Winter with a Vengeance

I haven’t posted since…when? Oh, my. Anyway, it’s winter now. We had about 6 inches of snow yesterday. By the end of the week, we’re looking at below zero temperatures and the possibility of a Polar Vortex. Last time we had a major cold snap, Polar Vortex cold, we had a visitor – a Cooper’s hawk, on our deck, right next to the French doors. We were rather shocked that it settled in right next to the house like that. It must have been the closest, or the only, shelter it could find.

With another cold (Polar) snap ahead, I’m prepping to keep the family warm. By Friday, I hope to have the main family groceries purchased, including bunny food and the basic milk, bread, and eggs. You know the drill, I’m sure. That way, I can stay indoors when the thermometer dips.

Meanwhile, indoors, we’ll stay warm with a little help from our good Wisconsin logic.

All shades, blinds, and curtains will remain closed. Another layer, no matter how thin, helps keep the drafts out.

Warm clothes – layers, warm socks, slippers (from Muk-Luks, the best). I even have fingerless gloves on hand if I need them.

A humidifier in each room (well, the rooms where we spend the day) will help keep moisture in the air, which makes the air feel a few degrees warmer, even if the temperature doesn’t physically change.

Blankets! I’ve been washing blankets lately. It’s a spring cleaning in midwinter task. We’ll curl up with a book and a blanket or two and stay cozy. Amigo is good at that; he loves his audio books and a warm blanket.

Warm breakfast (oatmeal!) and lunch (soup!) and supper (whatever, just make it warm!) will warm the insides, too. I might even cook in the crock pot instead of on stovetop. The aroma will provide a little warmth of its own.

I could bake cookies, too – maybe. Or maybe I won’t want to use too much energy. The power company has come down on manufacturers for using too much heat energy to operate their plants. I haven’t heard them asking residential customers to turn it down by a couple of degrees, but it could happen. And if it did…

We’d put on another layer and grab another blanket. Coffee, hot cocoa, and we’ll be snug as bugs in a rug, despite the extreme Polar Vortex cold.

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Questions. I have questions.

Can I request more than 24 hours in a day? I can’t get everything done in 24.

Why does Amigo insist that I blog regularly?

I’m shopping online for the holidays – birthdays and Christmas. I’m shopping small businesses, not the Big Ones. Does that count?

Is the 2020 election cycle ever going to start for real?

Why do football players fight on the field? They’re all so padded, they can’t possibly hurt one another.

Is Houston really ahead of New England? Please, let it be true, if only for a few minutes.

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Oh, deer.

It hasn’t been the best garden season. Some of the pallet plants died from neglect, pure and simple – not enough watering on my part. Hanging flowers suffered the same fate. Herbs are okay. When I’ve watered, they’re on the top of my list.

Approximately one third of the raised bed actually grew. The rest is weeds, pure and simple. I’ve done a little weeding of the actual vegetable successes,

And then the beans – the replacement beans! – were attacked. This was obviously a critter much taller than a rabbit. It looks like it climbed or jumped over the chicken wire fencing and was not deterred by the layer of green onions around the edges. In fact, it may have knocked over a few monster onions (if the hail and hard rain last week didn’t).

Readers, I don’t know why the pictures rotated left on me. WordPress isn’t playing nice with me here. Anyway, you can see where something nibbled about five feet off the ground and then left its mark on what little lawn we have left. Grrr.

I’m pretty sure I know what kind of critter visited, but I welcome your input. Anyone? Smaller than a moose, bigger than a rabbit, not a dog or cat. What do you think?

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Stormy Weather – oh, my.

Amigo kept asking me, “Mom, have you blogged the storm yet?” I finally asked him to offer his point of view. The entire family had a tough time with the recent storm and the following power outage, but the situation was hardest on him.

Amigo’s Saturdays are usually quite relaxed. He sleeps in, listens to Public Radio, and around noon will make his way downstairs for lunch. On this particular Saturday, it was between 11:30 and 12:00 when the skies became very dark, the outdoor sirens began howling, and all of our phones honked their noisy weather alerts to tell all within earshot that a tornado had been sighted nearby. Chuck poked his head into Amigo’s bedroom where Amigo was getting dressed and told him to hurry. Both of them hustled. When they arrived on the main floor, I guided Amigo down the awkward stairs to the basement to take shelter.

Our basement is more of a cellar. It’s not the modern finished basement with playroom or place to hang out; it’s cellar, storage, pipes hanging from the ceiling. Amigo and Chuck have to duck going down the stairs and watch their heads while walking around. Amigo almost never goes downstairs – unless a serious storm is on the way.

We sat in a sheltered corner on extra kitchen chairs. All three of us had our smart phones, for what it was worth – wifi went out suddenly when the power did, and we weren’t getting much cell phone bandwidth in our thick-walled cellar. We watched the wind whipping through the one accessible window, and Chuck and I took turns poking our heads upstairs to monitor the storm. I brought Amigo’s shoes and socks to him on one of those treks. He wondered why; I told him it was because the basement floor was cold. The truth was that the storm was bad, very bad, and if we ended up with shattered windows, I didn’t want anyone in bare feet. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem.

Well, our home and immediate neighborhood fared well. We had branches down, many of them, but mainly medium and small ones. Chuck put on a raincoat (we were still getting steady rain) and pulled the brush off the street. We noticed a lot more traffic than usual on our quiet block; we soon found out that ours was the only street in the area clear of wires and trees immediately after the storm. Two blocks away, the cul de sac would need four new utility poles and multiple tree crews.

But back to Amigo. He is blind and has a high functioning form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. His phone and his computer are his windows on the world. Without power and wifi, he was lost. No social media, no podcasts, his audio book app wasn’t accessible – and on top of all that, no television for the sports he loved to watch.

We did what we could. Both Chuck and I needed to check on our elderly mothers, and we needed lunch. Amigo doesn’t like cold food; peanut butter and jelly wasn’t a valid option. I couldn’t get a text message out to Petunia, so we decided to combine a trip. We piled into Chuck’s car and plugged in all of our phones to charge. We traveled to the far north side of town, where a Hardee’s had power and was open. Crowded, too. We watched the gas station next door through the window. There’s a guy filling three gas cans; he must have a generator. Oh, there’s someone buying multiple bags of ice; their power must be out, too. Wow, it’s busy in here. The staff is doing their best to get everyone served.

After lunch, we drove to the rehab nursing home where Petunia was staying post-surgery. Chuck and Amigo stayed in the car and charged all the phones while I ran inside and checked on her. The home had its emergency power generator on leaving the hallways darker than usual and a wee bit spooky . Her room was fine; a lot of natural light through a window, and an outlet that worked to keep her phone charged. In general, all was well in the rehab world. Chuck called his mother and found out that she also did not have power. She was going to stay with Chuck’s younger brother in Nearby City with its power grid intact.

The outage was hard on all of us. Chuck and I made a side trip to his mom’s condo to borrow her small generator, and we stopped on the way home to buy a few batteries for radios. Eventually, we made our way to Nearby City for supper at Culver’s. Ah, Culver’s – comfort food in (or after) a storm!!

It had been a rough week for Amigo all around. He’d gotten some bad news regarding a summer camp, lost contact with his friends due to the outages, and was just overall miserable. He couldn’t even turn on a fan to create white noise or keep cool. We helped where we could, taking him out to charge his phone and get a hot meal, picking up batteries for radios, finding a battery operated handheld fan (overpriced but totally worthwhile). He was the most relieved of all of us when the power came back in the wee hours of Monday morning.

Stormy weather isn’t unusual in our neck of the woods. We’re considering getting a generator slightly larger than the one we borrowed so we can keep the freezers and refrigerator cold and keep the wifi running for a least a few hours a day. In our home, it’s not just a luxury. With Amigo’s needs, a little power means a lot.

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Ah, Barbershop. Harmonizing all the time.

The holiday show in December was a tear-jerker – in a loving, tug-on-the-heartstrings way. Spring show was even bigger: 75th anniversary, Going Platinum, with short videos of members (including Amigo) talking about how and why they keep coming back to sing barbershop.

Being a barbershopper means listening, too. Amigo made friends with our local Sweet Adelines chorus last year when he won the Pie of the Month Club at their Sweetie Pie Social concert and fundraiser. We brought home a big hanging basket of geraniums (door prize) from their spring Barbershop in Bloom program. At the same time, Amigo made friends with two women who sing with Sweet Adelines choruses elsewhere and meet up to enjoy concerts. Amigo and his two new friends had a great talk comparing notes on concert venues and fun times with barbershop harmony.

And the music goes on. Yesterday, Memorial Day, Amigo joined his local chapter in singing patriotic songs for a local celebration. It was pouring rain, so the usual outdoor ceremony was moved into the town administration building. Nevertheless, they persisted, and contributed their harmony to the solemn occasion.

Summer will have many singing opportunities. They’ll sing at the local ballpark with the local symphony orchestra for (are you ready for this?) Brats, Beer, and Beethoven concert. It’s always an experience. They’ll perform a variation on the spring show at an outdoor venue, and that will be a good time, too.

Barbershop harmony started in our family with a Christmas holiday program. It has grown to be a year round adventure. There’s always a reason to sing, no matter what the season.

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In Which Daisy Continues to Worry Unnecessarily


Measles is back in the country, and it’s back with a vengeance. I’m amazed and appalled at how fast the illness can spread and how it spreads before symptoms appear. I’m appalled, not amazed, at the number of people who think vaccines are more dangerous than measles itself.

Here we are, at the end of a school year, with huge gatherings ahead: our end of year amusement park celebration, complete with 8th grade certificates, and the high school graduation. Both of these events will include families who claim either religious or personal exemption from vaccines. How do I know that? Never mind.

And then I heard that baby boomers might be at risk because our vaccines were the early ones, the immunizations that weren’t fully effective yet. Add to that: I’d been taking a medication that both upset my stomach and weakened my immune system. If I encounter measles, it could be bad. If I need the vaccine, I may have to wait.

My doctor’s office came through this time. They ordered a measles titer to see if I had immunity or not. The results were positive: I do have immunity to measles. My vaccine, however early in development, apparently worked.

I can check this worry off my list.

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In Which Daisy Worries about all the Wrong Things

We heard scratching and bumping noises in the chimney. Oh, dear, something was living in there! We called an exterminator. He said nope, can’t help with that. We called the chimney cleaning crew. Nope, they didn’t deal with live animals. We investigated animal control and found out they would charge $150 to set a trap and hope the critter wandered into it.

Then the noises stopped for about a week. And then I noticed an odor in the room. Oh, dear, something had most likely died in there! So we called the chimney crew and got them scheduled. The earliest date on their schedule was two weeks out. In the meantime – I duct taped the door to the fireplace in the hopes that I could contain the odor and still watch my HGTV and Jeopardy without a clothespin on my nose or a full fledged gas mask. And I worried – what if we had a storm with a power outage and we needed a fire for heat and cooking?

We didn’t have any bad storms. And it turned out that there were no animal carcasses in the flue. Aw, heck. Maybe Amigo had BO that day. Heck, maybe I did! Maybe I didn’t change the litter box soon enough. And so on, and so on, and so on.

But all is not well in the O.K. Chorale’s fireplace. The crew couldn’t inspect the outer ring of the chimney, the opening for fresh air to get in. Our neighborhood electric lines are in the way. They have to come back another day with their full equipment so they can climb up the other side of the roof to get at the chimney.

Meanwhile, I hope we don’t have a major storm that would take out our power and make necessary a fire in the fireplace for heat and/or cooking. Oh, gee. What else could go wrong? Wait, no. I didn’t say that. Nope.

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Random Thoughts of – spring?

Someone called me the Compost Lady recently, and I realized I hadn’t written as ComposterMom in ages. A lot of my shorter posts end up on Facebook. I’m on the computer all day at work, so I don’t automatically pick it up when I come home. I need to be offline for a while every evening.

But anyway, random thoughts.

Shopko is bankrupt and going out of business. Their clearance and liquidation sales are disappointing a lot of people. I haven’t even stopped in to check it out, to be honest. They’re at the point where the liquidation company, not the Shopko corporation itself, is running the show, and shoppers can tell. Discounts are weak, inventory isn’t very high quality, and there are more complaints than deals. We did get lucky with the smaller Shopko Express’ clearance. They transferred most of their inventory to other stores before the ax fell, but they couldn’t do that with their liquor stock. We picked up wine and specialty beers for pretty darn cheap. And that was all.

Meanwhile, we reminisced about the irony that is our kitchen. We bought some very high quality pots and pans and other equipment dirt cheap from not one but three high end kitchen stores that were going out of business. One was in Green Bay, one in my little burgh, and one in Rochester, Minnesota (we were there for a barbershop chorus competition). Those were small shops, not corporate entities, and the owners were interacting with customers as they made deals.

Oh, what a difference! Cast iron cleaning tools, towels, scrubbing cloths, and the best, a really nice wok. The Wire Whisk had used the wok for cooking classes, so we made an offer. The owner accepted the offer and reluctantly let it go. She talked about cooking classes, gave me good advice about seasoning it, and I think she shed a tear or two as I left with this wonderful piece of cookware in my arms. I hope she knew we’d treat it well – literally and figuratively speaking.

Meanwhile, we are appreciating the newly remodeled kitchen and especially the storage space. The pantry cabinet has so much room it feels like a luxury. We have cupboard space for basic everyday goodies, and we have room to stock up when there’s a sale. I haven’t reached prepper stockpile level (yet), but it makes more room for my own canned goods, too. No longer do we have to trek down the basement for a new jar of jam or pickles.

So on we go, my friends and family. It’s a crazy world out there, and I hear there’s a possibility of another late snowstorm next week. I hope the forecasters are wrong, but you know the saying – whether the weather, we’ll weather the weather.

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Provide ID – easier said than done

Chuck added me to his employer-sponsored health plan at the start of 2019. In order to add me to his employer-sponsored plan, we need to verify that we are, in fact, married. To prove that fact, we need more than a wedding ring or an album of pictures. We need the official, certified marriage certificate. Easy? Well, not exactly. Read on.

We thought we had a copy in the house with our other important documents. We don’t. There may be a copy in our safe deposit box at the credit union, but we’re not venturing out in Snowstorm Destiny (local name) unless we have to brave the roads. We searched online and found the information for ordering a copy (or two) by mail. We gathered what we needed, and Chuck dropped it off in a mailbox on his way to work.

You see, friends, we were not married in the same county in which we live. We were married in the state of Wisconsin, but not exactly where we now reside. We tied the knot in a county about 35 miles north of here. If ordering by mail doesn’t work or takes too long, one of us will need to take a day off from our job to make the road trip during business hours. It would be an inconvenience (read: Royal Pain), but we could do it.

I keep thinking of those for whom this would be more difficult, even darn near impossible. We have the spare change to put gas in the minivan and head north to visit the register of deeds’ office in the county known as Packerland. We resent taking time from our jobs, but we have the option of using a paid day off for this errand. Not all working people have that option. Not all have reliable transportation, either, especially in a Wisconsin winter.

This is a pain for us. It’s a bother. The situation is awkward and potentially a waste of a personal day for one or both of us. However, we can do it. We will do it. What about those who can’t? What if we’d gotten married in another state? What if we’d moved to a location farther away or, unlikely but not impossible, to Nova Scotia, where Chuck has extended family? How do people cope with a records request like this when they don’t have the options we have?

That’s a long list of what-ifs. In our world, many people fit the what-if categories. And that’s just for health insurance. We won’t talk about voter I.D. At least I won’t bring it up today.

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How Cold Was It?

It was so cold —

  • Schools closed for two days.
  • Mail delivery stopped.
  • Newspaper delivery stopped.
  • Utilities company asked customers to turn their heat down so there would be enough natural gas to go around.
  • Utilities company threatened to levy fines on Chuck’s workplace for using too much natural gas in keeping the plant operating!
  • It was so cold that a hawk stopped in to keep warm over lunch.
A hawk came to visit. Seriously.

Yes, she was that close – and that big. We think she caught a sparrow for “lunch” and then found a somewhat sheltered spot to dine on it – next to the house, close to the door. The bird could have knocked on the door and asked to come in.

Oh, yeah, people. It was that cold.

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