Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016

Retirement...it 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.






Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30, 2016

Tomorrow is Halloween and then October is gone too. 

I turned 65 on October 15th and it seems that the last two months have been spent dealing with that.  Medicare, Medicare supplements and trying to retire from full time work seems to take up a lot more time than it should.  Dealing with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for supplemental insurance has turned into a nightmare of epic proportion.  E-mails, phone calls, and a letter have all been virtually ignored. 

Most of September and October were spent cleaning up the garden when I had time to spare.  I decided to really cut back everything this fall to have a nice blank slate this coming spring as I want to move some things around, divide others and nuke others.  I gathered up some free large-ish cobblestones this past spring and want to try to re-do some of the borders this spring and also got rid of most all of the hosta on the east side of the house.  That was a huge undertaking.  The hosta were so crowded and so overgrown that it was mind numbing.  I have also been seed saving this year from my native plants.  The seed is going into LaPorte Rd Access and Hickory Creek Junction as those sites are buffer for the Nature Preserve.  I have some native seed in the fridge and freezer getting cold stratified and hope to start some of my own seedlings in the spring.

I have not been doing much in the way of Star Wars events.  I did do a photoshoot with others on my birthday.  I don't have much in the way of photos to show for it though.  My friend Caroll was in town from Seattle and she came along for the day.  It was good fun to visit with her and we went out for dinner after the photo shoot.  We tried to do the photoshoot at the Joliet Iron Works, but got asked to "move along", so the group went back to Dellwood Park which is more user friendly. 



 The Goji Berry plant I put in this spring has been going like gang busters and has been blooming and even setting a bit of fruit in its' first year.  I do suspect, however, that this plant will be difficult to control once it gets really going.  They say that you can also plant this shrub in a pot and that will limit its' size.  I may have to do that.  I know that the plant roots easily when a part of the stem hits the ground, so I may take a cutting and try to root it for use in a large pot next year.


I have been doing some workdays for the Forest Preserve as always, but the weather is always a crap shoot on if one can get out to work without rain interfering with the spraying.  Linda and I did get out last Saturday and continued spraying a huge area of reed canary grass.  It will be interesting to see the result in another week or so.




Sunday, September 18, 2016

September 9, 2016

Clean up of the garden is in full swing at this time of year.  The endless piles of plants past their prime are being ground up and composted.  Soon it will be time to plant the garlic for next year.  This year was the best my vegetable garden has been in 3 years.  Conditions were really great for a lot of the veggies this year.  Lots of hot weather for peppers, tomatoes and cukes.  Where I was not happy with all the hot weather, the garden sure was.  Also, got plenty of rain this year at all the right times but not the intense flooding of previous years.  I did a whole lot of canning and preserving.  This year I tried hot packing peaches for the first time when one of the Master Gardeners peach tree split right around the time of harvest.  I think the peaches turned out pretty good.

As always, there was a few Star Wars events that I made it to.  Where I don't do as many, I still try to get to a few. 

On 8-4, I marched in the Montgomery Fest Parade.  This was a hot one for sure.  Staging is in a parking lot with no shade and the parade steps off at the heat of the day.  Parking is often a hassle too so I parked a couple blocks away so that was a very hot walk back to the Jeep.  I am still glad I made it to the parade as I don't see some of my costume friends as much as I would like. 



On 9-1, I did the Make a Wish "Walk For Wishes" 5K at Busse Woods on the north side.  The MAW boy that we did the event for in June reached out to Tim J. and asked if we would join him at the walk.  How can you say no to that!!  The day started out nice and cool, but it warmed up pretty good and was a bit on the hot side by the time we finished the 5K.  A couple of us car pooled and then went for a bite to eat after the event.  Those boots I bought off of E-bay for $20.00 and added a little embellishment to make them Jedi boots are so comfortable that even with my screwed up feet and a 5K walk, I had no issues with pain. 

Well, it is official that I am old.  I got my Medicare card in the mail a week ago.  I have also been doing some more research on additional healthcare.  I meet with the retirement planner on Tuesday and am gathering together all of the statements that I will need.  I will have to be very frugal the next months I am working and put as much money into checking to cover upcoming bills like Medicare Part B, real estate taxes, home and auto insurance etc.  I also went to apply for the Sr. Citizen exemption on my real estate taxes, that will save over $400.00 on my real estate taxes next year.  I don't plan on actually collecting SS until I am 66 - which won't be till Oct 2017, so I will have to live carefully till then.

As always, I have been doing work on all the prairie projects though I have not been out as much as usual.  I have done some seed collecting and we did a huge spray on a portion of HCB's pipeline easement.  It has been very hot this summer so getting out to do additional work has been sparse.  It has been just too hot.






I also finished phase one of the deck repairs.  I had replaced some of the boards this spring and finally gave it a good sanding over the Labor Day weekend as the weather cooperated-no rain.  After sanding it I was able to put 2 coats of preserver on it and that was allowed to dry for several days before we got rain. 






Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August 9, 2016

I seem to start out each entry with a weather report or a realization how fast time is going.  This is both..it has been a pretty hot summer and it is August already.  I knew when I planted the garden that it would seem like no time before it was time to clean up the garden.  Cleaning up the garden has already begun.  I started cutting down some plants and will do more today.  The rains have dried up and things are pretty dry now.  We haven't had any real measurable rain in a couple weeks now so I will have to spend time and water dollars by watering parts of the garden this morning. 

The last two years have been pretty awful as far as the vegetable garden, but this year has been exceptional.  There were no terrible spring floods and the weather has been warm.  This is the best year I can remember in a long time for tomatoes and peppers.  The garlic and onions have been pulled up already. 


The beets have also been pulled up and pickled.  The snow and snap peas vines were dying off so they were removed and the lettuce bolted, so that has been pulled.  There seems to be a lot of open raised beds now which is a good thing, less to water.  I have made cucumbers into not only two kinds of refrigerator pickles, but have also made homemade relish which turned out really good.




Butterfly monitoring is more or less done for the season.  I will likely get out one more time before the season ends.  This year was not a very good year for butterflies.  The Monarch situation is pretty grim also.  Where last year I was up to my eyeballs in monarch eggs, cats and chrysalis, this year I have little.  I have raised only 2 adults and right now I have two chrysalis and only one cat.  I search for eggs a couple times a week, but have found little. 



I haven't been out at the prairie doing work much the last couple of weeks as it has been too hot.  I hope to start getting out there a bit more once the weather moderates.  A couple of us did go out this past Saturday morning to collect some seed at Brightway.  The seed that was collected will stay in Hickory Creek Preserve by giving it to Paul, Mark and Bernie for dispersal at their HCP sites. 

I only did one Star Wars event the past couple of weeks and that was the Bolingbrook Library on 8-1-16.  I chose to wear the Episode 7 X-Wing Pilot and found that to be way too hot for summer events.  It was a warm night and I was sweating so hard that I soaked the orange flightsuit which bled orange on to the white flak vest.  When I tried to wash the vest to get out the orange dye, color from the wood inserts in the flak vest bled also into the vest and stained it.  I am now trying to remove that.  I may have to re-do those pieces which will be a real bummer, but at least I have a template to follow this time.  I washed the flak vest again with a bleach to try to get the stains out, but don't know if it will work till its' dry. 

Still have to figure out what I am going to do about retirement and health insurance.  I will be signing up for Medicare part A and B and now just have to settle on a supplemental insurance.  I need to update all my financial stuff and go see the retirement planner by next month for sure.






Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12,2016

The dog days of summer have arrived.  There has been a good amount of hot weather but there has also been some days of relief also.  It is much easier to take the 90 degree heat and humidity if you get a break in between.  Also important is a little rain so that the garden does not have to be watered.  The rain is not coming as frequently as I would like sometimes, but at least we do get some from time to time.  There have been a couple more violent storms the last month or so, but so far no power outages or tornadoes in the area. 

The vegetable garden has done better this year than the past 3 years thanks to not so much flooding this spring.  The rabbits are still eating some of not only the vegetable garden, but other flowering plants I have put in this year.  Rabbit damage is still not nearly as bad as it was last year.

Since July 4th fell on a Monday, I had a nice 4 day weekend.  Well, nice in that I was off from work but I had a lot of chores and projects to do around the house.  One of the projects that I had put off for some time was that parts of my back stairs/deck were getting spongy so I knew that there was rotting wood to deal with.  I had to purchase a reciprocating saw just to get some of the old planks off the deck as the people who built it sunk the screws so far in that you could not get them out.  I removed some of the worst planks and did find rotting wood, but for the most part it was just the supports to hold up the mitered corners.  The stringers were still in good shape.  I purchased pressure treated lumber instead of the cedar that the deck was built with and the new lumber was a little bit larger than the original so things didn't line up quite like I would have wanted, but all in all it didn't come out too bad.  I know there are a few more pieces that I will need to address, but I do need to buy more lumber.

On July 3rd I marched in the Bartlett Parade.  Finally, this year the parade was not as hot as the previous 11 years I have done this event.  Normally, the temps are in the upper 80's and 90's for the parade, but this year it was a refreshing 70's in the morning hours and even when the parade stepped off, it was only about 80 with a nice breeze.  Following the parade the wind was a little stronger and that breeze felt great while trying to cool off for the parade.  I still decided to wear my lightest weight costume and it was plenty hot.  I stuck around for 2 beers and had a nice chat with fellow members since I didn't have to get up for work the next morning.  On the 4th, I did more chores and went up to watch part of the Mokena 4th of July parade. 

I also finally got to the Joliet Historical Museum on Friday July 8th to take down and bring home the Rebel Legion display that I had left there following the Joliet Star Wars Day event.  Since I had brought Artoo home a few days before, I had plenty of room in the Jeep to fit everything in for one trip home.  I took my time and folded everything up in the cases so that I would not have to deal with it when I got home.  It was a pretty warm day, so much sweating ensued.

In the late afternoon on July 8th I had the New Lenox Relay For Life event to do in costume.  So, I loaded up Artoo and waited for Blair who was going to change at my house for the event.  Again, plenty warm day near 90 degrees, but the humidity had backed off and by 5:30 PM when it was time to leave for the event, there was again a nice breeze.  It was still hot, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.  We lead off the Survivor's Lap for the Relay and then hung around an hour or so after that. 

Finishing out this past weekend I had butterfly monitoring to do on Saturday and on Sunday was a restoration workday at LaPorte Rd Access.  Again, plenty hot out for both endeavors and it was a sweat-fest especially on Sunday.  My goal for Monday was to not sweat as I think I had sweated out about 5 gallons of water between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. 

Tonight I give a talk to the Joliet Area Garden Club on Monarchs.  Last year I was up to my eyeballs in monarch caterpillars to raise, but this year I only have one and feel lucky to have it.  I found 3 eggs and they all hatched, but 2 of the 3 caterpillars just never ate and died.  This last one has made it to instar #4 and looks like it will make it.  I keep looking for more eggs on my milkweed, but have not found any.  Also, while butterfly monitoring there have been no monarchs.  I am guessing that the storm that hit the sanctuaries in Mexico was a lot more devastating than was first thought.  





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 14, 2016


The weekend of June 4th and 5th was pretty heavy duty.  I think it took me several days to recuperate from that.

I took June 3rd off as a vacation day to go to the Joliet Historical Museum for set up for Joliet Star Wars Day.  I packed the truck up the night before with the exception of Artoo who did not fit.  On Friday morning, I had a member stop at the house to load Artoo in his car and we made our way to the Musuem.  Set up went very smoothly as there were several other Nar Shaddaa Base members there to assist with all the unloading and set up.

The next morning it was a very early rise to suit up and head to downtown Joliet.  The weather was threatening rain and possible storms, but the mood was still positive.  The parade did happen because the rain had held off for a few hours.  The parade associated with this event is very short, but the streets were lined with a lot of people.  I spent mostly all day at the NSB/RL table selling "hold out blasters" that a bunch of us purchased as our charity endeavor this year.  Sales were very brisk and we ended up selling out of the little blasters found at the Dollar Store.  We made $650.00 off the sale of those blasters and the $$ was sent to a member who is sick and has mounting medical expenses.

We had a good number of members from other Bases show up and they all reported having a good time and I think that many of them will try to make it again next year.  Hopefully, as the years go by we will have more and more Rebels in attendance.

This year our display featured our Pilots and we certainly had a good variety of different Pilot costumes.

I had my traditional one beer at the "after party" but didn't stay really long as the next day was to be yet another big event.  The great thing about this year is that I did not have to take down and haul home the display.  The display was left at the Historical Museum where it will be "in residence" for the entire month of June.

On June 5th, I took part in a very special SW event for a Make A Wish recipient at the DePaul Theater of the Arts on the north side of Chicago.  The MAW boy wanted to become a Jedi.  Anytime I have to go into the city, I always allow extra time so I left pretty early.  I also brought along an extra Jedi costume for someone else to wear.

The whole thing was a little surreal.  We did a walk through on stage of the program that was put together by another member of NSB.  We barely got back to the dressing rooms and were told that the MAW boy had arrived.

I had made the boy's Jedi costume for this and was relieved when he was suited up in it that it pretty much fit him.


One part of the program was lightsaber training and all of the Jedi were on stage for that with dim lights, lightsabers humming and going through "training".  

After the little boy was declared a Jedi, he was knighted and then taken around to meet all of us.

The event went rather well and by the post at the MAW Foundation, our little program was successful. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 29, 2016

Memorial Day weekend arrived and with it the opportunity to get a lot of chores done.  I typically spend long weekends working on the "to do" list and in the spring that usually means garden chores.  I have just about all of the vegetable garden in now.  The weather has been pretty cooperative the last week and this spring as a whole.  Where April and the beginning of May were pretty wet and cold, the last 2 weeks have been warm and dry and the ground was pretty workable.  It had gotten to the point where it was too dry but a nice 1 1/2 of rain arrived Friday night.  I brought the chainsaw out and took down the wafer ash in the yard, as it looked really terrible.  It was misshapen from the time I planted it and I thought I could eventually prune it into a better shape, but it just didn't seem to cooperate.

The Joliet Library Star Wars event is less than a week away now.  Hard to believe!  I have that on my to-do list this weekend to get all remaining projects wrapped up before set up on Friday.  I decided it was time to wear the Naboo Pilot costume for the before parade photos and for the parade itself.  After the parade, I will be changing into street clothes to put the Naboo Pilot costume on a mannequin.  I need to drag that costume out and put it on to see what needs attention/repairs.  I have only worn the costume 2 times and it has been years since I wore it. 



Stick a fork in it...it is done!!  My Episode 7 Resistance Pilot is finally finished (except for the inevitable tweaks) and I actually wore it to an event already.  Since I was busy with the display for JLSWD and William's Jedi costume, I knew that I would not have time to finish this costume so I commissioned a seamstress to put the final pieces I started together.  It was over 2 months that she had the flightsuit pieces I had started and had given her...and it was coming down to the wire.  After I finished the display and costume for William, I did finish all of the projects on that costume that I still had to do.  I put together the new chestbox, made the leg flare holder, worked out the attachment of the hose and worked on some tweaks to the flak vest.  Where I am never happy with anything I make, the Resistance Pilot looks pretty good.  It is a pain to wear...but aren't all of the costumes a pain to wear!

And, speaking of wearing it.  I gave the Resistance Pilot its' first road test on 5-21-16.  I wore it to an event in Shorewood that Crix's company was sponsoring.  It was a "Build a Bike" event where kids came and finished putting a bicycle together and then could keep the bike.  It was at one of the Shorewood Firestations that my "MapQuest" led me astray.  I usually have little trouble finding places using MapQuest, but clearly in trying to find the firehouse, they made some errors!  Fortunately, I ran into Crix as he was also riding around trying to find the Fire Station.  Where the costume is hot (aren't they all), it is actually fairly comfortable.  The one huge pain in the ass is the hose from the chestbox.  It is large and stiff and just a general pain in the ass.  I have a second chestbox that I think will be worn more often as I don't intend to add the hose attachment to that chestbox and can leave off the hose at some events. 

On 5-14-16 I ended up going to Soldier Field to do the "Autism Speaks" walk.  It was a nice and cool morning and I had tickets to an exhibit at the Field Museum for later in the morning so I decided to also suit up and do the walk.  Always strange to change into costumes in the locker rooms that professional football players use on game day. 

We don't get to use the Bear's locker room...but we do use the locker room for the visiting team.  I really have not done that many events this year as I have been too busy with other things.  I did enjoy doing this event as it wasn't that long of a morning.  With all of the arthritis issues, I find that I can not do long events anymore as I am in just too much pain. 






After the "Autism Speaks" walk, Laura Smith and I walked over to the Field Museum as I had a ticket to see the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit and Laura is a volunteer at the Field.  The display was amazing...the whole thing is amazing!  I saw a special on the Warriors some time ago and marveled at the whole thing.  I never thought that I would be able to see one of them close up as it was VERY unlikely that I would ever get to China. 






Since it is spring and all of the invasive species are doing their best to flower and set seed, it has been a busy few weeks of spraying at my restoration site.  The weather has not always been cooperative either as trying to find windows to spray have been frustrated by rain and threats of rain.  Tomorrow I will be going out to spray reed canary grass one more time as that is starting to form seed heads rapidly.  We have also found some serious issues of destruction from off road bikes at my site and a variety of other issues there....it never ends.