow I don't think this will be a good year and it certainly is starting off pretty bad in the weather department.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013

Only a couple days more and the Christmas madness will be history.  Just can't get into Christmas anymore and am always happy when it is over.  I finished up the last of the baking for the family cookie exchange and have been making a LOT of preserves this past week.  Today I need to wrap the few presents I have for the family dice game.  I bought a few funny items to wrap.

This morning I was up very early and made Cranberry/Orange preserves.  I used my Spiced Cranberry Jam recipe and left out the spices and added orange peel and orange juice.  Yesterday I did a workday at Messenger Woods and handed out Spiced Cranberry Spread to all of the usual suspects as a little Christmas present.  I will be making some cran-raspberry preserves later on this morning after I go to Aldi to get sugar as I am all out again.  Now that Dominick's is closing, I have to find a new place to grocery shop and Berkots is too expensive so Aldi is what I am going to try.  I have some other fruit in the freezer and on my last trip to Dominick's on Friday I bought the last two pineapples that they had.  Those pineapples were peeled, cored, and ground up and are now in the freezer for when I get around to another batch of Pineapple/Grapefruit preserves.  May also try Pineapple/Orange.  I will miss the great and inexpensive fruit that I have been able to get at Dominick's the past few years and don't know that I will be able to make as much preserves as I used to because I just don't know if I will be able to find good and reasonably priced fruit.

Last weekend was another restoration and Star Wars weekend.  I had a restoration workday at Hickory Creek Junction.  The snow fell all morning when we were at the workday and there was a good bit of snow on the ground.  This week temperatures moderated and we even got rain.  A lot of the snow has been washed away and replaced by ice.  Today we may get more snow, I hope it is not a lot.  I think that in the south suburbs we are not supposed to get as much.  This week I bought new tires for the Jeep-perfect timing.  I found that with the new tires I am not getting that horrible wobble in the front end anymore.  I almost replaced a lot of the front end parts in the hopes of getting rid of the wobble, but thought I would buy the much needed tires first.  Turned out to be a good move as it would appear that the wobble was indeed coming from the tires.  I also had a new engine block heater power cord installed in the Jeep.  The cord that you plug into the outlet gets real brittle with all of the engine compartment heat and it starts to crack.  I found that the last time I plugged in the engine block heater that it didn't work so I suspect the cord was at fault.  It is supposed to get REALLY cold again this week, so for sure I will be plugging in the heater and hope that it works.

Last Sunday I did do a Star Wars event for Toys for Tots at Cantigny Gardens. I wore my Rebel Fleet Trooper costume and was, once again, the "lone Rebel".  I only stayed for a few hours as I do seem to get bored easily these days.

Well, back to chores and some much needed house cleaning now that the laundry is done.  It is a good thing I have like 50 pairs of socks cuz I think that half of them were in the laundry basket.

This past Tuesday was the last Master Gardener Pot Luck for the year.  I enjoy those monthly meetings a lot.  I brought 4 of my preserves along for the gardeners to taste test and evaluate and the Cran-raspberry came out the winner.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December 14, 2013

Oh the weather outside know the rest.  It has been a pretty brutal start to winter 2013/2014 and winter hasn't even officially started yet.  Several days this week have had windchills in the minus teens area and real temps of single digit.  Broke out the engine block heater on the Jeep the other day and trying to stay warm.  I only keep the thermostat on 60 in the house, so it is more than a bit breezy in here.

The last couple weekends have been all about doing Star Wars events.  There seem to be so many to do lately.  Last weekend I did 3 events in two days.  I keep saying I am going to do less events but have somehow managed to sign on for more than I anticipate. 

So, Saturday Dec 7th saw me loading up Artoo and heading over to Martino Jr. High to the bi-annual "Star Wars Museum" event for Toys For Tots.  It was a last minute event that I had done in the past and had a great time at.  It is also a very local event and I do like to do events in my community.  Since it was only Robert Redden, Artoo and I for Saturday's troop of this 2 day event and Robert was going to wear his Commander Cody, I opted for my rather cheesy "Clone Wars Inspired" Jedi costume. 

There was a steady stream of participants most of the day while I was there.  I brought some of my blasters and a few other things to display in the "Museum" part of the event and we took photos with the participants. 

At one point in the day a reporter from the local paper (New Lenox Patriot) came by and staged some photos for the paper.  I didn't expect that they would be published and was floored when I found out this week that the photo appeared on the front page.  I left the event about 1:30 PM as I had some things to do and another event the next morning in addition to returning to the Martino event for day 2.

Sunday morning found me at the 10th Annual Toy Con Charity Toy Drive in Bridgeview.  I have done this event every year since the first one in 2004.  It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years doing this event.  I had a lot of costumed folks show up for this event and it was mass chaos as usual...but that's what makes it fun.  We also raised $200.00 for Children's Treasure Chest for Pediatric Oncology.  I briefly went through the actual Toy Con part of the event and looked at some toys but resisted the urge to buy anything as I am still trying to sell off a good portion of my Star Wars collection. 

I stayed at the Bridgeview event till noon but had to make my way back to Martino Jr. High to finish up that event and bring home Artoo and the pieces I had on display.  While we were at ToyCon it started snowing and where there was not a lot of snow, it was just enough to cause delays in traffic and more than a few accidents.  It would seem that Midwesterners forget how to drive in snow over the summer months.  I got to Martino and finished suiting up but the event was pretty much winding down by the time I arrived .  A few of the other Rebels from Nar Shaddaa Base joined me.  They had gotten into a bit of a traffic jam on I55 due to the snow.  We hung out for an hour or so and had a great time just shooting the breeze and greeting the few people that were still filtering through the event.

This week on Tuesday it was bitter cold so I stayed home in the morning and made my last batch of fudge for Christmas and made a very interesting jam using fresh pineapple and grapefruit.  It really turned out VERY good!!  Very labor intensive as I "candied" one grapefruit rind to add into the pineapple and juice of the same grapefruit. 

After finishing up the jam and fudge, I went to the show to see "The Book Thief".  I enjoyed it a LOT.  Last week I also got to the show to see "The Hunger Games/Catching Fire" - also VERY good.  Since it has been quite awhile since I read the book, I don't know how close it followed it, but I do know that reading the booked helped me understand the story better.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1, 2013

Yep...December 1 already.  Every year by this time I have lights outside, tree up, cookies baked, Christmas letter done....but ...this year...I have NOTHING done!!  Kind of the way my life seems to be going this year....pretty much nowhere!!. 

Anyway, even though I have nothing done for Christmas does not mean that I have not been busy.  Last Wednesday I had to go to the north side of Chicago and take my Illinois Pesticide General Standards and Right of Way exams.  That pretty much ate up an entire day.  I have started to do some Christmas baking and fudge making as time permitted, but I still have some to do. 

I have been very busy doing Star Wars events the past couple weeks and have several others coming up.  On 11-24-13 I went down to the Rialto Theater in Joliet.  The MWG was asked to decorate one of the trees for the Festival Of Trees.  Each year trees are decorated by various groups and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the up-keep of the Rialto.  It was a pretty laid back event.  I had decorated some store ornaments and provided a collection of Burger King toys from 2005 to add to the tree.  Now we will see what kind of donation that tree gets. 

On Thanksgiving morning I headed to the Blue Line Station in Forest Park to meet up with some of my fellow Star Wars costume friends and from there we headed downtown to the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Last year we were #91 in the parade but this year we scored the #13 spot!  I gotta say it was great to be at the front of the parade.  A LOT less standing around.  Last year the weather was beautiful so standing around wasn't too bad.  This year, however, it was cold on Thanksgiving Day.  According to the weather forecaster, it was the coldest Thanksgiving in 24 years.  It didn't seem too bad though. 

I wore my Snowspeeder Pilot costume and had no real issues with being cold except for my hands.  They were shot even with two pairs of gloves on.  I made it to Joan's house but was really tired.  I visited with the gang but didn't stay for dinner as I knew that I was going to have a rough day at work on Friday.

Yesterday I had my annual "Work Off the Turkey" workday at Hickory Creek Barrens.  We had a great turnout and got lots of work done as we continue "marching" our way southward in an area between the trail and the railroad tracks.  I was very glad that Linda Andrews and I did several outings to the areas we worked in last year to do follow up as you could really notice that time had been spent doing the very necessary spraying of re-sprouts and seedlings.  I have some high hopes for that area once some good seed starts making its way up there. 

Today is going to be spent getting caught up with all of the things I have not done yet for Christmas.  I have almost finished putting up the tree.  I plan to go out to American Sales this morning to buy some lights for outside.  I am tired of the same old/same old that I have decorated the outside with for the past 25 years and I don't feel like putting lights up on the house or in the bushes outside (most of which I removed) anymore so I am going to see if I can find some inexpensive light up alternatives.