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.