Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14, 2014

So, Christmas is almost here and I am pretty far behind on everything.  I got the tree up later than usual and the lights outside put up later than usual.  I don't even have my Christmas newsletter finished.  I started my Christmas cookie baking later than usual and have just been feeling very scattered.

Things have been nuts as usual with workdays, Star Wars events, and all of the things associated with Christmas.  I also spent a week pretty sick with my ulcers acting up and also another devastating cold/flu thing.  I am crawling out from under the sickness part but still have issues with my stomach.

So, for my prairie restoration thing, I did several workdays the past month.  One big one was the annual "Work Off the Turkey Workday" at Hickory Creek Barrens.  We also did a large workday at HCJ and got a lot done there.  Also there was work done at Hickory Creek LaPorte Road Access.  Slowly but surely we are attacking invasives from all ends of Hickory Creek Preserve so the hope is that there will be less and less seed of invasive species being spread at the site as a whole.

I did a whole lot of Star Wars events the past month.  In addition to actual "appearances", I hosted two costume workshops at my house.  I pulled out a whole bunch of stuff on sewing, leatherworking, sculpting, molding and casting.  Both workshops were well attended and I think a lot was accomplished.

On 11-23-14 I headed to Brookfield Zoo to do our Nar Shaddaa Base tree trim.  Steve M. had purchased a tree in the name of the Base and a bunch of us went to the Zoo to decorate it.  I had been working on home-made ornaments the past several weeks to use on the tree.  It is always complicated by the fact that the ornaments must hold up outside in rain and snow and must be shatterproof.  They must also be something that no one wants to  Years ago when we did our first tree, mostly all of the ornaments got stolen.

11-27-14 brought the Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Chicago.  As in the previous years, I headed to the CTA Forest Park Blue Line station early in the morning to meet up with other SW costume members and we headed downtown for the big parade.  According to the weather reports, this was the coldest Thanksgiving Day in 35 years.  It was cold downtown, but the "stand around" time went quickly and we did our march down State Street in the 64th position in the parade.  After the parade, I made my way back to the CTA Forest Park station and then on to sister Joan's for Thanksgiving dinner.  Gotta LOVE turkey!  I should make turkey of my own, but it is just a lot of work. 

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On 12-2-14 (Tuesday) I headed to Lurie Children's Hospital for an event.  It was a very complicated day.  It started out VERY early in the morning with the sister of our host coming to my house so I could try to fit her with one of my costumes.  We also loaded up Artoo which ended up to be a huge challenge because she could not get the liftgate down on the Blazer she picked me up with.  I was having a lot of trouble with my stomach and felt "off" though I didn't have any other symptoms.  I kind of stayed back when it came to visiting the kids at the hospital because I just didn't feel right.  Anyway, we were a huge hit at the hospital and met so many brave kids and their parents.  It is heartbreaking to see those little kids facing such horrible diseases and going through all that nasty treatments.  

12-7-14 found me in Bridgeview doing the annual Toy Con Charity show for Children's Treasure Chest for Pediatric Oncology.  I was feeling really sick at that point, I had contracted something the day after the Lurie event and was sick the rest of the week leaving work early each day as I just could not make it through the day.  So, since I was feeling sick for the ToyCon event, I didn't wear a costume.  That is something I don't think I have ever done is to show up to an event not in costume.

Yesterday I headed out to Cantigny Park for our annual Toys for Tots event.  I try to make this event every year and was not going to do it this year, but found that I had the time and with gasoline being so much less expensive, I was able to get there.  I wore my Imperial Gunner costume for a change.  It is one costume that I don't wear often.  There was a time that the flightsuit for this costume was so tight it was uncomfortable to wear.  I am pleased to say that the suit fit much more loose yesterday and the costume was very comfortable to wear. 

I ended up also with a new position in the Star Wars Universe of costuming,  I was appointed the LMO of the Rebel Legion.  That position takes a LOT of time and has many challenges....I hope I can do a good job of it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

It officially feels like winter.  The clocks are turned back so it gets dark early.  Most trees are devoid of leaves and the weather has been brisk and it has been dreary a lot.

I have finished all of the necessary fall garden clean up.  There are only a few things remaining, but if they don't get cleaned up, they can also wait till spring.  I am hoping for some dry weather to clean up the last of the leaves to grind up and mulch my russian red garlic I planted once the weather freezes.  Speaking of the Russian has broken through the soil surface.  I planted it the second week of October and hoped it would not sprout above the soil, but Gary P. who gave me the bulb said it would be ok.

The big news at the house is my new windows!  I waited 28 years for them.  Since I moved in the house in 1986 I have hated those windows.  They barely opened, some needed to be propped up with a 2x4 and one was broken.  They all leaked and had those crappy triple track storm windows that were a day long project if you wanted to wash the windows.

The new windows are Energy Star and look great.  The crew that installed them also used white aluminum trim and there was no rot in the window frames.  Now I just have to pay for them.  I do have a year to pay with zero financing.

On Saturday I got another Star Wars event in.  This one was nice and close in Joliet.  We were invited to attend a Children's Halloween Party at a hall.  There were not many kids that showed up, probably because the weather outside was so beautiful!  It was one of those last gasp of summer kind of days that I am sure everyone wanted to be outside enjoying. I wore my X-Wing costume again and was relieved to find that it was again fitting a little more loose so that means I am losing a little more weight.  I also brought Artoo with me.  Even though Artoo is not hugely electronic, the kids always seem to love to see him.

I have been doing a whole bunch of costuming projects again.  I completed a new sculpt of my Endor rank badge.  I didn't like the one I had so making a better one was a long time coming.  Also, since it would appear that the Biker Scout greeblie for their thermal detonator is half of an Endor rank badge, I decided to sculpt one of those too.  After making the sculpt, I molded both of them.  I had issues again with the mold and have narrowed it down to the paint on the surface of the sculpt.  Rebound fares much better than the Mold Star, but I am going to have to seal the pieces with clear or something in the future.  I had to mold both the badge and greeblie twice.

I also tried my hand at a 2 piece mold using a Pilot code cylinder.  It came out ok, but not great.  No matter how hard you try, you do end up with an annoying seam and there was lots of issues pouring the casting material down that little hole and not getting bubbles on the "honey wand" portion.  I managed to cast about 8 of them but am not really happy with them.  They can be something held in reserve in case I lose one of my metal ones.

On Sunday I went to visit Tom Olmstead who has ALS.  He no longer has use of his arms and legs as the disease has progressed that far.  He talks to you using a computer that is somehow activated using his eyes and a metal dot that is on his forehead.  His spirits are surprisingly good and I am blown away by his courage and the courage of his wife Lisa.  I just don't know how I would be in a situation like that.

On Saturday, a few of us went out to Hickory Creek Barrens and did some prep work for the Work off the Turkey workday which will be held at the end of this month.  We got two piles started so that two to four groups of people can be working and hauling brush to burning piles and be working in two directions.  I hope to get a LOT done at the workday.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014

Today is a beautiful fall day and some of the days I love so much.  Where I don't like the fact that it gets dark early and stays dark in the morning, one has to go with the flow of the seasons.

Yesterday I had a bit of a odyssey.  I wanted to attend a Star Wars event in Mt. Vernon IL but the trip would have been really expensive gas-wise - about $85.00.  So, I began heading to Bloomington IL (about 2 hours) and met up with another costume member and then road with them to Mt. Vernon.  I began the trip at 7:30 AM Saturday morning and did not get home till 12:30 AM on Sunday.  The event was a parade for the Mt. Vernon Fall Fest.  The weather was perfect - not too hot and not too cold and there were certainly a lot of people along the parade route.  The hostess was one of our members who lives in Mt. Vernon and also owns a local Irish Pub.  We had an entire back room of the Pub to suit up in and to hang out.  The place was huge and an awesome old building.  Loved all the old buildings along the downtown parade route.  I wore my Hoth Trooper and apparently (as posted on Facebook) the costume had at least one fan along the route.

Last Sunday I did the "Best Evah 5K" event again.  This was a fundraiser for the Max Lacewell Foundation.  We had fewer participants this year, but still a nice, short trooping event.  I wore my Endor Trooper for this event and I chose that because there was a Scout Trooper along. Always like to do the yin/yan thing with Rebel and Imperial costumes.

I have been working on finishing up the fall garden clean up and am really in pretty good shape thus far.  I am almost done with the cutting down of things and have distributed some of the season's compost.  This morning I mowed and also took in the last of the geraniums that were outside.  We did get a frost last night and some of the tender stuff got hit.  Thankfully, the geraniums I have are pretty hardy and didn't show any damage so I was able to cut them back and bring them inside.  

Last week was my birthday and as always, it was completely un-eventful.  I treated myself to a movie again on Tuesday.  I was debating whether to see "Left Behind" or go see "Guardians of the Galaxy" again.  Guardians won out as "Left Behind" looked interesting...but a bit depressing and I was depressed enough.

 Last Saturday we also finished our first ever workday at LaPorte Road Access.  It went well and we put at least a small dent in the work that needs to be done there.  I hope that work does progress as every invasive killed there will be one less that makes its way to the Barrens.

And, the big news on the home front.  On October 28th this old house gets new window!  I shopped around and contracted to have Home Depot install new replacement windows in the house.  Got the place measured and the install will be next Tuesday.  I have lived in my house since 1986 and one thing that I hated about the place was the windows.  They were old and drafty and one has been broken for several years.  They have those crappy triple track storm windows that are a nightmare to clean so I seldom washed the windows.  Also, some of them take an act of god to open and I have scraped and puttied and repainted them several times.  Where I can't afford the windows at this time, will I ever really be able to?  So I just decided to go for it and got 1 year "same as cash" financing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014

And it would seem that my last post said..."wow...September already" and now it is "wow....October already".  So much for trying to add to this blog every two weeks. 

September was a pretty full month with a few Star Wars events, garden clean up and chores at home. 

I think I am way ahead of the fall clean-up game when it comes to the garden.  We experienced a lot of cool weather in September so things are rapidly declining in the garden and I have already cut down probably 80% of it.  Even though I had "nuked" a lot of the garden last fall and tried to cut back on the plantings, there was still a lot to clean up.  It was still better than previous years though. 

I also found that some of the raised garden beds were long past their prime and it was time to do some re-building.  Two of the beds were hopelessly broken, so I went to Home Depot to get lumber and supplies to re-make 3 of them.  WOW...has lumber gone up.  It cost almost $100.00 to buy just enough treated lumber to re-make only those 3.  Since I made 18 of them in 1996 - that would have been $600.00 in lumber for those 18....and I know I didn't spend near that much in making those.  So, I remade 3 of the boxes and installed 2 of them.

I also had some painting chores to work on.  Where I painted the whole house last fall, I never got to the windows and trim.  I scraped and painted the beam at the front door and the bay window and also the trim on the garage.  I also cleaned the patio stone and the deck and then sealed the deck for winter.  Next should have been the windows.  Since I moved in the house in 1986 I have hated my windows.  It takes an act of god to open some of them, one is broken, and they all need another round of paint and caulk.  And then there are those crappy triple track storm windows.  I rarely wash my windows because of the pain in the ass of those storms.  I decided to price some replacement windows and got my first estimate yesterday.  At $895.00 a window from the first place, looks like window replacement is NOT in the near future.  I have two more people coming out for estimates next week and hope that they will be cheaper.   

On 9-7-14 I participated in an event to visit to a boy named Carter from Frankfort with leukemia.  It was a surprise given by his grandmother.  We Star Wars characters were hidden in the garage and then the grandmother hit the garage door button, and we poured out of the garage.  It ended up to be a bit too much for Carter and he was pretty shook up and hid behind his parents pretty much the whole time.  We tried to make the best of it and did a little "tour" of his neighborhood for awhile, came back, but he would still have no part of us.  It happens sometimes.  I got a donation of a Master Replicas Luke Skywalker lightsaber from the Service Manager at work to give to Carter.  That still was not enough to coax him out of hiding.

The Jeep got some more work too and I had a pretty severe bill to pay for that.  In addition to a new front bumper (the old one rusted away) and some other rust repair on the body, I had a massive issue with the rear brakes and replaced the rear wheel cylinders, brake drums and shoes.  That bill was over $1,000.00.

I also made my way to Montrose Harbor on 9-14-14 for the Make A Wish Walk for Wishes.  The weather was nice and cool in the morning, so I decided to wear my Imperial Gunner.  I have not worn that since last November.  Since it was cool out, I didn't need to have the fan running, which is pretty noisy.  The event started very early in the morning which is great when one talks in terms of going to Downtown Chicago as the streets were absent of traffic on my way to Montrose.  I was already headed home by about 9:30 AM just as the day was starting to warm up a bit much for my costume. 

I finished work on all of those holsters I was making.  They turned out pretty good considering I made them from first making a pattern and then working my way through cutting, stitching, dying and final assembly.  I was really glad to get all of the leather working stuff off of my table after several weeks. 

I went to the September Master Gardener/Master Naturalist Pot Luck and it was another great meeting.  One of the ladies came in with what she thought were American Chestnut burrs/nuts from trees at her childhood home in Virginia.  The story Joanne told was that her father planted nuts from the original American Chestnuts on her farm when the last of those started to die off from the blight.  I have had an interest in the American Chestnut "story" for quite sometime and was excited to get two of the burrs with nuts.  I wanted to find out how to start seedlings from what I had so I sent photos to the American Chestnut Foundation looking for some information.  As it turns out, the TACF looked at those burrs and said...sorry...those are not American Chestnuts but Chinese.  Joanne was disappointed when I told her that her trees in Virginia were Chinese Chestnuts and not American. 

I also got a head of Gary Patton's Russian Red garlic that I will plant this fall.  I am preparing one of those two new garden beds for that.

The whole American Chestnut thing led to Richard Wachenheim telling me that there were American Chestnut trees that were dying on one of the properties purchased by the FPDWC down in Wilmington.  After we did the National Public Lands workday at Romeoville Prairie on 9-27 we headed down to Forked Creek Preserve in Wilmington to take a look at the trees. 

What was also on this site in close proximity to the Chestnut trees was remains/foundations/walls of some very old buildings.  They sparked a great curiosity in me about their origins.  As with all natural areas these days, there was invasive species starting to "litter" the area around those foundations and what must have been the "yard" at one time.  This was a project that I decided I would like to take on.  I think it is important to remove those invasives from the areas of the foundations to make sure that trees and what not do not start to grow among them and ruin those foundations.  At this time I am trying to make that an official project AND learn more about the site.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014

September is here already!  Didn't do much over the Labor Day weekend but work on some projects.  The weather was supposed to be rainy just about all weekend so I didn't plan too much outdoor stuff.  I did meet up with the family on Sunday for a really nice visit at Horsetail Lake on 123rd Street.  I just don't see them that much anymore so it was a very nice visit. 

The other thing I worked on was some holsters for my Star Wars costumes.  After finding that I fit into my Imperial Officer costume again, I wanted to make a black holster for that costume and also wanted to replace the really lame holster I have for most of my Rebel costumes.  Since I could not decide on a more squared vs more rounded holster for the Rebel DH-17 - I decided to do both. 

I completed the black holster in pretty good time but I just need to figure out how I want to attach it to the belt...with loops or two slices in the backing to loop the belt through. 

The Rebel holsters are a little more complicated because of the dye.  I am trying to match my old belt and I only have a couple of dyes to choose from so I am trying to layer a more red brown and a medium brown to try to match the color.   As always, am finding I am not a huge fan of the water based dyes, they just don't seem to cover well and I am getting mixed results.  After 2 coats of dye I feel I am making progress so I did cement the seams to be hand stitched and that is drying.  I am trying to be more patient with the dying process and leave things dry really well between coats.

I did do a few more Star Wars events recently.  One of the events was a Library waaaay up on the north side.  I had taken that on as event coordinator because the library said they really wanted a female Jedi so that women/girls were represented.  I took that event because of the request, but as always I was completely ignored by patrons because we had Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and several other more desirable characters.  Thank goodness I am already used to I really knew that would happen but kudos to the Library for thinking of girls.  Traffic was brutal and it was really hot that day so the commute to this event was not fun.  The library did have a lot of interesting things for the kids to do and they really did a nice job of this event.

I also did a wedding last Saturday.  One of the members of the Midwest Garrison got married and had a bunch of us at the entrance to the reception.  Since I mainly went to help others get dressed and get photos, I didn't wear either one of my bucketed Imperial costumes but instead tried on my Imperial Officer costume.  The last time I wore that costume was 2010 and it was way tight...I really didn't fit into it anymore.  I was delighted and surprised that when I tried on the Officer costume it fit again.  I guess there is something to be said for all of the problems I have been having with my teeth.  I really can't chew much anymore and have had so much pain that eating is not on my priority list.   And, really, I have been cutting back and trying to be more wise in my food decisions the last couple months.  Obviously, I still have a lot of weight to lose, but after 50 years of dieting, I will take what I can get.

Yesterday I took a "day off" and took the Metra downtown to the Civic Opera House.  The Lyric Opera was conducting a sale of their old costumes.  I got down there just about when the doors opened and was meeting Kathy VanBeuningen down there.  I was NOT prepared for how long the line was.  I found Kathy about 3 blocks away in line and joined her.  We had a really nice, lively discussion on all sorts of things and were joined in line by a young man who works as a makeup artist for the Opera and is a drag queen by night.  He was so interesting to talk to.  I am really disciplined on my time and knew that I needed to get back to the train station to catch the 12:30 train back to Mokena.  We stood in line for over 3 hours and still were about a block away from the entrance when I had to leave to get home.  A few people that got inside and made purchases wore their purchases out and got a huge round of applause from the hopefuls in line.  I went home without ever even getting in the front door.  Sad...but..I needed to stick to my time schedule and who is to say I would actually find anything to buy.  With all of the people that had made it in to the sale and all the bags I saw leaving, I really wasn't sure there would be anything left anyway.  They did say that they were bringing out new costume pieces throughout the day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17,2014

As always, it has been a very busy couple of weeks of habitat restoration, canning, garden clean up and Star Wars events. 

The vegetable garden is so-so this year but I was able to pickle some beets and some carrots.  I had to buy some additional carrots from the Farmer's Market to supplement my own pathetic carrot crop.  Also, the beets did not produce well again this year and I only got 4 pints of pickled beets from what I grew.  I think I might have to mix in a bunch of leaves again this fall. 

The epic flooding this spring is what I hope was the culprit.  I also managed a batch of "Whimpy Ass Salsa" from the first box full of tomatoes.  This morning I made Chokeberry jam from the berries from my tree.  God, getting those berries to give up juice took an act of god. 

Today will be more garden clean up.  I also have been trying to get more of my low voltage lighting back lighting up the garden path.  So many of them are burned out or shorted out.  I had to buy a new transformer because one of the two transformers in the yard has been burned out for a couple years now.  The new transformer is working but I can't seem to get all the fixtures to light.

I have been spending quite a bit of time at Hickory Creek Junction this year trying to do follow up on areas that have been cut the past two years and also trying to tackle some vast areas taken over by invasive reed canary grass and phragmites.  I have been down in what I call the "cesspool" several times the past couple of weeks spraying and it will take quite a few more visits down there to make really good headway.

I also led a hike for Wild Ones Of Will County yesterday.   Wild Ones is an organization that promotes native plantings instead of introduces species.  The walk lasted over 2 hours and I hope that the participants came away with something from the walk.  I do know that it was a great opportunity to showcase the work that all of the FPDWC volunteers have done over the past 22 years.  Much of the ground we covered was areas that the volunteers have worked extensively. 

I also paid a visit to Lockport Prairie to see the sign that honors Dick Wunderlich which was finally installed.  We waited 7 years for that sign, and it was worth the wait.  Whoever designed it really did present a total picture.

 I haven't done much in the way of Star Wars events this year but did have a chance to do a couple recently.

On 8-10-14 I took part in the Montgomery Illinois town festival parade.  Members of both the Midwest Garrison and Nar Shaddaa Base were on hand for this little parade in the town where our BCO lives.  It really wasn't a very hot day and the parade route was only about 1 1/2 miles, but I swear, I was sweating harder during that parade than I have at longer parades in hotter weather.  Don't know if it is just another case of "old age".  I am finding that the range of comfortable temperatures is getting pretty narrow these last years.

I took a half day vacation on Friday 8-15-14 to do an event at Advocate Children's Hospital.  Since there was no other R2D2 available, I did bring my Artoo.  I loaded up Artoo the night before and then drove into the Service Dept at work to assemble him.  While he was there, I took some photos of him in the shop.  They came out pretty funny.   If you bring an Astromech to a Service Dept and don't get photos....well...that is like missing half the fun.

I also got suited up in my new Jedi costume at work rather than at the Hospital.  At 10:00 AM, we loaded up Artoo in the back of the Parts Van and I rode in the back with him to make sure he was upright.  We arrived at the Hospital, met up with the others that were there that day and started to maker our rounds to the floors to visit the kids that are patients.  It is always a gut wrenching experience to see those kids and their families.  Some are just so sick, pale and thin that it is heartbreaking.